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Summer Goals

15 Dec

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Summer is here and so is my month long break from school. The following are my goals for the summer or at least until January 15.

De-clutter: We as teachers need to take time to let it go. Have a clean out and get rid of all those daily worries for the time being. January will bring new perspectives.

Reflect on Your School Year: Here is another opportunity to take advantage of specific starting and ending points in our profession. Make time with a colleague to reflect upon the school year. Discuss what worked, what didn’t work, and what you will do differently next year. This process will help bring closure to one year and set you up for the next year.

Spend Time With Loved Ones and Reconnect: As teachers, we spend our entire day with other people’s children. From the early morning until the late afternoon, we interact with very few adults. Take time over the summer to have adult conversations.

Have a Real Coffee: With others or By yourself. Most people don’t understand that teachers can’t go out for lunch. We just do not have the time. Do it over the summer.! Be an adult.

Read and Relax: Especially not work related content. Enough said.

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‘Ka Whawhai Tonu Ake Ake.’

15 Nov

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We are having some discussion this week and as a result looking at evidence in literature of ‘being Māori’ in learning.  In the Ministry of Education [MOE] 2013-2017 Māori Education Strategy- Ka Hikitia, there is clear focus on Māori being Māori in their learning:

This vision means ensuring that all Māori students, their parents and their whanau participate in and contribute to an engaging and enjoyable educational journey that recognises and celebrates their unique identity, language and culture” (MOE, 2013, p.13).

This opinion is supported in much of the literature and reports that have been commissioned by the Ministry of Education.

We know that Māori do much better when education reflects and values their identity, language and culture ...” (MOE, 2013,p.6).

This vision in Ka Hikitia identifies five principles of a Māori approach to learning: the significance of the Treaty of Waitangi, incorporation of identity, language and culture, ako, a two way teaching and learning process, and productive partnerships acknowledging the connection of students to whanau.

This has linked well to our HOF Inquiry this year around collaborative leaving an dpedagogy. Collaborative approaches and the importance of relationships have also been identified in the literature (Greenwood and Te Aika, 2008, p.6) including the concept of visibility ‘kanohi kitea’ (Ferguson, 2008, p.2) Thus we start to see how Māori culture and identity (kaupapa) can be incorporated into education, part of which will be eLearning. Both eLearning and the incorporation of kaupapa Māori into eLearnng are relatively new fields of education (Tiakiwai and Tiakiwai, 2010, p.6).

‘Ka Whawhai Tonu Ake Ake.’

Professional Reading Weekend

28 Oct

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A have had a big weekend dedicated to professional reading. This is all part of my annual goal and to continually improve. Common themes that emerge from my reading were:

  • the importance of connecting
  • a leadership paradigm of coaching
  • collaboration and learning spaces for thinking and working in teams
  • approaching curriculum design as an innovator.

In Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson writes about generating breakthroughs and the patterns behind innovation. The keys are: developing slow hunches over time (as opposed to sudden Eureka moments), connected minds are smarter than lone thinkers, where you think is crucial, and the best ideas come from building on the ideas of others.

In Creating Innovators, Tony Wagner contends that the disruptive nature of innovation creates challenges to traditional authority.

“Can those of us who have positional authority develop this kind of earned and enabling authority? Can our institutions of learning and work recognize and promote a new kind of authority? Can we move from top-down, compliance-based systems of accountability in our schools to forms of accountability that are more face-to-face – reciprocal and relational? And, finally, are we prepared to not merely tolerate but to welcome and celebrate the kinds of questioning, disruption, and even disobedience that come with innovation?” (Tony Wagner)

In Bringing Innovation to School, Suzie Boss makes the case for design thinking, the use of physical space, gaming for learning, and using networks for innovation.

