Weekly Reflection: The power of provocation #ishcmc

IMG_0549

@sherrattsam spending a moment asking a question with a student

This holiday I was annoyed that the PYP workshop I had to attend was at the same time as learning2 conference where one of my favourite thinkers on learning, @sherrattsam was speaking. However this setback turned into a huge learning opportunity by visiting the International School of Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC) where Sam teaches for a week.

My head came away buzzing.

Power of visiting schools – What’s obvious to you is amazing to someone else. I’ve had people remark how unusual it is for teachers to spend time learning in other schools. Why is that? Leaving the bubble of our own classroom is the first step to broadening our understanding of instructional practice. Going on a school visit takes it a step further. Teachers are able to see what types of learning activities and experiences are valued in other schools to feedback into their own practice. Classroom blogs are a small window into new worlds but face to face is so much richer.

DSC_0043

@votefortiff Setting the scene for learning in Grade 5

Power of provocation – My visit coincided with a Grade 5 provocation. Laptops were stolen from class and it was up to the kids to use scientific process to get them back. The provocation was an intricate web of academic disciplines, approaches to learning and PYP concepts. The language the teachers used was purposeful and deliberate which elevated the student’s thinking. It took what my phase did with the cardboard challenge to whole new level.  Children from the year level were mixed into different classes further shaking up the experience for the children. At the end of the provocation the children didn’t just know the language they felt what it was like it was to be scientists. I’m wondering where the teachers and students will go next with their inquiries.

Power of setting the scene  – The children spent 2 hours in the morning watching cultural performances outside in the tropical heat. It was the last day of term. A recipe for trouble? Nope the kids were still engaged in their learning such was the strength of the provocation but also the ability of the teachers to set the scene for learning. The children at ISHCMC spend 10 minutes after morning tea and lunch in mindfulness sessions, cooling down their bodies and focusing their minds. The result? Calm and purposeful classrooms. Having a tray of fruit for the kids to nibble further helped focus the mind.

Power of free range PD –  I had forgotten how nice it is to be in a school just learning. I was on holiday so there were no emails to worry about, no paperwork to file and no meetings. Just time to breathe and learn. Because I had decided to make visit, it was up to me make the most of the opportunity. Why it is that we insist on filling up professional learning time? Why do we insist teachers all learn at the same time at the same place?  The answer is that some teachers wouldn’t do any professional learning. Yet schools have levers through registration and re-contracting process to address this problem. Why do we plan professional learning around the worst case? Why do we give so little control to teachers of their PD? What might free range PD look like?

What an administrator's office should look like

What an administrator’s office should look like

Power of approachable admin – I’ve always been pretty lucky that administrators I’ve worked with make a point of getting into class.  I love seeing how much children lift their learning and self-esteem when leadership are in their classroom taking a genuine interest in their learning. ISHCMC took it to a whole new level as hordes of kids piled into the deputy principal’s office during the provocation. How often do you see kids in your principal’s office as part of their learning? 

Power of teachers talking to teachers - Think of the last conference you attended or the last expert bought into your school. Was the person leading it a current classroom teacher? Most of the keynoters at conferences and consultants bought into schools have long since left the classroom. While the experts may know their area well, their advice is essentially out of date. Why do schools undervalue the expertise of current practitioners by giving so little time to teacher-led professional development? By luck, I happened to arrive at ISHCMC at the same time as @lanafleiszig, an amazing maths teacher from Melbourne, was there to offer PD. From an outsider’s perspective I can’t overstate the value in having someone inside the school giving advice during planning, modelling lessons as well as offering workshops after school. Despite being tired at the end of the term, the teachers were clearly invigorated by her visit and I could see shifts in practice emerging. Such is the power of a deep learning connection over a series of days rather than a 45 minute keynote.

