Friday, 26 February 2016

Google Certified Educator - Level 1

Armed with plenty of water and snacks, I undertook a three hour exam today in order to become a Google Certified Educator (Level 1) and passed.

Such a great way to finish this week - this test took all the information that I had learned in the Google Apps for Education and presented itself in a practical assessment where I had to demonstrate confidence in all the applications.

This has given me the confidence to be brave with lesson planning and utilise these to help complement my teaching.  Onwards to the next challenge!

Perception versus Reality

"You can be your own best friend or your own worst enemy.  Choose wisely."

This quote pretty much sums up this week - I had my first official observation by Anne Sinclair.  I have the dichotomy of finding being observed both daunting and incredibly beneficial.  As I was preparing my planning for the time that I was being observed, I had a lot of negative self talk in my head about how I had just picked up three new reading groups and I had not had a chance to gauge where my lesson would meet the needs of the learners.  A few years ago this would have thrown me but reflecting on it, I knew that any feedback that I was to receive would only benefit not only myself but both my learners and my colleagues in the hub.

Anne gave me a very thorough review of the session and I have some goals to work towards now however the majority of the feedback from both herself and my mentor was positive and actionable.

I am going to have some great days and I am going to have some rough days, such is life and I am not only privy to this - we all are.  This notion is something that I need to be actively mindful of as I work with my learners to overcome similar problems and develop critical thinking skills.

This morning, our cohort was fortunate to have Pat Snedden, the executive chair of the Manaiakalani Education Trust - this was the first time meeting Pat and while he spoke to us for 30 minutes, I could have listened to him for the remainder of the day.  The way in which he communicated was very engaging and some of his points really hit home with me.

We all are humble by nature and to have words thrown out about our cohort like having "grit", "determination", "courage and "resilience" was very humbling - he reminded me why I was in this programme and challenged me to bring my background into my practice to generate aspiration in my learners.  This has challenged me to think about my current identity in my team and how I can aspire to be the best teacher I can be.  The final aspect that hit a note with me was the notion of "servant leadership" - this fits in with my pedagogy as it begins with the natural feeling that one has serve first, then making the conscious choice to aspire to lead.  Again, this is very timely as our cohort become active members of our community by engaging with our learners and their families.

Friday, 19 February 2016

PLG - Efficient Tools

Looking at the agenda for today's session, I had flashbacks to my corporate job where I had roles that circulated around the use of spreadsheets. While I see the logic behind the use of such tools, I remembered dry conversations about Excel formulas and thought how would tools like these would be used in the teaching profession.

I had already had a glimpse of how my school utilise both Google Sheets and Google Forms - we use Sheets for jobs like timetabling and recording of students progressions but I had not really seen much use of Forms. The morning session had us split into ability groups where those of us who required a refresher on how to use Sheets were taken through the various steps and others were able to jump into looking at the various add ons that are available to the program. Something that used to frustrate me before was when you received information and fields like first name and surnames would be in the same cell and you would need to separate these out using a formula. We found an Add On called Split Name which adds to the application and then whenever you receive information that requires this to be tidied up, you can solve this with a couple clicks of a button.

Google Forms was something that I really wanted to look into more, especially with the linking with Google Sheets where you can manipulate the data. Some great insight I got was how to use these tools for teaching aspects such as marking and the tracking of assessment. Another great insight shared today was the use of Google Forms to gather prior knowledge before a lesson so you can tailor it to the needs of your learners.

I'm looking forward to working more with these tools to help streamline not only some of my own processes but hopefully we can use them to collaborate more within our learning space. Stay tuned!

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Casey the Caterpillar and Handwriting

As a Hub team, we have decided to have phonics for all learners in the morning.  As I have not had much exposure to phonics on placements, I have been observing for the majority of this week but noticed how well one of my colleagues incorporated the use of handwriting into these lessons.

Listening to the language, I was fortunate enough to go to a PD session run by another colleague where she was able to share some resources and training in Casey the Caterpillar.  This resource is used as a story to help learners understand the structure of their letters and has a great story to go with each letter of the alphabet.

