Tag Archives: Education

I Can’t Accept: Part Two

8 Aug

No Way

I can’t accept and continue to allow educators to believe that integrating technology into instruction is optional. As individuals, we can choose to ignore the influence of technology in society, but as educators we are robbing our students of experiences they will need to be successful.

I can’t accept that we have one of the most important jobs in the world.

I can’t accept and continue to think that learning is limited to what happens within the four walls of a classroom. Learning happens everywhere.

I can’t accept and can’t allow ourselves not to be held accountable. We as the educators are responsible for what happens in our schools, and it’s that responsibility that makes working in education awesome. #Justsaying

Do you agree on these?

Professional Development

9 Jun

Have you ever found yourself trapped in a seemingly irrelevant professional development session, sitting painfully, watching the clock slowly tick by while someone drones on at the front? You know the presenter is apparently supposed to be teaching you something that will help develop you as a teacher but you are clock watching. You feel like you are trapped in an 80s movie..

Recently I felt like this and I started to note down some ideas. I acknowledge Courous, Drucker and many others who inspired these thoughts. I think the key to good PD are some of the following:

  1. Self-directed
  2. Relevance
  3. Links to Strategic Goals
  4. Collaboration
  5. Transparent Sharing

In the coming weeks I will develop further on this idea.

Faculty Review

18 Mar

This week I have been conducting a faculty review. It was an opportunity to review paperwork and look at classroom teaching. I came up with a list of things I’d like to see in every classroom beyond a bi-cultural learning environment that illustrated special character. Perhaps this will get you thinking.

  • Deeper learning through relationships between all learning parties.
  • Students employed collaboratively and working together in small teams/groups. Lots of key competencies being displayed here.
  • Physical movement by both the students and the educator in the classroom.
  • Frequent and specific feedback to students as they work toward their learning goals. Feedback from students and teachers is most improved and increased when students are getting descriptive feedback on their learning.
  • Great questions being asked and a focus more on questions than answers.
  • Differentiation evident. This means kids working at their level at their pace and unless you’re really lucky, that can’t be happening too often.
  • Learning targets and learning objectives clearly posted. I really enjoy the task of asking students what they learned and what the lesson sequence was.

Rethinking my Pedagogy

27 Feb

The fundamentals of our education system in NZ is corroding. Technology has forced educators to reconsider their expertise or pedagogy or method. I know I have. At the same time, the school system is under persistent attack from the political left and right. We educators are scrambling to patch these foundations together. However, now seems the right time to ask, what would education look like if all partisanship, prejudices, and training was forgotten? What would we create if all we had was a comprehensive understanding of education’s history and a well-reasoned view of the purpose of education?

Others have proposed reinventions of classroom instruction for economic reasons; we need to produce innovators, they say. How many time have you heard people outside our education system say this.But what of moral justifications? What of the edification of the students themselves? Is there really a serious student voice? With these nobler aims in mind, we can rebuild an institution that has been our nation’s pride, and will be again.

So, how would you design a classroom, a curriculum, a school if all you knew was what has and has not worked in the past and the only opinion you held was a notion of the ultimate purpose of education? National Standards, NCEA and such out the window. I know our schools would look a great deal different.

I leave you with this to get you thinking.

 

Iwi Partnerships

5 Oct

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This term we celebrate our Maori and Pasifika students with their own special Year 13 graduation. It is something I am most proud of at our school. For all this success though I do wonder how many iwi has been asked whether they want to be partners in education? Or if we doing it right? I just presumed they want to, or should do, and therefore created a “partnership” thrust through school, by which teachers must adhere?   Ko te kai a te rangatira he kōrero?

The New Zealand Curriculum openly encourages schools to engage with families, whānau and communities. Parents are engaged at our place and we are consistently asking “Is there a better way?” We are encouraged to engage between te kura, te whānau, te hapū, te iwi me te hapori of the student. Where’s the bit that emphasises what iwi want? Are they happy by saying nothing? What do iwi stand to gain by working alongside schools? Is there a partnership? Koha mai, koha atu?

I must note an annual goal for next year again. Why do schools find it difficult to engage with iwi? Some institutes don’t know where to start looking. I know that I feel this way often. I have increased my understanding, interviewed and surveyed but still I feel we could enhance our engagement.