You get a new perspective when you team teach

You get a new perspective on learning when you team teach

Power of team teaching – Within an hour of arriving Chad, the teacher whose class I ended up spending time in, remarked how much easier teaching becomes when there is another adult in the room. While I was officially at the school as an observer, I got my hands dirty either quietly with one or two kids on the side, with small groups or even sharing with the whole class together with Chad. Because I’m a tech geek, I ended up making a video of the provocation bringing another dimension to the learning for the Grade 5s. Team teaching enabled us to play to our strengths. The presence of a trusted teacher in the room helped us identify and develop areas where we need to improve. It is impossible for teachers to be all things to all kids.  Why should any kid have a crappy year or need to move classes because their personality doesn’t mix with their teacher’s? Why do we insist on siloing teachers and children away in individual cells?

Surround yourself with good people

What is the most important treasure? It is people, it is people, it is people.

Power of recruitment – Who do you work well with enough to share a classroom with? Team teaching would be hell for all involved if the wrong teachers were placed together. Aside from giving personal recommendations staffing is generally an admin responsibility.  How often do teachers get a say in who their colleagues are? How about the kids? Why is it that the people in schools teaching candidates will spend the most of the time working with are the ones generally left out of the recruitment process? Recruitment in international schools is an expensive and risky business for teachers and schools alike. It leaves so much to chance for all involved. The school doesn’t get a real picture of a candidate’s strengths and weakness while candidates don’t get a sense of what they are signing up for during skype sessions or expensive job fairs.

Power of connection –  I made my initial connection to @sherrattsam through @whatedsaid who suggested him as a person to see teach a couple of years ago when I was on holiday in Bangkok.  @lanafleiszig, the expert teacher visiting  ISHCMC teaches at Edna’s school in Melbourne.  What strikes me is how easily conversation flows when our bodies are in the same space as our minds.  We need to start trading breadth of connection for depth of experience. Developing a few good friends who really challenge us is worth more than thousands of superficial connections.

As I reflected on my week on the plane ride home, I realised that I’ve gained more by spending time in the school where Sam teaches watching and learning than any conference. Like all good provocations, my visit has left me with more questions than answers. When I was gathering my things on Friday evening, I bumped into one of the students from Chad’s class.

“Hey Ms Stephanie when are you coming back?”

Interesting question.

DSC_0083

How do you learn if you aren’t a connected educator?

I started teaching in 2003.

In a fit of youthful exuberance I decided to embark on an adventure to teach English as a Foreign Language.  I knew nothing about Korea outside of watching MASH re-runs and my teaching experience at the point consisted of some in school observations as part of my education degree. Yet this didn’t seem to bother my employers. Thus  I winged my way over to the Land of the Morning Calm thinking that teaching a bunch of Korean 5 year olds their ABCs would be a piece of cake.

Ha!

By lunchtime I had a melt down into a misery. I had no idea what I was doing and there was nobody around to help. So I did what any normal 20 something in need of advice and support in the early 2000s did.  I searched google. From that search I found a message board filled with teachers who were in the exact position as me only with a few months more experience.

Through message board I learned some teaching strategies,  a few useful phrases in Korean, found out where to buy western goods, made life-long friends and at the end of my 12 month contract found a job. On the board I argued about current events and posted stupid videos. We  organised parties and study groups. I know of at least one married couple that met through a party organised by members of the message board.

Again this was 2003 long before Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or the phrase social networking had even been uttered.

We had no idea that this sort of learning would still be considered innovative 10 years later. All we wanted was to know where to buy western goodies in a land of unfamiliar groceries and connect with people who quite literally spoke our language.

I bring up this story not to pat myself on the back for being an early adopter but because I have no idea how to be a teacher without having a posse of online friends to help me out.

I wonder where teachers who don’t connect online source ideas and inspirations for their teaching.

I wonder who they turn to for advice in tough times.

I wonder how they decide what books to read and what conferences to attend.

In short I wonder how non-connected educators learn.

Unlike traditional and pre-planned in professional development, being connected to a global network of educators enables me to learn 24 hours a day. This was true even before the popular social networks were invented let alone considered important enough to have a month dedicated to being a connected educator.

