This interview was recorded as a part of the Ed Tech Crew Podcast number 228 – released 2013-07-18
This interview was recorded as a part of the Ed Tech Crew Podcast number 228 – released 2013-07-18
A couple of weeks ago, I fired off a post ripping into a professional development session that I’d been to. I was disappointed that the organisers had made it pretty clear that technology was only to be used when THEY felt the time was right. This really interrupted the flow of my learning. My ‘go to’ method of note taking and clarifying my thoughts had been taken away. It gave me a negative outlook toward the training straight away.
I was thinking about this some more today and realised that this is exactly what we do to kids in our classroom ALL THE TIME. In most cases, WE decide when an iPad comes out. WE decide when students can use technology to help with their learning. Why is this? I know the immediate answer is going to be something about making sure that kids are on task or making sure that they are focussed. What if the device helps them to do these things? It certainly does with me.
I’m not suggesting that there are never kids off task. It happens. Does this mean that we should assume that ALL kids will potentially be off task? We need to start trusting our students. If there are kids off task, deal with them… individually. Don’t assume the guilt of all. We are in the 21st century. Does allowing for everyone’s learning needs mean allowing devices always? Maybe it’s time to find out.
There is no doubt that professional development is an important part of our job as teachers. If I’m honest, I love it (I can hear you scoffing). Being able to earn a living and continue learning new things is a wonderful part of being a teacher. When you attend a great PD, you come away feeling inspired and it improves the way you do your job. It improves learning.
After having attended some fantastic PD, my expectations are high. If I am taking a day out of the classroom I really want it to be worthwhile. Today, I attended a training session for a program that our school is involved in. Although the program is a worthwhile one, the training left a lot to be desired.
Being connected is a big part of how I learn. Rather than work in isolation, I have become accustomed to sharing and learning from others in digital spaces. We all know the drill. We know that Twitter and other networks have a valuable role in our learning. Along side this is the fact that ICTs and digital technologies are a big part of our Australian Curriculum and of our Professional Standards for Teachers.
The first thing I saw when I arrived at today’s session was this:
It sucked the enthusiasm right out of me. In my opinion, ANY professional development sanctioned by our department NEEDS to embrace connected learning. If my child was to go into a classroom where technology was banned, I wouldn’t be happy. I think we need to have the same standards for our teachers.
Over the last few days, I’ve been watching my Twitter feed with interest. This year’s ACEC event is in town and I am unable to be there. This is a little frustrating and pangs of jealousy keep creeping in as I read tweets about inspiring things. Even though I can’t be there in person, the power of social media allows me to be involved in the learning.
This year my son Matt is involved in the conference as a student digital leader. In the lead up to the event, a realisation that he’d agreed to do ‘school things’ for most of the first week of holidays kicked in, and his enthusiasm for the task ahead weakened. Even so, he trudged off to his first day of Digital Leader duties, not sure what to expect.
I wasn’t sure what to expect either. I am a big believer in the Digital Leader program and saw this as an opportunity for empowerment. A chance for him and his fellow students to show a large group of teachers what they are capable of. His despondent attitude on morning one, didn’t fill me with hopes of success. What we ended up with exceeded my expectations.
Coming home from day one, I had a child who was full of excitement for learning. He spoke of being able to learn ‘like a real person’. He felt that he was not only able to help others but that he had learned a lot at the same time. He talked about the connections he made with other students and the conversations he’d had with teachers from other schools. He recounted the conversations with event sponsors and with keynote speakers. During the course of the day he had had a light bulb moment and remembered that he actually loves learning.
One of the key aspects he has talked about each day was the ability to learn from people outside of his immediate circle. He was particularly interested in the ideas discussed by Alec Couros and was able to make direct links between these ideas and what was NOT happening for him at school.
Day two seemed just as exciting for him. He explored Google Glass with Kathy Schrock, and has seen how Twitter can play a part in not only sharing his learning (along with his blog) but for building a learning network outside of his classroom. He interviewed teachers and keynote speakers and discussed the ideas he’d heard about with his peers. As he told me about his day the term that kept repeating was “we can’t do that at school”.
