Sunday, November 29, 2015

Tongues of fire wagging wild, They dance around me merrily (Don McLean)

Number three of Ann McMullan's 5 critical skills that students need.

3 Self-Direction. 

Ann (quite rightly from where I'm sitting) places the emphasis squarely on students to create "student-centered learning experiences, rather than relying solely on teacher-delivered content".

She points out employers increasingly want self-directed learners. That means those who have the skills necessary to set their own learning goals, institute plans to accomplish those goals, analyze and solve problems, own and manage their own learning and improvement, while always wanting to improve and learn more. 

This year my senior English classes were asked to do these things and many loved the change from teacher centred lessons.

But not all. Many of my students still want me to direct them at best and spoon feed them answers at worst.

I can see the concept of self directed inquiry learning improving over successive years as overtly inquiry based methods are embedded more and more.

At the moment then, I'd give my students a solid convincing pass grade (a B+, a merit, a 7/10) but I have a strong feeling that we'll get to A star, excellence, 10/10, in two to three years.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Everyone's got something no one else can do (Perrin Lamb)

Here is the second of Anne McMullan's five key critical skills students need:

2 Tolerance for ambiguity

According to her, "It is essential that today’s students develop the skills to think through ambiguous situations and stay with the question—in a state of ambiguity—until they have the time to examine various aspects and perspectives on the issue."

I'm not going to argue with her about the need for this - it seems self evident in the complex 21st century world we find ourselves living in that flexibility, adaptability and versatility will be much valued as skills.

Having worked in the Middle East - Qatar and the U.A.E. - this particular skill was much in demand and people who couldn't adapt did not survive.

But what of my current students?

Unfortunately many of them still want 'the answer'. Rather than do a work around and explore and develop their thinking on an idea they want to move onto the next point as quickly as they can (while checking with me constantly that they are on the right lines).

This exploring, probing, inquiring, developing, looking for connections skill is often what leads to a perceptive, original thought which is then rewarded with an 'excellence' grade in our current system. 

So, how do I help my students learn how to tease out their thoughts, expand their thinking and dig deeper?

Giving them an answer is NOT the answer to that question. 

Back in the day, I used reflective journals in my media studies classes and they were a brilliant week by week vehicle for my students to make discoveries, ask questions, pursue lines of inquiry. 

Boy - do I miss them!

For what it's worth, in these post NCEA days in English I use mind mapping and Socratic questions, discussions and one on one conferences, listening to them articulate their problem and leaving space for them to answer.

My students often find this frustrating and give me the sense that they would rather go somewhere else to get 'the answer' if I don't provide it. 

But I persist. 

Whaia kia maia (pursue it until it is conquered) is written on my classroom door!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

How is the air up there? (La De Das)

I thought I'd apply these five critical skills that Ann McMullan listed in an article to my students at Woodford House.

Here's how I think they stack up (the next posts will take a stroll through the other four)...

         1 Calculated Risk Taking. 
Metiri Group CEO Cheryl Lemke defines this skill as “the ability to carefully consider all the factors related to the decision being made, calculate the chances of a positive outcome and the consequences of a negative one, determine ways to reduce risks along the way, and then determine whether or not to take the risk based on this information”. 
In other words whether to risk failure or not! 
I think my students have refined this as a skill with their strategic negotiation of NCEA exams and I'm not sure, but I think I have a bit of a problem with this. 
In my eyes the modern world of teaching closely reflects societies desire to lesson the chance of failure. Sports teams are now more often about participation rather than winning (and therefore risking failure). Many of my students are a product of this approach and are often shielded from the harsh world out there that presents failure. 
This is curious because often the girls themselves espouse the benefits of failure. 
In our school we've adopted the 'not yet' approach to a fail (or Not Achieve) grade in an attempt to get the girls to bounce back from a failure. Without much success from where I'm sitting. 
Girls doing NCEA who think they may fail an external exam do not even remove the shrink wrap protecting the integrity of the paper because if they do, and if they attempt the standard (signalled by removing the shrink wrap) they will automatically be graded (and therefore, most likely, fail).
Part of me remembers how much I learned from my failures and if the students have taken their calculated risk taking to this extreme then they won't make those discoveries that come with failure. 
Part of me thinks - have a go! Commit! Learn by failure! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Many roads have I travelled (Madonna)

1 The power of habit
This kind of article is like a film promo - all the best bits are condensed into a short read on the power of habits. I'm a fan, having been taught the habit regime by a master.

2 Failure
I'm a big fan of failure. Period. I feel bad for people who haven't tasted enough failure or who have been protected from failure. Not cool.

3 Social learning
It's becoming more and more important for me to understand what motivates the social learning of those I teach. I get older but my students stay the same age and they are not living in the world that I know from my increasingly distant youth. These types of articles help.

4 Powerpoint
I like powerpoint as a tool. More than prezi or powtoons. I bookmarked this article to help me use powerpoint for good and not evil.

5 What if...?
These are six great 'what if?' questions.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Just my imagination (The Temptations)

Short read time on the blog today because I liked this by Judith Yates:
The education system is not preparing students for the real world by stifling imagination. Every workplace, every profession, relies on creativity, problem solving, and exploration of ideas. Professional athletes, architects, journalists, and accountants will go no further than the initial job interview if they say, “I need someone to tell me how to do everything all the time.”
Right on sister!!

The full article is good too - not yer usual piece by an educator - she's a criminal justice instructor!

The opposite of 'stifle': encourage; support; and my favourite...STIMULATE.

So let's get to it and really stimulate imagination in our classes shall we? 

All of us. Every day. Every. Day.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Shout, shout... I'm talking to you! (Tears For Fears)

Super excited about the 'new' Beatles version of ONE. Picture me watching the DVD as you read this latest five things I've bookmarked and now want to delete list!

1 Woodford House

Mrs P shouts the Year 13s a soft serve cone

Let's start this edition with a celebration of the wonderful place where I ply my trade. Groovylicious baby!!

2 Dan Rockwell
Writing as Leadership Freak, Dan is an amazing blogger. he posts every day and has more hits than misses. Here he is on seven ways to make team meetings work.

3 On line courses
Here's a great link to 37 on line courses. Coding features but there is so much stuff here. So - what are you waiting for? Go learn something! 

4 Medium - writing
One of those things you should be doing (yes - you!) is writing!! Let help you.

5 End of year
I wish I'd seen this bookmark earlier - a great activity for the end of year with seniors!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The crazy gypsy in my soul (Billy Joel)

Sayonara seniors!

Today was the day our seniors went on study leave before their external examinations start next week.

Always bitter sweet saying farewells. All year they've felt like my students and then I have to kind of abandon them to the vagaries of the exam process (fingers crossed they get a good question to answer) - I sense that a lot of them would like my reassurances while they do their answers!

There has been some debate in my corner of the staff work room this week on the usefulness of exams.

Two extreme camps emerged:

  • Ditch them! They are outmoded and unnecessary in today's enlightened progressive educational climate.
  • Crank them up! If we value them - do more of them and be more rigid with conditioning students to sit exams.
Guess which camp I'm in!