Tag Archives: student

Teacher impact

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The other day, I noticed that is was one of my ex-student’s birthdays – I’m friends with his mum on Facebook after their family moved away from the area and I left the school anyway.

This particular student has Asperger’s and really gave me a run for my money at times when I taught him in Year 2 in 2015. But my fondest moments throughout the year were those in which he shared his friendships with his toys with the rest of the class. I wrote about his friendship with his Zhu Zhu pet Zak here.

The other friend he had was a large stuffed dolphin that he named Lachlan, which he brought back to school from a family holiday to Queensland. Lachlan soon became part of our class – I had to include him on the daily roll when I called out everybody’s names, I had to tell Lachlan’s owner to block his ears when we were going to watch a video (as dolphins don’t like loud noises) and Lachlan even had his own Happiness Bucket. The other class members would say Good Morning to Lachlan and stood up for him fiercely when another student punched him in the nose. Lachlan liked doing Maths, which was helpful, as his owner sure didn’t, so it was awesome to have Lachlan sit next to him during Maths.

Each Friday, we had a type of Lower Primary Assembly, where a student from each class received the ‘Ice Cream Award’  – a free ice cream from a local shop. I liked to give this award to members of my class who had really excelled throughout the week, or showed one of our school values beyond the basics. As I worked my way through my class roll, I decided that Lachlan’s owner would be excited if Lachlan the dolphin received the Ice Cream Award. (I’m not entirely sure what reason I gave, possibly for helping his owner with his Maths work!)

My goodness, the cheer that erupted from the WHOLE class when Lachlan’s name was announced was incredible. The smile on his owner’s face was so big it almost didn’t fit on his head!

What I had forgotten – or to be more honest – not even realised, was the impact that this had on me, and this student.
I wrote a message for him on her wall for his 11th birthday and I was stoked to receive a message from his mum on Friday and it melted my heart. It included a photo of her son, cuddled up with Lachlan the dolphin in bed and it read:

“Hello Fiona, sorry for taking some time to send this! Still sleeping with Lachie. He also still talks about Lachie getting the ice cream award! Hope you’re well. xo”

*Just to note, I was NEVER allowed to call the dolphin Lachie like his mum can, I had to pronounce his name in full, Lachlan, every time!

It made me sit back and think…3 years ago this stuffed dolphin toy received an award, through no merit of his own. I didn’t have to give an award to a dolphin, but he had become such an important part of our class that it was hard to overlook him as an award recipient. But the student STILL talks about it.

Sometimes, we need to form relationships with students that we find find difficult, challenging, or downright stupid (talking to a stuffed dolphin every day, seriously?!). But they’re the things they remember. They still talk about it. They value those things.

So before you dismiss those ‘silly’ things, think about the impact it might have on your student…and yourself!

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Working in pairs

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On Tuesday, I was sitting in my office, listening to my colleague teach her lesson in the Science Lab. Part of her teaching was to keep the students moving around and interacting with multiple peers. She did a fabulous job quickly selecting pairs of students to work together for short periods of time, before changing partners to work with others.

It got me thinking of a strategy I used a few years ago, both in Year 4 and Year 2, called Clock Partners. I heard about it at a PD that I attended, and used it in a variety of ways across all subject areas.

Simply search for ‘Clock Partners’ or ‘Clock Buddies’ in Google and scroll through the images – there’s some on Teachers Pay Teachers and other paid sites, or some for free. As a last resort you could always draw your own clock!!

The idea is for students to form partners 12 times and write their PARTNER’S name at the specified o’clock number. Ideally, having an even number of students in your class helps with this, however, when I’ve had an odd number I’ve joined in as a teacher.

The script to getting this organised would go something like this:

Teacher: Write your OWN name at the top/centre of the clock.

*wait 20 seconds for students to do this*

Teacher: Find a partner and stand with them so I can see that everybody has a partner. Write your PARTNER’S name in the 12 o’clock section.

*wait 20 seconds for students to do this*

Teacher: Find another partner of the opposite gender/same birthday month/same height (try and mix up the criteria so they’re not just picking their friends). 

