Tag Archives: Teacher

Teacher impact

Standard

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!

dolphin

 

Comfort Zones are for sissies.

Standard

In 2018, I will be pushed waaaaaaay out of my comfort zone. Why?

I was asked by my Principal a few months ago if I’d be interested in running a STEM class. While I’m not 100% behind the concept of running STEM as a separate class because I feel that it should be fully integrated, due to needing an additional elective for Year 7/8 and a few other staffing conditions, I said yes!

This means that I’ll be teaching a STEM elective for a composite Year 7/8 class. There are 3 different 7/8 classes meaning that I’ll teach the same content for Term 1, 2 and 3 to the groups as they rotate through and then Term 4 will be different, as students opt-in to the elective of their choice in the final Term.

For the Year 9/10 class however, student opt-in to it from the beginning, so I have them all year. This is where it gets a bit scary. Year 7/8 content I feel like I can handle for the most part…but Year 9/10? My High School Science skills are fairly limited and rusty beyond all belief and regarding High School Maths…well, I can add numbers and work out angles and percentages…that’s all I need right? I’m not so stressed about the Technology & Engineering aspects, so that’s my little comfort factor.

To fully push me out of my comfort zone beyond all belief, I’m teaching French. FRENCH.  From Year 2-Year 8. To be honest, I accepted the request to teach it (I had the option to say no…) and I am excited about it, but it’s going to be a steeeeeep learning curve. I know a few French words, like crêpe, baguette, croissant…but they are all foods, which surely can’t take up the entire curriculum? French podcasts, here I come! Plus apps, puppet shows, comic strips…eeeek!

 

Teaching something out of your comfort zone next year? Let me know!

And good on you – the world is a better place for taking on a good challenge!

New year, new apps

Standard

I download so many apps onto my iPad and only use a small percentage of them. I don’t download all of them for my personal use – I like to be able to recommend apps for others to use, that they may find helpful or interesting for them or their students.
By recommending apps to others, many people in return have given me recommendations of their own. Many of them I have used but not really made the most of it, so I’ve decided to write a list of apps that I want to give a red-hot go in 2017.

  1. Smiling Mind
  2. Buncee
  3. Seesaw
  4. Adobe Spark.

Not a huge list, but these are apps that I’ve had other teachers tell me about, or found out about through my fantastic Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter.

Stay tuned for updates on how I’m using these apps in the school setting…not just the classroom, as my 2017 role is going to be broader than a classroom!

But HOW do I make iPads about learning, not games?

Standard

At the start of my career, I was a self-confessed worksheet girl. I photocopied every morning and every afternoon, had folders for each day with all the worksheets I would need, complete with binders of resources that I’d collected from multiple teaching placements. I probably killed a few million trees…sorry trees.

Since I was introduced to iPads in the classroom, or for that matter any digital technology, my printing and photocopying has decreased.

maths-worksheet

memegenerator.net

But how do I teach maths now? What do I get my students to do instead of worksheets? If we don’t glue a worksheet in their book, or upload it onto a digital portfolio, how will parents know they’ve learned anything and how will we as teachers, assess them?

It’s simple:

  • teach them how to use the technology using simple instructions.
  • focus on creation apps, rather than consumption apps – make the students think!
  • give them time to explore (not ‘play’, explore) what the app can do.

To get you started, I’ve created 4 different task cards which can be used for whole class or small group work in maths. They are based around students creating and applying their knowledge, with a focus on sharing their work with their class and teacher, through taking screenshots, sharing on the big screen, or adding to a collaborative Google Slide. You can download them for free here.

The power of Classroom Connections

Standard

In my second year of teaching, I began a classroom blog. That was my first adventure into classroom connections using modern technology…penpals had been a less than successful experiment in my first year!

In my fourth year, I was still blogging and came across @misskyritsis on Twitter. I have a feeling that we connected our classrooms using a Mystery Skype format and then a few weeks later, we connected with another Year 4 class to discuss and share our Christian Studies presentations about Religious Festivals. We Skyped @misskyritsis again, plus another class to share our Genius Hour ideas and progress. Kids love talking to other ‘real’ kids!

My Year 4’s began participating in the 100 Word Challenge (#100wc), giving and receiving feedback on other students writing. How powerful!

Last year, I was still blogging, Skyping and sharing comments and blog posts with classrooms all around the world. My Year 2s helped me write draft comments, reply to other blog visitors and broadened their geographical knowledge of country location due to the variety of people visiting our blog!

This year, I teach Preps on a Thursday afternoon. We do a poem and craft related to the sound of the week and then visit the library. Throughout the year, I stumbled across a Prep blog, which I showed the class. They loved seeing other ‘real’ Preps’ work and writing, so we began commenting. We Skyped them and their teacher @kaz_phi and talked about the similarities and differences between our school – their school is near a beach!! During our Bookweek, they Skyped us to share a picturebook that they had reflected in their artwork…so we listened to the story and created our own artwork too!