There’s presently a big focus on lifting achievement for priority learners in all sectors. And a strong suggestion that schools should “engage” with iwi and communities of Māori learners. After my NAPP study in 2013 I still am asking but how do we do this? What is the big secret? The answer I believe is that there is none. Like with any of our learners. All we can do is maintain relationships.

Something to reflect on with staff this week:

 

Flipped Classrooms

2 Oct

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My peers (especially the Maths Department) have got me thinking about the concept of “flipped classrooms” now for a while and the great thing about holidays is that it frees up time to do just that – think and in this case write, share and hopefully promote further discussion. My class website has taken off in recent year to the point I am considering a podcast in 2015.

I found this summary of flipped classrooms for the uninitiated.

The flipped classroom describes a reversal of traditional teaching where students gain first exposure to new material outside of class, usually via reading or lecture videos, and then class time is used to do the harder work of assimilating that knowledge through strategies such as problem-solving, discussion or debates. (Vanderbilt University, Center for Teaching. University of Queensland.)

Thanks to a writer in my PLN I came across an article by Shelley Wright who was talking about flipping Blooms Taxonomy of learning, it’s worth sharing:

I begin with having my students write a paragraph, either in response to a prompt or their own free writing. Next, students, working in small groups or pairs, evaluate several master texts for the criteria we’re working on. How does the writer use punctuation or voice in a particular text? What similarities are there between texts? Students then compare their own writing with each text. What did they do correctly or well? How does their writing differ and to what effect?

As a class, or in their groups, we analyse the pieces for similarities and differences and group them accordingly. Only then do I introduce the concept of run-on sentences, comma splices, and fragments. Essentially, through this process, my students identify the criteria for good writing. From this, we’re able to co-construct criteria and rubrics for summative assessments.

Students then apply what they’ve learned by returning to their own writing. They change elements based on the ideas they’ve encountered.

Students further their understanding by either listening to a podcast, or engaging in their own research of grammar rules. Finally, as the knowledge piece, students create a graphic organizer/infographic or a screencast that identifies the language rules they’ve learned.

I think the best flipped classrooms work because they spend most of their time creating, evaluating and analysing. In a sense we’re creating the churn, the friction for the brain, rather than solely focusing on acquiring rote knowledge. The flipped classroom approach is not about watching videos. It’s about students being actively involved in their own learning and creating content in the structure that is most meaningful for them.

It got me thinking. The flipped classroom provides opportunities for all students. Fundamentally the student should be doing the work of learning which a dynamic process is and the activity and or use of technology will influence this process. Again the technology is but a tool.

Video Clip:

Teachers need to be educators—guides, mentors, encouragers, and providers of deeper learning and understanding, while allowing students to access basic knowledge in a variety of other ways.

Eddie Obeng makes some powerful observations in his excellent TED Talk, “Smart failure for a fast-changing world”:

 

 

Creating a Winning Culture

30 Sep

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Winning cultures aren’t just about affiliation; they are also unashamedly about results and relationships. Results and relationships are key to great schools.

Goals set and results achieved rather than simply talked about around a management table where people sit idly and then go back to their teams and implement nothing.  The other ingredient which is hard to buy is passion.   How do you instill passion in staff? Passion drives success culture and helps build high performance by virtue of the staff who have the passion to want the best in everything they do.  I find in the schools I work in many teachers have a passion for teaching and learning and the great teachers are the ones who can impart this love and passion for learning to their students.

Linking performance to strategic direction is important too.  What drives individuals every day in their job?  The answer is linking to a bigger picture called strategic direction that all great schools and systems have.  Consider this great summary from the Harvard research into the top seven characteristics that build high performance culture:

  1. There is high integrity in all interactions, with employees, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders;
  2. Performance-focused. Rewards, development, and other talent-management practices are in sync with the underlying drivers of performance;
  3. Accountable and owner-like. Roles, responsibilities, and authority all reinforce ownership over work and results;
  4. There’s a recognition that the best ideas come from the exchange and sharing of ideas between individuals and teams;
  5. Agile and adaptive. The organization is able to turn on a dime when necessary and adapt to changes in the external environment;
  6. Employees push the envelope in terms of new ways of thinking; and
  7. Oriented toward winning. There is strong ambition focused on objective measures of success, either versus the competition or against some absolute standard of excellence

http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/12/the-definitive-elements-of-a-winning-culture/

School Culture

2 Jun

There is plenty of literature and research in recent years that cites positive teacher-student interaction as the biggest factor in improving student learning. In other words, better teaching equals better learning. This year with our new mentoring programme we are going a long way to develop this.

