Connections changes classrooms

So the topic for #YourEduStory this week is “What is connected learning and WIIFM?”

WIIFM?? What’s that? I had to actually search it up as it was an acronym that I hadn’t come across. WIIFM stands for “What’s it in for me?”

It is interesting to note that getting connected can have a great impact especially on teachers. These days being connected refers not only to teachers connected to other teachers, but also their classes can connect with experts around the world to expand their learning environment. Everyone benefits from a teacher being connected.

Being connected means flattening the local, national and global boundaries for learning.

Being connected means that teachers and classes can connect with each other in real-time.

Being connected helps teachers learn new practices that can change their classrooms.

So how has this had an impact on me and most importantly on my students?

Being connected has led me to change my classroom:

  • Students have a voice in their learning- they enjoy being able to be part of the decision making process
  • Students are given more of a choice- where they sit, to set the pace of their learning and how they learn
  • Use of PBL to develop my students’ ability to question, investigate and explore topics
  • I’m helping them to strengthen their skills- they are becoming more independent in their learning, they seek help from peers and support each other
  • I am able to provide more support to students who are struggling whilst others are engaged in their learning.
  • Using a Blended Learning approach, I am able to tailor the learning for my students. It allows me to see where students are struggling and need more support. It also allows me to extend the abilities of more capable students and set challenges for them to complete.

The biggest impact however of being connected is that I have gotten to know my students as individuals. This has strengthened my relationship with them. I am able to act silly and make a fool of myself in front of them- that gets their attention a lot quicker than yelling. There is a bond of trust- they know I trust them to complete work and they have put their trust in me to help them when they are struggling.

Without being connected I would still be frustrated about my ability to engage my students.They are happier in class and always ask me what we are going to do before we step into the classroom. They have the chance to explore new ideas -they are more confident in testing their abilities independently. If they start to struggle they first ask a peer before coming to seek my help. If I hadn’t become connected they wouldn’t have become so independent. They get frustrated in other subjects because they aren’t given the same opportunities they get in my classes.

So not only do I benefit from being connected but so do my students. I look forward to being connected for the rest of my life!

Learning

Lifelong journey, one that should never stop

Eagerness and enthusiasm you need to have

Absorbing new ideas from the world around you

Real-time conversations with people locally and globally

Not always online, often face-to-face

In your own time, at your own pace,

No one can stop you, except yourself

Get started on this journey, it’s fun to learn!

 

#YourEduStory Week 4

What is the best thing you do in and outside your classroom?

One of the best things that I do in my classroom is getting to know my students and how they learn.

I have been a teacher since 2009. My teaching style has changed in the last 6 years. I am now at the point where I’m confident in my teaching abilities. In the past year my teaching style changed as I decided that I could get students to listen to instructions without having to be very controlling. As a teacher with only a few years’ experience I had thought that I had to be strict at all times because if I showed any weakness, my students would take advantage of it. They proved me wrong.

As I became more comfortable with teaching, I decided I didn’t want to be the teacher students worked for because they were afraid of me. I wanted to be a teacher who they could talk to – who would listen to their opinions and who knew them as individuals. I didn’t want to be a teacher who was seen as only working with EAL students and who didn’t know the rest of the class. I wanted to know all my students- a big task as my class can often have up to 50 students (I teach in a team of 3 teachers to 50 students). The only way I could do this was to get to know my students as they worked and to let them get to know me. I restricted my “board talk” in my lessons and allowed students to have more input into their learning.

By focusing my attention on getting to know my students, I have found that this helps me understand them a lot better. I have gotten to know my “naughty” students a lot more and by taking the time to get to know them, they are starting to be engaged in their learning. They are starting to try and attempt work- they are more confident with asking me to help them rather than just giving up as they did before. My more focused students are starting to extend themselves- they are willing to try new challenges because they know they can get support from me when needed. It is amazing how just talking to my students and often with their “lingo” I have seen them become more confident as learners. They come and talk to me in the yard whenever they see me, they will often try to line up with another year level just so they can pretend they are coming to my class. It makes me feel good to see that.

