Managing Teacher Stress

 

In one of my earlier years of teaching, I remember one of my team members turning around and telling me that I could do the work at home because I didn’t have a partner or children of my own. She on the other hand had 4 kids and a husband, so she wanted me to stop my current meeting and meet with her, because I didn’t have the same commitments and she needed to get home to her family. All the teachers who heard her were horrified at what she said. I was too, but as a young teacher I thought that maybe she had a point. After all, I didn’t really have anything else “important” to do at home. Whilst working with her, that comment always lurked at the back of my mind. It was easier to avoid confrontation and just do the work at home.

However bringing home work on a regular basis and just continuing to work was not a healthy choice for me. It soon began to affect my health. In the last few years I’ve struggled to find a balance. I am a teacher but I often forget that there is more to me than just being a teacher. When I’m stressed, I let go of everything that I enjoy doing. Blow Up (2006)                                                                                                     Thomas Riggs via Compfight

 

Last year, I fell into the same habit again. At one stage, I was struggling just to go to work. I didn’t want to go in. I felt pressured at work and was unable to complete the work on time. My teaching started to suffer- I would go into class tired and irritable. I felt like I was unable to distance myself and just focus on my students. However I’d usually find that after some time, being around the students made me feel relaxed. I would work with them and just enjoy being with them. The minute classes ended, I would lose that sense of being in the moment and slip back into the vicious stress cycle.

This year I’ve promised myself that I can’t continue to have my life revolve solely around work. I need to focus on my health and to enjoy life outside school. I used to love going to dance classes- 4 hours of pure bliss, where I didn’t think about anything except what the next step was going to be. Losing concentration meant that I would find myself on the ground and probably pulling my dance partner down with me. In order to dance in heels, I had to shut my mind to everything else. It was tiring but I was happy. I need to get back to dance classes but I need to work on my health first.

Going on fortnightly photography walks is a step in the right direction for me- I love taking photos. Meeting other photographers allows me to improve my own skills. I get to explore Melbourne city more regularly. I’ve wanted to take photos since I was young and going on these walks on a weeknight, will help me create a balance.

I need to remember is that I need to have a balance- not just for my health but also because I need to take time to enjoy the things I like doing. It’s my promise to myself- one that I intend to focus on more often.

#YourEduStory Week 5: How do you cope with the stress of being an educator? What do you do to avoid “teacher burnout”?

Focusing on the 2016 School Year

Every once in a while, when I’m cleaning out my papers, I like to look through my Teacher’s memory journal- a place where I collect letters and cards given to me by students or staff with a special message. This journal is important to me because it helps me remember why I am a teacher. I’ve only been teaching for 6 years, but at times when I feel like I haven’t accomplished a lot, this journal tells me that I’m wrong. I find that reading through it helps me recall the good times I’ve had in the past 6 years and the students I’ve taught. Reading the journal again two weeks ago, made me think about the new school year and what I wanted to focus on. It is a good reminder of all that I have achieved so far and how much I have learnt in the past 5 years at my current school. I came so close to quitting teaching after my first year, but my experiences in the classroom since 2010 have firmly reinforced my decision to be a teacher- I couldn’t think of anything else I would enjoy doing.

Keeping in mind my #oneword for 2016 “Create”, my first goal aims to create opportunities to get to know my students not only as learners, but also as individuals. This year I will have 2 new groups of students to get to know. The first will be the new Year 7 students, who I met briefly in 2015 during their Orientation day. The 2nd class will be my year 10 English class comprising of 50 students from across the 7 houses. I will only know 3 or 4 as they will be from my 2015 Year 9 class. In addition to the new classes, I also get to teach the Year 9 students in my house, who I have taught since Year 7. I like to get to know all my students – my aim is always to learn names within a week. Throughout the year, I try to get to know each individual student- what they like, their hobbies as well as how they learn. As a teacher, it is important to me to know that, as it allows me to tailor the work to suit their needs. I like to sit with groups of students during the lesson, not just to help them with the work but also because it gives me the chance to talk to them about what’s happening in their lives. This has been a useful technique as my students feel more comfortable talking to me whilst I sit with them, than if I were to stand constantly in front of the classroom. Outside class, I will often initiate a conversation with them about a book they are reading, or chat to them in the yard. Getting to know the students in my class is always a priority, so creating those opportunities to learn more about them is an important goal for me. It allows me to connect with them and show them that I’m willing to learn about what is important to them.

