Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Teaching Sexuality Isn't That Scary!

This year was the first year I have taught sexuality education. I was super nervous, but also really excited for this unit. I created the unit overview for 10Health, utilising lots of Family Planning resources throughout my lessons, and suggestions from educators on Twitter. I will share my unit outline once it makes sense to others, as I'm busy with my dissertation currently.

I went in with no idea what to expect. No clue how the students would respond and engage with the learning, and no clue how I would feel. As sexuality education is an area I am interested in, and passionate about, I knew I would be comfortable, but I think I was more relaxed than I anticipated to be! I was blown away how respectful my classes were overall. There was some giggling and discomfort throughout, but holistically, the students were pretty mature and interested. 

At the end of the sexuality unit I asked all students to complete this Google Form, asking a variety of questions about the topics the students learnt about across the 10 periods. This summative assessment showed the clear strengths and gaps in student knowledge, as below;

  • Some students still had some confusion between conception and contraception, but had understanding of their options and provided examples of contraception. Greater emphasis on the difference is required next year.
  • Lots of understanding across the board about safe relationships and consent, which was the major aim of the unit. 70/78 students were able to identify the legal age of consent, and 72/78 students were able to explain why intoxicated sex is non consensual. Some words used to describe unsafe relationships included manipulation, abusive, controlling, dishonest, possessive and aggressive.
  • 68/78 students were able to describe changes to the body for males AND females during puberty, some students uncertain about the changes for the opposite sex. I was pleased by this, as many students were uncertain of changes at the beginning of the unit.
  • Students were introduced to the sexuality and gender spectrums, to start discussions and awareness of the variety of sexualities and genders in society. Students needed another period or two around the spectrums, as there was a lot of confusion in the Google Form answers. This is likely due to a lack of time spent on this area, as we were pressed for time. About half of the students started to explain the differences between the two and were able to identify what LGBTQI stands for, and 38/78 were able to explain what heterosexual means.
  • The result I was most proud of when reading students' answers, was that only 2/78 students were unable to identify where/who they can go to for help, or any questions they may have about relationships, sex, sexuality and gender. Student knowledge of places they can go for help, was imperative for the learning throughout the unit.
Overall, I am really pleased how the unit went considering it was the first time in the school and the first time I had taught it. I really enjoyed connecting with the Nurse, agencies, other educators and stepping out of my comfort zone. The above points, and the student feedback alongside give me lots to work with moving into 2018

The greatest success story, was the Y10 dean saying this year the Health Centre had the greatest influx of students asking for help, support or general questions related to relationships, sex and sexuality than any year previously. This is a highlight, and great feedback for me, as this shows some of the learning within Health is encouraging students to reflect on their lives and Hāuora. 

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Banter, Bonding & Basketball

One of my 2017 goals was to increase my involvement in extra-curricular activities. I completely threw myself in the deep end and decided to coach a Junior basketball team! Growing up I loved to play basketball socially, but was never involved in a competitive team and certainly had no coaching experience! So the season was a massive learning curve for me, but so much fun.

Our 7:15am Friday morning trainings were tough for some of the boys, but we always had a great time, and loved our Tuesday afternoon games. I loved strengthening relationships with students I already knew, and creating relationships with other students in the school. Unfortunately our success rate wasn't high, but the kids always left with high spirits. Our van rides back to school after our games, were always the highlight of my week as we left with our heads high and jammed to music! They even attempted to have rap battles, which were entertaining. 

Going through the season, I was grateful to have considerable support from our Sports Coordinator. He coached the other Junior boys team (see both teams and Sports Coordinator above), so always helped me out with ideas, gave me encouragement and regularly led the trainings with me supporting him. I felt I took away a few ideas, but still have a considerable way to go, to be an effective coach! I look forward to PD opportunities in the future to support this growth. 

To celebrate the end of season, I was invited to the school's Sports Prizegiving Dinner. We spent the evening celebrating the success of all of our students involved in Sport at Tamaki College. See alongside the recipients of Most Valuable Player, Player of the Year and Most Improved Player for my team. This was a great experience, and I loved seeing the students walk across the stage to receive their awards. For some of our students and their families, this was a huge success, which I felt blessed to be a part of. 

Overall, I am so grateful to be involved in this team because I throughly enjoyed myself, and more importantly, I think the kids did too!

Monday, 23 October 2017

A Snowy Experience

This week we took our 11PE classes to Snowplanet, an indoor snow centre. The kids chose whether they would like to ski or board, had a lesson and then were given free time. I had so much fun being with the students in a new environment for them, and watching them learn.

