Showing posts with label reflection. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reflection. Show all posts

Thursday, March 11, 2021

All students deserve to find success

In our careers we have moments of epiphany.  That moment where you realise that you need to refocus what you are doing or take what you know and apply it in different ways.  Sometimes it's about remembering a concept that you had learned that you had forgotten, sometimes it's synthesized from your learning and in moments of genius it's inspiration and something truly new.

At the moment I'm coming to grips with the idea that school is an experience that every child has once.  A formative experience that has the potential to impact for many years to come.  An experience that is more than content, more than pedagogy, more than social skills, striving for excellence, resilience and a whole heap of other stuff that we fill it with.

It's about a young life finding their way in the world.

How this young person defines themselves is based on their experiences, for the majority of their time from 4 years old to 18 years old in our care.  

Most of the what we teach them is irrelevant 12 years later.  Typing, how to play a sport, woodwork, sewing, calculus, grammar, spelling, greek history, water cycle - 90% of what we teach will not be used again to the detail level it is taught.  The meta learning is important but most is forgotten 25 seconds after assessment.

What is not forgotten is the Dance concert, the kind teacher that noticed them and made a fuss, the excursion to the beach, the carnival where the team won, first love, being bullied, farting on the mat - experiences that helped form young minds.  

This is our biggest job - ensuring that the experiences are positive ones and that we are there to pick them up kindly when they are not positive.  Sometimes we are so focused on "high care, high expectations" we have forgotten what makes school a positive experience for children - experiences to remember.

If a child has positive and formative experiences that make the child an empathic and productive citizen, they have found success. All children deserve to find this success and we need to focus on making this happen.  Measuring this and increasing the quality of experiences to my mind is a better metric of success than any median ATAR score or measures of school attainment.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Mental Health - The unwritten story in WA Education

Mental Health (particularly depression and anxiety) is one of those things that cannot be written about or discussed freely in the staffroom.  It adds a level of complexity to teaching children and a level of complexity to the role of a teacher.  Being labelled with a mental health issue is not something that is easily moved on.  It is an underground issue that can change how a child is perceived and limit the progression and career of a teacher.

2016 was the year of challenges for boys in education.  The fear of leaving school was palpable with little in the way of career opportunities for boys, both in the mining sciences through tertiary study, through building and construction or through manufacturing industries.  The path to a wage or salary position was unclear, as were pathways to white or blue collar work.  Students saw parents in long term unemployment.  The number of mental health raised issues rose in schools, as did neglect and behavioural issues in classes.  The meaning of why students should seek education as a path to employment was blurred as increasingly specialised schooling did not provide the promise of first jobs and the value of a generalised education for the future was not being sold to students that knew better through observations of society and the freedom of information available.  Everyone is an expert in the Facebook and Google age.  The validity of information and truth itself became increasingly questionable and fake everything became the norm, fame the object rather than the result of success and narcissism the new black.  Add to that students that have achieved D/Es in math for their entire schooling that are progressing at a high level but know that they are not at level though mandatory use of Australian Curriculum grading really did not help.  Worryingly recreational drug use appeared to be rising again leading to further mental health issues.

2017 was the year where mental health in teaching staff reached the limit of what could be supported.  The question was not who had mental health challenges, but who didn't, who was still able to cope regardless and who had to be nursed through until they could cope again.  The demands of an education system with limited discipline support, where engagement was the only real answer, where curriculum was alienating large parts of the student cohort, where curriculum modification required teaching three to four years on either side of the curriculum set, where the teacher had to have the answers or be deemed incapable placed additional pressure on teaching and administrative staff.  Tie this together with budget measures increasing class sizes, reducing access to behavioural programmes and diminishing external support (the loss of headspace and other programmes had an effect) was a bit of a tsunami in terms of stress in the classroom.  Supporting and managing staff with emerging or with diagnosed mental health issues is often a thankless task.

The positive is that private and charitable organisations are starting to fill the need but it adds an additional level of management required on an already stressed administrative system.  Where three to four people in a school now manage staffing, timetabling, behaviour, analysis, strategic planning, marketing, performance management, finance, community standing - it is not always clear how they can also focus on academic performance, course counseling and wellbeing of staff and students - leading to a feeling of a tokenistic approach at times.  This was always going to be the challenge of de-centralisation and the independent school system - the same resources to achieve local agendas, a grand but difficult plan to implement.

