Wednesday, 17 December 2014

School's out for summer

So another year down.  I feel as though I might have improved and achieved something this year.  Before I go into reverse hibernation (whereby Australians close themselves in their homes with air-conditioning or other cooling methods in order to wait out the long, hot summer) I thought I might have a think about my achievements for this year and my goals for next year.

  • finished the school's yearbook on time and it was received with glowing reviews
  • was given compliments on the reporting comments I wrote for my 10 Maths class
  • marked all assessment in a timely fashion and gave notes for parents about results
  • took less than 5 days off this year (an extremely vast improvement on last year)
  • was helpful to colleagues when possible or at least didn't insult them when I was impatient and cranky

One of the biggest things this year was how much I was able to help my husband in his first year of teaching.  We were back to back staffroom buddies.  Unfortunately he was not given a contract for next year.  I was hoping to increase my subject load, but alas that was not meant to be either.  I wasn't able to get my 10 bridging class again either, or any English classes, next year I'll be teaching 11 and 12 Prevocational Maths, both of which are not difficult content wise (writing the units for these was my first jobs when I started at this school).  So my goals will not be content oriented, but classroom management and engagement oriented.

Goals for 2015:
  • learn to deal with rude students in a calm, constructive manner
  • incorporate group work at least once a week
  • engage with technologically based activities beyond the basic uploading of worksheets
  • plan for classes in advance, ideally a week at a time
  • adjust the Realm of Learning in order to motivate students further (this will include some reworking of the levels and achievements, gah)
  • engage with educational texts (e.g. Marzarno) and incorporate research into my lesson plans
  • write actual lesson plans
I'm trying very much to focus on the positives, so I'm not going to regale my non-readers with sad stories from the year.

This was a very text heavy post, so here's a blurry, Christmassy photo of Seb to balance it out.

Wait til you see the dachshund in this outfit

Friday, 25 July 2014 the classroom? - 10 Bridging Maths Trigonometry

This term my 10 Bridging Maths Class is doing Trigonometry and Measurement.  I usually find that Trig has good, real world contexts, and measurement is nice and visual, but I still knew, when I was sitting at home the other day trying to plan for my first lesson with them, that it was going to be a struggle.

They don't have quite this same attitude towards it for some reason.

Our first lesson was a double, so I did some actually educational reading and tried to find something to jazz things up.  I found this video (below) about how there's no such thing as being bad at maths, you're probably just lazy (assumedly putting aside legitimate learning disabilities or imbalances in the brain), and I found that to be quite effective, more than I'd expected (hint: I don't necessarily expect a lot, students from year 9 to 11 are pretty apathetic).

I managed to get quite a few students to admit that they don't really put the effort in that they could when I explained that I am there to help them bridge the gap between them doing their best, and what they want to achieve.  I pointed out that for some people they might still be working on that bridge next year, but no matter how big the gap they're trying to fill, it can only work if they're putting in their best effort and have the best attitude they can, or else it's like building a bridge on a bad foundation.

Many students then put their hand up when I asked if they wanted to start fresh, and try and put in their best effort this term.  It was rather touching.  I nearly cried.

Once I had them focussed, I introduced out topic with this not-as-lame-as-I-was-expecting video which the students found amusing and I felt the need to dance to.  I wish this school's math (it's in America, so it's math, not maths) department would make more, but I have the feeling it's not going to happen, even though their videos are actually really good!

See?  You were expecting it to be lame, and it was actually pretty good.

I'm actually planning to use this throughout the Trig part of the unit to help them remember the sides and formulae.

With my bridging class I always spend the first few lessons doing foundational processes that will be relevant later on.  The digital copy of the textbook has worksheets related to 'review' questions at the start of the chapter, these are great to get the students warmed up in the first week, and to remind them that homework is actually important and that I expect them to do it.  I did an activity with them to get them practising Pythagoras' Theorem.  I actually came across the idea on a teaching resource site...but they claimed it took them 5 hours to make and it was for actual Trig questions, not Pythagoras, so I made my own in under an hour.

A this point I hadn't thought to check the difference between 'practice' and 'practise', shh.

9 Pythagoras problem were stuck on the walls around the room, and after I showed them 2 quick examples, they had to wander around and solve them at their own pace.  The first three to finish got a chocolate, the next 2 got bonus points.  It went really well, and a student who has had maximised bad attitude all year tried her hardest and didn't give up when she made a mistake and even got bonus point.  It was rather touching.  I nearly cried.