For many of our students, this day was about an opportunity, an experience. Majority of the kids had never seen snow before, so had never been in a cold environment or had a snow fight. They were certainly shocked walking into -6 degrees! Last year we took our Year 12 class mountain biking and on the high ropes course. I left that day, and our Snowplanet day thinking how happy the students were after these first time experiences. They were so well behaved, incredibly respectful and so grateful for the day out. This means so much more than learning the skill itself.

A bunch of the kids enjoyed the day so much, they want to continue to ski/board. I would love to support the growth of an alpine group at TC, hopefully to take the students down to the mountain at some point - imagine the experiences the kids would have there?! I hate the stereotypes associated with low decile schools and low socio-economic communities, because anything is possible if you really want it... 

I created this short clip of our day out, and really hope to be involved in more awesome experiences in the future. Really looking forward to helping out with the Waka Ama day in a few weeks!

Monday, 16 October 2017

The End Is Near

How is today the first day of Term 4 - this year is flying past?! I feel I have grown so much this year, not only as a teacher but also as a person. I have faced many challenges and been given many new opportunities, and now the end is near. I am most looking forward to spending tomorrow with my Year 11s at Snowplanet, a 2 day High Ropes course at the end of the year with my tutor class, and developing new relationships and building on relationships during the Jumpstart programme in a few weeks.

A quick reflection post Term 3 on my 2017 goals:

1. Schedule time for me:
Until these holidays, I am proud that I have not said no to any social event or activity that I have wanted to do. I have enjoyed having this two hours each day at the back of my mind and when there are busier times, I have been making up the hours I may have worked through. I had lots to juggle in Term 3, and trying to maintain a balanced Hāuora is incredibly important, not only for myself and my whānau, but also for the students. 

2. Read educational blogs:
Unfortunately I did not give one hour per week, but tried to give one hour fortnightly last term reading through blogs. I tried a different approach; rather than focusing on the same blogs I had been, I tried to read through all posts I saw on my Twitter feed. I regularly tweet links to my posts, so found this to be a great way to read different blogs, with an array of ideas and topics. I am so thankful I got introduced to blogging as part of MDTA, as this has been a reflective journey for myself, which I have been able to share with others!

3. Experiment with more digital tools
I was light on the inclusion of more digital tools this term, but used some Google Expeditions to revise the Skeletal System (see detailed description in previous reflection). Rather than using more digital tools, I was trying to build on my confidence of the inclusion of the GAFE community, and trying to use them in different ways such as hyperlinking to a variety of websites and encouraging students to use these websites to answer a series of questions or create a digital artefact. 

4. Attend more extra curricular activities
I made it through the basketball season! I will be writing a blogpost later this week, once the photos from our Sports Awards are released - such a cool night. I have also signed up to assist the one day Waka Ama tournament in November, as many of my students are involved. I am really looking forward to a day in the sun with them, learning about a new sport!

5. Include blogging into 11PE

As reflected a little in a previous post, I am currently bringing all of the pieces of my dissertation together. I spent the second week of my holidays writing a draft of my dissertation. This has been a difficult process, but I have learnt a lot about the blogging process and started to refine how to include blogging within my classroom next year to benefit my students. I am really looking forward to this hurdle being over - roll on the 20th of November once it's handed in!

Overall, I feel I developed great goals for myself, and I'm looking forward to the final 9 weeks of the year to wrap these goals up and make new ones. The important thing for me to keep in the back of my mind, is that although it's the nearing the end, every minute still counts!

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Post PPTA Annual Conference Thoughts

After recently attending Mahi Tika 2 - an employment relations course facilitated by the PPTA (see my reflection here), I was encouraged to attend the annual PPTA conference. The conference was based in Wellington, so I was fortunate to be flown down there for three days to learn about what's happening within the union, and to network. These are the major things I was left thinking about, after an intriguing experience, completely throwing myself in the deep end!

One of the most contentious papers discussed was a salary increase for teachers. It is well known we have a considerable workload, and compared to other professions aren't paid particularly well. Teachers are often heard saying they do it for the love of the job and the kids - but at the end of the day we still need to pay the bills! So I was really interested listening to the discussion about salary increase on the conference floor. Because, as Sam Oldman (South Auckland teacher) highlighted "many [teachers are] being pushed out of teaching by workload, stress and low pay" in his recent article discussing what life is like in a low decile community. I really liked this article as I could relate so much of his story, to my own experiences at Tamaki College.

