Learning from “The Dot”

I love this story. I hadn’t seen it before and it immediately struck me as a great encouragement to teachers. How do we manage the “little” moments that present themselves. It struck me that;

  • The teacher has this conversation “after class”.
  • The teacher asks Vashti to “own” her work by signing it.
  • The work is privileged for what the student is able to achieve “at the moment”.
  • Vashti mis-reads the teacher’s cues … is this from her experience with other teachers (e.g. Vashti’s reaction to “Polar bear in snow storm).
  • Vashti’s teacher invested in her “after class” – by framing the first picture.
  • Vashti had resources at her disposal to “explore” (her “never before opened paint box”)
  • Reflection is CRUCIAL to the next step of learning … AND teaching.
  • Most of Vashti’s learning happens without the teacher; her teacher is merely the CATALYST.
  • This teacher only has Vashti once a week. 🙂
  • The school “Art Show” … an opportunity for an authentic AUDIENCE.
  • Vashti honours her experience (and her teacher) by mentoring another.

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Notes From AFR “Teach Skills, Not Subjects”

 

AFR bossI really enjoyed Brett Rolfe’s article “We need to teach children skills, not subjects” in this weekend’s Australian Financial Review Boss Magazine. For those interested, here was the source statement to Brett’s questions on the subject.

The current revolution in education is in the shifting priority to the learner, learning; rather than a single focus on what needs to be taught. It is clear to me that fear of non-compliance to curriculum standards is driving much of the educational agenda in Australia. Our focus on meeting the requirements of a broad curriculum is robbing educators of the ability to invest in the depths and directions which our children are interested in exploring and the “push down” of educational expectation into early childhood is robbing our children of the emotional and interpersonal foundations for long-term success.

There is no question that schools must develop student’s mastery of multi-disciplinary substance in literacy, numeracy, sciences and the arts; but our approach should focus more on the cohesive nature of these fields; a marriage and integration of width and depth in our investigations and studies.

I recently visited a beautiful school in Perth but after walking around the immaculate grounds for 10 minutes I had not seen a single student. I asked my host “Where are the children?” to which they cheerfully replied, “This is the NAPLAN term.” … I don’t really know what that means anymore; I live in a bubble where permission abounds for children to explore, play, experiment, challenge, debate and reflect; the longer I operate within this learning environment, the more acclimatised I become to the benefits but more ignorant to the truth that these possibilities are not the norm.

Our school’s Founder; Gillian McAuliffe, has been a passionate advocate for getting the “word out” and has championed the education-of-educators in this arena (long before it was popular to do so). I do believe that successful schools; schools who are connected and listening to the broad range of international research and best-practice, have a responsibility to reach out to other educators and offer pathways within their own contexts. Our school has been a model of excellence in responding to the needs of our own student body and we are constantly looking for ways to improve and extend our successes.

The foundations of our approach to learning are focused on developing Critical thinking, Creativity, Collaboration and Communication – these do not need to be elusive skills – whilst there are finer nuances; the crux of developing and mastering these skills is in providing time and opportunity. At Bold Park Community School;it is embedded in our environments, our policies, our approach to the disciplines, our questioning techniques and the provocational opportunities we develop for and with children.

http://www.afr.com/brand/boss/we-need-to-teach-children-skills-not-subjects-20150605-gh4c7c?stb=fb

Secret Mums on “POSITIVE” Business … OR … Engaging Our Parents in the Learning Partnership

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I hope you don’t mind my indulgence. It has been a fantastic few weeks at our little school. We have been running an intimate and innovative program for our Middle School girls (aged between 11 and 14).

These are confronting years for our young ladies and we have identified the need to focus on our girls in this age range. Families are needing support to cope as their girls deal with the new pressures of adolescence; confidence issues, body image and representations of beauty, healthy attitudes to food and exercise, complicated relationships (parents, “other girls”, and attraction/s to others) as well as the stresses of school, building success and coping with the technological presence of social and electronic media. It is no surprise that anxiety and stress are a growing community issue.

If our young people don’t have the tools to deal with these issues, they are simply not in a position to be able to learn.

The Middle School team consulted and researched widely to target a program that would offer the girl’s the confidence to address these issues within the school environment. Staff worked to collate a library of POSITIVE centred readings, video clips, podcasts, songs, feature articles and short stories centred around the themes we had identified and addressed POSITIVE solutions to HELP Girls… Kaz Cooke, Maggie Dent (our patron), the “Dove” media packages offered some great provocations;  as well as best practice readings from Relationships Australia and other professional support organisations.

resourcesThese “readings” have been broken into five weekly reading packages which will be delivered as a “girls only” group in a fully integrated English program. We have secretly employed the mums who also completed the reading program, complete with homework for Mum AND daughter.