My other goal is to work with 2 senior English teachers to improve my teaching practice. Before this year, I have always been a junior English teacher, but I want to start teaching senior English. Whilst I have taught 2 Year 10 classes, with the changes to the VCE English and EAL study design, this has brought about a restructuring of our Year 10 English curriculum to fit in with the demands of VCE English and EAL. With the help of my mentors, I hope to improve how I teach English at the junior years, so that I can develop the necessary skills of my students that will allow them to tackle senior English. Although I have been teaching for some time, I feel that I need to work with other English teachers outside my team in order to strengthen my own capabilities.  This will become part of my appraisal process, but one that I’m eager to start, as I feel it will make me more confident in teaching senior English.

One of the main things I want to focus on this year is my teaching. Whilst it is a big goal, I want to ensure that I’m fully engaged in every experience. I need to be more prepared for my classes, in order to develop a positive learning environment for my students. I don’t want my focus split on a variety of responsibilities. Whilst being a leadership role is a good learning experience, I found that it divided my attention. It was difficult to put in 100% for everything I was doing, as I was also worried about what else needed to be done. This year is one where I will do what’s best for me- that is teaching my students as that’s what I love to do. I want to focus on that- my students are important to me.

#YourEduStory: What are your three most pressing goals between now and the end of the school year? @bjornpaige

 

As 2015 gives way to 2016

2015 was a year filled with many challenges both at work and in my personal life. It was a year of new learning opportunities and growth. I enjoyed participating in the Bastow Emerging Leaders’ Impact program, as it helped me develop my skills as an emerging leader as well as learning to have the difficult conversations. As well as studying, I was given the chance to put my learning into practice as the English Learning Leader at my school.

The leadership role was more demanding than I expected and at times I was stressed out and struggled to cope with all the responsibilities. This put more pressure on my personal life and I often forgot to look after myself. All my energy would be spent at work and I would come home so exhausted that all I was fit for was bed. I continued pushing myself even when I was tired or sick, yet it didn’t seem to be enough. I ended up stressed and unable to cope. I pushed away concerns for my health, forgetting that I needed to look after myself.

Throughout the year, I became better at writing down my thoughts. Whether it was on my blog, or as part of my Writer’s Journal, writing helped me clarify my thoughts. It also helped me verbalise the ideas swirling around in my head. Participating in the #YourEduStory challenge made me think more about what I did on a daily basis. Instead of just trying to adopt every new idea I read about, it helped me think about the “how” and “why” –  it made me think about what motivates me to learn and how others learn. As I continue the #YourEduStory challenge in 2016, my aim is to not just read others’ posts but to comment on their writing. After all that is what I’m trying to teach my students– whilst they can have a face to face conversation about their blog posts, I don’t often have that opportunity with my colleagues at work. By commenting on other educators’ blogs, I can start conversations about a particular topic. It will be a good way to challenge my own thinking about about education.

2016 

My #oneword for 2016 is “Create”. I deliberated over several words like “resilience”, and “discover”. In discussing it with my friend, she pointed it out that it was a good action word to adopt for 2016. In pondering over it, I realised that she was right. I need to be more proactive in my approach in 2016. I can’t wait for things to happen or for my life to change by itself- I need to work towards it. Only I can make my life better or change things that I do not like- no one else can do it for me. Whilst “believe” was a good word for me in 2015, I need a more action-inspired word for the new year.

I need to create a life for myself that is healthy- both physically and mentally. I need to focus on my own well-being as this will allow me to be a better teacher. I can’t give my students my best, if I don’t look after myself. As a teacher, I can’t count the number of times where I’ve given up my lunch break to help my students, or said yes to a project that takes up more of my time. I enjoy working with my students and participating in school activities, often at the cost of my own well-being. I need to have a better work-personal life balance, otherwise it is a detriment to my health.