Falling off, horses etc.

I think the end of semester 1 and the holidays derailed me quite a bit.  The night of my last day of work last term, I developed a sore throat, and the next day I was sick, and proceeded to sleep away the first week of the holidays.  Not a lot of crochet projects got worked on, not much marking got done until the last few days of the holidays, not a lot of driving practice happened, and I hardly did any Warhammer 40k painting.  The second week of the holidays was a lot more fruitful: I did my marking, I finally got my Ps (only 10 years overdue, with a failed test one month before), we put a deposit on a block of land and started talking to a builder.  It was a fairly big week.

Now that I'm back at school with renewed energy, fresh independence and brimming with ideas, I'm hoping to ride a wave of being constructive for a while, ultimately leading me to make progress on the collection of my evidence for registration and perhaps also progress in my career.  I've had a few days in a row of almost feeling like a real adult who accomplishes things by herself, lives up to expectations, and has skills or gifts that are of use to others.  I've spoken with my Head of Secondary about ideas for creating a unique position for me at the school, one where I could use my penchant for enjoying fiddly, administrative tasks for the greater good of my peers.  Whilst I understand it could be a bit of a pipe dream, his positive reaction to the idea gave me some hope that I could be on the right track, finally, when it comes to my place in world of education, and also my place in serving God.

I'll endeavour to continue updating this blog on a weekly basis (that was my original goal, and that went a little by the wayside), and will make up for the recent lack with an extra post about a lesson I did recently that went rather well.  Look at me talking like I think anyone actually reads this thing.  Oh well, such is audience appropriate voice, says the English teacher.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Watch the birdy...

For most of the year I've been using my graphics tablet on a wireless connection for my classes.  This means I can sit up the back, and the students just focus on the projector as I write and explain things, like watching a movie.  This has been working OK, or so I thought.

Today I gave them pre-written notes and did examples on the whiteboard the classic way, with a pen and talking and walking around.  The result was that my usually disconnected students were putting their hand up and answering questions frequently, freely and quickly participating as I asked them how to solve things.  They were like a real class, I didn't have to rouse on any of them.

So the moral of the story is that my Year 10s need someone drawing their focus up the front, constantly flitting about entertaining them.

Perhaps I should have gone to clown college.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Narrative Structure and Story Balance - Creating Life

My husband recently used an activity I designed a few years ago to teach Year 8s narrative structure and the balance of events and details in a story.  It uses this handout to illustrate the idea, and students seem to react well to it and it really clicks with them.  My husband had great success, and I felt a bit chuffed, so it seemed like an activity worth sharing.

Kids like colouring in the face and stuff, but they need to leave space for notes
So this works two-fold: one, it opens up discussion regarding the elements of narrative structure, which you can then explain further using pretty much any popular movie or book as an example.  You can combine it with this handout for students to actually note the parts of the example story:

For this particular unit, the students are aiming to write a Quest Story, and a great example of this is Finding Nemo.  It has all the elements of a quest, and a clear narrative structure, so it serves well for establishing the parts of a narrative.  A Quest Story is one of the seven basic plots.  As you discuss narrative structure, you can quickly come up with your own example with the students' help, and then use the narrative structure handout and have students write out the elements of Finding Nemo, or whatever existing you choose, into the table in order for them to demonstrate that they can recognise and organise narrative structure.

The second level of the skeleton is to illustrate the balance of the parts of your story.  One good way to use this resource is to project it onto a whiteboard and colour code the 3 aspects off the explanation:
  1. Bones: these are the major events of your story, the essential elements of your narrative, without these you have no story. (no colour coding needed)
  2. Muscle: in between bones you have muscle to hold it together and held the skeleton move.  Muscle in the story represents minor events, the things that happen in between to make sense of major events and connect them, avoiding simplistic or jumpy writing. (red words in between the rib bones that say 'minor events')
  3. Fat: a healthy body has a little bit of fat, and in your story it's what makes it delicious.  Fat is the detail, the description, the background, the dialogue, the little interesting bits that take it from a basic story to a story worth reading.  Too much fat makes your story unhealthy and might even hinder the enjoyment; if you write 4 pages about your characters dark past for a short, 800 words story, then your story has too much fat. (I usually use purple and make little squiggles around the edges, then scribble lots of purple to show 'too much fat')
This is an activity we do early in the term so that students understand the important of planning, structure and balance before they get too involved in planning or writing their stories.  Students who struggle with writing will understand they need to do more than just list a bunch of 'bones', and students who often go overboard (often these students don't plan their stories) will understand that they need to scale back their extra fun scenes if it's making their story too 'fat'.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

End of Term 1 Reflection and Planning

Well, term 1 is already done.  It seems very quick, and both my husband and I are feeling great about school.  My 0.4 load has given me the mental space to feel actually human, so this is what I managed to get out of this term.

