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  1. But Why?

    19 February 2015 by shartley

    I love the curiosity of younger kids.  I love toddlers who ask “But why?”  I don’t like that by the time they arrive at high school many have lost their enthusiasm.

    In Year 7 Geography we start with ‘What is Geography?’  I have some beautifully enthusiastic boys who are keen to contribute, one in particular is quite earnest.  The other 20-something students already view school as a chore.  Which is sad.

    What is also sad that their answer to ‘What is Geography?’ just focuses on knowledge and understanding.  I spent several minutes this week saying, “but why?”, to encourage further thought and development.  It was painful, but eventually we arrived at:

    • To care for the world
    • To solve problems like global warming and floods
    • To prepare for the future

    The next day I revisited the question and it still took a while to arrive at the why.  When did children stop thinking about the why?

    In Year 11 Society and Culture this week we discussed the differences between interactions they have at home with their family, with their friends, with people they know at school who aren’t close friends, with people in their sporting clubs and how they may be influenced by media and government.  Again, I had to be persistent with asking, “But why?”  Thankfully this is a class of thoughtful students.  I can almost see the cogs turning in their heads as I probe for more and more and their fascination increases as they learn more and more.  This is a class that will bring me joy.

    Even in HSC Business Studies I was asking, “But why?”  Why do businesses need to monitor, control and look for continual improvement?  Why do they want to offer after-sales service?  Why are stores laid out certain ways?  I’m tired of students thinking that all they need to do is make comprehensive textbook summary notes to achieve well in the HSC when synthesis and problem-solving are also important.  A couple of my more diligent students were reluctant to think about the type of customer service a bicycle shop could offer their customers at the point of sale and beyond, and thus wrote a single sentence response so they could tick the mental box that the task was complete.  When I had the discussion with them to push their thinking further they came up with some brilliant suggestions.  The trick now is to transfer that thinking into a pen and paper exam.

    But why is it such a struggle to push students beyond a memorising mindset?


  2. One More Mark

    15 February 2015 by shartley

    We recently had an assembly at my school to celebrate the students who received an ATAR over 90 in the HSC last year.  There was a brief introduction from the Principal, a guest speaker who was surprisingly entertaining and in-depth about having respect for yourself by demonstrating respect for others, a speech from an all-rounder from the class of 2014 and a speech from the student who achieved the highest ATAR in 2014.  The students’ speeches consistently referred to balance but also a commitment to study.  The Head of Curriculum spoke about “one more mark”.

    I am currently finishing my Masters in Education with a plan in place to do a literature review as one of my last subjects in preparation for a Masters of Research as a lead-in to a PhD.  A long road is marked ahead.  For my PhD I plan to examine the increasing emphasis on marks as the main goal instead of marks being a mere measure of learning.  Sometimes the learning component of 13 years of formal school education is lost in a single number.  Too many times I ask students what they want to do when they leave school and they have no idea.  When I ask what they want to achieve at school they say a good mark in the HSC.  I ask why and more often than not it is to please their parents.  I ask what interests them in what they’re learning, and they say not much, they are just aiming for good marks.  How sad is that?

    The “one more mark” speech implored students to ask their teachers what they could do for just one more mark.  You see, data analysis of the school’s HSC results revealed numerous 88s and 89s in individual subjects so the aim is to push students into Band 6 (90+) because we have more Band 5s than the average school, shouldn’t it be easy to push them into Band 6 with a one more mark philosophy?  I think not.  I think the underlying problem is more associated with a culture of teaching to the test and spoon-feeding, of memorising and regurgitating, not just in my school but across many, many schools.  Band 6 is about demonstrating high-order thinking skills, critical thinking, problem solving and the like.  Remembering one more fact will not push an 89 to a 90.

    Now as much as I am an advocate for learning to be a focus over the memorising for tests, part of my job is preparing students for the HSC and its testing regime.  In Society and Culture students need to know, understand and apply some core concepts.  We drill the eleven main definitions underlying just about everything studied in Society and Culture.  My Year 11s recently sat their first test of these eleven definitions.  One student perfectly provided the first six but then left the remaining five blank.  She didn’t want to even try to use words from her own understanding, she only wanted to give the precise words of the syllabus.  Again, how sad is that?