So here’s to 2016 being a year where I create a lifestyle that allows me to continue seeking new opportunities for learning and growth, whilst establishing a healthy home and work balance. I encourage you to think about your #oneword that will motivate you in 2016.

This post is based is a response to:

  • 2015 #YourEduStory topic: Most of us are somewhere near the end point of the school year. Reflect on the 2014-15 school year. What went well? What didn’t go as well? What changes are you going to make for the 2015-16 school year?
  • 2016 #YourEdustory topic: What is your “one word” that will inspire you in your classroom or school in 2016?

Rethinking Student-free Days

In Australian schools, the 1st day of the school year is usually student-free.This allows us time to hold our meetings and plan what we are going to do. In addition we have 3 other student-free days to use throughout the year. Sometimes my school uses 1 of those days at the start, to give teachers 2 days to prepare for the term.

I would like to see my school use those 2 days differently. Our 1st day starts off with a keynote address by the Principal team followed by a series of meetings. Sometimes we are lucky if we get an hour or 2 to prepare for the term. If we only have 1 day, then it just adds pressure to the teachers. I often wish our staff meetings would be more interesting, rather than sitting through an entire list of important dates and events.

I would like to see the following happen:

1. Keynote address by the Principal– focus the address with a key phrase for us to adopt for the year. All the important dates/events should just be emailed out. One of our principal team this year encouraged us to challenge ourselves this year and push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Keep it short and simple, in order to make the message more meaningful. At the end of the address, welcome new staff members.

2. Divide staff into PLTs (Professional Learning Teams) across subject areas– this will allow us to start of the year with goal-setting. I feel this will allow us to decide our focus for the year- what would we like to achieve this year. It provides us with the opportunity to support each other in our learning. At school we create our PDPs (Performance and Development Plans) with our house leader and it doesn’t get shared with other staff. By doing this in a PLT, we can support each other to achieve our goals. In these teams, we can have team building activities as well as staff sharing what they’ve done over the holidays as a way to get to know each other.

3. Short meetings- with our Domain staff as well as House staff: This could be used as an opportunity to disseminate important information.

4. Plan with our teaching teams: It is important that we get some time to plan together as a team. Since we teach in teams of 3 especially in 7-9, we need to be given time to plan activities. Often we have new staff members, or teachers we haven’t taught with before. Giving us the maximum amount of time will allow us to be better prepared for our students.

Depending on whether we have an extra curriculum day, the 1st day should not be taken up entirely by meetings. If there is a 2nd student free day then we could have the following:

  1. Year level subject planning meetings – these should start at different times as teachers can teach multiple year levels.
  2. Subject/Domain leaders meetings- this will allow us to set our goals for the year.
  3. More team planning time.

 

Update:

If you would like to re-think your school student-free days or staff meetings, check out Chris O’Neal’sRe-thinking Staff Meetings” suggestions.

 

Image: William Heinrich from Flickr. Image has been modified.

 

YourEduStory: How do you spend the first two days of the school year?

Learning through reading

I often see educators on Twitter sharing their reading for summer and last year I bought a few recommended books to read. However when it came to summer time, I was too busy spending my time exploring Paris, walking in the snow in Turku and Engleberg. I left the Australian summer and was enjoying winter in Europe. Whilst I did have an opportunity to read, I took a break from “educational” reading and simply read for pleasure.

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My summer reading included “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” by Christina Lamb and Malala Yousafzai. This book shares the story of a young Pakistani girl who dared to continue her education despite being threatened by the Taliban. She shares her experience of being shot at, just because she was determined to continue her schooling. It is an inspirational book about the challenges she faced. The book makes me think about my own days of schooling. Like Malala, I too am from Pakistan. My parents wanted me to receive a good education and they made many sacrifices to ensure that I did. I was lucky that apart from the civil unrest that would shut down the city of Karachi on numerous occasions, I was able to attend school. My school wasn’t shut down by the Taliban. It is saddening to think that whilst in one part of the country, most girls are able to complete their education, whilst in places like Swat valley girls like Malala had to deal with their schools being shut down. Her determination in the face of the threats is admirable and I’m glad to see her story being shared with the world.

