Friday, 25 August 2017

Problem Solving in the Workplace

At the beginning of this week I attended an employment relations two day course (Mahi Tika 2) funded by the Post Primary Teachers' Association. This was the second stage of the first stage I completed last year (see my reflection here). The purpose of the course was to gain a greater understanding of our rights and obligations as teachers in the workplace, through scenario based learning. I left the sessions feeling like I had absorbed a substantial amount of information that is important for me to know, and to share with others, especially problem solving skills.

I have reflected on the importance of my worth and value as a teacher within my school after this course. I have thought about the expectations I need to have, of how my colleagues interact with and treat me, and however I interact with my colleagues. Sometimes I feel as if we are giving 110%, but not noticed. I also sometimes feel like I am the bottom of the hierarchy, which I think is natural as a beginning teacher. However, I have now realised that we don't need to feel this way or be recognised, as long as my students are engaged and successful. We, teachers, do need to be respected by staff and students though. So, I feel grateful for this intense course, as it as made me realise my worth, and how to resolve some possible potential workplaces issues.

One section of the course was focused around Health and Safety. I feel this is an area I need considerable more knowledge and understanding about, especially as I am leading the aquatics programme soon. I have found myself attempting to complete RAMs forms, but still have a million questions I need help answering! Some of the key things I took away from the session was the managing risks cycle, and identifying the risk values of different situations. 

My group focused on water leaks as a low level risk and then physical fights between students as our examples to calculate the risk level of the situations using the below tables. A low risk can procede with monitoring and controls. A medium risk must be reviewed and managed. A high risk, which there appear to be many more than we realise, require immediate attention to eliminate or minimise risks as reasonably practical. These tables started lots of interesting discussions, including ways to minimise violence, how to reduce risks from becoming present and the importance of a Health and Safety Committee. I feel like I have lots of things to think about after this session in particular!

I have considered going to the annual PPTA conference, as I am interested to hear about what is on the cards for education, teachers and the union in the future. Watch this space...

Monday, 21 August 2017

Substances Have Been Explored

Throughout Term 2 in Year 10 Health, I taught an exploring substances unit for the first time. I enjoyed the unit, especially trying to include more technology into the learning activities. At the beginning of the unit, students completed a short Google Form with some key questions for me to gauge student understanding. The answers (which were collated in a Google Sheet) highlighted the topics students had gaps in their knowledge, so this is what I based my planning around. Please see my unit outline here. I also asked students to complete this Form at the end of the unit, to see student growth in understanding from the beginning of the unit (i.e. summative assessment).

I feel overall, that the unit was reasonably successful, however there are still many parts to adapt for next year to be even more successful. I feel proud of the unit I created, and the learning opportunities the students had, especially when there hasn't really been anything like this before! As I am more confident with the content and key ideas I would like students to take away, next year I will be able to differentiate between the classes, as this is my greatest weakness. Because I teach 6 classes, and the teaching is all new to me, there is very little differentiation between classes. As a result, some classes had in depth discussions, and completed more activities than other classes, and some classes felt rushed. With more thought into extension activities or how to cater for the lower literacy class for example, this may enable greater understanding and application of knowledge for students. I would also like to possibly focus on less, but more in depth, rather than scraping the surface.

Throughout the unit, there were lots of different activities, to try engage all learners. There were posit-it note activities, mix and matches, think, pair shares, student presentations, human continuums, online games, and research tasks. I tried to include a huge range of activities, so the students were learning in a different way each lesson. As a learner myself, even though I like to have routine and know what to expect when learning new things, I know I am most engaged when I am involved in different and new learning tasks. I found majority of students to be most engaged when they were in small groups, and able to discuss their ideas, and when they were off of their netbooks. I think that technology has an important place in education, especially in my classes, but there are times where the students like to step away from their screens, as their tasks are regularly on their computers in their other subjects. This is something I am actively thinking about for their current Sexuality and Relationships unit.

The most memorable activity from the unit was when we completed a Google Expedition inside the lungs. I first learnt about Google Expeditions (a free app) at the Google Conference earlier this year. Our lesson focus was about the effects of smoking tobacco on the body, one being the effect on the lungs. The Expedition begins with inhalation and travels from the trachea, through the bronchi to the alveoli in the lungs. As the guide of the expedition, the app gave lots of suggested questions to ask the students, which started some great discussions and encouraged students to think. I was surprised how interested the students were looking around; they were so engaged! After these lessons I had a look through the other various expeditions available and have found some which could be used in PE for anatomy, which I will definitely utilise next year! There are lots of expeditions available for all learning areas, so highly recommend others to look into it.

I am really enjoying teaching and leading Junior Health this year, even though it has been incredibly challenging trying to create engaging lessons. Next year will be great, as there will be foundation lessons to make better for future students. I am currently enjoying teaching a sexuality education unit, and am impressed by the response from the students so far. Bring on the next challenge, whatever that may be!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Planning is Not Set in Concrete

As part of my beginning teacher mentoring programme with Cheryl, we focused on Criteria 9 of the Practicing Teacher Criteria in our last meeting. Criteria 9 suggests fully certified teachers respond effectively to the diverse language and cultural experiences, and the varied strengths, interests and needs of individuals and groups of ākonga.

