Tag Archives: Teaching

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

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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.

Formative Assessment and Achievement

12 Apr

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Formative assessments flow seamlessly in the learning process because they are a part of the learning process. Most situations involving formative assessing are not and shouldn’t be for a grade. Students in my environment find this hard. So do teachers. How do we motivate them? We need to build a culture that it is not all about the mark.

Formative assessing is about goal-setting and the ownership of the learning process for students via feedback and input both from the teacher and from the students themselves.

Lastly, formative assessing DOES NOT need to be a traditional type of assessment. It can be something as simple as a brainstorm or Kahoot. Be creative.

The Key Is Good Questioning

26 Jan

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One key area that kept cropping up when looking at my teaching technique was why students don’t involve themselves in the process more. This idea of contributing more as been on my mind lately.  If I think back to my days at school, I can picture classes with friends and peers with different abilities, backgrounds and views on education.  We had some who enjoyed school.  Indeed we had a great time. We tolerated the learning bit but the school. Yes we loved it.
We had the naturally talented.  We had those who struggled.  We had some who gave their all.  We had some who wasted talent.  We had some who knew it all.  We had some who found school wasn’t for them.  Yes I real melting pot.  A wrong answer could be met with a severe put down from peers.  A great answer could result in ridicule.  The worry of the teacher finding out you have no idea left you feeling pressured, panicked or worried.  In actuality the culture of a classroom might not be that different now.
Who really knows.  But that culture where sharing answers during class questioning is safe is extremely important.  Yes we want students to challenge each other and offer opposing opinions, but we need to ensure that the environment in which questioning occurs allows everyone to contribute without the worry of ridicule or panic.  Setting clear rules, modelling how to share answers, demonstrating good protocol and scaffolding the process allow students the security to be involved.  Celebrating good answers, valuing opinions and rationally challenging ideas takes time to achieve, but setting up such a culture means a deal of hard work.
Challenging students to provide answers and contributing can be quite a task in some instances.  Setting expectations that every answer must be high quality can be even harder. Here again I believe the flipped classroom is an ideal platform.

Here are some things to think about.

  • Set that expectation that every student must speak loud enough so that they can be heard by all.  There is nothing worse when a student mumbles and the majority of the class can’t hear it.
  • Ask that they use well structured sentences and language.  Now this will take time to develop but similar to writing, students should be using specific terminology, sound structure and a range of vocabulary.  Be a stickler for slang words.  It will be tough but it is well worth it.
  • Create relational trust in the learning environment. Build and set foundations early.

What are some of your thoughts?

Culture of Learning: Part One

10 Jan

As I walked my daughter to her holiday programme this morning I got to thinking about the learning journey we are on. I started to think of the culture of learning we insist upon in our schools.

Students enter  kindergarten full of questions, ideas, curiosity, and imagination. By the time students reach intermediate and beyond, many of them are bored and do not enjoy school. For many schooling teaches students to memorize and recall the correct answer, learn because ‘this will be on the test,’  or ‘you will get credits for this’ and avoid risk taking because failure means a lower mark.

More often than not students will choose the books they know how to read rather than those they cannot as they do not want to fail. Successful students are rewarded with accolades and unsuccessful students are told to try harder. Our schooling system is designed to move students from one level to the next. Once students earn enough credits, they are rewarded with various levels of NCEA.

Schooling focuses on teaching. Some schools in our nation are moving away from this and towards a culture of learning which focuses on the whole child and student understanding. A culture of problem solving. A culture of resilient young people who will continue to lead our nation to great things.

But what is a culture of learning?

Purchasing a laptop or tablet for every student will not transform traditional school. While technology has the ability to transform teaching and learning, teachers still need to focus on learning goals, authentic tasks, transfer of understanding, student voice, and student contribution. Learning with digital technology is a student-centered approach to creating a learning experience whereby the learner interacts with other students.

A well-designed flipped classroom experience  organizes content, support materials, and activities.  Communication and collaboration are necessary functions of this approach. Because formative assessment is embedded throughout learning events, the learner assumes responsibility for his or her learning.

A characteristic of a culture of learning is where students are using a computer as a tool to learn or if a flipped classroom is part of their classroom experience.

What do you think?

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