I feel that this book should be part of anyone’s summer reading. It is a powerful message of a young girl’s story of how she was determined to receive an education even though she was a girl. In Pakistan, girls from poorer families often don’t receive an education because they are raised to be homemakers and mothers. They are taught that their value is in the home. Even if they are lucky to go to school many of them get married once they finish, as was the case of many of my classmates. They don’t have the opportunity to choose whether they would like to work. Malala was lucky that her father believed she had the right to receive an education.

One of my reasons for becoming a teacher was to help others receive an education. If my family had stayed in Karachi, I would still be a teacher. I am proud that a girl from my country was able to stay strong in the face of so much opposition just because she believed she had the right to go to school.  Many of my own students come from Afghanistan and Pakistan and have suffered a great deal in their young lives and most haven’t had the opportunity of going to school. Coming to Australia is a chance for them to receive an education that they has been denied to them.

This book reminds me that I am one of the lucky ones that received an education in Pakistan. As a teacher, it is my opportunity to give back to my students. I can help them learn and encourage them to achieve their dreams. It doesn’t matter where they come from or what obstacles they face, if they are determined they can be whatever they choose to be and can decide what they will do when they leave school. If a young girl like Malala can stand up against the Taliban and choose to fight for her right to education, then my students can accomplish anything they choose to do, if they believed in themselves and what they wanted.

#YourEduStory: What are the best education books for summer reading?

Put yourself in their shoes

Change can often be a source of fear and stress for people because they don’t know what might happen. When my family moved to Australia, the change of culture, country, people and way of life affected me for many years. I found it hard to cope because I was taken out of my comfort zone and thrown into a new life. Yes I had many more opportunities here, but it was alien to what I had experienced for the first 20 years of my life. I struggled to adjust and longed to go back to the place I called home. Australia had offered me freedom as a woman to live my life, yet I wanted to go back. Why? It is because Pakistan was my home- my cousins and relatives were still there. I had grown up having them around. My memories were there. I had left my grandfather behind. It was a place I felt comfortable and secure, because I knew where I belonged. In Australia, I didn’t know who I was anymore. I just didn’t fit in. I wasn’t happy with the change. It was as if I had to start learning how to live again, just in a new country.

Similarly in schools, resistance to change happens when people are taken out of their comfort zone. They are afraid of not knowing what will happen, they are afraid that all they’ve learnt will not be relevant anymore. Some of my closest friends at school are teachers who’ve taught for 15+ years. They’ve seen the changes come and go. Some have embraced technology whilst others fear it. Their reason is that when they learn how to use technology, they feel “dumb” in front of newer teachers.

At the start I used to get frustrated during school PD sessions when the presenter would start their topic at a very basic level. I wanted it to be at a higher level so that I could take my learning to the next stage. However I soon realised that this was not possible as not every person in that PD session was at my level. The presenter had to start the topic at a level that most would understand. This is what we as teachers do in our classrooms. I had made the assumption that my peers would be at the same level as well and this was not the case.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

Sarah via Compfight

This was reinforced at a recent curriculum day when 3 of us were asked to juggle 3 balls each to demonstrate our ability. Standing up in front of my peers and trying to juggle was not easy. The balls dropped as soon as I threw them in the air. The other two teachers were better than me as for at least 20 seconds they managed to juggle the balls before they dropped. I was out of my comfort zone and realised that if this could apply to my students when they learnt something new, then it also applied to my peers when they were presented with new information.

I’m lucky that my school leaders have recognised this (something that I need to work on as a new leader). In 2014 when we started our Blended Learning Projects, staff that were more comfortable with using technology signed up. At end of the year, the technology leaders held a Learning showcase where these staff presented their projects to other staff. It was a valuable learning experience for those presenting as well as their audience.

