Saturday, September 19, 2020

The five year plan

I was given advice when I started teaching - have a five year plan.

It's good advice - like most good advice I've been given it was easy to see with hindsight.  Don't get me wrong, for the most part I've been very lucky with my promotional opportunities and have been promoted to incompetence a number of times through what has felt like sheer luck.  It certainly hasn't been through careful planning.

For those that have come to me for guidance (and for those that could not understand why others with less experience or skill had been selected for positions) I would say the following.

Being a good classroom teacher is not enough.  You need to build a story that highlights you over all of the other applicants.  A five plan can keep you focused on what you need to do and help you through those times when you feel under-appreciated or are questioning what made you think you would be a good teacher.

To begin start with identifying where you would like to go if you were not teaching (yes I know we all want to be in the classroom but there may come a time when you have more to offer the system than getting 30 kids to progress faster than the next bozo).

Common aims are to spend time in student services, broaden your skills into another LA, L3CT, Senior Teacher, remedial teacher, ATAR teacher, as a year leader, teacher in charge, in an extension environment, GAT/GATE, curriculum leader, HOLA, deputy (heaven forbid), Principal (if you wish to shorten your lifespan), return to university, teach at university.

Each has a different pathway and the pathway changes depending on the current political environment.  The five year plan is important as it gives your line manager time to identify opportunities that you lead you to your destination whilst accomplishing goals in line with business plan objectives.

For instance, you wish to be a HOLA.

You need to be able to teach across the whole spectrum of your Learning area.  If all goes to poo, you will need to step in and fill the gap until a better solution is found.  No Specialist teacher - guess who is teaching it, the engagement year 9 class has gone through 3 teachers - saddle up, the ride will be bumpy.  Be the go to guy for your HOLA.  Your CV needs to show you have demonstrated your skills.

Do you understand an evidence based approach and how have you implemented ideas that have resulted in positive outcomes for students?  Can you state what you have done eloquently and will this be backed up by your HoLA when queried during reference checks.

Make sure that your current HOLA is happy with your performance.  Be sparing with criticism (it's easy to fall into this trap if you think you can do it better than your HOLA) and support the initiatives presented - white ant, passively resist and undermine them and they will be brutally honest when queried about you.

Do the extra - all schools ask about the commitment a teacher has to a school.  If you leave school at 3pm and arrive at 9, for kids or your own business and don't volunteer for anything other than core teaching - you are not showing the qualities desired by admin to inspire a staff.

Make connections in the community - find the Rotary, Lions or other community group that is knocking down the doors. 

Get involved in PD, bring the knowledge back to the school and implement the ideas.

Create a CV that screams hire me.

Be familiar with trends in education - direct instruction is the current go to, hattie's visible learning, zbar, There are some great models for mentoring and leadership - know a few that align with (or have formed) your thinking.

Have a go to project to talk about.  Worked with low ability students, low mood/mental health, remedial students and SEN reporting, streaming, increasing access to ATAR, running summer schools, tutoring programmes, improving engagement through instructional techniques, mentoring grads or prac students, running an afterschool music or boardgame programme and make sure you can discuss the evidence of success associated with it and that your referee can back it up as your project.  None of these require promotion to be run and can attract FTE if successful.

Volunteer for short term roles that align with your direction. Especially if no one else wants to do them.

If you don't know why you are doing something it can cause resentment and loss of motivation.  Especially when classes are not going well or providing the motivation needed to drive the next class activity with full throttle.

It should look something like this:

Year 1: talk about opportunities with line manager. Identify the qualities required to be competitive in the desired role/position. Update CV. Set goals that lead to desired role.

Year 2: Get involved with projects identified with your line manager. Update CV. Revise goals.

Year 3: Evaluate what is currently available at the school and other schools. Increase involvement in roles aligning with direction. Discuss successes with Line manager. Seek recognition of some sort of significant successes.  Seek to increase your network in the desired field. Update CV.  Seek others in the desired field to see your CV and make suggestions as to how to improve it/be more competitive. Revise goals. Revisit your goals, set some new ones and drop the ones you will not achieve.

Year 4: Be actively discussing your aspirations with your line manager and network about opportunities. Update CV.  If the school does have roles available for you, start applying for roles outside the school.  Get feedback about what you need to do to be more competitive. Do not get downheartened - this step is part of the process.

Year 5: Actively review available opportunities regularly. Discuss with your line Manager and admin about possible roles in line with aspirations - actively show that you are looking for opportunities and have developed a competitive CV in the field desired.  Use your network to validate your successes.  Celebrate the new role when it comes! Set the next plan.


