New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 7.c
“Graduating Teachers are able to articulate and justify an emerging personal, professional philosophy of teaching and learning.”
What my Diploma in Teaching helped me Learn
And as of 2.13pm on Thursday I’m done.
When I enrolled in this diploma almost 12 months ago I thought I was training to be a teacher. Little did I know 11 months later I think of myself more as a learner.
But that’s not the only thing that changed.
This time last year I was in a profoundly unhappy place in my life. When the clock struck midnight for 2011 I wasn’t all that psyched about the year ahead. I thought my studies would be something to be endured not enjoyed. I didn’t even know if I wanted to be a teacher.
How wrong I was.
For me there is nothing more amazing than seeing a group of kids take an idea and making it more awesome than I ever could imagine. This year I watched the year 8 class I was placed with take a discussion of leadership and turning it into a bollywood inspired flashmob on the school field and the juniors in the next Teaching Experience take a simple maths warm up and turn it into a powerful learning moment. I may have struggled a lot to find those teachable moments but finding them is, to quote the amazing @annekenn, MAGIC!
So there’s the first important lesson I’ve learned this year, we all need some magic in our lives.
The second is the importance of people.
Over the course of the year I’ve watched the network of people supporting my learning transmorgifiy from a couple of friends and classmates to a global network of hundreds of teachers.
I’ve been humbled at how unbelievably generous the innovate educators I’ve met both virtually and in real life have been with their knowledge. I want to thank you all, especially the ones who gave up their time to give me advice online and more importantly in real life. Your generosity has been life changing and something that I will forever be indebted to each and everyone of you for. I can’t bake you all a cupcake but I can promise to Pay it forward.
In fact I’ve already started.
I’ve always said from the outset that purpose of this blog share my experiences for the benefit of others. I don’t pretend to be an expert at anything except being a student teacher in New Zealand.
But I think there is a need for more of this sort of sharing.
The most popular post on this blog is the Graduating Teacher Standards E portfolio which attracts a steady stream of visitors looking information about the standards and they end up here. They might not be commenting but my site statistics tell me that they are out there.
If there is one lesson teachers, student or otherwise, could take from my work this year it would that I think more teachers need to tell our stories and make our learning visible. More importantly we need to share the experiences of our students beyond the walls of our classrooms and borders of our nations.
As I look towards the future of education in New Zealand I can see the storm clouds of educational reform gathering overhead. I often find myself getting pessimistic at the current state of what often passes for education debate in this country. I ponder why policy makers in particular seem so determined to not listen to the very people working in the educational system and I start thinking that the work that teachers do just isn’t that important.
But perhaps it is.
This Tuesday I watched my reflection on the introduction of charter schools generate nearly 1,000 hits to this site in a day. At the time of writing this post has generated almost 1,300 hits and is now the second most popular on the blog. I don’t pretend my post made a huge difference, it’s just a small ding in a wider debate.
But then I’m just one student teacher.
There are of others of course.
But what if more teachers stood up and said pay attention, this is important work, this is hard and, at times, frustrating work but we’re not sitting around on our hands waiting for permission to do things differently.
What if we declared that our voices matter?
Because despite the best efforts of those outside the system to bring about change, ultimately the most effective educational reform will come from within.
I speak of the amazing power that the internet and mobile learning has to revolutionize and personalize education.
I know that there are still plenty of doubters out there wondering what the value is in students spending time in front of a screen during class. Some of this resistance may come from not knowing how to use the internet for learning. More likely stems from the fear that teachers might soon be replaced by a computer. I guess that’s natural when you feel threatened you retreat to what you know.
Ultimately our future depends on teachers embracing this new way of learning but more importantly new ways of engaging with our community. I just hope education doesn’t have to hit rock bottom to find the courage to change.
Which brings me to the final lesson I’ve learned this year, the importance of failure. I’ve lamented in the past that our society doesn’t do well with failure. We don’t speak of our own setbacks hiding them away in places we hope others can’t find them. Yet learning how to the heed the lessons when life doesn’t go to plan is by far the most important qualification I will ever gain.