So here is the dilemma. How does he go back to school and stay inspired about his learning? How do we, as teachers, go back to school and help our students to feel inspired? It’s a hard question…. maybe the students have the answer?
In my time as a teacher I have been lucky. I’ve spent all of my time in a school where teacher professional development is highly valued. Because of this, I’ve had many opportunities to implement new programs and improve my teaching practice. As with most things we do, we have conversations to reflect. A lot of these conversations begin with “If I was to do that again I would…”.
This year, I’m in the position to be able to do just that. I am starting a new job at a new school where many of the programs I value are not currently running. Most of these programs will continue to be a part of my teaching and learning program and I will have the opportunity to start again with a clean slate. This is a real opportunity. It’s an opportunity because this time I’ll be starting with a much greater knowledge base. In order to not stuff it up it’s important to set some goals. So here we go for term 1.
Student Blogs: Starting again with kids blogging for the first time there are a lot of things I’d do differently. Less ‘cookie cutter / all do the same’ blogging and more of an emphasis on kids blogging from their interest base. I will work harder to help connect kids to ‘their’ authentic audience rather than purely tapping them in to mine. I will work harder to encourage regular commenting from families and attempt to buddy kids up with a blogger from another school. I also want to explore the idea of ‘quadblogging’. It sounds like a lot when you write it down!
Connected Learning: From a class perspective I plan to start the wheels rolling on at least one authentic learning experience that involves an expert from elsewhere teaching us something. I think this is a great way to show kids that learning shouldn’t be limited by the walls of the classroom. The bigger picture part of my job is to support teachers on their journey into connected learning. This will involve modelling and professional development based on the individuals needs of teachers. I want to explore Google Apps for students.
Single Sex Education: This is something that I feel passionate about. I have spent the last seven years teaching in a single sex program. This year my challenge is to implement these important practices in a mixed class environment.
As with every year, the first term involves lots of relationship building and I look forward to this part of the ‘job’. I’m excited about the year ahead and look forward to reflecting on these term one goals in ten week’s time.
I worry about my kids. Everyday there are stories on the news that terrify me. Terrorism, extreme violence, child abusers on the loose… you could just about be forgiven for locking your kids up tight and throwing away the key in the name of safety.
I worry about my kids. My son starts high school this year and, if I believe the news, there’s a good chance that he will be bashed, kidnapped or abused if I let him walk the 15 mins to school on his own.
I worry about my kids. The news tells me that even if he miraculously makes it to school alive there’s a strong likelihood that he will be bullied to the point of inflicting self harm AND will probably receive a less than acceptable education along the way.
I worry about my kids. Even if they somehow make it through all of this, the job market is terrible (I know because it was on the news) and they will probably be unemployed and live a miserable existence… that is if they don’t go out for a night with their friends and get ‘king hit’ by a drunk and end up in hospital.. or dead. I worry about my kids.
Yesterday I read a blog post on the Mamma Mia website titled ‘Charlie Pickering Wants to Talk to You About Priorities’. In his post, Pickering talks about the priorities of media outlets when selecting which stories to focus on and which to ignore. He highlights the sensationalist nature of stories like those I mentioned and puts them into some perspective. He confirms that in reality these things don’t really happen that often and that it’s probably ok to relax a little. Later in the post, Pickering pointed out sexual violence against women as an example of a story that doesn’t get enough attention in the media.
At about this point, something started to happen. More and more often, I read something that brings on an extreme response from within. This happens particularly with things that I feel relate to my kids or my work. This issue touched on both and I haven’t really been able to let it go since.
Violence against women is touted as a women’s issue. It’s seen to be ‘very bad’ but beyond that, it’s not really talked about often enough. Pickering says in his blog post that around 70 women in Australia die each year at the hands of someone they trust. Let that sink in… Not from random crazy people on the street, but from people they trust and usually a man. His data says that one in three women over the age of 15 will be the victim of physical or sexual violence at the hands of a trusted male during their lifetime… one in three. THIS is something that I SHOULD be worrying about.
