Tag Archives: Students

Planning

8 Nov

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How do you know if you are driving the right way when you are traveling somewhere new? You use the road signs and a map (although nowadays it might be SIRI ). In the world of education, your objectives for your students act as road signs to your destination. Your plan is the map. Making a plan does not suggest a lack of creativity in your curriculum but rather, gives creativity a framework in which to flourish.

We can’t all be blessed with “epic” workdays all the time. Sometimes, life is just mundane and tedious. Teachers with a sense of purpose that are able to see the big picture can ride above the hard and boring days because their eye is on something further down the road. However by planning and making outcomes clear to our students we can clarify things for students and ourselves.

Differentiation

17 Sep

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As we think as a school about acceleration, tracking students with various abilities and needs of students in your lessons mean that we need to tailor how we teach each one.  It doesn’t mean that differentiation needs to add to workload or contribute to an over-complicated lesson.  Differentiation should also be for the students we are providing it for, not for a tick box ERO review or Faculty Review inspection.

Differentiation need not be observable

Differentiation is for your students.  It shouldn’t be about ticking off boxes. Differentiation is subtle, personal and ingrained in what we do.  It isn’t a short term fix but a longer process.

Differentiation is key to good teaching

It’s the conversations we have, the bespoke feedback we give, the way we differ questions between groups of students.  Differentiation is a response to what is going on in class. Key word is response not a reaction. It should be thoughtful by the teacher.

Differentiation is not about making tasks easier but clarifying thinking

Show students what they should be aiming for and help scaffold students up towards that outcome.

Note I still have a great deal of thinking to do on this.

Great Leaders and Parents

8 Sep

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It is Fathers Day’s and I am reflecting on how my has changed in the last 8 years as a Dad. The other week I posted a photo of my daughter completing her first Weetbix Triathlon. She suggested I post the above of me finished my first and only (so far) half iron-man.

I have been contemplating a leadership metaphor used by Simon Sinek on a Ted Talk.

The quote that sticks out to me is “great leaders are like parents wanting to give their children (employees) opportunities to try and fail in safe ways and to discipline when necessary”.

I’m struck by the use of the term “discipline” in the metaphor when applied to leadership in a school.

Discipline is commonly defined as getting someone to follow the rules and there is some implication of punishment if you don’t.

Perhaps if people don’t follow the team decision that provides for consistency then discipline is applied – usually a one on one conversation between leader and in this case teacher. But is it then about natural consequences of not following the decision.

 

 

EQ

3 Sep

aboutEI-venn

Goleman (2002) brought the idea of emotional intelligence to the public consciousness, but researchers have long known that how well a person manages his or her emotions and those of others influences leadership effectiveness. For example, recognizing anger in yourself and others, and being able to empathize with people, can help you be more effective at exerting influence. Influence is at the heart of leadership. Emotional intelligence is an individual difference that is important for both leaders and followers. It is an individual difference that like many leadership skills is not fixed for life and can be improved by training and development. Emotional intelligence refers to qualities like: understanding one’s feelings, empathy for others, and the regulation of emotions to enhance living.

This type of intelligence has to do with the ability to connect with people and understand their emotions. These are not skills that form part of most formal curricula in schools or universities. Nor do they often get mentioned as something that needs to be developed in order to be effective in leadership or in life. Most good leaders are alike in one essential way – they all have a high degree of emotional intelligence. The five key factors in emotional intelligence are:  self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill. Space not does permit an explanation of these factors here. However, an internet search will uncover many emotional intelligence tests that you can undertake. Just type ‘emotional intelligence test’ into Google. Try however, to find a test that is underpinned by good research and has been found to be statistically valid and reliable.

Goleman, D. 2002, The New Leaders, Time Warner, London.

The Peace Table

17 Jun

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This week our staff took part in an amazing PD Day around restorative practices. It made me understand Restorative was about relationships and about having the entire community on board. This is an effective alternative to punitive responses to wrong doing. Inspired by indigenous traditions, it brings together persons harmed with persons responsible for harm in a safe and respectful space, promoting dialogue, accountability, and a stronger sense of community. Restorative justice is a philosophical framework that can be applied in a variety of contexts — the justice system, schools, families, communities, and others. As a teacher, I have used restorative questions with my students and find them to be a powerful tool.

However, I frequently catch myself putting more focus on the person who created the conflict, and having them use the restorative questions to reflect on the situation. With those who have been impacted, I tend to talk with them about the event, rather than give them the restorative questions to answer. While my reasoning was mainly about time management (and a bit of laziness), not allowing my students the time to reflect on those questions robs them of an opportunity to develop self-identification of their emotions and needs. Due to a recent situation, I have experienced first-hand the benefits of reflection using restorative questions, and truly recognize their importance to all parties involved in an act of harm.

I realize now how valuable restorative questions are, not only those who have committed an act of wrongdoing but also those who were affected by the act. The time spent processing what had happened to me was time well spent. It was a strong reminder for me that short-changing the process for my students can affect some of what restorative practices attempts to achieve: involvement of all parties; self-awareness; and the potential connections that can occur through recognition and acknowledgment of others’ feelings and needs.

Observation in the Classroom

10 Jun

hipster-teacher-worst

To me the key component to effective teacher observation is that it be student-focused. The emphasis needs to be on how things can be done differently in the classroom to ensure that students succeed academically. It must also be authentic. Conversations need to take place before and after the visit.

I think my teaching environment is a setting where a teachers-observing-teachers strategy thrives. A culture exists where people report with pride that they push’ one another professionally. I notice all teachers’ value collegial relationships as a means to professional development. This has been a journey and because of this that is why it is so successful.

Research tells me that the whole school community benefit from this being a success. What tools are you using in your environment?

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.

Vocational Pathways

1 May

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How do you define University and Career Readiness? Vocational Pathways is going some way to helping guide schools in this. Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert, shares how education has changed over the past century.  Visit Changing Education Paradigms.  I have been reflecting if Robinson’s view of the changing role of education reflect the vision of educators at my school?

As a teacher we must reflect on the following:

1)  How do I support Vocational Pathways and my students being career ready?

2)  How does the role of a guidance counselor and mentor teacher change when we view every student as a “Vocational Pathways Graduate?”

3)  Does Vocational Pathways begin at primary school?  What does it look like at each level?

4)  How do we assist parents and community members in seeing that Vocational Pathways is for every student?

5)  How does Vocational Pathways change curriculum, instruction, and assessment?

Our Government has set clear and challenging Better Public Service targets. 98% of children who start school in 2016 will have participated in early childhood education, and 85% of 18 year olds will have achieved NCEA Level 2 or equivalent in 2017. To ensure the connections across the system, I have set an additional target of 85% of primary school students meeting national standards in 2017. These are ambitious targets, but we are on track to meet them.

When politicians make a speech, it may come across as political rhetoric.  However, teachers can begin having a conversation about what it means to understand Vocational Pathways and have students career ready.  The changes will not come from speeches, new standards, new assessments, or hoping that more students will achieve.  Change will come when educators define Vocational Pathways and then begin to ask, “What is my role?”

 

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