Early this year my car radio decided to quit and I haven’t had chance to fix it yet. Given I work an hour away from home, this could make for some very long and boring commutes to and from school. Luckily there are a whole range of interesting and informative podcasts that I’ve managed to track down, and I thought I’d start to compile a list of suitable educational ones here on this blog.
Are there any educational podcasts that you love? I’d like to keep expanding on this list so please let me know!
Today saw a spike in attendance at the ASFLA Conference as literacy educators, teacher trainers and linguists from across the country converged on the ACU for Teachers Day. Whilst Tuesday had focused much more on academic research into SFL, today was more about its application in educational settings.
Beverly Derewianka opened the day with a key note address titled ‘Developing an informed appreciation of literary texts.’ Her work demonstrated a practical application of some of the work presented by Frances Christie yesterday. The learning acquired from Christie’s presentation about semantic waves, semantic gravity and semantic density was put into practice as Derewianka explored how a Year 4 and Year 6 teacher developed student appreciation and written responses using the picture book ‘The Coat.’ A lot of the work we have been doing in our own school has been based on Derewianka’s book ‘A New Grammar Companion for Teachers’ so it was very reaffirming to clarify and build on previous understandings and applications.
Immediately after the key note it was our turn to present our unit Functional Fiction: developing narrative language in the middle years. Despite some nerves, there was a renewed sense of confidence when we realised our presentation linked so well with Derewianka’s and when we noticed the room begin to fill with people. The workshop ran more smoothly than we could have hoped, and feedback was both positive and constructive.
After morning tea, I attended a workshop run by Sally Humphrey and Tina Sharpe from the ACU, and a number of schools with whom they have been working closely to implement the 4 x 4 Toolkit for teachers to support student in developing written language skills. Feedback from the three Catholic schools and two government schools involved in the program was extremely positive, and it was interesting to hear that many of them had been using Reading to Learn and 4 x 4 in conjunction with each other to develop students’ ability to read for and write with meaning.
Today’s second key note speaker was Mary Macken-Hararik who explored the fact that the Australian Curriculum now requires that all teachers have a knowledge about language that is “portable and cumulative”. This challenges professional expertise in that it is very common for secondary teachers to have little or no training in teaching language and literacy, making it difficult for them to truly address the literacy needs required in their subject areas. Macken-Hararik’s paper focused on a project investigating a shared grammatics for school English and how the teachers involved applied new learning in their classrooms to improve student literacy outcomes.
The final workshop I attended was by Imogene Cochrane, an early career teacher who presented a project on behalf of a small team of educators from Erskineville Public School. She and her colleagues have been teaching grammar to their early primary students using a games-based pedagogy. Cochrane’s approach integrates the language, literacy and literature strands of the Australian Curriculum by helping students to engage with grammar in fun but meaningful ways, building their meta-language to be able to explain and manipulate their language choices, even at a very young age.
Teachers Day concluded with a third key note address from Brian Dare and John Polias from Lexis Education. The writers of “How Language Works” presented a two part discussion demonstrating how knowledge about language can be applied in teaching and learning. Dare and Polias emphasised the importance of an explicit language-based pedagogy across the curriculum in primary and secondary schools using examples from their own mentoring work with teachers both in Australia and in Hong Kong. There was explicit discussion of how we can scaffold the genres students are required to produce in a range of subject areas, before Polias explored how language, visuals and mathematics must work together in equal relationship to form texts in the Science Learning Area.
A jam-packed but stimulating program, Teachers Day provided many practical strategies grounded firmly in SFL that schools and teachers can adapt to their own context. As a teacher, I value PD most when I leave with the sense that I have gained new knowledge, understandings and strategies that I can begin to implement almost straightaway in my classroom or in my general practice as an educator. Today was certainly one of those PD days.
As teachers, we sit through a vast range of professional developments – some compulsory and some elected. We would all have sat through the brilliant and the boring, the engaging and the excruciating. But what is it that makes a professional development effective?
There are a number of factors that I feel are crucial to an effective PD.