When I look at my first post I’m reminded of the starting point of the journey wasn’t all that great. 2009 was a horrible year and despite the grand world trip, 2010 wasn’t that much better. But the bonus of the setbacks I faced during those two years was a stripping away of the inessential in my life.
I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than who I was, and began to direct all my energy into the only work that I had enjoyed doing, teaching. Had the setbacks of the last two years not occurred, I might never have found the courage to change course nor the determination to succeed. As my studies draw to a close I find myself ending this year feeling happier and more excited about the possibilities in life than I’ve felt in years. That is the power that learning has to transform lives.
Of course the end of one journey is really just beginning of another. I might not know where I am going but the purpose of this post is to document how I’ve come to this point.
Therefore it seems fitting that I dedicate this, my last post as a student teacher, to The Child, who turned 8 yesterday. Happy birthday kiddo. I miss you heaps and love you lots.
“Words have no wings but they can fly a thousand miles.”
As I’m coming up on the end of the year, I’ve had a couple of people ask if I’m going to keep blogging now that I’m almost a real teacher.
At first I thought no. There’s nothing worse than a blog which dies a slow death (I should know I’ve managed to kill 3 personal blogs) and I wondered if I would have the time and energy to put into blogging once I became a teacher. So when I started this blog I thought it would be year-long documentation project to keep personal blog buddies updated about my study exploits while still writing about cake and journeys to offbeat lands. Far better to burn out than fade away when it comes to blog death.
But then the blog took on a life of its own. It became a learning tool when I took up a suggestion to use blogging as way to engage with the graduating teacher standards. It also became a way to connect with teachers around the planet. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d end the year with a great learning community in place and a job when I started writing the blog.
The reality is that this blog wouldn’t have gotten off the ground if I was a campus-based student. The commute time alone would have sucked up extra time and energy I put into blogging plus being on campus wouldn’t have created a need for me to connect with others because I’d be hanging out with student teachers almost all the time. It was the isolation of online study which pushed me to seek out support and that support came through social media.
What has enabled me to write freely is that this blog has been largely anonymous. Over the second half of the year I started meeting members of my PLN through nethui, educamps and job hunting but that’s not the same as having people you interact with every day potentially reading your blog.
I know I find it easier to write knowing that I don’t have people talking to me about my posts in real life. That might sound a bit counter-intuitive. After all isn’t the whole point of blogging to share your thoughts with the world? To be honest much as I love blog comments, I hate people talking to me offline about my posts.
I cringe with embarrassment whenever anyone starts talking to me about the blog offline mostly because I think the quality of my writing is appallingly bad, my arguments suck and this is the worst blog in the history of the internet. A tad melodramatic to be sure, but that’s basically my thought process.
So I wonder if having colleagues being able to read what’s going on in my head might mean I’ll write less candid posts or in fact stop posting altogether such is the dysfunctional relationship I have with writing. I enjoy doing it, don’t mind anonymous people reading/commenting but want the ground to open up and swallow me whole when someone offline mentions a post. Even having the principal send me a nice comment on a post I wrote a few weeks ago had me feeling a bit uneasy.
Part of this cringe factor comes down to the little fragments of my life are often interwoven into the reflective process. There are some posts in particular that are brutally honest and really hard to write. Yet for some reason this medium is the one which I’m drawn to give voice to my perspective on the world. While I’ve had people thank me for articulating emotions that we student teachers don’t talk about, that raw honesty does leave you somewhat vulnerable emotionally.
However I’ve since found out that I will be writing weekly reflective journal as part of professional development within school. Although that journal doesn’t need to public it does mean that I’m going to have to get over this hang up I’ve got about having conversations about my writing.
And since I’m going to be writing anyway I might as well include my awesome PLN in the reflection process as I’ve done every week since I’ve started my course. So it looks like I’ll be taking on the Registered Teacher Criteria as my next blogging project.
