Monthly Archives: July 2011

Tough Times Don’t Last … Tough People Do!

I would love to be able to acknowledge the author of this quote but I can’t … it came up in one of the twitter-streams I have been glued to for the past three weeks while watching the Tour de France. I love the way technology has brought me closer to this great race. I have been a tour devotee for years but now I watch the event on TV and webstream, while the twitter-streams for my favourite riders and the aussie followers flow. I add my commentary and thoughts to those of former professionals who have experienced the TdF first hand. But that isn’t what I want to talk about today.

This post was sent to Mark Cavendish as a message of support. Like the tall poppies of most countries he has had his fair share of bad press … professional bullying! Over in another twitter-stream at the same time a teacher friend posted about a 5th grade student taking action on to stop bullying. Bullying is probably the biggest issue I face as year 8 coordinator and classroom teacher.

We started semester two this week and in my first class of year 7 Humanities one student asked me “Miss, why did you  become a teacher?” The truth, and my answer, is because school was not a great place for me and I wanted to make it better for others. I love learning and I always have. However, I have ridden the waves of teasing and bullying to become the person I am today. A certain degree of teasing and stirring is part of learning humour and is character building. However, just like my experience of the TdF, the experience of children being victimised is enhanced by technology. Bullies can now reach their victims 24/7 via the very social networks I use to improve my teaching and learning practice.

So how do we teach our children to be tough? Like the 5th grade student, our school has started groups for students to come together to talk about their experiences. After reading this article I have a few more ideas we can add to that process. We use restorative practice in an attempt to get children to realise the impact they have on others. We run activities at lunchtime to provide safe places for students to be (this is food for another post … teenagers particularly do not seem to know how to fill in an hour a day). Resilience education has been a theme of transition and health education programmes for a few years now.

Yet still, it would seem, the best I can do is put out each fire as it starts … I met with a very distressed young lady, her parents and her Homegroup Teacher on Wednesday to put together a plan so she could face coming to school on Thursday. I felt satisfied to see her at lunchtime on Thursday with a smile on her face and a friend by her side. I just hope she can recover enough resilience to survive the next attack that I am sure will come!

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The More Things Change . . .

. . .  the more they stay the same!

I attended the term 3 SparkL PD in Melbourne today with two of my colleagues.  It was a good day in that we had lots of discussion, a chance to reflect and time to plan. The downside is always the rhetoric and repetition that inevitably seems to be part of professional development. I have said before, this approach (project based learning) is not new but I spent some time today pondering what makes a good teacher a good teacher.

We have a new Principal at our college and his first few days have left us somewhere between shell-shocked and inspired. One of the first things he made clear was his vision for our school which he also made clear was “set in concrete”. However, the roadmap to achieve this vision is well and truly open to negotiation and he has created a buzz in office conversations as we begin to put ideas together.

As I worked my way through today’s PD it struck me that curriculum is the same.  In my twenty years of teaching the content has always been a solid fixture. We have always been tied to the  dot points of Frameworks, CSF, CSFII, VELs and now the National Curriculum. However, a good teacher realises that they have control of the delivery. The roadmap for achieving those set standards have always been open to the interpretation and creativity of the classroom practitioner.

My thoughts also wandered to the old debate between internal and external PD. We have been sending most of our team to these sessions as we are wrestling with taking on SparkL projects across our entire junior sub-school. (Most schools start with one or two classes, not the nine we took on!). It has been a chance for us all to have dedicated time to explore our understanding of project based learning but it is costly to the school to have so many teachers out on one day. This time we opted for a smaller representation with the responsibility of reporting back. It left me thinking, though, that it is important to attend external PD. Staying in school means we get bogged down in the mud of everyday issues. Even allocating an afternoon to team planning can be interrupted by any number of small things that eat into the time. Going off-campus and interacting with people from other teaching institutions allows us to see the bigger picture of teaching and learning. It gives us the opportunity to free our minds from the everyday things, allowing us become more creative in the way we guide our students along the roadmap.

A good teacher never stops learning and adapting. Learning to be better learners, teaches us how to be better teachers.

Meet my new colleagues … my students!

You might remember my blog “Those that can..” It was early in the semester and gave me an opportunity to think things through as I faced the daunting task of teaching a subject I knew very little about to 20 year 8s. Well … we all survived and what an amazing journey it was.

As my eyes were being opened to the power of the blog I had the intention of also encouraging my students to do the same, unfortunately my school environment isn’t quite ready for that (we’re working on it though). So as a stepping stone I asked each student to keep a running word document, we called it our “Reflection”, which they added to at the end of each week. In the beginning I would write prompts on the board and suggest a word limit to aim for. Over the semester we gradually lifted our aims from a tough 100 to an easy 500 words … in fact I was heartened in the last few sessions to hear the students bragging about how they had “already written 300 words and I still have more to say”. It was also pleasing that the students accepted the practice of reflection quickly and without complaint … it just became habit.  As part of their final assessment they submitted their “Reflection” and today I am going to share some of their thoughts with you.

The prompts I used in the final reflection were:

  • three things that worked well;
  • three things that need improvement;
  • what strategies did you use to help you learn?
  • what advice would you give the teacher taking IT next semester?

So, from the fingertips of my students:

“The three things that worked best this term was:

  • Teaching ourselves
  • The class being able to help each other
  • And playing other peoples games”

“Hack and help is useful for making games better and getting ideas. Like I got an idea off a game to use scrolls. I also like to download and play game maker games off the website to get ideas and help. I find the game maker website very helpful. Having other people play my game made me think about my game.”

“The things that worked best is self-learning, helping each other (but sometimes it gets a bit annoying because at times a lot of people needed help) and Working at our own Pace.”

“The strategies I have used to help me with I.T this semester was to get the tutorials on the internet, board, book, and on the server on the school’s computers. It has been good to teach ourselves how to make these games in these hard programs I had no Idea how to use. But now I can use it and teach other people how to as well.”

“The class, they aren’t that bad at all really. I feel like I can ask nearly anyone for help, and I know some of the people in this class. And a couple of people are my best friends, so it makes this whole class a lot easier. The noise level doesn’t get too loud, so it’s not too hard to concentrate.”

“I  like it when I help other people because sometimes, it can help me understand what I’m doing a little bit more, and also, just knowing that you are helping someone with something that could really impact their grades, it just feels nice. :)”

“The three things that worked best for me is watching learning and doing because you learn in this class you do in this class and you watch in this class”

” I found that when people gave me help and showed me how to do things on game maker was easy, and I soon knew how to make games and have fun with talking with my class about our games. ”

” I thought this was a really stupid subject and was only for nerds but not really because its not.
and I have kinder had some fun in this subject and I am pleased with everything I have done here ”

“Ive been preety good when working in teams over the past 8 weeks, helping other people 🙂 And other people helping me was preety good but I found this class preety boring at the start thinking this was all for nerds and stuff, but it makes you feel good when you achieve something that you think you couldn’t do.”

Some advice I would give the teacher taking an I.T. class next semester would have to be don’t talk so much and let everyone work on their own.”

The advice I would give to the next teacher would be do exactly as Miss Digby has.”

These are not the deliberately picked ‘good’ students … I can honestly say they are a good cross-section of comments! I was speaking honestly when I told them I was proud and pleased with their efforts. We didn’t just learn programming this semester (although I confess they taught me a lot), we learnt about learning … yes, I mean WE!