A pretty amazing year…

With only a day and a half left I have been reflecting quite a bit lately and have to admit that this year was probably one of my most enjoyable in the past 16 years in the Education Game. My class was small with on 15. Although only one was a native English speaker there was no language barrier and every one of the class (they are 10 year olds) spoke at least 2 languages fluently and I had one wee lass who spoke French, German, Polish and her English and Chinese are getting pretty good too!

So how has the year been? Highlights? Successes? Achievements?

Code Club got started up and I have got many students from Year 1 – 11 interested in Coding. I am in no way an expert, more someone who has an interest, but maybe one of these students will get hooked and be a coder of the future.

For the first time in my career I was a tutor teacher and my teaching assistant completed her teacher training and has been an amazing asset and friend as well as making me think reflectively constantly.

I got my first Makey Makey – SO MUCH FUN!Makey Makey

I got to play with Lego NXT robots and ran several 10 week sessions with high school students. As each lesson progressed my knowledge grew and so did the passion and enjoyment of each student.

I tried out for the ADE 2015 intake and although I missed out it was the most reflective thing I have ever undertaken.

With a colleague we started an after school Touch Rugby team and entered many under 13 tournaments. We lost, then lost again and lost many more times, until our final tournament in Suzhou where we left with the winners trophy.

Awesome School Trip to Anhui where we stayed at a monastery and picked tea and grew as a class.

For a bit of fun I took a Year 1 robotics class for a few weeks using Bee Bots – So much Bee Botsfun and a lot of opportunities to develop students understanding of beginner robotics.

Taking part in Beverly Ladd’s 24 Hour Skype-a-thon was pretty epic.

I rekindled my love of blogging after a years absence and I hope to keep it up for the rest of my teaching career.

Although there have been many more it was yesterday, in the second to last day of term when I knew that the year had been a success. I showed the class a quick slide show of the year, the events, the students who have left, what we have done and what we achieved and then said “You now get the opportunity to share your highlights of the year. I do not mind how you share and you have until you think you are ready”.

Organised Chaos of Creation
Organised Chaos of Creation

Students scrambled off to create posters and slideshows and speeches and movies and booklets and animations. They worked individually, in pairs and in threes. They were focused and determined and collaborative and creative. They worked collaboratively and independently. The class was a mess of play dough, coloured card, kids on bean bags, crayons and felts, lego mini-figures and focused kids. In short it showed me that I had helped instill in my students the skills that I think they need to have, the mindsets that are essential for their learning development and as a bonus – They were all smiling!

So here is one of the animations. Some of it may not make sense, but the creativity of these two girls from two very different cultures and backgrounds just makes me feel proud to have been their teacher.

Advertisements

Here Goes Something?

This is the most reflective thing that I have done in a long time and was an opportunity that I did not want to let pass by. I have not made the video public apart from here, so if you watch it I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Fingers crossed and here goes something.

A Year in Retrospect – Beginning a New Tradition.

It seems strange to me to be reflecting on my year, as it only half over, but as I am heading to an International School in China next term it kind of is the end of a school year for me. So here is a retrospective look at the highs of my past year and I hope that as this blog progresses and ages with me I will add a reflection of the year each year.  I suppose that I will follow this up soon with some direction and goals that I want for myself for the 2013/14 school year.

Classroom Blog

interface awardIn the middle of last year I put my class blog (www.mrdyerhfs.blogspot.com) forward for the Interface Awards and made the Top five for Best Class blog – Not a bad accomplishment for a little school in rural New Zealand.  At this time we also connected with other classes within New Zealand and globaly, which showed me the true power of the classroom blog.

Blogging as a Professional

I began this blog, and it has been a fantastic journal, sounding board, reflective outlet and place to connect and share. I implore each of you to try it, public or private and you will see the wealth that the professional blog offers.

Twitter

I connected, I followed, I dived in, I was inspired. Twitter has kept me going this past year with connections and inspiration. It has connected with…

  1. Projects like the Travelling Rhinos of Karen Stadler (@ICT_Intergrator).
  2. I gave creating something a go and hooked in some friends to create the #NZSchoolTimeLapse. I have not been able to cary on with it since through a school production and trying to finish this term to hand over my class, but other awesome teachers have taken it over, part two has already been created and part three is in the creation at the moment!
  3. Global PLN – too many to add here and I would hate to miss one out.
  4. NZTweeps – You all are a daily inspiration!

iDevices

A year ago I got hold of a iPhone 3, then received an iPad for the class and then at Christmas got the iPhone 4 (Still behind the game, but love it).  Apple_gray_logoThese iDevices have changed the game, I know that other devices like Andriod can as well, but it has been an Apple learning curve for me. As long as I keep SAMR in the back of my head I know that only good can come from their use. Additionally with the rise in Augmented Reality and Code Apps like Cargobot there is so many amazing possibilities from these devices that are yet to be discovered. If you want to know about Augmented Reality and Cargobot you have to check out the website of Brad Waid and Drew Minock –  Two Guys and Some iPads – as they are Grade 3 teachers who are sharing their practice with the world and it is truly inspirational!
(@TechBradWaid & @TechMinock)

PC out – MAC in

I have slowly weened myself of the PC and jumped to Mac with the purchase of a sexy MacBook Air.  I’m in love! That is all there is to say about that!