    This weekend I marked a practice HSC Business Studies extended response I had given as holiday work.  They were a long way below the standard I expect from these students.  I believe the majority didn’t do them over the holidays but the night before they submitted it.  The question was How can different sources of funds help a business achieve its financial objectives?  Both the sources of funds and financial objectives listed in the syllabus were handed out when the question was issued at the end of last year but many students failed to refer to them, probably because they just took the question from the ediary entry.  Most of those who did use these syllabus terms, did not link them to show how different sources of funds help businesses to achieve financial objectives but merely provided textbook definitions of each term and tacked on introductions and conclusions.  Needless to say, it was a disappointing marking process.  However, despite my reservations about the “one more mark” speech I am going to hand these responses back with marks and an expectation of how many more marks they are to achieve in their second attempt.  I feel like I’m going against my principles but that it could be a good way for them to see that their poor attempt at the only bit of homework I set over seven or so weeks of the holidays just isn’t good enough.  The increase of marks expected have been determined by my gut instinct based on having spent a year with these students and thus knowing what they can achieve.  Some students are being asked for just two more marks, some ten and a whole range in between.  Wish me luck!


  3. A-Z

    11 February 2015 by shartley

    Sometimes the timing of something perfectly lands an idea right in your lap.  Cathy Wilcox’s Australia Day A-Z cartoons in the smh did exactly that.  When I first saw it just a few days before I was to start teaching Society and Culture to a new bunch of Year 11s, I knew this was my hook, my illustration of society and culture and the various concepts we use in the course, to be specific: society, culture, persons, environment, time, power, authority, gender, globalisation, identity and technologies.

    After showing  Cathy Wilcox’s cartoons to the students, talking through how they linked to the course concepts, the students were required to do an A-Z to represent the culture of the school.  This turned into a particularly interesting social exercise for the class because in Years 7-10 only boys attend, meaning all the girls were brand new to the school.  Groups were organised with roughly 2 boys and 3 girls in each to allow the boys to explain some of the significance of what they wanted to include.  The students took about half an hour to come up with the A-Z ideas (at end of the first class where I showed them the Australia Day versions) and then an hour (the next lesson) for the ideas of the drawings and actually doing them.  They had a lot of fun doing it, they learned a lot about each other, the school and the course.  I enjoyed watching the relationships develop and seeing them grapple with the concepts and how they relate to the school.  So far, they appear to be an interesting and interested class.  I hope the enthusiasm and thinking brains stay focused.

    I’ve uploaded in SlideShare (and embedded here) a combined ‘A-Z of our school‘ of the three groups to illustrate the result:


  4. Focus

    10 February 2015 by shartley

    I need to focus.

    I need to focus on what each and every one of my students are doing and what I am doing for them.

    I need to focus on the staff around me so I know how to help them and build a collaborative environment.

    I need to focus on the syllabus and the greater curriculum requirements of the school.

    I need to focus on the politics within the school to negotiate the best path for students.

    I need to focus on what is current for the subjects I teach.

    I need to focus on understanding and implementing the most appropriate technology for teaching.

    I need to focus on my family and its needs and wants.

    I need to focus on me and my health and general well-being.

    Obviously it is a never-ending list but what is there, demonstrates how teachers are called upon to focus on a wide amount, often varying and contradictory demands.

    My 15 year old son has mild autism and associated anxiety issues. It is extremely rare for him to approach a teacher or even ask a question in class.  Therefore, if he doesn’t understand, nobody knows, he just isn’t on task.  However, he isn’t on task a lot because he just isn’t interested.  He’d much rather be playing games or watching YouTube, preferably of other people playing games.  At school he struggles mostly with literacy tasks.  Yet, if he is interested he can write a considerable amount on the topic.  It breaks my heart when he learns an incredible amount and then some abstract question tricks him up in an exam.  He was incredibly focused when Year 9 English studied genre in films via Edward Scissorhands.  He talked about it at home a lot which shows the impact it had on him.  The final exam question asked about the director’s purpose of using a wide variety of genres.  He rattled off in over a page of neat writing all the evidence of the various genres in the film in fine detail.  He failed to state the director’s purpose.  He failed the exam.