Engagement of students is always the ultimate aim, in a world where schools drive the wellbeing of the local community, I'm not sure schools are sufficiently resourced, either with adequate trained manpower or financially to achieve societal aims.  With the influx of career teachers and the diminishing number of vocational teachers (who are burning out trying to achieve what previously could be done with a little effort), next year could be a tough one both in dealing with the inevitable turnover that comes from time to time and some tough cohorts that are travelling through the system.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2014 Achievements and the IOTY

2014 was a difficult year in that it lacked the proactive measures that we have achieved in previous years.  Loss of a valued staff member and the care and ultimate passing of a loved one resulted in reduced capacity to implement measures that were in the pipeline.

We did achieve a few things though:

- research is done for organising teaching observations in 2015.
- the 6th summer school has been organised and is over subscribed again with 48 students.
- Mathematics Academy classes have run for the 7th year.
- new staff are integrating well and capacity is growing in Math/Science.
- the Fogerty leadership programme helped develop stronger planning measures for the school.
- we're looking at a number of fun behaviour management schemes.
- transition went well and numbers are looking good.
- implementation of the new behaviour management policy.
- implementation of the formal streaming process.
- implementation of the ICT plan and rollout of 200 units of ICT across the school.
- made connections with like minded schools to ensure issues faced with small groups are diminished in 2015.
- plans have been presented to further enhance the mathematics programme through an engineering and public speaking focus in 2015.
- Australian curriculum implementation is progressing well.

The IOTY award for 2014 goes jointly to the teachers union, our beloved premier and the media for repeatedly reporting that we were on the list for closure or amalgamation during year 7 and 8 enrollment times.  A close second goes to the commonwealth for mandating inflexible A-E grading when it is not appropriate for schools with significant delays such as commonly found in low socio-economic schools.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The year that was.

My first year as HOLA, although the end to it was disappointing and difficult, was a successful year from my perspective.  I'm proud of how my team has responded to a demanding environment and how we were able to turn a bad situation with very low morale into a positive one.

From a HOLA perspective I set a few goals at the start of the year.

  1. Gain a better understanding of the composition of our admission students (investigation of statistics of transition students, investigation of feeder primary strengths and weaknesses).
  2. Develop effective professional development to ensure we are improving our teaching pedagogy (Attended the MAWA conference, training to become regional transition trainer, continuation of informal teacher in-class observations)
  3. Commence meaningful performance management in line with AITSL standards (done for maths)
  4. Develop written programmes throughout each year group and have ownership of these documents distributed throughout the teaching staff (done for maths, work in progress for Science)
  5. Implemented the online marksbook (done for Maths, work in progress for science, training of all staff in usage)
  6. Develop learning area plans for Mathematics (completed and operational) and Science (work in progress)
  7. Develop skills monitoring and developing solutions for BMIS cases (Learning SIS behaviour module, meeting with parents, discussing solutions with peers, ensuring cases are resolved before being closed, developing pathways to reduce BMIS behaviours.) 
  8. Develop the summer school and Mathematics academies into sustainable activities (now managed by non teaching staff and using external tutors.  Students now seeking tutors to solve issues prior to assessment. Creation of demand from students for extension programmes during term breaks.)
  9. Mentor teachers in the Math department, assisting them with creating connections within the school
Incidentally I was able to contribute to the school in a number of different ways
  1. Part of the course counselling team
  2. Developed a personal connection with UWA Aspire to create a sustainable tutoring programme for students at the school
  3. Created connections with students that have left the school to assist them with negotiating issues in first year university
  4. Contributed as a boardmember of the school, providing insight into the operational aspects, developed a rapport with board members and assisted with developing and monitoring schoolwide goals
  5. Assisted with development of the business plan and annual report
  6. Distributed year 7 transition statistics and identified the relative strengths of feeder primary schools
  7. Assisted with transition programmes at the school for feeder yr 6,7,8 students
  8. Participated in leadership programmes to raise the community profile of the school and illustrate the relative strengths of our leadership team
  9. Part of the finance committee 
  10. Developed the ICT plan for 2014 and gained approval from all departments in the school for its implementation
  11. Completed timetabling training
  12. Ensured that all classes were in small groups for moderation and assisted teachers locate SGM partners where necessary
Being on 0.7 FTE load, changed how many things I could do achieve as a teacher, but the following occurred:
  1. Attended a number of school functions including the river cruise, graduation, graduation dinner and school ball
  2. Delivered the 3CD MAT class with a C grade or higher for all students
  3. Delivered the 30 strong 8A class to a national curriculum standard gaining a 60% average on their final test
  4. Worked with two difficult classes to be better able to handle mainstream class expectations with minimal BMIS implications
A favourite part of my year was watching colleagues succeed, especially those that had embraced some of my teaching philosophies during practicum and started using them in classes.  It's nice to see ideas passed on and embraced by others and be able to recommend them to positions based on what you have seen work.