After using social networking for over a decade to learn, I can safely say that no  workshop or conference I can attend now is more valuable or offers a greater level of interaction than the network of educators I interact with on Facebook, Twitter or through reading blogs.

This is not to say I don’t find value in face to face interactions, far from it. The instant conversation and connection afforded to me by the avatars I interact with opens the way to a deeper level of conversation when we do meet in person.

However I’ve quickly realised that I may not be the best person to convert others to the world of online professional learning. Connected educators are often too passionate about our learning that we scare off the uninitiated with talk of hashtags, tweetdecks and RSS feeds.

Moreover the culture of how we learn and what we learn is so different. It requires a change in mindset and skill to go from working in the isolation of your classroom or school and having someone else guide your learning to using a device to control your own learning both personally and professionally.

It’s amazing how fast connected educators forget what is like to send out that first tweet or trying to follow a fast flowing chat where everyone else knows what’s going on. We don’t remember a time when our blog posts weren’t read by anyone else. In short we forget about the time and effort required to master this ecosystem and focus merely on the pay off.

For some the pay off isn’t worth the effort.

I think it is safe to safe to say that most teachers are connected to device that enables them to connect to the internet.   If we consider all the different ways teachers have to connect online – facebook, twitter, nings, pinterest, flickr, google+, instagram, active education accounts are a small proportion of active teachers.

What we need is to get more teachers connected to one another.

To be clear I’m not saying that you need to be connected to be a good teacher nor that the unconnected are in anyway bad teachers. However if you are doing something awesome in your classroom couldn’t other people learn from it? Could other people tweak the idea and make it better?

We can’t have the same conversations with the same people on connectedness every October without some expectation for change.

Will next year be more of the same or a different landscape all together?

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway – my foray into the world of maker education

DSC_0266

Our mound of cardboard

I’ve never been the type that has been good at building things with my hands. Being barely able to write my name legibly, constructing things and making objects of art was something that other teachers did.

Outside of the milk bottle igloo, I really hadn’t done much work on physically creating things.  Most of my classroom creations were digital because I lacked the skills to conjure up creations out of trash or make lovely

While I was at ISTE I stumbled into a session on maker education by Sylvia Libow Martinez and  Gary Stager and was transfixed. I immediately bought their book, Invent to Learn. The book confirmed a lot of my own thoughts about teaching, that kids will do amazing things when they are relevant and significant to them.

After reading the book, I quickly realised the problem wasn’t that I lacked the technical know-how, it was that I hadn’t sold the children on the purpose of what we were doing.

As if by luck, I saw a series tweets coming out of #NISTthink about the global cardboard challenge. With our new unit of inquiry coming up I thought rather than a traditional ‘tuning in’ activity, why not turn the traditional inquiry cycle on its head and start the unit of with some creative action. So instead of the usual tuning activities of listing types of transport on postits we decided to have a buildathon with a transport theme using bits of cardboard, drink bottles and other packaging lying around the children’s homes.

DSC_0382

A finished produc

I did some research and remembered hearing the story about Caine and his arcade. Caine was the same age as many of my students yet his idea had touched so many people.  Creativity in action was our big idea that Friday to set the scene. The children were immediately enthused and were desperate to have a turn at making their own games so that’s what we did for the last 20 minutes on Friday.

At the end of the session there more questions than answers.

How did Caine get so famous?

Can we do that again?

Rather than the children exhibiting the usual signs of tiredness typical of kids last period on a Friday afternoon the students were energised and inquisitive.

Our phase cleared our timetable as much as we could to devote an entire day to building transport in class. As we were getting started, some of the kids suggested that we should all watch part 2 of Caine’s arcade.

Clearly the children had been interested in the story that they had gone home to independently research more about Caine.

We divided up our research, I gave each team in my class an iPad and they went to work.

