Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Mentor or Coach - What's The Difference?

Having a strong mentor can really set up you up for success as a teacher.  I was fortunate to have one in my first two years of teaching, especially being able to teach alongside them in my first year of teaching.  Being able to observe teaching in practice as well as reflect while in the moment enabled me to feel more confident within my second year of teaching, especially when we worked in different areas of the school.

My mentor inspired me to take the opportunity to apply to be an AUT mentor this year and while I am in a different year level, I think continuing to learn alongside the kids allows my practice to be more transparent to someone who is observing me.

One thing I have struggled with so far is what is the difference between being a mentor and being a coach.  As with any new learning, I try to understand the definition first to help me then work out my next steps.

Mentor - an experienced and trusted adviser, a wise and trusted counselor or teacher, an influential senior sponsor or supporter.
Coach - a person who trains an athlete or a team of athletes, a private tutor who prepares a student for an examination, a person who instructs an actor or singer.

From that, my baseline understanding is that you can be coached for an end result (ie, finishing your teaching qualifications), however a mentor is someone who works alongside you rather than instructing you on your next step.

The word trust really stands out for me and this is something that I have been working with being open about my practice.  The conversations have been great as it helps me reflect on why I chose to teach something in a different way and I am finding it beneficial having another set of eyes in the space to pick up on things that I might have missed.

Next Steps: Continue to have these reflective conversations about our practice, shift more of the control over and observe.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Show Me Your Working (Understanding) - My Hunch

Having changed year levels this year, developing my pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) has become a priority for myself.

This year I am team teaching in numeracy with a group of learners operating between Level 2 and Level 3 of the New Zealand Curriculum for numeracy.  This is a natural follow on for the numeracy that I was teaching in previous years and I am grateful for this foundation as I look forward to challenge myself in this space.

As the learners are operating at a higher level, my first noticing goes to how we are struggling as a group to articulate our numerical thinking when asked to explain how we came to a conclusion or got a specific answer.  My first instinct was to explore if there were particular vocabulary gaps within our group, however, what I am noticing more is a) a general lack of confidence with articulation of numerical thinking and b) a reluctance to do this in group settings aka 'the fear of getting it wrong in front of others'.

Fortunately for me, a lot of schools in our clusters are looking into this area and documenting through the use of their blogs, especially Pt England School, so it has been awesome to read and see how some of the teachers are developing these skills within their own numeracy programs.

I have also found the app Flipgrid helpful in developing the learners confidence in taking risks in articulating their strategies.  Learners are able to record themselves on their own device and listen back to themselves before posting the video to an online forum where other members of the group can listen and respond to the videos.  This has also served as a great link with our cybersmart curriculum.

Next Steps: Continue to look for opportunities to build these communication skills within our numeracy program.  I also need to see if the team will let me pay for a Flipgrid membership as the free version only allows you to activate one grid at a time.

I am also going to connect with some of my colleagues at Pt England to see how they are finding their PD and what are their learnings so far.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Closing The Door - My Hunch

Working in an ILE, you do get used to the hum or buzz that comes with 70 bodies within one space all undertaking their learning.  However for some of our learners, this can serve more as a distraction and they may seek out spaces where they a) feel comfortable and b) feel safe to take risks in their learning.

So come to this year where I am operating in a learning space with 100 learners and three other teachers, it seemed somewhat wrong to try the following.  I took a group of learners into one of our larger breakout spaces and I closed the door.  Their faces said it all when they smiled.  The transformation of the space went from hustle and bustle to a more calming vibe and the kids sensed it as soon as the door touched the wall.

Now it is not my intention to close these learners off from the rest of the hub.  My inquiry is focused more around how the environment can be used to foster independent learning.  The "Bat Cave", as it has been named, is serving as a launching pad where learners can develop strategies to focus on their learning, rather than get caught up in the activity that is happening around them.

I did something more extreme and this has put me in the learning pit.  I took all the furniture out of the space (see the photos below).  I am curious to see what the learners feel that need or by observation, we decide as a group is important to have in the space to help us with our learning.  So far we haven't asked for much as we have been working on building the routines and structure of our literacy learning.  This group is with another teacher for numeracy so we are working together to create the norms for the Bat Cave, co-constructed with the kids.

We decided that we needed a whiteboard the other week - the smart board that we couldn't get working wasn't adding any value so we were fortunate enough to appropriate one that wasn't being used in another part of the school.

Next Steps: I have had a few teachers come and observe me which has been great for my practice.  I need to look at developing my knowledge around using the environment as the third teacher so will be exploring some of the content by Reggio Emilia.

Friday, 2 March 2018

What's On Top for 2018?

Recently we have been asked to build our inquiries for 2018.  Given the nature of who I am as a teacher and how my brain works, I intend to embark on three inquiries this year - one being my main inquiry for the year and two smaller ones that focus more on specific elements of my practice.

My main focus this year is how I can use space as another teacher within my literacy program.  I will be labelling these posts with Inquiry - Environment.  This goal also speaks to some of our COL achievement challenges, with particular focus on goals two, three and five.

My secondary focus will be examining how I am developing learners' articulation skills within numeracy.  These posts will be called Inquiry - We.  This also has connections to the COL achievement challenge six.

My last focus is reflecting on myself as a practitioner, especially as I am a mentor teacher to an AUT student this year.  This posts, called Inquiry - Me, will be focusing on my reflections as I build my coaching ability with an adult.