Perhaps even working through the emotions of having people read my blog in a professional setting is a useful learning experience. So often we ask students to reveal parts of themselves through the arts whether it be art, drama, music or words. Yet if teachers aren’t regularly engaging in a creative process how we can empathize with what it feels like to have your view of the world be judged by others?
There will be some changes in the design and feel of the blog. I might make the move to self-hosting (I need a summer holiday project). But it seems that I’ll be blogging the journey from Beginning Teacher to Registered Teacher which means I’m going to need lots of help and advice.
PLN considered yourself warned!
New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 4.e
Graduating teachers use te reo Māori me ngā tikanga-a-iwi appropriately in their practice.
The other project I had to undertake for specialist week was a group assignment on language learning. The task was to create a teaching resource as a group. We were given the option of making a poster or powerpoint which all sounded so 1990s. I emailed our lecturer to ask if we could hand in a link rather than an actual file. He said yes which meant we got to submit a prezi with youtube clips rather than a boring powerpoint presentation.
We decided to focus on the teaching of mihimihis and think that getting students to create a digital mihimihi would be an ace language learning activity.
New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 4.c
“Graduating teachers demonstrate high expectations of all learners, focus on learning and recognise and value diversity”
Graduating teachers focus on the learning. It seems like such a simple idea, you can talk about it, read it but actually doing it? That took me a long time.
For my first assignment for Teaching Diploma, I had to write an essay and draw metaphor around my theories of teaching and learning. I got an A for my discussions around learning theory but my metaphor I only ended up with a B, too much focus on the teaching was the feedback.
Did I take it on?
Nope the marker was being nit picky, it wasn’t my fault.
From there that I went into my first Teaching Experience all pumped up to do a good job of teaching kids. The problem with this approach is that because I spent so much time thinking about teaching I didn’t do much thinking about the learning. I was student teacher with a plan and I was sticking to it! More importantly because I was so obsessed about being good teacher I was afraid to make to mistakes, take risks and ask questions least I be called out as the imposter I most definitely felt like inside.
I passed my placement with good but not great feedback, I wanted to do better but was at a loss. I was taking on the feedback from my Associate Teacher so was open to the idea of learning but I was also way too focused on teaching. But the more teacher blogs I read and twitter chats I participated in, the more I realized what teachers were really interested in wasn’t teaching it was learning.
When the student is ready the teacher will appear.
In this case my teachers were 25 year 1/2 students and their fabulous teacher who would be Associate for my next teaching placement. I freely admitted when I went in that year 1/2 wasn’t my first choice of age group and I had no idea how to teach these young learners. So I stopped focusing on trying to teach and started thinking about learning.
When I found myself completely overwhelmed at the seemingly frantic pace of the teaching programmes I was undertaking instead of battling on I took a big breath and sloooowed down, deciding from guidance from my Associate that it was better to do a little bit really well rather than a lot not so well. And then the craziest thing happened, I could manage the programme that was causing me so many problems.
But more than anything what I found from teaching year 1/2 is that they really helped me to listen for the learning. Because the little snippets that sometimes seemingly come out of nowhere have great such great learning moments attached to them ‘why does my xlyophone have 2 Cs?’ ‘Is that snow?’ ‘Why does the equal sign not mean the ‘same as?’ When I stopped frantically trying to teach and really listened to the students, I found the learning moments I never thought I would see.
But more importantly being focused on the learning took a lot of the pressure off me to be perfect. If I make mistake now I don’t think ‘ZOMG I suck I am the worst student teacher ever.’ I think ‘ok that sucked now how am I going to do it differently next time?’
Because it is not a fail it is a
I used to think that if a teacher concentrated on good teaching then the learning would automatically follow. Now I think that if you focus on creating the right conditions for learning the good teaching will flow from that.
And now I wonder why that seemingly simple concept, graduating teachers focus on learning, took me eight long months to learn.