On Thursday an ex-student visited the school and he came to talk to me. He and his classmates were my first class to graduate. I hadn’t taught him since Year 10 but whilst he was at school, he often made it a point to come and speak to me. On his visit he told me that he was going to do a Cert III at a university. I was so proud when I heard him say that- he had a lot of challenges at school. He is dyslexic and he had been a recent arrival to Australia when I started teaching him. He came to say thank you to me (as his English/Humanities teacher) and another teacher who taught him Maths and Science. He told us both that without our help he would have struggled. It was sweet of him to do that. It made me realise that it doesn’t matter what abilities a student has- if they have someone to support them and encourage them, it makes a  difference to them. They want someone to listen to them and not just see them as another essay to grade.

My students come from so many different backgrounds and trying to find their place in a class with nearly 50 students can be daunting. I try to take the time to get to know them and I am willing to talk to them about myself. I like that we can talk to each about more than just classwork. It makes them see me as someone they can easily approach and this has resulted in them being happier in class. They are more actively engaged in their learning and whilst at times they will try to avoid work, in most lessons they are focused and willing to participate.

It is amazing how much you learn from students once you let them talk…….. my teaching practice has certainly benefited. I will continue to let them talk and ask questions because it gives me a way to help them and encourage them on their journey at school.

 #YourEduStory Week 4

Believe (in yourself)

As the new school year begins, there is the usual flurry to get everything ready before going back to work. Having enjoyed a wonderful break in Europe, it’s now time to get back to regular routines and schedules. My 1st day back on Twitter, I noticed the #YourEduStory challenge and decided it was a great way to start blogging again for the year. I enjoyed reflecting on my work last year and feel the need to continue the process this year. With new challenges, it will allow me to take at least an hour to think about what I am doing and why.

The first challenge was “What is your “one word” that will inspire you in your classroom or school in 2015?” Immediately the word “believe” came to mind. It is a powerful word that often eludes my thoughts as well as my students. To believe in yourself is often hard to do and I notice it is a challenge not only amongst my students but for me as well. It can be easy to believe in others, to believe things that our families, religion, the government and any institution might tell us but we often forget to believe in ourselves.

So my 2 goals for this year are:

1. To believe in myself and my abilities: this year I will be Head of English at my school. This is a new leadership role for me- one that I didn’t believe that I would get. I went for the interview in order to get more experience and I was surprisingly offered the role. Like any other leadership role, it comes with its own challenges. My first thought when my principal told me that I was successful was “Oh no, Oh no, what have I done? I don’t think I can do this!” A friend told me that if the interview panel didn’t believe that I was capable of being the English Leader, I wouldn’t have got the position. She told me that she had faith in me and knew that I could. She said that I needed to believe in myself- that I had the ability to be the subject leader. So this year I need to believe in myself- that I am capable of being a good leader. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know how to do everything in my role- I will learn as I go along. I have people who I can ask for help. This is my opportunity to help shape curriculum at school and to grow as a leader. It is a chance to learn new skills and to strengthen existing ones. As I tell my students- if you don’t try, how do you know you can’t do it.

2. To help my students believe in themselves: this will be an ongoing process. Most of my students come from refugee backgrounds and low income families. When they come into my class, many are aware that they are at a disadvantage and refuse to participate in activities for fear of embarrassment. They feel that they are unable to do the work and will give up. I tend to provide tasks that provide extra support for students with language difficulties or learning difficulties, providing several entry points in a unit of work. Getting them to believe in themselves is a year long journey. I encourage them to try- I will sit and work with them until they are comfortable with the task. It’s often easy to build up their self confidence one task at a time- each completed part makes them more willing to try the next. Having to do this with a whole class takes time and effort but it is always worth it. I tell them that it is important for them give everything a go- no matter how tough it might seem. If they need help, all they need to do is ask. To help them with this, I tell them that it’s okay to feel fear but they must use that fear to challenge themselves.

So learning to believe in my own abilities and helping my students believe in themselves will be my goals for this year. I think it will be easier to help my students believe in themselves than it will be to convince myself that I am capable of being the English leader. I think it will be an interesting reflection in December to see what I have achieved.

 #YourEduStory Week 1