Friday, September 30, 2011

Lessons That Resonate With Us


The lesson that was best prepared?
The project that was most researched?
The idea that was deepest thought-out?
The concept that was the most challenging?

What does a lesson look like, sound like, FEEL like when it resonates with a learner?

Think back...what was it that captured you when you were being taught? Was it the class-grown watercress that developed in your teachers' old stockings that you groomed into a funny person with a bushy hairstyle? Was it the stories that they told you of their childhood antics and the silly ways you were taught to remember multiplication facts? Was it the mnemonics that a teacher chanted to you to learn to spell MISSISSIPPI? Was it the history teacher who danced around the room or the Classical Studies teacher who brought Ancient Rome alive? Was it the first teacher you had who wiped your nose and sang nursery rhymes with you? Was it the lesson about becoming an adolescent or the one about people who help us?

What does it mean to resonate with a learner?

It is when the lesson has long gone and the echoes of the strains of new knowledge still ring in your soul.

It is when new connections have been made, old knowledge to new...when discovery has cost something from us - perhaps an admission that we did not know how to find a solution...it is when interaction has caused a reaction...it is when synthesis is occurring with little or no effort...it is when passion shines through a teacher and seeps into the very core of a child.

Lessons that resonate with us are the ones that could be best prepared or when we have seized the day. They may be the most researched or the least known to begin with. They could be from a deep idea or a small inkling. They could be the most challenging of new knowledge or the most basic of all knowledge.

The only common thread is the teacher who is part of the learning which is driven by passion.
Passion resonates.

Writing An Associate Teacher Report


This post comes at the end of a practicum I have been through with a first year trainee teacher. It is always tricky to write a valid and valuable report as an associate teacher.
So what is the best advice that I could give to other associates?

1. Be totally honest.
We do a student teacher absolutely no favours by embellishing their achievements or making light of issues that they have. I think the best benchmark is to use our current class or our own children to decide whether we would be totally comfortable having this person teaching them when they qualify.

2. Find 3 really positive things to praise.
Everyone has 3 things that they can do really well. Start from the beginning of their practicum - look for their strengths and focus on their top 3 qualities. Help them to build these strengths and help them to IDENTIFY these strengths. Some students teachers are extremely hard on themselves and tend to compare themselves to others who are much further along in the journey, Remind them of their strengths in the 'now'.

3. FInd 1-2 things to focus on for change.
Only 1-2 things note. It is vital that we don't create an impossible hurdle for student teachers. Hard as it may be to remember, we were in need of exponential growth in every area of our teaching, but it was something we could not have developed in one short half term! Try to keep it simple - 1-2 areas for development is perfect.

4. Follow the guidelines closely.
Before your student arrives, become familiar with all of the criteria for the practicum and then report on the specific points. Items such as 'professionalism' and 'relationships' are woven into the very fabric of teaching so they are always an expectation both for the student teacher and the data for the report. This makes it easy to comment on if you are totally focused on these elements throughout their practicum.

5. Be a guide not a critic.
It is easy to use ourselves as a baseline for assessing the performance of student teachers. Sometimes they even mimic our mannerisms and behave like a mini-me so that we see a bit of ourselves in everything they do and say to the class. Encourage them to be themself and to spend time working out what works for them and what they need to work on for change. Being a guide through this means that we are helping, working alongside and not criticising, but giving genuine feedback and feedforward to support change.

It's a tough job, a rewarding job and a wonderful opportunity. Writing a report is a way of encapsulating who your student teacher is and what they have achieved as they joined with you to learn.

The Future Of Furniture


It has been an interesting week. Well, that's not quite true...it has been a VERY interesting week!
I have finally managed to score the chance to trial new furniture in my classroom and boy, am I excited about it!

The only problem is that being the guinea-pig kind of means that if I get it wrong, I could really get it wrong for everyone! You see, what I get in my classroom actually forms the basis for what EVERYONE gets in their rooms in our year levels. And with 11 classes depending on me, I was under a little pressure!