New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 7.b
Graduating teachers uphold the New Zealand Teachers Council Code of Ethics/Ngā Tikanga Matatika.
A few weeks ago I had someone “why were graduating teacher standards established in nz” and I thought “that’s a good question to which I don’t know the answer.” So I decided to blog on it and knock out another GTS post while I’m at it (because being on Teaching Experience I’m need to be a lot more efficient with my time).
Graduating Teacher Standards aren’t unique to New Zealand. In fact my project of blogging on each of the New Zealand Graduting standards was inspired by a Sydney-based student teacher blogging on the New South Wales version a few months ago.
The New Zealand stanadards were introduced back in2007 and came into effect in 2008. As you can see from the media release from the New Zealand Teachers Council, the reason’s behind the GTS were due to an eneven quality of teachers graduating from the myriad of New Zealand-based intial teacher education providers. This year’s graduates will be third chorot of students to have their perforance assessed against the standards and I’ve had some mixed reviews about the purposes of the standards.
To be honest upon first glance the GTS definitely fell into the ‘useless paperwork we fill in to make bureaucrats happy camp.’ A view that was obviously solidfied when the evidence I needed to gather for the GTS were literally forms to fill out. It wasn’t until I started reflecting on the Graduating Teacher Standards through blogging that I realised that they were more than just some annoying forms that the Teachers Council and the University makes me fill out, they are a conceptual framework on which I can hang my ideas on what I think makes good teaching and a good teacher. Being the giant nerd that I am, I’m already drafting my post against 7.c and am looking forward to finally publishing it because it will be the last post I make on this blog.
The first purpose of the Graduating Teacher Standards is obvious, they are used as an assessment tool for Associate Teachers and Visiting Lecturers to assess my progress. Looking back on my learning, I can see from formal teaching appraisals where I progressed from competent to strong on each of the Graduating Teacher Standards. I didn’t quite make goal of getting a clean sweep of seven strongs on one report but my last Associate Teacher gave me six out of seven so I’m pretty stoked about that.
The second purpose for the standards are more philosophical. Teachers are called upon to make hundreds of little decisions a day some of which are mundane does little Timmy get to go the toilet a few minutes before lunch through to biggies like suspected child abuse and the political minefield that is sex education.*
In the last 30 or so years there’s been a definite shift in thinking about the status of children within society. Previously a child’s interest was previously seen through the lens of parental rights. If you look at the language of legislation like the Care of Children act, the best interests of the child are at the centre of decision-making. Similar language can be found in the Teacher Council Teacher Ethics. While some would argue that best interests of the child is another example of PC gone mad, it makes sense to place the interest’s of the child at the centre of all decision making if you believe that children are people too.
So yes the Graduating Teacher Standards have some purpose and I’m really looking forward to beginning the next learning journey on the path towards full registration.
* My first meeting as a student member of my school’s Board of Trustees consisted on a very heated discussion on this very topic.
New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 1.a
Graduating Teachers have content knowledge appropriate to the learners and learning areas of their programme.
It was just a simple maths warm up called ‘guess my number.’ It’s kind of like hangman but for maths.
Now I’m sure you are rolling your eyeballs.
But the thing is this game is great for getting kids to use place value so long as you can make the thinking visible.
So we start with the learning.
WALHT: use place value to guess a 3 digit number.
I use 3 digits because that’s about where my year 1/2 learners are at. But you can go down to two digit numbers to start with or up to 5 or 6 digits depending on what your students learning needs are.
The success criteria is simple students will be able to explain how they guessed the number using place value. This means even mistakes are opportunities for learning if you ask the right questions.
I write 3 spaces and the students start guessing the number and put ticks and crosses beside the guess according to whether each number has a correct answer. So if a student guesses 124, I will tick 1 and 4 if the ‘answer’ is 194. Nine gets an X.
I will always give a ‘tick’ for one number on the first guess to start the students off.
From the second guess I will start asking questions.