Mother and daughter study, discuss, read and reflect on the weekly readings TOGETHER before they come to school to share their thoughts with their “Reading Circles” group.  The package integrates perfectly with English, Health, Electives, Zentangles and our Girls group and is informed by the pastoral care focus we have throughout the school.

The series culminated today (Friday the 6th June) with a special surprise event! The girl’s arrived to find all their mothers AT SCHOOL accompanied by our special guest; Kate Wilson – our amazing “spoken Word Poet” – a passionate young lady who has much to say about the issues we are addressing. You can view a sample of her work at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rK46nILY-rw – she was truly MAGICAL!

Most significantly – each mother shared about a moment from their own childhood where they had to face a challenge lead to a POSITIVE; something that was special to all of the girls – they were invited to present their snapshot through a medium of their choice; a dance, a song, a poem, a story but REAL and from the heart.

They also gave their daughter a handwritten letter in which they communicated and celebrated the BEAUTY they see in their daughter.

We are sold on the belief that schools must work with parents in partnership toward developing our young people – not JUST in an academic program but multi-elementally. We are excited that our school has been in an intimate position to RESPOND to the needs of our children in partnership with our wonderful community.

20 Things a Secondary Teacher Wishes He Could Say to Parents

Can we have an honest conversation?

I promise, I am not “representing the teaching fraternity” by writing this… I haven’t consulted with my colleagues; in fact they may well feel VERY differently from the views I express here. I do want to express some of my thoughts from my own teaching experiences over the past twenty years.

I understand that by doing so – I open the door for “20 Things Parents Want to Say to their Child’s Teacher”; and as a parent, I may well write the reply myself. 🙂