DSC_0294

iPads as tools to be put down when not in use

What was amazing about the day was that most of the issues around the use of the iPad weren’t that they were were being misused for games but… wait for it..  the kids kept leaving the iPads on the ground. The technology had become just another learning tool. The children were picking up their iPads in order to do a specific job: recording a wow moment, researching designs for their transport and then… believe it or not… they put the iPad back down wherever it was they were working.

The results of the children’s learning that day was phenomenal. We had a car that imagined a car that drives you while you are asleep, an alligator submarine. Children were able to build wheels that spun and cars with doors that opened. One group of year 3s built a cable car which is now suspended across their classroom.

More importantly, I witnessed a change in after school routine. Usually the kids rush out the door to see their parents and head home from school.  Instead, the children were desperately pulling their parents into class to gush about what they had created during the day.

What better advertisement is there for maker education than that?

DSC_0411

People inside the cable car

 

What is the Big Idea (Friday)?

Over the last few years I evolved a tradition in my class called Big Idea Friday.

It started out from my own learning where I try to write a weekly blog post about something that I’ve been thinking about in my teaching practice. I found the process for processing the end of a busy week of teaching and refocusing my mind towards the week ahead. The tradition also kept me writing when I really wanted to give up blogging (though I’ll be the first to admit my reflections have been rather sparse of late).

As I was going through the process of reflecting each week I started tagging my reflections using the New Zealand Registered Teacher Criteria (RTC) – a set of standards which New Zealand teachers are judged against during our professional appraisal process.  Using the RTC gave my reflections a conceptual framework on which I could hang my ideas on teaching and learning. Tagging the posts was a way I could easily document shifts in my thinking and teaching practice over time.

The practice slowly but surely started seeping into my classroom. Over the week I’d watch the kids and think about conversations I’ve had with them. Quite often a picture or video from my twitter feed would show up that I could use as a provocation in class to get the kids reflecting on what I’ve noticed and thus Big Idea Friday became a classroom tradition.

If it’s been a bad week where lots of kids have made bad choices? There’s some lessons from crazy dancing guy on the power bystanders have in a group situation.

In the middle of classroom projects and wanting to give up? An advertisement from Apple to remind us that nothing worth doing is easy. 

Want to get kids excited about the week ahead? Let’s take a look at Caine and his arcade.

The crazy thing about Big Idea Friday is that I had no idea what ‘it’ was and why ‘it’ was important until I was sitting in a Kath Murdoch workshop back in May. There I learned about split screen teaching – the idea that alongside content and concepts teachers need to develop learning dispositions in children – and a little light bulb went off in my head. This wasn’t just some crazy tradition I’d stumbled upon through my own learning, someone important was giving the practice some legitimacy.

As I’ve become more familiar with the PYP, I’ve started to use media as a way for us to look at the PYP attitudes and learner profile to give the process a stronger conceptual framework. The key competencies from the New Zealand curriculum also lend themselves to this type of reflection. If I had a time machine, I’d have been more explicit in making links with the kids between Big Idea Friday and the key competencies.

Documenting Big Idea Friday has been easy –  I post the provocation on the class blog and the kids comment on the post. Using the class blog opens up the conversation to others in particular my students’ families who have commented on their own experiences which further enriches our learning.

I’ve also found blogging lends itself to documenting this type learning – the messy stuff that comes out of conversations with the kids rather than a long-term planner – through the label feature which enables me to tag posts with different elements of the learner profile or pyp attitudes. Over time the labels build up a picture of the classroom conversations which then informs planning for future learning engagements. This is what my class looks like towards the end of term 1.

labels The tag cloud will look different after after another few weeks.

Tagging is a brilliant way to be able to draw out non-linear learning. We might spend a few weeks talking about creativity and not touch the topic again for a few months. If the kids were documenting their reflections in a book or a google doc it would be hard to make links. However through tagging I can quickly draw up all the posts on creativity to spot shifts in the children’s thinking over time. Tagging an idea down to a few words ensures that the concept and provocation is purposeful and relevant to the classroom conversation.

