Friday, 30 June 2017

Co-constructing Success Criteria for Blog Posts

As part of the Cybersmart learning this term, our hub have tried a two prong approach to building learners' capacity in using the digital aspects of their learning.  These were:

  • Working with our Year 2 learners and some learners that identified that they needed to consolidate their knowledge of Explain Everything.  This is something that we will need to return to for all learners as Explain Everything has had an update recently - check out Karen Belt's blog post that explains some of the upgrades.
  • The remainder of our Year 3 learners have been learning more about creating a smart footprint in preparation for next term's focus on building smart relationships in Term 3.

We introduced the learners to how they could email a blog post to the blog and had some great discussions about what we would need to consider before we upload a draft post to our hub blog.  As a result, the learners asked if we could build some success criteria to help them remember what is important before uploading blog posts.  Here is what we came up with:

I am looking forward to seeing learners take advantage of the email to blog function next term!  Stay tuned to see how this takes off.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Noticing Shifts in Writing

Today I ran a second writing sample as part of my data collection for my dissertation focus.  I was quite nervous about this as it meant asking these learners to sit and write for 45 minutes.  I chose to give these learners a visual prompt along with some of our guidelines that we have used for our narrative writing throughout this term.

When I spoke to the group about doing a writing sample, I was met with excitement and questions. The prompt seemed to excite everyone in the group and the questions ranged from surface features to wonderings about how they could link the various parts of the picture to their narratives.

During their planning, I noticed that a lot of the learners were discussing their ideas.  While not an official e-assTTle writing sample, I intended to run the session as similar to the first writing sample as possible, however seeing the excitement and enjoyment that the kids were getting out of sharing their ideas, I chose to following some of the advice from the passage below from TKI:

When the planning time was over, I again thought it would be difficult for the learners to move into their independent writing but I was greeted with sights below.  These photos are not staged, in fact, no one noticed me taking these.  They were so engaged with getting their pens to paper.

The only protests I got through this session is when I told the group that the time was up due to us moving into reading.  What the learners do not know is that as a 'reward', I am planning to publish these and gift them to them in our end of term writing ceremony so they can go home to celebrate with their whanaus for the upcoming holidays.

Monday, 26 June 2017

My Spirit Animal is a Duck!

It is a strange title for this blog post, however, it is timely as I reflecting on nearing the end of registration.  With two terms to go, I am three quarters of the way there and am looking forward to the remainder of my time as a PCT.  I had written in a previous post about sharing my story about how I chose to come into teaching so thought I better make good on that promise!

The initial passion for teaching came from doing a special topic paper at the end of university where I helped create a pilot programme for the pastoral care of International Students.  Part of the criteria for the paper was to design and run weekly workshops for groups of 10-15 students on aspects of university life for example, how to use the systems at the library or how to set up your printing account.  While to an outside eye, this was probably mundane - I really enjoyed seeing people growing in confidence.

Working in admin type roles after graduating, I decided that I wanted to explore both this aspect further as well as the world so combined the two and that is how I ended up teaching English in Japan.  I bounced around different schools in Tokyo before settling into one in the suburbs bordering the city centre.  Due to its location, I ended up teaching children from the age of 2 (yes, you read that right) to 13 when they moved into the adult classes.  I moved into the lead role for the school during my time there for the children's learning programme and opened two junior schools before leaving to come back to New Zealand.

It was my intention to go back to university when I came home, however due to the time of year and financial reality, I took a job for a corporate and fell into a career pretty quickly.  The passion for education was still there but it had morphed into an appreciation for capability and training and I found myself excelling in roles where I was supporting others be their very best.  Towards the end of my time in the organisation, I even stepped into a leadership role to gain experience and realised that this was a different set of skills required for this and was fortunate enough to build my knowledge about coaching and mentoring.

An organisation wide restructure helped me stop for a minute to reassess where I was heading and opened up a few home truths about how I was feeling (this is where the title comes into play!).  I have picked up my work ethic from both my parents who had run and operated their own businesses for most of my life.  I was fortunate enough to work alongside them (not that they would probably say that at some times!) and saw that in order to make things work, you had to put the effort in.  At work, I tend to agree to things and would find myself spinning lots of plates.  On the outside I appeared that I was under control, however like a duck gliding along the water, no one sees the legs kicking like anything to maintain that graceful glide.

That was me and it had caught up with me.  I nearly burned out and ended up going to counselling for a while to help put strategies into place to help me restore the balance.  Finding the moment to breathe is key if only for five minutes in the day.  Stopping also made me realise that I was not following my passions anymore and hence came the call to resign from work and go back to university to become a teacher.  You know the rest as my teaching journey started in this blog.

