Showing posts with label graduate teachers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label graduate teachers. Show all posts

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Supporting students after graduation

I have witnessed many wonderful things evolve at our school, but one of the most promising is the development of effective support structures for ex students.  Developing Win-win situations for ex students and the school is very important to make these relationships work for all involved.

When I first arrived six years ago, graduating students often came back to the school and looked a bit lost.  They said hello to teachers that barely remembered their names and I would get the feeling of loss that they would feel, coming back to a place where they were happy and felt safe that was now closed to them.  This loss was heartfelt, as school is a launching pad for these students, a support that after graduation is lost.

Over the next few years we have looked at ways to engage ex-students, provide a level of support going forward and use the skills gained by students in navigating school to assist students within the system.  It's a way of leveraging the goodwill gained during the 'best' times of their lives (though if it truly is the best, I'd be sad as it is a very small part of their lives).

The most obvious way was to encourage tertiary students to help at summer school.  Students entering ATAR make mistakes preparing for the final two years and won't always listen to teachers as to the best method for preparing for one of the most stressful situations in their lives.  By coming to summer school after graduation, they can share their experiences and have clear evidence of how far they have come in comparison to their fellow students.  It's downtime for most students, so it only has minor impact on their commitments.

The recent emerging structure is seeing students come back as paid tutors after school. Students in first and second year university are finding that ICT is decreasing the number of required contact hours and they are now more free to engage in work related activities.  We have found that our graduates are happy to come back and help out in after school programmes for high performing students and tutor.  As effective tutors have typically been very difficult to find, it has been welcome to utilise they students as a resource (and fulfil a need of theirs to both belong and support their income).

A welcome aside is to assist our university bound students complete their courses.  Our success is truly measured in their success and being able to give graduating students effective post-school support at critical times in their university journey may be the difference in completing their courses and failing.  Assistance may be helping them through a first year math course and adapting to a more text orientated learning style with clear language differences than experienced in school.  Support at tertiary institutions that work for a green leafy students, may not work for our headstrong students, who either do not fit in with peers well, or are too headstrong to engage in help structures and typically do not work well in groups.  It takes them time to realise that there are students less intelligent that are completing successfully their courses and that they have something to offer beyond cynicism and self deprecating comments.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of students seeking math teaching as a pathway into the workforce.  Having employed two of our mathematics practicum teachers in our team of four and having more on standby means that we have a pool of culturally aware teachers available to develop our mathematics department that can hit the ground running and avoid common issues found with our students.  The fact that some of these are ex-students developing their peers is a whole of community bonus.

Much of this is officially non-core to our mission, but we know that many low-socioeconomic strategies have failed to increase tertiary engagement and effect social change.  Post school programmes tied back to effective in school processes may be a factor that has not been sufficiently considered.

Friday, August 15, 2008

2009 subject selection

Many graduate teachers and even experienced teachers feel some anxiety when it comes to subject selections. It's one of those times where your judgement can make or break the aspirations of a student.

Ultimately school should be a safe place where students feel comfortable to attempt what they previously thought of as impossible. Too safe subject selections will put students into classes that they will not be challenged in and surrounded by students with weak work ethic / too hard subjects will place students at risk as their self esteem takes a pounding.

Teachers feel this pressure. It is important that any conflict over what students should and shouldn't be doing be overcome before students are counselled into their subjects. The issue over 3A MAS/MAT (old Calculus/G&T stream) subject selection has caused much angst as this is a class in small schools typically with less than 14 students (the DET magic number for whether a class will run in 2009) yet also a draw card for top students entering year 8.

The plus side is that theoretically the new level 3 courses have a reduced difficulty level / the downside is that nobody really knows what the exams will look like and how the CAS calculators will alter treatment of certain topics. With very few true mathematics graduates entering teaching, it has been a concern for some time as to who will teach calculus courses in the mid term.

Cases where counsellors and administrators are counselling 'A' students out of level 3 courses due to misconceptions of course difficulty, available staffing levels, questions over quality of recommendations and issues with grades given to students need to be resolved well before the counselling process. Students being told to pursue higher maths by teachers and then convinced otherwise by counsellors is an avoidable situation that requires clear communication from administration what subjects can run and clear guidance on how to guide students forward.

I think schools need to consider whether the prime role of schools is to guide students into their first job (eg. narrow but job focused education) or into lifetime learning (eg. broad pursuit of highest possible education and widest vocational choice). Where schools assume a split role (eg schools with strong competing VET & TEE courses) close attention needs to be made over who is part of the counselling process and their mandate in giving subject advice and applying/overriding teaching or vocational recommendations.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Newby teachers, sickness and tolerance levels

The first two years are the worst I'm told. Being in contact with 150 kids or so with variable hygeine habits over the course of a week means that you face a lot of potential sick leave. After those first two years, your immune system (I'm told) kicks into hyperdrive and you stop getting sick.

I hope so. I'm so sick of being sick. Never enough to take a day off.. Just enough to make your nose run, throat sore and generally turn me into a REALLY grumpy person. That's not to say I'm especially pleasurable to be around at the best of times but when sick my tolerance drops to near zero. When in the workforce my staff knew this and would stay clear and (on occassion) appeal to higher authorities to send me home. I would tell them to get stuffed too.

Unfortunately our little darlings can't do that. Other new teachers are much more pragmatic and just stay home if they are sick. I find though that the preparation of relief and clean up in the aftermath is just never worth it.. I'm better sick with kids I understand than dropping a relief in with limited maths knowledge or with limited preparation(<24hrs). I'm a hopeless relief in (insert subject here) and know it. It takes me well into a term to establish a rapport that works with my teaching style - without that rapport it's a case of tell them how mean I am and scowl a lot. Generally that's not near optimal learning.

I'm Mr calm 99.5% of the time, but if a student has been putting effort over a long period of time firing me up.. this is prime time where they might meet the person who explains to them that they've finally given me a little more than I'll accept. Very honest, very public, very abrupt and to the point - typical math teacher style.

The responses vary from 'ok I'll pull my head' in to 'I'll tell my mum'. I don't mind what the response is as long as the message is clear. Yr10/11/12 students have a clear choice - work in school or work towards employment. There are now a heap of options other than come to school and make life difficult for other students and the teacher. Education in school is the right of all students and a few ratbags do not have the right to disrupt the rights of many. Allowing them to do so reduces teaching to low quality child care.

When my tolerance levels are low.. WATCH OUT!

Oh.. and some good/bad news today. 12 of my top 14 students elected to try two stream maths. Sadly, their progress in their exam when reviewed by the head of department indicated that only 8 would make it. That's probably not going to be enough for it to run despite all their work. It does say that the message of 'trying' and believing in yourself is getting through. Well done guys!