Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Graduating from the MDTA

Last Thursday night the MDTA celebrated the end of our two year digital teaching and learning programme. Over the two years I have learnt a lot about myself, my practice and technology. I feel I am ahead of other beginning teachers, due to being included in the MDTA. I hope I never have to teach in a full paper school again!

I felt underprepared for technology in HPE after finishing my Bachelor of PE. We had a couple of courses including some e-learning tools, but I feel they only just scraped the surface. The MDTA increased my confidence with the integration of technology and I have developed skills which I believe will be useful for future classes I have. 

Our graduation was based in the Google Headquarters in the CBD, with wine flowing and a beautiful view. I enjoyed spending the time to thank my mentor, principal and the Manaiakalani Education Trust for my journey. Our cohort went out for dinner and watched the sunset as our final congrats and farewell to one another. Many are continuing in their current schools next year, some embarking on new journeys. I can't wait to see how we all further progress, and where we end up in the future.

Despite a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, I do think MDTA was effective for my development, and I am intrigued to follow future MDTA teachers! My blog is my pride, and without MDTA, I would not have my blog... so this is definitely what I am most thankful for!

Monday, 4 December 2017

Tracking Student Learning

Throughout 2016, some of my colleagues shared their use of tracking sheets within their classrooms. I decided to try and include tracking sheets within my practice this year, to see how students would respond. I hoped this would increase student motivation and empower them to take responsibility of their tasks. To see how the tracking sheets were used in a classroom, I visited Karen (DVC) in a Year 8 Tech class (see observation here), and read through Hinearu's reflections throughout the year (example 1 and example 2).

I started off using tracking sheets in Term 1 in my 10Health and 9Health classes, with student names down the left column and then the tasks students needed to complete (see right example). I found some students responded well to the tracking sheet, feeling motivated to try get ahead of others, and knowing exactly where they were up to. However, overall I reflected midway through Term 2, and decided they weren't working effectively in my Health classes. 

As I only teach Health one period per week for each class, and had 10 Health classes, it was really difficult to keep up with all students' progress. Students were sharing links to their tasks through a Google Form, which I then used to track student progress on the alongside Google Sheet. But, I couldn't keep up. With so little time with the students per week, it took a long time to develop 100% trust to give the students editing access to the Sheets, so they could link in their own tasks. But, giving students editing access to the Sheet definitely would've helped with my admin time. 

On the flip side I found the task tracking sheets to be more effective in my 11PE class. Not surprisingly, I think this is because I had 6 periods per week with the students, therefore closer relationships, and more time to follow up with students' tasks. As the screenshot shows, there were a couple of students who I struggled to motivate to complete their tasks. These students became my priority learners (read more here). I wondered whether having individual tracking sheets for each student would be effective for some of these students, as some have low self confidence. 

Next year I think I would like to try individual tracking sheets, which all have the same tasks, to reduce potential embarrassment or lack of confidence some students may have being visible to others. I will have to think further about how I could ensure there is a competitive element, for the students who responded well to competition, though. Possibly the inclusion of some gamification, or points system of some regard. Obviously this takes away tracking sheets as a tool for visible teaching and learning, but I didn't find the tracking sheets to be effective for this component of my practice.

In addition to using for student tasks, I used tracking sheets within my assessment of learning, specifically for my Year 11s. I created tracking sheets like the below as evidence of collection of student learning, and tracking their progress throughout a unit. When the tracking sheets were related to students' NCEA grades, like the interpersonal skills example, they were not visible. The second example below though, was publicly visible. I shared this link with staff and public on Google+ and Twitter, to seek authentic feedback and feedforward for students. I found this to be somewhat effective, but would have liked more comments left on students' blogs. As reflected in my post dissertation blogpost, I think one contributor to few comments was an uncertainty of how or why to leave effective comments for students on their blogs. Hence, this is something to address next year.

Overall, I think there is great potential for the inclusion of tracking sheets (in multiple ways), within teaching and learning. This year was a great taster for me, and I look forward to making small changes, to see how the tracking sheets can empower learners further, and possibly increase student achievement (as I don't think student achievement was effected directly from the tracking sheets this year).

Monday, 27 November 2017

Aquatics Unit, An Awesome Experience

Last year I queried why there wasn't an Aquatics programme at TC, especially as there is a pool 100m down the road. No one had taken the lead, so there hadn't been any opportunities for the students historically. So, I developed a water safety site and shared a short screencast showing what I had created. The purpose of the Y10 unit was to increase student confidence in, on and around the water, as opposed to a swimming unit. 

I worked alongside a representative called Mark from Drowning Prevention Auckland (formerly Water Safe Inc.) to create my programme and website. When it came time to delivering the unit late Term 3 this year, Nicky, another DPA representative supported myself and the other 10PE teacher. She was incredible. Very organised, very passionate, and really increased our confidence to teach water safety. She took the lead for the first couple of lessons, and then Doris and I took over once we felt more confident.