Big Idea Friday might seem like the antithesis of true inquiry learning. After all isn’t reflection something we should be doing all the time? Of course. However my students and I find value in finding time to explore those dispositions that go beyond content knowledge and help the kids develop as people.

More often than not, Big Idea Friday is often accompanied by that eerie feeling of the noise being spontaneously sucked out of the classroom as the kids get lost in their thoughts.

Now that’s an idea worth spreading…

Video newsletters = easy and awesome! Thanks @shareski

Writing newsletters is one of least favourite chores. I’m not sure how many parents actually read the newsletter, moreover the production of newsletters takes time away from the things that matter.

Could this old-style communication become more effective?

Enter Dean Shareski.

One of his suggestions from the recent Singapore Google Apps for Education summit was the idea of instead of sending out a text-heavy newsletter video could do a more effective job of telling what is going on in classrooms. People get to hear tone, voice and realise that yes you are a person not just a teacher.

I decided to have a go at producing a video newsletter for my year group.

During a non-contact period I pulled 3 children out of each of the Year 4 classes out. I asked the group what they’d learned in school for English, Maths and Unit of Inquiry. Each child talked a little bit about what they had been up to in the class. I then dumped the footage into Final Cut and uploaded it to YouTube.

The whole thing took about 20 minutes and was a lot more satisfying to produce than the written newsletter.

I quickly realised that the reason I didn’t particularly enjoy the newsletter was that it had very minimal input from the kids. This format potentially gives children a lot more voice and gives them an opportunity to reflect on their learning.

I’m sure a few doubters are wondering how much I had to ‘prep’ the children to be able to talk. We had about 30 seconds which seems about right. Surely the proof of effective teaching in my classroom is that the children should be able to talk about what they’ve been learning about in school the last few weeks.

As this project progresses, I imagine it will become easier and we’ll be refining the newsletter.

Maybe written newsletters are a thing of the past?

Google Challenges – Information literacy old and new @GoogleForEdu

Fast paced and frustrating.

A Google a Day challenge is a class favourite. I’ve conducted the challenges with big Year 7/8 kids down to Year 4.

Google has a large selection of challenges available for teachers to use. The challenges include a few sentences that have some clues that the kids can use to search to help find the answer. They then email in the answers into the teacher. To the untrained eye it probably looks like the kids and I are fluffing around on a computer but the classroom is often a hive activity that comes from groups kids trying to nut out the answer.

To be successful the children need to be able to break questions down, find out the meanings of unknown words and decide what the question is really asking through creating search strings. I’m sure a few will probably criticise me for teaching out of date search methods however I’ve found that the children are starting to make links from these challenges back to reading groups, skimming and scanning for information, using key words to help with comprehension, discussing purpose and intent that make these challenges worthwhile.

I’ve also been tweaking the format to suit my needs.

Many of the challenges on the google site now included hacks where people are answering the question directly online.  While I love the idea of promoting greater information literacy in class, the challenges themselves often were random facts rather that were competed unrelated to the unit of inquiry or topic we were studying

So I started writing my own.

This is a challenge related to last years unit of inquiry into the rainforest.

 

Google challenge

The image provided a magical teachable moment. The kids recognised the bird as a toucan and started search for ‘proof’ that the toucan produced a weapon. They were outraged that the image had led away from the answer. However I was able to show that our world is full of images, some of them enhance the writer’s message others will distract and it’s up to us to decide about the purpose of the image.

Images can also be used as a way to find information.

In this case the children were able to use the picture of the girl in this google challenge to help them find the information they needed to identify Adora Svitak.

Slide2

Sometimes I’ve used Google challenges as a way to spark kid’s curiosity.

Slide1

The challenge on Ruby Bridges quickly had the kids curious about the era of segregation. The idea that people shouldn’t be able to mix based on the colour of their skin seemed alien in my international school classroom. They were also curious as to how art and music can bring about social change. The children quickly located the song and the Norman Rockwell painting provoked further interest in the intensity of the protests Ruby Bridges faced on her fist day of school.

