Tag Archives: Parent

Explanation or Excuse?

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ex·pla·na·tion

noun

         1. something that explains; a statement made to clarify something and make it              understandable; exposition

ex·cuse

noun 

1. an apology for; seek to remove the blame of.

In classrooms we hear a multitude of excuses and explanations. The problem is, sometimes it is hard to differentiate between the two.

A colleague of mine has been having difficulty with a student this last week – unmotivated, defiant and ‘too cool’ to participate in many activities. We found out that it’s because his dad is away for work. 

“My dad is away” is an explanation, but it’s not an excuse – we can’t really blame dad for this problem. We all have personal lives that can impact on our work and students are no different. However, it is about encouraging these students to persist, think outside the square and try to gather the skills to needed to solve these problems.

How do we help students solve problems? Problem-Based Learning isn’t just meeting curriculum requirements, it’s about up-skilling our students to be resilient in their lives. The problems that they have are broader than just the classroom walls.

5 P’s to being a graduate mentor

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I was both delighted and honoured to be selected to be a mentor for my new Year 4 colleague this year. He is a graduate, but has more life experience than me, as this is his second career. For the purpose of the exercise, let’s call him Bradley.
I remember as a graduate feeling so unprepared. My four years worth of classes, assignments and placements were barely visible in my mind as I came towards actually putting it into practice. Even though the school year has only just started, I have been emailing Bradley with what I feel is useful and practical advice, plus a few resources that I have found helpful. Lying in bed last night, my brain was ticking over again as I mentally started scribing a list of more things to mention to him.

1.  Planners –

I’ve passed on a Yearly Overview to Bradley for him to gauge what type of content we will be covering. I felt it was important to give him a copy of my Term Planner as well, but I have stressed that he is more than welcome to try and implement new things that he has learnt at uni, or seen on placements, or is simply curious about! I haven’t graduated to doing my weekly planner on my iPad yet, so I just print out a blank template for each week, just to jot down quick notes about lessons. Bradley thought this might be useful as well, so I emailed him the digital copy.

2.  Parent Communication –

I must tell Bradley about methods of parent communication. At our school we have a fortnightly whole school newsletter, as well as a fortnightly classroom newsletter on the opposite fortnight. Bradley may feel more comfortable if we combined our classroom newsletters into just one Year 4 newsletter, or he may like to send out his own. At the beginning of the year, I send home a Parent Information Booklet (mentioned in this previous post) to share my routines and guidelines within the classroom. This always includes my email address at the top of the classroom newsletter as my preferred contact method, which I will be encouraging him to do as well, to avoid parents spontaneously dropping in and catching the teacher by surprise. Alternatively, our parents call make appointments with teachers via the Student Reception Office.

3.  Professional Development –

I mentioned casually the other day to Bradley that I got a certain idea from something I had seen on Twitter. He told me that he’s always been interested in Twitter, but doesn’t know much about it. Little does he know that I will be (not-so-forcefully) recommending that he join and try and use it. Hashtags like #ectchatOZ (Early Career Teacher Chat) and #pstchat (Pre-Service Teacher Chat) have both been invaluable to me regarding new experiences and ideas, although there are so many more chats and hashtags that have guided and supported me too. For a graduate teacher, I can think of no better instant PD. Definitely be talking to Bradley about this.

4.  Patience –

Bradley is already a few steps ahead of me in some ways, as he is both married and a father. But the patience you show towards family membership can be quite different to the patience you need to show towards your colleagues and students. We’ve already had a chat about different possible discipline strategies and one of the biggest pieces of advice I gave him was ‘Pick your battles’. I think this phrase is used often in education, but if never fully appreciated it until last year. Showing patience towards those battles that we choose not to pick helps the classroom to remain calm, and with those battles that we do choose to pick, patience is still the overarching key to the approach we take.