  • "This opportunity that you’ve provided them may make the difference between a bad decision around water and a safer decision as through the theory you’re getting them to think critically about their behaviours and attitudes around water."
  • "Your enthusiasm and dedication to get this programme going will make learning so much more authentic to those who did participate in the water but also those who were “non-participants” could still learn and also see that the lessons were less about ability but more about confidence and being safe in the water."
  • "Those who didn’t get in the water but were still there, some were still engaged and helpful and were good at answering questioning – think in reflection that will be a key thing, including them more with station cards or whatever it may be so they can take responsibility for some of the learning."

  • As this was the first time I was the Teacher in Charge of an EOTC activity, it was also the first time I created RAMS forms and was responsible for Health and Safety. I was blown away how much I needed to do and know, and how many people I needed to facilitate with. However, this was a great learning experience for me, and I look forward to more EOTC events!
  • The unit demonstrated having theoretical and practical lessons was effective for student learning. I was able to see the progression in confidence and knowledge when students were present in both students and reflected on their practical learning. Therefore, although we had some difficulties encouraging students to bring their togs and get involved in theory lessons, this unit was a great start.
  • Following on from this, the site I created was a great teaching and learning tool within the classroom. I found there weren't enough current articles on the site though, so I would like to add a page which I can continue to add news articles to. This would ensure the readings and clips are as up to date as possible. 


This Google Form was used at the start of the unit and the end of the unit. Students' answers were recorded in a Google Sheet, which I analysed to determine where students' confidence increased, and still potential gaps. My findings included;
  • 4/61 students at start of unit identified importance of water safety as keeping safe around water, prevention of drowning and to keep safe. This gave a good starting basis to build from, and encouraged an emphasis safety in on and around water, as New Zealand have high drowning statistics, especially for Māori and Pacific people.
  • 22/61 students were unsure what the red and yellow flags were at the beginning of the unit, which is also a place many of the students identified as a place they swim. So, there was an emphasis on beach safety in the second half of the unit. At the end, 8/30 students were still uncertain what the flags meant, therefore there needs to be more exploration and discussion about beach safety next year. I think this would be most effective if a day was facilitated with Surf Life Saving New Zealand as a beach day.
  • At the beginning, majority of students identified lifejackets as a flotation device but by the end other flotation aids were identified including noodles, the HELP position and floating on your back. These are important for students to know if they were underprepared for the water, or are bystanders for others in, on and around the water. Many students were surprised how much they could do as a bystander! 


The table alongside shows the increase in student confidence from the start of the unit to the end of the unit. Students were asked to rate their confidence from 1 to 5 (1 representing the least confident) before the unit, and again at the end. These percentages demonstrate a large increase in confidence. Of particular interest was no one rated themselves as 1 at the end, and only one person rated themselves as a 2. For future water safety programmes, I would like to aim for 75% of students to rate themselves as a 4 or 5, and the remaining 25% a 3 or higher, to have a greater impact on student safety and learning.

Some comments at the start of the unit to describe the rating they gave included;
1 - Last time when I was swimming (Probably a year ago) I almost drowned, I can only put my feet in the water now as Iam scared
2 - Because I'm confident in the pool but not the beach
3 - Because not pretty sure how to get out of rips & how to save others when in deep waters

Post unit, some of the descriptions for students' self ratings included;
3 - Because I'm confident to go in the water but then the people that make fun of others distract my confidence of the lesson.
4 - Because I now know if I was stuck in a water situation I would be able to know what to do.
4 - Because I am confident to help my self if I need help.

Therefore, the water safety unit was a great first step for a new initiative within the school. I hope the programme continues to grow, to increase student confidence further to support their safety in, on and around water. Most importantly, I hope future water safety programmes help to reduce the high statistics of drownings in New Zealand waters.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Dissertation Done & Dusted!

Throughout this year, as previously posted about, I have been completing research to write a dissertation. Simplistically, I was investigating the potential for blogging within Year 11 PE. On Monday afternoon I handed in my 32 page dissertation and it felt amazing! The past two years have been intense teaching full time and studying part time, but I'm glad to get through. I learnt a lot about myself, my practice and technology within the classroom. If anyone would like to read it, you can access it here!

The staff at school were encouraged to reflect on the Manaiakalani cluster-wide pedagogy Learn, Create, Share, as well as the core of the cluster. I decided to write my reflections based on one of learners from my study, as this has been at the forefront of my mind. The study demonstrated the potential blogging has in education, particularly in specialised disciplines like PE. The students became more reflective, their literacy (traditional and digital) increased and there was more peer to peer teaching. When implementing blogging within my teaching and learning in the future, I need to provide a structure for students, ensure they understand the purpose of the blogging, and encourage students to provide further feedback and feedforward as comments on blogposts for their peers (evident from my research and literature).

Overall, it has been really difficult reading dozens of academic articles, writing late at night and including a pedagogical tool I only knew about from writing my own posts! But, my inquiry/dissertation has shown me how powerful writing blogs can be for learners, so I hope to include in future classes. In 2018, I am interested to explore literacy in Health and PE as my inquiry. I have noticed many of our NCEA assessments are evidence towards literacy credits, but some of the students struggle to write. Although their content may be correct, sometimes I struggle to read the students' assessments as they have poor spelling or grammar, or a lack of paragraphs. Therefore, although one hurdle and challenge is over, I am looking forward to more challenges next year!

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!