Do you know how many choices are out there??? Seriously folks, there are round tables, trapezoid tables, long tables, high tables, scalloped tables, semi-circular tables and more. Then there are the choices of colours - did you know that there are actually a whole pile of shades of red to choose from? Not to mention blue, yellow and more! Thank goodness I didn't have to choose new chairs...

Then I had to consider the height, castors or no castors, what trim they would have, which colours I wanted the tops of the tote tray shelves to be and so on. Phew! By the time I was finished, I felt terrified! Had I picked the right colours, heights, collections, styles, trims, edges, features...! Who knows! I find myself anxiously awaiting the final result, due to be delivered in the first week back after the holidays.

You may wonder why we are going in this direction. Why not leave the children with desks, independent and self-managing as they are? Why bring in tote trays that overflow with chaotic bits of paper and things the children can never find? Why force them to have no ownership of a space of their own?

The whole concept is that we are growing and developing more fluid classrooms where learning occurs in a range of settings and with the use of specific spaces rather than having the constraints of a desk. The classroom is supposed to become a place where the spaces encourage different learning styles and flexibility in how students learn. The tables are on castors so that they can move. They are interlacing so that the amount of students around them is changeable. The tables are different styles to suit different learning needs. Some really encourage collaboration by their shape and some encourage space to work alongside others with a smaller proximity.

As for the tote trays and the overflowing bits...we are a digital class and we work online a lot. Most of the topic work we do is represented on our blog and wiki. We collaborate and brainstorm constantly, the learning is seamless between the classroom and classroom without walls. We don't print a lot of our work but we publish online instead. Therefore, our books that we need for stationary has reduced dramatically and the paper we use is minimal. The idea of tote trays is really only as a base for them to store their pencil case or personal items.

It is an exciting time indeed. I find myself studying the Ewan McIntosh 7 Spaces of Learning video over and over again as I consider the way these spaces work in a classroom to encourage collaboration and unity.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Social Networking and Net-iquette


My class have joined the group 'The Flat Stanley Project' as part of our goal towards becoming global citizens. We are paired up with a class in Pennsylvania, USA and we are currently reading the book of Flat Stanley as part of 'setting the scene'. This has all linked brilliantly with our reading theme around describing characters and comparing/contrasting characters.

We joined Edmodo and have been spending time exploring the challenges of what 'net-iquette' is. We have looked at: how do we behave online when communicating with others? What is expected of someone when relating to them through online communities? We have also been thinking about and discussing whether someone is a 'friend' just because they are on a social networking site - it has also linked with our unit of "Keeping Ourselves Safe" and we have spent some time viewing and exploring the Brian and Bobby DVD, which has lots of great tips (all short bites of info) for cyber-safety but also online net-iquette

Today we wrote a description of ourselves, coloured our own Flat Stanley and published our writing including some questions on the back of the Flat Stanley. It is now my task to (gasp) put them in an envelope and (double gasp) buy stamps (I vaguely remember those...) and post it. Yep. I said it. SNAIL MAIL.

There is something delightful, still, about receiving some real, cold, hard POST in the mail. I imagine the kids in Philly receiving our Flat Stanleys and opening their individual letters. I can picture the delight on their faces when they find us on Google Earth and realise how far these letters have traveled. And I know that their idea of being global learners will be fulfilled when they then write on our Edmodo accounts to tell us all about it.

It's so simple. There is a world out there filled with learners who are just like us. The kids may have a different accent, a slightly different sized or shaped classroom, they may speak another language or start school at a different age. They may focus on different subjects, they may learn things in a slightly different order. But one thing is for sure - we are all on a learning journey and we can all impact on each others' learning in simple yet powerful ways. The online learning communities can be an incredible extension to our classroom.

My class are loving it. We have truly gone global.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Social Justice and a Social Conscience...how?


How do we 'teach' these ideals? How do we take enormous ideas and imprint them into the generation of 'gotta haves' and 'iRule'?

