What have I learnt?

After a relaxing school holiday, including a cruise, much time spent with family and friends, a few good books read and movies seen, I’m back to work. I’m hoping to post some thoughts and reflections on teaching each week and here’s whats been on my mind this week.

This thought provoking tweet recently caught my eye and started me thinking about how I have changed and developed as a teacher over the last 13, (I can’t believe it’s that long!), years. There are certainly a few moments that I cringe over when I think about the way I went about things in the past, although at the time I had every confidence in what I was doing, and I’m sure that when I look back in another 13 years time I will have added to those moments.

There are two students I clearly recall who challenged and ultimately changed the way I went about things in the classroom.

The first child was quite bright. If ‘child one’ chose to they could do the work at a standard higher than many of their peers; however ‘child one’ rarely chose this option resulting in low grades and frustration for me. (‘student one’ didn’t seem to mind at all.) The second child (a different year and class) had some learning difficulties. There were times when ‘child two’ would try quite hard; however it was passive learning taking place – ‘child two’ was never really excited about what was happening in the classroom and I’m sure their motivation was to make sure I didn’t ring home about incomplete work. Initially, after conversing with the parents about their child’s experience in my classroom, I was quite sure I was doing everything I could to try help these students succeed; however on reflection I realised that perhaps there were some things I could alter.

I’m reluctant to say it is the job of a teacher to make learning fun; however I have no hesitation in saying that it is the job of a teacher to provide authentic learning experiences that engage students and provide the opportunity for active learning to take place. If these things are present in the classroom then they students will enjoy their learning and might even say they are having ‘fun.’

It’s easy to  fall into the trap of thinking there’s nothing more we can do. It’s the student at fault not the teacher. It is also easy to resist change; however we should constantly be re-evaluating what we are doing and not afraid to alter our practice to better meet the needs of out students.

I hope that in the coming school year I can provide authentic learning experiences that engage all my students and I know to be successful in this I’m going to have to try things in the classroom I haven’t tried before.

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Why I’m now loving Twitter

I joined Twitter pretty early on; however soon decided it wasn’t for me. I didn’t like being limited to 140 characters! I have had a change of heart thanks to Selena Woodward

and George Couros (Does Twitter Improve Education). I am now using Twitter everyday and professionally I’m getting A LOT out of it.

Through following groups, like CEGSA, and joining Sue Waters Australian Educators list, both on Twitter, I have been able to make professional connections quickly. In turn, this has resulted my twitter feed receiving numerous links to online articles and blog posts about current practice in education. I’ve included the links to a few of them below.

I’m looking forward to connecting and learning more through Twitter. If you haven’t signed up yet I’d highly recommend it. Hope to see you in the Twitterverse.

The Eight Personas of a Teacher – Dr Kevin Knight

Earlier this year I was privileged to head up to the Gold Coast to attend a conference titled ‘The Personal Teacher’. It was facilitated by the Compass organisation. There were speakers from the Compass group and also Dr Kevin Knight, on of the founding directors of the New Zealand Graduate School of Education. While all sessions were excellent, it was Kevin Knight who impacted me the most. He has since visited our school and worked with more of our staff who were equally challenged and inspired by his simple, yet unique way of breaking down the job of a teacher. I am excited that he will be returning to work with more of our staff in 2013.

Kevin divides the job of a teacher into 8 personas which form 4 antagonistic pairs:

  • The teacher as captain yet also relationship builder

This pair establishes the learning environment in the classroom. It is imperative for a teacher to quickly build positive relationships with the students they are teaching; however they must also be in charge. If teachers are not competent in this area then it will be very difficult to ensure learning is happening in the classrom.

Kevin had some very detailed forms that can be used to gauge how teachers are going in this area.

  • The teacher as scholar yet also analyst

This pair recognises the importance of knowing what you’re teaching – but it goes further than that. The teacher as analyst will know what their students need to learn and they will be able to clearly articulate the skills students have learnt.This information will be gleaned from pre-testing and assessment, both formative and summative.

  • The teacher as coach yet also as empowerer

There will always be times where the teacher needs to direct the learning (teacher as coach); however I was inspired to try and ignite passionate curiosity in my students so they enjoy their learning and take personal responsibility for it. Empowering students to direct their own learning is certainly one of my goals for the 2013 school year.

  • The teacher as an individual and also a colleague

This pair is fairly self-explanatory. Historically teachers have been excellent at working individually in their isolated classrooms; however this pattern is beginning to change. I know here at Temple Christian College our faculties regularly work collaboratively to develop units of work and create resources.

One of the reasons we are taking on Kevin’s model as a school is so colleagues can effectively mentor colleagues in all the personas to improve the teaching and learning that takes place here. Eventually, all our staff will be trained in Kevin’s model and be paired up to work with each other. This will involve visiting classes, and giving and receiving feedback to and from collegues. The feedback will then serve as a tool to self-reflect on current practice.

Personally, I found going through the model with Kevin to be some of the most valuable professional learning I have undertaken as a teacher. It certainly led me to reflect on what I’m doing in the classroom to ensure meaningful learning for all of my students.

Learning How to Blog

Last week I was fortunate to attend a couple of workshops and a presentation by George Couros. He inspired me, and many others, to blog as a public record of our professional learning and the things we are doing in our classrooms. As well as being a record it is also a reflective tool that can be used to refine practice and cement learning.

After hearing and seeing some of the ways that blogging is used at Parkland Area School, and having my attention drawn to this blog by pernilleripp via Twitter, I thought I would begin my blogging journey alongside my students.

The students have just finished reading the novel The Ink Bridge by Neil Grant. They are now going to be set a series of topics to blog about based around the themes from the novel. I have drawn up an assessment rubric that relates back to the literature and litercay strands of the Australian Curriculum. Students will be assessed on the following: their response to the theme as presented in the text and in a broader context; their ability to create meaningful text (including the application of word processing functions), and their interaction with other students through the posting of meaningful comments on each others work.

I am hoping that through blogging my students will gain the following skills:

  • to give and recieve constructive feedback from peers
  • create meaningful written dialogue
  • improved editing
  • view their own writing more critically
  • empathy

(adapted with permission from pernilleripp)

I, and my students, have signed up with edblogs; however as I and my class are new to blogging posts are not visible for the public to view. When I have finished the unit I may seek permission from some students to publish their work publically on the internet – but for now it’s just our class.

It has taken more class time than I would like to get everything ready to go; however all students started their first posts today and they are looking forward to reading each others work and discussing the themes of the text on the shared site. I’m looking forward to reading what they have to say.

Blog as Professional Portfolio

I am currently in a workshop with George Couros setting up a blog to use as my e-portfolio. This e-portfolio will address each of the NPST

1. Know students

2. Know the content

3. Plan teaching and learning

4. Supportive and Safe Learning Environments

5. Assess, Feedback and Report

6. Professional Learning

7. Engage Professionally

As well as keeping a record of how I’m tracking against each of the standards, this blog will provide me with an opportunity to reflect on my learning and connect with other educators.