Firstly, relevance. Now there are two sides to this. As an attendee, I need to make sure I select appropriate workshops to my context. Assuming I have selected appropriately, I would hope that the presenter/s are providing learning that is relevant in terms of curriculum, contemporary society and its resources, and the learning of modern students
Engagement is also crucial. Every presenter will have a different style, and different topics will require more or less talking from them. As a teacher-learner, I, like my students, want to be engaged. I want to hear about things that I can explore, adapt to my context and apply in my own teaching. I want to be able to interact with others in the room, including the presenter. I want this engagement and excitement to continue after the PD with the connections and networks it has allowed me to develop.
In my opinion, a PD should not answer every question. Participants should walk away with old questions answered, but with their heads full of new ones to explore themselves and continue the discussion with their colleagues. The most effective learning experiences I have been a part of as an educator are those that I have walked away from feeling exhausted but excited because my brain has been buzzing all day with ideas to apply to my practice.
Finally, I think effective PDs leave the participants with at least one practical thing that they can take away and use almost immediately. Sometimes the theories that are presented at these workshops can be quite overwhelming, but if there is a practical example that can be applied to one’s practice straight away, then I, personally, am more likely to take the risk by trying something new.
So, they are my four main criteria for an effective professional development. I’d love to hear from you. How do you gauge a workshop’s effectiveness?
Question: If you were to do a Google search on your own name, what would appear on the results page?
I ask this for a reason, not simply because I want people to satisfy their inner narcissists. Through the rapid increase in social media, people’s lives have become more and more public. As a result of this, it has become increasingly common over the past decade for potential employers to “google” the names of applicants to their organisation. Decisions can be made about that applicant and their suitability for the company based on what the search engine digs up about them.
Maybe. But maybe it also presents an opportunity for individuals to take control of their online reputations in a powerful way. As educators, we spend so much time teaching students about their own digital footprints and online reputations, but is everybody also walking the talk?
Our digital profiles can paint a picture of us as individuals and as professionals in one of three ways:
1. Over-sharers of personal information who should review the privacy settings of our personal (insert name of relevant social networking site here) page.
2. Technology-savvy professionals who use social media, blogging and other tools effectively to network, collaborate, share ideas, and create.
3. Or…non-existent (at least according to cyberspace).
Personally, in a professional world so driven by local and global connections, I know which I would prefer….
Today I presented two short workshops to staff at our school about the place of blogging in education. I started by explaining how I began my ed-tech journey, which has been discussed in a previous post on this blog, and then launched into the question: WHY BLOG?
In researching this presentation, I came across many reasons that people blog professionally and academically:
– facilitate reflection on learning (for students and teachers)
– record professional development
– promote collaboration
-connect with others locally and globally
– writing practice for students
– share ideas and resources
– authentic audience
– share class news
– a digital display of learning
I have posted the link to the Prezi for my whole presentation below, but there are a couple of points I wanted to focus on in particular here.
The Australian Curriculum is now upon us and has been for some time for English, Maths, History and Science. In my opinion, it seems to call for greater metacognition and reflection on learning than we have seen formalised in curriculum documents prior to now. It also recognises through the General Capabilities and the Cross-curricular Priorities the increasingly connected world our students (and our teachers!) exist in. The public but moderated realm of the educational blog means that students can connect with an authentic audience, engage in discussion and productive critique, share ideas and connect with others locally and globally – all the while continually learning, unlearning and relearning in an authentic manner as the AC proposes they need to be able to do. Of course, the achievement standards will be met in different ways in different subject areas, so it is open for collaboration and negotiation between teachers and students to set the parameters and expectations. These blogs are also the beginning of a personal profile that students can present to future employers as evidence of a vast range of skills needed for the workforce of today and the future.
In regards to educators, blogging is a fantastic way to engage with and reflect on professional learning, connecting with others from outside of one’s usual group of colleagues. These reflections and new knowledge can then be shared through professional networks on social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Linked In. Also, with the AITSL National Professional Standards for Teachers now in many educators’ minds, it is a great time to recognise where educational blogging helps teachers to meet these standards. Not only is a blog a great record of professional learning required for re-registration, but it specifically ticks the boxes a number of the standards. Take the highly accomplished teacher standards for example. A professional blog goes a long way to achieving the requirements for the following:
2.6 Information and Communication Technology (ICT) – Model high-level teaching knowledge and skills and work with colleagues to use current ICT to improve their teaching practice and make content relevant and meaningful.
