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.