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Posts Tagged ‘#28daysofwriting’

  1. Voice

    9 March 2015 by shartley

    Today is International Women’s Day.  It is a chance for women to have a voice so I thought I better use mine today too.  I am tired of women being silenced and many examples can be found just flicking through the articles around today and with my own recent experiences.

    In my Facebook feed there has been numerous articles on theme.  My favourite has been Annabel Crabb’s article about being a bad feminist, demonstrating the contradictions and quandaries involved in labelling oneself as a feminist (Crabb 2015).  Crabb’s article was prompted by a book authored by Roxane Gay, which I now have to buy.

    In another article, Penny Jane Burke wrote about the lose/lose situation women face when fighting for representation in male dominated hierarchies:

    Women are repeatedly blamed for their own under-representation, in terms of their assumed low aspirations and/or low confidence. On the other hand, the collective strength of women expressed through feminism is also seen as a problem, with continual innuendos about feminism leading to the “emasculation of men”. (Burke 2015)

    Today I also read about criticism of Tara Moss for having overly glamorous holiday snaps (Hornery 2015) and another woman criticised and condemned as obese for changing her carefully filtered and styled photos to more natural photos because it showed her as not so skinny (Grey 2015).

    As a teenager I remember listening to the lyrics of Luka by Suzanne Vega.  It was a rude awakening to domestic violence in the world.    Not much has changed in the 28 intervening years.  Social media has helped to give a stronger voice to the protests but now Tony Abbott uses his voice to announce a $30m awareness campaign for domestic violence not long after slashing $100m to services that actually helped the victims of domestic violence (Freedman 2015).  Meanwhile the Salvation Army quickly gathered together a clever campaign of its own based on a black and blue dress that a week earlier became the favoured internet image of the day (Visentin 2015).  Clever tricks are required because otherwise the victim’s voice may not be heard.

    I have seen so often, too often, women be quietened, whether it be directly like a female Lebanese news anchor being told to shut up, making news and celebrated today for the rare silencing of her attacker by turning off his microphone (Champion 2015) or the constant haranguing of Julia Gillard in terms of what she wore and through plain misogynist abuse (Summers 2012) to the extent that any positive comments were drowned out by a cheap shot like Germaine Greer’s comments on Q&A (Goldsworthy 2013).

    Speaking of Q&A, I stopped watching it a while back because I was continually seeing women being quietened by voice and body language by the men on the show that I now prefer to watch in a secondary manner via Twitter where I can enjoy the outrage expressed by the people I follow.

    As a female teacher in a predominantly male school it often feels that the female voice is hushed.  The hierarchy has been overwhelmingly male at both the schools in which I’ve been employed and thus there is little room for a woman’s opinion but also with male students there can be an issue.  It might be thought that the authority of a teacher would have some sway, and usually it does, but some boys know how to use their masculinity to intimidate in a way that male teachers often don’t understand, such as blocking a path, standing too close, standing over, a sexual swagger, a tone of mockery when the words are right but everything else screams disrespect.  Elements of this behaviour occur for male teachers too but it is different with women.  Thankfully I have hardly experienced this in the last few years; age has its advantages.

    The male voice is generally deeper and louder than a woman’s voice and has gained respect for being this way over the centuries, or always.  I have often been talked over by men but my speech lessons as a child sometimes pay off and I project myself as well as I can to be heard.  It doesn’t always work and I don’t always feel brave enough.  It was only in the last few months a man waved a big finger in my face, just a couple of centimetres from my nose, because he didn’t like what I was saying.  Pure intimidation.  Men are good at talking down to women and often they don’t even know they’re doing it, which is why ‘mansplain’ is Macquarie Dictionary’s word of the year (Gray 2015).  I’ve seen and experienced when women are promoted that the men feel the need to explain to women how to do their job whereas they don’t do the same for their fellow man in exactly the same promotional position.  A friend of mine, a data analyst, works in a male-dominated industry and feels subjected to mansplaining on a daily basis.

    This is one of the reasons I like social media, it gives me a voice.  I’ve seen the stats and know that not many people read this blog but at least I’ve been able to express myself, uninterrupted.  But I’ve also seen the horrendous trolling that has occurred on social media and am particularly horrified at the way women protesting violence in video games have been treated.  Thankfully for me, Twitter has connected me with strong women prepared to label themselves as feminists and to speak against misogyny and slowly I’m becoming braver to speak up about it too.  We have been silenced for long enough.

  2. 28 Minutes

    1 March 2015 by shartley

    I was keen when I started #28daysof writing, meaning I was to write for 28 minutes each of the 28 days of February.   I managed 16 posts during the month.  I plan to do the final 12 over this month but we will see how that goes.  The lack of daily posts was partly because I was genuinely too busy on some days but on other days it was just tiredness and exhaustion of, well, work and life.  Sometimes I can be obsessive about things and I wanted to be about #28daysofwriting but sanity prevailed.

    I was thinking about which 28 minutes of my particularly busy days would or could I give up.  It takes approximately 28 minutes for me to shower, dress and generally make myself presentable each morning.  I think that is necessary.

    I take about 28 minutes to drive to and from school each day (around 33 mins to school and 23 minutes to home).  I could try to obtain a job at a closer school.  My daughter goes to the closest school to my house and takes, yep, about 28 minutes to walk there.  I wouldn’t drive it.

    I generally arrive at school with about 28 minutes before the first class of the day to give myself time to gather my thoughts and equipment.  I’m on first period every day except Fridays.  I want to keep this time to ground myself each day.