    The problem is that I am a keen campaigner for higher-order thinking skills and changing the exam culture of regurgitation.  In my son’s case, for this unit of study, regurgitation style would have been great.

    He loves Commerce. Right from Day One of Year 9.  He was able to talk about what he did in class each lesson with enthusiasm.  He obviously focused.  I don’t know what that teacher did pedagogically but I know she cared for him as an individual.  Relationships matter so much!  As he became tired at the end of the year he was a little less focused and wasn’t able to regurgitate key definitions in the final exam but he understood the concepts with which they were associated.  Understanding the exact meaning of words isn’t important to him.

    In another exam he had to choose to argue about a supplied local, national or global issue.  He chose to write about war in Syria and whether Australia should be involved (the global issue).  The way to argue in an extended response was slightly scaffolded in the exam which was very helpful.  He knew nothing about war in Syria but he knew about WWII from watching documentaries on Foxtel and YouTube and he transferred his knowledge to this piece of writing.  I’m very proud of him for this effort.  He focused well in the exam and managed that art of transference which so many students fail to do because they are so hung up on what they were supposed to remember.  The teacher wrote on his paper, “You did it!”.

    These are the success stories of last year.  2014 Year 9 was at a new school and though there were many changes and bad habits that needed to be broken, it was a good move in terms of finding a good friend and an improvement in attitude but there were still little heartbreaks for us.

    My son is naturally good at Music and Maths but he bombs a lot in Music because he can’t be bothered with theory, he’s just interested in learning Music by ear and playing around with it, not writing about it.

    The problem with Maths is simply focus.  As soon as he learns a new skill in Maths, he shoots off with it, enjoys it and the method sticks.  Since he started high school he hasn’t focused in Maths classes so he doesn’t learn the skills and then he bombs out.  He was in the near top level at the start of Year 9 but half way through the year we were informed that he was dropping a level.  His friend moved up a level.  That was tough.  As a Mum, I started helping him more and he lifted his results gradually for the rest of the year but not enough to be moved back up.  We thought about paying for a tutor but then we realised that I could teach him it was just a matter of making the time and since I was willing to drive him somewhere for tutoring, surely I’d be willing to sit with him and review the week’s Maths.  Since we made that decision I have revisited Trigonometry.  As I re-taught myself Trig and taught my son, he just flew away with it.  He still needs encouragement to do homework but knowing how to do it, might seem obvious, means he is more inclined to do his homework.  We skipped today’s session because he was on top of it and I snoozed through last week’s because he only needed a push at the start.  If only he focused in class he wouldn’t have to put up with his Mum being on his back at home.  So if he isn’t focusing on learning new concepts, what is he focusing on?  Well, the first teacher in Year 9 mentioned his phone being constantly used (where was discipline for the first 6 months before we were informed of this!) and I know from what he tells me, he also focuses on the poor behaviour of the students around him.  He is often off task in class but he isn’t disruptive and he finds the other students rude and disruptive.  He also hates working in noisy rooms.  He is not a student made for open class style learning (not done at his current school) and needs implicit instruction to start him off.

    When I teach from the front of the classroom, I try to focus on each student individually, looking at each of them to gauge their focus and try to shift it where it should be accordingly.  The students say I’m one of the better teachers for picking use of mobile phones and other distractions.  My focus is on the students foremost.  Their learning in a safe and respectful environment is the foundation of my focus.  But sometimes all the other things I am meant to focus on sometimes means the students are not so much in focus and I have to make adjustments to rectify it.  When I completely lose focus from the students it will be time to stop teaching.


  5. Perfection

    9 February 2015 by shartley

     

    I have worked for over 20 hours this weekend on preparing units of work, mainly for the new Society and Culture syllabus for Year 12.  Popular Culture was in the old syllabus but there are some pertinent changes.  We do a focus study on Social Media which I developed two years ago as a workbook based on an existing format that had been created before I had arrived at my current school.  I used the workbook as a basis because I didn’t want to stomp on toes within the first few weeks of starting.  I am also taking the opportunity to move it into Google Drive, make it current and increasingly an interactive learning experience.