The paper I backed most, was the diversity paper - supporting schools to be safe places for students, staff and whānau from minority gender and sexuality groups. Acceptance and ongoing support of LGBTQI is incredibly important, as are all minority/diverse groups, to ensure feelings of safety within the school environment. Upon reflection, I feel there are staff within our school who want to be supportive of minority gender and sexuality groups, but are unsure how. I think some uncertainty may be because of a lack of understanding/education. Therefore, I would like to work with the other Health teacher, to possibly create a presentation for the staff about the gender and sexuality spectrums, and as a result the staff may be have greater knowledge of how to be supportive. Or, we could request a full staff session from Rainbow Taskforce or Rainbow Youth, which would also likely support our Health programme. It was timely having this discussion when RY released this incredible ad this week (a discussion which I regularly have with students!)...

One of our guest speakers, Dr Mere Berryman (University of Waikato). My key takeaways from her presentation were; 

- The NZ Education system is of high quality and of low equity
Kia Eke Panuku schools have greater academic success for both Māori and non-Māori students when compared to non-Kia Eke Panuku schools, and
- Poutama Pounamu is dedicated to reducing the challenges faced by Māori, in hope to increase success within schools - their research and website also provide resources to support other educators
- The alongside visual represent the 'ako critical contexts for change', which bring to light the parts which interweave within teaching and learning

After Mere's presentation I really liked Mere's closing whakatauki/proverb:
"Ma te huruhuru, ka rere te manu,
It is the feathers that enable the bird to fly."
I was really left thinking about all of the feathers this could be referring to, and thought these words were powerful. I am now wanting to have a weekly whakatauki with my 2018 tutor class, as something to refer back to throughout the week with the students!

Overall, I really enjoyed the conference, learning a lot and making new connections. I am looking forward to further opportunities within the union, and definitely the 2018 conference!

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Student Voice on Blogging in 11PE

I am currently feeling under the pump, like I'm barely keeping afloat. Not only have I been battling a head cold and it is the end of the term, I am trying to tackle my data for my dissertation. This post is a quick update with student feedback and major findings!

Across the whole class I was interested to know their opinions about blogging within PE, and how/if blogging effects their learning in PE. A quick Google Form showed interesting results. These graphs are a little off, because I asked students to complete the Form at the start of Term 2 and then again at the end of Term 2, so some students responses changed. However, they are good visuals for immediate feedback.

Students were given four questions, 1 representing disagree and 4 representing agree. After identifying their position on the scale, the students were asked to give a brief explanation for their position. 

Enjoyment of blogging:
Half of the class enjoy blogging and half do not. What interested me was that the scale is heavily tipped towards enjoyment though. Some of the comments the students made were:
- "Because blogging is alright and it can help me for my assessment but it can get annoying at times if we do it too much."
- "I gave a 2 because I don't think what we learn in one particular class needs to be blogged to the public for every topic or session of p.e we have."
- "I enjoy blogging because it help me to remember the things we've leant. I also enjoy blogging because I can get feedback from not only the teacher but also from my peers in the class."

Blogging supports learning:
I was pleased to see nearly two thirds of the students thought blogging was effective/helpful for their learning. Upon reflection, it would have been useful to have discussions with individual students about their comments, to determine what students specifically found effective/useful (or not).
- "It helps me be able to explain what we've learnt so far and how to present it to people".
- "Blogging has helped to support my learning in PE because when I am absent I can always check everyone's blog on what they've learnt when I was absent. Therefore I can catch up with the class and be up to date".
- "Because it can improve my writing".

Blogging is challenging:
I think this question may have been too broad for the students, suggested by the variety of their responses. If I was to redo the Form, I think I would break down the four sections with subquestions, to specify what students may have found challenging. 
- "It's hard to see if I'm improving".
- "It can be hard when I want my writing to be a good piece of work and when we have a time frame to complete it in. I find it good challenging but not when I'm under pressure".
- "Sometimes blogging is challenging because there'll be times where I just don't know how to start my blog post, so I'm wasting time trying to know how to start my blog".

Blogging helps with feedback/feedforward
This graph positively surprised me, as majority of the students consider blogging to be helpful for progression of learning. On the flip side, there were also a large proportion of students who didn't think blogging supported their feedback and feedforward. One thing I am exploring a little is how to give effective feedback, a skill many of our students are developing. Then, how to use feedback to grow.
- "Because it gives people more ideas & to improve".
- "Because we can get feedback and feed forward from other people around the world, not just people in our class".
- "Not really because I don't read comments on my blog and no one really gives me feedback or feed-forward on what's on my blogs".

