Category Archives: kids are awesome
On the last days of my summer vacation I had the pleasure to visit @samsherratt class in Bangkok. His class blog (and an older version) is source of inspiration for me so to see the class in action was surreally wonderful.
Among the dozens of ideas I saw during my time in class was the idea of a simple notebook being made into something awesome, a bubble catcher. In short a bubble catcher is a place to record ideas and thoughts. The story of the name behind the book is that a visiting writer had likened ideas to bubbles, they float away easily so we need to write them down before they disappear.
I immediately seized on this idea, after all I use my iphone in the same manner; snapping pictures, making reminders, recording video to capture moments I want to remember later.
But how was I going to get my students enthused?
Intermediate is funny age. They are not kids any more but they are also not adults. In the back of my mind I wondered if the kids might screw their noses up at being asked to do an activity popular with pre-schoolers.
As it turned out, the antidote to sitting a lengthy test was to run around in the summer sun blowing bubbles.
There was no learning intention, no success criteria.
I wanted to sell the kids on an idea, the importance of capturing our ideas.
The students then decorated one of their exercise books and that will become their bubble catcher for the year. Our shared experience, the feelings of joy, the heat of the sun, the coolness of the shade and the sounds of laughter will hopefully stay with the students long after they leave class.
To be sure, this could have been done digitally. However I want to get the students into the simple action of recording quickly recording ideas and then going back to whatever it is they are doing. By the time the kids got out the computers, logged in, waited their turn, the moment would be gone.
In the words of one of my students, the bubble would have popped.
The technology in the classroom, such as it is, just isn’t fit for the purpose.
Over the course of the year I hope that the book gets filled with writing, post its and the odd printed out pictures. It will be messy and apart from a date and some tags I hope every book looks different and, dare I say it, messy.
Because real learning is always messy.
My job interviews are from mundane. My first teaching job interview was a group interview while the next one was via skype where I fielded questions from some amazing year 7/8 (that’s 11/12 year old) students.
As a brief detour can I proclaim my love of Skype? Aside from being able to interview for schools you aren’t in physical proximity to you, you can also sit on your bed with PJs from the waist down for a interview and no one is the wiser. There is a possibility that something might happen which might require you to get up like the phone rings which is why I wouldn’t advocate PJs for Skype interviews. But yah for technology bringing the world a bit closer and back to the topic at hand, children on interview panels.
As an ex student rep my first thought when I heard I would have some students interviewing me was wow that’s so cool! I sat on my first interview panel as a 16 year old student representative on my school’s Board of Trustees. Since then I’ve helped select high-ranking university officials, NGO employees and diplomatic workers in various roles. In fact I think I’ve spent more time on interview panels than in front of one.
So I understood from the outset what a massive learning opportunity the students were in for. Especially since they were a lot younger than myself when I found myself interviewing candidates many years ago. Through being a student rep I learned how interviews worked from the other side which makes it a lot easier to apply for jobs now. It also made me feel a lot more confident in being able to relate to adults with more power than me.
But I also remember how intimidating it was even as a 22 year old to be asking questions to people far older and more qualified than myself during interview panels. So I spent the interview feeling more nervous for the students than I did for myself! For their part the students asked wonderful questions which I think answered well. It did help that the Associate Teacher at my first placement had students give feedback for my appraisals so this seemed like a natural next step in the learning process for me.
But much like how the group interview interview was an interesting test of how well a teacher can collaborate, having students interview prospective teachers is a way to make applicants who espouse a child-centered philosophy put it into practice at a time when it is inconvenient to them. Even just a student rep’s presence is an interesting litmus test. Usually interview panels are made up of people far more senior than an applicant so you know how to react, with the utmost respect.
But a student on a panel mixes things up a bit, there’s someone junior in age and experience so the rules change which makes the situation a test of character. It’s like when you go out on a first date and the person is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, then you know that they are not a nice person. Because it is easy for people to treat people who have power with respect especially when they are trying to impress them. But treating the regular folk, the admin, caretakers and especially the students with respect is a vital component to keeping a school functioning well.
Even the idea of having kids on the interview panel is likely to reveal a lot would-be teacher. Kids can be brutally honest at times and that scares people. Putting your trust in the kids to do the right thing is part of becoming a teacher, some people never get there but embracing the unknown is what I think makes teaching so exciting. If an applicant doesn’t feel they need to impress a student in real life, then they generally they don’t know how to react in this situation.
For my part as a student rep I would often go into bat for candidates who I felt listened to me and would comment if I thought I was being treated with disdain. And I think that scares some people too, the idea that someone they perceive as more junior gets a say in their career. But ultimately given that the kids are the ones I’ll spending my days with, it makes sense that they ask questions and give feedback to school leaders about my application.
For anyone who faces a student on interview panel I have one piece of advice. Always make sure when you are asked if you have any questions that you have one for the student/s as well as the important people. Even something as simple as ‘what do you think makes your school special?’ can get the kids sharing and they will tell you stuff adults might not. But more importantly you are showing that not only do you value student voice but you are willing to back it up by creating opportunities for that voice to be heard.