    Water Management for Year 9 Geography was the other main area I was preparing.  As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, the most frustrating aspect of teaching Geography for me is that the resources are boring.  Not being my area of expertise or even interest, I find it harder to find quality resources for Geography than for Economics or Business Studies.  When I teach Geography I prefer to do it in PBL style and for NSW Geography that means following the Research Action Plan laid out in the syllabus, not mere secondary research and regurgitate.

    So as I was thinking about what I would write for this blog tonight I thought about my striving for perfection.  Upon a quick Google search I discovered 14 Signs Your Perfectionism Has Gotten Out of Control and straight away I want to correct the word ‘has gotten’ in the title to be ‘is’.  I’ve reduced the original list down to the ten most appropriate for me:

      1. You’ve always been eager to please
      2. You know your drive for perfection is hurting you, but you consider it the price to pay for success
      3. You’re a big procrastinator
      4. You’re highly critical of others
      5. You have a hard time opening up to other people
      6. You know there’s no use crying over spilt milk…but you do anyway
      7. You take everything personally
      8. …And you get really defensive when criticised
      9. You’re never quite “there yet”
      10. You have a guilty soul

     

    I wouldn’t say I’m eager to please but I’m eager to do the best for my students because I don’t want to let them down (1).  I’m constantly surprised that other teachers don’t have the same drive and inside my head I am highly critical of them even though I can see their perspective, I just can’t relate to it (4).  It hurts me because I don’t sleep or exercise enough as a consequence (2) which I feel guilty about, and the lack of time I spend with my own children (10).  Yet I am a HUGE procrastinator, sometimes taking all morning to surf the Internet for trivial things rather than start a project I know will take all day (3).  I take just about everything that happens personally, in the emotional sense (7), even though logically I know most events around me are not actually about me so when I am actually criticised it hurts incredibly deeply and I am defensive but the words to my defence may not be spoken (8).  I used to cry a lot (6).  About everything and anything that I perceived as having gone wrong.  But the tears have dried up.  I think the tears of release were better because now it feels like a huge weight inside.

    Given all this, I probably shouldn’t be a teacher because there is no finished product.  The Geography lessons I’ve been preparing are for 30 students and it is just impossible to have it perfect for every single one and they aren’t finished products to be packed up and sold, they are constantly developing human beings.  Concentrating on me, I feel I am never “there yet” as a teacher (9).  I am constantly striving to be a better teacher and to help others to improve.  It’s incredibly frustrating that there is no obvious end goal.  And don’t say students’ results are a measure of a teacher’s success because they aren’t.  Sometimes success is keeping students interested enough to simply stay at school and not drop-out.  Sometimes it’s just helping them to find some pride in their work.  Sometimes it’s just a positive conversation about learning or life itself.  These little moments are what makes the experience worth it.

    I am well and truly over my 28 minutes so I’ll end this here.  Except, the one frustrating aspect of this #28daysofwriting is that the time restriction and the commitment to post every day means I don’t have time to truly perfect the writing and I feel guilty about some of the drivel that has been posted from this process.  So sorry!

     


  6. Support

    8 February 2015 by shartley

    Daniel

    Daniel Dawes at Record Crate, Glebe, 7 Feb 2015

    Rachel

    Rachel Collis at Record Crate, Glebe, 7 Feb 2015

    Tonight I travelled to a small venue in Glebe to see a former colleague and a (different) former colleague’s wife perform in a double act. At the gig, I was hoping to see many of my colleagues from my former place of employment but other than my close friend and one other they were sadly absent.  My friend and I like a bit of adventure and apparently crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a bridge too far for most.  We once went to Fairfield RSL to see a completely different colleague perform with his band and it seems that it was too far west for the rest of our colleagues.  Tonight was a lot of fun – both of the performers are excellent musicians, and we even bought their CDs!