So where am I at now?
I am focussing on three specific students and their comments and blogposts. These are coincidentally the top academic students in my class (these are the students who gave consent for me to use their data for my studies). The major themes/findings of my intervention from these three students are; blogging helps me as their teacher to identify gaps in students' knowledge, over time students became more reflective within their posts, students began to integrate feedback into future posts, and in class discussions/peer teaching increased.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

PE Teachers in Action

Over the past couple of months I have enjoyed completing observations of other teachers in the school (e.g. a couple of Science observations and an observation of Learn, Create, Share in action). I have found these observations incredibly useful to reflect on strategies which I do and don't use within the classroom. 

As I had completed 3 observations of other subjects, I decided to complete 3 observations of PE teachers and classes. I observed Brenton with his Option Y10 class, Doris with a compulsory PE class and Alex with his 13PE class. I was looking for different things during each observation, but walked away with some similar ideas and reflections. These are the key things I have taken away from the observations to think about and implement further;

  • Although saying 'good girl' may be positive, without explaining what is actually good, this isn't actually feedback. Feedback (and feedforward) need to be specific to the task/activity, such as good explanation of this topic, however you're missing an example. When I heard comments like good girl, the student appeared happy for the few seconds post, but some were still confused or became offtask.

  • Across the observations there were opportunities for the teachers to ask open-ended questions. The use of open-ended questions may have reduced some confusion/lack of understanding from students, as the teachers were checking in to see whether they understood what to do. I have been trying to break up teaching points with questions along the way to keep students engaged, and to determine what their level of understanding is. I am struggling to do this in a way which encourages the quiet students to speak, so sometimes I may think the class is ready to move on, but only the vocal students are.

  • Two of three of the teachers used countdowns to bring students in/gain their attention (one in the gym and one in the classroom). I realised that I used countdowns regularly last year, but hardly used them this year, and I am unsure if I have ever used them in the classroom. This could be a useful strategy for getting students' attention, something I am currently waiting a long time for.

  • Rather than having discussions and/or drawing attention to students when they are late, give them their activity quickly so that they can get on task. Once they're on task, a quiet conversation with them later on, is likely to be more successful than asking right as they walk in the door. I have found recently many of my students have been coming late because of legitimate reasons, and it is difficult to determine what's the truth or not. By waiting to have the conversation later, I think this may encourage students to be more truthful about their absence.

  • Overplanning ensures there are plenty of activities for the students to do, and is likely to reduce boredom or disengagement. I noticed during the observations if tasks weren't challenging enough (or too challenging), or didn't take students very long to complete, then some students would start to become offtask as they were trying to entertain themselves. So, by having extra activities available in case students complete activities quicker than expected, ensures the learning continues. This also relates to the importance of differentiation within a class, something I am trying to work on at the moment (as it is difficult with so many on period per week classes).
Overall, I enjoyed these observations, and am looking forward to completing an English observation to focus on literacy strategies as well as an observation of Health. I will now need to think about, and put into action some of these takeaways!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Pastoral Role of a Tutor

Over the past two days the school has been closed for Student Achievement Conferences, for the second time this year. These involved students and their families meeting with their tutor teachers to discuss their progress at school. I have loved having a pastoral care role as a tutor teacher this year, so have enjoyed the past two days.

Throughout the year as a tutor teacher I am responsible for my classes uniforms, attendance, overall behaviour and happiness at school (put simply). I have a Year 10 class, so as their pastoral carer I need to ensure they're reading to move into Year 11 next year. Even though there is a considerable amount of time spent following up with students and calling home for a variety of reasons, the role has been incredibly rewarding. I feel like I have successfully 'moulded' my students this year, to be the best student they can be, and I am so excited to see how they grow the rest of this year and next year as Level 1 students. 

I felt incredibly proud of the success and progress my students have had. I found myself expressing my pride in my students, and sharing more strengths than weaknesses with their families over the past two days of conferences. I tried hard to share the feedforward or next steps, but for some students I found this difficult! Upon reflection, I think it would be useful to have a brief conversation with each of their subject teachers and ask for any general comments about the class holistically and any students causing concern. As a result, I would feel more comfortable discussing student progress in their subjects and also be able to identify their gaps or weaknesses. 