As a parent, it is something that weighs heavily on my heart. As a teacher, it weighs heavily on my own social responsibilities - that of helping to shape and mould our learners of this time into fully rounded humans who are humane as well as kind, fair, humble and much more.

Our school sponsors a world vision child in Africa. We participate in and raise a lot of money for the 20 or 40 hour famine each year. Our children have 'nude food' and they take their scraps home. One day there will be a compost heap and no bins at school which will help us to reduce our rubbish-laden footprints one day. We talk about the future as if it will hopefully not happen in that way - fallen economies across the globe and worldwide famine.

But we have only to take a look at third world countries to know that social injustice is global. We only have to read the newspaper to know that social injustice is societal. It seeps into every pore of every nation. None are exempt from its ugliness.

One child has shoes, another child only one block over walks to school with bare feet. One family feed 6, own 3 cars and a holiday home while 5 minutes away another family holds down 3 jobs to provide only just enough food to manage to stay alive most days. And that is in the first world countries.

So how do we teach social justice to our children? Or most importantly, how do we create 'just' children?

Sponsoring a child is a start. Buying Fair Trade food, coffee, tea, chocolate is a start. Talking to our classes about how to help others is an important part. Letting them brainstorm the ways that they can do something small for others is another example. Communicating with and becoming blog-buddies with children in other countries is a method of teaching global awareness. Asking questions of children in their class who are from other countries is a beginning. It all helps. It starts the children and their families thinking about who they are and what they have. It is not about guilt, it is not about comparing or feeling guilty about what we have and what others don't have, but it is about being aware of helping others, being considerate of what is fair and what is unfair. It is about using your own circumstances to better the lives of others.

It is about cupcake stalls for the SPCA. It's a visible way of trying to make a difference.
It is about sponsoring a child as a school or a family. It's a tangible way of making a life better.
It is about buying Fair Trade items. It's obvious and deliberate. It makes a statement about what we believe to be unacceptable.
It is about packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child (Samaritan's Purse) to send to children who receive no Christmas presents normally.
It is about donating time, old clothes or cans to the Salvation Army for those who are struggling in our community.
It is about being deliberate with our teaching but not our opinions. It is about making a statement about how we believe we can help others. It is about helping them, not just giving lip service to what is fair and just but actually acting on this.

We cannot change every situation or every mind. We cannot make a difference to a million but we can try to make a difference to one. We can teach a class that they can make choices and that their voice matters. THAT is how to help our generation of today make a difference to the generations of tomorrow. And maybe, just maybe, the life they end up changing will be their own.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Are you listening?



My class have been looking at fairytales this week, their construction and the particular features of them. They have really enjoyed finding out the history of them, the hows and whys as well as comparing them to the stories that we have in our time, which are designed to teach us morals and lessons of life. We have linked it to our KOS (keeping ourselves safe) topic - the things parents and teachers tell us to keep us safe. The class have been able to link these stories to their own experiences and make the connections to their own lives.

One of the activities that we have done, involved the story of Hansel and Gretel. I told the class the story orally with no visual prompts, and when we came to the part in the story where the children, Hansel and Gretel, come across the clearing with the wonderful gingerbread house in it, I asked them to close their eyes and imagine the scene...I asked, "What lollies would they have on the house? What would the features be? How could they describe it to their friends?"

The class then listened to the rest of the story and when I finished it, they went away and wrote a descriptive passage about the gingerbread house. We brainstormed some adjectives and verbs that we could use and they then went to work independently on it.

Today, I got the text of the Nogard and read this to them. It is a piece of writing that describes a dragon (nograd is dragon spelt backwards) and you don't tell the children any clues other than the description that you read out to them. The class then tried to draw the animal following the description as closely as they could. The idea is to illustrate how important our descriptions are!