A quick google search shows that it’s not just we Australian’s with this problem. Almost half of women over the age of 18 in Canada have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of men. In the USA around 235,000 women were raped or sexually abused last year and that’s just those that were reported. A survey from France shows that just over 76% of all victims there were attacked by men that they knew and trusted. The list goes on. This is something that we ALL need to be worried about.
Sexual violence is not a ‘Women’s Issue’. As Jackson Katz says in his TED Talk below, women are the victims here, but the perpetrators are men. Katz presents the view that rather than being a ‘women’s issue’ that sexual violence is actually a ‘men’s issue’.
In my opinion, Katz is on the right track. But, rather than a ‘men’s issue’, I think that this is an issue for our BOYS. Once men are men there has been a lot of learning done along the way. This learning has been very effective and is very hard to undo. If we want to truly change what’s happening here we need to get to our son’s early. Nobody thinks that their son is going to grow up to be a rapist or to commit violence against women but, looking at the statistics, many people’s sons are doing just this. As parent of a son and a daughter… THIS is terrifying.
So where are we going wrong? Where does the violence come from? In general, nobody sets out to train their boys to be violent, surely? I think we are all guilty of it anyway. Stereotypes are alive and well and, as much as we are aware of it, we all still fall into the trap of ‘dolls for girls’ and ‘trucks for boys’. This in itself probably isn’t going to cause our sons to become perpetrators but we throw in some ‘Man up’, ‘Don’t be a wimp’, ‘punch him back’ and the ever classy ‘don’t be a pussy’ & ‘grow some balls’. Now we are starting to develop boys that feel the need to be ‘tough’. ‘Tough’ often comes with ‘aggressive’.
As they grow up there is ongoing pressure to ‘be a man’. ‘No crying’ and ‘suck it up’ get added to pile and we are really starting to do some damage. We watch movies with our sons and nearly all of them show him that he needs to be in charge and save they day. Most of the time he will be rewarded by ‘getting the girl’ who, by the way, is too weak to save herself and really NEEDS the man to tell her what to do. Each of these on their own seem harmless, but combined they send a dangerous message to our sons. Watch:
So what do we do about it? Big question. I certainly don’t have the answer except that we need to start early.
We need to talk to our sons and the boys around us about this stuff. We need to point out that the guys in movies are not realistic. We need to find movies that show a different type of guy to mix in with the usual stuff we watch. We need to teach boys how to be sensitive and think of others. We need to model to them the right way to treat those around them, including (and especially) women. We need to show them that emotions are not only ok but important. We need to let them choose the doll or the pink t-shirt if that’s what they want. In all of this we need to be explicit, and not just assume that they’ll ‘pick it up’.
We need redefine the words ‘MAN UP’.
I worry for my daughter. I worry for my son. Something needs to change and it starts with all of us.
’10 responses to Man UP’ – *Course language at the beginning*
At the end of each school year we take a moment to reflect on the year gone by. This year feels a little different as it’s the last time that I’ll do this at Hackham East Primary School. I started here in 2005 as a student teacher and in 2006 started teaching with my first ever class. It was a huge learning experience for me and one that has continued to this day. There have been many fantastic experiences and many things that I’m proud of from my time here. I am also grateful to many people for the opportunities and challenges I have been given.
To be honest, this year has been a tough one. I started the year full to the brim with 32 students and some interesting behaviours in the classroom meant that I had my work cut out for me. When we feel stressed it is really easy to fall back into our ‘default mode’ and our practice can suffer. I was lucky enough this year to work with an enthusiastic team that helped to make sure that this didn’t happen. As a team, we worked hard to build on our schools single sex program, we set up flexible learning spaces and really tried to keep improving what we do for kids learning by collaborating on a much greater level. Without the support of this team it could’ve gone very differently.
Along with the difficulties, it was a year filled with lots of positive challenges and fantastic professional learning that have made me a better teacher. I feel like I have left Hackham East having achieved a lot in my time and will miss it very much.
The year ahead…
This year is set to be a challenging one. I have won a position as ‘Senior Leader’ at Woodend Primary school and am looking forward to tackling my first leadership position. Part of my job is to support innovation, particularly around the use of mobile technologies. This is an exciting role and provides an opportunity to use what I’ve learned up ’til now to support other teachers to find their feet with mobile technologies, blogging and learning spaces (among other things) with a focus on our AITSL Standards for Teachers.