    I was once berated for not doing enough for the school I was working at.  It came out of the mouth of someone high up the sport hierarchy at the school and because I didn’t coach a sporting team, he figured I needed to become more involved.  I asked if he knew what I actually did for the school and he avoided the question.  In that particular year I coached a debating team, presented at three different major conferences in three different cities for the school, interviewed potential students on a weekend (and had my car smashed when I was rear-ended on the way home), ran professional development programs, wrote articles for journals as a representative of the school and more.  But because I didn’t coach sport, I was considered to be not contributing enough.

    Colleagues need to support each other.  Not just in the staffroom when someone’s distress is right before your eyes or when a manager forces you into a meeting together, but as a courtesy, a responsibility, as a team.  I’m not saying that every weekend you need to go out with a different colleague but when opportunities arise for a little adventure, to try something different, find out some other aspect about a colleague, take it when you can.  It’s like when you go to the school musical and you find the brat in the corner of your classroom who if isn’t being disruptive, is falling asleep, has an amazing voice and the reason he falls asleep is that he is out performing every night to pay for his Mum’s medical needs.

    My son is in Year 10 (not at my school) and he has mild autism and anxiety issues.  He doesn’t pay much attention in class and combine that with literacy needs he tends to be a low performing student.  It is a constant struggle at home to explain why it is important to do as he is asked by teachers and to pay attention.  Last week he came home from the Swimming Carnival quite pleased with himself because he was the only entry in the IM 200m for his gender and age and he was told this week that he was runner-up for age champion.  He thinks he will be going to the zone swimming carnival for the first time ever but none of us are sure of the rules.  Another first, is that he is keenly paying attention in assemblies for announcements and constantly checking the sports noticeboard.  I wonder if there are any teachers who see him differently now or if they just don’t care.

    It is important they we see our students and colleagues as whole people and that teaching and working with others should be a holistic experience where we connect in a more profound way than our superficial exterior roles demands of us.  We talk about schools as being a community but there is so much more we can do to help make it a truly supportive community that nurtures and cares for all of its members.


  7. The Unmeasured

    6 February 2015 by shartley

    As HSC scores and ATAR results roll into the school’s conversations and the media coverage, we find ourselves evaluated and judged on the basis of these.  The media only has access to the Band 6 (90 and above) results of students in each subject so schools are ranked on this basis.  In this post I want to discuss the unmeasured outcomes.

    In Year 12 Society and Culture today I was meant to be covering the dot-point in the syllabus about the future directions of the country we had chosen to study for the topic of Change and Continuity.  We have been studying Vietnam.  In class, students were organised into small groups and were supposed to use all that they had learned about Vietnam to predict what would happen in the next 5 to 10 years.  They had spent several weeks studying Vietnam at the end of last year and had a refresher lesson and a half this week.

    However, they struggled to focus, which could partly be because it was Friday, at the end of the first full week back, on a day of an assembly that went for over an hour and that they are keen to move onto the next topic, Popular Culture.  Every bit of pleading and guiding failed.  So I let it go.  I decided to give myself a break for 10 minutes and leave them to discuss whatever they wanted to discuss.  The group that most interested me included a girl who suffers from anxiety and the most chilled girl going around.  They run in completely different social circles but they were using this time to find out about each other and their attitudes towards school.  It was fascinating to eavesdrop on the conversation as Miss Chilled gave Miss Stressed advice and Miss Chilled learned how much other students care about results and doing their best to perform at school.  Miss Chilled expressed how much she loves school because she lets all the hard bits just wash by her.  Miss Stressed couldn’t believe that people like Miss Chilled exist in the world.  What I was most fascinated by was how much they listened to each other intently and learned about different perspectives and attitudes towards the purpose of school.  And isn’t that what Society and Culture is all about?  Yet this conversation will never be measured or recorded except in this blog and possibly in their own memories.

    All up, the three groups came up with some good basic fundamental future directions for Vietnam but mere bones which need a lot more flesh.  I’m frustrated that I feel the need to do one more lesson to expand their ideas when my schedule says we should be starting Popular Culture.  How often do we ignore learning opportunities because of our plans based on content driven syllabuses?  Thankfully in Society and Culture we have more scope and space than most other subjects except for the timing requirements of the Personal Interest Project (PIP) but I’ll save discussion of the PIP to another day.