What I'm Happy About

  • the progress of my classes
  • the progress of the Realm of Learning
  • the plans for the yearbook thus far
  • the amount of planning I've been able to put into my lessons
  • the very (comparatively) small amount of days I've taken off this term
  • having time to work with a personal trainer
  • actually having lost a little bit of weight
  • sticking with my kj counter for about 2 weeks
  • reactions to my crochet
  • my husband's excellent rep with students and other teachers

What I'd Like To Work On

  • more group work in my classes
  • classroom management with my younger class
  • dialling down my sarcasm a bit more
  • no more crocheting in class (oops)
  • gifting my colleagues more with my new crochet skills (so far, I haven't given anyone anything)
  • organise 3 or 4 'Watch Others Work' sessions for next term
  • collecting the evidence for my full teacher registration (ugh)
  • continuing to make this blog constructive and consistently posting

if there's anyone out there...any suggestions?

Monday, 31 March 2014

Believing in Miracles

Edit: Anna Webb did pass away, and while many of us at the school were sad, we knew it was for the best, and it doesn't make the feelings in this post any less relevant or legitimate.

Last week a Year 12 girl at our school, Anna Webb, was in a car accident.  She was rushed to hospital, then rushed to Brisbane (state capital) hospital for surgery and treatment.  She is currently on life support, with tests being done to ascertain whether or not she still has brain function.  Those are the fact necessary for people (whoever it is that reads this blog) to pray for Anna and her family.

For us at school, it happened like this: we had all the Year 12s together for a year level assembly, like we do every fortnight, their Year Level Coordinator talked about a range of things, including uniform, things he's been hearing about their behaviour, the driving course coming up, forms that needed hanging back etc., then sent everyone home, telling them to drive safe.  We get back to the staffroom, start doing our staffy things, then a after about 15 minutes, a student rushes to the back door and shouts that he's needs help, there's been an accident.  A few teachers, including my husband, rushed out to see what they could do, to help, to make sure others were OK.  I only heard a few words in the mix, and knew I wouldn't be of any use.  I went over to the Professional Development session we were having that afternoon, and asked people if they'd heard anything.  No one knew what I was talking about, it was that new, and I was getting people confused with my lack of details.  I heard an ambulance and realised things were obviously serious.  Part way through the PD we were told about Anna, that she was in a serious condition, having just been finally freed from her crushed vehicle, and that we all needed to pray very hard.

The week or so that followed was sombre, filled with pray, updates on her progress which didn't show much hope, and a lot of teachers crying when we were told she might not show brain function once they took her out of the induced coma.  I haven't taught Anna for a few years, but I couldn't help but cry as well.  My husband, who didn't see much when he went to the scene, realised just how affected he'd been when he debriefed with some other men at a small bible study.  The local paper has discussed and encouraged prayer for Anna, which is refreshing and strange.  Ultimately, I find myself feeling strange.

There's the initial strange of 'she was here, and now she might not be', of realising that students worry about so many other things, and have complex thoughts and dramas going on in their lives, and then suddenly they can be taken from us, in an instant, and actual instant.  Lots of students are dealing with this, and there has been basically around-the-clock counselling available for both students and staff.  This is unexpected, it's not new, but it's strange.

The other strange is realising that, when I'm praying for Anna, I think my heart is truly asking for a miracle.  I'm not just asking for things to get better, for things to turn out well in the context of a situation where that is likely; I'm asking for something that at the moment shouldn't happen, that is very unlikely, and that actually needs supernatural intervention.  Somehow the prayer become something precious, because it's not just a 'regular' prayer (not that any of them should be), but it's a prayer asking for something truly significant, and my heart is actually on board.  I, as well as the other staff, know that it is unlikely, we understand that the chances of Anna surviving are slim, and she will most likely have her life support turned off, but in our hearts we are all sincerely praying for a miracle because we know our God is capable of it.