Overall though, I really enjoyed engaging with the whānau of my wonderful learners yesterday and today. I have grown to have a lot of love and respect for my tutor class, and I loved sharing their successes with their caregivers. Conversations with my class have been incredibly different for each student, some simply needing to read more, others needing support developing self confidence, one student has needed support with her health and I am helping one student to quit smoking this year. I am learning a lot about my beliefs and values throughout the process, and trying to prepare my learners for the most successful future possible. I am now looking forward to seeing what changes students make after their Student Achievement Conferences, and seeing further progresses and successes in their final reports!

Friday, 25 August 2017

Problem Solving in the Workplace

At the beginning of this week I attended an employment relations two day course (Mahi Tika 2) funded by the Post Primary Teachers' Association. This was the second stage of the first stage I completed last year (see my reflection here). The purpose of the course was to gain a greater understanding of our rights and obligations as teachers in the workplace, through scenario based learning. I left the sessions feeling like I had absorbed a substantial amount of information that is important for me to know, and to share with others, especially problem solving skills.

I have reflected on the importance of my worth and value as a teacher within my school after this course. I have thought about the expectations I need to have, of how my colleagues interact with and treat me, and however I interact with my colleagues. Sometimes I feel as if we are giving 110%, but not noticed. I also sometimes feel like I am the bottom of the hierarchy, which I think is natural as a beginning teacher. However, I have now realised that we don't need to feel this way or be recognised, as long as my students are engaged and successful. We, teachers, do need to be respected by staff and students though. So, I feel grateful for this intense course, as it as made me realise my worth, and how to resolve some possible potential workplaces issues.

One section of the course was focused around Health and Safety. I feel this is an area I need considerable more knowledge and understanding about, especially as I am leading the aquatics programme soon. I have found myself attempting to complete RAMs forms, but still have a million questions I need help answering! Some of the key things I took away from the session was the managing risks cycle, and identifying the risk values of different situations. 

My group focused on water leaks as a low level risk and then physical fights between students as our examples to calculate the risk level of the situations using the below tables. A low risk can procede with monitoring and controls. A medium risk must be reviewed and managed. A high risk, which there appear to be many more than we realise, require immediate attention to eliminate or minimise risks as reasonably practical. These tables started lots of interesting discussions, including ways to minimise violence, how to reduce risks from becoming present and the importance of a Health and Safety Committee. I feel like I have lots of things to think about after this session in particular!

I have considered going to the annual PPTA conference, as I am interested to hear about what is on the cards for education, teachers and the union in the future. Watch this space...

Monday, 21 August 2017

Substances Have Been Explored

Throughout Term 2 in Year 10 Health, I taught an exploring substances unit for the first time. I enjoyed the unit, especially trying to include more technology into the learning activities. At the beginning of the unit, students completed a short Google Form with some key questions for me to gauge student understanding. The answers (which were collated in a Google Sheet) highlighted the topics students had gaps in their knowledge, so this is what I based my planning around. Please see my unit outline here. I also asked students to complete this Form at the end of the unit, to see student growth in understanding from the beginning of the unit (i.e. summative assessment).

I feel overall, that the unit was reasonably successful, however there are still many parts to adapt for next year to be even more successful. I feel proud of the unit I created, and the learning opportunities the students had, especially when there hasn't really been anything like this before! As I am more confident with the content and key ideas I would like students to take away, next year I will be able to differentiate between the classes, as this is my greatest weakness. Because I teach 6 classes, and the teaching is all new to me, there is very little differentiation between classes. As a result, some classes had in depth discussions, and completed more activities than other classes, and some classes felt rushed. With more thought into extension activities or how to cater for the lower literacy class for example, this may enable greater understanding and application of knowledge for students. I would also like to possibly focus on less, but more in depth, rather than scraping the surface.

Throughout the unit, there were lots of different activities, to try engage all learners. There were posit-it note activities, mix and matches, think, pair shares, student presentations, human continuums, online games, and research tasks. I tried to include a huge range of activities, so the students were learning in a different way each lesson. As a learner myself, even though I like to have routine and know what to expect when learning new things, I know I am most engaged when I am involved in different and new learning tasks. I found majority of students to be most engaged when they were in small groups, and able to discuss their ideas, and when they were off of their netbooks. I think that technology has an important place in education, especially in my classes, but there are times where the students like to step away from their screens, as their tasks are regularly on their computers in their other subjects. This is something I am actively thinking about for their current Sexuality and Relationships unit.

