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.
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!
We’ve known for a long time that part of offering the best education to our students means involving parents and families. We have also known for a long time that this isn’t always an easy thing to do! School hours and parent availability don’t always line up. We live in a time where most parents are working and are not always available in the way that they were a generation ago. This is not anybody’s fault. It’s just the way it is. Having said this, keeping everyone on the same page is just as important as it ever was.
To solve this problem in my class I have tried many things. Blogging, Edmodo, more regular notes home, regular ‘just checking in’ phone calls after hours. All of these were successful for awhile, but none of them have proven to be long lasting. The thing that all of these have in common is that they have to be ‘fit in’ to someone’s day. Either the teacher or the parent has to make specific time in their day for this to happen.
Earlier this year I launched a Facebook group to communicate with the parents in my class. I realised that the answer was literally sitting right in front of me. I have Facebook access on my phone, my iPad, my laptop and it was also a space that I knew that most parents were already in. Instead of asking parents to come to our spaces, we went to theirs. This has been hugely successful.
Facebook is still a space that seems to scare us in the education system (at least here in Australia). We are worried about keeping professional boundaries with students and keeping some of our personal lives private from our students and their families. Personally, this is not really an issue for me. As we know, there really isn’t a ‘private’ space when it comes to being online. There is only ‘offline’ and ‘online’. When entering these spaces I made the decision that I wouldn’t post anything that I wouldn’t be happy for students, parents or my Grandma to see. I do understand, however, that not everyone feels the same way. Using a Facebook group is still a good option for these people. When starting a Facebook group you don’t need to be ‘friends’ with the members of that group. In my class group, I have no interaction with parents on my or their timelines. All communications happen within that group.
Our Facebook group is used for a few purposes. I will post reminders about homework and events (the boring stuff) and also post photos and information about what we’ve been up to in class (much more interesting). Having this regular communication helps to build better relationships with families and allows MUCH easier communication in both directions. When I post something, a notification appears for all members. The same happens for me when a parent comments. Having the ability to communicate freely in this way has made life in the classroom much easier and relationships with parents much stronger. I highly recommend giving it a go.
Comments from parents:
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.