*wait 20 seconds for students to do this*

Teacher: Does everybody have a partner that they have NOT had before?

*if yes, write your PARTNER’S name in the 12 o’clock section.
*if no, wait for students to re-mix before anybody writes their partner’s name. This will become increasingly important towards the last few numbers of the clock, to make sure people are mixing up enough to create new partnerships each time.

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I laminate the students’ sheets and they keep them in their desk, or book box for easy access. When we need to do partner work, I simply say ‘Find your 6 o’clock partner’ and there’s no arguments (or there SHOULDN’T be!). If their clock partner is away, I have a designated spot in the classroom for ‘lost partners’ to stand – they either buddy up with another lost partner, become the teacher’s partner, or form a trio.

For those classes that are renowned for losing things, I create a spreadsheet so I have a master copy of everybody’s partners for those students who lack organisation.

Anti-cool students in your classroom.

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I really struggle to finish a book these days. But part of my #18for2018 was to read 11 books and record them on GoodReads, so now I’m accountable.

A few months ago I downloaded Rosie Waterland’s ‘The Anti-Cool Girl’ onto the Kindle app on my iPad. I started it in December and finally finished it today (I’m not proud of how long it took me!!). The following thoughts come from my own head – I wasn’t asked to review this book, I haven’t been paid…blah blah blah. 

It gets into the deep nitty-gritty of life. The trials and tribulations of a child, through to an adult. It’s crude and honest…and not usually the kind of book I’d read, despite me being a huge biography lover.

What it brought home to me most though, was the focus on the ‘anti-cool’ students in our classroom. Rosie Waterland talks about her school experience, not being accepted by friends, being pulled out of class by welfare officers and spending time and time again in foster homes. Having parents and de facto parents who drank and smoked and did drugs at all hours of a school night.

How many of our students come to school sleep deprived because their parents were arguing late into the night? Or have no food for school…or breakfast…or dinner?

How many of our students are wearing uniforms that they’ve washed themselves, or maybe haven’t been washed in weeks, or have been worn by three older siblings and are now falling apart at the seams? Or maybe they dread a casual clothes day because all of their clothes are faded hand-me-downs or from Vinnies and out of fashion.

How many of our students cannot focus because they’re worried about which house they’ll be sleeping at, or how many people they might have to share a bed with?

If I took nothing else away from reading this book, it was that compassion is important.

All those classroom rules we have about being on time to class and coming prepared? They might not need to apply for some kids…as just getting to school is an achievement for them.

Those posters and advertisements we put in the school newsletters about packing a healthy lunch for your child? Probably just important to have some of that nutritious food in the staffroom for those kids who don’t have anyone to pack theirs.

Sometimes the rules don’t apply. Who are the ‘anti-cool’ kids in your class or at your school? Show them some compassion.

Students teaching students!

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I had a student complain to me today, “Miss T, I can’t get my work done because everybody keeps asking me for help”. We were working on our weekly Genius Hour project. This particular student is creating a blog with step-by-step guides on how to do various things on computers – edit your background in Powerpoint, add a hyperlink to a Powerpoint or Word document, etc.

The 4 students who were working in the same area as him had identified him as an expert and were constantly asking him questions of how to do things on their blog: “How do I change this sidebar?”, “How do I add a hyperlink to my blog post?”, “Can I have a picture as my background?”.

I told him that it’s an honour to be asked, but agreed that it can be frustrating to be constantly distracted. I asked him how he could help them without having to go over to their computer each time. Within a few minutes, he had given each of his peers his blog address, so they could read his step-by-step guides for themselves. It helped to answer some of their questions and allowed him to continue his work. Did they still ask him questions? Of course! But after our conversation, he viewed it as feedback on what his future blog posts might be about – “How to insert pictures into blog posts”, “How can I get a map on my blog?”, “How can I take a picture of what’s on my screen and put it into my blog post?”.

This student has blown me away with what he has already done and what he plans to do with his blog. He is already a teacher in his own unique way and I am so very proud that his peers view him as an expert and respect his advice and guidance.

Check out his blog, Cool Computer Things – you never know, you might learn something!