4.5 Use ICT safely, responsibly and ethically – Model and support colleagues to develop strategies to promote the safe, responsible and ethical use of ICT in learning and teaching.
6.2 Engage in professional learning and improve practice – Plan for professional learning by accessing and critiquing relevant research, engage in high quality targeted opportunities to improve practice and offer quality placements for pre-service teachers where applicable.
6.3 Engage with colleagues and improve practice – Initiate and engage in professional discussion with colleagues in a range of forums to evaluate practice directed at improving professional knowledge and practice, and the educational outcomes of students.
So, I want to finish with the question: the next time someone “Googles” your name, what will they find? And what do you want them to see? Over-shares of your private life, the internet’s equivalent of white noise, or a connected professional who engages in life-long learning and development with colleagues from across the country and world?
Over the past few weeks a colleague and I have been working on a collaborative project with our Year 8 English classes that involved teaching persuasive language through a topic on copyright, plagiarism and Creative Commons.
We perceived a need among our students to develop their understanding of what it actually means to create their own original piece of work, and what the limitations are on their use of other people’s ideas and works for their own purposes. The idea for the unit lent itself brilliantly to teaching about digital citizenship and what their rights and responsibilities are as both consumers and creators of content in both the digital and the physical world.
After hearing Selena Woodward speak at the South Australian English Teachers Association conference in May of this year, we were excited and inspired to begin the project. And so were our students when we explained it to them – it’s main selling point for them being that they got to create a video at the end.
I have made videos with classes before. I should have known how exhausting it would be. I was so excited about the concept that I forgot.
We started by posing the following question to the students in the form of a video stimulus: “What can we do to draw upon other people’s work but avoid plagiarism?” We then went through a process of building persuasive language skills and understanding of copyright laws and Creative Commons. Students used this learning to work in groups and create a persuasive video response to the original problem that had been posed to them.
Some of the challenges of this somewhat-inquiry based project included the anxiety of relinquishing some control to the students in terms of where they went with their suggested solutions to the problem and how their product developed. Yet this was also an opportunity in that the onus was on them to work together effectively and solve problems, hence helping to build the resilience I am aiming for with my class. There was also the challenge of getting students out of their comfort zones. Many of them have used Windows Movie Maker before, but they were reluctant to try new programs such as Powtoon or other animation based software. And then there was the degree of trust in the students required to do the right thing as they moved around the school to film.
There were many opportunities though, which outweighed the challenges. It was great to see students who wouldn’t normally work together so enthusiastic about their shared ideas and work. Unlike the last time I had students create videos, this task was far more structured in terms of a step-by-step process and the language structures students were required to use. The accessibility of students’ smartphones and tablets also made the facilitation of the filming and editing much easier as they simply had to plug in and go, rather than sharing the school’s limited video cameras among many groups.
Click here to see the students’ reflections on the project and some of the final products. To be honest, they were a little more amateurish than I had envisioned. But when I think about it, they are Year 8s, and the concepts they are talking about are actually quite complex. So I’m very proud. We may need to work on some editing skills though…
Creative Catastrophe – reflections on a digital unit for Year 8 by Melissa Phillips is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at 8 Faulkner’s Class Blog.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://melissasphillips.wordpress.com/about/.
After an email from a parent tonight, I was left in a bit of a pensive mood. I reflected on the fact that teaching is one of the few professions where there is an unwritten expectation from some people that we fix the problems of all of our clients, 30 young people at a time in a 45 – 90 minute time slot, as well as helping them learn skills and content. That’s a tough ask, and made me feel a bit disheartened. Then I did the maths.
As a secondary school teacher, I teach approximately 150 kids across 7 classes. Let’s say I’m in the classroom for 5 hours a day. That’s 300 minutes of face to face time. Now, I usually see about 90 of those kids per day on average. Divide 300 minutes by 90 and mathematically speaking, each student should get 3.33 minutes of time with me per day. Oh, but then subtract the time I spend instructing, talking to the class, dealing with behavioural issues, supporting the students who are struggling the most. Time is whittled down until some kids don’t get any one on one time at all.
