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Self Reflection Guide

3 Sep

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Self reflection often creates that moment helps you in the classroom. Collaborative reflection is even better. Collaborative dialogues held between teachers, between a teacher and students, or among students cause participants to share their reflections and outline their progress toward the increase of student achievement.

Time should be set aside at the end of a learning sequence—lesson, unit, school day, or year—for participants to question one another about what they have learned and how they can apply their knowledge and skills in future settings.

In an atmosphere of trust, well-crafted questions allow participants to reveal their insights, understandings, and thought processes: As you reflect on this semester’s work, which dispositions were you most aware of in your own learning? What meta-cognitive strategies did you employ to monitor your progress toward your desired outcomes? What insights have you gained that you will use in the future? The resulting dialogue allows staff and students to model and practice listening habits characterized by understanding and empathy, to communicate clearly, and to compose powerful questions.

I have found providing sentence stems might stimulate more thoughtful reflections during portfolio conferences (where reflection can be modeled) or as an option for those who need a “jump start” for reflections:

  • I selected this piece of writing because. . . .
  • What really surprised me about this writing was. . . .
  • When I look at my other journal entries, I see that this piece is different because. . . .
  • What makes this piece of writing strong is my use of . . . .
  • Here is one example from my writing to show you what I mean. . . .

Developing habits of continual growth and improvement requires self-reflection. As we as individuals, staffs, and organizations reflect on our actions, we gain important information about the efficacy of our thinking. These experiences let us practice the habit of continual growth through reflection. With meditation, trust, consistent modeling, and practice, we and our students learn to listen to the internal and external voices of reflection, and in the process, our school communities truly learn by doing.

What are you doing for self reflection in your learning environment?

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Equality

14 Jul

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The Pastoral Care systems at our school are simply amazing. I can say this because I see the great care our teachers take with our students. I have been thinking do we at school support the whole child?  There are multiple ways to support the whole child.  Some schools design curriculum maps and the teachers work in professional learning teams to share instructional strategies.  Some schools post a mission statement.” As I approach the holidays I have been focusing on the whole child and factors that impact student understanding.

Wet and Cold

Recently, I drove to work in the dark and in the rain.  I arrive at school each day at 630am. Hey I don’t want a medal it is my job. But some days I have students arrive just behind me. Is this right? I turn on the heaters and let these students in. It got me thinking. What does your school do for students who wait in the rain to catch the bus or arrive ridiculously early?  Do you think it would be difficult to learn if you spent the first part of your day in soaking wet clothes or being at school since 7am two hours before the start time?

Tertiary Knowledge

Some families know how to support tertiary institution readiness.  There are several families who begin this process in primary school.  As an educator Charlotte and I often talk of next steps. Several students enter College without an end in mind.  They may receive counselling from a teacher or counsellor, but this varies from school to school.   Some schools have an advisor/advisee program where students learn how to search for a school, what majors are available, how to complete an application, financial aid options, and how to apply for scholarships.  Some people say that the path to tertiary institutions is a game.  Based on my observations, some students know how to play the game and some don’t. Is this right?

Reading

Most educators would agree that reading is the cornerstone of education.  Some students go home and they have three bookshelves, the newspaper, four laptops, and magazine subscriptions waiting in the mailbox.  Thousands of students go home with their textbook and the book they checked out of the school media centre.  How do we support students who do not go home to the equivalent of the “Teens” section at Whitcoulls?  This is a topic that needs to be addressed in every school.  Some schools have a library program in.  Students receive books that are at their level or high-interest books.   If reading is an essential life skill, then how are schools supporting students who don’t own books?

Access

I my classes with a flipped learning environment in mind but I always check which of my students have access. It must be uncomfortable going home knowing that you will not be able to access the Internet to complete your school assignments.   Some students are able to use Khan Academy to get academic support with their math assignment.  What do the students do when they can’t connect with Khan?  Not only is Khan offline is some homes, the student cannot text, FaceTime, Skype, or share a Doc with her peers.  As schools move to more 1:1 classroom, it will be important for teachers, to consider that students have a different opportunity to learn. What does your school do to support students and to equal the playing field when it comes to access?