I have included a photo of my attempt below by using the technique - I think this is a great resource for me as a beginning teacher as I need to improve my own writing skills for my learners as well as continuing building the skills they are developing when they enter the school.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

PLG - Insights and Immersion...

Today sparked the first of our Digital Immersion days - every Friday the MDTA cohort join Dorothy Burt and Anne Sinclair at Tamaki campus for the day to connect and share with each other our learnings from the week and gain skills in the digital space within our spaces.

We began with a reconnect with our community and faced the reality of our community which was a great insight into why our programme was created and how we can use the skills we are building our capability in to help support our learners with their own learning.

The digital aspect of today was a look at Google Drive and Documents with some great tips on how to effectively use these in our teaching practice.

We were then able to reflect from the day using Google Draw - I am not the worlds best artist so I will be challenging myself to take risks with the visual arts and learn alongside my learners.

I was interested to see how many touch points learners in our community have in relation to a "regular" learner in another community.  To meet learners in our community, and especially as a newcomer, I would not be aware of some of these aspects of our learners lives and how myself as a teacher can play a small part of their lives (in their perception).  I can see how building visible connections with my learners and their families can not only empower the learners while at school, but also empower my own teaching practice to be reactive to the community.  I think having this awareness is key to aid me with these relationships and help me develop a responsive pedagogy to the needs of my learners.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Connecting with the Community

Tonight was "Meet The Teacher" night so I was feeling a bit nervous as I would be presenting to parents at two sessions.  Luckily I was presenting as part of a group and the team were awesome at setting me up for success with the information that I was presenting.

We had a pretty impressive turn out, especially in the second session and it was great to have dialogues with individual families as they moved around the hub.  I think part of my nervousness was down to my perception that I am a beginning teacher and I may have not the appropriate experience to answer queries at this stage.  However the majority of the questions that came my way was more about who I am as an individual, my background and how am I connecting with the learners and the school.

Our families have a huge amount of pride in the school and it was evident to see when they spoke of their child's achievements so far.  It was also beneficial for me to listen to some of the questions that came from families in relation to the use of devices in the learning spaces.  There is some natural concern that the devices will be the focus while the students are in the classroom so I need to be conscious to remind myself that it is another tool in the space and how it complements my pedagogy.

It was really awesome to see that families stayed afterwards to enjoy a picnic as well as the waterslide (very popular and the kids were so patient while waiting in line!) and other games and activities we had put out for everyone.

While it was a long day, I was glad that I was able to make these connections with the community and look forward to growing them during my time at the school.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Break Through Learning.

As I will not be at school on Fridays, I will not get to see much of Break Through during my first year at Stonefields School.

Break Through Learning is designed to allow learners the opportunity to pursue their own interests, passions and strengths.  Our role as teachers during Break Through is to support and guide learners as they chase these opportunities.

Speaking to the learners in Hub 1, Break Through is a very exciting time and when I was collecting student voice this week, it was the most requested topic about this year's programme from our learners.

To help dive into the experience, we ran an immersion session where we set up activity islands around the hub so learners could investigate options or come up with some ideas of their own during this time.

First Week Down.

I have heard stories about people "surviving" their first weeks however with the speed of which this week has moved, I can see how some may begin to explain their experience as surviving by way of meeting their basic needs in order to move onto the next task.

As mentioned before, I am teaching at Stonefields School near Mount Wellington in a Year 2/3 Hub.  This is an open space in which we have 71 learners between the teaching team.  I am fortunate to be in a team with four other teachers so as a beginning teacher, I am in a great space to develop my own practice by observation and working with the others to reflect and build on my skills.

The first weeks focus has been connecting with our learners and getting to know them as we develop a programme for the year.  This is the second year in which some of these learners will be using an iPad for their learning however with all the Year 2s moving into the space, we need to ensure that we are giving them the skills to use the devices as an effective tool for their learning.  These are some of the skills that I will be learning through the Digital Immersion Fridays with the MDTA cohort.

So how was my first week?

Apart from the speed where the hours quickly sped away from me, I thoroughly enjoyed my first week teaching!

