Saturday, 30 September 2017

3/4 through the year. What I've learnt about teaching in an open space.



I have realised that having thought that teaching in an open space to be daunting, it is even more so to many kids to do their learning in such a space.
Being told to choose to work independently on a choice of set tasks seems to inevitably result in nothing being chosen and no work taking place. I've learnt that as appealing as options are, they need to be offered up in a contained, achievable package. Work needs to be closely monitored with clearly communicated expectations and great feedback. Teachers need to be touching base with kids regularly, pushing, challenging and supporting them. Meeting them individually and in smaller groups. Making sure that they are being made accountable and expected to do their best (a levelled criteria can help here).
I've learnt that large classes need teachers to be on the same page and be totally supportive of each other. There needs to be open, honest dialogue and in an ideal context, a relationship, a friendship, and a sense of humour goes without saying.
I've learnt that information about kids needs to be shared, no matter how inane. Eg. Knowing that someone's cat died last night can help hugely.
I've learnt that planning needs to be shared and owned by all teachers.
I've learnt that not everyone likes rugby, not everyone likes coding. There needs to be differentiation across the curriculum, but kids should be expected to try everything, but it might need different packaging ;)
There needs to be leadership. Not the dominating, fear of God kind of leader but someone who motivates and supports the teachers, who leads and guides a space, someone who can be depended on and trusted. Someone who the kids love, but don't fear. Someone who brings the space together.
Like any classroom, there needs to be clear expectations with clear consequences that are adhered to by all teachers at all times.
There also needs to be an atmosphere of kindness, understanding and aroha that permeates everything.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The test that was term 1


It's a surprisingly big step moving from a single cell class to a 3 teacher, 84 kid set up, especially one where the kids and the school culture are both new to you. Consequently, I found the past term a big challenge but one that was sprinkled with some successes.

The challenges 
Making use of the space
The teaching space is an old library with lots of corners, walls, few windows, little rooms. It does not make an ideal space for teaching such a large number of children. There are lots of places to hide and place yourself out of the view of a teacher. The make up of the physical space makes noise an issue as well. Although systems have been put in place in term 2 to help manage this issue it is still a daily challenge and the simplest tasks, the simple transitions take much longer and become bigger issues than they should.
Being part of a team
There is a real need for teachers working collaboratively to be on the same page, with similar priorities and values. Their approach can be different but the underlying beliefs need to be closely aligned. Also, any grumblings or concerns need to be shared and discussed. I think, on the whole, my team is in the same book, not necessarily on the same page. Systems that are introduced are not challenged or there is at least a feeling that "she'll be right". This is partly my fault as I don't want to be the one who rocks the boat, partly because I am the the teacher newest to the school. My personal goal here is to be more open to initiating those difficult conversations.
Knowing the kids
It hard to get to know so many children and especially hard when you've learnt that relationships are key to success at school. I felt I got to know the younger kids who were a constant with me in class but I felt I didn't know many of the older kids as well as I should which has been both frustrating and disappointing.      
Establishing routines and systems
Disruptions caused by teacher sickness and 3 class camps made it very difficult to set up and maintain routines and systems.What had been carefully set up one week was undone the next as kids returned to class having being away for a week, or relief teachers took centre stage in the classroom.

The Successes
Taking ownership & creating expectations
With the more established teachers out of the classroom for 2 and 4 weeks respectively I felt I was the only adult constant in the class. It was up to me to become the rock for the class and manage all apsects of the day to day. With the help of some great relief teachers I felt we achieved this, in spite of the challenges. The biggest of which was the simple fact that the kids didn't know me well. I was the new teacher from Auckland who was new to the school and didn't know how things happened here. The senior teacher with over 10 years experience here and the PRT who'd been a face at the school for 2 years were not in the picture. It was time for boundaries to be pushed. But boundaries and expectations were set and a degree of normalcy was created.
Connections
In spite of the challenges I feel I have started to connect with a chunk of the kids Not to the extent that I think I could have in a smaller class but enough to enable a positive rapport. Most of these relationships are with the younger kids who I accompanied on camp.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Signing off at PES