After they had drawn their nogard, one of the class members read her description of the gingerbread house while the class attempted to draw it. She then compared their image to her own and they also worked in partners to see the similarities and differences they had. This was an extremely powerful exercise which led them straight back into their own writing to emend, add and generally create more interesting descriptions of the house.

The kids loved this writing and really reflected passionately at the end of the lesson - there was a lot of feed-forward about how this has made them more aware of the audience when they are writing. Niiiiiiice!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hidden Talents


One of the ways that the class decided to communicate with our quadblogging buddies is to create voicethreads, vokis and vocaroos. They love to use these methods of communicating and all have personal faves when it comes to picking which site to use. Some really enjoy using the avatars, while some just love to record their voice and sit and listen.

Another way of presenting our facts and info about our class, school and country was to create a movie. We had already brainstormed some questions and a few important things we needed to communicate. But one of the boys in my class decided that he wanted to do a video by himself. He is quite quiet and shy ordinarily, but today he unleashed his hidden talent!

Eloquently, clearly and with a confidence that doesn't normally fit him, he roved the classroom, narrating as he went, with not a single "Um..." or "Errr..." in sight. He was organised but without notes, and he was so well spoken with what he had to say! This was such a breakthrough for him and a real boost to his self-confidence!

We shared his movie with the class, promptly put it onto our youtube account and then sent it to our quadblog buddies in the UK. They will probably never fully realise the significance of the video sent from New Zealand by a 9 year old boy, but for the 9 year old boy, there has been a wonderful discovery of hidden talents today that I am now challenged as to how to build on it!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It's SOOOOOO Easy!



We have been working on fractions over the past few weeks for our maths. It follows our big 5 weeks of looking at multiplication and division. Now this may not seem impressive to anyone, but I have a challenging maths class who all find maths rather tricky, so they keep me on my toes thinking of new and wonderful ways to create A-HA! moments for them!

Today, we were learning to share sets. The class is made up from cross-grouping with the other Year 3 class next to us, and their teacher was running a bit late, so I only had 12 children with me for the first few minutes. Never one to waste a learning opportunity, I gave the number fans to the 12 children and proceded to talk them through how to use halves to get to a quarter of a number, for example, 1/4 of 12 is: 1/2 of 12 = 6 then 1/2 of 6 = 3 and so on. One or two little demos, a partner check later and most of the children were well on the way.

I have discovered, however, that there is no more powerful tool than a learner as a teacher, so
I asked my 12 original children to be the teacher and teach their partner (who was just arriving through the classroom door!) how to find 1/4 of a set.

Interesting...the language was not much like mine...the demonstrations involved a LOT of talking, gesturing and nodding...but...A-HA! Overhead lightbulbs went off all over the place! Before I knew it, we were all well and truly into it and understanding how the strategy worked brilliantly!

My small teaching group stayed with me then as the others went to their group tasks, and they managed to manipulate halves and quarters all through the session, making and finding 1/4 of a huge number of sets with and without equipment.

A-HA!


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Quadblogging


What a fantastic idea!

We have joined the latest craze which is pumping its way through bloggers called 'Quadblogging'. Imagine four schools that had a partnership/agreement that would mean that for a four week cycle, each school's blog would be the focus of one week in four. Each school in the quad would spend some time visiting the blog of the school of that week, leave comments etc. That would be repeated for a four week cycle. It wouldn't take the pupils long to catch on that during their week, they would get a boost in visitor numbers and comments. During the other 3 weeks, pupils get the chance to visit and comment on other blogs. (From quadblogging.net)

This is a Year 1 class at our school who shared the idea of quadblogging and got us started! They have created voicethreads, Skyped their partners in USA, recorded ideas for questions using wallwisher and much more.

We are now beginning to use other ways of communicating with our other quad-classes and are going to make vocaroos of our questions for the class in England that we are communicating with this week. We are also just adding the finishing touches to our vokis to give information about New Zealand and life here as well as information about school here.

Get on board - it is a wonderful way to make the world even smaller - we are a true global classroom!