I worry that it is not so much faith as hope, that I'm just wishing and hoping and wanting Anna to be well again, because it would be so sad for her not to be.  I worry that I'm not sincerely praying for God's will to be done, but praying for what we all want, which is for Anna to be healed.  But even in that hope, it means my heart believes it can happen if it hopes for it so much, so I guess that means I believe in miracles.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014 the Classroom? - Year 12 Prevocational Maths

I recently started a unit with my Year 12 Prevoc class, with the theme being 'renovation' and the maths behind it being measurement/geometry.  I have been wanting to try and be more outgoing/creative, especially as these are students who benefit from engaging, 'fun' tactics, and this lesson went pretty well, so I thought I would share it.


  • students recall different shapes
  • students can recognise them in their environment
  • students can learn to connect a shape with its area formula

For our first lesson for this unit, I asked them to name the basic geometric shapes they could think of (basic ones, not all 'regular' shapes, as these can be made from the 'basic' ones).  We ended up with: rectangle, square, triangle, trapezium and circle.  I then asked if they knew any of the area formulas for these shapes, and for those they didn't know I wrote them.  Students copied all shapes and formulas for the purpose of reference.

Our buildings aren't this...pointy

I asked students to work in pairs and go around the school grounds 'Shape Hunting'.  They had to find at least 2 examples of each of the basic shapes (bonus points in the Realm of Learning if they got 2 triangles or more) from around the school, record them and come back within a certain time limit.  Year 12 students are often wary of 'gimmicks' and 'childish games', but the students enjoyed the chance to get out of the classroom and find something.

When students returned, I gave the first few groups to return extra points, and when all had returned, I asked them where they found all of their shapes.  Students expressed interest in how easy it was, and how prevalent the shapes were.  I explained that the point is to see the basic geometric parts in things to make them solvable/usable.

Not a very deep learning experience, but appropriate for the opening of a unit.  Getting the students out and about, working independent of the teacher, engages students who might be visual, kinaesthetic or naturalistic learners as seen in Bloom's revised taxonomy (Frangenheim, 2005) and gives them a chance to show how responsible they can be (because sometimes year 12 boys aren't so much with the 'responsibility').  Also, we've recently done PD at our school that discussed the idea of giving students a chance to 'wake up' by stretching, moving around during a long class, as it helps to keep them engaged and work longer.  It was a fun idea and I've decided to try something similar for later in the unit.


Good orientating phase lesson, kids enjoyed it, actually made them think a little.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Teaching Techniques - Term 1, Week 6, 2014

In an effort to improve my teaching practice, I'm trying to document my current pedagogical practice and then explore their benefits/weaknesses.

'Techniques' or purposeful teaching forms I think I've used this week:

  • direct instruction/note-taking/'chalk and talk' using technology
  • quick engagement (times tables at the beginning of the lesson to 'warm up')
  • independent work, asking for help encouraged
  • independent work, using technology
  • independent work, working with person next to them encouraged
  • independent work, asking for help discouraged to push for problem solving/using notes
  • paired work outside of the classroom, followed up with in class collaboration and connection to mathematical concepts
  • whole class doing technology activity together with the teacher
  • going through task sheet and pointing out items for highlighting
  • timed work
  • feedback and reflection on supervised assessment/exam
Alright, let's see what next week brings.

Thursday, 27 February 2014


Some people may have heard of this concept before, but I'll explain it anyway.

Gamification is the concept of turning your classroom into a gaming environment.  The classroom becomes and MMO without the O, so to speak; you gain experience for doing stuff, you get levels, rewards, and use it to track progress.  It seems that it would ultimately work best in a primary classroom setting, but I have managed to use it in my secondary classes.

I first heard about Gamification from my friend Gavin during his first year of teaching (he has since left teaching and taken up massage therapy...I totally support this career change).  He told me the idea as a 'wouldn't it be cool if'...and off I went.  I started trying to figure out what would be worth experience, how much, how would I record it, creating avatar presets, setting up a complex excel spreadsheet, and figuring out funny names for levels.  The idea was that every time a student levelled up, they could add a statistic and add an accessory to their avatar.

I used it all through last year and it had a fairly good impact.

