Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pride in your work.

It's taken half a year but I think the message is sinking in. This week I have focused on getting students to perform to a standard rather than some fictional developmental level. I am the teacher, I set expectations on how I want things to be done and no, I don't really care how your last teacher let you do it.

Hard up against the left margin, work down the page, rule a new column if there is space for it and use it, exercise number before you start in a column, work marked from the back of the book once an exercise is complete with a red pen, one line for each line of working (why do students miss spaces??), a space between each question, each question should be written as if to be read by another human being - not in some chicken language from outer space.

Also, if I give an instruction on how to do something, pay attention and do it that way. If you are writing 4709 in words, it is four thousand, seven hundred and nine. The 'and' is important. Ninty, ninteen, forteen and fourty are not words. One equals sign per line, the question is always to be written unless a lengthy worded problem. If you are adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing vertically I expect to see clear columns for place value.

When I come into class, don't wait for me to say get out your books - just get them out. If I write notes on the board, write them down verbatim - I haven't met many students that can paraphrase sufficiently to make more succinct notes than mine. Asking what time the period ends is a waste of time - the answer will always be two hours fom now. If you fail a quiz, expect 60 questions for 'practice' over the weekend. Don't talk in my class about social events unless you can consistently get 80% in assessment - you obviously haven't got time to lose.

If you have a problem, seek help. If the problem has to do with a boyfriend, seek someone who cares - I'm only ears for maths and things that need mandatory reporting. I'm not your friend, please remember that - I'm your teacher.

.. and the funny thing is, when you lift expectation, it's easier to teach. The students respond and start to realise that you only want the best for them - tell them it's much easier to just sit back and watch them fail (or to give them phony grades that make it look like they are learning). To me setting high standards is just showing students how to take pride in themselves and their work. Building self esteem is not mutually exclusive with negative responses. I think that in many cases students need to have the bar lifted for them before they can start to do it themselves.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fatigue... and a poke at Julia..

Teaching is one of those careers where fatigue is a constant enemy. It's important to recognise (especially at this time of year at the end of an 11 week term) that you're not going to be at your best. Week 8+ is always a bit of a danger time where you can lose perspective on your successes and fall into the trap of seeing defeat in what you are attempting to achieve.

With the NCOS things have changed a little, it means that you have to press on at a time where typically you would wind down into the end of term. You really need to fit two good weeks of work in to make a good run at the mocks at the end of term 3. Kids will be feeling the pressure, admin needs reports completed, exams need marking, tempers will fray.

Yet this is also a time when teams come together and there are opportunities to do small things that can make a lasting impression. Take the time to smile at someone, guide them through a nasty spot, do an extra duty, smile when you get relief, go on an excursion, offer around a chocolate bikkie or grab some take away for the staff room. In the crucible great things can be borne.

Take inspiration from wherever it stems, much of mine at the moment comes from my daughter, where in the past I may have given up and sought another challenge, I now dig in and look at the problem again seeking new solutions. A challenge is just an opportunity yet to be realised.

I was working with my 10's and we are looking at their ability to perform in non-calculator situations. Many can't divide, and many of those can't multiply because their tables are weak. Any idiot can teach kids tables. Maybe it's time I rolled up my sleeves and planned a tables club for next year, to fix a core issue. If numeracy is the focus next year, perhaps this is one path to finding long term success.

It's also a time where many decide it's time for a change and the inner conflict occurs of the desire for stability vs career opportunity. Do you talk people into staying or encourage them to pursue other options? I don't know the answer for this other than to encourage them to seek someone with more experience to help them with the answer. Other than this blog, I have no desire to lead (or even influence) as my best leadership option is to lead by example. Whilst still learning content and gaining an understanding of leadership roles I am in no position to lead with expert power. With time, my masters, a bit of experience and teaching year 12 courses may lead me there.. but I think I have a way to go yet.

If that idiot Gillard can become Prime Minister, who knows which lump headed student will solve world hunger, cure cancer or bring about everlasting peace. Some even might remember that teacher that gave them a hard time or a bit of encouragement that put them back on a path to success.