This year, when the technology leaders began the project again, more staff signed up to participate. Many of the 2014 presenters  agreed to become mentors to help the 2015 participants . Amongst the participants this year are those who are still learning how to integrate ICT within their units of work.  Many were in the audience at the showcase last year and are going to have a go this year. It gave them more confidence to stand up and agree to participate this year. If they had been forced to do so, they would not have been willing to participate. As 2014 audience members they had the opportunity to see how the presenters had used technology in their own classrooms and realise that they could also try it in their classes.

As a leader I need to have patience and the ability to understand why others are resistance to change. I also know that as a teacher I cater for different learning abilities in my classroom and I need to apply this to my peers as well. Allowing teachers to showcase their work will help others see what is happening and it will encourage them to try it in their own classrooms. Yes at times there will be whole school change that needs to be implemented by all, however if as leaders we realise that whilst some will implement the changes immediately, others will most likely need to see what it looks like before they can try it in their own classrooms. Talking to those educators who are resistant, can also help us as leaders understand the reason for their reluctance and help them start their journey of change at their own pace.

#YourEduStory: Resistance to change is rife amongst educators, how do you combat this?

Project Based Learning Challenge

I have taken a few risks with my Year 9 class because I have taught them since Year 7 and can confidently say that I know all 38 students and their learning capabilities. Other members in my team have changed during those years. I have worked with all the students whether they are at the top of the class or have been learning English for less than 2 years. We have had wonderful aides come in to support my EAL students and they help me tailor the work for students with learning difficulties.

In Term 3 I’m going to try another Project Based Unit with the entire class. In History we will be learning about the Australian explorers, Gold Rush as well Australia’s road to Federation. The students will become the teachers in this unit of work. Last year this group created resources on the Black Death for teachers at my school to use. This worked well with the class and all students were able to create resources that were shared with other teachers. This year I want them to not only create the resources but also to implement them in our classroom. The project is still in planning stages and will be completed by the start of the term.

Rationale: 

My year 9 mainstream students are quite used to work independently in class. Whilst at times, they understand that we need to explain certain concepts to them, they enjoy working together in groups or on their own to complete tasks. They ask for help from each other as well as the teachers when they are unsure of what to do. This allows my teaching team and myself to give struggling students more of a helping hand and individual support. If we identify a concept that they are all struggling, we regroup and explain it to them ensuring that they all understand. On the other hand my transition EAL group comprising of about 12 students rely heavily on teacher support and teacher guided lessons. This means they are often separated from the rest of the class because they need a quieter workspace. However this can mean that they are isolated and their only way of learning is from the teacher. Whilst they do needed more teacher support, I’m hoping that this unit encourages them to learn from their peers as well. I would like my more advanced students to work with my transition group so the barrier between the two can start being removed. The 2 groups sit separately in the class and I’m not happy with that. Whilst I’ve been aware of the situation, I haven’t done much to address it and I feel that it needs to happen now.

How this will work:

Students will be divided into 3 groups, each will be supported by 1 teacher of the team. The students will be in mixed ability groups A topic will be allocated to each group. My aim is that the students will look at a KWL chart ( I might even try the new KWHLAQ chart) to identify what they know about the topic and what they want to know. I’ve also identified key skills according to the curriculum that they need to cover and this will be included in their rubric for assessment of their learning. Students will work together to create a 75 minutes lesson for the rest of the class to teach them about the topic allocated to the group. Students will choose how they present the information to their peers. 

How will this be assessed: 

  1. Self-assessment: students will write a self-reflection as well as complete a rubric indicating how well they feel that they contributed to the task. They will also then identity what skills they need to work on in the following units of work.
  2. Peer assessment: Each group will create a feedback sheet for ‘their class’ to review the information they present
  3. Teacher assessment: Teachers will review student participation, contribution, delivery, presentation skills, group work and content presented.

This unit will run for 5 weeks. It will be a big challenge not only for the students but also for my team members and myself. We will be working closely with our groups and ensuring that all students are able to contribute. It will be more challenging for my EAL students but I’m hoping that they too will be able to help with planning the lesson as well as running it. I would like them to become more confident in trying to complete simple tasks on their own and I’m hoping that this unit of work will give them the opportunity to do so. This is the last year I will probably teach this class and my aim is to help each student develop skills that will allow them to become independent learners.

