I am working on creating an assignment for one of my maths classes. It’s pretty good, even if I did find the initial idea for it on the internet. My issue is – I think it would work really well as an interactive website, but the amount of red tape I would have to go through to make that happen – in a school that says they are forward thinking with technology – is just not worth the struggle. I think I’m going to have to go back to the trusty pen and paper for this one.
Someone told me a few months ago was that the online world and the ‘real’ world are not seperate – they are in fact one and the same. If this is the case, then we should really be breaking down the barriers to functioning in an online space, whether it be as a business, a professional, a school, or a student. The earlier that kids learn how to safely function online the better, as that is the world that they will be living in when they graduate. If they are prevented from interacting online in a supportive environment throughout their schooling years, what are they going to do when they are suddenly in the ‘real world?’
As for me and my assignment, I’ve decided to go with pen and paper for the time being. I have suggested to my colleagues that we work towards having an interactive space in the future where students are able to collaborate both with their teachers and each other online, however the amount of paperwork and meetings and permission and red tape that would be involved for that to happen at the moment is just too much.
We know we are going through an educational revolution. We are no longer churning out industrial workers, and because of this, chairs and tables in rows and the teacher at the front of the room isn’t going to cut it anymore. If we are trying to make big changes to the way education is taught and the way schools function, we can’t just wave a magic wand and let it happen overnight. Big change requires time, as well as a shift in culture and in attitudes.
The content and way the material is presented is already a shift – I am trying to encourage my students to apply their knowledge and thinking to real world situations, and to integrate their knowledge over a number of curriculum areas. This will already be a big shift for them. Remember, students expect school to be the same as the way their parents have experienced it, and vice versa. The same applies to teachers too – but that is a subject for another day.
Well here I am in my second term of teaching and while it hasn’t always been easy (who am I kidding – it has sometimes been very difficult!) I have recently taken some time to reflect on just how much I love my job.
Reason #1: all the beyond wonderful students that you meet. There are just so many students who just blow you away with their attitude and maturity. Notice I don’t say with their academic capability – there are plenty of those too but the ones that really astonish me and make teaching beyond worthwhile are the ones who are the truly fabulous human beings.
Reason #2: All the new stuff I am learning. Every day I learn something new, even though I might not realise at the time. I was so astonished and excited to realise last week that I have improved since last term. This excites me. It isn’t a massive improvement and I still have a long way to go by any means but it’s good to know that progress is being made, and I love that I have a job that is all about personal growth as well as helping others towards their own personal growth. And I think that’s why teachers stay teaching for so long (in many cases anyway!) – they enjoy making and seeing progress. It’s not just a case of mastering a single skill or set of skills and that’s you’re entire job – it’s new and challenging and fabulous every day.
Reason #3: The fabulous colleagues and other professionals you meet. There isn’t a single person I have met that I haven’t learned something from. Some are truly outstanding and inspiring – from the colleagues that are exemplary teachers and who exhibit the best classroom management techniques, the colleages that come up with the fabulous and inspiring lesson plans and ideas, the colleagues that make learning fun, and the ones that somehow find time in their busy life to make a chocolate cheesecake. AND share it. Yummo.
I am very lucky to have a neighbour with years of teaching experience, and also resources that he is willing to share. Anyway so he said something about classroom management that I wanted to share with you all:
If you know your subject matter well, your classroom management skills will improve.
This is encouraging.
I have decided just to focus on trying to improve my classroom management skills on a day to day basis, and even if they improve incrementally, I’m happy with that. And my particular focus for this year is going to be creating lessons that are so engaging, that the students are so busy learning that they forget to display inappropriate behaviours.
Wishful thinking? Maybe. But I can only try!
With school starting up again soon, I have started to think about what exactly I want for my students in the new school year. What do I want them to get from their schooling experience? And what do I want my classroom to look like – me talking and doing all the work, or them actually engaged and making an effort in the learning process?
The issue of needing students to become independent learners was particularly prevalent in my second placement, where I was teaching a class of Year 7 students. Some of the girls were having trouble understanding the concept, and hence, working out the answer to the problem. So their solution was to bug the teacher for the answer. I tried explaining it to them as best I could, but as I was feeling under pressure to attend to 25 students at once as well as to cover the unit, I *may have* cut corners in my explanation. Their response? ‘Miss, you’re not supposed to tell us the answer!’
What did I learn from that experience? Firstly, students want to learn. Providing their basic needs have been met, they actually come to school engaged and motivated, expecting to learn. We cannot crush that. And secondly, in order not to crush their natural enthusiasm for learning, we have to engage them from the beginning. This means that from Day 1 of Year 7, students must be encouraged to find answers for themselves, and perhaps more importantly, think of new questions.