    The assembly today was a celebration of the 2014 HSC students who achieved an ATAR of 90 or more.  It was a well ran event with one of those students performing a piece out of the musical Chess, a guest speaker, the Head of Curriculum speaking and two of the 2014 HSC students speaking, ending with the student who achieved the top ATAR mark for the grade.  Both the students spoke about balance and tried to provide advice for how to approach the HSC, study and school life in general.  They had both very thoughtfully constructed speeches directed at their peers.  The seeds they may have sowed today will never be measured because the cause and effect of HSC results to speeches like these are not measured.  My daughter is in Year 12 this year and a similar event occurred at her school and the highlight for her was similar advice from a past student but her outward behaviour will not change in any detectable way. I’m a big believer in sowing seeds that may blossom immediately or may take an age to show life.

    Today I had 10 minutes with a colleague who is resistant to change and having to learn new things but she is thrown into a circumstance where she must.  I showed her how to use the technology required for our Year 7 program and provided some tips along the way to make it easier and more efficient.  All these little moments of teachers learning are not measured; it seems that only the big registered courses that count in the teacher accreditation process.  The 10 minutes snatched here and there are precious in the teaching world but are not valued enough.  Teachers learning from each other, planning together and even teaching together is vital for the modern age but there isn’t enough of it.

    Ah, my 28 minutes are up.  I’ll sneak in here at the end stuff about my last class of the week with Year 7, my second ever Geography class with them, with both lessons having a focus on the technology set-up rather than the subject itself, and that’s fine.  While they were learning about the technology and some basics of high school Geography, I learned about them.  I learned how a boy interrupts me mid-sentence every time he had something to say (and I wonder if he is allowed to interrupt his parents at home), how another could not stop talking no matter how hard he tried, how some boys have patience and resist the hardships being dependent on technology can bring, while others want to give up at the first sign of difficulty.  I learned how strongly independent some students were, and they weren’t who I expected.  I learned that most of the students started the year with a concept that Geography is all about nature and that the human element is a perspective of Geography many hadn’t considered before.  I don’t know all the students’ names yet so I don’t have comprehensive notes of all this but this information is invaluable for deciding my attitude and approach to teaching them.  How can this sort of thing be measured?

    At the end of the school day I gave my congratulations to Year 7 for making it through their first full week of high school and was very corny by asking them to give themselves a pat on the back but they were happy to do so.  I imagined giving myself one too.  Survival, resilience, resisting temptations, and letting go of control…these things are hard to measure but are so important to life and learning.  When are we going to start valuing the unmeasured more?


  8. One of those days

    5 February 2015 by shartley

    LoveHartley

    I had one of those days but I still feel positive about it.  It has been over a year since I last had to teach all five lessons in a day so I was a little wary of the load before me as I arrived at school and felt a little under-prepared for my Year 9 Geography class after they achieved more than I expected yesterday.  I arrived at school at my usual 8am, just 20 minutes before I had a meeting, so after checking email and other notices I opened the PowerPoint that was listed on the program as what I should be teaching Year 9 today.  It was a horrendous PowerPoint of four slides: a title, a map and two covered in text.  I quickly spread the text over a few extra slides and then searched for images and interesting tid-bits on the Internet to accompany the slides.  I was about half way through this exercise when I had to go to the meeting.

    Meeting completed, Home Room done and then Period 1 Year 11 Society and Culture where we went through the Fundamental and Additional Concepts, followed by Period 2 Business Studies where students looked at an airline/tourism case study regarding goods and services and then examined Domino’s Pizza Operations Report from their 2013 Annual Report.  All this went without a hitch.

    At recess I skipped returning to my staff room so I could have some time to set-up for my first proper Geography lesson with Year 7 and steal some time to finish the PowerPoint…ambitious for a twenty minute break.  Even more unlikely when a colleague grabs you for a conversation en route.  Absolutely impossible when you arrive at the Year 7 classroom and realise you left your computer cords in your regular classroom.  A quick trot back and forth and it was almost time for the students to arrive.  Two of the other Year 7 teachers arrived and there was talk of classroom swaps.  I bowed out graciously and continued my set-up.