#YourEduStory: “Describe a time where you as an educator took a risk in your classroom, and it totally paid off. Or, completely backfired.”

Dear Mentor

Dear Mentor

I’m writing this post to you to tell you about #YourEduStory – a weekly blogging challenge that encourages educators to share their teaching stories. The challenge is managed by Jo-Ann Fox (@AppEducationFox) and educators from around the world submit topics for the weekly challenge as well as participating in it. Participants share their reflections via the hashtag #YourEduStory on Twitter.

I decided to write to you because I want to know more about your story. I see you do amazing work at our school and would like to know more about your journey as our technology leader. You became our tech leader whilst I have been at the school and you have worked tirelessly to implement our 1:1 laptop program and integrate technology within our classrooms. You are an inspiration to me. You have had to create this entire program and implement it, despite all the obstacles thrown in your way. It hasn’t been an easy process especially with those who resist change. For others however, like me, it has given us the opportunity to make learning more engaging for our students. You also supported me whilst I was a domain tech leader who didn’t know much about being a leader or how to effectively use technology. However, thanks to your encouragement, I have grown more confident in my abilities.

This blogging challenge has helped me reflect on what I do in my classroom and at school. It makes me think about my actions and helps me develop my voice. It is a good way of articulating ideas that are swirling around my head and gives them an outlet. At times I struggle to write a post on a particular topic because I feel as if I don’t have enough information or thoughts about it. On these occasions I read other educators’ posts in order to read their opinions on it. By reading others’ posts, it allows me to continue my learning. It’s an interesting way to learn about other educators’ teaching journeys and about how they reflect on their experiences.

I know that it is hard to find time to always write on a weekly basis and this term I have struggled a lot with it. However that’s okay and you can always come back to the topics at a later stage. It’s a good way to reflect on your teaching, learning and leadership journey so far. I hope you will consider sharing #YourEduStory.

Hope you have a good holidays.

Lisa

A mid year reflection

I have been an English Learning Leader for nearly 6 months and it has been an interesting journey. There have been bumps along the way and times when I’ve gone “Can I really do this?” However as term draws to a close, I find that I’m “still standing” and I’m stronger than I was at the start. It’s been tricky learning so much as well as trying to keep up with my regular classes. There are 5 main things I’ve learned in the last 6 months:

  1. Making mistakes is okay: It is scary making a mistake with so many people watching but I’ve learnt that it is all part of the growth process. I made a huge mistake, but once I thought over it, I realised that it was a learning opportunity. I emailed those who would be affected and apologised to them. I didn’t hide the mistake but acknowledged what I’d done. Hiding the mistake would have made the situation worse and as a leader I needed to let staff know what had happened. It will make me more careful in the future.
  2. I can’t please everyone: I’ve learnt that I’m in this role to do what’s best for the students. I can keep an open-mind when listening to feedback and I will consult other staff within my domain to see what their concerns are. However some decisions might not please everyone and I need to be mindful of that.
  3. I can’t do everything by myself- I need to learn to ask for help: Being the English Learning Leader for the whole school is quite challenging especially with new changes in the VCE curriculum in 2016. Since I teach junior English, I need to work with senior English teachers on a regular basis to ensure that they have the resources they require, that they are able to moderate student work as well as start implementing the new curriculum in Year 10. I have to ask for their help as I would not be able to do it by myself. Others have also realised that it is a big job and I have been pleasantly surprised by those who have offered to help.
  4. I need to prioritise my work- everything can’t be done at once: My role has many different parts to it- I need to check that the curriculum is up-to-date, that there are resources for all year levels, organise moderation times for senior English, organise exams and SACs; keep track of dates, organise incursions, implement the new curriculum, write subject outlines for handbooks, organise meetings for different year levels, keep track of the English budget not to mention teaching my classes as well as completing a Leadership course. Yes at times it does become overwhelming, but as long as I keep a track of what I need to do, I am able to complete tasks on time. I’ve also never realised the different aspects of the role and whilst at the moment it feels like all I’m doing is administrative work, in a few months I can start exploring other parts of my job. .
  5. I am capable of being the ELL: I often doubt myself and over the past six months, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to do so. However I am also amazed that I’m managing quite well with all the responsibilities.With the help of my mentors and supportive staff members, I can be a good leader. Quite a few people have faith in me, including members of the Executive Leadership team, so I need to believe in myself as well.

mistakes (1)

What motivates learning?

