Tag Archives: Teaching

Asking Good Questions

18 Jul

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As reflect on my classroom practice during the break I remind myself I must do better at asking question. I am reminded by Simon Sinek about talking last. This is no one of my strengths.

In class here are some techniques I am working on.

What are you thinking? When I want to elicit responses from my students, I give them time to clarify their thoughts through writing. This time to reflect prepares them for class discussion. As hands go up, I say each student’s name and ask, “What are you thinking?” After I listen to the response, I follow up with questions such as, “Can you tell me more about that?” or “What led you to that conclusion?”

Sometimes I will add my own thoughts, but often it’s enough just to hear theirs. I sometimes share too much and this can shut the conversation down.

My students know that I care about what they think because their insights lead us all to deeper understanding. Fostering real conversations ensures that our classrooms become places of academic inquiry and collaboration founded on a sense of fairness and mutual respect.

Feedback. I love using Microsoft forms as student voice. I have also adapted student voice panels to use a form of twitter or elevator pitch.

Do you remember when? I often circle back to students’ contributions to show them that their thoughts and efforts matter to me. I’ll remind Jess how I loved her frequent and enthusiastic understanding of Catholic Social Teaching this year, and I can always get a rise out of Charlotte if I question the role of women in the Catholic Church.!”

Sometimes, I’ll repeat memorable lines from student presentations: “Hannah, that reminds me of when you said..”  Students follow my lead in recounting favourite moments from the year, which builds community and strengthens relationships.

 

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In the Classroom

16 Jul

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I have been reflecting on my classroom practice. In my role, I see I have two classrooms. One is Room 115 where I teach two Religious Studies classes per day. The other is the Staffroom. My connections with staff is vital in my role as a member of the SLT. Here are a few descriptors of some things that are my focus on a being the best I can be as a teacher.

Seeing Christ in all of our students. Man this is hard some days.

Being able to Collaborate. This the focus of our inquiry at school this year. A constant desire to learn with and from colleagues to find ways to improve my pedagogy.

Tenacity that is the ability to be obsessive about creative ways to hook every child into learning and discovering their purpose in life.

Breaking through barriers. I know every day we face difficult conversations but this just makes us stronger.

Energy that is the kind that inspires learners to surpass content consumption and see the impact that their learning  can make on the world. This can be tough especially in the winter term.

Being accountable to a focused and committed environment that takes learners from where they are to where they need to be, but goes a step further by transforming engaged students into empowered learners.

Hardwork, which generally goes far beyond the hours and confines of the school building.

Inward Inquiry and Being a Lifelong Learner. Constantly asking the question, “How can I improve?”

The greatest teachers know how to elicit greatness from their students. Teaching is a difficult profession.  It is sometimes thankless, but there are those times when it is the most fulfilling and most personally rewarding gift that a person could ever give themselves.

Andragogy

2 Feb

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It is important to understand things are changing in our classroom. Central to this is the way learning takes place. I am doing a great deal of reading about andragogy. Andragogy refers to the methods and approaches used in adult education and is directed towards self-actualization, gaining experience, and problem-solving. In contrast, pedagogy is an education method in which the learner is dependent on the teacher for guidance, evaluation, and acquisition of knowledge.

Things are changing and that is why we need to adopt a an anthropological approach to our teaching.

One of the most obvious differences between pedagogy vs. andragogy is the motivation of the learner. Our tamariki require extrinsic motivation: They’re usually learning because an authority figure tells them to, or because they’ll be penalized in the classroom otherwise.

Adults, on the other hand, come to the table self-motivated and interested in understanding new topics and ideas because they know that doing so can positively affect their earning potential, community standing, or personal development. In short, to motivate adult learners, you need to highlight how learning benefits them personally and directly, rather than a “because I said so” mentality.

For better or for worse, kids approach learning as blank slates: They don’t have much experience with most topics, and even when they’ve had experience, it’s been on an academic level only. Teachers and instructors don’t necessarily need to connect learning experiences together for children to understand new concepts.

Things have changed though. Our students now bring so much more to the table.  We must acknowledge they’ve had the benefit of learning and experience. They know what has worked for them in the past or have habits that affect the way they learn and act. Because of this, approaching new topics with a traditionally pedagogical strategy could leave them disengaged and uninterested. Instead, andragogy inspires instructors to do a better job connecting learning experiences to what adult learners already know. Allowing for opinion, better pacing, and knowledge checks and re-checks helps adults leverage their life experience as valuable information.