  1. I want to help your child – please trust me and empower me to move your child forward.
  2. Read the school policy statements. You NEVER know when you need to know them.
  3. Serve your child a good breakfast, pack a healthy lunch, stop excusing them from sports and leave the Cola and Energy drinks for the weekend. Nutrition and physical activity hugely impacts concentration and behaviour. PS – They could pack their own lunch and they could make their own breakfast.  PPS – They could pack your lunch now and then too 🙂 .
  4. I didn’t give your child a “D” – the work they gave me however, was.
  5. As an English teacher – I BEG you. MAKE THEM READ! Read TO them when they are young. Buy them books/comics as much as you already buy them video/games based materials. When they get older, buy second-hand texts that will either SUPPLEMENT what they are currently learning OR model the kind of writing rigour they are expected to produce in essays, etc. My biggest recommendation? Put these materials in the toilet and change them regularly!
  6. Please contact me when your child needs help, assistance and guidance in their learning. I know you’re not an expert in my field and trying to help your children with their homework can be a real maze! Please let me know the areas your child is struggling with as they happen (not after the due date of a major assignment). On the flip side – don’t empower incompetency or mediocrity by justifying your child when they have been lazy by not following through on a task, responsibility or their homework.
  7. I know my obligations to have a working ownership of your child’s condition, learning difficulty, illness, allergy, diagnosis – I take my working knowledge of this really seriously. With all due respect to the professional who spent time diagnosing your child; please remember that (in most cases) they have spent 1/2000th of the time I spend with your child in the year – I really do have some valuable insights about their learning and behaviour too. On a similar point; when a doctor tells you not to notify the school that your child’s medication has been adjusted so they can get “accurate feedback on its effectiveness”; please remember to discuss with your health professional that the school has a duty of care.
  8. I ask this question of teachers too – Should we reward children for things that they should be doing anyway?
  9. On Parent Interview Night I have only 5-10 minutes with each parent and we need to communicate effectively in the short amount of time we have. If you need more time – please ask – I want to make sure you are happy with what is happening in my class and that we are clear about expectations and all of the support materials available to your child. Also, please make a time to see the drama and dance teachers… they don’t have as many bookings on these nights and you’ll be amazed what you learn about your child from a meeting with them.
  10. Your child is just like you were at their age. Your child’s version of class events, homework due dates, behaviour and attendance; reflect this similarity. If you were a perfect child and you don’t know what I am talking about – please speak to your partner /spouse.
  11. Your child’s education will be negatively impacted if you continue taking two-week holidays during school time because it’s cheaper to buy Bali tickets in the off-peak time. Yes – I will prepare work for them (though experience tells me they will do it the night before they return to school – it just makes you feel better – right?).  Yes – it is a great educational experience. But – ask your boss if you can take two weeks off during non-leave time; ask if s/he will send your work to you while you are away and promise me it won’t impact your work routine.
  12. Be involved wherever possible. Read the diary, read the blog, read the school newsletter, know the examination timetable. Ask me how you can help in my class – but only if you’ve done the other things first.
  13. Talk to me FIRST (not the poor office lady, the principal or another parent). I know I can be a moron, I have a weird and wacky sense of humour that is easily misunderstood, I make mistakes, I make tippos in my typing (;)) but please; unless it’s almost criminal, talk to me about it – FIRST. IDEALLY, have your child talk to me about it (because when your child talks to me – the version of reality that got home is stripped away and we can talk from a different platform). If you aren’t happy after talking it through – then please talk to someone else – you have given me a fair go at coming to a resolution.
  14. If you are visiting the school to see me – GREAT. Please make a time. I don’t want to be rude when you “talk to me at the classroom door” but when I am talking to you during teaching time, I have my back to 30 children.
  15. Stop doing your child’s homework for them. I know it is tempting to do some “creative scribing” and editing. I know you want them to do well. BUT … I know it’s your work because they can’t replicate it in class. If you keep doing it – I will embarrass you by asking you to stop. It is OK to let them fail.
  16. If you’re allowing your child to use technology – YOU have the GREATEST power and responsibility as the gatekeeper – please exercise this power. Letting them have free rein and saying you “aren’t tech-savy” is like sitting in the backseat when your 17-year-old commences driving lessons with your car.
  17. I understand that school may have been hard and even traumatic experience for you but this isn’t about you or me.
  18. Please don’t ask me to be your FACEBOOK FRIEND until after your child has left the school. Please don’t visit my home, phone me at home or send mail to my personal home or email address. BUT do write to my school email, leave me a message to ring you back or arrange a time to get together.
  19. Provide your child with a well-lit, organised, comfortable and distraction-free environment for study. If your child tells you they can study with the TV on – they are probably lying. If they have been on the computer for longer than 25 minutes – check on them – they are either on a social network or they need a glass of milk.
  20. You know your child – I DO want to know what motivates them, what their interests are, what might be “eating them” at the moment, a little of your family situation and of course any challenges or medical conditions that need attention. Please don’t leave vital information for me to discover after three months. I only have a small window before they potentially move on to another teacher.

I hope there is something that you can reflect on. Thank you for allowing me to be so candid – I feel cleansed! Now I will read it back to myself with my PARENT hat on – and will make some adjustments myself.

Loved like Churchill?

Tomorrow morning will be the start of a new school and a new set of classes and responsibilities. In addition, I will be embracing a new educational approach – perhaps that conversation is for another time. We have all heard the old adage ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’.

I know how tempting it can be to want to be ‘liked’ as an educator but realistically the key word should be ‘respected’. Not respected because of the severity of our behavioural management but respected because of the focus we bring to our classes, the commitment to developing the child and the outcomes we achieve with students.

Week One is a most significant opportunity to establish the tone of the classroom. Any revisions or updates we attempt to ‘add on’ later will take much longer to establish as long-term ‘truth’ in our classrooms. It is also fair to say that any ‘promises’ or ‘declarations’ you make on day one (when we are most motivated and excited about the year) will be remembered for a LONG-TIME – especially if you do not deliver… I have failed in this respect MANY times!

It is worth taking a moment to ask what you want from your students in 2011 but also to ask what changes our own delivery might require in evolving our own professional practice. What do “I” need to learn? What should “I” change? What are “my” weaknesses (you know the ones we know exist but didn’t get noticed in the appraisal)?

A teacher I was partnered with during my university training said, “You need to be Hitler in term one, Mussolini in term two then you can be loved like Churchill for the rest of the year.” Well, OK, it’s a strongly loaded analogy. Another trainer stated it this way, “Firm, Fair and Friendly and in that order!”. I can certainly see the need for establishing routines that allow education to happen, masterful classroom management, engaging lessons – but I’m no Hitler.

Let us know what you have planned for day one. Here are a few fun activities / ideas for your classes. Most are labelled ‘K-6’ but I will be using a few with my 7-12 classes tomorrow. http://www.ilovethatteachingidea.com/ideas/subj_first_day.htm