 

Mentor

26 Jun

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I am currently doing a great deal of mentoring in my role as Leader of the Curriculum group.The word ‘mentor’ comes from a Hungarian word, ‘bus’, which means helping people move. Mentoring is a way of leading and learning, and a mentor is someone who takes the time to have focused conversations with others to help them maximise their capabilities. Mentoring is about creating the conditions for learning and growing. It is the process of Ako.

Teachers are used to being the authorities and possessing the answers. The role has now changed for them now to be facilitators as students can Google the answers a great deal quicker. However, if we want teachers to take ownership for their learning, the mentor cannot be the expert, as this creates learned helplessness on the part of the mentored teachers. The primary responsibility for learning must rest on the shoulders of those doing the learning, and it is the mentor’s role to facilitate the learning and to build capacity.

The danger with mentoring lies in the perceived need for the mentor to appear brilliant, to be seen to have all the answers. When mentors are focused on looking wonderfully clever, they do not listen long enough. They summarize and interpret and direct far too early in the session. Mentors need to realize that the brilliant person is the client. The mentor’s job is to help the client discover that.

Try the WIN technique this week if you are involved in mentoring. Establish and prioritize: What’s Important Now. Thank you for your feedback. Let me know if this works as well for you as it has for me.

 

Writing Assessment Tasks

12 Jun

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Using the right questions creates powerful, sometimes multiple answers and discussions. Aristotle said that he asked questions in response to other people’s views, while Socrates focused on disciplined questioning to get to the truth of the matters.

Ultimately questions spark imagination, conjure emotions, and create more questions. The questions asked by a teacher or professor are sometimes more glaringly valuable than the information transferred to the students. Those questions spark a thought, which leads to a fiercely independent search for information.

If students are the ones gathering that information then they’re the ones learning it and student-driven learning cements lessons into the students’ mind making any lesson more powerful with this strategy. As I teach and write the next assessment task this week I have been thinking about the following questions. Note they need to be linked to our New Zealand Curriculum.

  • How might you show the differences and similarities?
  • What patterns might lead you to an alternative answer?
  • How many possibilities can you think of and why?
  • How does this relate daily occurrences?

Pedagogy and Student Achievement

29 May

Vision Road Sign with dramatic blue sky and clouds.

More and more teachers are giving students projects to do, whether at school or at home. They often have complete freedom of how to present the final outcome. Common examples include a PowerPoint presentation, report, poster or physical model. A few, may go for a more creative option such as a video. However, digital technology, when used, is often limited to presenting passive information without any interactivity. The type that doesn’t encourage any engagement. We must remember the tool should not drive the presentation just like with teaching.

It must be said that some teachers do encourage students to take advantage of digital technologies. Examples include blogging or other forms of presenting content, e.g. social media, or wikis. Even then though, for those who engage with the content, it‘s still mostly passive (reading/watching). Sometimes it increases a bit to up/down-voting or commenting as the ultimate engagement. Tools like spellasaurus or Mathletics are fine but it is the pedagogy behind it which is key.

Years ago, in an effort to understand the students we served and the role of teachers in creating spaces where learning can happen, we created a list of what we believed these conditions were:

  • Knowing our learners
  • Creating a safe community of learners
  • Having something meaningful for students to learn about
  • As teachers we have to have a deep understanding of the content, the learner and instructional practices
  • The notion of teacher as learner and actually doing the risk taking, being open to make mistakes

We spent some time discussing as a staff what resonated with us most and what caused us the most dissonance. It was an incredible insight into the thinking of our staff in our collective and individual impact on the learners in our care.

I believe that supporting learning at the classroom level is no different than supporting innovation and learning at a staff level.

We need to be able to do what we are asking our teachers to do. We have to create spaces where creativity, innovation, risk-taking in learning, and experimentation are welcome.

Lets Be Connected

22 May

constructivist

Ka rongo, ka wareware

Ka kite, ka mahara

Engari, mā te mahi ka mōhio.

I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, but through doing, I know.

 

Last year while on secondment to NCRS I did some presenting to groups and reflecting on teaching practice. Everything I did centred around our teachers raising student achievement. It reminded me about the importance of being a connect educator. I hope I brought this back to my own environment.