Here's what I learned

Pros: (can't seem to get rid of the big gap here)
  • students like the concept of the game mechanic
  • gives them a 'value' for their work and effort
  • a way of literally counting their progress
  • doubles up as a way of tracking participation in class and work habits, which are useful for reporting and discussing the student's progress with their parents
  • it made me focus on what students were doing in class and make an effort to take notice of who was working well, who was helping whom
  • 'bonus points' take on a new meaning
  • students often wanted to know how they were going
  • the biggest experience earner was participation, not necessarily 'smarts'
  • negative experience can be used to reflect poor behaviour or effort without needing to go as far as a detention or serious consequence (this is good for certain things, when a 'warning' isn't strong enough, and a detention is too much)

  • keeping up with adding the accessories ended up being too much (I have since removed that option)
  • students wanted non-schooly looking avatars (too much work, I ignored this)
  • the Excel spreadsheet got a little unwieldy after a while, though I did know how to mess around with it (my uncle, retired from Sony programming, has since created an Excel database with Visual Basic and it's so much easier to use now!)
  • not all students really cared, some thought it was stupid, so it didn't necessarily always work as a motivator...but it mostly did work
  • it's extra work (duh)
  • when students leave or join the class, it throws my lists out of whack a little (not a major issue, it just bugged me)
In the end, I decided to keep it, especially as my uncle had created the app for me.  So I'm going to share some details on how I run my Gamification, and if anyone out there wants to try it, I'd be happy to give some advice...or perhaps I'm one of a rare group of 'part-time teachers who want to give themselves extra work'.

Welcome now, to the 
Realm of Learning
The Master of the Realm


This is personally how I wanted to do this; I created preset elements on separate layers, which took a fair bit of time, but then creating the avatars was quite easy because I just turned off all the layers and only turned on the ones I wanted.  Using the school uniform avoided inappropriate suggestions or outfits, and made it easier for me.  The coloured background is a new addition, this is based on the students results from the True Colours Personality Test, which is a great way to get to know your students better.

You could alternatively have the students draw their own, and this works well for primary students and gives them more ownership.  High school students get all 'nerr, I can't draw, I don't wanna do it', so I circumvented that by drawing them myself.  Most students think they're pretty cool, and start asking me why I'm not an art teacher.  There are reasons.

Anyway, to go along with the avatar, students create a name, and they assign beginning 'stats' in areas that reflect the values of our school: Respect, Integrity, Servanthood and Excellence (you could do whatever, that's what I chose to do with).

I decided that students should get experience for being a student.  Turning up to class, bringing all their materials, participating or asking questions, helping others, completing homework, all worth experience.  I decided that it was appropriate to award those who did well on assessment, because I don't think this should be a 'get an award just for turning up' kind of world, so whilst students get points for turning up, they get lots of points for doing well on assessment (passing gets points, a B gets even more, and an A gets even more than that).  Conversely, poor behaviour, not completing homework and so on all garner negative experience, which I think is appropriate so that there is some kind of measurable consequence for not meeting standard expectations.  So there is positive experience, negative experience, and just plain missing out because you didn't turn up.

I tested some expectations and tried to figure out how much experience a student could conceivable gain in a week and used that to determined the levels I would have them aim for.  I used an experience table I found...somewhere?  It's fairly common, I just didn't want to make up my own.  I decided on 25 levels total (I didn't get anyone over level 12 last year, but I was fine with that) and it generally works out well.  There doesn't seem to be a way for anyone to 'cheat' the system, good students got more experience than students who didn't work well, it somewhat favours more academic students, but I feel this to be appropriate for a school setting where you do, ya know...academic stuff.  Students who worked hard and participated well, but didn't necessarily do well on assessment, tended to do fairly well as well, which is what I wanted.

When it comes to actually tracking the experience, that's a whole other kettle of fish.  I ended up creating a physical booklet to tally things in class, and at the end of every week I enter the experience and check the progress of the students.

The booklet is good, and I use it to keep track of pretty much everything.  I put a notes section at the bottom which is good for keeping track of homework set, things to follow up on, events that may have happened, etc.

The Excel spreadsheet on the other hand...

Yikes.  So now I have a much cleaner system thanks to my uncle John, and putting in experience is a much quicker, easier process.  Your way of assigning experience could be much simpler, it could be physical, you might be able to write your own program.  Other ways of implementing this was ideas like smaller tests being worth experience, and then you levelled up by defeating the 'boss' assessment, so levelling was more based on completing stages of your learning rather than daily activities.