5.  Pride for positives –

Not every lesson goes well. I have had some absolute doozies. Despite this, it is important to be proud of your efforts and the time you give to the students. Being proud means celebrating each lesson that you have poured energy into. To track my successes, I began using a highlighter to circle the lessons in my planner which I felt went well. At first, it was just lessons that worked, but I built it up to lessons that I would do again, recommend, or include on our class blog. It’s great to flick through your planner and see lots of bright colours, reminding you that you should be proud of your teaching and learning. I’ll be telling Bradley to do the same. Focus on the positive lessons, not the ones that went a little awry. Be proud!

As my mentoring journey is only just beginning, I’m excited to see what it brings to me as a professional and what it brings to Bradley as a graduate.

Should you blog in the classroom?

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At the beginning of 2012, I wanted to do something different with my students.  I wanted to share our successes with their parents, as many parents didn’t make it into the classroom. 

I started a classroom blog.

Inspired by Kathleen Morris, I embarked on a blogging journey – all self-taught. I signed up at Edublogs and used their User Guide to find out the nitty-gritty of what buttons to press and what their purpose was. I watched videos like this one, and looked at other blogs and info graphics like this. Setting up my classroom blog looked a little bit like this photo I saw on Twitter earlier, posted by @dendari.

My school allowed me to use Edublogs as my blogging platform, as it is the ‘world’s most popular education blogging service’ (http://edublogs.org). 

Safety and privacy was my number one priority, so I began to set up a leaflet to hand out to parents, including a permission slip and frequently asked questions, adapted from the one that Kathleen Morris had developed.  Click on the following link to see my Blog information for parents.

I explained the concept of blogging to my students and they weren’t really sure what it was all about. I spoke to my associate Year 2 teacher and helped her set up a blog for her class as well. We both had doubts, questions and concerns…

  • Is Year 2 too young for a classroom blog?
  • Is it necessary to have photos on the blog?
  • Would commenting be too tricky for 7 & 8 year olds?
  • Would anybody visit our blog?
  • Was it going to be too time-consuming for an already time-poor teacher?
  • How would I encourage parents to A) look at it and B) leave a comment?

At first, it was exciting and nerve-racking as I tried to figure out what the purpose was of having a classroom blog. Sure, I wanted people to see the amazing work my students were producing, but then what?  We learnt about reading posts – posts that I had written about our lessons – which inspired my students to show their parents when they got home from school. As each post ended with a question, we talked about the importance of a conversation. A good conversation always involves questions, so people have something to respond to. So too, does a good blog post.

Commenting was the next challenge, as it was important for the students to reflect on activities in class. We talked about how a comment was a little bit like a letter – it began with a greeting, was always related to the post and ended with a salutation. Sometimes, a comment might even have a question in it, to encourage conversation!

An early comment

Both of the Year 2 classes held a Blog Launch towards the beginning of our adventure. It was a great chance for the students to teach their parents about what they had learnt about blogging so far – how to navigate the blog, where they could find comments that people had left and how to write their own comments. 

Since my first classroom blog last year with Year 2’s, I have learnt many new elements of blogging. My Year 4’s have taken blogging to a whole new level and we had had the opportunity to be involved in Quadblogging, links with other schools, Skype chats and the idea of using individual student blogs as a type of digital portfolio.

Advantages of blogging:

  • Increased communication between school and home
  • Authentic purposes for reading and writing
  • A wide variety of opportunities to share learning in different ways
  • Improved quality of student work – students trying to show their best work because a photo of it may be shown on the blog
  • Links to other schools to compare, contrast and share activities done at school
  • A greater awareness of geographical locations due to having a blog visitor map – watching the location of our visitors
  • Improvements in mental maths as students add and count up and down to visitor number milestones
  • A sense of pride among the students (and their teacher!)
  • Advances in student confidence with the use of technology, but also typing skills and the willingness to teach others.

I’d love to hear your success stories about blogging in the classroom, or any questions or queries you have about beginning your own. It’s a very worthwhile journey!