I am a definite teaching magpie, adopting ideas shared by thoughtful teachers online, brave presenters at Teachmeets and inspiring colleagues I work alongside every day. To me, the enjoyment of teaching comes from trying new strategies with students and passing on the practice. This can’t be done alone; so sharing is definitely caring. But it comes with small print.
I started a blog called magpie and try, documenting all the shiny, fun strategies I had gleaned from others and tried in my classroom, aiming to share the love and pay it forwards. Soon after I stumbled across a blog by @HFletcherWood (http://improvingteaching.co.uk/2013/08/17/trying-to-put-the-continuing-into-cpd/ ) with the following quote: “Teachers are like magpies. They love picking up shiny little ideas from one classroom; taking it back to their classroom; trying it once, and then moving on to the next shiny idea.” (Dylan Wiliam, via Old Andrew)”
I was totally shamed. This is what I did; try an idea once with almost all my classes and then moving onto the next new treasure I’d stumbled across, maybe picking it back up again a month or 2 down the line for another one-off lesson. I rarely considered why I was using this new idea as I planned, I just liked that it was fun and different. I also failed to evaluate the effectiveness of the activity afterwards. The truth was that although my lessons looked flashy and kept learners on their toes (would we be writing in books or windows or paper plates today?) I wasn’t using the strategy to effectively enhance learning. Looking back now I can identify some ideas that even distracted from the learning because I was so keen and excited to try them I employed the willy nilly.
My experience in no way diminished the importance of sharing. I am still and will always be a proud magpie, but sharing comes with small print for the recipient; consider how, where, when, for whom and why it will work in your classroom and once tried evaluate how to do it even better. Share your thought process alongside the strategy as you pass it on, so others may avoid my pitfall!