    The Year 7s were quite good and 27 of 30 students successfully copied the worksheet from the original into their own newly established Geography folders in Google Drive.  The other three were unsuccessful due to internet issues.  However, being Year 7 they had loads of questions and I ran late to Year 9 Geography back in my regular classroom.

    When I arrived the Year 9s were making a lot of noise outside the class.  When I let them in we had a talk about appropriate behaviour and my eyes scanned the room detecting the lock box as opened with the remote for the IWB missing.  I kept looking and some of the boys said a teacher had told them to tell me she’d put it on…something.  They obviously hadn’t heard her clearly but couldn’t be bothered to clarify.  The remote couldn’t be found so I sent a boy to the teacher who was then off class.  She said another teacher who she named may have taken it.  I sent a kid to that teacher and thankfully he came back with it, without a message to accompany it.  Right, now I could show the PowerPoint, half improved.  But no, in the meantime my computer had encountered an error, had restarted and I couldn’t find a recoverable file (stupid me hadn’t saved the half-improved version) so in a bind I ran with the boring original.  I surprised myself with how much I knew about reading a map and making it interesting for the students but then we hit the text.  Groans.  I handed out post-it notes for students who finished first to write ways people could reduce water usage and just single notes as the slower writers finished, to fill the gap of catch-up as students finished writing.  I rarely use PowerPoint and this is one of the reasons why.  More groans with the second slide of text.  Four boys had passively resisted working and just didn’t write or type most of the material so were kept in to finish at lunch.  One of those four had “I love Ms Hartley” on a post-it note on his forehead, his friend had one with “Hit Me” written on it but just on his desk (at least my name was spelt correctly).  I’m guessing that originally they were put on students’ backs.  Mr Forehead Guy now has to see his Dean about it since I passed it up the line due to the personal nature of it.  The Deans are really good at dealing with the boys who are pushing at boundaries like this.

    Despite this boring text writing lesson and the resistance to work from a handful, I think it went well.  I’ve worked out I don’t like teaching Geography because I’m not passionate about it but also because the resources in programs at both this school and my last one are incredibly boring and I become tired of reinventing the wheel every time I’m placed on Geography.  I was ashamed today to put up such a boring PowerPoint and the boringness was reflected in the boys’ behaviour.  So I can do battle with the resources before going to class which generally takes two hours for every hour of teaching it or I can just battle disengaged students.  I prefer to do the former normally.  The four boys I kept in were quite friendly and understood that it was caused by their own actions (or lack thereof) and didn’t hold a grudge, or even some begrudging respect for recognising their resistance to work.

    After a short lunch last period was Year 12 Society and Culture where one of the students conducted a focus group for her PIP.  She hadn’t thought through seating arrangements so it took her a while to work that out and then the class was argumentative and loud but she handled it well.  I stayed out of the whole thing to maintain the integrity of it being her focus group.

    At the end of the school day I had to chase down some printing I lost the previous day, wrote up the demerits and merits for the day and then did that PowerPoint even though I will probably never use it, simply because I had been half way there and the websites I had used were listed in my History.  I left school at 5.30pm, half an hour after my self-imposed time limit for this year, and last to leave in my section of the school, but pleased that I had managed the day calmly and reasonably successfully despite the hurdles and hiccups along the way.

    HomeTime


  9. Expectations

    4 February 2015 by shartley

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    Boys can’t draw.  Year 9 Boys are horrible.  So many kids with special needs in that class, you’re going to struggle to get anything done.

    These are the sort of statements that have been tossed around as I prepared to teach Year 9 Geography this week.  The game was a huge hook but now I had to follow up on it.  I found a lame but mildly entertaining video clip on YouTube to cover the Natural Water Cycle and then asked the students to draw an A4 sized diagram of the Natural Water Cycle in the workbooks.  There were mutterings of “I can’t draw” but all but a handful just got on with it.  The first step for most of them was an online image search for a diagram and then they copied it into their books.  As the first few were finishing I added to the task that they had to introduce 2-3 examples of the human impact on the Natural Water Cycle and then to write a paragraph about these human impacts.

