Friday, August 28, 2015

This could be the last time, maybe the last time, I don't know (the Rolling Stones)

This is (probably) the last post on my recent Year 12 outdoor education trip to Tongariro National Park. Maybe. I don't know.

Recently, I read an interesting article about teaching. The article cited a passage from David Whyte's book “Consolations” which I quite liked:

“Work, among all its abstracts, is actually intimacy, the place where the self meets the world…[it] is the inside made into the outside…we stay alive and our work stays alive.”
The article's author made the observation that 'teaching is where our beliefs in the world manifest themselves...teaching is where and how we meet the world'.

Teaching is an intimate activity. No more so than when you find yourself sharing the great outdoors with a bunch of rambunctious teenagers.

Hello world!!

As students, these are the times we often remember long after we've left school. They are times of heightened expectation and reward. Of staying alive in the moment. It is no different for teachers. In such circumstances our work stays alive!

At crucial times, some students around me on the 20 kilometre traverse found they had to draw on hidden reserves to will themselves forward. Some staff did so as well. No one found it easy.   

One way or another, however, everybody made it.

Isn't this the essence of what we are about as teachers? By confronting our fears, dreams, hopes, and what motivates us, we confront our inner selves. Teaching, then, is our very selves. 

Truly then, when we reflect on what we have learned about ourselves from this Year 12 outdoor education experience, our true self meets the world.

I, for one, wouldn't have missed it for the world!

Here are some of my students thoughts:

  • My legs were literally on fire! (Lucy)
  • Mentally and physically it was a challenge, but we supported each other and it was worth it (Julia)
  • I learnt the advantage of having long legs as I walked through the snow (Emily)
  • It was a big journey that really brought us together as a year group (Ella)
  • It was scary when you could see the sun slowly setting and we were still a million miles away from finishing (Manae)
  • I think I fell over in the snow 80 times as we were travelling (Hannah)
  • I felt like I could overcome something (Maho) 
  • I secretly decided to sleep there (Michelle, who found it tough to keep going but keep going she did)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Thinking how things have turned out (The Eels)

It seems more and more people are getting on board the 'we need to transform education' train (see my previous post).

Frinstance these pull quotes from people involved in something called the  Arizona State University/Global Silicon Valley conference held in April this year are pretty succinct:
"It's kind of a fool's errand [to think that] if we just train people to lead for institutions built for the last century that we're going to get different results," said Stacey Childress, CEO at the NewSchools Venture Fund. She favored finding an expanded vision of what student success can mean, beyond the focus on test scores.  
After attending the day's sessions, Linda Clark, the superintendent of the West Ada school district in Meridian, Idaho, said, "We believe we're engaged in changing everything about school".
2,500 entrepreneurs, educators, and developers gathered for the conference, spending three days discussing students and schools, what they need and how to shape a future that may look little like the present in education. 
That's a bunch of people - all gathered in one place and time on the planet to consider things. And agreeing.

I've just bought a book by Sir Ken Robinson called Creative Schools. Subtitled Revolutionising Education from the Ground Up! (my exclamation mark). Subtle he's not.

Sir K starts off by saying how he's been talking about these things for many years. Like millions of others, I love what he says and yes, he has, thank goodness (been saying these things for years).

Recently, my Principal tweeted this link to a promo for a new film called Most Likely To Succeed. 

The documentary features Sir K and Salman Khan (see my previous post) and looks like the kind of film all educators must see. I certainly want to.

With any luck it may be the tipping point we need.

Most Likely to Succeed Trailer from One Potato Productions on Vimeo.

Now - how about we do some stuff now and change things. 

Enough with the talking. Can we just get on with it?


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Like a parrot in a flaming tree I know, it's pretty hard to see (Split Enz)

Sometimes I happen upon an article that succinctly sums up what I've been chewing over in my mind for some time.

This one alerted me to Salman Khan and his new educational model.

These are the key ideas (as outlined in that article). Each one will probably initiate a sharp intake of breath - great! Let's cut to the chase:

  • Get rid of grades and demand mastery learning when core concepts are required
  • Allow mixed ages to learn together
  • Remove boundaries between subjects
  • Invert the place of classwork and homework (so - send out the coursework and homework/questions/ tasks are completed with peers and teachers)
  • Have teams of teachers available (not industrial model one class and one teacher)
  • Reschedule the year to use the long summer holidays for learning
  • Use assessments in a qualitative way (over years where possible)
  • Use internships within the community (like the Young Enterprise Scheme)
I like these ideas. They all detach from the one-size-fits-all approach that is maintained in our industrial model for education that somehow manages to maintain its hold in a digitalised world. Take a breath.