“When teachers are fine-tuning project plans, they can use rapid prototyping to invite feedback (from colleagues, outside experts, and students), make adjustments, and then see what happens during implementation. Projects will get better with each iteration if teachers make a habit of reflecting on what worked, what didn’t, and how they can improve on the plan next time around. When they approach curriculum design this way, they’re modelling what it means to think and work like an innovator.” (Suzie Boss)

Friday Reflection: October 20

19 Oct

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Our students need the skills to know when they are being manipulated so they can take control of their learning and their life. They also need to know that if they get a recommendation from a company to purchase something, they don’t have to buy it. They need to be able to spot fake news. They need to be critical thinkers. They need to be sceptical, curious, and critically consider what will be best for them. That’s our job as educators. It’s about encouraging learners to have a voice and choice so they are intrinsically motivated to want to learn.

Let’s help them navigate the new world of what some call “personalization.” But let’s be clear what that means for teaching and learning and fight for our students so they are the ones personalizing their learning experiences with teachers guiding the process not a company that is using their data to tell them that they know best how they learn.

We need students that are not “compliant” following the leads from a company based on clicks. They are so much smarter than we give them credit. We need to encourage learners at a very young age to learn how to learn, to reflect on their learning and to be the ones in control of their learning so they are lifelong, self-directed learners.

A Change in the Classroom

10 Oct

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Change happens whether we like it or not. Schools were instituted upon two fundamental certainties:

(1) Knowledge has unique value and is known best by experts

(2) The way we communicate with each other is limited by time and, very often, location.

In New Zealand have seen very significant shifts in these certainties in recent years, shifts that should have significant implications for schools.

I have been contemplating this change by keeping in mind the tools we have and our students use. What use is knowledge in the age of the smartphone? Most students carry the sum total of human information with them each day. A great deal of teaching must go around this too. If a taxi driver takes you to your destination from memory or GPS, do you care? If the GPS version is cheaper, do you begin to care?

My daughter the other night had the task of adding roman numerals for homework. To solve the problem she used a smart phone. I am certain that is not the way her teacher intended the task to be solved by that was it was awesome to observe.

Do we allow the same freedom to students with basic questions that Google can answer for them or do we judge them critically for using technology that they use naturally on a daily basis in every circumstance except school? If Siri knows basic arithmetic and the capitals of the world, do we still need to spend time on these thing?

These are the questions we should be asking to ensure we are heading in the right direction for our students? For it means more time teaching critical thinking and messy play.

Being an Expert

5 Oct

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I love the way training and teaching continually complement each other. Today’s reflection is no different. Hargreaves and Fullan state: “To ‘teach like a pro’ is a personal commitment to rigorous training, continuous learning, collegial feedback, respect for evidence, responsiveness to parents, striving for excellence, and going far beyond the requirements of any written contract.”

Taking this on board, I look around my own school and the experts begin to stick out and they may not necessarily be the most experienced. When it comes to respecting the evidence, the first words I may hear in a conversation about teaching and learning is: “In my experience…” or “from my experience…” An educator’s experience may not acknowledge any other sources of evidence, which can be problematic.

Experience allows us more opportunity for reflection, experience allows us more opportunities to get it right and experience gives us more opportunities to learn and develop wisdom. Though to be an expert teacher, we cannot rely on experience alone, we have to spend time looking at education research, questioning it, discussing it, applying it and, at times, refuting it. My experience does not carry the same weight in conversations about education, if I have not taken time to read about my profession and how I can better support students.

With 25 years in education, I can certainly call myself an experienced educator but there are colleagues that I work with who have spent less time in the profession and have considerably more expertise in certain aspects of education; I can learn from them. I have to keep reminding myself that “if you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.”

References:

Hattie, J. (2003, October). Teachers make a difference: What is the research evidence? Paper presented at the Australian Council for Educational Research Annual Conference on Building Teacher Quality, Melbourne.

Hargreaves, A and Fullan, M. (2012, March). Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School. Teachers College Press. ISBN: 0807753327

Leadership Reflection for September

27 Sep

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This week I have been away with my Year 12 students considering leadership. Too often people associate leadership with a status to be earned, or a title that bestows power. Certainly, under some circumstances, those definitions are accurate. But I like to think of leadership differently. I think a great deal about St Paul’s thoughts on servant leadership.