The rewards work in a couple of ways.  Every time a student levels up, they assign a stat point to one of the 4 areas of the RISE.  I used to have an accessory system so that students could make their avatars more exciting, but the work involved was too much.  Now, students gain a physical reward: levels 1-5 is a sticker, 6-10 is a small stationery item, 11-15 a somewhat better item and so on.  I love buying stationery as rewards and gifts, and not all items are equal, so I've ranked them in 4 levels, and as student reach higher levels, they can get the better items.  One of the experience earning activities is getting a 'compliment', a system of keeping track of behaviour that is above expectation.  At the end of each term, these are counted and they can get a reward depending on how many they earned.

In between levelling, there is this last element that I included because it helps with the feel of the game mechanic and helps students to see their work as something worthwhile: achievements.  Most of the achievements centre around consistency, and some focus on doing especially well at something.  I created a bunch of little badges, and I add these to the students profile.

Achievements bring with them bonus experience, but I decide how much it is worth, because for some students, turning up to class on time for 3 weeks in a row is not a big deal, whereas for others it is a significant milestone, so to reflect the individual abilities, challenges and natures of the students, I vary the experience they receive for achievements.  This is my concept of fairness, and I haven't had any objections from the students thus far.


If you're interested in trying out Gamification for your class, I would recommend:
  • Doing research, see what else is out there
  • Find quick ways of doing things, do feel you have to make it all from scratch
  • Form it to suit your workload, don't make it the straw to break your camel's back
  • Try and make it link in with elements of your school environment/community, this helps to support the school as the main authority in the classroom and avoids the idea of it being something too 'alternative' or inappropriate
  • Focus on the fun, focus on the achievement, and help your students see it as something positive
  • Spend a decent session making sure the student understand the process to avoid confusion over the school year

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Let's go [team name], let's go!

When I was in high school, my mother and I had an understanding that if there was a sports day of some kind - cross country, swimming, athletics, whatever - that I could stay home.  There was no point in me going to them, I wasn't going to take part, partially because of my complete lack of fitness/athletics ability, and partially because of my complete lack of team spirit.  I never understood why every school (I went to a few) insisted on trying to make everyone do sports; it seemed a waste of time and it seemed as though it were catering to the select few of my peers who cared about that sort of thing.

Our school recently had our swimming carnival, this was the first year out of 5 that I wasn't there because it was my day off, but I was a little disappointed.  However, it did manage to remind me of the epiphany I had in my first teaching at this school, regarding sports carnivals.

I'm pretty sure I've picked an appropriate, non-threatening photo of kids in a pool, don't anyone get on their high horse

I totally get it.

It was my first year, and I was standing around in the sun at the athletics carnival, overseeing standard long jump (we run double amounts of events, a 'championship' version for the serious contenders who are looking to complete at interschool or district levels, and a 'standard' event, which is generally a simpler version of the field event designed to get students involved to get easy points) and I looked around at the oval filled with jumping and throwing and running and I realised that most of the students were actually out on the field, not just sitting in the house tents.  Other schools I've been to hadn't necessarily been able to boast high attendance numbers on their sport days, most will assume that many will be 'sick' and just get on with it.  There were probably at least 80% of the students in attendance on both days (we run over two days...I haven't figured out why yet, but we do), and out of those, a majority were attempting to throw a vortex or jump past at least 1 marker to get points.  At first I thought perhaps we'd hit on a great formula for fitness, maybe threatening students with consequences really can make them try things, and then a member of our house gave a war cry, and I responded.  Some other students replied with their own, and it was a little silly and very spirited.  That's when I realised what the point of the sports days really were: family.

Our school attempts to create a sense of togetherness: all staff members are Christian, including the office staff and the groundsmen; we push for students to band together as a year level, to take care of younger grades, to respect and look up to older grades; I see students being cared for like they were a teacher's own children, like they were family.  In the end, however, kids hate school, that's just how it is.  It's boring, you have to do work, and the teachers are lame.  At a sports carnival, it's school-related, but the things you're doing and the environment are all different.  I see more students than I expect actually cheering on their friends, or even just random kids from their house; I see students trying to out war cry each other; I see students excitedly telling teachers about how they went in a race or event.

