Thursday, November 28, 2013

Rearrange my mind In turquoise (Blondie)

Our junior students have been involved in end of year projects for the week (stretches into next week as well) and I have to say: I am stunned by their involvement and leadership so far.

The school's organisation for the two weeks has been great - in the morning students are doing supervised individual projects (my classroom has been taken over by some junior girls who are learning to dance some scenes from Swan Lake) and in the afternoon they do collaborative projects (the year 9's have about four to choose from and the year 10s are doing a leadership/community project).

I'm helping out with the year 10 students in the afternoon. The onus has been definitely on the students to organise themselves. They generate the leadership activities, organise and execute them while staff act as watchers, facilitators and participators.

Next week they've nailed down three  focus areas for their community service: the children's ward at Hastings Hospital; S.P.C.A.; retirement villages in our area. They've found out what these places need in terms of help and they are planning how they can assist them.

First prize 
This week, though, has been about the students planning/organising fun leadership activities for themselves. So far we've had Aqua-robics, a treasure hunt, Woodford Wipeout, and a Masterchief competition.

Second prize

All have been brilliant but the Masterchief competition will remain with me for a long time.

I was one of the taste judges and I was, yes okay, a bit nervous about how things were going. The home economics room was taken over by 20 noisy, energetic, noisy, enthusiastic, and noisy year 10 girls.
Looks peaceful huh?
As they started their task (they were given three random ingredients, could not access any recipes and had a trolley available with assorted other things) I stepped back and watched semi organised chaos break out.

The organising group was superb - they had individual roles and a great sense of purpose. I was seriously impressed (and a little scared - these girls did things FAR more efficiently than I could have).

The end product and presentation was fantastic. My fears proved groundless as dishes that I'd be thrilled to receive in a restaurant were given to us.

My overriding feeling was - this is how education should really be. We (teachers) control things way too much. Teachers? Control freaks? Surely not I hear you ask. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!!!!

In my teaching next year I'm going to aim for a lot less control regarding the content and a much bigger dollop of student input into their learning.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Now I see the sunshine (Ricky Nelson)

A few years ago I was a media studies teacher. Hang in there - there is a point to this...

I had a practical video component in the course. The idea being that students would design a script, storyboard their video, shoot it and edit it. This process would take weeks to complete. The biggest time was spent on post production edits and soundtrack dubbing. The editing suite would only handle one group at a time.

Weeks I tell you, weeks!

It was actually a pretty stressful time as a teacher - making sure the video cameras were charged, allowing students some latitude to work outside the classroom, making sure everyone was engaged and focused, booking editing equipment and helping students with the technology that we had.


Ah, the bad old days.

Last week I gave my Year 10 a film assignment. They had posted their favourite adverts onto Schoology and we'd watched them in class. The brief for the film assignment was to create a new ad in an existing campaign.

The students got to it.

I watched as two students (Z and R) decided on the format of their new Snickers ad. It was to be an extension of the Betty White advert that aired during the 2010 Superbowl.


They enlisted my help (they needed an 'old geek' they told me) to play the Betty White/Abe Vigoda role.

They told me what they wanted. R and I rehearsed it for a few minutes. Z was the camera person/director who filmed us (R and I were joined by Imo) on her iphone. She and R then edited the footage on their ipads and added the Snickers logo to the end. It took minutes!

We then watched it in class with the other students who'd completed their own ads, after they had all uploaded their videos to the class' Schoology page.

All this happened in a period! Less than an hour!

This was thrilling to see. As a teacher I had pretty much nothing to do but sit and marvel at their expertise.

It was wonderful. Literally!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Spring leaves learning look to the evergreen (Mostly Autumn)

I love this time of the year - the seniors are doing their exams, the juniors are doing their end of year project things and I'm busy throwing out resources from the English resource room.

I must have the cleanest hands at school - I've been washing my hands after every trip to the resource room: dust and clutter and more dust!

I have just about finished my first year back in the English classroom and I now have something of a mandate to chuck away junk from the filing cabinets and old boring books from the textbook stock.

I've not touched things during the year because, during the first terms being new in a school, I'm never quite sure whether I'm looking at someone's prize possessions or a festering pile of tat.

Teachers tend to be hoarders. The filing cabinet was full of old task sheets, so old they were on banda paper. Teachers of a certain generation will understand why that means they are OLD! That's not all - old School Certificate and University Bursary papers have also gone into the skip - along with some tired and dreary looking textbooks.

Teenagers these days will just not read a tatty old book - no matter how great it is.

The dust on the Shakespeare collection remains undisturbed. Shakespeare has been surgically removed from the NCEA syllabus but it's sure to re-emerge at some point. Greatness will out, eventually.

In the meantime = the great cull of 2013 continues apace!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

One of these mornings I'm going to rise up singing (Grant Green and Diane Reeves)

I'm enjoying the advertising unit my juniors are doing at the moment. They have been posting their favourite ads and I'm thrilled to see some old favourites making an appearance - like coca cola.

Not watching much network TV these days has meant the 2013 coke campaign has passed me by until this point. This new campaign centres on feel good, pay it forward real life escapades that celebrate people. Humanity - weird and crazy and bizarre and it goes better with coke.

Now I love coke - I love the taste, the brand, the range, and yes I love the ads!

Here's a couple of superb coke adverts linked, appropriately, by Supertramp's Give a Little Bit:

And then there are feel good awe inspiring Red Bull ads:

Monday, November 11, 2013

Get your kicks on Route 66 (Bobby Troup)

I'm doing an advertising mini unit within a media project with my junior classes now that the seniors have left for exam leave.

While planning the unit, it struck me how many of my old video tape resources are now redundant with new technology. This is not a bad thing though. The videos, if they're good enough, are all available on YouTube. Wahoo!!

At the press of a button, in class, on a big screen, I can get good quality product.

Like my favourite advertisement of all time (Route 66 Levis ad) and others.

And here's an ad that a student in my Year 9 class alerted me to. I've been laughing about it all day!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

They've given me a number but they've taken 'way my name (Devo)

I'm not a huge fan of student appraisals of teachers.

The concept is that students give quality, objective feedback to teachers about their teaching.

With me so far? Sounds cool huh?

Students are of course entitled to pass judgement on teachers - that's happened since the days of the Roman Empire when Plato and Socrates handed out appraisal tablets to their students.

So what's my problem?

It's just that the feedback tends to be wildly subjective but considered scientific and therefore 'important'. If it's positive it can often be platitudinous (you're the most wonderful teacher in the world) and if it's negative it often comes from a severely narrow experience base or worse, hidden agendas come into play and it becomes largely unusable.

I would rather the appraisal was of the course and dispensed with the cult of personality as much as possible.
I gave out some appraisal forms to a couple of randomly chosen classes this week and the customary things happened - I dwelt on the one negative comment much more than I should have until I noticed the student rated highly the 'I enjoy this class' statement, and I quickly moved over the 'I love your teaching' comments.

The next stage for me personally is to try to highlight any areas that the girls thought I needed to work on. I then want to refine my appraisal form to get some more specific information that I can use to improve my teaching and that's after all what the process should be about.