There is a belief that I hold dear—we all can be leaders, and each of us has our own unique brand of leadership to contribute to the world. The question is if, when, and how we actually ever step into that leadership.

Finding our leadership is about finding our best selves, and then figuring out how and where to contribute our best selves to the world. Stepping into our leadership is about having the courage to do just that. Sometimes having courage to not step up when the time is not right.

This week I have been thinking about this quote around leadership:

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord, there are different workings by the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

I am self-aware that my leadership philosophy is continually growing and developing. I am truly a life-long learner. I believe a leader must be vulnerable and admit to not have all the answers. This is something that I have learnt over the past twenty years.

Leadership development calls forth the diverse gifts of people in our faith communities, and affirms their talents and abilities. So much depends on leadership in our ministry and as leaders we need to be called, trained and encouraged. As I am called to be leader I call others to walk with me acknowledging who they are. The idea that we see the whole person, the three ‘identities’ he tangata, he tangata, he tangata – acknowledging our past, present and future.

Culture vs Strategy

19 Sep

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Is culture really more important than strategy to an organisation? Peter Drucker’s oft-quoted appreciation for the importance of culture is rooted in his strong belief in community. But surely a company that places greater value on culture over strategic planning is doomed to failure? I don’t think so. In fact, when it comes to schools, I think culture devours everything it encounters.

While places of learning need to be strategic, nothing is more important than school culture, what Michael Fullan refers to as “the guiding beliefs and expectations evident in the way a school operates”. Culture is all about people. Therefore it follows that the single most important thing a great school needs is great teachers

We know that placing the latest cutting edge technology in the hands of a weak teacher will do little to improve learning. And so it is in a school with a great strategy and a weak culture. School leaders need to pay more attention to recruiting the very best teachers then supporting them in a collaborative, supportive environment that enables them not only to embrace change, but to lead it.

Restorative

10 Sep

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Restorative justice, by its nature, is a responsive practice, but I suggest that schools cannot simply implement a practice of restorative justice without considering the disparate impact that implicit bias will continue to have in the application or selective application of community-building principles on their students. We must welcome and establish critically reflective practices amongst our staff and students as we develop restorative justice in our schools, beginning with the terminology we use with which to describe the players.

Helicopter Institutions

4 Sep

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It is Mock Exam time at our place next week. It is a busy term with a variety on. We are busily running extra sessions for students so it made me question: Does the presence of extra sessions, Study Days, or 24 hour access through the flipped classroom give the message to students that even if you produce minimal work in lessons then there is still time for you to catch up later on? Are we creating a helicopter institution?

I chatted to a knowledgeable student today and posed this exact question about additional catch up sessions.  They came up with a number of reasons in a balanced way justifying their place, and even their removal, from school.  One of the biggest things he said was that the presence of them might be giving students who “can’t be bothered” a reason to choose not to do any work.  The knowledge that they could catch up at a later date might allow them to pick and choose when they wanted to do anything in actual lesson time.

With the creation of additional sessions after school, are we inadvertently creating two schools?  With the school day ending does another one begin?

Are the pressures of teaching being passed onto students?

With the increased levels of accountability and pressure for results, do teachers feel that they are required to run these sessions to fulfil targets?

With this in mind, is the expectation and requirement of students to attend these sessions actually removing the love of learning?   Are additional sessions shifting the responsibility for student’s grades from the student and onto the teacher?  Does it feel like we have to work harder to get students through their NCEA or National Standards?

With workload itself being a national talking point, are we laying more pressure on teachers to not only teach their timetabled lessons, but to also teach additional lessons outside of curriculum time?

Because we want the best for our students, and we want to ensure we have the best results possible for our own professional progress, do we feel that we should be doing these sessions?  Is that part of the problem though?  If they weren’t rolled out in schools would students work harder?  So can we be that little bit better at using catch up classes?

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