Resilience


Considering all of the key competencies in the NZ Curriculum, the most difficult one to purposefully 'teach' has to be resilience. The reason, of course, is that resilience is something that is built through experiences and trials, difficulties and challenges, not something that is simple to teach in a few short lessons.

Resilience: the ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change.

Rescue workers show resilience. Refugee families are resilient. Resilience is not just the ability to bounce back or to endure. People such as Nelson Mandela display resilience beyond what would seem to be humanly possible. If you consider that Nelson Mandela spent 9,000 days in a prison cell 2m x 2m, then it would seem even more unbelievable that he could forgive those who put him there and eventually become the first black African president of South Africa.

To teach resilience means that we must tell the stories of what resilient people are able to do to overcome their circumstances. If we are to teach what it takes to be resilient, we must present the opportunity for our learners to recover from failure. This essentially means to create a culture within our schools where failure is a major part of the learning process.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Poverty


In some countries, poverty is still wrapped in a pretty simple blanket which is lack of food and water.

In our generation and in most first world countries, poverty wears a different coat. We seem in a constant battle with time, fighting to squeeze as much as we can into a day.

Time poverty.

It eats at our families.
It oozes through our lives.
It permeates our classrooms.
It covers our very existence.

We rush, we are flustered, we are super-organised so that we are not stressed but we are still hurried. The hurrier we go, the behinder we get. We get in a flap, a fluster. We dart from one thing to the next. We have finish and never complete some things. We complete other things badly or in a substandard way because we are looking to the next thing.

We don't have time. We are too busy. We run late. We struggle to be where we should be. We can't complete things on time.

Our classroom language reflects how time impoverished we are. "Hurry up, we need to get to the library/start our writing/finish our maths..." and so on. We communicate how much of a commodity time is in everything we do - our timetable is filled with what we have to do, our planning shows the time pressures while we attempt to start and finish things. Paradoxically, the more time we have, we more time we use. The more time we save, the less we have.

So what is the solution?

Less is more? Do little and often?

Perhaps the old adage has it summed up better than that - make time for the things that count.

Sometimes I have to remember that the learning is what matters, not the task. The result is not as important as the process. The time that I invest in my learners will impact on them for a lifetime if I get it right. It will supersede me, it will carry them through a much longer time than I will know most of them for.

Time for change.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Real Question


For the past few years one of our school goals has been to create learners who are capable of high level questioning. We have put a lot of our professional development focus into this, working alongside people like Tony Ryan and working over 2 years to embed the AFL skills throughout the school, to ensure consistency in our teaching, learning and reflections.

We have all been in those famous school assemblies, with special visitors and the day going well until they ask, "Any questions?"

We cringe.
We curl into small teacher balls and begin to rock.
We all avoid eye-contact with one another.
We start to focus our hairy-eyeball look towards the highest risk child - the one we KNOW will ask a ridiculous question...and then we wait...

But since our focus on questioning and learning through deliberate teaching, we have noticed a slow but definite shift in the way our children question and the type of questions that they ask.

Last week, we had an ex-All Black and former Manu Samoa World Cup player in our school. He regaled the children with tales of rugby and showed fantastic footage of awesome try-scoring moments in his career. And then he asked, "Any questions?"

We froze. We cringed. We began to rock.

But suddenly, up went 20 hands and out came thoughtful, deep, probing and interesting questions!

"What was the highlight of your career?"
"Which teams did you really enjoy playing and why?"
"What made you stop playing rugby for the Auckland Blues?"
"Who was the toughest opponent you faced?"

We uncurled.
We unfroze.
We sat up and listened.
We were blown away by the incredible depth of the questioning and we were impressed by how far our school has come in this area!

Of course, we did get the one 5 year old who asked, "How old are you?" and when our visitor asked, "How old do you THINK I am?" she responded, "Maybe 73..."

He roared with laughter and said, "Well, at least I still have my own teeth!"