Learning is has been part of my life’s journey- I have been learning since the day I was born. Often I didn’t even realise that I was learning because I equated learning mostly with school. Until I started thinking about this topic, I wasn’t conscious about how much I have learnt and continue to learn on a daily basis.

I wanted to be independent so I learnt:

  • to drive a car
  • how to teach, so I could get a job and earn a living
  • how to use the Melbourne transport system (in case my car breaks down or I need to go to the city)
  • how to pay bills and manage my money when I moved out of home.

I became a technology leader and I didn’t know how to use it effectively, so I:

  • attended technology conferences
  • learnt how to use Twitter to talk to other educators about technology in the classroom
  • participated in Twitter chats to learn about how technology is breaking down classroom walls
  • participated in an Edmodo course to learn how to get connected and try out new online resources
  • read blogs, websites like Edutopia to learn how to improve my use of ICT in the classroom

There are many other reasons I learn:

  • I’m interested in giving my students a voice in the classroom- so I read anything I can on that topic.
  • I’ve become the English Learning Leader so I’m constantly learning on the job and finding PD to help me.
  • I’m doing a year long Leadership course because I want to be an effective leader.
  • My students love sharing information about themselves and what they read which allows me to learn more about them.
  • I love dancing so I took ballroom dance lessons and learnt new dances.

At times throughout my life, I was learning just to get by. However I’ve realised that when I’m passionate about something, that’s when my learning is the strongest. It’s been years since I was a student myself, but as a teacher I’ve realised that in some ways I’m still a learner. Every day I learn something new and often don’t realise it. Whether it is learning to dance or learning about my students, if I’m passionate about something then I will learn. I don’t want to stop this learning journey because there is still so much I want to know and do.

So what motivates me to learn? Being passionate about something.

So my question to you is “What motivates you to learn?”

#YourEduStory Week 17

My ideal conference

There are many different styles of conferences that are run nationally and globally. Most are carefully organised and structured to suit those in charge. A timetable is created. The day begins with a keynote address after the welcome. Then depending on how big the conference is, educators and other stakeholders will decide which sessions to attend.

Edcamps are an alternative to conferences. They are an “un-conference” whereby there is no organised schedule or keynote speakers. Participants on the day decide what they want to learn or talk about, thereby creating sessions based on preference. Workshops are facilitated by interested educators.

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So what would be my ideal conference?

Firstly I would prefer an un-conference like Edcamp. Whilst I’m yet to attend one, I would prefer to have the sessions chosen by the participants. I want to see how other teachers use technology in their classroom, or implement different teaching pedagogies in their schools. To me, Edcamps seem to be more personal and hands-on. It allows teachers to actively participate in the sessions.

Other suggestions for my ideal conference:

  1. A conference run only by teachers – not consultants who don’t know what is happening in the classroom. This allows educators to demonstrate what they are doing in their classrooms and other teachers can see the how it can fit into their own classrooms.
  2. Students are involved in the conference. Since the focus is on giving students a voice in the classroom to direct their own learning- why shouldn’t they also be given a voice at a teachers’ conference? Together with teachers, they can help to design learning programs that can be implemented in the classroom. The conference will allow them to tell teachers what they want and how they learn. Teachers and students can work together to create engaging units of work as well as learning environments that can be adapted to different learning styles.
  3. One where participants attend in school teams- each team is represented members of the principal class, the leadership team (e.g subject leaders/technology leaders), classroom teachers, students and parents. This allows all stakeholders to have a say in how students learn and what support is needed. Parents will also have a better understanding on changing teaching practices and how they can provide their children with the necessary support at home. The teams will then be responsible with sharing the learning with others at the school.
  4. Sessions at the conference are streamed via Google Hangouts or another platform. This will allow for a wider audience, especially since it is not possible for everyone to attend. Those who watch online can tweet their own questions/comments (with the conference hashtag) allowing them to contribute as well.