Overall a connected educator at Sacred Heart Girl’s College knows how to grow as a professional and to empower each other and their students to build their own personal learning networks to learn using the technologies that are available. Much is learnt from each other, with each other, and with the classes that they teach.

As part of my appraisal, one of my guiding principles is Whangaungatanga or connectedness, Kaitiakitanga or Guardianship and Manaakitanga or Generosity of spirit. These all deal with connectedness.

Kaitiakitanga – Guardianship

Ensuring sensitivity and thoughtfulness of actions in environments both local and distant.

A connected educator at Sacred Heart Girl’s College knows how to build their community of practise that has active participants like guest speakers and where everyone co constructs knowledge. A great example of this is uLearn16 or #edchatnz or subject associations meetings.

Whanaungatanga – Connectedness

Being connected requires learners to develop a secure sense of their own identity and agency to think and work towards where their potential might lie.

Sacred Heart Girl’s College is already a strong learning community that collaboratively constructs knowledge to form a foundation for learning. A connected educator at Sacred Heart Girl’s College knows how to use the managed online tools to find people and how to connect with them. They think carefully about the dynamics of interactions.

Manaakitanga – Generosity of spirit

Developing the ability to walk in others’ shoes which includes seeing issues from others’ perspectives and thinking carefully about the dynamics of interactions.

A connected educator at Sacred Heart Girl’s College knows how to use and take the tools from their kete to move their practice forward. They know how to get the learning needed to improve the craft of teaching. A connected educator at Sacred Heart Girl’s College knows how to use pedagogical eTools.  They know how to bring back what they have found and learnt online and share it with their school community via a reflective educator blog. Personal learning is transparent, visible and accessible by all.

Ka rongo, ka wareware

Ka kite, ka mahara

Engari, mā te mahi ka mōhio.

 

 

 

 

 

Learning

20 May

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There is no one size fits all mode to education. Each child’s progress is individual to them and different children develop at different rates. The physical growth of a child is obvious to an observer but at simultaneously children are developing intellectually, socially, emotionally, morally and spiritually. Every child is a complex individual and no child moves suddenly from one phase of development to another and children do not make progress in all areas at the same time. Children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates and all areas of learning and development are equally important and inter-connected.

In order that the learning and developmental needs of all children in an International School are met it is essential that all classroom instruction is differentiated by the classroom teacher. The process of differentiated instruction is by its very definition the mechanism by which the needs of each individual learner are met. Given that children learn in different ways and at different speeds it is essential that a lesson be planned to cater for the learning requirements of all. Every child has a right to access the curriculum and to learn and thus the teacher has a duty to ensure that all lessons are structured to enable all children to achieve success. The implication being that the curriculum must be accessible to children with special educational needs whilst at the same time academically rigorous for the most able children in a classroom.

The Habits of Stephen Covey

1 Apr

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I have been rereading one of my favorite books recently. The First Three Habits surround moving from dependence to independence (self-mastery).
1. Be Proactive: Work from the centre of your influence and constantly work to expand it.
2. Begin with the End in Mind: Envision what you want in the future so you can work and plan towards it.
Here she challenged us with “What are you doing to ensure that you are going to achieve what you have identified as your end in mind?”
3. Put First Things First: This is about the difference between Leadership and Management. Leadership in the outside world begins with personal vision and personal leadership. Think about what is important and what is urgent

Compliant or Contributing?

18 Jan

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I have an  academic interest about what is good learning in a classroom. The idea that a quiet class is not necessarily one of learning. Alan November wrote an excellent book about teaching and learning titled, Who Owns the Learning (2012).When I visit and observe classrooms, this is the question I ask myself. Simply Who owns the Learning? Who is this lesson about? The answer to this single question helps you determine if you are observing schooling or a culture of learning. Student contribution comes in the form of project-based learning. You can also see student contribution when a group of middle school students are making a video in science class, rather than watching a video. When students participate in a kahoot or padlet, you can hear students push back and ask clarifying questions. In a classroom where three students are designing a product, based on an authentic task you can see that students are applying their skills and demonstrating their understanding. I often ask myself “Are the students being compliant or contributing?” Sometimes I feel it is the former. What does your school look like?

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