We’ve yet to explore how video, newspapers and news can be used to help us and I’m sure as google’s tools become more sophisticated the potential for teaching information literacy actually becomes more important not less.

Weekly Reflection: Making time for things that really matter

Our time is precious

Our time is precious

The most valuable resource in schools is not a fancy building or shiny gadgets but teachers’ time.

It had been a busy week.

I was at the GAFE summit the weekend before, my report comments needed a final proof read  and this week had been extra stressful due to a family member being sick back home.

Yet somehow I had said yes to volunteering at a swim meet on Friday afternoon when really I just wanted to be curled up on the coach watching bad TV and eating takeout.

As it turned out in terms of building relationships with both the kids and their families that 90 minutes was pure gold. Over half of my class were involved in the swim meet and they were so excited to see me there that my worries and tiredness soon washed away. I had a quick chat with a number of the parents which seemed so much more relaxed than the speed dating feel of learning conferences.

We often forget that young children spell relationship T-I-M-E but so do their parents.

Face time trumps a class blog mass email or even personalised written communication every time.

Teachers showing up to extra curricula events to have a quick chat or a friendly hello show we are invested in kids and want them to do well.

So why is it so hard for teachers to find the time for the things that really matter?

In this age of automation of communication teachers should be a lot freer to invest their time in these sort of community building interactions. Yet I’m sure I’m not the only teacher who spends a lot my week in survival mode trying to keep all the balls in the air until Friday.

Why is that?

Schools are very good at adding things to collective to do lists but not so good at taking things away. We don’t stop to ask ourselves if that meeting really necessary? Does it need to involve everyone? Does a mass email need to be sent or is it better to send it to just a few recipients?

Most important focus needs to be on being awesome in the classroom with relationship building within the school community coming in a close second.

I know I’m also guilty of letting time get the better of me on projects that don’t really add much to the experience of the kids in my class. Perhaps it isn’t that I don’t have the time, it’s that I need to make sure I’m spending it on the things that really matter.

#gafesummit – Moving from talk to action redux

A @shareski inspired jump shot.

A @shareski inspired jump shot.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly 2 years since I last attended a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) summit. Life has changed a lot since then.

When I left the last GAFE I came away with a lot of plans and a zeal to share my plans with anyone who would listen and many who didn’t want to.

My plans were:

  • Do a series of 1 minute ‘what’s going on in your classroom?’ video. Review with my tutor teacher to look for improvements in teaching practice. Post reflections to my blog for input from a wider audience.
  • Contribute to the digital citizenship project.
  • Institute a daily google challenge to improve my class’s digital literacy (thanks Wendy Gorton for the book, I also plan to write some questions relevant to my New Zealand context).
  • Design an app for my class to communicate more effectively with my parents/students. Students and parents to have input into key functions.
  • Use google maps to develop a virtual tour for incoming year 7s for next year.
  • Hold an end-of-term ‘innovation day’ based on the principles behind google’s 20% time.

Did I achieve my plans?

Erm yes and no. I did post a few videos of cool stuff and even a welcome video for my new principal, I still do google challenges and innovation day happened at my old school. But when I look at that list, I realise that there were a lot of things I didn’t come close to accomplishing. My lesson is that I’m very good at coming up with crazy ideas not so good at implementing them.

Coming to GAFE Singapore was a change to reconnect with all that crazy googly energy. To remind me that coming up with ideas is one thing, but implementing is so much harder.

So my new action plan is:

Geek Girl Dinners – Something that bothers me at educational technology events is the lack of women presenting and sharing. Teaching is a workforce dominated by women yet the field of edutech is largely dominated by men. Instead of quietly complaining I’m publicly planning to help do my part to get more women sharing how they use edutech in the classroom. I’m hoping to get the first event underway before christmas

Telling stories better - It’s amazing how quickly I’ve gotten out of the habit of using my phone to video moments of awesomeness. I really do need to get into the habit of capturing things. I took on @shareski point that teachers need to tell stories. I’m using Humans of New York as inspiration to tell stories about the kids in my class. 