Central Otago Teachers visit to Auckland Schools

Wow… nothing is more inspirational than seeing experts in action and clever designs for both curriculum and buildings in real life.  Two days of whirlwind touring to Stonefields, Summerlands, Albany Senior College & Point England where we got to hear from inspirational educators like Andrew Churches (Read his blog Educational Origami) and quiz Mark Osborne about the awesomeness of Albany Senior College (Google it) then see Manaiakalani in action with Point England and hear from the amazing Dorothy Burt about their journey – their senior students presentation inspired me to do better and look at education in a different way.

EduCamp

I have been lucky to make it to three EduCamps in the past year and have made lasting friendships along the way and been inspired beyond measure. If have not been to one yet then you need to, they are everywhere, just google and you will have a great morning of connection and inspiration!

Tek Rush 2012

Taking a half dozen students to this kids conference was so inspirational and sadly I will not see the second as I will have already left the country.Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 12.16.11 PM  Click the link if you want to find out more, but think about some of the coolest conferences that you have been to with interactive workshops, keynote speakers and cool prizes and goodie bags then aim it at IT passionate kids who are Year 5 or Year 7 and you have TekRush.  The kids that I took last year still wear the T-shirts as badge of honor and I was stopped in the street last week by a kid who was in my trick photography workshop, she thanked me and introduced me to her parents – i.e. it made a lasting memory!

ICOT 2013

newlogoTo name a few highlights would be -Edward DeBono, Lane Clark, Ewan McIntosh, Simon Breakspear and Guy Claxton, but then you have to add in all of the long lost and new found friends and colleagues that I got to spend time with and learn with face to face.

The Teacher Blog: a Powerful Reflective Tool

If you have a professional Blog then I hope that you have had the same experience as me.  If you do not then I think you should give it a go even if you are going to keep it to yourself like a diary or journal. Just by writing down your thoughts you will look at you actions in a different way and reflect on them and I believe that the act of reflection is one of the keys to being a learner.

Only 4 months ago I published my first post on this blog with the only person I was intending to read it being me or my principal when it came time for my appraisal.  I did not really have a goal or vision, but just wanted a place to record the successes and fails and moments of clarity.  After a few posts I realised that it was missing the connection of others so shared with a few members of staff and then Tweeted it to my PLN.

Made with GIF Shop on the iPhone. First attempt and might be a bit annoying?

Once that first share through twitter was out in cyber space the blog became a true reflective tool.  I had those people who I think of as friends and respect as educators commenting and reacting to my posts in a positive way or in a feed forward way that gave me links to further learning or ideas from others – success as there was an audience.  Then came the next point that I had not thought through – if make a post public it can bounce around the world many times and the people that you get feedback from you have never met before and often are not educators, who was my initial target audience. Posts have been pinned and re-pinned or pinged back or tweeted or posted on FaceBook and scooped then re-scooped; a whole new language of online literacy.

I reflected on a Fighting Fantasy book that I read to my class.  A few teachers commented, but scores of gamers sent me messages commenting on the photo (26)concept.  Their comments ranged from how their teacher read a similar book to them and it was a highlight of their education or a teacher hassled them about gaming (Dungeons & Dragons etc…) and it was the beginning of the end to their respect of teachers and education.  Then I received a comment from the man who authored the book and WOW, what a Fan Boy moment that was.  I wrote a post on my classroom design. I was sent links to others who were on the same wavelength and had Swedish designers ask me questions about why and how I had done certain things and what the effect on the students was from the choices that I had made.

But, taking aside the fact that people actually read my reflections I asked myself why I actually do this and discovered that it is therapeutic.  By recording down 2-3 posts a week I am looking at my teaching practice in greater detail and am a better teacher for it.  Each post takes me 10-30 minutes to write, but that 30 minutes is time I am thinking only about my teaching and classroom practice.

My blog is..

  • …therapeutic.
  • …makes me ask the hard questions.
  • …it lets me celebrate the successes.
  • …models the writing process and although my students do not read my blog they know that I write it. Like them I am a writer.
  • …a record of my learning journey.
  • …a portal for feedback

Homework v2.0

Homework

A fortnight after my first Homework blog things have gone a long way and I have you all to thank for that. The support with questions made me delve deeply into the question of what Homework is and who it is for. It made me really think hard about what changes needed to be taken to improve it.

As much as I would like to scrap the whole concept of homework, it’s a fact that it is there in expectations from parents, a definite need with some students (basic literacy and numeracy) and in most schools it is part of policy. I find myself in the very lucky position of having a principal who is of a like mind and thinks a good homework task is sitting under a tree and jotting down your sights, sounds, feelings and experiences in preparation for crafting a piece of writing the next day.

