Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Back to Square One

I had to take a step back and stop yesterday - and look at  how I had started things off for the year with my Y11 class.  After having had my M3 (Middle 3) class for two years (Y9&Y10) as a Homeroom class, meaning at least four 100 minute periods a week, split over every day - it has been a change for us all to switch to a plain 'English' class for 250 minutes a week, only seeing them 3x a week.  We have a double (100 mins) on Tuesday and Wednesday and a single (50mins) on a Friday.  We had been following a very thematic/topic based Integrated Studies programme - which I am now thinking of reworking for Y11.

Last week was our first week, so we spent time on explaining the course outline, learning about the Unfamiliar text book they would use every Friday, and doing some basic reading & writing tasks.  Today I thought I would give them a topic that we could debate in class before writing about it - so I could see initial writing skills (after summer break) and a starting point.  What I quickly realized was my starting point was OFF ... so, it was a quick photocopier message to the office & we started again.

Image result for lets start at the very beginning
Reflecting - these guys are still getting used to senior classes and the change they have perceived in focus (this year we will be studying X,Y & Z which will give you X, Y & Z credits) .... I am almost waiting for the "is this worth credits" question to pop up.  I need to further look at my programme tonight and do a complete reassessment if needed - they are not similar to the previous year class, so that will not work.  Talking to several, they are concerned, and have a preconception that every piece of work in Y11 is high stakes.  I need to remember to continually reassure them that all the work we do in class is learning - you will not be 'assessed' all the time but rather be given the opportunity to show your learning off when you are ready.  We will learn about texts and language so we can become more literate and enjoy the magic of language and stories.  We will let ourselves play with words to create beautiful things - poems, essays, editorials - but let ourselves play!

I am slightly concerned about the pressure they are feeling.  We did spend three day off timetable in week one, working on team building, study skills, organisational skills, some writing skills, and an overnight camp at the school lodge, working on mindfulness & resilience.  I am wondering if we did enough, or is this perhaps a growth mindset challenge for them?  I am pondering what I can change to help them feel more secure and confident about this year in my class.

Best moment of the class though - one of my struggles from last year wrote 374 words (he checked and double checked as he couldn't believe it!).  This student latched onto the topic we were debating and had strong feelings about it.  It wasn't grammatically correct or paragraphed BUT he did it.  So, I'm going to celebrate that, even if it was only one!  For this guy - he rocked it!! (and told me he just kept writing everything, like when we did our 100 word challenges!!)

So, as  I prepare to publish this, I have spent the past evening revising and re-planning.  We have an interactive power-point to work with this afternoon, several small group activities, followed by some research on a current event.  Thanks to the teachers that have used Slideshare and the Creative Commons Licensing.  I appreciate you - and look forward to paying it forward in the future.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Connections & Personalizing

Education Counts suggests that "Personalizing learning aligns with the idea that education systems must move away from an Industrial Age "one-size-fits-all" model. The idea of "personalizing learning" calls for reversing the "logic" of education systems so that the system is built around the learner, rather than the learner being required to fit with the system" https://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/schooling/109306

Over the past week we have had EOTC (education outside the classroom) activities where the middle school (Y7-10) have been split into groups of 10-12, lead by two Y10s and then completed a wide range of activities from tramping, rafting, paddleboarding to evading terrorists from the North Island.  While some activities were outside some comfort zones, it has been great to see that these activities were built to provide opportunities for the learners to step up into leadership roles and try new things.  

I spent two days with the groups tramping up and down the Darts Bush Stream Track and the best part about this for me was not only relishing that my eight weeks of circuit training had paid off and I was fitter than before BUT the time I got to spend out of the classroom with the students who will be heading into my room next year.  I could chat to them about their interests and what they had done well this year.  I could ask them about what books they read, what they plan to do in the holidays, what scares them and what makes them excited.  It was a great time to learn more informally what they were wanting to study further.  So, with a combo of hunting, dystopia, geography skills and drawing coming up tops for most, I am going to start planning a Unit called the "Geography of Dystopia."  I have four different texts so the students will again be able to self select - and one of these is audio, so the struggling readers, I will encourage this option.   The covers the Literature aspect, mapping skills are key to our area, so I will find a local to support this - and it will introduce students to Y11 Geography concepts.  

