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.
Last Friday I had my first teaching job interview. I was very humbled to get to this stage of the process as I know the school had received a huge amount of interest not mention applications from all over the North Island and some from the South as well! But this was a job interview with a difference, it was a group one.
The prospect of having my first job interview with 10 other student teachers vying for 1 or maybe 2 jobs was always going to be a double-edged sword.
On one hand being an online student means that I don’t spend much time physically hanging out with other student teacher so I was looking forward to spending time with student teachers. But there was a rather large elephant in the room, we were in competition with each other for a plum teaching position.
From the outset it was clear that all the applicants had something we were passionate about and had something different to offer the school. There were teachers who were interested in dance, music, sports, fine art and drama. One of the students gave a fantastic mihimihi and a number of us had lived overseas at some point in our lives.
I was dumbstruck by the thoughtful and interesting feedback as well as the creative ideas generated for learning. To say I was intimidated by the talent amassed in that room would be an understatement. If I was a principal, I would want to hire us all! I must confess I spent half the time wondering what on earth I was doing in a room full of awesomeness.
So it was just as well our session didn’t feel at all like a job interview. It was run with clear learning intentions and success criteria, there were individual tasks, group tasks, pair tasks. We were planning lessons, talking pedagogy and learning about leadership. If nothing else comes from the interview, I got a free afternoon of professional development run by some amazing school leaders with some brilliant student teachers. That’s the first time I’ve ever come out of a job interview and immediately wished I could go back for another session.
The only downside was that there was no internet access and most of our work was done with pen and paper. However there were physical reasons for this and by end of the session I had access a laptop which made me realize that yes more than anything I’m an e-learner. I like being able to move text around a screen far more than jotting ideas down on paper. Not having a device made me feel literally disconnected from my style of learning.
I’m sure there will be a lot of experienced teachers out there scratching their heads wondering if this is the future of HR practices. I would say yes. Collaboration is an essential ingredient for 21st century educator but traditional 1 on 1 interviews don’t effectively assess this quality except perhaps at the reference check stage. From an interviewee’s perspective it is easy to talk in an interview by yourself about being collaborative. Walking the talk with people you are competing against? That’s tough. But the thing with principles is that they only mean something if you stick by them when they are inconvenient.
The group interviews undoubtedly gives huge amount of qualitative data about you as a person which just isn’t there in the traditional set up. As a interviewee you need to strike a delicate balance between talking and listening. You want to get your ideas across (I’m a special snowflake! La, la, la! Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!) but at the same time you need to show that you can use ideas that come from other people in the room. In short you are being tested on knowing when is a teachable moment that you need to speak up and when is a learning moment and you need to listen. Do I think I got the mix 100% right? Nope but I’m still learning to make the most of teachable moments. Nevertheless the interview had lots of teachable and more importantly learnable moments.
I wondered whether I should post on this experience because I don’t yet know the outcome of the interview and job hunting is such a secretive process. You don’t want prospective employers to know you are talking to other schools when you are in the process of searching for a job because all your job applications proclaim love for that school and that school alone. To say that not only only are you seeing someone else but they said no seems risky. It puts a big scarlet F on our forehead in a society that doesn’t do well with failure. Someone has said no? Maybe there’s something wrong with you. In reality everyone at some point has experienced failure or had a set back in life and it isn’t the end of the world. Picking yourself up and asking what you can do differently to generate another opportunity is what counts.
In fact through the interview process I know that getting a knock back for this job might not come down to anything specific about me but that the school needs to get the right mix of teachers on staff. The Korean-speaking e-learning nerd might not be quite right in the mix when there are sports teams that need to be coached and productions that need to be staged. I know from the interview process that there are other Beginning Teachers who are far more passionate about sports/music/drama/art than I am. However if creating digital content, engaging online communities and using technology to learn is something schools need, then I’m the best Beginning Teacher in New Zealand to fill that particular niche. A bold claim to make, but I can totally back it up.