Best of wishes to all during the festive season.

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.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Report time again

Here's the time of year when the most important communication will be made between the teacher and parent. A paragraph of words can lift the confidence, invigorate flagging academic performance or deflate a student to the point of giving up.

Identical paragraphs given to two students may have completely opposite effects.

Teachers for the most part create these paragraphs straight after marking exams and under some fairly tight deadlines. It's usually at the end of a term and we're far from fresh and chirpy. After the exams are marked, reports are finished, students are at their ratty worst at the end of term then we get to talk to parents.

It's week 8.. that time when we think, OMG I'm a little tired.

So, do you play safe and write bland comments and save the deep and meaningful for parent discussion. From a strictly legalistic point of view, it is the safest option. We are often urged to write detailed reports by admin but as a lawyer once told me.. don't commit anything to writing that you wouldn't want to see in a court of law, and it's far safer to not commit anything to writing.

Are we opening ourselves up to legal issues by writing encouraging words to students and enticing them to try harder in order to reach the potential we see in them? If they don't reach the potential are we opening ourselves to liability issues?

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Intuitive Teachers

I wonder if there is a connection between those that deal with a lot of people and their ability to be intuitive towards their needs. As teachers we need to be able to "read" students as many times their articulated response may not reflect their needs.

I've found that since teaching it is easier to read what people mean compared to what they say. Is this a common finding? Do occupations that deal with a lot of people on an ongoing basis develop the same ability? Does frequency of interaction hone the ability further? Is this a trait we should be looking for in new teachers in the same way we look for bedside manner in doctors?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Exam review

We were reviewing the exam results and I pointed out to students the importance of exams and a different way of looking at the whole process.

Before the exam
  • Use class time effectively
    There is no substitute for working well in class if you want good results. If you know the content, have practiced hard, retention is higher and understanding deeper. Muck about and the consequences follow.
  • Identify content
    It is important to try and identify content that may be in the exam. Check notes and chapters covered and have a good look at material at the end of chapters.
  • Identify proficiencies
    Do a few questions from the end of each chapter and see how well you understand the content. The more you are able to do, the better your exam results.
  • Make good notes
    Any areas that you need to refer to the book make notes of. Where notes are not allowed in the exam, use them as quick review to memorise key material in the days leading up to the exam. Where notes are allowed, to not have them is a recipe for disaster.
  • Find a study buddy
    Check what others are finding hard and things they think might be in the exam. They may have picked up on a hint that you haven't.
  • Ask the teacher for more information
    Ask the teacher stuff. Who knows what they might give away? You have nothing to lose.
  • Quarantine impossible material
    Some stuff you just can't learn in time. If this is the case focus on what you do know or can learn before the test.
  • Sleep well
    You can't expect to retain anything without sleep. Your anxiety levels will rise to the point where you will be unable to function. Little anxiety good. Lots of anxiety bad.

On the day of the exam

  • Be prepared
    Nothing is more likely to unhinge your confidence than losing your notes, calculator, pens running out, no ruler.
  • Focus
    Find that point of calm within yourself. Don't Panic. Grab your notes (regardless of whether you can use them inside or not) and review what you know. I find it easier to go sit on my own than sit with friends that may hype you up.
  • Wear comfortable clothes
    If that means you need to wash your most comfortable trousers or skirt the night before, find that shirt that is just the right size, make sure you have on your favourite socks (as long as you are still in uniform) then do it the night before.
  • Be punctual
    Be prompt. Having the examiner yell at you for being late is not a good way to get into an exam frame of mind.