What an amazing 2 years I have had at PES. I feel I have developed in ways and in directions I never thought I would go in 2 years ago. Surrounded by friends and experts I have learnt so much that has helped me become the teacher I am today. Yes, I have become a digital teacher, I have learned all about the affordances of digital technology in the classroom but the overall big learning for me these years has been the value of whanaungatanga. Relationships are key if you really want to see learning take place in the classroom and for many children it is the relationships that they need. Getting to know parents, know the names of brothers and sisters, knowing that they had a big rugby game in the weekend - all of this can add value to school in the eyes of the kids and their whanau. I have spent 2 years in one of the most digitally advanced schools in the country and I hope to take what I have learned and add to it. I hope to continue working with Google Sites and get to know how to use Chromebooks well. I hope to continue to create activities that push kids and get them to learn, create and share. I really want to make sure I continue to develop my practice and become the best I can be.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Wednesday Afternoon Was Beach Day



As a reward for reaching the top of our Ladder of Kindness, Room 14 went down to Pt.England beach for the afternoon. 





The plan was simple: We'll take a couple of balls and let the kids have free play (with some adult supervision).





The result was a fantastic success. The rugby ball and football were pretty much ignored and instead the kids built sandcastles with classmates they didn't usually play with, collected shells for each other, buried friends in the sand, hunted for crabs, collected clay, investigated rock pools, tried to catch fish, looked under rocks. It was wonderful to watch.





I saw lots of real work on Key Competencies. The kids were placed in a very stimulating environment, away from the familiar playground and familiar routines and they were let loose into this new playground and had a very valuable experience. For me, it was very interesting to see how the children interacted with each other differently and made decisions about how they would spend their time on the beach.





Needless to say we're doing this again.















Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Gem Sharing

We were asked to share a gem, a lightbulb moment, a highlight, a moment of rapture in our inquiry over the year to date. My gem was simple. But come to think of it, it was more of a flash of realisation than a gem.

Having followed a very structured writing programme that has scaffolded the writing process for the children in my class, I have come to realise that there is a small minority on my class who would rather not follow the "recipe" they are given and would rather write to the beat of their own drum. It is these beat poets I need to consider more next year.

How can I offer them the support they need as well as provide the scaffold that the majority of the class need?

Our chat also got me thinking a lot about an area for improvement in my teaching, and that is how I use and promote the kids' blogs in class. If the blogs are meant to act as the showcase for the kids then they need to be promoted much more in class than I currently do. Perhaps if the kids really feel ownership of their blogs, then the quality of the work in it will be higher?

Things to consider:

  • Blog of the week (celebrated)
  • 2 weekly rotations to give FB on work (half of the class a week)  
  • (could also be in writing books with the kids given time to read their feedback and and then take this feedback into their next writing as its fresh in the mind)
  • Give kids time to read their own blog
  • Google Docs - Comments

Monday, 22 August 2016

Inquiry Update

The writing programme is cruising along. We've hit a few bumps but we're trying to find a way up the mountain.  Some very helpful feedback from Juanita Garden (AP) revealed that I had shifted the focus of my writing towards vocabulary and had removed some of the successful scaffolds that I had been using in the past.  I have since reintroduced these scaffolds and they are providing a useful framework for the children to hold onto.

It's also become clear that writing can be a tricky area to hook the children's interest in. She's a fickle mistress. One of my boys started one writing task off very slowly to the extent that I thought I would get very little from him. The following day he went for it and did his best writing to date! The praise I gave him seemed to motivate him greatly and consequently he seemed more engaged in other tasks the following day.

My learning to date would be as follows:


  • make sure kids are as settled as possible before starting with clear expectations
  • talk through the task before hand and input in as much awesome vocab/grammar as possible
  • try to engage the children as much as possible
  • scaffold the task and have that scaffold available to the kids
  • monitor/help/praise/manage
I want to really try to engage the kids more to the tasks. I did a little piece of mime to motivate them to write about the 100m sprint which went down well.