Now this is when you could say: "Heath, you realise that teaching is no different from your previous job.  If anything, it is probably going to be just as busy, if not more."  Others did and looking at it, they are right to a certain degree.

The reason behind this post was that a few weeks ago, the wheels did fall off and I found that I had been reverting to old habits to get through.  If I am model how to be a learner to my students, then I do need to live true to what I tell them about asking for help when they need it.  I also need to more transparent with people so they understand what is going on, rather than me just bottling everything up.  This transparency is a key factor to collaboration and being my best self as both a teacher and a person.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Superhero ABC and Feedback

Based on feedback from my reading groups, we have been looking at ways to develop our word attack strategies this term.  There is a book in our school library which is very popular with one of our learners in the hub called "Superhero ABC", so much so that it is known by a number of our learners as "his book" so they were very surprised when I used it as the prompt to explore alliteration.

With the hook there, a lot of the learners were quite excited to develop a character of their own and use alliteration to help describe their abilities and background.  I chose to use a combination of both Explain Everything so the learners could draw their character and Google Slides where they would be able to craft their descriptions.  I shared this to the whole group so each learner had their own slide but could also read others as I wanted to introduce the element of peer feedback to the exercise.

After the first session, I began to read through the descriptions and thought that I would use the comment function of Google Slides to give the learners feedback.  This was a bit of a risk as most of the learners hadn't had exposure to this form of feedback before however I gave each learner feedback.

The next day I explained to the group that I had read through their initial drafts and had given them feedback using comments.  I modelled how they could find this on their slide.  In hindsight, I hadn't told them about the 'reply' function of the comments but as you can see from the images below, they soon worked it out.

The majority of the responses were similar to this (NB have blocked out learners full names):

However as the week moved on and I started conferencing with learners, I noticed a shift in some of the learners responses.

I even started have dialogues with some learners who posed me questions of their own:

Learners who normally were too shy to ask for help during lessons now found that they had a voice and were empowered to ask questions.

This did get me reflecting on how I was using feedback in my practice and how I could use the affordance of comments to extend my reach - to date, I had not used the comments as I 'felt' that this may had been too advanced for some learners but seeing how naturally these 7 and 8 year olds took to this, I can now look develop both my own and the learners skills in both receiving and giving feedback.

Here is the blog post with the learners new identities on there - good to note that Blogger only allows a maximum of 20 labels on a blog post so I had to split the post in half to ensure all learners names were on this.  Stay tuned for another update as they have requested we look at some poetry before the end of the term with our new identities!

Monday, 5 June 2017

Pai tū, pai hinga!

Currently our staff are fortunate to be having a weekly PL session with Rosalie Reiri on our use of Te Reo in our practice.  When I first heard that this would be running each Monday afternoon for the remainder of Term Two, my first thoughts were the following:

  • "But I have so much to do, when will I get the time back?"
  • "I'm already using Te Reo in the hub!"
  • "I hope I don't have to say anything in front of anyone - my pronunciation is terrible!"

Notice how these thoughts go to self doubt and time constraints - I didn't and it wasn't until this week that I realised this.

The sessions so far have been pretty insightful more on how much I still have to learn about using Te Reo in my practice.  I reflected on how I felt hard done with the Te Reo course at university which gave me a great perspective of the bicultural nature of our education system but did not set me up for success with any practical application for my practice.

Rosalie shared with us this video where Janelle Riki-Waaka speaks of the schools of Aotearoa.  It is a great video to watch if you are reflecting on how you are using Te Reo as I came away from watching this with a new sense of purpose on ensuring that I am trying my best to show our school as one that is of Aotearoa.  The first thing I did do after our initial session was to learn how to add tohutō (macrons) to the vowels to ensure that if I am using Te Reo in emails or planning that I was reflecting the correct use.

Another thing helping my confidence grow is the 'homework' tasks that Rosalie is giving us to develop our skills!  Here is one of the examples where I was able to create a short stop motion to illustrate the difference between tēnā koe and tēnā kōrua:

These sessions have also given me more confidence with teaching - the learners in our hub have decided that they want to share some Te Reo with the rest of the junior school at our upcoming assembly.  Normally I would be quite nervous with helping the learners practice and ensuring that we we saying words properly however we shared with them how the teachers were all learning Te Reo and our practices now seem more natural.  I feel more confident to help learners with pronunciation and am looking forward to seeing the hub perform this week.