Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Three Years Under My Belt

I cannot believe my third year of teaching is over, and my first year at Orewa College. I have been on a rollercoaster this year, learning so much about the school culture and curriculum. I felt a little lost throughout the year, but also had substantial support surrounding me with my million questions! I had an end of year appraisal meeting with Adam, my HOD, discussing my strengths and areas I need further development in, in relation to the practising teacher criteria (see full report here). This post identifies some of the key points from our discussion.

My strengths are my lifelong learning, my professional relationships (particularly with my students), my classroom culture and the learning opportunities I provide. To strengthen these PTCs even further, next year I would like to make connections and increase my relationships within the community, and increase my understanding and inclusion of the Ako Orewa learning process (as previously blogged about). From student feedback, such as these comments from my Level 2 class, I feel confident with my classroom environments and hope students continue to feel safe and comfortable in my lessons.

Moving forward, the two PTCs which need the most attention/growth are 1 (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) and 5 (Design for learning). Next year I would love to learn more Te Reo Maori concepts, customs and terminology. I feel I naturally use some key phrases such as Morena, Haere Mai and Whakarongo Mai within my practice, but have a lot more to learn about cultural practices of Maori and other cultures within our community. One cultural practice we need to be aware of when teaching sexuality education for example, is that Tongan and Samoan students cannot be in the same lessons as their siblings as it is considered inappropriate. I feel though, I need to learn a substantial amount more about the history, culture and beliefs of our non New Zealand European students.

Therefore, my major 2019 goal is to become more confident in the use of Te Reo, read about tikanga Maori and have professional conversations with the Languages department at school. As a result, I would like to further develop the cultural responsiveness within my classes, to ensure I am inclusive of all students, with a specific focus on Maori. 

An additional goal is to analyse student achievement and student progress more regularly throughout the year, not only at the end of the year. After the Seniors left, I spent time breaking down student results, reflecting on the results, and examining where to go next, but feel I needed to have more discussions with students throughout the year to formatively assess their learning, not only summative assessment. (Once the Senior Health exam results are released in January I plan to write a reflective post on student achievement/results). I feel that can be achieved by shaping the structure within my classroom to allow for small group tutorials, as well as discussions with individuals. This structure will require a lot a trust within my classes, which will come back to how I create relationships with the students. I am grateful to be sharing a Level 3 PE class with Adam, and his strength is structuring his classes to have tutorials and check-ins with the kids, so I will learn plenty alongside him!

Now though, it is time to unwind and have a break, ready to tackle some new challenges next year!

Monday, 26 November 2018

Ako: To Teach and To Learn, How am I tracking?

Earlier in the year I blogged here about Ako Orewa, the vision for student learning at OC (to learn more about the concept of Ako, read here). I then visited the classrooms of two colleagues to complete an 'Ako observation' (see blog here), to chat with students about what they are learning and why (i.e. the learning process). Our department goal for this year was to emphasise the learning process in our classrooms (as we strive to have it embedded within teaching and learning).

In addition to trying out some exit strategies for my previous inquiry, I wanted to grasp and actively consider the learning process as part of my inquiry for Terms 3 and 4. I focused specifically on my Year 9s, as it tied in nicely with the performance improvement programme unit at the time. For 5-6 weeks the students chose a badminton skill to focus on and attempt to improve, using the performance improvement cycle. The purpose of the unit was for students to understand the cycle and how it can be applied to learning any new skill. This tied in well with the learning process, as I was regularly able to check in with students about where on the cycle they were, what they needed to do next and explain why. 

Students often ask, 'why are we learning about this', and I'm quick to admit that question came out of my mouth frequently at school too. Hence the importance of contextualising learning for the students and making their tasks authentic for the 'real world'. After this unit with my Year 9s, and coincidentally the performance improvement unit at the same time with my Year 10s, I felt much more comfortable with the learning process and feel the kids did too. As a result, I certainly heard less of the question we shouldn't really need to answer!

To determine how the school is tracking as we 'Ako-ise', student feedback surveys are completed to gain a snapshot of the learning process within their classes. My Year 9s completed one survey in Term 2 and again in Term 3. Results which came back to us as the teacher were a series of questions with a percentage alongside it (100% is 'full Ako'). Although there is clearly still a long way to go, this class has aligned more with an Ako vision of learning over the past few months, evident in these statistics. On average, all of the results doubled from the end of Term 2 to the end of Term 3! These three results stood out in particular though, as described in the infographic I have created.

Throughout the year I wrote the what, why, what next less and less up on the whiteboard as it started to become more natural to include within my teaching. However, upon reflection, and looking at the results, these components of learning were not clear for some students, so I should continue to have a visual I refer to. Additionally, I have reflected on some of the students academic results, and realised, ironically, many of the poor results were attributed to lack of hand ins of assessments. To reduce this, and hopefully increase results and engagement, I would like to have more checkpoints and opportunities for 1:1 discussions with students (explored further in this article, a short yet insightful read).