## Saturday, November 21, 2020

### OLNA preparation

OLNA diagnostics and group diagnostics are found in SIRS and assist in identifying parts of the course that students don't understand well.  I've spent the last week collating data for my class and identifying what needs to be learned.

The main ideas so far have been in Money/Percentages and Proportion:

Money, Proportion and Percentages (Number topics)

Profit/Loss: Percentage increase decrease
Discount/Markup: Percentages of amounts
Finding quantities in an amount: Multiplication / Partitioning
Providing change: The difference in two amounts / Subtraction
Changing quantities in a recipe
Pie charts

This has been consistent over many years of teaching that these concepts are poorly understood.  With the increased understanding of how to teach Linear Algebra among teachers through the efforts of Pam Sherrard, proportion and specifically percentages are the new frontier.

There were some other topics: Volume, Elapsed Time but Percentages and Money topics comprised the majority of issues faced by students, particularly when calculators are not allowed to be used.

Something to consider as we design the new programmes, particularly in the lower ability classes.

The biggest tip so far is not to learn rote methods without context.

## Saturday, November 14, 2020

### Developing Assessment for use across multiple classes

Developing assessment for use across multiple classes is problematic.  Each teacher and text interprets the syllabus a little different and each class enters with different prior knowledge and horsepower. There is a sweet spot where courses can cater to students and minimise work for teachers.  It is not always possible to bring all teachers together to co-write assessment, typically it is assigned to a teacher to complete.

Conflict can occur if the following occurs:

• Teacher that writes the assessment is inflexible (or unable to take constructive criticism)
• Teachers that read the assessment are overly critical
• The teacher writing the assessment has not had enough/spent enough time developing the assessment.
• Grade related descriptors and exemplars are not consulted (or been used over prescriptively)
• The assessment is too broad or narrow in scope
• Syllabus has not been taught fully in one or more classes
• Corners of the course have been emphasized in one class (particularly skills based work)
• If an assessment is written below or beyond the capabilities of a class
• Time is not given to consider the assessment before the requirement to present it to students

To solve these issues requires patience and developing a collegiate approach.  Teachers need to feel safe when developing assessments that if they have done their best, the college will improve it, not "correct it" because they have done it wrong.  It's a mindset developing growth in the team.

In some cases it's a case of developing a shared language:

"I understand what you are saying but in this case..."

"Given the Syllabus dot point identifies this behaviour/concept/idea perhaps we could modify it to..."

"This question may be beyond the scope identified through this grade related descriptor and may be more suitable for year x".

"Here is an alternative problem that might be substituted."

"I might have to think on that some more and will come back to you.."

Using past assessments as an item bank where this process has already been navigated might help as long as the syllabus is used as a basis for identifying appropriate questions.

Anger, aggression, threats, forcing an opinion, getting personal in criticism, going rogue, white anting and undermining, are not ok, professional or appropriate.

Where a difference of opinion exists, ensuring there is time to investigate a solution or involving a HOLA to mediate helps.  Sometimes having slightly different tests or a supplementary tests for different classes are ok as long as the difficulty level is maintained (to assist with consistent judgements and class ranking).

A collegiate approach requires those more experienced to work with those less experienced to develop a shared understanding (which requires investigating why the views are different and considering all opinions until a mutual or adjudicated position is found).

Similarly a reflective approach requires all of us to consider new ideas, especially if our experience or understanding indicates otherwise.  Being right all the time is an irritating and frustrating trait that will draw ire from colleagues.

## Friday, November 6, 2020

### HOLA - Is this it?

A career often leads to different areas than the one you start in.  I was asked earlier in the year if I would consider a change in position to a role in another government department related to my IT management skills rather than my teaching skills.  With my wife not working and kids in school, although exciting, it was not something that my risk averse family could contemplate.

Often, I think, am I doing the right thing?  I was an expert in my field, respected for what I could do and could create new stuff at will.  The field of teaching is much larger and more difficult to reach the same level of expertise.  I would have thought that those in IT have well and truly forgotten who I am and what I did during my ICT career and that it was behind me.

Again it has been raised, do I want to jump back to ICT?  Do I want to engage in the higher risk/reward that is IT compared to teaching?  Do I want the absolute highs (and lows) of running an IT team with insane deadlines compared to the relatively simple and benign role of a HOLA in a school.

