Tag Archives: Teachers

Lego and Learning

4 Dec

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Invention was the key to Lego’s appeal for me growing up. The fun of building, breaking, and rebuilding. Using pieces of that were not lego because we had lost a piece. So of those pieces were gems. That was where the challenge lay. We learnt through trial and error, through testing and refining. More wheels don’t make things go faster – the increased friction actually slows them up. The walls of buildings need to interlock with each other occasionally or they fall over. I may not have grown up to be a mechanic, a bricklayer, or a vet, but I gained some valuable understandings about how things work.

Contrast that with today’s experience of building a Lego set. Certainly there are still valuable skills and experiences to be gained: following instructions with care and the sense of satisfaction upon completion. But the words “I’m finished” are not something I have ever associated with Lego. Had we ever uttered them, our parents would have simply said “Well, build something else.” Today, many children would consider it sacrilege to convert their immaculate Jedi Interceptor into a homemade bulldozer or their Hogwarts Castle into a skyscraper. In many bedrooms, ‘completed’ Lego models sit on the shelf, an end unto themselves.

From creation to replication – therein seems to lie the change in Lego. Teaching our children to be artisans who can recreate objects, carefully and methodically crafting them from a template, is a useful skill. But encouraging them to be artists, with the confidence and creativity to create and refine original designs, may be more useful still.

Which leads to the other sneaky change – from collaborative to solo pursuits. Learners memories are communal; they are of competition and co-operation. There were highest tower races, last-car-standing demolition derbies, joint construction projects and endless haggling as my brothers and sisters and I bartered for pieces from each other’s piles. It is true that, once built, a modern day themed set does provide the basis for interactive play. However, does it replace the life-lessons of building together?

Having recently seen the Lego Star Wars Wii game being played in virtual reality on a big screen, I should be glad that the solid little plastic bricks of my childhood still even exist. Nevertheless, I challenge parents to the following next time you are cleaning your child’s room:
1. ‘Accidently’ drop two or three of their completed Lego models on the floor
2. If they still have the original instruction sheets, hide them
3. When they get home from school, tell them to rebuild. It builds resilience
4. Better still, challenge them to build something completely different

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Spiritual PLD

23 Apr

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Professional development also needs to be designed for the purpose of the school. For Catholic schools, there is an even greater challenge. Schools need to meet the professional growth of teachers and their spiritual growth. How do Catholic schools meet this need? What methods can schools use to expand the spiritual strength that teachers need?

The spiritual growth of Catholic school teachers is essential for the success of schools. Catholic school teachers are entrusted with not only the academic knowledge that students learn, but also the faith formation of their students. Teachers are called by the Holy Spirit to develop the knowledge of their students in subjects both secular and sacred. Catholic school teachers take on this additional role with pride and passion, but it is critical that schools aid their teachers in developing their faith and strengthen their desire to teach the faith to students

Catholic Schools

16 Jan


In the secular world teachers are often promoted as role models for their students. In the sphere of catholic education it is essential that a teacher go beyond being this and lives his/her life as a witness to Christ and to the living out of gospel values. It is the duty of an educator in a catholic school to instill in his/her students the values of respect, forgiveness, openness and joy and to cherish each student and to be sensitive to the diverse talents, abilities and needs of each one. In doing so we seek to create unity through diversity. This may sound complicated but it is exemplified every minute of every day by the way our staff in catholic schools interact with the students in their care. All the best to all teachers as you begin your year.

Things We Regret Saying

14 Nov

Intelligence-Stvenson

When I was a new teacher I occasionally said things to students that I later regretted. In the last few years, I have witnessed or heard teachers say additional regretful things to students. I must admit I still do it. Don’t we all.
1. “You have potential but don’t use it.”
Students feel insulted when they hear this, and while some accept it as a challenge to do better, more lose their motivation to care. Instead, say in a caring way, “How can I help you reach your full potential?”
2. “I’m disappointed in you.”
Of course we occasionally are disappointed in things that our students do. In addition, the result of openly expressing that disappointment depends as much on the way we say it as the words we use. But students have told me that they hate hearing a teacher say this. The problem with this saying is that it looks to the past. The alternative might be more like, “What do you think you can do to make a more helpful decision the next time you are in a similar situation?”
3. “What did you say?”
This is the challenge that some teachers might throw down when walking away from a student after a private discussion about behavior and hearing that student whisper something. “What did you say?” is just bait for escalation. Do you really want to know what was whispered? It’s better to ignore that unheard comeback and move on. You don’t always need to have the last word.
4. “It’s against the rules.”
What? Yes I have said this!!!!!! Think of the progress that would not have been made if we all kept to the rules.  Often there are many behaviours from which people can choose in order to solve a problem. Some may be within the rules. Try saying this instead: “Let me see if there’s a way to meet your need within the rules.”
5. “Your brother/sister was better than you.”
Never compare siblings or anyone else in a positive or negative way about anything. Comparisons can only lead to trouble regardless of which side of the coin the student is.