 

YourEduStory Week 14: Describe your ideal conference: What is covered? Who is present?

Show Don’t Tell!

“The world of connected educators can be an echo chamber at times, how WILL you grow the conversation so that we bring more people and perspectives along the journey?”- #YourEduStory Week 13 topic

For me, being connected is important. As a teacher I’ve learnt so much and have found that passion for learning (that I felt was missing when I was growing up). I’m still working on sharing my ideas with people outside school- I’m still hesitant to do so as I feel I’m just repeating what everyone is saying. This is especially true for me on Twitter.

However at work, when I begin to talk about what I’m learning via Twitter and blogs, I get a variety of responses. Some will be interested in what I say, whilst others will listen politely and then move on to another topic. It’s a different concept to them and I often hear:

After all aren’t we going for Professional Development sessions relating to our subjects? Isn’t that enough? We already have so much to do, why do we need to do something more? Going home and spending time seeking out new ideas and practices is not ideal- it’s family or me time. Why should I try to seek out new ideas- after all the school leaders make all the decisions anyway. We are constantly forced to accept their ideas. We’ve done things this way for nearly 20 years- it’s all a fad!

I want to sometimes interrupt and say no it’s not a fad. Learning is different in today’s world and it’s not right to expect our students to learn the same way we did. I know I didn’t enjoy learning at school because I was spoon-fed. I wasn’t taught to think critically and therefore I often struggled (and sometimes still do) to articulate my opinions.

So instead of talking to people about what I’m learning, I try and demonstrate the “so-called fads” in my teaching:

  1. My Year 9 students have a voice in their learning in my subjects. I’ve taught them since Year 7 and they are confident in speaking their ideas and help to decide how the learning will take place in my class. As a result they are engaged in class and I rarely have behaviour issues with them. So when they have other teachers who still use the “chalk and talk” method for the entire lesson and dictate how they should behave, they struggle and often misbehave because the classes don’t cater for their learning styles.
  2. Last year, I had students from the same class present their “Black Death” PBL unit in front of 50 teachers and principals during a staff presentation. When the students presented in class, I had our Technology for Learning Leader as well as House leaders as guests. Students created their own units on the Black Death that will be used with Year 8 classes this year.
  3. My current Year 8 students have their own class blog to showcase their learning. At the moment it focuses on developing their writing skills but I also use the blog to teach them about Copyright and acknowledging their sources.
  4. I’ve joined the school PBL Action Team to help develop units of work for Years 7-8 that incorporate Maths, Science, English and Humanities. As staff aren’t very confident about PBL and in the aim to promote it more in our school, the team provides a very structured unit of work. It’s still very much teacher-led but my hope is that other staff will start seeing the importance of PBL in the classroom and allow it to become more student-led. In a school as big as mine, we’ve had to follow this path in order to get more teachers on board. We still had a few complaints, but overall staff have been happy with the Year 8 unit we did in Term 1.
  5. Last year our Technology team trialled the Blended Learning Action Project. Not only were volunteers creating their own Blended Learning unit in their classrooms, they also learnt how to conduct their own Action Research. We had a lot of issues throughout the year, but eventually we managed to get on track. We ended the year with a Showcase, where staff presented their units to other teachers and school leaders. As one of the Tech leaders, I was amazed at what our volunteers had done. However those who weren’t involved in the whole process, were completely blown away. For many, the ideas were very new to them and they were presented with actual units of work that had been done in our school. The Showcase was supposed to be only for an hour after school- we still had people staying after 5 because they were so interested.

I’ve come to the conclusion that whilst a conversation about being connected is good, it’s better to demonstrate the ideas in practice and then have the conversation. Staff need to see how it can be implemented and the benefits before they will adopt the ideas. That’s what will make them more willing to accept new ideas. Not everyone rushes to Twitter or blogs, but those of us who do need to show and demonstrate it at school. A few might even start a Twitter account or their own blog. An even better idea would be to get staff to be guests in our classrooms when students showcase their learning.