Honestly, I find making connections with all my learners a bit daunting however it is a good challenge to set myself for my first year.  I am going to start by concentrating on my Guardian, numeracy and literacy groups as these will be the learners that I will be interacting with on a regular basis.

A lot of the activities this week were spent on getting the learners to interact and collaborate with each other - I need to begin to look at these activities and use them in my planning to help build those skills when the groups are learning.  I also need to remember to look for ways to collaborate with my team - look for opportunities to team teach where our strengths and passions can complement each others.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Stop, Collaborate and Listen...

You may ask why am I starting this post with the lyrics from a one hit wonder created by Robert Matthew Van Winkle in 1990.  In response, I would mention that these three actions were a huge focus for last week as I came into school to prepare for the first week of term.

Trepidation is a word which I do not use enough, however, that was the emotion fuelling me for majority of the week.  The beginning of the week was spent engaging with my hub team as we prepared the learning spaces and began to work out schedules, numeracy and literacy groups and general housekeeping for the term.  I am fortunate to be working with four other experienced teachers in the hub and this has helped me feel more comfortable as a beginning teacher as they are extremely patient and helpful with all my questions so far.  Arranging the space is somewhat of a blank canvas at this stage as both it and us as teachers need to be reactive to the needs of the learners so there will be a large amount of observation this year.  These two days also gave me great insight into my team and how we work both as individuals and collectively - I am one of those type personalities who enjoys collaboration and the bringing together of different perspectives.

This is a great sedge way into the beginning of the "Teachers Only Days" which kicked off on Wednesday.  We were very fortunate to have Nicky Benson come and facilitate a workshop on building Resilience.  This is where the "stop" part of the title comes in as the main focus from the workshop was building the self awareness so we could focus on managing our own energy - finding those activities, be it physical, emotional, mental or spiritual and using these to refuel our tanks.  We also did some work with communication styles and how this can influence the way in which we interact with others and how to build this awareness into daily life.

The afternoon session moved into collaboration which bled over to Thursday with an Amazing Race event.  I found this a great way to bond and connect with people I have had yet to meet or interact with.  Our locations had us doing challenges around various Auckland landmarks before heading to Ngā Wai o Horotiu Marae where we were welcomed onto the marae and this was our base of operations for the remainder of the day.

We were again fortunate to have another presenter come and present to us - Ann Milne from Kia Aroha College in Otara - where she presented "Leading and Learning in White Spaces: Critical Pedagogy of Whānau", where she showed us the journey of her school and challenged us on our perspective of what does success "as Maori" look like.  I found this presentation very thought provoking and have a lot more that I want to unpack in this space.

After a bit of down time (the Amazing Race had challenged a few of us a bit too much), we were able to watch "Most Likely To Succeed".  The leadership team had chosen this documentary as a way for us to start to dig into one of the strategic goals of "What Learning Matters".  I personally recommend anyone who is working in the education field to watch this as it does make you think (it also made a few of us cry) about what does education really look like.  I particularly enjoyed it as it has given me the confidence to challenge some of the norms that I had perceived around teaching.  I have a feeling that reflecting through blogging will also help me start to articulate some of these challenges more and I look forward to this as I move forward.

After dinner, we practised some waiatas and it was great to see that all the staff members had held onto their energy as this was clear especially when there was a bit of competition on who could sing them better.  We have been challenged to sing at an upcoming assembly to show our community our talents.  Before retiring for the night, there was some reflection on what has challenged us over the last couple of days and I feel that as a whole, there is a real trust between the team as the reflections were very authentic.  It also allowed me to realise that I am fortunate to be part of a high performing team.

Friday morning arrived and after the comparisons of how much sleep you actually got or how many mosquitoes had feasted on you the previous night, we returned to school to finish the last of our professional learning where we got to analyse our graduate learner profiles to see if we are staying true to what really matters for our learners futures.  I do not think the leadership team intended for us to finish this, rather have it as an active challenge as we move into term one to really identify with how and what we are teaching and if it is staying true to the values of the school as well as the changing needs of our learners.

So how was I at the end of this week?  I was pretty tired - not physically (even with the lack of sleep of Thursday night), but more emotionally as some of the activities has challenged my current perception of how I will operate coming into the school year.