So that’s why I’m posting about the interview because this is what I’ve been doing for the last 8 months, blogging about my learning. I don’t know if it makes a difference but this is my teaspoon.
Hopefully the awesome teachers I met last Friday will find ways to utilize our collective talents and I will be doing a happy dance for whoever gets the job/s. That’s another great thing about group interviews, you really don’t have any hard feelings if you get a ‘no.’ Because rather than competing against an unknown entity you know the other applicants and in fact find yourself cheering for them.
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.
ZOMG is that August gone? This month has zipped by with lots of learning due to being out on Teaching Experience and also the awesome #educampAKL. I had expected the blog to take a rather large dip in traffic due to being out on TE, so figured aside from hitting the 10k mark the stats would be the most interesting thing I’d have to talk about.
Not only did I break 10k visits the number of visits during August went up due in part to having another post go (relatively) viral and a series of guest posts which also bring in traffic. I really enjoyed having guest posts as a way to widen the blog’s audience but that it also bought into different perspectives of teaching which has been a huge learning opportunity for me.
In grand tradition (is three times a tradition) I will share some cake porn, in this case a chocolate-peanut butter number I made for my sister’s baby shower. I stupidly volunteered to make this the day before #educampakl and after my first week of TE. Just as well there was plenty of leftovers to nom on over the weekend.
Right onwards to blog stats.
Page Loads: 3,636 (117 per day)
Biggest day: August 30 (364 hits)
Most commented on post: Why #wordpress is better than blogger got the techies salivating at wordpress being open source. Educating an autistic child is an opportunity had some conversation that had me having to pull out my blog moderating hat for the first time in seven months. In good news there was a wonderful response to A Student Speaks: What makes a good teacher?
Top 5 most popular posts (in order of popularity)
- Why I’m done talking about e-learning and you should be too (267 hits)
- Why #wordpress is better than blogspot (196 hits)
- Guest Post: Educating an autistic child is an opportunity (184 hits)
- A student speaks: What makes a good teacher? (181 hits)
- Something to teach, something to learn: why #educampakl rocked! (134 hits)
Coming up in September
- The last of TE
- Twitter tour (My holiday will be visiting with Auckland-based tweachers if I get around to organizing)
- Job search – knock back/interview edition
- Site visits top 15,000
- Descending into October’s assignment madness
- #DUedchat (last Thursday in September)
I’ve changed my position on students calling teachers by their first names.
During my first placement was at an intermediate school where I went by Ms Lastname and was reasonably convinced that this was the way to go. I didn’t particularly want to be on a first name basis with my students due to always having to be ‘on’ as a teacher. For this placement I am with year 1/2 class at a school where everyone in the school is on a first name basis with their students and having now experienced the practice of being called Stephanie, I kind of like it.
I thought it might be weird, and it was for the first hour or so, but after that I quickly got used to it because it was simply the culture of the school. In fact the rooms in the school aren’t numbered at all but rather referred to by the teacher’s name classroom. So if I was teaching at my placement for real I wouldn’t be teaching in room 3, it would be Stephanie’s classroom. This sounds a bit egotistical at first glance but the practice seems a lot more warm and welcoming than an impersonal numbered space.
I don’t think the issue of students respecting teachers is a major one. I haven’t noticed any difference in students respecting teachers at my current placement then there was at my last placement. But I discovered that alongside not feeling so detached from my students another unintended benefit when a student talks about another teacher I no longer have to think about who Mr/Mrs Lastname is because I automatically know the teacher’s name. I also like that when I bump into my students outside of school (I live within easy walking distance) the students call me Stephanie as the alternative seems so contrived once you are out of the classroom. So why do most teachers insist on keeping up the practice inside the classroom?
The issue of teacher names isn’t something that I would go to the matresses over. However if I was given the choice, I think I would opt to be on a first name basis with my students. Nevertheless I can’t help but think that school culture might play a role in my decision as perhaps the reason I enjoy students calling me by my first name is because they call everyone by their first name.