    At the moment I spend approximately 28 minutes a day attempting to de-flea the dog with a fine-tooth comb.  That I would like to sacrifice for the greater good of blog posting., if only it didn’t leave my dog in discomfort and my house flooded with fleas.

    I also thought about all the other ambitions I have that could be covered with 28 minutes each day.  I want to read for pleasure, something I don’t do during term.  Is that more important than blogging?  Probably.  Possibly.

    I’d like to exercise each day, but currently that can’t involve being upright for long since I wrecked my feet at the start of the summer holidays with an overly enthusiastic start to an exercise regime.  Swimming involves a drive so that requires a commitment of over an hour, too much on a weekday during uni semester.

    I would like 28 minutes each day to sit down and do homework with my 15 year old son.  We have committed an hour to this on Tuesdays so the pressure isn’t too much on either of us.

    I’d like to cook more healthy food for dinner each night but while I’m at uni I leave the cooking to my husband which while is quite good, would benefit from more vegetables.

    I’d like to be more in touch with family and friends.  I haven’t talked to my Mum for a few weeks now and yesterday my nephew turned 8 years old and I haven’t sent him anything or even called.

    If I was a lady of leisure I would play the piano regularly and perhaps go back to do the 4th grade exam I should have done when I was about 13 years old.

    I used to be able to survive on 4-5 hours sleep regularly.  In my first year of teaching this was extremely common.  I sometimes do it now but it only lasts a few days.  I average about 6 hours sleep but probably should have 7.  I resent sleep because of the time it sucks away.

    I watch a lot of TV.  It plays two distinctly different roles for my obsessive nature.  In simple terms it can be an obsession in itself.  I have stayed up late this weekend to catch-up on American Idol which I didn’t know was on until Friday evening when I scanned Apple TV (through 10Play).  I like American Idol because of the driven nature and talent of the contestants and the current judges.  I have been a fan of Harry Connick Jnr for a long time too.  The other role TV serves for me is as a distractor from being obsessive about my work.  I often become overly wrought about planning the perfect lesson or finding the right resources or putting together an awesome program and finessing the uploading to Weebly, Google Classroom or whatever electronic tool(s) I’m using.  TV distracts me from the stress of it all so I plod away instead of engrossing myself in it, tying my stomach into knots.

    Well, there we go, the end of 28 minutes and I end with a confession to obsession.  The confession to liking American Idol is probably a bigger concern though.  I want a lot of things in life and I can’t have them all.  I better live a long time though so I can at least try.

  3. Evil Email

    20 February 2015 by shartley

    Sure, email can be evil, especially the way the inbox is like a cup that runneth over and left a stain on the cloth.

    But today I’m going to write about good email.  The negative title grabs attention and has a nice alliteration and rhythm about it.  The email examples I’m providing are only from today.

    Not that we use textbooks much in Year 7 Geography, but part of my checklist of ensuring the students have everything they need to learn is that they have online access to their textbook.  Enough students were saying that there wasn’t one with their order that I knew something was wrong.  Like many schools, we use an online supplier to, well, supply required textbooks and equipment to students (parents) just before they commence the school year.  For Year 7 Geography they had the option of a combined physical/digital textbook or just a digital version.  It appears the majority of my class went for the digital version but some never received the email from the supplier with the access code (I suspected it was in their spam folder).  I was just trying to persuade someone with a little more power to do something about this when two emails from the same parent arrived.  The first email was that there wasn’t ever a Geography book on the order and then the second corrected that and said that she had “sorted it” and now had the access code.  I replied a thanks for both emails, that she wasn’t alone in the predicament, and by the way, how did she “sort it”.  A response was quite prompt that she was glad she wasn’t the only one and that she contacted the supplier and they admitted that they had overlooked sending the email out.  A discussion with the Head of Faculty and he called the supplier who quickly sent out the access codes for all our students.  Problem solved.  Yay!

    Today I was also checking the first piece of work Year 7s completed on a Google Doc.  A precious boy listed with Learning Support as having literacy needs had the most atrocious spelling I had seen in a very long time but when you looked closely it was phonetically quite accurate: koockaburra, oxegen, visical, envirament.  He also happens to be one of the more disruptive elements in the class.  I shared via email the Google Doc to the Head of Learning Support for some advice and she responded within minutes.  Awesome!

    The Head of Social Sciences Faculty and I emailed each other quite frequently today.  We seem to have opposing timetables which makes it hard to see each other in person , although we also managed to meet during lunch today.  The emails were mainly to notify of where particular students are up to in their PIPs for HSC Society and Culture, Year 7s with technology issues and other student matters.  They also serve as action prompts when they are flagged.  I think these emails save time rather than create problems.

    A Year 11 student emailed this afternoon to say her photo of the homework on the board turned out to be a little blurry, could I please send her the last two questions.  Easy!

    Finally, emails of a broadcasting nature when directed to the correct people are very useful.  On Monday I’m attending the ‘U-Turn the Wheel’ Driver Training Program with Year 11.  An email was sent with the instructions and itinerary for the day to those involved.  This saved the need for calling a meeting, an impossible event to organise to coincide when all teachers are not on class, nor playground/bus duty.   A perfect use of email.

    Well there you have it, my simple 28 minutes of writing on a Friday night.

  4. 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?

  5. 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!

  6. 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:

  7. 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.

  8. 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!


  9. Support

    8 February 2015 by shartley


    Daniel Dawes at Record Crate, Glebe, 7 Feb 2015


    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.

  10. 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?

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