Guess it takes a few years to perfect those questioning skills, huh?!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Art of Reflection


So my 12 year old was off sick today and decided, with a bit of coercion, that this might be the perfect opportunity to finish his homework project that has plagued his life for the past 7 weeks.

A bit of online research later, some cut and paste, a lot of added detail, a bibliography, some more research, a small amount of parental support and we have the completed task (or 10).

His final task was to write a reflection about the project. I just have to share part of it...

Q. What did you find challenging?
A. Time management.

Q. What would you do to overcome this difficulty next time?
A. Not leave it all until the very last minute!

I have to say, that kid can sure reflect! As if he didn't know all along that he was leaving it until the last minute, and as if he is actually going to do anything different next time! The reality is, my son is one of those children who prefers EXAMS (yuck!!!) and loathes doing assignments. His time management with homework tasks is non-existent unless you count being able to count down how many days his technology ban has left to run!

So, in his reflection, he has only really acknowledged that he is perfectly well aware of what he lacks. Can he time manage? Yes. He managed perfectly well today by getting it all done. Can he spread an assignment out into manageable tasks? Nope. But he will manage to get the project handed in on time so that has to say something for time management!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Homework?


To have homework or not to have homework, that is the question...

Should our 5 year olds and 8 year olds and 11 year olds all be doing homework or is there a golden age when homework becomes a must? Or a given?

Now look out, because I might just be going to open a horrible can of worms here!

(Disclaimer - all of the article is my own humble opinion, and, for what it is worth, as the parent of 3 kids (10-12 year olds) as well as having taught for over 20 years in many different schools, right across the spectrum of ages - 4-13 year olds - I am mildly qualified to give my opinion...)

When I was a kid, homework up until high school consisted of reading every night and learning our timestables. Ocassionally we were expected to work on some kind of project which we did mostly at school and then completed parts of it at home, but this really only happened when I was at Intermediate school (11-13 years old).

When I was a kid, we were expected to come home from school, scoff as many peanut butter sandwiches as we could before mum yelled at us to go and play. We were social - every kid in the neighbourhood poured out of their house by 4pm and we were off to the local park for some games, gossip and fun.

Fast forward to the now. My own kids go to 3 different schools (because of ages etc.) and there are 3 different expectations for homework. My son, the oldest, does 45 minutes a night on average of maths (a worksheet), research (project based learning), reading (his personal reading) and sometimes little extras like topic work or writing. My daughter does 10 minutes of spelling and basic facts as well as reading for a while when she goes to bed. My step-daughter does up to an hour of writing and maths from a homework text book which is carried around daily like a teenager at high school.

Neither of the older two seem to glean any new knowledge or skills or even consolidate much learning from this wonderful exercise of homework. The only time they learn anything is when their mother (me, ever the teacher) jumps in and contributes to the exercise. I find myself often frustrated by the ridiculous tasks that the older two are expected to complete - mostly because they are challenging for even me! I laugh with other parents who talk about how THEY are struggling to complete THEIR homework! I refuse to do any of it for my children - what value is there in that? But I am a LOT luckier than many other parents because at least I can equip my kids to tackle the tough homework and can guide them through it without them being too frustrated. I often field phone-calls from friends who have tearful tweens in the background trying to get through a task that they (and their parents) don't understand.

Now, let me be clear here. Part of me believes that homework is part of the process of learning time management and independence - skills that translate into their high school and workforce years perfectly. However, I firmly believe that homework should fit some pretty specific criteria.

1. The homework should be part of the learning in the classroom - an extension of what is already being learned, consolidating and practicing new skills and ideas.

2. The homework should have reasonable time frames around it - kids who are tired after 6-7 hours of school are not really going to gain much from another hour a day when they get home.

3. The homework should be tailored to suit all of the different learning styles - the children who struggle in class will struggle at home so why set them tasks that lead to even more frustration?

4. The homework should be marked with the students - this is the only way the learner can gain any value from the exercise, if they are given feedback and feed-forward.