There's always that little voice in the back that says... :-)

Last night I had a vivid dream (unusual in itself), I was jumping off a cargo ship just offshore with my family.  I'm swimming well (I can't swim) and initially have my child on my back.  She gets off and starts to swim to shore.  I start racing another person and get to shore first but my child and the rest of my family is nowhere to be seen.  I woke up and needless to say I was quite shaken and took awhile to get back to sleep.  The dream repeated multiple times.

I'm not a hippy sort but I do like to reflect on what my subconscious may be trying to tell me - even random events can lead to insights as it breaks patterns of thinking.

In this case was it warning me that I am doing this in my classes?  Do I get carried away with what I am thinking and sometimes leave students behind?  In my "I'm a HOLA and know what I am doing", started to believe my own BS and forgotten what made me able to give students that aha moment every class.

Could I be considering a change in occupation because I am (again) doubting my ability to teach and lead others and running away when I need to dig deep and make this work?

## Tuesday, October 20, 2020

### The meaning of full participation

Full participation is the emerging buzzword in education.  What is it and why do we need it?

79.1% of students were engaged in full time education as at the 2016 Census.  That means 20.9% had dropped out of full time education.  One would expect that full participation would mean 100% but every teacher knows that the percentage is lower than this.

In every school, there are a number of students either passively not participating in classes or actively seeking to disrupt classes.  Different sectors are able to deal with these students in different ways.  One of the clear inequities of the public/private is the ability of private schools to encourage students to leave (either through the cost/return argument or simply by not renewing their enrolment) resulting in a disproportionate numbers of these students in public schools.  Full participation is engaging these students.

Since the implementation of compulsory education the public system has developed a number of measures to minimise disruption of low participation students in schools (and their disruption in local communities).  These students are the most at risk socio-economically and for mental health; typically with poor role models, have a low value of education and foresee few job prospects.

These students lower the actual participation rate in schools and consume a significant amount of time initially for teachers, then student services and later for administration requiring alternative pathways to education or employment, or increasingly in extreme cases being passed between schools via section A exclusions.

They are currently in the spotlight for the amount of time they consume - and the new focus for classroom teachers to attempt to prevent them becoming issues for the department, admin and student services.  They are the students that typically know that discipline and BMIS is a bluff - if they say no, there's not much schools can do.

It is one thing to say full participation is required - another thing to make it happen, the levers are below and this is far from an exhaustive list.

a) establishment of rapport

You don't want to be their least favourite teacher - if you are, you are in for a hard time.  For a traditional teacher, where consequence (detention/suspension) is the only remediating measure in a teacher's kitbag, these are the teachers most at risk.  A positive approach is needed (and is wearying), each day, every day.

b) positive re-inforcement

These students typically are low performing and have low self esteem.  Ensuring success is encountered and encountered frequently, is essential for engagement.

c) syllabus delivered at developmental level

Students that have not found success, particularly in Maths get accumulated in secondary school.  The current syllabus is an issue as it is "one size fits all" and with students 4-6 years below syllabus, this is not conducive to success, requiring other strategies.  Where they could hide in multiple primary schools getting extra assistance as the bottom two students in classes across the suburb, they now get put together and are expected to learn in a standard learning environment without the additional support and attention they have previously been given.  Not being equipped for independent learning, all too often this results in poor learning environments.  To get them to achieve at level, requires identification of where they are at, and devising a learning programme that caters to their needs.  This is time consuming, expensive and rarely implemented well.

d) students services support

These students have issues and lots of them.  It often feels like whack-a-mole in these classrooms.  As one student settles, another looks for attention.  This is a lifelong pattern by students to gain attention (good or bad) not gained elsewhere.    Typically to address these issues requires an holistic approach, with student services monitoring student and family wellbeing and communicating this to classrooms such that teachers understand the source of issues faced.  It can be as simple as giving a kid a pen and paper to reduce anxiety for a student with a family underemployed and struggling to keep a roof overhead. Effective student services and timely information is critical to establishing and maintaining establishment of teacher rapport. A case management approach is critical to success.