How did you know to pick that number? What digits have ticks? What do you think would be a better guess for next time (if a student makes a guess that hasn’t used place value)? What digits do you think will have ticks?
A student wins when they are able to explain how the guessed all three places (which I point out is the success criteria for the game before we start playing).
What was amazing wasn’t how quickly students started using place value to make their guesses, but how they chose to adapt the game.
At the end of one warm up a student commented that he wanted me to record a plus or minus sign instead of ticks and crosses. So for the next lesson I use his suggestion and away we went. The students quickly figured out that using plus and minus signs meant the game was a lot easier because the symbols told them whether to pick a number greater than or less than the previous guess. So not only were the students were not only using the language of maths they had stumbled upon a key concept of probability, chance = favourable outcomes/total possible outcomes, and were now using it to improve their odds! I hadn’t even considered using plus or minus as a way to record answer which showes how agile children’s minds are when the right questions are asked.
I was dumbstruck that a simple warm up yielded such great learning moments.
The students have now decided guess my number is too easy and want to guess 4 digit numbers.
Who am I to argue?
New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 1.c
Graduating teachers know how to develop metacognitive strategies of diverse learners.
Primary teachers are expected to teach a very broad curriculum. Throw together some reading, dancing, writing, maths, science, music with a bit of technology thrown in for good measure and you might have a school teacher’s week. But if scratch underneath this broad curriculum and you’ll find that just about every teacher will have a problem area that they don’t feel confident in teaching in. Maths daunts so many learners that there was a component of my teaching diploma on mathsphobia.
But what about literacy?
I’m guessing that there aren’t many teachers out there who have problems with literacy because our education system can be brutal on learners who struggle with reading and writing.
Enter the dyslexic student teacher.
Having spent almost all my schooling life being labelled illiterate, the idea of teaching reading and writing was not a prospect I was looking forward to. The shame of having *THESE EXAMS WERE SAT UNDER SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS* emboldened underneath my grades on bursary certificate still burns brightly despite having since gained an Honours degree. In fact I have never sat another exam under those special considerations least that label pop up again. But this placement I finally had to come to confront this particular demon.
What my dyslexia looks like.
I frequent mix up the letters b, d, p, q and for some reason e and 3 also befuddle me. When I’m reading, especially out loud, I’ll often omit words or substitute words that look the same, for example accept/except or won’t/want but it is writing that really causes me problems.
My spelling is atrocious and the most accurate description of my handwriting is that it is like a drunken chicken making its way across the page (an actual quote from my school report). I can write neatly but only if I am concentrating on letter formation and nothing else. However if I want to write anything of any substance, the writing process for me is a bit like a Jackson Pollock painting. Bits of sentences and ideas get thrown around in no particular order and somehow a coherent argument emerges at the end of it.
Most of the time.
I’m sure at times I come across as a bit of evangelist when it comes to technology in education but the only reason I didn’t fail out of school altogether is because someone gave me access to a word processor in year 12 to write a story and I found away to get my thoughts into written form.
To say that was a game changer is an understatement.
When I am writing by hand I struggle to write a coherent sentence much less a paragraph, the words just seem to get stuck. However when I’m put in front of keyboard little snippets of ideas come out, they might not be in any order but once they are out for me to see I can start taking my garbled thoughts and putting them into a logical order.
This makes me wonder how many children there are out there educational system has previously discarded because their physical or cognitive differences didn’t fit the model of educational success which involved putting pen to paper in order pass exams. Every time I’ve seen technology used in the classroom, whether its an ipad for a student with cerebal palsey or blogging with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, the result has been a child who had the potental to be marginalized in a classroom engaged in learning. That’s a hugely exciting development in education, learners our education system once deemed defective now get a chance to succeed.
But now I’m back in the classroom and sometimes I wonder if I have any business being in there, especially as I tried to adapt my Associate Teacher’s classroom processes into my own practice. Then one morning I plugged a USB into the classroom’s laptop and had a sudden moment of clarity. The processes I was using to teach were the very same ones that cause me so many problems as a learner. What was I doing copying down a learning intention in a modelling book during a guided reading lesson when I could throw the ideas up onto the classroom’s two-touch along with some pictures to help illustrate the vocabulary that needed to be pre-taught? If I use technology to learn, it make sense that I should also use it to teach.
