Thursday, July 22, 2021

New Term blues

I try not to take a term for granted.  Teaching children is a privilege I may not always be capable of delivering to the level required.  13 years of each term - am I going to make it to the next term - am I good enough to do this well?  Should I hand it over to someone more capable?  At the end of each term, a sense of relief, but we can feel tired and a bit jaded.  The first week of a break is recovery and recharging the battery during the second week starts the readiness process for the following term.

Ego usually kicks in and says "yes I am more than good enough/ready", but not always.  It only takes a bad result or a poorly handled situation to start that internal conversation of have I been promoted beyond my ability and I should I step aside for someone that has more natural ability and doesn't have to work as hard to get similar results. 

It's a rare term when I return after a break and think - I'm ready and let's get into it.  It's usually a mix of trepidation, knowledge of what needs to be done and concern about what could arise as we enter the door.  This can reduce the enthusiasm that needs to be present at the start of each term after a break.  I'm mindful of the blues as it can infect a team with negativity and reduce it's ability to be flexible and agile but this anxiety is also what leads to high performance!

Term 3 is a pressure cooker and week 8 is the most difficult week of the year - a time when the pressure is at its worst - ATAR, grumpy kids, assessment due.  Teachers start thinking that being promoted or seeking greener pastures is preferable to increasing demands and behavioural concerns.  The silly season starts with a merry go round of teachers changing between roles and schools.  With these changes comes more pressure on leaders to keep teachers in front of classrooms and maintaining delivery standards.  It's no wonder that leaders at the start of the term can have a few more wrinkles than before the holidays.

The main message here is that even the most outwardly confident leaders have doubts about the direction they are taking, can lack confidence and are constantly reviewing how they should deliver.  As much as they are trying to support you, they need to know that you believe in what they are trying to achieve and require this belief to make things happen.  This is true from mentoring a peer all the way up to the Principal.

Any change a leader does is bound to upset someone - getting everyone to agree is a difficult/pointless task as it often leads to "good enough solutions" rather than optimal ones, the compromises required to make everyone happy negate the benefits sought (and the change is often better abandoned than pursued).  The pursuit of a goal can stress the belief in a leader when the status quo requires less work than the improvement sought, a status quo likely gained as it made life easier for teachers but is not in the best interest of students.

Thank goodness that HOLAs still teach - without the positive feedback from students it is sometimes a  thankless task.  

Friday, July 2, 2021

Screencasting, blended and flipped classrooms

Blended classrooms and flipped classrooms were quite the fad for a time.  I've had a bash at both and find blended classrooms to be vastly superior to flipped classrooms, with neither more effective than standard classroom teaching with a whiteboard and text.  My interest has always been in underperforming students and ICT is one of the tools I use with them, typically not exclusively but as a part of a bigger solution and generally not for initial instruction. 

Where technology replaces a teacher, it usually fails abysmally to overcome engagement, gaps in learning and pastoral care issues that are the bread and butter of today's classroom.  

Despite this, I have produced over 200 5 to 10 minute videos over the last two years for students. Each might get watched 8-10 times per year. Speaking with a local publisher that came to visit, he asked why bother?  There are hundreds of teachers producing resources and few being utilised, where is the return for effort?  I didn't argue, but did smile.  I think on this I have cracked how this IT malarky is useful in the classroom.  It's not rocket science but has taken 13 years to realise.

Let me make this clear.  As the main teaching tool, first point of introduction to a topic, generally speaking, a video is a poor teaching tool.  For disengaged or students that lack the ability to learn independently, it is useless.  In both of these cases, intervention is required by the teacher to engage students before any meaningful learning can occur.

What it can do is address many of the secondary issues faced in a classroom and promote higher levels of success.

- Students that are absent due to illness have access to the learning for the day
- Students can use it as a revision tool prior to assessment
- Students can use it to revisit the material taught and gain depth to their understanding by re-examining difficult parts
- It extends the reach of a classroom by providing assistance outside of class time
- It improves my teaching as I have to think prior to presenting to the class how I wish to introduce the topic
- It can assist me recall from year to year how to best teach a topic

- It provides feedback on parts of the course students are finding difficult (more students tend to watch)
- It provides an avenue for having a second crack at teaching a concept when I haven't connected fully during class
- It provides avenues for discussion about how I teach and how a topic can be taught (particularly useful for working with new teachers)

- The assistance given to students is in the form that I teach (as opposed to tools produced by others) and in the form I will later assess to the level required by the WA Syllabus.

- Parents access the videos to ensure they are teaching using the method required to the level required.
- It is another avenue to show that I care about my students.
- It is an opportunity to revisit syllabus dot points 
- It removes student excuses for not completing or understanding work.

- It actively, repeatedly models how to deconstruct a text and use a worked example.


Addressing the publishers issue, if a video takes 10-15 minutes to create and only 8-10 students look at it,  it is a good use of time.  With 200 videos available, that's 800 individual interventions that would not have occurred otherwise.  Each successful intervention raises confidence and reduces disengagement (which can be important with students on the edge of disengagement).  

Intervention one on one during lunch time is a more common intervention, but much less efficient.  Even every lunch, 50 per term would only be 200 interventions.  If the recordings are utilised for more than one year that could double or triple their effectiveness.

It's important to realise that I say to students that they do not have to watch them (unless under covid lockdown and it is the only teaching instruction available from me) and they do not include all that is taught in class - it is a support for them, not a way for me to get out of teaching (avoiding the complaints being made about universities).

If you would like to see some of the work I have done, it's all on Youtube here and some on Prezi from the link on the right from a long time ago before my interval in admin.