Three Weeks into Term 1

February 20, 2010

Three Weeks in

Tomorrow will mark the first 3 weeks of term 1 and it has been rather a rollercoaster ride. After the slight euphoroa of my last post and my optimism about Tribes, I have to admit that the reality is not such a jolly picture of trust, support and collaboration.
My 2 year 8 classes that I have for both English and Humanities, have not been easy classes. My 8D class is certainly the nicer class but there are challenges. There are several students who have special learning needs although only 2 are funded with a possible 3rd receiving funding in the future. This does mean there is always an Aide or 2 in the classroom which can be quite helpful but can be off putting (depending on the aide) I also have to stop myself from Shh-ing the aide when she’ll be explaining something to a student. In this same class are several very clever but polite and undemanding students whom I should be extending more than I am. I am working on ways that I can offer a more differentiated curriculum to these clever students – it’s playing on my mind.
My other Year 8 class is decidedly harder work.There is one clever boy who looks bored and rolls his eyes a lot (I imagine he’s rolling his eyes anyway.) There are a number of snooty, unfriendly girls, some talk and giggle incessantly. There’s some very weak students and there’s some very difficult students. One boy is in trouble with the police and is going to court next week. This boy had been truanting but the police have now stipulated he must be in school.
Anyway – going back to Tribes – it’s taken rather a back seat to managing these children and trying to deliver parts of the curriculum to them. I have tried a few getting to know you activites and energisers and will do more of this – in due course.
I have never taught Humanities before and that is something else that is niggling at me all the time.I’m about one page ahead of the kids and trying to sound knowledgable about rainforest biomes. Map reading and contour lines is something that terrifies me – I am warming up to that.
My year 12 class has a number of lovely students and I should be grateful for that. However, there is one very unpleasant boy who, when he’s in class, whips up another couple of boys who are quite tolerable with him not there. I’m enjoying teaching Bruce Dawe and so far keeping on top of the marking.
I feel very positive about my new staffroom and teaching environment. Our little staffroom of 8, “significant” year 8 teachers is peaceful and civilised. A round room surrounded by windows, it has a pleasant outlook and is close to all my teaching rooms. My colleagues are pleasant and interesting people. A great advantage is the proximity of the student manager coordinator to whom wayward students can be directed promptly. Other years, when I’ve had trouble managing students, I’ve been stuck out in some Siberian portable classroom and felt quite isolated. All you could do you was send a student outside or send them to a coordinator some distance across the other side of the school – a situation fraught with difficulties. So, I do feel more supported and secure in this new environment which, if the truth be known, is what attracted me to this new situation. My classroom management skills have improved over the years but it is an aspect of this job that I will never really master. Oh well, I must do somethings well!

Thinking ahead

January 28, 2010

I’ll be meeting my new classes in a few days and am beginning to feel a little anxious. 
I  spent a long time tonight talking to Denise who taught one of my yr8 classes last year. Denise is now retired but had a lot of helpful insights into how to deal with this rather complicated class.All I really wanted to know was how much of the Tribes activities she had done with them but she filled me in on a huge array of problems and challenges she had with this group.

Anyway, here is a tentative line of approach I will follow next week.

  • prior to class – arrange tables in 5 groups with 5 chairs – but chairs are all facing the front of the room at this point
  • Students to line up outside room and enter only when everyone is calm and orderly
  • Introductions and overview of the year (English   / humanities) Hold up text books
  • outline my hopes and expectations for the year – for a positive and constructive year of learning harmoniously together
  • Now ask students what is their idea of the ideal classroom. How do they best learn? When do they feel uncomfortable in class?
  • Now students to turn chairs inwards to face their group.
    One member of the group to be recorder 0f all the suggestions of what makes up the ideal classroom.
  • After the brainstorming sessions. Wach group to report to the class what they came up with.
  • I will jot ideas onto w/b
  • I will attempt to identify these components from student ideas – Mutual respect, attentive listening, no put downs, appreciations, the right to pass.
  • Write these up on w/b
  • time for an energiser….
  • Now, students to sit down with one other person, some pairs will have to be threes.
  • Each person is to talk about themselves for 2 minutes. Other person to listen attentivly. Take in turns. Now each listener has to report to class what they can remember of the other person’s bio details.
  • Last half hour of this lesson? Maybe read a poem and discuss it.

e5 Explodes with a Common Language!

January 27, 2010

This was the eye catching head line my group came up with today to encapsulate our perception of the essential role of the “e5 instructional model”. Bravely and competently led by  Teaching and Learning  Coordinator, Helen Toon, the whole day was largely devoted to better acquainting us with this model designed to enhance our teaching practices. Covering the following 5 domains: engage, explore, explain, elaborate and evaluate – Helen impressed on us the benefits of more consciously leading our students through these various stages and being ourselves more aware of the metalanguage used to discuss these procedures.

The entire staff participated in this day long PD with a delicious morning tea and lunch provided. We were thoughtfully broken up into 13 groups of about 8 people each and a lot of our discussion was within groups.

It was acknowledged that this instructional model is something we all do anyway – or SHOULD  do. That it’s not meant to be delivered in 5 discrete stages but is interwoven and multilayered.

Note – in the graphic below, they’ve included a 6th instruction – e-learning -an area I particularly wish to integrate into my classroom activities.

First post

January 27, 2010

My new desk in the year 8 staffroom

As the new school year of 2010 looms, I’m endeavoring to “psych” myself up for the task ahead. Mind you, this will be my 22nd year at this particular school so I should feel fairly familiar with the environment. It’s a little different this year however as I have changed offices and am now in a small,but airy staffroom with 7 other teachers all of whom are part of the “Year 8 Team”. Of course there are other teachers who also teach year 8 but I see ourselves as a sort of core group. we all have at least 2 year 8 classes and teach them for 2 different subjects. I’ll be teaching English and Humanities (history and geography). I’ve also got a yr12 English class that will provide some variety to my teaching allotment.
I’m feeling particularly optimistic about this year after completing a 4 day training course in the student management philosophy called “Tribes” (teaching and learning communuty) The theory behind this approach is to infuse the students with feelings of inclusion, mutual respect and appreciation – of themselves and others. Students are encouraged to work in small learning groups – eventually forming tribes of complimentary personality types. Learning is predominantly student centered although there is much emphasis placed on larger circle activities designed to promote inclusion and energy.
During the training, our leader took us through the same activities designed for the students and I was amazed at how positive and morale boosted we all felt afterwards. It was also a wonderful opportunity to get to know other staff members better and we all seemed to experience a heightened feeling of well being and sense of community.
If we can manage to infuse our students with similar feelings, our classrooms should be good places to provide a positive learning environment.
I’m feeling relatively positive about integrating Web 2.0 technologies into my students’learning experiences this year. This will be the third year I have used blogging as a communication medium and as long as the students have internet access, blogging – probably using Global Student, is extending, constructive and fun. I will need to acquaint myself with how to build web sites using SharePoint which I know the school admin want us to use. Hopefully we can also make use of Nings and Wikis, podcasting and filming.
Yesterday I very bravely (or recklessly) contracted myself for 2 years to a 16gb Apple iPhone. I’ve spent much of the day trying to get the hang of it and have made some progress. I was delighted that my friend Sue dropped around (quite unsolicited) to share her Apple iPhone expertise with me. I am now the proud possessor of several fun Apps (most were free) and am a little more savvy as to how to work my new phone.I’m thinking of ways I can utilise this phone in the classroom and maybe encourage students to include their mobiles in education related activities.