While I appreciate that it may seem ambitious to achieve all three, I think having the platform of my blog to help me articulate will help me document my thinking and build my reflection skills further.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Resilience - a recipe for a secret sauce?

Four weeks into 2018 and the word resilience has come up in various conversations at school with colleagues as well as having professional development examining the concept last week.  There are a few definitions that I have been reading:

  • "the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties";
  • "trust and belief in yourself"; and,
  • "the capacity to call on tools and techniques to recover quickly from difficulties and help eliminate future difficulty"

While I see it as an important skill set to bring into my teaching practice, I needed to put myself into the context to get a better understanding and reflected on the session.  Scott Beattie from Elevate Coaching spoke to us about creating our secret sauce which was made up of a combination of the following elements:

  1. Staying present - it is easy to get caught up with the day-to-day of the learning space and the ability to stay present is vital especially at this time of the year when you are building relationships with both colleagues and more importantly the children.  A noticing I had about my own practice is that I am not giving enough thinking time when I ask questions.  I often was asking two or three questions at a time so what I am trying to do at the moment is use the physical action of counting to ten on my fingers to help anchor me to that moment rather than skip ahead to the next part of my plan.
  2. Sharing my values - I reflected that in 2017 we looked at our values as a team, however I had not shared with my new team on things that I feel are important as well as listening to them to get further insight on how we can collaborate effectively.  This includes making the effort to get to know the team outside of school to get that full view of my colleagues as people, rather than 'teachers'.  This openness extends to how I am building relationships with the kids at the moment.  This year there are a lot of kids who have not had me as a teacher and this means that I need to ensure that I am sharing who I am, not only as their teacher, but as a fellow learner.
  3. Reflection - I mentioned earlier that I was excited to continue this blog as a way of reflection however I found myself beating myself up as I hadn't blogged in four weeks.  While this is a tool for reflection, it is not my only vehicle for reflection and how am I doing this while teaching to not only role model but to capture the noticings/learning as well as celebrate the successes.
  4. Exercise - I had been told not to fill the void of study with more teaching and work on maintaining the work-life balance.  Given it is the start of the year, it is naturally a busy time however I am trying to stick to a routine of exercise as a way to 'switch off'.
I think these are some great starting points for this year, especially as we move into looking at our inquiries for this year and gives me some short-term goals to bring into my practice for 2018.  Onwards and upwards!

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

2018 - New Year, New Me?

Like our learners, it is the first official day of school tomorrow and there is a sense of trepidation in the air as I go through preparations for this week.  

During our teacher only days last week, I was noticing how often I was using the word 'new' - new year levels, new team, new hub ... but does that mean I am needing to change along with these?  I agree that there will be some adaptation and learning involved but I think that reason that I was noting all the different elements was due to the fact that my support network at school has changed as well as  no longer having a mentor teacher.  This means starting afresh with a new team so remembering to communicate and be open in order build factors like trust in our team is fundamental in this initial set up period.  I am teaching in a four teacher team with 104 learners so last week was discussion about how we will use the space.  What I am noticing from the four of us already is the sense of adaptability when we discuss about observing how the learners are reacting to the space and being flexible to tweak or update based on these observations and discussion.

I am excited to see the learners this week as I have taught a majority of the Year 4s (as Year 2 and 3s) and Year 5s (as Year 3s) so am looking forward to seeing how the break has treated them as well as looking forward to exploring new content alongside them.  The Year 6s will be a new entity to me however the first couple of days, we as teachers are sharing our identities as a lead in to our Term One concept so during this time it will give me opportunity to both reflect as well as observe.

I am excited to continue blogging this year as I enjoyed the reflective element it brings to my practice and will help draw out some of the wonderings I am currently having throughout 2018.  So new year, new me?  Lets wait and see!

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Graduations - MDTA and PRT

November and December have been busy months with loads of deadlines looming for both study and school assessment however it was great to stop and celebrate some of the milestones at the end of this year.

We were fortunate to have our MDTA graduation at the Google HQ in the CBD where we all came together to celebrate.  The support for the group was oozing out of the room and it was great to hear everyones mentors and principals speak highly of our journeys.  While I already considered myself fortunate to be a part of the MDTA, it wasn't until I reflected on the great opportunities I had since joining the programme.  I now feel more confident within my teaching practice and the skills that I have gathered since starting will allow me to continue to grow as a teacher.

What made me more humble about the experience was the support we have had from the start, both Dorothy and Anne have added so much to my kete and I look forward to connecting with me in 2018.  I was also fortunate to have Latai at school with me and this shared experience has allowed me to see all opportunities for collaboration.  What I am most grateful for is the support of my mentor teacher who exemplifies what it means to mentor and has inspired me to become an AUT mentor in 2018.

Today I was also fortunate to have a graduation ceremony at school for the end of my provisional registeration.  Through an administrative error, this meant that Stonefields graciously held a ceremony for myself, Latai and Sammy and looking back, I would have not had it any other way.  To celebrate with the kids meant the world to me!

So while this brings me to the end of my journey as both a MDTA and a PRT, this is not the end of my blog.  I am moving into a new year level in 2018 and intend to continue blogging not only to help me with reflecting but also help me develop further as a writer and connect with others as I move onto the next stage of my teaching practice.  For all those who have supported me so far, thank you very much.