This disheartened me even more. Until I let the maths go and thought about it from a social/emotional perspective.
This is the reality of secondary teaching, but the kids cope. They may not all get equal one on one time with us (as much as they are entitled to, in my opinion) but that doesn’t mean they’re not watching us, learning from and with us and engaging with us. It doesn’t mean we’re not helping them in one way or another just because we don’t spend 3.33 minutes standing by their desk, just for them. Hopefully they develop the capacity to become the independent but connected problem solvers they need to be out in the big wide world. Because it’s not the teachers who need to solve the kids’ problems – but we CAN help them with the skills to find solutions.
So to get back to my opening point: no, teachers cannot fix all of the problems that kids face. As much as we’d love to, there’s not enough time in the day. But what we do manage to achieve in that average of less than 3 minutes per kid per day – knowing them, caring for them, nursing them – is pretty darn amazing and something we can be proud of!
It’s that time of term/year again. The end of year funk: the last two or three weeks of a busy term when energy levels are bottoming out but your list of things that must be achieved before the kids leave at 12.30 on that last day is growing exponentially by the minute. There are camps, swimming carnivals, socials, end of year masses, Year 7 transition days, alternative programs to keep students engaged in the last week of term, and don’t forget marking, marking, MORE marking and reports, reports, reports.
Schools are always busy, no matter the term, but maybe Term 4 feels different because we are exhausted from the three-term marathon we have already run. And what a marathon! We journey with our students through so many highs and lows, as well as our own highs and lows, that it’s no wonder we might start to feel like we’re fading.
But something always gets us through – maybe it’s our family, our colleagues, students or sheer commitment and determination. I think for me it’s a combination of all of the above. I am supported by a wonderful partner and family who allow me to talk things through but do not allow me to wallow in self-pity, colleagues who I can bounce ideas off of, discuss concerns and have a laugh or a cry with (I share an office with a wonderfully eclectic bunch of ladies who are like family. In fact they’ve probably seen me laugh and cry more in the last three years than my immediate family have!). Then there are my students – the ones I ultimately work for. I received a beautiful letter from one of those students whilst on camp last week and it reminded me that as much as my class is the source of many concerns and frustrations for me, they are also the cause of much joy and pride. And it is they who know teacher-me better than anyone else. They know how to make me laugh, how to press my buttons, and some of them (only some!) have seen me cry (human emotions from a teacher? Shock horror!)
And so I realise that, as much as it is my role to help get those kids over the line and send them off on Christmas holidays brimming with well-deserved pride in their achievements, they also journey with me (although they probably don’t know that) and get me across the line.
So for my Australian readers. whatever it is that helps you keep what’s left of your sanity and reach the light at the end of the tunnel, may your last 3 weeks of the school be the most successful and rewarding for you!
Empathy: “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this ” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
On Sunday night I was drawn into a Twitter discussion facilitated by Louiza Hebhardt (@equilibriumctc), a teacher and counsellor with a focus on teacher well-being. Her regular discussion #teacherwellbeingchat provides a great opportunity for educators of all levels and from all location to connect and discuss the importance of maintaining emotional, spiritual, physical and mental well-being. After all, how can we adequately look after our students’ well-being without first looking after our own?
Sunday’s discussion focused on ‘The contagion of emotions.’ In places like schools, where large numbers of people gather and bring with them all the thoughts, feelings and experiences that form their lives, emotions are bound to run high. Sometimes these emotions are positive, other times they are incredibly negative. Louiza posed three questions to participants:
1. Emotions are contagious. Discuss.
2. How do you think empathy plays into the contagion of emotions?
3. Instead of a Q3 next is T3 (T for Task). Watch this –tinyurl.com/bhmkeqv and then let us know what happened. (<—Take a look at the video…great clip)
The discussion about empathy was particularly interesting and relevant to me. I believe anybody who chooses a career/profession/vocation that deals with people and everything that makes them who they are (strengths, difficulties, life experience, etc.) must have an innate ability to empathise with others, particularly when those people are at their most vulnerable. As educators we teach human beings, not just sponges whose sole purpose and motivation for being is to soak up content knowledge. For so many students at risk, learning about English, Maths, Science, etc. does not rate highly on their list of needs. External factors influence their behaviours, attitudes and ability to cope at school. This is where, as teachers, we are called to empathise – not necessarily to lower our expectations of the student, but to understand why they might be struggling to meet those expectations at a particular point in time and consider how we can help them to proactively change that.