While I aim to plan the bare bones of the unit, we will look at together what skills we as a class want to showcase for our portfolios.  I know they also enjoy cooking, so we might head over to the Home Economics room and plan a dystopian banquet or head towards the Science Lab and learn more about genetics and cryogenic freezing - the world is our oyster.  I plan to teach these students about the inquiry spiral and imagine this unit taking all term, including our Camp week.  

So - with only Top House and Assembly to go - it's all go and I'm very thankful for the opportunities EOTC week has not just given our students, but myself to further connect and personalize their learning.

Friday, November 25, 2016

One Word Reflections

Back in January I wrote:

In my plot for cultivation are:

  • Professional connections, especially via Twitter and other educational foundations.
  • Growth mindset in all my students.
  • Writing more about the professional reading that I do - creating a Google Doc with responses or highlighted aspects for other staff members.  I started this last year, but it has been slow to take off.
  • Academic connections for my students.  I am going to look at using connections such as #NZreadaloud and Skype for providing more authentic and meaningful reading and writing.

So - how have I gone.

Professional connections - very happy with this at the moment.  I feel I have made further connections especially via #BFC630NZ which I miss greatly if my morning routine changes.  I have found Twitter to be an amazing source of provocation and also resources.  The British English teachers are amazing with their willingness to share especially critical theory work for literary texts and this has enabled me to further develop ways to share this knowledge with my Y12 & 13 students.

Growth mindset for my students.  Well, it is still growing.  My Y10 students sat an end of year wrap up assessment (aka exam, I know, probably old school) and they all gave it 100%.  Compared to the  beginning of the year where we had people not even attempting to write, they gave it a great shot!  I think at least 80% of the class are now comfortable with going somewhat out of their comfort zone.  Seniors are still working on being happy 'out' of the safety net, and in terms of this, we have discussed how we don't NEED 28 credits - but next year we will choose a theme (in Y12 it is Outsiders & Displacement) and work out which assessments fit in best, aiming for about 18-20 and working towards knowing what we need for Merit grades.

Professional Readings:  Yip - this.  Over the year it turned out I need to put more focus on the academic readings related to my Y13 course.  So - all in all, not a fail, but still cultivating.  I am taking part (with a colleague) in the Interlead Emerging Leader's programme.  This programme has given us an extensive reading list and we have purchased several in hard copy for our staff book self.  I intend to take these home over the summer and attack with sticky notes and a notebook.

Academic Connections for students:  This was (mostly) a success.  Over the first two terms we took part in the #NZReadaloud - first short stories, then a novel and then as a class following on we read another novel outloud.  This was the highlight of the year for me.  The students, especially the reluctant readers loved the final text we read, The Bone Tiki, by David Hair a NZ author.  Many students choose to still write about one of these texts in their final assessment, showing retained memory and engagement.   I am aiming to participate in the readaloud again in T1 & T2 of 2017.   We did not take part in Term 3 or 4 due to other school commitments - and I am not sure how the last two terms of 2017 would pan out.  Students found using Edmodo a positive platform, although I believe we still have much room for growth in using this technology.  I found it useful to be able to share lesson planning with other T's and see how we all created a wide variety of tasks and options for our students.    When doing this again I will be recommending we perhaps use a Google sites/page platform - not sure though.  More thinking and planning to do with the organizer here.

So ... as the 2016 school year heads towards it's ending - with one week of classes then EOTC for a week for my M3 group - I feel reflection is important.  It enables me to question what has been the best for my students, both in terms of personal and academic growth.  It enables me to look at how I have grown and where in the following year I should focus my energies.  It gives me energy now as I realize we have done well together!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Reflections on MOOC

The balance can be hard sometimes.  The balance between home life and work life, the balance between freedom of choice and teacher guidance, the balance between this text and that text, this option or that option. 

Balance has been weighing on my mind lately.  The MOOC course I joined up, run by the amazing Danielle Myburgh (@MissDtheteacher) from Hobsonville Point Secondary School, took up most of my personal PD time over Term Two.  By personal PD time, I mean time at home in the evenings or 'after' school teaching hours, before I left for home.   This is something I choose to do and I love doing.  My brain usually thrives on the provocation further study brings as I extend and challenge my thinking surrounding education, myself as an educator and my students' well-being.   

