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.
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.
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.
We all know that Professional Development sessions can go either way. They can be inspiring, or they can be a complete waste of time. For me, the success (or lack of) comes down to my engagement, the engagement of those around me, the quality of the conversation in the room and the change of practice that comes after the session ends.
Today, Hackham East Primary hosted a full day session with George Couros. George is an educator from Canada who spoke to us about the importance of being connected educators and helping our students to become connected learners. It was a presentation that made sense.
I have seen George present twice before and even still, I gained a whole lot of new ideas. Among the revisiting, I came away with new knowledge to help me turn my professional blog into a professional portfolio. I came away prepared to lead my students in changing their individual blogs into individual learning portfolios. These are simple but important things that I hadn’t made a connection with before this session.
Those around me were having similar breakthroughs. At times the room went completely silent while people were busy signing up for twitter accounts and signing up for their own class and personal blogs. Feedback from some in attendance showed a transformation from ‘doubter’ to ‘convert’. That in itself is not an easy feat. To see people making change to their practice already is a great thing to see.
On top of all of this ‘intended’ learning were some outcomes that I didn’t expect. During the afternoon session I made a comment on Twitter about the needs of year 7 students to be able to continue blogging on their current blogs as they move to high school. This was met with a response from our local high school leadership about meeting to look at ways to make this happen. Tweeting about connecting with parents on social media, opened up a range of links from other educators around the world about how they are managing this.
The final unintended outcome was more personal. My daughter, Alyssa, recently started blogging and through the support of George, has been inspired to keep at it much longer than I expected. Because of the support he has shown (and possibly a mutual love of Justin Bieber), Alyssa has felt a strong connection to him. Today she was able to meet him in person for the first time, and has been glowing ever since. For her, this was an important opportunity and I thank George for making it a special time for her, by giving up a lot of his precious break time to talk with her and for including her in his presentation.
I look forward to seeing change unfold in our school as people reflect on the days learning. I highly recommend attending a workshop if you get the opportunity.