Competition + positivity + school-related event = togetherness/family feeling

This formula causes students to associate positive feelings with school, because even though it's not in the classroom doing 'work', it's still a school thing.  It also helps to break down the boundaries between year levels (at least with the secondary cohort, we're a P-12 school, so there's still a bit of a divide between the Primary and Secondary cohorts).  I get it now; it works.

I think my mother would pinch herself to see her stay-at-home-watching-daytime-TV-instead-of-taking-part daughter cheering so loud she nearly lost her voice, before spinning in circles with a broomstick in a teacher novelty race at the end of the last day of the athletics carnival.

Woah, it's actually a picture of me running.  This is basically a rare artefact.  I'm certainly not going to show you the one of me from about 30 seconds earlier where I fell down from too much spinning.

Ok fine, here it is

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Teachers like naps even if they don't have children

So today I experienced one of the best naps of my entire life.  It will sound fairly simple, but ultimately it involved a lot of things going right.

I was tired, my friend was tired, and we were out on the patio with these two ragamuffins and a (thanks to my mother) clean version of the blanket they're sitting on in this photo:
Meet Griffith and Seb.  Griff (long-haired dachshund) will nibble on anything close to the ground, and Seb (corgi) is currently wearing a cone of shame because he won't stop licking a wound on his leg.  I love these dogs, they're stumpy and adorable and drive me a bit crazy sometimes.

Previous attempts to nap on our quiet, lovely, breezy patio, have resulted in ear nibbles and corgi paw prints.  But not today.

Today, the blanket was clean.  Today, the breeze was there, as was the tiredness.  We lay down, and Griff only nibbled a little before setting to sleep in between the two of us.  Seb was very snuggly, and a lot less painful once we took of his cone.  Then, we all just slept.  Seb got pats and cuddles, Griff was still, I managed to lose track of enough time that I slept through til my tutee arrived.

It was a very special nap and deserves a post.  That is all.

Monday, 10 February 2014

I don't like inappropriate metaphors

Every time I see this 

I get really annoyed.

No, it's not because it makes me realise how unfair our education system is, it's because it makes me realise how far the anti-intellectual movement and post-modernist society have both gone. We teach and test certain things in schools because those are the things that mark you as an intelligent member of society. In order to learn things, there are certain things you already need to know, so we test you to make sure you know them.

If we were to test the specific gifts of the animals in this image, we would be wasting our time just to tell kids 'you're super special and amazing and you don't need to try to be better at anything else!'.

The human terms, I suppose collecting and building their home, we don't care about...oh wait, yes we do, that's furnishing studies. The penguin...strong swimmer, who car...oh yeah, we test for that in HPE (this would go the same for the fish and seal). The elephant, really strong, caring pack animal (I think?)...hmm, sounds like someone bound for our leadership/peer mentor programs. The Why would we care about fo...oh yeah, we have both an OP and non-OP program based around cooking, gee.

But heck, when we go to test these people on their numeracy and literacy that isn't in a way that only they can do (this will almost always mean cropping things or dumbing things down or helping a lot...which is important for some students who have identified learning difficulties, but this image doesn't necessarily seem to be referring to learning difficulties, it's talking about how everyone is 'different') then we're all evil, unfeeling bastards.

Please accept that if a piece of assessment says your child is not good at maths, then they're not. That doesn't mean it is beyond their ability to change that, and perhaps they will have to try harder to achieve what they want (oh no, can't have 'trying hard', natural abilities are all we should care about) and maybe get some help.

I want people to stop saying it is education's fault that their child 'thinks they're an idiot'. A poor mark should only be an indicator that they need to change or try harder, the idea that this makes them stupid or less good does not come from us, it comes from the reactions parents give to those results. A bad mark is only bad if you don't learn from it (I tell my students this a lot). If a student actually tried and they got a bad mark, that's a sign they need help, extra attention, tutoring, not that they are a failure as a human being. Perhaps they are 'dumb', but instead of changing the definition of 'smart', we should be encouraging students to see their other talents whilst helping them to change, to the complete limit of their still vast potential, what they want about themselves, whether it be that they're 'dumb at maths' or 'can't write'. Literacy and numeracy are things that can be developed unless you have a legitimate learning difficulty, in which case you get more specialist support and keep trying and end up making progress anyway.

Don't make excuses for 'dumb', stop hating on society for wanting you to be 'smart', just try!