However, these past two-three weeks there has seemed to be more than the usual juggling game between all the aspects of life.  I have a young family, a self-employed husband, an amazing group of classes filled with teenagers whose cortexes are going through renovations (thanks NZATE for the keynotes of Nathan Wallis), and then the school holidays, NZATE conference and the PD I wanted write up as fully as possible as well.  Something had to give.  This time, it has been the 100% completed badge from the MOOC and the full reflection on each separate week.  While I love my job to pieces, in the past couple of week quality family time has been the most crucial, and while part of me feels the need to apologise and make up for that, another part of me goes 'people will get that.'

Investing in #familytime #rejuvinating #refresh #Mummylove #Tekapo

So, while I may not have finished a final full portfolio (and I will, just not in the immediate here and how)  here are my thoughts surrounding two key aspects of the course.

The aim of the course:
discuss ideas about education futures, particularly around education reform, revolution and transformation, with much greater depth and complexity. We hope to provide you with more powerful thinking tools to examine schools and your role in them, whether it be as teacher, student, parent, school leader, professor or maybe even as a board member, policy-maker or politician.

One of the biggest aspects of learning in this course for me were the discussions surrounding technology and what the world will look like in terms of technology and education in the future.  I wrote in week four:

W4: Technology: I feel a bit worried that I need to keep up with it all so that  I am able to provide my own children and my students with up to date knowledge, but then, the internet and their own research probably will do more for them than I can.   I think family becomes impacted in that we are starting to create more 'screen free' time deliberately.  We notice if any type of 'screen' time happens for longer periods, kids (all under 8) get crabby/cranky with each other.  Does this happen in school as well?  
I think for smaller schools and rural areas, the impact of technology is going to be the ease of further connections.  We can easily participate in things such as #NZreadaloud and self-directed PD is easier without the hassle of travel.  

What do I think now? 
I am more confident with allowing my students to use the technology they are confident in.  We learn new technologies together.  My room has a new set of laptops (AMAZING!!) which are touch-screen and I am in awe of the way the students are swiping their way around them, compared to the older 'clunky' ones.  In NCEA assessments I have given students a wider range of options for presenting that have allowed them to access a variety of technologies if they so choose.  Several still chose the 'safe' assessment, but some chose to use a new (to me) technology that they were comfortable in.    #NZreadaloud was a success in T2, as we had used T1 to become familiar with the technological platform.  This use of different platforms etc, it something that needs time to be built into a teaching/flipped classroom programme.    Access to the internet is still also a barrier from some rural students.  

In terms of technology & family time - my just five-year-old can zoom around Minecraft quicker than a mozzie can find blood, but I think we are aware of balance (and rightly or wrongly, its use as a currency).  He is going to grow up with the iPad being the norm - and who knows what he will be using in class in another ten years time.  I want him, and my other children (biological or students) to grow in the KC of managing self and thinking about what they are engaging in.  For me, this means talking to him about what he's building ... why do you need a boat ramp there?  what sort of bricks are you using?  how do you know that the fire is going to burn that? what does that building remind you of? can you make a building like that church we visited on Sunday?  What shapes do you need to use?  These questions can be mirrored in my classroom situations. 

The next thing that resonated deeply with me was what the future may or may not look like.  I wrote: 

Wk7 The future would scare me if I took the time to let all these things sink in.  I think I often rush too much through the day, taking only the now into account.  My biggest concern for my children is radical inequality.  How can I teach my own biological children, along with my 'children' in my classroom to be empathetic, caring, sharing and not just believing everyone is equal, but acting in such a manner?
I then read through the rest of comments from participants but the one that resonated with me the most was from Philippa Nicoll Antipas "The more we understand that we have the power to shape narratives, and not blindly head towards a narrative chosen by others, I believe the better off we are."

Where I am now ...
Inequality is obvious in New Zealand, I don't think anyone would argue about that at all.   I do not think we are going to overcome this in a single day;  BUT we can and must make a start, especially when we are in the privileged position of working with the young people of the future.  If I can work with them to help them realise they can and do have, as Philippa said, the power to shape their future - then I believe the future has the potential to be bright. They will be able to say, as Boy "Welcome to my interesting world."

So, where does that bring me?  I am happy in myself to know that I have completed (the majority) of this MOOC to the best of my ability and have used the information learnt for the benefit of my learners.  I have appreciated the chance to not only challenge my own thoughts but to read along and see how others interpreted readings and videos.  I am in awe of the educators that we have scattered around New Zealand - and am confident these (and others) are doing amazing things with and for our learners.  I look forward to continuing to interact with #edchatnz and other NZ educators via twitter & will keep trucking along to find the perfect balance between home and school on the scales.  