So, you can see why I am on the fence in some ways and definite in others! What teacher has time to do number 3 & 4 in their already jam-packed days? Do we lose excellence in the classroom programme to accommodate excellence in homework setting and marking? What value is there in that?

I believe to my very core as a teacher that we are best to ensure an excellent classroom programme of collaborative teaching in learning to the detriment of all else. Homework has to be one of these things that we do not sell out to at the cost of our class.

Now, my daughter who does spelling, basic facts and reading seems to be doing very nicely thanks. She has improved her basic facts recall dramatically this year and is a lover of all books. Do I think the homework has helped? Who would know! But the 10 minutes a night is easy to fit in, without frustration and she has plenty of time to cook with me or play with the neighbours, go to the park, have swimming lessons, do Mathletics on the laptop or whatever she chooses. She has, in fact, a balanced life and one that I for one am glad of. As for the other two, they have such a load of homework to contend with that they have little time for anything else. I make them have several nights where they do no homework so that they can just enjoy being kids. They will be at high school with all of the pressures and expectations that it brings in a year or so, so why should I stress them out now!? They have independent skills and they are both pretty good time managers so I am happier to let them enjoy their childhood before the pressures of life get them!

So, homework or no homework?
Hmmmm...still on the fence...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Power of Expectation


I was expecting great things from this week and I was not let down.

Challenging? Hmmm, at times.
Fun? Always!
Lots of learning in there? Oh definitely!

Over my career I have found that the power of expectation is a wonderful thing.
If I expect great things, I get amazing results.
If I expect very little, then I am seldom disappointed, I will get little.
If I expect that there may be problems, there often are.
If I expect the best, I am also seldom disappointed.

The higher my expectations are, the greater the results.
Children will never let you down...if you expect great things of them, then they will rise to the expectations.

I was expecting a challenging week and I got it. But I was also expecting to get through a lot of learning and I was not disappointed. I was expecting to be busy and I was. I was expecting the children to be challenged by some of their tasks, I was expecting to have some great new learning happen, I was expecting amazing things...

And I got exactly what I asked for...

THAT is the power of expectation...especially HIGH expectations!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Seeking Teachers...


During maths today, I discovered how powerful my class have become as leaders and teachers.

One of the girls asked for support when completing a multiplication task, so I sat with her 1:1 and went through the ins and outs of the strategy she was working on. She listened, questioned and then applied the new knowledge. After which, a huge smile lit up her face, up went her thumb and she said, "Got it, Mrs R!"

Moments later, another child was working with me and appeared to have the same problem. I decided that this was my perfect opportunity to check on the learning with the rest of my class, when the first child chirped in and said, "Can I teach her how to do it?"

Now how's that for confidence?!

She did a much better job than me, talking kids' speak to the other student and patiently repeating the exercise with the other child until her thumb went up and she said, "Got it!"

When did the learner become teacher?
Always!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Inspiring People


My class have the challenge of writing a speech about inspiring people and then presenting it to the class and potentially, the rest of the year level if their speech is chosen.

We have explored what inspiration means and what inspiring people we can think of. It was a fascinating exercise, considering that most of them think Richie McCaw, Sonny Bill Williams and all of the rest of the All Blacks are the most inspiring people ever!

Today we had the immense privilege of having Timo Tagaloa visit our school. Inspiring? You bet! He was humble and funny, well-spoken and honest all wrapped in a bundle of ex-Manu Samoa/NZ Sevens and Auckland Blues packaging! Anyone who can enthrall over 800 small children for any length of time has my approval but Timo managed to control, entertain and answer great questions then he gave a fantastic talk to a group of school councillors, followed by a block of time with groups of children teaching ball skills for the rest of the day, rotating through the whole school. Unbelievably, he was followed by a virtual flash-mob of young children all day and at all of the break times, begging for autographs as he patiently answered more questions and signed more autographs.