e) environmental supports

Students in this category can have limited social skills and may not respond to measures that work in other classes.  Low key measures may not work (proximity in particular may raise anxiety levels), their focus on social equity creates friction(attention given for poor behaviour is seen as unfairly distributed),  poor social skills (seating plans become problematic, peer conflict more frequent), homework creates friction (few study skills, no environment that supports homework, little IT access at home).  These classes have high levels of conflict and these levels of high stimulation can undermine students ability to function particularly where autism and ADHD is mixed in.  A shouty teacher with an anxious or traumatised student completely undermines any ability to learn.  They need a caring, supportive environment, hard to supply when they evidence little care of themselves.

f) instructional techniques

Instructional techniques are more limited as students find it difficult to work independently - especially as class sizes rise to 26-30 students.  This results in highly structured lessons, teacher directed lessons, with fewer opportunities to engage with investigative approaches to cater to multiple levels of ability.  With higher levels of impulsive behaviour, lessons that are not highly structured can quickly become unworkable.  I'm not sure what the answer is here and my feeling is that the problem is significantly different in Year 7 (where there is still hope for connection with education) to Year 10 and beyond (where external influences and antisocial behaviours may exceed the ability of schools to engage them).

g) parental involvement

These students have had constant negative feedback given to parents whilst in formal schooling and often parents have disengaged.  Families can often too be classified as at risk themselves, being possibly broken, abusive, helpless and highly resistant to engagement.  Developing a team approach can be difficult and requires a deft touch.

h) community involvement

Community involvement - Smith family, Rotary, Lions, Police, Juvenile Justice, Focus First, AustismWest, EdConnect, Mercycare, Clontarf, RMLA, Headspace provide a range of supports that can improve the home situation for students and promote full participation.  A pair of shoes, pen, calculator, exercise book or a strong mentor can help a student engage in a classroom in class and supplements what student services can do.

i) classroom structures

Low participation students are typically put in the same classes as students with disability as both are academically struggling and the supports (such as EA's or small class sizes) are with other low functioning students.  Many of the issues above are shared with students that have a disability but attract no funding to rectify. The management of these students is completely different - putting them together creates a more complex classroom (typical of streamed environments) than not doing so and is not desirable.

Now all this for a relative few, which diverts attention from core business of schools - delivery of the syllabus.   The obvious statement is that this is what schools do, and they care, but it should not be just assumed it will happen - because it won't and hasn't in many instances despite best intentions - to do it requires a clear understanding of the issues faced and addressing them with due consideration of the cost/benefit.

## Sunday, October 11, 2020

### What part does motivation play in teaching students?

As teachers we are typically motivated people. We prepare classes, mark work, consider what comes next.  Generally we are moving from one thing to the next without a lot of thought about "why am I here".

Students on the other hand are on a 12 year journey where the press constantly questions the direction of education as a system.  Anecdotally, the general trend of apathy towards education is growing, or many teachers would have you believe.  Students are unmotivated, apathetic and of decreasing standard is a fairly common comment.

This raises the question of what role do teachers play in motivating students? Where are engagement strategies in the list of hierarchy of skills to develop.

I have asked teachers whether they consider motivating students a part of teaching.  Thankfully, the view that students are self motivating is less common and teachers accept that motivating students is a key component of teaching. The "hook" is nothing more than a motivational strategy to link students with a teaching context.

So, what happens if a student is unmotivated.

Teacher centric

Student needs to motivate themselves

Isolate the student to prevent negative influence

Inform parents that a problem exists

Inform student they have a problem

Expect someone else to solve issue

Student centric

Need to identify a method or context to motivate the student

Place student among good role models

Work with parents to identify possible solutions

Work with students to identify why unmotivated

Opportunity to develop skills to motivate students

It's a interesting problem to consider.

## Friday, October 9, 2020

### Examining programmes

Programmes for each year group are developed over many years.  Redesigning them from scratch is a time consuming task and has the potential to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

There are a number of models that I have seen being used.  The model I'm faced with has left me challenged and has been driven by streaming at the school and an aim to make teaching easier, freeing up time for intervention with students.

In Term 1 and 2, Number and Algebra is done in each year group. In Term 3 everyone does Measurement.  In Term 4 everyone does Probability and Statistics.  Some of the programmes are simply the outcomes listed in order, with texts identified next to each topic. It helps with sharing material as everyone is basically doing the same thing at the same time.  Tests are set and everyone does the same test in each pathway.  Each test appears to be rewritten from scratch each time.

