Ollie welcomes Pivotal Principal Trainer, Paul Woodward onto the show this week. Paul Dix interviewed Paul shortly after he joined Pivotal Education and we have included some of that conversation this week.
More recently, Ollie had the pleasure of interviewing Paul again to find out a lot more about his educational beliefs and approaches.
Paul has been an international education specialist for over 25 years and has worked in primary, secondary, tertiary and university contexts in the UK, Australia and Africa. He is a published scholar in the field of education and performance, a professional theatre practitioner, and a coach and mentor to various inspirational charity projects around the world. His work with Pivotal supplements his ongoing doctoral research into the uses of storytelling, performance, and disclosure in educational contexts.
Dignity as a male teacher in Africa
Paul has worked extensively with teachers in Africa and one of the most interesting ideas he came across was when male teachers were concerned about losing their dignity as teachers – as as men – if they physically got down to the level of their students to talk to them. He tried to get across to the teachers that being physically low is actually showing your dignity:
“My entire focus is not on my ego at the moment – my entire focus is on what I’m trying to do…to reach a learner…to help them step over that threshold into making better choices for themselves.”
The Power of storytelling for teaching and learning
“Human beings are hardwired for connection.”
Paul believes the quickest way to that connectivity is through stories – it’s how we make sense of the world around us – how we make organise information.
“Why would we not use something within the classroom that involves us, connects us and helps us make sense of the immediate experience of being there in that environment?”
The power of this approach was brought home to Paul when he worked with children who had survived the trauma of war. When he encouraged the children to tell the story of their lives, they became the heroes of their own narratives. This is an extreme example from Africa but Paul believes the same approach can be used with any student who is struggling with their identity, their position in life.
Paul also tells a remarkable story of his time teaching sex education in a school in a tough neighbourhood in Australia. He made himself vulnerable by telling his own story – and the results were amazing.
Paul’s Top Tips for developing rapport
Do listen to Paul explaining each of these:
- Smile – if you don’t find smiling natural but you do enjoy being there with the kids – so show them!
- Show your humanity – don’t be afraid of being vulnerable – be present – there is power in that
Use of music to influence energy
When we think about our most important moments in life there’s usually a soundtrack of some kind. Paul talks about ‘Relaxing into learning’ which is a phrase he heard a Primary teacher using. This can be helped by using music.
“Music can help us to bypass some of those fears, those anxieties.”
Paul also encourages us to be playful with music to enhance learning experiences, for example ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’ in a science lesson on magnesium.
There are so many other stories and great pieces of advice in this interview so do listen carefully!
Many thanks to our ‘180’ guests this week!
Bell Farm School
Ben Povey – Harris Fold School
The Varndean Goats