Imagine if your students still couldn’t think for themselves by the time they reach Year 12? How would they survive in the real world?
It might take a little extra effort and planning at the beginning, but planning lessons that encourage students to be independent learners and thinkers is easier and better for both you and your students in the long run.
I was listening to ABC Classic FM in the car yesterday, and there was a piece that was really bugging me, because I couldn’t for the life of me find the beat! Every time I thought I had it, I knew immediately I was wrong. By the time the piece was over I had worked it out though (with much concentration and effort!) – it was in 15/8! Fifteen quavers to a bar!
That made me realise that now I know how my students who struggle with rhythm and aural skills feel! So I then spent some time reflecting on how I would help explain to these students how to identify a time signature in an unknown piece of music, as well as what strategies I would provide to them.
Most teachers think they know their subject. I know I did. But what I have discovered during my prac placements is that I have great potential to be able to explain my subject effectively, but just because I know something to be true doesn’t mean I can explain it to each of my students (who might all need different information in order to glean their own understanding) or provide pertinent examples to them at the drop of a hat.
So, this summer will be spent revising and collecting a wide variety of examples, with the aim of being well prepared for the new year.
One final thought – I have also realised that many students know, accept and expect that their teachers know how to teach – it is the subject matter knowledge that they sometimes doubt that their teacher(s) have. There are various reasons for this, including outside tuition in specialist areas like music, however we are doing our students are disservice if our ability to convey our knowledge effectively is not up to scratch.
So today’s post is about the importance of getting to know your students, and teaching them appropriate content for their prior learning. Seems obvious, right? Well, during my final prac placement, I was teaching a class of students with behaviour difficulties, as well as various learning difficulties. So we modified the curriculum, and tried to scaffold the tasks so the students were supported in their learning. And one of the activities we had them complete was a find-a-word.
On the surface, this seems like a pretty straightforward task. However, once the behavioural issues had been managed, it was clear that a few of the students were struggling with the very concept of doing a find-a-word. For experienced teachers this would probably not be a shock, but for me, to find high school students who were struggling to find the words for themselves was a little concerning. They seemed to have little resilience – relying on their classmates and the teachers to guide them through without even having made an attempt before asking for help.
One student in particular was having trouble settling. Until now, I had assumed he struggled with behavioural issues like many of the others, as he certainly displayed disruptive behaviours on the surface. However as I started to assist him with the find-a-word I realised he had no strategies for doing one. He had never encountered strategies such as looking for the first letter of the word, or even the first two letters of a word. But that was to be expected, since he had only been in Australia for a year, and as far as I know its not every day you do find-a-words in high school, let alone teach specific strategies for doing one.
What did I learn from this experience? Never assume your students have the skills to complete a task you set for them, and always have a backup plan in case you need to teach them these skills before you go ahead with the activity.
What would I do differently next time? Try to expect the unexpected better. Try to engage the students in the task earlier by more scaffolding and teaching of the explicit skills they need to complete it to try and prevent behaviour problems stemming from frustration.
What did I do well? I got to spend time with more of the students while I was helping them, and as a result, got to know them better.
Teaching literacy in music? All part of a day’s work.
Yes I realise I’m stating the obvious here, but yes prac is difficult. You are essentially walking into someone else’s classroom with someone else’s students with already established routines, and even if you are introduced effectively and professionally (as I am lucky enough to have been), you are still to a certain extent seen as a visitor by the students and they treat you accordingly. No such thing as the students taking it easier on you cos you’re a uni student – they try their best to test your limits!
That being said however, prac is a really valuable time to learn as much as humanly possible about classroom management, and about the technology available for use in the classroom and to practice using it. It is also a lot easier than taking a full teaching load, and usually less hours involved than for the permanent staff as much as you do try to get involved in as much as possible. I am 2 days into my final 20 day placement, and it has finally clicked that content is not anywhere near as important as practicing your classroom management skills on your prac. Think about it – with no experience in the classroom but at least an undergrad degree under your belt in your chosen field, which are you going to be better at – content or classroom management? Ahhhhhhh…..
I have also learnt that consistency is key. Not only within the classroom, but a whole school approach can really make a big difference. My school has developed a whole school Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL) plan over the last few years which all staff have had input into, and school rules are visible and actively taught and reinforced in every class. So it doesn’t matter what class the students are in or what teacher they have, the rules and expectations are always the same. That also makes it really easy for a newcomer like me to come in and take a class, as they already know the rules, and I just have to remind them. Regularly. But it works!