I must admit I scratched my head at this model.  It was obvious the difficulty ramped by midyear and dropped at the start of Term 3 and Term 4.  A group of students in each class disengaged as they fell of the programme and the work became too difficult.  Retention of material, year to year, was not apparent - especially in senior school.  Problem solving was not strongly developed resulting in a lower than expected number of students attempting ATAR courses or performing well in ATAR courses. Together with the current streaming model and in consultation with other HOLA's and SWS it appears the programmes and structure set are not inline with current teaching practices and needed attention.

After a bit of a review, I stated that I wished for this to change to the team and that NA be set as the backbone for material over the year with M and PS applying concepts taught in each NA unit providing context for ideas presented.  The problem was how to implement it..  and this required some thought.

My initial idea was to set year groups to teachers in groups with an objective of rewriting them slowly over 6 months.  This method has been singularly unsuccessful.  One alternative was for me to sit down (again) and write a series of programmes for all streams.  The main issue that I have found with this approach is a lack of ownership by the teaching group which leads to a lack of future development and analysis of the programmes.  In a team critical of change, it had the potential for a blame game rather than a incremental improvement model to be developed.

So I took a long view instead.  I took the most difficult year (Year 10) and will rewrite this one myself (and will need to incrementally rewrite it over the next four years as students adjust to new teaching pedagogy, starting in Year 7).  As I will be teaching in Year 10 for some time, I can ensure that this gets ongoing review.  Secondly I set the most progressive teachers to redevelop the Year 7 programme and then found a PD from SWS later in the year that would help them develop an engaging course.  I can then work with them to analyse how each course progresses and develop an evidence based approach to teaching, whilst encouraging development of the course with engagement and instructional techniques needed to advance students optimally. Once these two year groups are established in 2021, I can look at the remaining two year groups that require development.

A big part of the new model has to be how grades are allocated (giving meaning to pathway grades), how students are assessed (broadening the methodology for assessment), how SEN reporting is used and how EAs are used to support learning in the classroom.

Now that the main idea is set, hopefully it will gain traction.

## Sunday, September 27, 2020

### Perception and being overly critical.

It is easy to fall into the trap of being overly critical.  As an insider you know why things are done a certain way.  Often it is a compromise, where you know there is a better way, but at the time, this was the best you could get consensus with.

As an outsider you look at it without context and think.. boy, that is stupid.

I'm pretty free with an opinion and happy to comment on something if it is either in my domain of expertise or if asked.  It was put to me - "Don't you like it here?" by someone that I really respect.  This wasn't a jibe or a snarky comment, it was a legitimate observation and made me step back and think.  I responded, "What choice do I have? I'm not able to move until I make a success of this."

I know I'm pig headed and will continue long after others would give up. I need a good success to progress my career and this is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference.

Is that how others perceive me? Are my comments overly critical?  Have I become one of those people?

Do I like it here?

I gave myself a break and thought, I've been somewhere that I have great memories of 13 years, transition is hard.  I've been criticised from the minute I entered my new school by the team I need to own - it hasn't always been pleasant.

I wasn't sure.  My enjoyment of teaching has on occasion been from interactions with admin and teachers, but for the most part it has been with students.  Was I getting jaded because I felt like I wasn't making a difference?

Being action oriented I did something about it and surveyed my kids, nothing special, a survey I found on the web.  The results were great and lifted my spirits significantly.  Far better than when I surveyed myself. I could answer a different question now, "could I like it here?"  Absolutely.  If the kids can see benefit in my teaching style, they will provide the impetus for me to follow through on what evidence makes obvious.

I then presented the survey results to Admin.  This is what I have in my classrooms.  Admin need to be confident that I can walk the walk.  This will lead to them backing my judgement when I say something needs doing or in supporting something I have done.

I talked to my team.  You're a good teacher?  Here's a survey - don't tell me from anecdotes, go check and bring back the results.  There are the benchmarks, my classes, the most difficult class of last year and an ATAR class being taught in a different way.  If you're not getting better than that, come talk to me and we can discuss what worked for me.  If yours are better in some areas, I have something to learn too.

I went and spoke to those I considered experts outside the school on next steps refining our delivery.  We put together a plan of attack.

..

I'm beginning to like it here.

## 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 not 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 your 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.