lforner


Personality Clashes

I have been struggling with a Year 8 class I have which has been formed specifically to address the needs of students with behavioural difficulties. I have found that there are some extremely defiant students in the class, who it is obviously quite difficult to win over and form a relationship with in order to maximise their learning. I have been working on teaching them what it looks like to show respect to me and to identify and appreciate when others are showing respect to them. It’s going to be a hard road, I’m thinking!

What I have an even bigger issue with, however, is the way that they interact with each other. There are some very obvious personality clashes in the class, and this usually plays out with them degrading each other, the class taking sides, etc. etc.  I came across a chart on edutopia’s twitter account which has helped me over the last few days make my expectations of their behaviour towards each other very clear.

kindness

Each student has one of these charts (except I cut off the love hearts off for the boys!) and they are expected to be able to put a tick into one box each lesson. We have then had some reflection time, discussing which acts of kindness they had ‘completed’ and why those things are important. Interestingly, most of them are very keen to share what they’ve achieved and have been very proud of their acts of kindness.

I’m still waiting for the ‘make a thank you card for your teacher’!


More than just a New Year’s resolution

This year will mark a four year anniversary that I’m not overly proud of. In 2012, I headed out to my first teaching position, optimistic and ready to spread the word about the power of technology and the importance of developing a wide PLN to support best practice. And a year in, I fell off the wagon completely. As I enter my fifth year in the classroom, I’ve realised that it isn’t just about my teaching, or the learning of the students in my class, or even in my school. It isn’t about my faculty, or even the staff at my school. I have cut myself off from so many valuable resources, so much valuable input and so much support, and it hasn’t been until I’ve come up for air, so to speak, that I’ve been able to realise that a great deal of the inspiration I took with me out to my first teaching post was the feeling of contributing meaningfully to a community.

This year, I’m not just making it my New Year’s resolution to reconnect with my PLN, be active on Twitter and blog regularly, I’m also including it as a goal in my PDP. I want to rekindle the fire I once felt when issues surrounding the education industry were discussed and reclaim my own thirst for knowledge. One of my passions, in particular, was the support of Pre-Service Teachers, and I think that with the additional experience I’ve now had, I can offer them far more practical guidance and help.


Reflections on social media in PD: PSTN and the power of a “star”

Some of you may be familiar with the PSTN project which was a project forged by Sarah, Narelle, David and myself in the latter half of last year. The general enthusiasm of those willing to take on teacher-mentor roles was overwhelming, and those established at universities rounded up cohorts of PSTs as mentees.

Unfortunately, as Sarah, David and Narelle have blogged about, enthusiasm amongst PST students soon dropped and we were left with minimal online participation and confusion as to why the concept which had worked so well for others in a real setting (namely myself) had failed to work for this cohort of PSTs.

Unfortunately, I had not banked on having every spare second occupied by marking and planning, and had envisioned myself in a much more active role during the program. Luckily, the rest of the team were willing to overlook this miscalculation on my behalf, and convinced me it was ok to concentrate on my school work rather than stress about the project.

More unfortunately still, however, was the fact that suddenly social media had dropped out of my every-day routine. At the time, what I missed most about this was the daily contact with and support of my valuable PLN. I missed them getting excited when I had success and their suggestions when I had a stumble. I missed being challenged and stimulated at any time I chose to flick through my twitter feed.

Now that I have had time to reflect upon it, however, I realise that what I missed most was the reflection and opportunities for self improvement which social media offered.

While I was discussing my daily “stars” with my PLN in term 1 I had a constantly uplifting and concrete reminder about the small educational wins and progress I was making. In term 2 though, I found I was increasingly negative about my ability as a teacher, even though I was achieving the same things I had been proud of in term 1, and more.

In term 3, I am going to aim to get back to having a “star” every day, and at least once a day contributing to some of the professional dialogue which twitter offers, whether it be to answer someone’s question, offer encouragement, or ask for suggestions myself.

So whilst PSTN didn’t work out as we had hoped, it’s “flop” (wanting to avoid using a bad word!) has indeed made me wiser about the important role social media played in my professional development and practice.


My fav edu tools at the moment

My favourite education tools at the moment:
1. Edmodo.
It’s free, unblocked by the DEC, available for parents to see, you can easily embed just about anything into it, and you can even keep your gradebook and marking in there!
My yr 9 classroom is completely paperless because of edmodo-all worksheets are there ready to be downloaded and completed on MSWord or similar.
And it also allows you to create mini-groups, connect with other teachers, and has a calendar function. It also has an iPhone app-essential for me because I hate using my laptop if I can use my phone!
What’s not to love?