Time for change!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

If you want it come and get it (David Gray)

I read (and recommend you do too) Matthew McConaughey's address to students with his 13 lessons learned and it made me think about advice.

Btw - hilarious photo - love the look on the academics behind him!

I like the sentiment expressed in the suncream monologue
Be careful whose advice you buy but be patient with those who supply it.Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the pastfrom the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly partsand recycling it for more than it's worth.
Damn straight, but it doesn't stop us being interested in the advice that is offered in addresses like McConaughey's.

Personally, when faced with a difficult decision I like a combination of Obi Wan Kenobi (trust your feelings) and David Gray (Let go your heart; Let go your head: And feel it now).

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

You've got to go slow below the surface (Dan Fogelberg)

My posting schedule was put out of whack because of a Year 12 camp to Tongariro National Park.

We normally do the Tongariro crossing at this time each year with the Year 12's but avalanche warnings meant we did the traverse from the Desert Road to the Chateaux instead. A hike of about 20k. Took us 10 hours. 


Then we skied the next day - I know - what a life eh!

I love school camps. I really do.

What other job is out there that gives you the opportunity to do sideline outdoorsy stuff like caving, black water rafting, abseiling, canyoning, skiing and adventure tramps? Amazing. And the scenery is out of this world.

Here are the views from my classroom for two days:


So, anyway - we're back and so is the blogging schedule!

More photos later in the week on Wozza's Place...

Thursday, August 6, 2015

No one, I think, is in my tree (The Beatles)

From teaching in an all girls school, I get jokey banter about how my general empathetic sensitivity level has risen.

Generally teachers develop a built in radar for off task behaviour by noticing subtle changes in body language (and not so subtle ones - a recent example being a student who collapsed in tears after she found out I'd thrown her plastic drink bottle away). But teaching all girls (and by extension working in a largely all female staff room) has ratcheted up my levels even further.

In Square Peg, Todd Rose tells the story of how he was a high school dropout but became a Harvard professor in educational neuroscience. Diagnosed with ADHD in middle school, he was always in trouble.

From his study of complex systems and neuroscience, he makes four points about learning and why it should be personalised:
Variability is the rule: perceptions and reactions are much more dynamic and diverse than previously thought;
Emotions are important: emotional states influence learning;
Context is key: circumstances affect the behavior; and
Feedback loops determine success or failure: small changes making a difference.
More and more, I've noticed how the girls I teach are 
Hyper perceptive (they think they notice when I've moved desks and chairs around - in reality I haven't but they don't believe me), and Hyper reactive to anything and everything - nobody misses a trick. Their emotional state is a key to how they approach an English period (last year I had a class those emotional state I could NEVER predict), and The time of day influences behaviour (perversely my Level 2 class are usually much more receptive and better focused after lunch). Noticeably,Small changes made via feedback loops have been key to improved grades (especially this year as we've move to much more personalised learning in our English classes). 
Personalised learning is common sense! 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

I'm a flame, you're the fire (Kygo)

Micromanagement drives me nuts. I'm not alone.

I read a nifty little article about how we should bring an exciting corporate sensibility (think Google, Facebook) to schools.
Imagine a space where students weren’t shuffled off from room to room by the signaling of a bell. A place where students still had to be at school by a specific time and leave school at a specific time, but in between could spend their time in an environment where mental wellness was a priority.  
We want our schools to breed curious and innovative students but our environment shouts of the opposite. We sit children in rows on rows and instruct according to the minutes in the week, day or period, yet we hope that this type of instruction will breed innovation. Part of creating innovative and creative students is teaching content that will allow for it. But I think another part of fostering this capacity is in the very environment in which we force these students to learn. This is an area that often gets overlooked in discussions pertaining to education reform. If we want our students to think “outside the box”, we have to acknowledge the box that education currently sits in.
Our students are conditioned to believe that sitting in rows as an industrial production line is the 'right way'.

I have used a university seminar styled setting arrangement for decades. I have never received much comment about this...until I came to Woodford House.

Suddenly I'm the radical and my seating approach completely unsettles many of my students who hate not sitting in rows.

No week goes by without some negative banter about my desk arrangements. 

I don't really get it. Yes, our girls hate change but our teachers are innovative in all sorts of ways (except desk arrangements) and we are into creativity and collaboration. Industrial rows smack of control and that's not what should be our over riding concern. 

Anyway, the desks are staying put!

Now, how about those timetable issues?