This humble man began the day at our school as an unknown to the children, but by the end of the day he had climbed to the status of 'inspiring'. The children will not forget this day quickly. They will long remember meeting the guy who played in the 1991 World Cup, who warmed the spot for the likes of Jonah Lomu, who gave up his career to marry his one love, and the guy who had time in abundance to spend just talking rugby with them.

I began the day wondering if rugby players should qualify as 'inspiring people' for our speeches but I will long remember that inspiration doesn't just come from who we are, but from who we become by what we do.

Monday, September 5, 2011

What do you want?


I was asked this very question today and I asked it of my student teacher, but the tone, context and impact were quite different in both cases.

I have discovered over the 2nd half of my life, how much the TONE in which we say things matters.

For example, I can read an e-mail or a text message and ASSUME that the person is happy, sad, annoyed or feeling something else based on (a) how I am feeling and (b) my relationship with that person.

So when someone asks, "What do you want?" there are actually different ways to interpret it, based on the tone.

Firstly, "WHAT do you want?"
When I asked my student teacher the question today, I was asking WHAT she wants to achieve from her time in my room. I wanted to dig a big deeper and discover something about her personal goals and her own learning pathway, where she is at and what she wants to specifically experience while with me. In knowing this, I can best support her and provide her with the opportunity to meet these goals.

Secondly, "What DO you want?"
Now this is more the tone of someone who is rather annoyed and wanting the specifics of what a person actually does want from them, NOT the tone I was using at all!

Thirdly, "What do YOU want?" This is the question geared towards a personal goal - what is the person needing? What are they wanting to discover or find? This was also intended as a part of my enquiry today - I really was wanting her to speak to her personal and professional development through her time at our school.

And lastly, "What do you WANT?"
Quite different to what do we need, this is solely the desire to fulfill a desire! What, specifically, does this person want to achieve, find or experience? It speaks to a WANT and not a learning need, quite different in its meaning here.

So I was asked today, "What do you want?" and the inflection was on the word WANT! They knew that I was hunting down the iPads and my desire was to have these in my classroom during my maths session as part of an investigation we were doing. They knew very well that I WANTED something alright! It was said around much laughter, and because the conversation was held face-to-face, there was certainly no misinterpreting the meaning of the teasing!

As for the second time, it was said by me, to my student teacher, again very much face-to-face, so it was certainly understood clearly! I only hope that now I have asked WHAT she wants to achieve on this practicum, I can actually help her to meet that need!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Student Teachers



This week sees the beginning of another student teacher experience for me as an Associate Teacher. I always have mixed feelings when these weeks roll around. Mixed, because I am always excited about meeting new teachers-in-training, and slightly nervous, because I can never quite be sure of how my class will react to them!

Now don't get me wrong, I volunteer for this role - I look forward to getting to know my student teachers and also meeting them where they are at in their journey - but I also feel anxious for them...what do they expect from their practicum? And I don't mean, 'what boxes do they have to tick as a requirement of their uni', I mean 'where are they at in their development as a teacher in training' and how can I help them to reach their goals?

They always arrive on the first day, slightly nervous about meeting me and slightly more terrified of meeting the class! Children can smell that fear a mile off, so the first few days are a real tester of boundaries, with me perfecting my glaring scowl at my class while the students and student teacher sort out their understanding and expectations of one another.

The children wonder, "Will he/she let us...?" (because their teacher normally wouldn't); "Will he/she tell us off if...?" (because their teacher definitely would!); "Is he/she a REAL teacher?" and so on. They push and pull, hug, and ask obvious yet inappropriate questions, 'How old are you? Are you married? Do you have a boyfriend? Are you having a baby?' and they constantly check how horrified their teacher looks and how the student teacher reacts!

Yet the weeks go on and the learning continues. The students, student teacher and ME will never be the same again! We are all changed by the time that student teachers spend in our classroom and we have such a great opportunity to use what we have learnt to become a guide to the newest of possible teachers of the future. And even more than that, WE, the experienced teacher, can learn a LOT from them! IF we allow ourselves to remain open-minded and teachable that is!