Research in the classroom

Recently, I have been participating in research through a Melbourne university run by a colleague. It has been a valuable learning experience for both myself and my year 8 English class, who have been the participating class.

Run within our media, persuasion and rhetoric unit, students have been learning about the “zine” text type and analyzing the way elements of this text persuade their audience and shape meaning for their readers and viewers.

The kids have LOVED it. I have ensured that, like usual, the appropriate amount of scaffolding was provided, but the unit has allowed many of the students to show their more creative side.

The kids are, this week, pitching an idea to the rest of the class (who are members of a board) to persuade them to publish their own “zine” after watching the Gruen Transfer‘s “pitch” segment.

Most kids group work skills have improved out of sight, and many kids who struggle with other tasks have shone during the program.

Next week we have professional guest speakers in to talk about how professional publications persuade readers and viewers. We will then start our poetry unit, in which students will learn about different forms of poetry and apply this knowledge to publish poetry in their “zine”.


Call for Participants in Pre-Service Teacher Networking Project: Mentors

In-service teacher or educator of any flavour? We want you. #pstn is a project designed to introduce pre- and early-service teachers to online networking (more detailed info here). It uses a non-traditional mentor model – mentors are not allocated to participants on a 1-to-1 basis. Instead, we’re looking for a pool of mentors to interact, respond and guide on a completely ad-hoc basis, contributing what you can when you can. There’s no minimum or maximum time commitment and no requirement to be anyone’s ‘go-to’ person. It’s essentially just a committment to welcome a new group of people to your PLN and provide them with support.

To get involved, follow our How To Play getting started guide (it’s the same for both mentors and participants). Initially, joining the Hootcourse is all you’ll need to do to confirm your participation before the project kicks off in late February.

Thoughts from outside the box on promoting the development of preservice teachers

On my mammoth trek out the the DEC offices on Wednesday, I had time to reflect upon the teaching and learning process which is involved in gaining an education degree, and thereafter finding employment in the education sphere. As usual, being the cynic that I am, the first thing which stood out to me was the complete removal of our university course from the realities of teaching. First of all, none of us were given any information about our DEC interview (we weren’t even told about the DEC information day that was held at the uni) despite the fact that it is compulsory to gain employment in the education sector and our practical experience reports are completely geared towards their presentation to the DEC.

Secondly, upon reading the selection criteria which is used by the DEC to assess candidates, I realized that the majority of my answers to the possible questions I could be asked were not gained from university study, but were instead a result of information I’ve been given, resources which have been shared with me, or areas which I have been directed towards researching myself via my PLN on twitter. I felt so well prepared for the interview that I didn’t even need to rehearse, write myself notes or “study”, I felt confident in the wide knowledge base which was a result of so many wonderful and experienced teachers sharing their experience with me virtually.

I think Twitter (and social networking with other professionals in general) needs to become a compulsory part of any education course in order to get pre service teachers into the habit of sharing resources with others, seeking assistance, and constantly innovating and being inspired to try new things and take risks with their students. Right now it seems to be something which is covered in technology subjects at university, but needs to be integrated into mainstream methodology subjects.

I have been considering how this could be facilitated, and thought perhaps the NSWIT model could be used here; “mentoring” in this model could include online mentoring, for example an experienced teacher (and experienced tweep) could take a preservice teacher tweep under their wing, and introduce them to the ways in which they can use twitter effectively in their professional development. This way teachers who are currently stretched for time can still offer their expertise to others, and recognition can also be given to the potential of social media for professional development.

And then I was thinking, hey! Perhaps this is something we can facilitate ourselves!

If you are an experienced teacher, I would love to hear how you would you feel about being part of such an arrangement?

Living in the dark ages

Not that I doubt the truth of what she says, but I couldn’t believe so many people could be opposed to the brilliant work bhewes (@BiancaH80) is doing with PBL in her classroom.

I knew it wasn’t an approach which other staff members were eagerly taking up at her school, but I just honestly couldn’t see any valid reasons for not implementing more student centred styles of learning in the classroom. Except for the fact that it might involve more work for those teachers who are used to just standing out the front dictating notes to their class.

And then I experienced some of those negative vibes firsthand.

Someone associated with the university I am completing my preservice training at is coming to supervise a lesson of mine next week. In her instructions to me, she advised me that I needed to make sure I was “actually teaching”. When I enquired as to what she meant by this, she said, that she wanted to see me teaching them something, not just “setting them a task and walking around helping them”.