The most memorable activity from the unit was when we completed a Google Expedition inside the lungs. I first learnt about Google Expeditions (a free app) at the Google Conference earlier this year. Our lesson focus was about the effects of smoking tobacco on the body, one being the effect on the lungs. The Expedition begins with inhalation and travels from the trachea, through the bronchi to the alveoli in the lungs. As the guide of the expedition, the app gave lots of suggested questions to ask the students, which started some great discussions and encouraged students to think. I was surprised how interested the students were looking around; they were so engaged! After these lessons I had a look through the other various expeditions available and have found some which could be used in PE for anatomy, which I will definitely utilise next year! There are lots of expeditions available for all learning areas, so highly recommend others to look into it.

I am really enjoying teaching and leading Junior Health this year, even though it has been incredibly challenging trying to create engaging lessons. Next year will be great, as there will be foundation lessons to make better for future students. I am currently enjoying teaching a sexuality education unit, and am impressed by the response from the students so far. Bring on the next challenge, whatever that may be!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Planning is Not Set in Concrete

As part of my beginning teacher mentoring programme with Cheryl, we focused on Criteria 9 of the Practicing Teacher Criteria in our last meeting. Criteria 9 suggests fully certified teachers respond effectively to the diverse language and cultural experiences, and the varied strengths, interests and needs of individuals and groups of ākonga.

As a group, we broke down the criteria using The Education Council's Self Assessment Tool. This is a great resource to really reflect on the criteria, to identify my strengths and weaknesses! After our PCT meeting I felt criteria 9 was an area of weakness I needed think about further. Although I know I have a lot of evidence for each of the criteria, sometimes I struggle to show, or put into words what evidence I have. One of three parts of Criteria 9 asks;

Am I flexible in my teaching approaches?

I feel I am constantly adapting my plans to suit my learners in front of me, particularly my Year 11 PE class. I wrote an outline of lessons for the first few weeks of term, and I have already changed this multiple times! As this is a Senior class, I want to ensure students have ample time to really understand the topics, so they can effectively explain and apply their knowledge. Sometimes this means spending twice as long covering a topic than I had initially planned for.

Last year I co-taught Years 12 and 13 PE. We realised throughout the year how so many of the students had gaps in their knowledge from their previous years, especially for anatomy, biomechanics and exercise physiology (which is the most difficult unit for most students). As a department we realised we needed to be increasing student understanding at a deeper level in Year 11, to better prepare them for Year 12. Therefore, although the suggested time to spend on anatomy, biomechanics and exercise physiology is probably about 7-8 weeks, I am planning for about 12 weeks. I would rather the students have a greater understanding this year, in prep for next year, than try to smash out more units. Quality over quantity. This can be quite difficult, because we obviously want our students to achieve their NCEA, but I would prefer they achieve Merits and Excellences and less credits, than more credits at an Achieved (or Not Achieved) level.

To achieve this, I have had to have regular conversations with students about their understanding, to ensure they are ready to move on. My inquiry this year is about blogging in Year 11PE, which I have found to be a great way to formatively assess student learning, and adapt my teaching to suit my students gaps. By reading through their blogposts, I am able to identify the parts they're still struggling with, and revisit this in a different way from before. For example, I am trying a variety of revision activities with this class currently, such as Kahoot, mix and match activities and team challenges (I will be writing a post about these different strategies in a couple of weeks, but see some of my observations here). If something works well for some students whom I struggle to engage, or who are struggling to understand, I try to replicate that in future lessons.

Therefore, to continue to feel I am flexible in my teaching, I need to continue to take risks, continue to read students posts to gauge their understanding and continue to seek student voice. In future, I think it would be useful to have more conversations with students about what they thought about the activities during lessons. I often think about the activities, and how I think they went, but don't as often ask the students what they think. I have started to collate some of their responses from a Google Sheet.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Supporting Māori Students Success

As previously reflected/shared, TC staff have been meeting fortnightly with our PLGs at school to discuss our priority learners. Unfortunately I have had basketball games so have missed the discussions which take place. However, I try to keep in the loop by following the agenda and reflection points.

This week the focus was around Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, particularly exploring Kia Eke Panuku (KEP). My group explained CRP as "a way to promote Maori academic success through students, teachers and whanau working together. Authentic connections and a focus on Māori identity are supported by evidence based pedagogies". As our school's demographic is 33% Māori, this is an important pedagogy for us to explore. Please see our Slides from a KEP PD last year, with key reflective questions and discussions we had related to Māori's achievement as Māori. I attempted to breakdown CRP in an earlier blogpost.