This year will also provide an opportunity to present my first Keynote speech. I will be presenting about my journey in taking on the AITSL Standards with a focus on the work I have been doing with our boys classes and using digital technologies to improve learning. This is something that terrifies me completely, and that’s a big part of why I said yes to the opportunity. As soon as we stop challenging ourselves, it’s time to go.
Home will also be challenge with new routines for all of us. My son, Matthew is starting high school and my daughter, Alyssa is moving to the new school with me. They will both be pushing their new schools toward learning with technology as well. Challenge is what keeps life interesting, and we are all looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead… after holidays of course!
I recently read this article by Lise Eliot titled “Should Single Sex Schooling Be Eliminated?”. It was an interesting read. The article was written in response to a debate (see video below) but was approached in a very one sided way. The article put forward arguments against single sex education, stating that there is no evidence to support benefits for academic outcomes, brain and cognitive development or even social development.
My initial response was to just yell things about this being ridiculous (ok.. maybe a little more colourful version of this) or to argue against each point individually. Not being a neuroscientist or even a researcher of any real depth I figure that my opinions don’t really bring anything credible to that conversation. All I can do is speak from my experiences at the classroom face of single sex education.
Over the last seven years I have worked to establish and develop a single gender program at our school. Starting with some initial small trials, the success of the program has seen us expand so that we now have a single sex class option, for both boys and girls, for students from year 2 through to year 7. Being involved in this process has been a highlight of my teaching. I totally and wholly believe in this program and feel lucky to be involved in something that has made a big difference in the way our school runs.
Our single sex classes are designed around the work of Michael Gurian, a gender education expert from the USA and also the work of Ian Lillico, an Australian expert in boys education. Among his extensive work, Ian Lillico has developed 52 recommendations for boys in schools. These recommendations are at the heart of our single sex classes.
We have based our program on data and research, but as one speaker in this debate said:
“When looking at enough data, advocates of either side can find vindication in the research.”
and she is right. When looking at the research you will find academic opinions on both sides of the discussion. The research isn’t enough to definitively state that single sex classes do or do not work. I think debate is healthy. As educators, it’s not ok to be so single minded about your practice that you aren’t willing to at least consider other opinions. We learn best by having our ideas challenged. In this vein, the hour long debate was worth watching. It challenged my thinking and made me consider what was being said and how that related to my classroom. The statement that bothered me however was this:
“It is a well-proven finding in social psychology that segregation of boys and girls in schools promotes and even exacerbates stereotyping and prejudice.”
I couldn’t disagree more. A big part of our single sex program at Hackham East is about challenging stereotypes. We explicitly look at what the stereotypes are and spend dedicated time challenging these. We work intensively with our boys to identify how boys and men are seen by society. We look at which parts of this are positive and which parts are not. We then take this information and look at what we can do to challenge the negatives and nurture a more positive view of boys in our local and wider community as well as the ideas that they have about themselves as young men.
The implication of this article is that single sex classes somehow promote the ‘boof head’ behaviours of boys rather than combatting it. Although I can only speak for our school I strongly disagree with this assumption. Our girls classes also look at stereotypes and challenge these on a daily basis.
Time and time again, we see the results of this around our school. In our school’s AFL football team we have 5 girls, all of whom are from our single sex girls class. Only two students from our school have ever been involved in the dance troupe for our local music festival. Both of them boys and both from our single sex boys classes. Our boys take on nurturing roles with our new reception students and in the past have worked closely with residents at our local nursing home that don’t get regular visitors. Our single sex boys class runs an annual charity event in an effort to play a positive part in the community. In this event where students shave their heads to raise money only a few girls are involved and, you guessed it, they are from our single sex girls classes. There are many more examples of this and will be many more examples created in the future.
“The argument that “boys will be boys” carries the ‘anti-male’ implication that we should expect bad behaviour from boys and men. The assumption is that they are somehow not capable of acting appropriately or treating girls and women with respect.”