What’s more maybe the internal conversation I have with myself when I read, ‘go back that doesn’t make sense’ or ‘I’m not sure how to pronounce that word but I know what it means,’ are thoughts that the other learners in my classroom need to hear because I’m using decoding strategies. Handwriting continues to be my bugbear, my students often comment that my letters sometimes come out a bit wonky. I really have to think hard about how each letter is formed when I’m teaching in order to model something legible for them. But perhaps the fact that I have to struggle puts me on an equal footing with my students, we are literally learning together.
New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 4.a
Graduating teachers draw upon content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge when planning, teaching and evaluating.
One problem I’ve been mulling over for the last few months is making the most of teachable moments. I know that there are moments when teachers need to, in the words of my former eduction lecturer John Hattie, just shut up and let the learners learn. However there are also teachable moments in the classroom when teachers need to step forward and take an idea or question for a ride with your learners to see where it goes.
But how does a teacher know the difference?
Is it this where the idea of the natural teacher comes from? Natural teachers ‘just know’ when to shut up and listen but also when to speak up and the rest of us spend years trying to learn something that simply can not be taught.
You either ‘got it’ or you don’t?
The reason I bring this up is because on Monday afternoon it snowed in Auckland for the first time in nearly 80 years and I completely dropped the ball on a teachable moment. At the time I was busy trying to teach a handwriting lesson and the children’s backs were to the windows. The students probably wouldn’t have noticed what was going on outside had my Associate Teacher not piped up ‘look out the window children, what’s that?’
Once handwriting was put down for a moment the room was immediately a buzz and I quickly grabbed my camera to take video footage of the snow and the children’s reaction to it. I’m glad I did because when I was reviewing the footage later, I noticed a small teachable moment amongst the excitement, ‘is that snow’ a little voice asked? As it turned out it was something called graupel.
The children’s story’s this week for writing were amazing, they were animated and used highly expressive vocabulary. The class went nuts at the video I made of the children’s reaction’s to the graupel moreover the students were hugely excited at the prospect of someone capturing their stories on video giving the possibility of a far wider audience than the readers of their exercise books.
As it turned out the graupel was a teachable moment for me. I was bogged down in the nitty gritty aspects of writing, the forming letters, that I had lost sight of the reasons why we write. I think children are no different from adults in their desire to want to share their feelings and connect with others. Yet I wonder if our education system spends way too much time focusing on the mechanics of writing at the expense of the authentic experiences and audiences that inspire all of us to write.
Despite having a great visiting lecturers assessment, I spent another week plagued by doubt. Would I ever be able to judge a teaching moment without my Associate in the room to sound the alarm ‘danger Will Robinson you are missing a teachable moment.’
And then sure enough one popped up.
I was doing a brainstorm around the language associated with the +, -, = signs. I was impressed that alongside more and give, the students managed to hit on language like fatter and upgrade for the plus sign. But then when it came to the equals sign a student piped up that the sign meant “the answer is.”
I immediately knew that this was one of the mythical teachable moments I had been looking for. One student said it, which meant there might be more that think it. More importantly having taught algebra to a group of enrichment Year 8 students I knew that students misconceptions about what the equals sign means causes problems later on.
So I decided to have a quick mini-lesson on why equals does not mean ‘the answer is.’ I used materials, I used images and finally a moment of genius desperation I got the group to stand on one leg. By this stage the students were undoubtedly convinced that their teacher had a touch of the crazy, what on earth could standing on one leg have to do with maths? But there was a method behind my madness.
Each of the children had their arms out and when I asked them why sure enough they answered that they need to put their arms out to balance. I told them that the equals sign was like a balance, what is one side of the equals sign must be the same as the other. I then asked the students what would happen if they took the other leg off the ground and they responded that they would fallover, which I explained is kind of what happens when what is on one side of the equals sign is not the same as the other.