KEP is a professional development initiative to build schools achievement and success for Māori, as Māori. The Ministry of Education have developed Ka Hikitia, strategies to support Māori learners success in school too, which my PLG also explored. This resource breaks down critical factors, focus areas and guiding principles for Māori students' learning journeys to be enjoyable and successful, to prepare them for pathways in their futures.

Although there are a variety of strategies and suggestions throughout Ka Hikitia, the part that stuck with me is the need to support Māori learners to believe in themselves and their potential.

"Students with a strong belief in their capacity to achieve are more likely to set themselves challenging goals and put a high degree of effort into achieving them. Research has shown that the most motivated and resilient students are those who believe their abilities can be developed through their own effort and learning" (p. 25).

I have been reflecting regularly about the lack of motivation and self efficacy some of my students have. Although majority of my students are more than capable of achieving, because they feel they are incapable, or they fear they are going to get something wrong, they would rather just not complete something. This has been evident in my 11PE class especially, and was evident in my senior classes last year. A few students really struggle to express their thoughts and struggle to complete their tasks. This is not a reflection of what they're capable of though, but a reflection of how little self confidence they have in their ability and/or little motivation they have to be successful. 

For this reason, I have selected three learners in my 11PE class who have 11 or less credits currently towards their NCEA Level 1 (expected to have over 40 by now), to be my priority learners for the second half of the year. I hope by continuing to try build students self confidence, giving positive feedback and affirmation when they are on track, and reinforcing ako within my practice and classrooms (the two way process of learning), my students' become more successful.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Professional Development is to develop me

One of my goals this year is to read educational blogs. Even though I have read lots of posts, I have not found the time to reflect on many of them. I stumbled across two articles on Twitter about teacher professional development (PD), which encouraged me to start thinking about the PD I am involved in. The articles were Craig Kemp's 4 ways to improve teacher professional learning, and Richard Wells' Why Teacher Professional Development has to be D.I.Y

Recently, after attending the PENZ conference, I have been reflecting on the importance of regular, personalised PD. I love how the conference (like the Google Summit conference) offered a huge variety of sessions, which I could pick and choose between, rather than a set programme. This enabled me to develop where I feel I have gaps in my knowledge. Richard mentions that "changes are happening too quickly to expect institutions like schools to be able to organise enough one-size-fits-all training to keep all teachers up-to-date", which relates back to the importance of individualised, self-selected professional development, especially with the growth and demand of the use of technology within classrooms today.

Craig suggested four tips to improve professional learning for teachers;

1) Encourage Social Media Use for anywhere, anytime learning.

I feel I am ahead of many others, as I have been active on Twitter for one year now, and in that one year I have made many connections, found new resources and my thinking has been challenged. As a result, I have also been moderating a chat I created alongside a friend (Mal Bish). We presented at PENZ about our journey on Twitter and how we think that it is incredibly valuable for educators. So, I am 100% supportive of this tip!

2) Establish a Coaching Pedagogy 

"You are never left on your own, but you are expected to take some steps to do things on your own, increase your skill set, and push yourself to be better". I feel this is so true. I am saddened there are many teachers who aren't continuing to learn, aren't continuing to push themselves, and so aren't increasing their skill sets. Every day I am wondering how I could be better, or how lessons could have gone better, or how I can increase my students enjoyment and engagement! This tip suggests you become responsible for your own learning.

3) Establish a Professional Learning Network (PLN)

This time last year I was encouraged to get on Twitter, but I was very hesitant, fearing it was 'just another social media'. However, I now know that it is incredibly valuable having people around the world, and around the country to support me, and give me tips/resources when needed

Craig mentions how he can ask a question on Twitter and quickly he will get an array of responses from around the world, which I have experienced too. For example, last Sunday afternoon I tweeted asking for help to teach a new topic, and multiple people responded within an hour, with resource ideas or activity suggestions. Many of them I hadn't met before! So there is often someone out there to help.

Additionally, Richard's post discussed the reduced need for teaching about applications to use within classes, but an increased necessity to develop our PLNs. Like my tweet, Richard suggests a PLN can "directly tackle [teachers] most pressing professional needs". So when I have burning questions, using my digital PLN is incredibly helpful, at any time of the day and any day of the week!

Check out Sylvia Duckworth's sketchnote, which gives further reasons for the development of a PLN.