Yesterday was my birthday and the highlight of classroom connections is receiving a gorgeous audio message of a class of Preps singing Happy Birthday to me- we’ve never met in person, but it was so beautiful to hear it!

Why SHOULD you connect with other classes?

  • geography skills
  • authentic speaking and listening skills
  • to share ANY aspect of your learning
  • to learn from another class
  • to widen your audience for class presentations
  • debating purposes

Why AREN’T you connecting with other classes?

Being ESmart

Standard

Part of my current role is to coordinate our school’s journey to become an ESmart accredited school, through the Alannah & Madeline Foundation.

Today I ran a staff induction to bring them up to speed on what the program is about, what we have already accomplished and where we need to go from here.

I’ve been doing hours and hours of research to find videos and resources for students to view to make them aware of the positives and negatives of digital technology, mainly around the concept of a’digital footprint’. I thought I’d share some of the fabulous videos that I’ve come across – some are suitable to show students, others are probably not…use your discretion and common sense. If you have any other gems to share, I’d love to hear your list!

I began today’s staff session by showing Jigsaw, by Think You Know (UK).

As part of our curriculum for 2017, certain year levels will be viewing and analysing the short film, #GameOn, from the ESafety Office. Here it is below.

Building Cup Towers

Standard

Last Friday I was responsible for organising some team building activities to promote clear communication and negotiation skills. I had around 15 students to work with, so I decided to do the “Cup Tower Challenge”, as many of you saw on Twitter.

In all of the links on Pinterest about this activity, you provide each group of students with a supply of plastic cups and a rubber band with pieces of string tied to it (one piece of string per group member). As luck (or poor time management) would have it, I didn’t have time to cut and tie the pieces of string to the rubber band, so I just sat the three resources separately, as a bit of an extra challenge.

Students arrived at their table to:

  • 6 plastic cups spread out
  • one rubber band
  • 4 pieces of string.

My instructions were simple:

Build a tower out of plastic cups without any part of your body touching the cups.

I was interested to see that every single group ignored the rubber band, instead looping the string around the cup and tightening the grip to pick the cups up that way. I will admit, for most groups it was successful, but as the outcome was communication and negotiation, I knew I needed to up the ante.

I watched for a further 5 minutes, taking photos and videos, giggling at those teams who were absolutely lost for ideas and had no collaboration skills to fall back on.

My next instructions were just as simple:

Tie each piece of string to the rubber band. Now, build the tallest tower out of plastic cups without any part of your body touching the cups.

Each team still only had 6 cups on their table. However, I had bought a pack of 100 cups…so I spread the remaining 76 cups out on a table around 4 metres away from the groups.

This time there was more urgency – there was more at stake as groups wanted to be creating the tallest tower. Most of the groups quickly worked out how to use their rubber band-string contraption and were ready to start.

Group 1 decided to collect as many of the 76 cups as they could first – and they did so by stacking one cup on top of another, flipping the cup stack upside down to ensure they were secure, before putting it on top of another cup…all using their rubber band and string.

Groups 2 & 3 chose to stack their original 6 cups first before beginning to collect extra cups.

Group 4 took quite a while to establish how to tie the string to the rubber band. Then the pieces of string were too close together. Someone kept pulling too hard and letting go too early, which meant that cups were dropped and knocked over. Needless to say, a lot of this group’s cups ended up on the floor, which meant they needed to pick them up…using only their rubber band and string.

It was an absolutely fabulous social experiment team building activity…and a great reflection task, especially for Group 4.

Smashing apart my comfort zone.

Standard

 

20132274374_45c4789091_n

Photo credit: Donncha O Caoimh

48 weeks ago, I was ready to jump off the nearest educational bridge (metaphorically speaking), never wanting to enter a classroom setting again. I was broken and had no desire to teach another human being as long as I lived. I resigned from my position effective from the last day of the school year.

But money is a necessary evil and I accepted a position 2 days a week at a local independent school providing extra release periods for their staff. Over the course of 2 days, I teach every single child from Prep to Year 6. I also spent time mentoring their first & second year graduate and I’m currently working on writing some curriculum documents.

And you know what? I absolutely love it. I cannot imagine what was going through my head last year.

So what has changed in the last 48 weeks? A lot. My comfort zone has had a major transformation, almost to the point of not being able to be defined as a zone.

Aside from teaching, I started a new direct sales business which involved public speaking. Not just public speaking, but going into other people’s homes and speaking to their friends…who were to me, strangers. For someone who refused to speak, let alone answer, the home phone until I was around 10…this was huge. That being said, I still hate calling people – email is my best friend.

I began tutoring students in their own homes after school. Dealing with a lot of special needs throughout my time I’ve come to appreciate the hard work that goes in to assisting those students who need it (when you don’t have 22 other students in the room crying out for attention too!!). I tutor 5 students per week, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Do I enjoy it all the time? No. It’s hard. But it’s probably harder for them.

I taught some secondary classes! Yes, the students were taller than me and yes, I survived. Phewf.