We started playing with our materials again when one of the children piped up that 1+1=2+0. What an awesome learning moment I sowed the seed of an important mathematical concept and maybe, just maybe, I’m not as blind to teachable moments as I thought.
New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 6.d
Graduating Teachers promote a learning culture which engages diverse learners effectively.
I speak Korean. I don’t speak the language particularly well, but alongside living in the country for four years I also attended night classes at Seoul National University. As a result of my study I can read and write 한글, the Korean alphabet Hanguel, and can also hold up a basic conversation. Since I moved back to New Zealand a few years ago, my Korean has largely laid dormant, except when I was ordering food at Korean restaurants and very occasionally at my previous job.
However at my current placement I get to speak Korean every day. There are a number of teachers visiting my current school to study about the New Zealand education system (which has a very different pedagogy from the Korean one). I love surprising the visitors when I start speaking to them in Korean as I’m usually the first non-Korean they’ve met who will natter away in 우리 말 (our language).*
If you had walked into the classroom yesterday, when the student-led conferences were taking place, you would have heard languages from across the globe being spoken not only by the students and their families but also by my Associate Teacher and I. Obviously my speaking the family language changed the tenor of the relationship between myself and the parent and student but what was surprising was that this relationship also changed the relationship of the other children.
The students were curious as to why I could speak ‘student A’s language.’ They didn’t say it, but the learners undoubtedly noticed that while ‘student A’ is Korean I am not. My current placement is a really multi-cultural school so the pupils are well accustomed to the idea that some children speak different languages at home than they do at school. But I’m guessing that the kids know that immigration is the reason behind people speaking more than one language as the rates of second language learning in New Zealand, especially of non-European languages, is quite poor. So it is hardly surprising that the idea that a Pakeha teacher who obviously grew up speaking English could also speak an Asian language would be something that piqued the children’s curiosity.
I explained that I had to study very hard to learn Korean but I really enjoyed it and hopefully one day I will speak Korean as well as ‘student A’ speaks English. Hopefully as a result of this encounter the students who grew up speaking English in their households might be open to the possibility of learning another language in the future. But more importantly the students saw a teacher learning which is perhaps the most powerful lesson of all, you never stop learning.
*Koreans typically express possession in the plural, ‘our mother,’ ‘our language,’ ‘our country.’
New Zealand graduating teacher standard 4.d
“Graduating teachers demonstrate proficiency in oral and written language (Māori and/or English), in numeracy and in ICT relevant to their professional role.”
Dear Teacher Education providers
Yesterday I received my pack for Teaching Experience 2 containing a wonderful array of informational booklets, multi-coloured forms for myself, my associate teacher and visiting lecturer to fill out on my next Teaching Experience. The forms look wonderful in their different colours and I’m sure its taken someone a long time to collate.
For fun I’ve also added the paperwork from this course that I’ve already amassed. The red folder is my unit plan from my last TE, the blue envelope has copies of the forms of my last placement, the clear folder contains all the marked assignments that my institution has printed out and sent back to me while the black folder underneath contains resources I’ve had posted to me during my studies.
Is this evidence of twenty-first century teaching practice?
I feel a bit bad for ‘outing’ my university but I know that they are not the only ones who still like to churn out paper for student teachers to collect and organize into ring binders. At my last placement there were students from three separate institutions and we were all doing the same thing: dutifully filing away pieces of paper which were filled out BY HAND for our institutions (and in turn Teachers Council) to see evidence that we are meeting the professional and legal requirements necessary to graduate and therefore teach in a classroom.
I’m trying to remember the last time I wrote something out by hand and it was for my exam and application forms to get into university. These processes seem so far removed from my reality where I learn, bank, shop, socialize and watch TV online. Almost all the teaching I did during my last placement was done using my laptop with physical materials for students to manipulate. I would have happily incorporated more if the students had devices themselves.