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Reflection on NZATE conference (1)

Image taken from NZATE website.

So this is where I spent the last three days of week one.  While I managed to squeeze in a bit of conference knitting in the very early AM whilst chatting to other teachers - it took a HUGE backseat to the re:generation of ideas through workshops and keynote speakers.   I have notes on three of the four keynotes (due to snow forecast and needing to get back to my babies, I left a tad early on Friday), along with notes and thoughts from five workshops attended.   There were many, many highlights, but pinnacle for me would have been making IRL connections with several from the #BFC630NZ PNL, along with making new acquaintances and looking forward to stronger connections with these.  Oh - and listening to Banqo's Son by Tania Roxbourgh on the way home.

First KeyNote:  These are in note form for now ....

Nathan Wallis 

He discussed how children spend the first 1000 days figuring out data to figure how intelligent they need to be, it is the transcript they gather.  Genes are not the highest indicator of success, environment plays a huge role.  Cultural vs research based reality.  Research shows opposite to cultural norms. (note to self, research Tedx talk first 1000 days.)

Four different brains in head. A way to remember it is that the cortex = brain dog doesn't have.  Huge leap from the animal kingdom to us. We are able to (as adults) control emotions, understand consequences of actions/behaviours, risk-taking.  But the cortex is shut for renovations for plus/minus at least three years = adolescence, regenerating.  Fully developed at 24/25, but there is new research all the time.  This doesn't account for individuality or gender.  Birth order also impacts, npsychologyogy.  Neuroscience looks at numbers. First born or not firstborn.  First born meant to be most qualified and earn most money.  Difference is said to be that the first born, can have the sole attention in first 1000 days.   More data gathered in first born.

THOUGHTS: does is matter which parent is at home, what type of ece is in the first 1000 days, how close siblings are?

No.1 brain, survival brain, 2. Movement brain cerubellem, brain 3. Limbic system, emotional brain, lizard, dog, human.   Four brain grows outside of the womb.  

Adolescence can start as early as nine.  Principles such as body mass and race, PI hit it earlier than maori and earlier than europeans.  Cortex goes through regeneration process in about three years.  Our experience as teacher/parents, is they as teens seem to go backwards.  This is about access to cortex.  We need to nuture the parts of the brain, lavish attention onto it, planning, coordination etc.  don't respond to other part.   Restorative practices nuture this part of the brain, turns on empathy etc.   seeks to grow compassion/empathy = leaving a better citizen, exercising frontal cortex.  

No point asking what were you thinking = literally thinking nothing, they are in the emotional brain.  Appropriate = what were you feeling?  All lights are on in the emotional brain, results as two year old. Anxiety and depression of 15/16, frontal cortex is brakes on emotional.  Kids need to be tied in to another adult who can be the frontal cortex for them.  10% of time adults ignore cortex to limbic system.   Feeling and thinking function = we need to understand that teens live ,emotional brain and need to respond to that emotional.  

Step one, calm the brain stem.  Need to do mindfulness with students.  (THOUGH: I wonder if the NZreadaloud helps to do this?). Calm the brainstem down, people calm down in individual ways.  Don't impose own styles, meet needs of other people.   
Step two ... Validate the emotions coming from the limbic system "you seem really angry about that."   Ensure we are listening to them, not the 10% we want to hear.  Reflect emotions back to them.  Children will do as you do not as you say.  I need to listen to their limbic system.  We do this with our besties, so why not with our kids.  We need to validate rather than give advice.  Don't go straight to problem-solvingStep three cognitive training ... Tell the kids what to do; not what not to do.  In our room we ..... Don't punish for not having a skill.  Teach behaviours you do like. We are not eliminators.  We are teachers of skills.  Give the good behaviour words and dialogue.  Need to empower the, with the way to go it.

Thing to try: 48 hrs only do steps one and two.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Early Morning

Of course, it is Murphy's Law that when I don't need to get up to the kids, I'm wide awake!

I am in Christchurch for the #NZATA annual conference.  Really looking forward to getting into it today, meeting new people and learning new things.  Will hopefully be able to tweet during the day.