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My two years before the last

y the time you read this, it will all be over. My secondment of two years ended last Friday. I will not insult classroom teachers by claiming that a life of delivering CPD, doing demo lessons, speaking at conferences and so forth is tougher than teaching.

Neither will I sell myself or those who continue in support and development roles short by pretending that it was a scoosh.

Some vignettes:

* Driving through beautiful countryside, half-listening to the radio, half-wondering how a P1-4 composite will react to the bucketful of water fleas I am bringing for a science investigation;

* Sitting, head in hands like Ally McLeod at the 1978 World Cup, in Celtic Park's function room, unsure whether or not five days of meticulously planned CPD is about to fall apart (it didn't);

* Making 60 science development officers press imaginary handsets to indicate that they want to see Snowy the Robot Dug in action;

* Insensible with laughter as a fellow secondee and I try to voice-over a Thinking Maths DVD;

* Hearing a P7 boy say: "This is like how I play Cluedo!", and realising that he's "got" the idea of a scientific fair test;

* Carrying out the water flea experiment and yet again being struck by what you find out when you poke children's thinkingwith a stick.

("This is called a U-tube. How could we use it to see if water fleas prefer light to dark?" "Well, we could put black paper round it and look in to see if they were happy."

What, apart from the introduction of electronic registration, has changed since I stepped sideways into the nearest thing to a rock and roll lifestyle that I will ever know?

Perhaps the most important thing is that more and more teachers are willing to talk to one another about learning and teaching. I was in a staffroom the other day and witnessed a conversation that mentioned Vygotsky and Piaget. Not only that, no one threw scones at those doing the mentioning.

I have learnt there is a massive difference between being tearingly busy through having no control of the order in which you carry out tasks and being just as busy but having an element of choice in the way you manage time.

Seemingly unconnected initiatives have proved to have a common core of challenge, collaboration and reflection. I have had a once-in-a-careertime chance to get an overview of education, to work in different schools and across sectors. All I have to do now is fall back in love with the job I left in 2004.

Gregor Steele has learned so much in two years that he needs a wheelbarrow to carry it around, but he still does not know how to tell whether a water flea is happy.

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