Perhaps I’m the lone blogger in a sea of people who like to file paper away in ring binders where no one else can read it or see it. But then the associate teacher at my last placement made a remark that these forms should be available in digital form and apparently she isn’t alone.
There are so many reasons why pre-service teacher practice needs to go digital.
- Waste of resources – From an environmental point of view the carbon footprint from the paper generated from these courses is phenomenal and I haven’t even factored in sending these packets out. Throw in staff time collating all these packs, putting the envelopes, sending them out receiving them again at the end of the placement and that’s a lot of time and money down the drain.
- Content not easily reproducible - I needed to have a goal setting conversation with my mentor so my last appraisals were important part of this conversation. In order for her to have the data I had to take photos of the photocopied forms (since my institution needs to have the originals), covert them into a PDF and email them off for my mentor so that we could both have a copy of the form as we live in different cities.
- Data security – For some reason people seem to think that hard-copies of evidence are more secure. I really don’t get that. If my school bag gets stolen while I’m at the gym or my water bottle leaks over my paperwork or perhaps someone spills coffee then ALL my paperwork is ruined. Backing up my work via hardrive, cloud data or USB means that I have multiple copies ready to go. Likewise not all digital content needs to be public like this blog.
But the big one is:
The process of filling in forms doesn’t encourage collaborative practice.
Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed a lot of incoming search strings (that’s visitors who have come to my blog via search engines) with phrases like
- “strategies for promoting and nurturing the physical and emotional safety of learners”
- “promote a learning culture which engages diverse learners effectively”
- “complex influences that personal, social and cultural factors have on teachers and learners”
Anyone working in teacher education should immediately recognize these phrases are from the New Zealand Teacher Council Graduating Teacher Standards.
These incoming search strings indicate students are coming here to look for information because the internet is where they go to find the information. Right now my e-portifolio is the only source of information of real-world examples of the Graduating Teacher Standards for students to easily access on the internet. In fact if you type the phrase ”working cooperatively with those share responsibility for the learning and well being of learners” into google, a blog post of mine is the first entry. That’s a great ego boost for me as a blogger because someone might be using my information but I would love to have other students out there responding to my reflections and challenging my ideas because it will make me into a better teacher.
Institutions need to think about how they are encouraging student teachers to become digital literate, how to blend the digital technologies into our learning so we in turn can teach to others. Don’t assume just because we can text, facebook and google with the best of them that we are automatically digital literate. We may have mastered the technology, but it doesn’t mean we know how to apply it to our learning or students learning.
But we need to.
The students in our classrooms want it, our country needs it.
Right now teacher education providers are part of the problem of digital illiteracy when they need to be part of the solution.
If student teachers aren’t integrating digital learning into our practice at a university, when we have people who are supposedly far more learned than us show us the way, how are going to do it when we are out being real teacher? It goes down the bottom of the to-do list as we work our way through survival mode of the first few years in the profession. I don’t understand why institutions insist on perpetuating old practices when they should embracing the benefits that this new technology for pre-service teachers who will soon be out in classrooms full of digital natives who also don’t want to be filing away work in ring binders.
I’m six months away from graduation and I can assure I’m not pondering how to fill in forms or organize information into folders because I stopped using ring binders once I left high school. I am wondering how to incorporate digital learning that I’m doing here into a classroom setting? What digital tools can I use to promote the learning areas and key competencies of the New Zealand curriculum? How can I maximize the benefits of social media platforms to enhance learners literacy while minimizing the risks? What applications exist to plan collaboratively? How am I going to communicate effectively with a generation of parents who grew up in the digital age? What platforms can I use to organize student work? How do I stay relevant as a teacher in a world of information abundance?
I don’t know to the answers to those questions but I do know I won’t find them by filling in forms.
A student teacher
Postscript, this post influenced me to go ahead and digitalise my practice for my next Teaching Experience rather than waiting for the wheels of the university system to turn.