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Posts Tagged ‘Commerce’

  1. 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.

  2. Is loud learning better than quiet obedience?

    8 October 2009 by shartley

    [The above heading was inspired by a post during Twitter #edchat 6 Oct.]

    It took me a while to let go of control in the classroom.  But really, I had to have control before I could let go of it.  But then am I really losing control, or just utilising it better?

    When I first started teaching Year 10 Commerce I would attempt to have quiet and students would take lots of notes from the board.  As I became more comfortable with the class I increasingly used a data projector hooked to my lap-top to show students relevant websites and real-life examples of what we were studying.  The first time I borrowed the projector and its bag of cords from the school library a student had to set it up for me.  The next two years I taught him Economics, but not being the sharpest tool in the shed, he was bottom of the class.  Yet, he was always endearing and we had a good relationship.  With the benefit of scaling he scraped a pass in Economics in the HSC.  That was 3 years ago.  I was at a gig the other night when a drunken voice called, “Hello Mrs Hartley” and we caught up again. The boy who was second last in that Economics class was also with him. It was an embarrassing but nice moment.

    But back to technology and teaching.  I was rewarded for attempting to use technology in my lessons by being timetabled into computer labs and the more the school installed them the more lab time I was allocated.  Now my Commerce classes are always in a computer room.  It is an extremely noisy room with lots of different activities occurring.  At the end of the term I bought display folders, stuck in a contents page in each (what they should have achieved) and the students printed out their work for themselves and for their parents to take pride in their achievements (required parent sign-off).  The students were really excited to see all they had done during the term. There was a real buzz in the classroom, even from the students who were madly trying to catch-up on neglected work. Now I have been on Twitter I know I can probably find a way to do this electronically, paperless.

    I mostly guide, rather than teach.

    BUT there is a teacher who teaches the same course as me but in an entirely different manner.  He is the old chalk ‘n’ talk style but the students sit quietly and adore him, as do I (I don’t know anyone with more grace).  I just hope that my noisy classroom teaches skills as well as knowledge and understanding.

  3. Students seek instant information

    7 October 2009 by shartley

    As part of study my Diploma of Education in 2003 my practical placement was in a public high school of over 1000 girls.  There was just one computer lab and very little technology besides.  Their greatest technology was videos that could be streamed to the class TV via cable, operated by the librarian.  There were chalkboards rather than whiteboards, let alone interactive ones.

    My first ever foray into teaching using technology was a Commerce lesson booked into this one and only computer lab, using a worksheet to guide the students through the Fido website,, and I mean guided.  Yes, I had to entice them away from Chat Rooms and the Top 40 music sites but generally it was beneficial exercise.  However, the students had very little concept as to how to find the information for themselves, they wanted every click to be provided for them.  They enjoyed using the technology but for the actual lesson many were merely filling in the worksheet, not engaged in the topic.  I believe they learnt more from Fido than they would have from me or the 20 year old textbooks the school had.  I now understand the importance of discussion and enthusiasm for a topic before setting students loose on computers, with or without worksheets.

    Now I am in a school where many of the classrooms are computer labs and my Commerce class is timetabled in one every lesson.  Despite these students having a lot more opportunities to use technology they still need immense guidance to find information.  Why?  Because they want information to be instantaneous.  They are engaged in class discussions and in many online activities but when it comes down to the not-so-exciting information that must be known and understood, according to syllabus requirements, should we be spoon feeding them?

  4. Commerce – Travel

    5 October 2009 by shartley

    The Travel topic was scheduled to commence just a couple of lessons before the holidays but I held off teaching syllabus content so the teacher taking over the class next term could start at the beginning. The class was not aware of this change

    Lesson 1: Travel Trivia

    Main aim: engagement and fun way to introduce topic

    I had 15 identical copies of the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald. I found 20 obscure facts from it and turned them into a Traveller Trivia Quiz. Students worked in pairs to find the answers in their section. It was a very close race and at the end four teams were vying to have exactly the correct answers for first place. All four teams were rewarded with edible prizes in the next lesson.

    Lesson 2: Round the world ticket

    Main aims: engagement and fun/memory practice/familiarity with cities of the world and Google Maps/Google Earth (also appropriate for Geography)

    1) Memory Game: The first student says “During the holidays I plan to travel to…” and states a city in the world, eg Paris. The next student says “During the holidays I plan to travel to Paris and…” and adds a city starting with the end letter of the previous city, eg Stuttgart, and so on until the last person in the class repeats all the cities that have gone before. Students are not allowed to keep notes. Meanwhile the teacher writes all the cities down.

    2) Teacher displays list of cities (I simply used a Word doc with an overhead projector). Students need to find all the cities in Google Earth or Google Maps and then find either the shortest or the quickest route around the world via these cities.

    Problems when I did this lesson:

    1) Students unable to think much beyond home. Solution: ban cities from home country. However, some students would struggle. Could allow access to atlases (online or book format).

    2) Students lost interest in memory game quickly (it was the second last lesson before the holidays)

    3) Google Maps only provided walking, car and public transport routes, no flying and Google Earth showed direct distance. Some students were very resourceful in their methods to overcome this, such as combining Google Maps and Google Earth for research and making calculations in Excel. Many students gave up. Everyone ran out of time.

    Since this was my last lesson for the term and was meant to be fun and engaging but simply felt like it was a lot of work to maintain decorum in the classroom for little reward – very disappointing for my last lesson with them. I did hand out a bunch of award certificates in the last 5 mins which helped to end on a positive note. It has been a hard class to manage with a wide range of behaviours and abilities. In this class I have thrown one boy out once (for throwing the bathroom pass at the back of my student teacher’s head) and another twice (for slapping a girl on the thigh and for throwing his friend on the floor while shouting abuse at him). For the four years before this I hadn’t chucked anyone out. Oh well, I’m exchanging this Commerce class of 28 x 14-16 year olds for a Society and Culture class of 7 x 16-17 year olds. I’m looking forward to easier behaviour management.

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