In the end, the idea that “Single Sex Schooling Should Be Eliminated” is ridiculous. I firmly believe that they benefit students in many ways and should continue to an option that is available for parents to consider when choosing their child’s education.
The full debate:
The real game changer isn’t something external; it is internal. It is the way we think and grow. It is moving from that “fixed” mindset about teaching and learning, and moving to the “growth” mindset. It is thinking differently about education and understanding that all of us as people need different things to succeed. To some students, the “Flipped” model is hugely beneficial, while to some others, gaming is going to push their learning to a new level. Some learn better in isolation, while others excel in collaboration. There is no single “thing” that is a game changer. If there was, we would have figured it out and adopted it by now. We have to stop looking for standardized solutions to try and personalize learning. Our mindset towards teaching and learning has to be open to many approaches, not any single one.
This paragraph really resonates with me. The willingness to approach teaching with a growth mindset is essential. In my opinion, teachers who are completely ‘fixed’ in their teaching and unwilling to continue their own learning journey, have no place in a classroom. Although harsh sounding, I don’t think that this is a particularly radical view. I think that most of us understand that a teachers willingness to grow and try new things is a requirement of the job. I think the next question is how do we decide which ‘new thing’ to take on? As George discusses, it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Different kids have different learning needs.
As teachers, the biggest challenge for us is finding what it is that switches each of our students on to learning. There’s no magic trick needed to work this out. The answer doesn’t rely on new technologies or even connecting with other educators online. It comes down to, first and foremost, connecting with your students. It is vitally important that teachers take the time to develop real relationships with their students. I use the word ‘real’ because so often we don’t take the time to get to know what really makes kids tick.
Building relationships with kids can be tough. There are always those kids that you connect with immediately, but the relationships with the ones you don’t instantly connect with are just as important (if not more). Time taken to go and watch a sporting match or violin concert outside of school is well worth it. Taking some time out of the day to talk to your students about what interests THEM is an easy thing to do and helps to strengthen your relationships. When you’ve established these real connections, you’ll have a much better understanding of how to make learning accessible for each individual learner in your class and that’s when you’ll know which ‘game changer’ to tackle.
I’m not trying to be simplistic and am not saying that attending a Saturday morning footy game will fix all of your problems, but in the reality of over crowded curriculums and heavy workloads it’s easy to neglect the basics. If we don’t have the relationships.. we don’t have effective classrooms.
Today was a strange day.
Among the usual ups and downs of a school day I told my class that this would be my last year at Hackham East Primary School. Yesterday I got the official call that I have won a position as a Senior Leader at Woodend Primary School. This is an exciting opportunity to take on a new challenge in an area that I am passionate about. Part of my new role is to help establish a connected learning environment. My job will be to help build a culture of connected learning among staff and to introduce new learning technologies and pedagogies to around 700 students across the school. It is a challenge that I’m looking forward to and one that I feel is the right ‘next step’ for me.
Telling my students that I would be leaving at the end of the year was a hard thing to do. My year 6 students had assumed that they would continue in my class for year 7 and I know that they felt at least some sense of being ‘left behind’. It’s not a feeling that I liked, but I know that there is never an ‘ideal’ time to make this type of move. After some questions and discussion, by the end of the day we were back to business as usual and I am looking forward to the rest of our busy year ahead with a great bunch of boys.
My time at Hackham East has been fantastic. It has been the place that I have learned everything I know about being a teacher. I have been lucky enough to work with a great team of staff and students that have allowed my to take risks in my teaching and to introduce programs that I felt were important.
One of these programs is our school’s single sex program. I flagged the idea for this program along with Rebecca Hepworth, another teacher at our school and it has been by far the highlight of my teaching life. This program has given me the opportunity to work with some fantastic young men and build relationships with them and their families that I wouldn’t have done in a ‘normal’ classroom. I have had the chance to teach boys in ways that suit their learning and a chance to challenge stereotypes and gender roles. I feel lucky to have had this opportunity and I will miss it very much.
I am looking forward to the rest of my year and am grateful for the opportunities that I have been given.