Monday, September 7, 2020

HOLA Duties

As a HoLA there are a range of tasks you need to perform.  As part of a mentoring course a model was put forward that described these duties quite well.

"Tell, Sell, Collaborate, Coach"

We were all tested for our mentoring style and my initial response was "collaborate" as my preferred strategy with the proviso that we needed to do all of these depending on the particular task we were undertaking.


Four situations:

Situation 1.

A teacher has not given an assessment schedule or course outline to a class.

Action: (Tell) Teacher is gently reminded that this is a requirement of SCSA and given a compliance date.  If not complied with, needs to be followed up as it is a requirement of a HOLA to ensure this is done.  If possible assist with any roadblocks preventing it being done.  Escalate issue if not complied with as it has the potential for issues with parents and SCSA.


Situation 2.

School would like to implement a numeracy week

Action: (Sell) Consider all the benefits of a numeracy week, discuss the benefits with the team and propose to delegate the duties in a way that does not impact on learning.  Identify champions  that are enthusiastic and able to get the project off the ground (and reward them to encourage others to champion projects in the future). Attempt to achieve team consensus to limit white anting.


Situation 3.

Issue identified that programmes need a review through analysis of student results.

Action: (Collaborate) Discuss the issues with current programmes with the team, delegate year groups to sets of teachers.  Set a deadline for completing the programme review and allocate templates to ensure a consistent review is completed.  Set a long deadline and have teachers report back on how the review is going at each learning area meeting. Emerging leaders should be identified for future projects and advancement.  Create a transparent environment to prevent social loafing.


Situation 4.

Staff member identified with potential leadership capacity.

Action: (Coach) Work with the teacher on their five year plan and identify opportunities to challenge their existing understanding of leadership.  Identify opportunities for them to work with other departments, to lead small groups within the team and to work with admin to develop their capabilities.  Provide an insight on decision making strategies used within the department and provide opportunities to contribute to the decision making process outside of team consensus.

 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Consuming ICT

Learning via ICT is an odd fish in education.  Often seen as a panacea and the enabler for a transformation in education, it has consistently failed to live up to expectations.  Blogs, LMS, tablets, interactive boards, apps, graphics calculators, CAS calculators, Connect, Teams, youtube, screencasts, Wiki's and the list goes on!

I've had the pleasure of working with a wide range of students and tailoring ICT to the needs of students over the years.

My latest epiphany is that students do not learn from ICT when directed to it.  They are consumers of ICT, they use it when they need it - they seek information and use it on demand.  This is how they see ICT in the same way they use social media.

This is very different to what we do as teachers, as our jobs are so often as motivators and as "teachers of information in a sequence" that has no connection to immediate student perceived needs (we create the demand for the consumption through delivery of the syllabus!).

Sitting in front of a screen in of itself is typically not motivating and students resist doing it.

Getting information that you require is to satisfy a demand and is easier to negotiate with students (eg. the need is being better able to pass a test they would fail otherwise).  

If we can make information available that they need, when they need it (and acknowledge it is not at  the start of a topic before a need is generated - eg an extension of Voygotski's zone of proximal development and the idea behind "just in time intervention"), then they will consume it.  They may not learn the main idea well using ICT but it may fill gaps in their learning with ICT.

My most recent iteration experimenting with this was with a low ability class doing Trigonometry.  Rather than working through the process online (and generating resources and a sequence to do this which takes some time to do properly), I did the revision exercise online which quickly went through each step and then indicated to students to ask me about the bit they did not understand.

We then did the process again in class (after they had an opportunity to watch the screencast).  Low an behold they then asked questions about specific elements of the process.  The demand was generated and the reason for consumption was clear to students. It was also sent to parents such that they could be involved in learning (at a point where the majority of teaching was done and they could act on the individual problems of their child - another distinct benefit).

Voila - consumed ICT!

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Scratch and the Maths challenge

My daughters do a maths challenge each week at their primary school.  I didn't pay much attention to it until my youngest was worried that she wasn't improving.  My usual criticism of these weekly quizzes is nothing is done with the information and students keep getting the same questions wrong.  In many cases, the reasons why they are getting questions wrong is never investigated.

So I had a look at the challenge and it focused on addition, subtraction and times tables.

I wrote a little application in scratch to help develop some basic numeracy and help identify where issues were occurring. I added in extra steps to assist where we found issues and practice was needed (with instant feedback).

It covers:
a) learning multiples
b) adding/subtracting to and beyond 10
c) tables (using commutative property and division)

You should be able to see it below.