Journey
So after my last posting I looked at the evidence, read and responded to comments and looked at my existing homework model. I shared the post with a colleague and we began the discussion around what we liked and disliked about the the homework – a good old PMI discussion over several coffees.

Positives included the more creative and reduced stress homework where activities in the community were rewarded and there were no fill the gaps worksheets or put you spelling words into sentences and we had tied the learning experiences back to the schools pillars of learning.

On the negative side we discovered that the way we had set out the tasks sometimes lead to the need to create tasks to make up the numbers. By setting them out under headings we had to make sure that there was enough tasks in each section and if one section was low the task that filled the gap was not always to the standard that we wanted. Secondly by working on a numerical point system we were facing the same problem as there had to always be enough points available to achieve the highest award.

The really interesting discovery happened when we had a parent evening about our homework programme. We put off handing out the new terms homework as it was still in development and held a parent evening explaining our reasoning around why there was not the traditional model. At the meeting we discovered that we had not keep parents aware of the thinking behind our different homework. We had introduced it 3 years ago, but then failed to reintroduce in the depth that it required to parents in subsequent years.

Changes
Now, other than reading, spelling and basic facts, the homework is goal based. We will unpack the homework in class over the next week and while younger students may work closely with parents and teachers to set their goals the older students will have the opportunity to take control of their learning.

Homework v2.0
Homework v2.0

While still falling under the umbrella of our pillars of learning, they are not specific to a set pillar and most tasks actually cover several pillars. The point system has changed from a set numerical goal to a percentage goal and with this we hope to remove the need for adding unworthy tasks to make up the numbers.

Lastly at the beginning of the homework sheet there is a brief synopsis about our homework and the journey that we have been on. We hope that this will get parents having a shift in thinking around homework and coming to us with their questions and wonderings.

Conclusion
So now we have released Homework 2.0 and hopefully fixed all the main bugs, but like Apple we are sure that there will be v2.0.1 sometime soon, as we are sure that there is still a way to improve it. As learners we know that what works for learners today will not always work for learners tomorrow.

Thanks to Jodie for joining me on this journey and hopefully we have made it better for our learners.

Imposter Syndrome

At one of Guy Claxton’s breakouts at ICOT he mentioned something which has caused me a lot of thought over the past few weeks, Imposter Syndrome or that feeling that you have gotten somewhere that you do not deserve to be and that any moment you are about to be discovered and outed with a carefully worded question or observation that you do not have the answer for.

It was something that resonated with me and I feel that I have been a long time sufferer. This does not mean that I am unqualified and have little idea of what I need to be doing in the classroom, but that there has been a lack of confidence professionally and the idea that no matter how hard or long I work there is still more to do, so I must be doing it wrong.

I thought back to a presentation by James Nottingham a few years ago where he talked of the ‘Learning Pit’ and the differences between boys and girls with regards to critique. He also asked..

How can we find the excellence that is within us all?

James posed the idea that through our childhood many boys got up to mischief and were told ‘Don’t do that’ and thus got used to criticism where as girls would aim to please more and thus hear ‘Oh how lovely, what a good girl” and never experience criticism (edit: after post read by JN, he clarified “girls do receive criticism, but boys experience 8x more criticism than girls” & James Nottingham was quoting Dweck). Now I am not sexist and believe that boys are mischievous and girls like to keep people happy, as I have two girls and one is in the pleasing category and the other one likes to test boundaries a bit more, but I am hypothesizing that if we get too used to criticism do we also begin to feel that we could also always be wrong and thus beginning the cycle of Imposter Syndrome?

 

James Nottingham
James Nottingham

Now taking the idea that you are always second guessing yourself and in a profession where there are a lot of strong personalities and very experienced colleagues do we find that we are instantly thrown deep into the Pit of Learning? I know that I was and I think that for the first 10 years of my teaching every time that I would claw my way to the edge I would find myself sliding straight back to the bottom. Again I do not know if this is just me or a common experience for all teachers or male teachers or slightly insecure to begin with teachers but I know that there is a way out and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

The way that I have removed my self from the pit is by actually looking at myself as a teacher very closely and seeing what I do and how I do it or in Pit terms: construct a meaning from the conflict within my teaching (Concept) to find clarity (Out of Pit). By doing this I have actually discovered that I do know what I am doing and that I am doing the right thing. I am not an imposter and I have come to cherish those questions that might expose me as I am able to either clearly construct and articulate, with references, an answer or recognise that if I can not answer a question it will be my next focus as a learner to find that answer.

It has taken me 10 years to become a confident teacher and to see the excellence within, but the struggle to get there has made me a better teacher, person, collaborator and member of my community. Although I have not enjoyed every experience within the Pit and know that I will fall back in from time to time there is not a lot that I would change from the journey.