It also became clear during the #teacherwellbeingchat that it is crucial not to mistake sympathy for empathy. They are two different reactions. Sympathy implies ‘feeling sorry for’ and taking that person’s problems and emotions as your ownl. Empathy, on the other hand, suggests understanding, consideration, and a willingness to help where possible without projecting somebody else’s negative emotions onto oneself. This is something that I find a challenge in my pastoral care role. When I work with students whose lives are in turmoil (and this sadly happens more often than I had ever expected), I find it difficult, not so much to detach, but to avoid being drawn into ‘feeling sorry for,’ which I know is not as helpful as empathy. I am getting better at it, but it is still something I have to consciously think about.
Hence it was incredibly worthwhile for me to follow and participate in Louiza’s discussion. Engaging with others from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences allowed me to reflect on how I respond to my students and their troubles, and perhaps how I might be more mindful of this. Another resource focused on staff well-being that I find particularly useful is a newsletter called Vital Staff, sent out by one of our wonderful school counsellors. Jarrod Lamshed (@jlamshed) , author of the blog Connected Learning, also made a very pertinent post recently focusing on the need for balance in our lives. Such discussions and publications emphasise the need for us to look after ourselves, in order to avoid ‘the contagion of (negative) emotions.’
But let’s keep the positive emotions contagious, shall we? 😀
Thanks to @MarkeetaRP for suggesting the above video during #teacherwellbeingchat!
Food has its own language, I’m sure. Whilst never having been a particularly great cook, some of the most amazingly special moments I have shared with family and friends have been over food.
I also get a little bit excited every time Term 4 comes around because we finally cover the ‘Il Cibo’ (‘The Food’) unit in Year 9 Italian. I am a big believer in students understanding that there is more to culture and language than food. Going in to the kitchen also acts as somewhat of a reward for the hard work the students have put into the last couple of years. So, I wait equally as patiently as my students to get them cooking, and as a result, eating.
This week I took both of my Year 9 Italian classes into the kitchen and showed them how to make pasta from scratch. It never ceases to amaze me how this lesson always turns out to be a bonding session of sorts. Students who only ever seem to want to play games on their laptops during classes, would prefer not to participate in class discussion, and complain about how ‘old-school’ paper and pen are get so excited and engaged when faced with the simplest of ingredients and an ‘old-school’ recipe that people have followed for centuries!
I also learn so many things about the students from these activities. The nature of our LOTE timetabling means that I have a very limited amount of time with my Italian students, making the development of relationships quite challenging. But step into the kitchen and I find out about the challenging boy who works as a kitchen hand in a local winery and has an incredible passion for food and another boy who avoids any form of classwork and talks incessantly while I’m trying to teach, yet in the kitchen is the one telling everybody else to be quiet so he can concentrate on my demonstration.
Then there are the girls who work so quietly and gently in their groups, as concerned about getting their dough perfect as they are about their test scores. And then there’s the gratitude from the students who don’t often show gratitude for a carefully planned and strategically implemented lesson but who are the first to say thank you for such a task.
Given the busy nature of society these days, I do wonder how many of the students I teach actually sit down to a regular meal with their family. And how many spend time helping out in the kitchen learning how to make fresh, healthy food? Surely this is an equally important part of a child’s education, helping them to develop healthy habits, healthy relationships and a healthy sense of self? But in a time poor society, how much of a reality is this for many kids?
I am still in the very early years of my career as an educator, but already I know that I learn more from sharing these moments with my students than I ever do when we are in our normal classroom. And I can only hope that they learn more from me this way too.