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2. Slideshare and Scribd.
I love these tools because it allows me to publish documents and PPTs so I can directly embed them into edmodo for the kids or into my blog. They are free and very easy to use, plus it gets you into the habit of sharing your resources-why should someone else reinvent the wheel if you’ve already done it?

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3. Infographics (Visual.ly) and graphic organisers (exploratree.org)
I am really into getting kids to develop higher order thinking skills at the moment, which is why I think graphic organisers are great. Getting them to reorganise the information they know in a way which requires them to demonstrate a conceptual understanding is a skill which will translate into other curriculum areas as well-added bonus!

4. Twitter.
Perhaps it’s not so relevant for the kiddies themselves, but for my own professional development and in order to build up a wealth of resources, Twitter is fantastic! The new people I’ve met and new concepts I’ve heard about via twitter are just astonishing. It just goes to show that there is always something new to think about in education!

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How my own impatience has made me realise the necessity of social media for students

Is it just me, or has Twitter made everyone impatient? If my twitter feed doesn’t update every 2 seconds I throw my phone to the other side of the room, and wonder why my wifi is playing up.

And if no one else has tweeted after me (ie I appear first on my news feed) it makes me wonder whether there has been some kind of nuclear crisis which has decimated the planet.

Sigh. I am even impatient with Facebook nowadays, and have stopped using it because people take up to a day to reply.

I used to laugh when I heard the phrase acquired ADHD bandied around, but now it seems to be my grim reality. I can only imagine what students, who have known no other world than that of instant access and instant information, must feel like when we teachers take so long to get on board with new things like social media.

The discussion surrounding whether social media is a positive or negative thing for children has become an obsolete one. The fact is, that the invention of avenues for instant communication, instant collaboration and instant access to people and information are reflective of the way in which the digital generation function.

The “digital” has not created the generation, the generation has created the need for avenues for digital networking.


Preservice teachers: unprepared? Unrealistic expectations?…

For those who started following this blog, you may have shared the enthusiasm I first felt about writing it. Since then I have felt an immense amount of guilt about not updating it as regularly as I had hoped, and thus not using it as thre reflective journal as I had first hoped it would be.

In truth, I now spend every waking moment (and even some sleeping moments) in education world. I have decided that doing a uni load of 6 subjects plus a 2 day a week practical placement in one semester is not a wise move. Now being down to my final two university assessments, I now actually have time to reflect upon what I have been learning over the last five or so weeks, beginning with the realisation of just how unrealistic the expectations of pre service teachers about entering the profession actually are.

I gave up a legal career for a teaching career, with one of the considerations being that it was simply impossible for me to maintain the workload and work hours expected of a lawyer. 16 hour days just weren’t for me. The reaction I faced from many people when I told them about the career change I was making was one of shock. Many people were convinced that teaching was a much better “lifestyle”.

I would now like to dispel that myth. The exposure I have had to the teachers I’m working with over the last 5 weeks has taught me that teaching is all consuming. These people work damn hard for their students before school, during school, after school, late into the night and on weekends. So if you are looking for a work life balance, this probably isn’t the career for you.

Not that this is a problem for me, i really enjoy the satisfaction of putting together a lesson students enjoy or take something away from, and I’ve always been the person who pushes myself to go that extra mile. And I happen to be a geek, who thoroughly enjoys the pursuit of knowledge for it’s own sake.

What I do have an issue with, however, is the way in which teaching is “sold” as a career choice to younger people. Universities and teaching bodies promote it as a viable option for those who need work life balance, and who are after a workload which will allow them to put their family first. Unfortunately, this picture of teaching is so far removed from how involved and consumed in their teaching the good teachers are, that it could be either setting us pre service teachers up to fail (hence the high drop out rate within the first 3 years) or promoting a standard of teaching which isn’t consummate with the way in which students deserve to be taught. If we were a little more realistic in the workload which a good teacher will take on, the hours they will dedicate to lesson planning, assessment planning and marking, and unit programming, perhaps we would ensure the teaching profession attracts only those who are willing to take on this workload.

Maybe then people would stop telling me that I chose the right profession “because I get to knock off at 3:00”. If only they knew….