    By far the majority of the diagrams were fabulous and the students were on task and even engaged.  I’m not sure why.  Every time I congratulated a student on a good drawing they swelled with pride.  When I took photos of some of the better ones, again they were pleased.  It doesn’t take much.  There are only four boys out of the 29 present today that had sub-standard drawings.  I’m quite pleased with that result.

    At the end of the lesson I introduced the class to the Google Class I had established for them and chaos ensued as they all encountered various issues with joining the Google Class.  I had a student expert in the room who helped and eventually we had just about everyone logged in.  Then the silliness commenced as they chatted within the Google Class page.  I said they had an hour to take the messages down or there would be consequences.  One student asked how they were to take them down and I said if they could figure out how to do a comment they could figure out how to delete them.  A few hours later I checked and they were all gone.

    There was a similar occurrence with Year 7 last week as they were being introduced to various online tools within a ‘Getting to Know the Library’ exercise.  A task asked students to add a sticky about their favourite book in Padlet.  Like it was with Year 9, silliness prevailed and there were silly comments all over the Padlet page very quickly.  We talked about the first impressions they were making of themselves online and in person, that Year 7 was a fresh start and a chance to establish the person they wanted to be and how they wanted to be seen and respected.  The silliness subdued after that.


  10. Let’s Get Physical

    4 February 2015 by shartley

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    I teach at a Catholic school and this morning we had our Dedication Mass, as in dedicating the academic year to God.  It went for over an hour with lots of standing and sitting, singing, sitting still and listening, walking up for Communion, crossing oneself and consuming the wafer and all that’s once we enter the building.  1700 people in one large space and I am continually amazed at the awe and quiet the students display for most of the service and when we have assemblies.  It’s a different story in the classrooms!

    My school is on 42 hectares and my staffroom and classroom are almost as far as they can be from the Sports Centre where we conduct large school gatherings.  My staffroom is on the third storey at the top of the hill whereas the Sports Centre is down the bottom next to the ovals, yes, that would be a plural of three ovals.

    I was tired this morning.  Actually, I’m usually tired, but this morning I was particularly tired. When I’m particularly tired I go to the coffee cart that hangs around at school most days before the first class.  It was absent this morning.  On the way back to class from Mass I popped into the Canteen and asked for caffeine and discovered that the canteen keeps full strength Coke, just for staff, since it is deemed too unhealthy to serve to students.  I downed that Coke rather quickly and it kept me going the rest of the day.

    I am not a PDHPE teacher, nor do I teach a practical subject, but sometimes teaching feels incredibly physical.  I constantly roam through the desks to check on students’ progress and wellbeing, tripping over schoolbags and running into desks (my first year teaching I had permanent bruises on my thighs from collecting the corners of desks).  I know when I’m writing excessively on the board when my arm becomes tired.  The worst time though was the morning after my first ever boxing class at the gym, my hands were shaking so much I had to give in and change the plan for the day.  There are 48 stairs between my main classroom and my staffroom; we call the stairwell The Stairmaster.  Between playground duty, classes and staffroom I generally walk 6000 steps each day without trying.  Last Friday it was 10,000 steps but that included about 1000 steps at the gym in the morning and another 1000 in the evening at the shops.  Now this isn’t that much and I should be walking 10,000 steps each day since I am trying to lose weight but due to the accumulative effect of all this hard surface walking, some excessive walking days (in New York 6 months ago I did many days in excess of 20,000 steps) and my more recent attempts to try to become a runner again (I’ve tried before but am yet to declare myself one) I have damaged my feet so that I have plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis in both feet, but much more in the left than the right.  The pain in my left heel can be excruciating and it is starting to impact upon my teaching.  I now often sit down during Home Room.  I know that sounds rate innocuous but it means I interact less with the students.  I am more likely to email someone then go find them for a face-to-face conversation.  My physio taught me today how to tape up my own foot and is sending me back to the GP because I have an incredible amount of swelling around my ankles at the end of the school day.

    PS I’m not happy with this post, its boring topic or its whingey nature but I suppose the pain post physio this afternoon dominated my thoughts.  I wouldn’t post it except that I have made a commitment to #28daysofwriting – hopefully tomorrow I’ll have something a little cheerier to write about.


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