Perhaps we can all think not only as teachers before we speak next.

Connector

6 Oct

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One of the major points I got out of my recent secondment was being a connector. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2002) described the importance of ‘Connectors.’ Gladwell says that Connectors have the gift of bringing the world together.  Connectors are important on year level teams, in faculty meetings, during crucial conversations, during times of change, and on a daily basis.  Teacher leaders who are connectors bring out the best in their co-workers.  They help connect the school with families and community leaders.  They can be very important in securing grant money for a school.  Who are the ‘Connectors’ in your school? What roles do they play?

Schools

2 Sep

School

What should schools teach, and how? And how do we know if we’re doing it well? These are important questions–ones that must be answered with social needs, teacher gifts, and technology access in mind. Now, we take the opposite approach. Here’s what all students should know, now let’s figure out how we can use what we have to teach it. If we don’t see the issue in its full context, we’re settling for glimpses.

How schools are designed and what students learn–and why–must be reviewed, scrutinized, and refined as closely and with as much enthusiasm as we do the gas mileage of our cars, the downloads speeds of our phones and tablets, or the operating systems of our watches. Most modern academic standards take a body-of-knowledge approach to education. This, to me, seems to be a dated approach to learning that continues to hamper our attempts to innovate.

Why can’t education, as a system, refashion itself as aggressively as the digital technology that is causing it so much angst? The fluidity of a given curriculum should at least match the fluidity of relevant modern knowledge demands. Maybe a first step in pursuit of an innovative and modern approach to teaching and learning might be to rethink the idea of curriculum as the core of learning models?

The Courage To Teach

28 Aug

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Teaching is a tough job. It involves working with people, with their imperfections and unpredictability in a context of constant changes in political priorities.  Decisions we make are rarely about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ but about what’s best for our students at a given time, in a complex and fluctuating set of circumstances. School leaders are constantly having to negotiate some of the most complex decisions – around the transition to academy status, ‘choices’ at leadership level which boil down to a choice between improved results or improved finances, choices around retakes, the cost-effectiveness of support teachers – none of this is black-and-white, and decisions involve an intricate negotiation of what we mean by ‘best’ for students and ‘best’ for staff.

We must always remember when we have great new ideas that our students are not some social experiment. The are a gift from God. They are special. Some are broken and some see school as their only safe haven.

In my time in the classroom, I’ve seen dozens of knee-jerk changes and swinging pendulums. Subject becoming optional, then essential. Coursework over exams. Exams over coursework. Completely rewritten exam specifications, importance on standards. Education is often a political football. I have noted sweeping changes that can’t be undone, without consultation with teachers. Who suffers? Our students. Lets remember they are at the centre. What do you think?

Visible Learning: John Hattie – Measuring impact

22 Aug

Impact

John Hattie’s work provides an important insight into the nature of educational research and the notion of measuring impact.  The idea that some strategies can be shown to have had more impact on average over time relative to others is crucial and his general message about the implications for teachers and the profession is very strong.  This video,gives a very good idea of Hattie’s thinking.  Of course, the effect size concept is problematic and is open to misinterpretation. This will create more discussion. What do you think?

Teacher Workload

28 Jun

It is coming to the end of the term and I am seeing in my new role things about teachers and their role.

  1. There are so many needs

Teachers work hard, and some may work more hours in a week than any other occupation. My issue is not that I average 45 to 50 hours a week. My issue is that I’m expected to teach too many students with too many needs. My expectations for my students are only surpassed by the expectations I have for myself.

  1. My working conditions are my students’ learning conditions.

While I complain regarding conditions on occasions I must remember that my students are confined to the same. They are children. This must be tough.

  1. Teachers are so busy teaching.

Yes it is true there is a great deal of Professional Development opportunities out their but they don’t have time and effort to learn how to be better teachers. School has looked, tasted, smelled and felt like school for too long. In order for things to improve, things have to change, and sustainable change needs to be led by teachers who are supported through inspiring professional development.

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.

 

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