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.
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.
For weeks now, my daughter Alyssa has been bugging me to help her start her own blog. She has seen me blog with my class for a long time, she has seen her brother, Matt, blog for school and recently has been watching her class blog go live to the world.
Alyssa has grown up in a world where there has always been Facebook and she’s seen that just about every person she knows over thirteen has it. She also knows that she is too young to have it herself (much to her disgust). To her, blogging is her chance to have her say and connect with the world.
Finally, this week, I agreed and helped her begin her own blog. It has been a fantastic experience for us both. At first, Alyssa wasn’t sure what she wanted to say, but it didn’t take long for her to create a long list of ideas for future posts. She has written (or typed VERY slowly) about her passions (Justin Bieber) and posted videos about her learning and favourite books. She is determined to respond (again typing VVVVEEEERRRRYYYY slowly) to everyone who leaves her a comment. All of these things support and extend her literacy learning.
When reading comments, Alyssa makes notes about where people are visiting from. After she’s responded to everyone, she sits with her mum or myself and we go hunting for locations on the map. This is exciting for her. Her face lights up when she logs in. It’s also exciting for me. The amount of learning that has taken place in the last week is amazing. Her confidence to write is already improved and it’s brilliant to watch.
It has also been a huge learning experience for me. I have had my students blogging all year, each with individual blogs. I haven’t seen anywhere near the output or interest from my students that I have seen in Alyssa and I now realise why. By keeping a tight rein on what students post and making their blogs all about traditional learning, I have killed the passion. I’ve taken all the joy from the experience of connecting with the world. After all, what’s the point of connecting if you can’t tell people about what drives you?
This week, it all changes. Tomorrow morning we are holding a blogging workshop in our class where I will let go of the reins. With the exception of the obvious inappropriate stuff, the blogs will truly become theirs. I don’t know why it has taken a lesson from my seven year old daughter for me to get this, but I’m glad I’ve learned it. Thanks Alyssa!