Those who teach according to traditional theory might not realize the importance behind relevancy as part of the strategy. Our tamariki want to understand why they’re learning a new topic. Not only should it be applicable to either their current position or a position they’d like to achieve, but topics should be hyper-relevant in the moment. They see irrelevancy as a waste of their time, so whether they’re already familiar with a topic or they simply don’t see how it applies to them, you could lose learners if you don’t take the time to highlight the “what’s in it for me right now?” behind any topic.

It’s a common mistake and one that might seem like no big deal, but mixing up pedagogy and andragogy makes your teaching less effective. When teaching your tamariki, don’t patronize them with childlike learning strategies. Indeed do so at your peril.

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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

My Ako Goal

11 Dec

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My Ako Goal this year was to lead student-centred, innovative and collaborative pedagogical practices. Things I had in mind at the start of the year were to reject the deficit thinking. Caring for the learner – building a relationship with our students. Having high expectations which must be voiced and demonstrated through the dispositions of Manawa Mission. Manage a classroom for learning not behavior and creating a culture for learning. I wanted to deepen my own content knowledge.

Did I do this in 2017? To a degree. It was my mahi. I developed a new strategy or rediscovered one. Student voice is always a powerful tool – it allows the teachers to check in with what is happening in the class with 3 simple questions: What are you learning? How can you show me your successful at learning? What happens next?

I tried to keep things fresh. As students have access to any information possible, there certainly is no need to “spoon-feed” the knowledge or teach “one-size fits all” content. I recognized through my learning plans as students have different personalities, goals, and needs, offering personalized instructions is not just possible but also desirable. When students are allowed to make their own choices, they own their learning, increase intrinsic motivation, and put in more effort — an ideal recipe for better learning outcomes.

I deepened my knowledge by reading some wonderful pieces of literature and attending some great courses. Perhaps I need to work on the fact the students must be aware the environment is student centred not teacher centred. My students were often passive.

My Next Steps

  1. Keep getting teachers to share their learning.
  2. Continue to have disruptive conversations.
  3. Work on creating a collaborative teaching environment.

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.

 

 

Why we should journal as teachers?

7 Sep

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Why should you blog and what should you use? The why is easy. Self-reflection an journaling is vital to continual improvement. I like WordPress because I can include photos, video, slideshows, and hyperlinks. It is a visually interesting digital portfolio that can be commented on and modified when needed. Many posts create a discussion which gives me other things to think about. We are beginning to investigate blogging, using One Note for the purpose of appraisal. It is preferable to filling in lots of paperwork. I have also been involved in facilitating professional development to help people set up their blogs. Blogging naturally reflects your own PTCs.

The act of regularly expressing your thoughts in written form can help sharpen your intellect, organize your ideas and prep you to lead lessons in the classroom more effectively. (Teach.com, 2015)

Putting your ideas into the world is a great way to attract like-minded people to argue with, network with, or get advice from. As we’ve learned from other discussions on personal learning networks (PLN), talking with other educators is a wonderful way to learn and grow as a teacher. (Teach.com, 2015)

Positive or negative, getting reactions from other people in your community is a great way to test out your ideas. It can also be a great motivational tool. (Teach.com, 2015)

Many employers these days will check out a prospective employer’s online presence to find out about who they are as a person and how they represent themselves. A blog will help an employer to understand the values and attitudes of a teacher. It will also give insight into how they teach and reflect on their pedagogy.

A blog will give employers a deeper insight into your teaching practices while signaling that you’re a 21st century teacher. Having a teaching portfolio can be a decisive element at the interview stage of the hiring process. How have you approached the idea of collating your evidence for PTCs?

 

Technology Rant

6 Jul

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For the purposes of schooling, the technology (the device) needs to support the pedagogy (teaching and learning methods), not the other way around. The device needs to support our intentions for our pedagogy to be more and more student-centred; that means, providing students with greater choice of subject matter and pace of study. It also requires teachers to involve students in more decision‐making processes which result in memorable experiences where students ‘learn by doing’ with relevance to the real world. Examples of this approach would see students:

  • CREATE podcasts, video documentaries and websites;
  • COLLABORATE via wikis, blogs and Google share documents; and,
  • CRTICALLY ANALYSE the work of their peers using chat options and online media.

My desire is for my students and staff to more and more engage in activities that result in them Creating, Collaborating and Critiquing. They collectively need to move away from pre‐occupation of computer work being just “Word and PowerPoint”; and it is great to see that some are already doing this! The Microsoft suite of applications is one option which supports “creating, collaborating and critiquing”. Watch this space.

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.

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.

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