I had been meaning to post on this topic for a while but the combination of this rather brilliant dissection of Nigel Latta’s Politically Incorrect Show and #youngkidsshouldbebannedfrom trending globally on twitter a few
weeks months ago got me thinking about this topic again.
First up Nigel Latta. At times I have at times found myself in agreement with some of the stuff he says, about parents choosing not escalate confrontation and trying to support their children’s education. But more often than not I find myself yelling at the TV in much the same manner as a sports fan when he starts using children as the punchlines for his jokes and have long since stopped watching.
I admit that I am probably not in Latta’s target audience. I was raised by a SAHD for large parts of my childhood whose first reaction when my sister and I dressed our baby brother up in party dresses was to grab the camera rather than freak out. I’m pretty sure this type of urban liberal upbringing makes me Political Correctness personified and therefore I just don’t ‘get’ the punchline of the jokes.
Or perhaps the problem with being ‘Politically Correct’ is that I understand that the Politically Incorrect show is engaging in what political scientists call dog whistling. What the show tends to do a lot of is taking an absurd situation as an example of ‘politically correctness gone mad’ then using it as a way to get a message across, that children in society need to be put in their place by adults. Of course it is window dressed in language such as parents needing to relax and use a bit of common sense with a few laughs about the silly things kids/teenagers do thrown in for good measure.
But the problem with this method communicating is that it takes place within a context of society in which adults already have a considerable amount of power over children and we aren’t too welcoming of children’s presence within it.
Consider some of the tweets #youngkidsshouldbebannedfrom
- any public places I can’t stand their screaming
- the word love they don’t even know what it means
- all technology and have a chalkboard and crayons instead.
- going to the movies and sitting behind me.
- speaking. they should be seen and not heard. i hate kids. full stop.
- cellphone. I hate it when I see a 5 years old child with a BB or an iPhone!
- Making music. We have enough terrible music by talentless artists in the charts as it is
For teachers it means you need to be aware of the privilege that you bring into your relationships with your students. Some of those statements are quite confronting and might even make you a bit uncomfortable. Think about why you are uncomfortable rather than just dismissing the idea out of hand. But more importantly take the time to get to know your students and really listen to what they have to say.
Because more than anyone teachers need to believe in the notion that children are people too.
H/T to Deborah for the link.
New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 1.c
Graduating teachers have knowledge of the relevant curriculum documents of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Yup you read right, this week involved a flashmob. And not just any flashmob, a bollywood inspired flashmob.
Somehow ended up with an A for English and a B Maths. Scratching my head wondering how did that happen? English was the subject I loathed in school and was most apprehensive about taking for the course. Maths was the subject that I had little trouble with at school and the assignment that I felt was my best work. The good stuff was that I had excellent justifications and an excellent next teaching step selected. However I had messed up one of my assessments of student work and didn’t reference enough sources which the assessment criteria demanded was necessary to receive an A grade (pro tip: if your lecturer assigns you a book for your course, find a way to reference the thing during your assignments).
Models and Strategies turned into a disaster because I didn’t read the assessment criteria properly and failed a large section of the assignment (I answered the question but I didn’t use the right piece of evidence to support my arguments). Fortunately the rest of my work was an A so I passed my essay but I was gutted to have let myself down in such a way. To any students reading let this let this be a lesson to you, before you start writing READ YOUR ASSESSMENT CRITERIA CAREFULLY. Twice. Maybe even three times. Read the criteria while you are writing and then re-check your essay against the criteria before you submit your assignment.
Teaching wise things have been going well, I’ve been taking greater responsibility for some things in class and the group I am taking for maths seems to be chugging along quite nicely. But yes the students in my class organized a flashmob which may or may not have come about from my teaching.
During form time, which is a time where a lot of discussion promoting meta-cognitive awareness happens at the school, a I showed the students this video:
We then had a class discussion about what makes a good leader and follower, initially the students thought believed following was merely blindly following the leader. But as this video pointed out, one of the most important things a follower can is recruit other followers. Then later on in the week for our version of show and tell taught one of the students taught the class some bollywood moves (Basic CD player) and then they decided to do a flashmob during morning interval.
I willingly admit that the students are awesome so I take credit only for seeding an idea, if I can take credit for anything at all. I also give the kids mad props for putting the thing together. Doing someone different especially in front of their peers which involves risking ridicule which takes a lot of courage. It is also important to give props to the student’s the real teachers who said ‘awesome how can I help’ to the idea of a flashmob rather than dismissing it as some crazy idea.
But what is the educational value of doing such a thing as a flashmob?
The kids need to use thinking to identify what makes a good leader and follower. How to engineer crowd and even what kind of music to play.
They’ve had to use oral language to dissect the dynamics of making a movement. They also taught each other the moves.
They’ve needed to manage themselves to get the thing off the ground and they’ve related to others to get other kids to join in.
Obviously they’re participating and contributing to the life of the school by actually doing the flashmob rather than just discussing it in class.
These would be the five competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum.
The flashmob went well, they had some students join in and plenty of bystanders. There’s even an idea to do it again with another class, so it will be interesting to see what happens this week. The mob was put together during form time so the students didn’t miss out on any ‘real’ learning but I hope they will remember the lesson from this week in the future.