4) Make Learning Fun and Personalised (and provide TIME)

Although Senior Leadership need to create the overall strategies goals for the school, and think about how they can support the teachers to reach the goals, the teachers PD needs to have some freedom. Craig discusses the importance of teachers having the freedom to learn about what they feel is important for their development, and be provided with the facilities and time for that PD. This is evident in our PLGs at school and our priority learners. Regularly in our PLGs we have an icebreaker type activity, so our learning and reflections are fun/enjoyable. For example, alongside you can see my 'Avatar' I created of myself, which I then had to explain to my group. 

The overall school goal is to improve student achievement in NCEA, and we have all been asked to have a priority learner or two. From there we needed to determine what to do to support our priority learners progress, therefore we had an umbrella expectation but could take the steps we felt necessary to support our priority learners to achieve more credits.

After reading and summarising these articles, I am left wondering where to next? I feel I am quite active about finding support when I need it, but I think I need to reflect more regularly on what my weaknesses or gaps in my learning are. From there can seek out the appropriate professional development. Not necessarily appropriate for everyone else, but appropriate for ME and my learning journey.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Observing Learn, Create, Share in Action

Today I observed Karen Ferguson (her blog here) and her Years 7&8 in Design and Visual Communications (DVC) class. I chose to observe Karen because she is a COL leader, is our Google go-to at school and is currently part of Google Class On Air. Therefore, Karen has experience with visible teaching and learning, and the Learn, Create, Share process. I feel I am still developing my confidence to incorporate the learn, create, share pedagogy into my practice, so this was the focus of my observation.

I asked three students the steps of accessing their learning from when they walk in the door, and what they thought about it. These were their responses;
  • We go onto the rotation sheet because that has our tasks. I like because everything is in one place. I don’t have to go lots of places to find my files.
  • We go here to see what we have to do, and what we have to do next. I like this because if I don’t know what I am doing, I can just go here to see what I am doing and then ask for help if I don’t understand
  • Miss gives us instructions and examples of what we need to do. We can also see the rotation sheet and this shows us where we need to go and what we need to do. I like it because it’s easy for the teacher and us to see our work, and the teacher can see our blogs too.
The rotation sheet the students mention, is the tracking sheet of tasks (see picture below). Students access this Sheet to see what they are expected to complete, where they are up to and where they are heading, which is great accountability, and tracking of their learning. I have been attempting to use tracking sheets in my practice this year, particularly in Y11 (see Sheet here). These tracking sheets allow for differentiation within the class, which was evident in Karen's class today. The students were all working at different levels, on different tasks, in different parts of the room - it was incredible!

Reflecting after the lesson, I feel I am heading this way with my students slowly in Year 11, but definitely need to refer to the tracking sheet more often in class. Like the class I observed today, I probably need to include the expectation to access the tracking sheet at the start and/or end of every lesson, to continue with their tasks. I suppose with the nature of PE, this is a little different though. I also realised all of the students' links are open for anyone to view, but in my classes most of the students' creations are only visible by myself and the student. The students in today's observation were using their peers creations to support their learning journey, which I thought was incredibly powerful. Moving forward, I would like to encourage students to share more of their work with their peers, so they can learn from one another, rather than always learning from me! I hope that this may engage and motivate more learners in the classroom too, particularly the students who rely on me helping them individually.

Finally, I asked students to give me an example of when they have completed the Learn, Create, Share process in DVC;
  • We learn about an idea or something, then we design and make it and then we share it - usually with our peers like a presentation, sometimes on our blog.
  • Miss gives us a template to write our ideas on, and then we create our own. After we have finished creating it, we have to put onto our blogs for evidence to show that we have done it.
  • We learnt about different types of clocks, and then based off of the different types of clocks we had to make our own. Once we drew and made our own clocks, we shared on our blogs with a description of what we did and our creations

    Although I am trying hard to include the L,C,S pedagogy, I do not feel my students could articulate how this is evident in their class like the students did today. This is an end goal for me for next year. To do so, I need to make the process more obvious to the students, by referring to the process more often. Our balance and stability lessons (see Autymn's blog, and Isiah's blog to see further), were a great example of the process. The students learnt about a biomechanical principle, participated in a practical, created a resource to represent their learning and then shared on their blogs a synopsis of the learning process. However, I don't think students could yet explain this as Learn, Create, Share. Something to work on.

    Overall, I enjoyed the observation, and think that having a specific focus meant I took away much more than if I didn't have a focus.