Hattie advocates that each of these factors accounts for only 5-10% variance in student achievement and therefore we should focus our efforts on the teaching and improving what happens in the classroom. While I don’t disagree with this (remember students quit teachers, not subjects), I think we need to remember that what happens in the classroom does not happen in isolation. The minor factors of Home, Schools, Principals and Peer Effects total about 20% – but is this insignificant? I would also argue that not only is 20% a reasonably large contribution to student achievement, but that also these things greatly impact what is happening in the classroom.

‘School Culture’ is everything that exists outside of the classroom (essentially, the “20 %”). The ‘Center for Improving School Culture’, a North American institute, encapsulates my thoughts even better by suggesting that School Culture “is shared experiences both in and out of school, such as traditions and celebrations, a sense of community, of family, and team”.

Our school has started the strategic planning process. At Staff Briefing on a Friday we are asking what will a great school culture look like at our school? It has to be more than shared morning teas and singing contests. It has to be a focused on teaching and learning opportunities. The journey continues…

Social Media

15 Sep

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Just Google “teachers, Facebook, inappropriate” and a flood of articles appear relating the indiscretions and sins of teachers who have overstepped the bounds of propriety by posting inappropriate statements, pictures, and videos on Facebook and other social media accounts. At Staff Meetings this term we have run a number of sessions on this particular subject. I can highly recommend the website below. This has been the main source of many of our resources. http://www.teachersandsocialmedia.co.nz/

Last year, three teachers in the United States were fired for having inappropriate relationships with students on Facebook. In November 2008, five teachers got into hot water for posting inappropriately on Facebook. The phenomenon is not limited to just Facebook. In May of 2009, a teacher in Scotland used Twitter to post inappropriate Tweets. She criticized the school’s management and tweeted about personally identifiable information about individual students in her classes.

When you read these news stories your immediate reaction is to question the sanity and intelligence of people who do these kinds of things, yet, what schools are struggling with is a very unique 21st century problem: the power of social media to connect people in ways that once was not possible, and the ability of individuals to share information in and about their lives on a scale not possible before.

Added to the concern about teachers using social networking inappropriately, is the concern about loss of productivity. A study found that nearly half of office employees access Facebook at work, and those companies lose on average 1.5 percent of total office productivity when employees have access during the workday. According to a study performed by the British employment law firm Peninsula “about $ 264 million is lost per day by British corporations due to office workers dillydallying on Facebook.” This same study also said 233 million hours are lost every month as a result of employees “wasting time” on social networking. By the way just in case you’re thinking I complete my blog at 7am every Thursday here NZ.

With all the negativity though let’s remember these are tool and when used properly they are awesome. Teachers, being lifelong learners need to just be educated to be digital citizens like our students.

 

My Educational Philosophy

1 Feb

“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love tenderly, to walk humbly with your God.”

(Micah 6:8)

I believe the foremost mission of a teacher is to act justly and to make an intentional effort to see individual students as God sees them. Perception and insight is often required in order to achieve good quality and effective student teacher relationships. The following points achieve this mission:

I believe students are real and potential gifts to the world. They are not problems that need to be solved. Students may not see their own strengths until teachers help them discover their potential.

I believe we can support our students by affirming them. In my experience students are teenagers who are capable, willing and longing for the trust of a caring teacher. It is my experience that their performance reflects expectation.

I believe a teacher must exhibit forgiveness to oneself and to others.

I believe teachers should see themselves as vehicles of Gods love. The teacher should deal with their students with great respect. The teacher needs to provide witness through their own lives and practice of Gospel values.

I believe a teacher is more than someone who presents curriculum. The teacher should be aware that they have a particular ministry to educate by the word of God and role modelling. They are involved in encouraging and promoting their students to lead their lives as followers of Jesus.

I believe a teacher should be positive and optimistic. I am happy to thank God for gifting me with the knowledge, experience and skills necessary to teach and share skills with my students and fellow teachers in the College community.

I believe in establishing a safe, supportive, challenging and validating learning environment. I try to ensure that the classroom culture is one which is emotionally, socially and physically safe where a student can be the best they can be.

 

I believe a teacher must be loyal to students, fellow staff and community alike.

I believe a teacher must continually ask for help to see them as God does and appreciate the infinite worth of people. So each day I pray for grace to walk humbly with my God in my work with young people.

Andrew Murray

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