I then explained to her that my master teachers classes were run according to PBL. The supervisor dropped the second bombshell, “what’s PBL?” When told it was a more student centred approach to knowledge, involving students in inquiry and giving them freedom to determine the direction of their own learning, she made a noise which sounded like a stifled groan.

Again, she reinforced that I was to be doing actual teaching the day she came (as opposed to what I usually do, which is clearly NOT actual teaching).

I saw red when I got off the phone. How DARE the university relentlessly shovel the phrase “student centred” down our throats, and then completely chicken out when it comes time to endorse it in practice?

As someone who is yet to even start a career in teaching, I am already astounded by the politics which plague the profession. The way any form of change is resisted is ludicrous, especially when this change is so obviously beneficial for student development of all the skills we apparently value so highly.

I can only imagine the enormity of the battle ahead, and completely admire those pioneers who have gone, or as in the case of many of you, continue to go, before me in the challenge of chalk and talk.

On your marks, get set…..

Day One of blogging!

I have decided to start blogging to map my journey from student to teacher, and also to record many of the things I learn during my practical experience for others to share.It is, after all, an experience which us student teachers don’t really get the chance to debrief about. Hopefully many of the experienced teachers out there who read this will also be able to contribute to this blog, offer advice or even take some of the ideas for your own classroom use.  It is the perfect platform on which to share resources with other teachers and student teachers, and perhaps it will motivate some of you to start sharing your resources online with those across the world.

As someone who has been at university for what feels like forever, I was of course chomping at the bit to get started on my practical experience in a school. After some considerable delay (I’m sure many of you share my frustration with university administration systems!!) one of the most efficient, dedicated and motivated people I have ever met introduced me to another extremely efficient, dedicated and motivated person in the form of my practical teacher, bhewes (some of you may know her blog).

My first contact with my practical teacher sent me into a whirlwind of excitement and sheer unadulterated panic. Her organisation was out of this world; before the day was over she had allocated me classes, she had given me a run down of the units of work each of her classes was teaching, she had introduced me to something called PBL, directed me to her blog – and all via one email. And she had managed to sound chirpy about having a student teacher practically forced upon her!

Monday morning found me making my way to my first class at 7:30am, and being greeted by Yr 11 students who were surprising alert for that hour of the morning. I was thrilled at the choice of text the class (soon to be my class!) as it was based upon a case I had previously studied in a law degree, and involves a (tragically realistic) view of humanity which sends shivers down my spine. Overall, I felt blessed to have been allocated such an enthusiastic class; they worked well together as a unit and seemed seriously engaged by the text and in the task.

I was introduced to ‘edmodo’ (fantastic teaching tool!!!) which I can already see making my teaching life incredibly less stressful by being able to organise assessment, worksheet, monitor student participation and incorporate technology into the classroom (those of you out there who aren’t on it-organise it!), and was taken on a tour of the school grounds. The tour of the school brought back memories of my old high school, which really impressed upon me the vision the Wyndam scheme had for high school students. The staff I met on my first day were lovely-and even agreed to put up with me observing the behavioural intervention programs.

The encounter with my future year 9 class did not go so swimmingly though. Off task behaviour was rife; students were procrastinating, complaining and even zoning out. I was partially relieved when I saw that my teacher was also stressed about the situation, as I just couldn’t conceive of myself teaching these poor kids anything if they couldn’t even concentrate on an engaging task which was modelled and scaffolded appropriately.

After such a jam-packed day, I went home at a loose end: how could I ever match my master teacher’s teaching? I was so grateful I had been given such a fantastic role model, but the PBL style of teaching was so radically different to anything I had witnessed before, including on previous practical experiences, that I coundn’t picture myself mastering it. This feeling of complete inadequacy was compounded the next day when I went to uni and discovered I had been awarded a Credit for an assignment I worked tirelessly on (I am strictly a HD student).

Yesterday when I received an email from my master teacher though, my spirits perked up immediately. She had used a resource I recommended (so surely my suggestion couldn’t have been that hopeless!) and she directed me to her blog where I witnessed her also at a loss as to what to do with the Year 9 class. Thank god! She assured me that she was restructing the yr 9 unit programs and perhaps even reshuffling the classes to suit a PBL style which would work with the students, and counselled me not to worry. Exhale.

My next day at the school is tomorrow (another observation day), so stay tuned for the next post.