As a group, we broke down the criteria using The Education Council's Self Assessment Tool. This is a great resource to really reflect on the criteria, to identify my strengths and weaknesses! After our PCT meeting I felt criteria 9 was an area of weakness I needed think about further. Although I know I have a lot of evidence for each of the criteria, sometimes I struggle to show, or put into words what evidence I have. One of three parts of Criteria 9 asks;

Am I flexible in my teaching approaches?

I feel I am constantly adapting my plans to suit my learners in front of me, particularly my Year 11 PE class. I wrote an outline of lessons for the first few weeks of term, and I have already changed this multiple times! As this is a Senior class, I want to ensure students have ample time to really understand the topics, so they can effectively explain and apply their knowledge. Sometimes this means spending twice as long covering a topic than I had initially planned for.

Last year I co-taught Years 12 and 13 PE. We realised throughout the year how so many of the students had gaps in their knowledge from their previous years, especially for anatomy, biomechanics and exercise physiology (which is the most difficult unit for most students). As a department we realised we needed to be increasing student understanding at a deeper level in Year 11, to better prepare them for Year 12. Therefore, although the suggested time to spend on anatomy, biomechanics and exercise physiology is probably about 7-8 weeks, I am planning for about 12 weeks. I would rather the students have a greater understanding this year, in prep for next year, than try to smash out more units. Quality over quantity. This can be quite difficult, because we obviously want our students to achieve their NCEA, but I would prefer they achieve Merits and Excellences and less credits, than more credits at an Achieved (or Not Achieved) level.

To achieve this, I have had to have regular conversations with students about their understanding, to ensure they are ready to move on. My inquiry this year is about blogging in Year 11PE, which I have found to be a great way to formatively assess student learning, and adapt my teaching to suit my students gaps. By reading through their blogposts, I am able to identify the parts they're still struggling with, and revisit this in a different way from before. For example, I am trying a variety of revision activities with this class currently, such as Kahoot, mix and match activities and team challenges (I will be writing a post about these different strategies in a couple of weeks, but see some of my observations here). If something works well for some students whom I struggle to engage, or who are struggling to understand, I try to replicate that in future lessons.

Therefore, to continue to feel I am flexible in my teaching, I need to continue to take risks, continue to read students posts to gauge their understanding and continue to seek student voice. In future, I think it would be useful to have more conversations with students about what they thought about the activities during lessons. I often think about the activities, and how I think they went, but don't as often ask the students what they think. I have started to collate some of their responses from a Google Sheet.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Supporting Māori Students Success

As previously reflected/shared, TC staff have been meeting fortnightly with our PLGs at school to discuss our priority learners. Unfortunately I have had basketball games so have missed the discussions which take place. However, I try to keep in the loop by following the agenda and reflection points.

This week the focus was around Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, particularly exploring Kia Eke Panuku (KEP). My group explained CRP as "a way to promote Maori academic success through students, teachers and whanau working together. Authentic connections and a focus on Māori identity are supported by evidence based pedagogies". As our school's demographic is 33% Māori, this is an important pedagogy for us to explore. Please see our Slides from a KEP PD last year, with key reflective questions and discussions we had related to Māori's achievement as Māori. I attempted to breakdown CRP in an earlier blogpost.

KEP is a professional development initiative to build schools achievement and success for Māori, as Māori. The Ministry of Education have developed Ka Hikitia, strategies to support Māori learners success in school too, which my PLG also explored. This resource breaks down critical factors, focus areas and guiding principles for Māori students' learning journeys to be enjoyable and successful, to prepare them for pathways in their futures.

Although there are a variety of strategies and suggestions throughout Ka Hikitia, the part that stuck with me is the need to support Māori learners to believe in themselves and their potential.

"Students with a strong belief in their capacity to achieve are more likely to set themselves challenging goals and put a high degree of effort into achieving them. Research has shown that the most motivated and resilient students are those who believe their abilities can be developed through their own effort and learning" (p. 25).

I have been reflecting regularly about the lack of motivation and self efficacy some of my students have. Although majority of my students are more than capable of achieving, because they feel they are incapable, or they fear they are going to get something wrong, they would rather just not complete something. This has been evident in my 11PE class especially, and was evident in my senior classes last year. A few students really struggle to express their thoughts and struggle to complete their tasks. This is not a reflection of what they're capable of though, but a reflection of how little self confidence they have in their ability and/or little motivation they have to be successful. 

For this reason, I have selected three learners in my 11PE class who have 11 or less credits currently towards their NCEA Level 1 (expected to have over 40 by now), to be my priority learners for the second half of the year. I hope by continuing to try build students self confidence, giving positive feedback and affirmation when they are on track, and reinforcing ako within my practice and classrooms (the two way process of learning), my students' become more successful.