Share the Joy – I’ve gotten out out of the habit of sharing. Making time to write more instead of faffing around consuming stuff on twitter I need to put time into creating things for others.

Just do it – I’m not sure if it is a fear of failure or poor time management on my part but I’ve become  a lot more risk adverse these days. I’ve already got one project on the boil at school and another one I’m in the process of putting together.

Weekly Reflection: Why do we treat behaviour differently from learning?

This week a bit of my time and concentration has been focused on unwise decisions made by my students. I’ve run the full gamut of emotions; shock, anger, denial and sadness all the time trying to keep my cool.

It’s funny the way we view behaviour.

If a kid makes a mistake when they are reading, we don’t immediately stop them from coming to reading group. We model, guide and support the child until they can get over the hurdle by themselves.

A mistake is a learning opportunity.

Yet when it comes to behaviour, we are still very much in a fixed mindset. That child is no good, comes from a poor family.  Sometimes children’s behaviour is seen as being a reflection on their teacher. We go into damage control mode, not wanting to be judged.

We just want to get on with our lessons rather spend time sorting out yet another bad decision.  Behaviour is something we solve on our own and hope it isn’t one of our kids who flooded the toilets, left their instrument on a bus or was misbehaving at the shops down the hills.

But surely mistakes and muck ups in behaviour are just as an important learning opportunity that all teachers in a school should take ownership over?

Developing all those attitudes we stick up on the wall in PYP schools don’t just happen because we’ve decided to look at empathy during our ‘Sharing the Planet’ unit. Often it is those day to day interactions that present a time to go back to those attitudes and the learner profile.

How did you feel when Sarah took your pencil?

What effect did missing practice have on the rest of the team?

Could you have communicated you forgot your swimming gear earlier?

These lessons aren’t the ones you plan, but is where the learning is needed right then and there.

Weekly Reflection: Inertia

DSC_1210

Photo by author

My knowledge of physics ends at barely scraping through a pass in high school. However over the last week I’ve been thinking a lot about inertia, the principle that every object has to preserve its present state whether in movement or not. The bigger object, the more energy there is needed to get moving.

What on earth does that have to do with schools?

Schools are large, organisations they go from being at rest to a hive of activity very quickly. Getting that moving requires huge amounts of energy usually powered on adrenaline and large amounts of caffeine.

As the school year moves on from being ‘new’ to established classroom there’s new sort of pressure. To get all those reading and maths programmes up and running, at a time when the body hasn’t quite gotten over the shock of coming from vacation back into the frenetic world of school.

There are assessments to be done, groups to be formed, interim reports to be written, meet the parents evenings. Meetings seem to crop up.

Once the programmes get going, and the routines have been established things seem to even out, your body gets used to the pace. Coming to a halt at the end of the year? The same problem but in reverse.

As we start the year, I’m already behind. I have tendency to linger on building classroom culture which comes into conflict with the cold hard reality that I’m only six weeks from the end of term. Have we done enough writing? Those spelling groups need to be formed.

However the most important job for a teacher at this point is getting to know the kids and their families , the kids getting to know you, which sets the scene for learning.

Yet perhaps part of the problem is that our traditions in schools take us away from those goals not further to them.

Why do schools keep passing students on from one teacher to another year after year?. I’ve looped students before and see so many benefits. You know the kids. The kids know you. Classroom routines can be built on and relationships enhanced. Teaching siblings already puts me at ease with some of my parent community.

Keeping meetings and administrative tasks to an absolute minimum to focus on building relationships. Our team has items we talk about if there are questions, rather than talking over every single point. I’ve also had a few meetings cancelled at the start of the year and oh what a difference that extra hour makes. Which leads to wonder, how many meetings do we call just for the sake of calling them? Instead of coming together information shouldn’t it be for collaboration?

Maybe we could do more with less and that object wouldn’t be so heavy and so hard to get moving?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 491 other followers