Tomorrow I take my biggest leap outside my comfort zone – presenting at an Educational Conference – EdTechSA at Immanuel College in Adelaide. There are over 200 people at the conference, but luckily for me the workshop numbers are capped at 25…so 25 will be the maximum number of educators I’ll be talking to. Well talking, but showing and teaching them some hands-on activities that they can try themselves in their classrooms! I’m actually going to be encouraging other teachers to teach – something I never thought I’d be doing 48 weeks ago. (In fact, I resigned the very day after my pre-service teacher finished her final placement, as I didn’t want to put her off teaching by doing it while she was still there!!) I’m going to be public speaking, to a room of people I don’t know, in a city I’m not from, in a state I don’t live in – here I go!

A comfort zone is something that everybody has. But everybody has the chance to leave it…or smash it apart!

 

Gaining insight into your students’ wellbeing

Standard

Screenshot 2016-01-12 20.52.56

As many teachers around Australia are gearing up for another year in the classroom, I am sitting on the couch watching tennis, reading books and painting my toenails. This year is all about wellbeing for me. Yes, I am working 2 days a week in a variety of classrooms and will also put my hand up for relief teaching, but ultimately in 2016, I am putting myself first.

In my Year 2 classroom in 2015 I began to think carefully about not only my own wellbeing, but the wellbeing of those in my care. Some of my students had diagnosed learning difficulties including Asperger’s and Oppositional Defiance Disorder, others came from broken families, some had infant siblings and the list goes on.

With a few prompts from our Student Wellbeing Leader, I began to put this concern for my students into action, by creating a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Attendance Roll (using Smart Notebook software) that the students were in control of.  Each morning, their names were clustered together under the ‘House’ icon, meaning they were at home. Once they walked in the door, they dragged their name to the appropriate column on the screen. Those students who were absent were still listed under the ‘House’, meaning they were at home.

Some pages were about feelings – “How are you feeling today?” and featured a variety of visual images to students to work with, to assign their name to one of those feelings. I found that these pages often gave me a chance to do a quick one-on-one chat with a child while they were unpacking their bag, or simply keep an eye on them for any signs of emotional distress throughout the day.

I also created pages for graphing what each student ate for breakfast – we found that cereal was always the most popular – and check-ins for the end of playtime, end of the day, or to see how many stars you would give the weekend you just had?

This Smart Notebook document is available from my TPT store, which you can find here.

I’d love to hear any other feedback about how you cater for Social and Emotional Learning in your classrooms – mindfulness is a huge buzz word at the moment, but it’s no good if we don’t put it into action!

Why I suddenly hate SMART goals.

Standard

I have decided that I hate SMART goals. We all know the ones…

Why do I hate them? Because I don’t know what I don’t know. It’s hard to set goals when you aren’t really sure what is out there.

Speaking to an ex-colleague, but still friend, today on the phone. She told me that her current school have told her that they are ‘not an ICT school’ and they ‘will never be going down that track’. Today as she used iPads in her classroom for her students to complete a short Google form, she was scrutinised, as iPads are ‘only to be used by special needs students’.

In the next breath, she tells me that she is planning on attending DigiCon. Of course, she won’t be asking her school to pay for her attendance, or even asking for the day off so she can attend both days. She’s going to call in sick. I mentioned that even though I have attended this wonderful event for the last 2 years, I won’t be attending this year. This year, any PD we attend must be clearly linked to our SMART goals, which we formulated in Term 1. I was encouraged to think further that ‘IT’ for my SMART goals, as apparently I already know so much about this area.

As we live in a ‘remote’ area (6 hours drive from Melbourne), flying to Melbourne isn’t a budget-friendly option for PD opportunities. Instead, we are trying to bring the PD to our school, so more staff can benefit from a speaker.

I understand all of this, but here’s my problem. After attending DigiCon for the last 2 years, I learnt heaps. I learnt about things that I didn’t know existed. How could I possibly formulate these things into SMART goals if I didn’t even know about them? Sure, PD opportunities always have a ‘focus’ – but instead of just one speaker talking about one foci, I have the chance to listen to 10-15 different people talk about a myriad of things – some more IT focused than others.

I feel that SMART goals aren’t very smart at all.

If they are Specific, they narrow the lens for learning – what about all of the associated learning that may happen along the way and take you along a new, more enjoyable tangent?

If they are Measurable, it gives it a ‘limit’ and I don’t like having a ‘limit’ imposed on how much I can or cannot learn.

If they are Attainable, it doesn’t offer much of a challenge. I understand that goals aren’t meant to be completely out of reach, but it is nice to actually have to try.

If they are Relevant, I fear that by the time you actually reach it, it may be out of date – we need to keep up with the latest and move forwards!

If they are Time-Bound, it shows that learning must stop at a certain time – what happened to the concept of life-long learning?

I’ve still had to write my SMART goals. Heck, even my students have to have ‘goals’ to try and improve upon.

But sometimes it’s hard, because we don’t know what we don’t know.