In the exam

  • Seating
    Listen to the examiner and find a nice quiet place to sit. Settle your material just where you want it. Make sure that you only have material out that you need for the exam
  • Remember your exam technique
    Spend two minutes reading the paper before starting. Identify the hard questions so that you mind can start working on them in the background - allow yourself multiple 'aha' moments as the answers come to mind. Find the easy questions. Number them. Start from the easiest and work to the hardest. Make sure you get all the marks you can before you start the doubtful ones. Identify how many minutes per question and how far you need to be at different times to complete the exam.
After the exam
  • Reflect
    It is important to reflect (I didn't say beat yourself up) on how you did, identify your strengths and weaknesses and then use this knowledge for indicators how and when to really concentrate in class. It will help you at that moment of "Please shut up so I can listen to what the teacher is saying" as you will know when you need to listen and ignore the friend with that bit of gossip about the weekend. There's a reason some some students can ask good questions and others always ask questions that are irrelevant. Reflection is a key area of development for many students.
  • Natural Ability vs Good work ethic
    We have all seen the students that coast along until year 11 and then hit the wall. These students are not prepared for failure and typically fall apart blaming all and sundry. A good work ethic is necessary for success in academia and in the work force.

Despite what many may say, good students do these things and somewhere along the line someone has taught them.

Sometimes unfortunately it ends up being me in year 10.

Links to other articles on exams:

Another week 8 gone

Well, with the help of a few friends I have made it through another week 8. True to form it is coupled with a bit of tiredness but was managed well by those around me.

I suppose in week 8 especially in term 4 we all suffer a little doubt. Have we done enough? Are they ready for next year? I suppose only time will tell.

I know that we're at least achieving in little things. There's a programme of work in place, resources have been gathered and evaluated, there are changes in assessment policy, we have established some diagnostics for cohorts. The team is coming together and is expressing interest in meetings next year. People are starting to see that these gatherings (I hate to call them meetings as it has that connotation of useless waste of time) as something useful and needed to make that whole of school approach work.

It's been a horrible year in terms of individual events happening to kids and of things happening here at home. Let's hope that next year, with the new baby arriving things change for the better (although I don't know how I will manage with fewer hours of sleep). It's good to know that even with a little trouble going on outside of school, things held together in school.

It's getting to the end of the cycle, time to close off this year and start preparing for next year. Another year, another new course, more new kids. Next stop material for summer school and then into the school year. I think we'll concentrate at the summer school on linear algebra, quadratics, problem solving/investigations, probability and 'other stuff' on the last day.

Soon I'll be in my third year of teaching.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Learning by mistakes and reflecting on my current practices

For those that have read my articles you would see that my first draft is usually full of typing and grammatical mistakes which over a few days and my re-reading become able to be read without cringing. This need for self correction was drummed into me as an adult by a colleague and it has stuck with me through teaching.

All too often I receive work from students that is clearly a first draft. This is clearly not acceptable as first draft work is incomplete - next year I intend on informing students that I will be handing such work back as 'not being finished within the deadline' and thus invoking non-completion of assignment consequences.

In mathematics, the trend to assess outcomes has drawn attention away from mathematical technique - such as one equals sign to a line and recording working such that patterns of thought can be read within answers. I intend on looking at this more closely next term, making clearer my expectations and then ensuring that these expectations are adhered to. I will need to investigate further for my next topic what is commonly accepted as good notation (as my notation may not be perfect) and clearly communicate this to students.

Furthermore, I have noticed a worrying trend of students not using notes and worked examples as the first point of query during classwork, nor are they effectively questioning peers when they have a question. All too often I feel I am being used as an instant repository of information (perhaps as a ready replacement for internet instant answers). I need to discourage to some degree questioning of the teacher, prepare better modelled lessons and encourage independent and collaborative learning.

I have noticed that students are not delaying rounding to the last calculation. In many cases the rounding operation itself is also being completed incorrectly. This is poor technique and I need to address this with many of my top students.

I did a lot of work with my students to ensure that all work was self-checked for accuracy and correctness (eg. self marking from the back of the book). Many thought that looking at answers was "cheating" rather than a necessary indicator that an error was occurring. I had to show students that investigation into the cause of an error was also necessary. I need to further encourage students to investigate their errors and help them feel rewarded when investigating and solving their own issues independently.