Sunday, 27 May 2018

High Expectations - Do You Have Them?

Last Tuesday evening I attended a session facilitated by The Education Hub about how to become a high expectation teacher. I was interested to attend this, as I know deep down I expect all of my students to achieve to the best of their ability and to challenge themselves, but I was unsure how to structure my lessons and classroom to demonstrate high expectations. After listening to the presentations/research (Christine Rubie-Davis - see her slides here) and reading this paper created by The Education Hub, I have taken away many points to reflect on about high expectation teaching.

  • Studies have shown that by having high expectations of students determines student attitudes towards learning and overall achievement. When teachers have low expectations of their students, students' self perception and self belief drops, and evidently their success. 

  • Establishing routines early in the year is important, so students know what is expected of them and when. By creating a classroom culture where students are held accountable for their own learning, and are empowered by their tasks, but are also able to ask for support when needed, will help maintain high expectations throughout the year (rather than trying to set routines or expectations of the students partway through the year).

  • Ask high level questions of ALL students, expect ALL students to achieve the same goals and tasks/activities irrespective of their ability level. Differentiating tasks among the class based on ability is likely to reduce student motivation and achievement, as students who are identified as the lower level learners will perceive their teacher has lower expectations of them to be successful (and their success is significantly determined by the expectations their teacher has), and that the teacher values the high achievers more. Rather than asking different questions, if the student doesn't initially understand a question, then rephrase the question, or scaffold further (so the important thing the student takes away from this experience is that the teacher has the same expectation for all initially, but breaks down the question further if needed). Alternatively, provide several tasks, which the students can select from.

  • Low expectation teachers communicate tasks that need to be complete, whereas high expectation teachers communicate learning intentions and success criteria, and whether these have been met. Therefore, the emphasis is on the learning process, rather than the end product (which is paramount at Orewa currently). This is an area I definitely need to improve, as I feel I focus more on task completion, rather than the learning intentions. As previously blogged about, the WHY is important, rather than simply the WHAT. Moving forward, I would like to encourage my students to read through the success criteria of their tasks, and be able to identify whether they think they have met this (and if not, where do they need to head next in their learning - relates back to the learning tools).

  • Spend equal time with all students, rather than spend additional time with the lower ability students and leave the higher ability learners to work independently. This demonstrates the teacher has the same expectations for all, and can challenge all students as individuals, rather than within ability groups. I do feel I currently spend more time with the students who need more support, and as a result I am not challenging my self directed high achievers. Reflecting after this session, I fear this may suggest to these students I do not have time for them, as I am focused on getting other students 'over the line'. Therefore, I need to consciously attempt to spend an equal amount of time with all students.

  • Spend less time contacting home about things that have 'gone wrong' in the classroom, and more time calling whanau about successes and when students are exceeding your expectations. This is another thing I am aware I need to do more of - positive phone calls. Right before I attended this session, I called one students mother to say he'd had an incredible change of attitude towards learning over the past few weeks and I was really proud at how much effort he was putting into his learning. Surprisingly, she said that was the first positive phone call she could recall she'd had about her son!

  • Finally, Christine suggested videoing myself when I am teaching, to see how I am coming across to my students and whether there were other things I could have said/done during the lesson. A couple of years ago, I filmed and reflected on a lesson, see here, and found the process incredibly useful for reflection of my pedagogy, behaviour management and expectations of my students. I would like to video myself at some point again.
A question to reflect on if you're an educator is;

"What do your practices reflect about your beliefs about your students and their ability to learn?"

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Do I Have The Tools For Learning?

Fortnightly our PLGs meet. To further understand Ako Orewa and how to implement into my practice, I chose to be involved in the PLG which is breaking down the 'tools for learning'. We have discussed how these tools are discussion starters to have with students, and the aim is to increase learner agency. My plan is to get my head around the tools, begin to think about how I can use the tools in my lessons and then hit the ground running next year, possibly next year's inquiry.

I feel these tools are great stepping stones to decrease the teacher being in control and increase student ability to self manage their learning. In the future I would love to give students the ability to design their own courses and how they will assess their learning! I think a major affordance of using these tools within the classroom will mean that the students have greater 1:1 time with the teacher, and there will be much less time spent on managing behaviour.

Last week we focused on the orange tool. Our task was to design a swimming pool in small groups, but before doing so, we broke down the time required to complete the task and the resources we needed. Leanne and Bev (the facilitators of our PLG) then walked around the room and asked the groups key questions related to the tool such as "How are you going for time?" and "What resources do you think you could have used if you had more time?" As the student in the situation, I became more aware of how much I needed to do, and when I needed to do it by. I was held accountable for my task as others relied on me and the teacher asked lots of questions during the design process. We debriefed the activity by then thinking about what to do next and reflecting on how we used our time - which then started to link into the blue tool! 

I walked away from this session with greater understanding of how to include this tool within my classroom, and I am looking forward to experimenting with the others too. Below are the Slides Leanne created and talked us through last week, about how she has implemented the tools in her own practice so far.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Resilience - Easier Said Than Done

Being in a new school is tough. There are so many systems to learn, people to meet, kids to connect with, different units and assessments to understand. In addition to this change, I have had a lot going on at home. I have felt with all of the changes, I have lost a bit of passion and excitement in my teaching, and a considerable need to be resilient. 

Last term I found myself chatting with students from many of my classes about anxiety. Many times I walked away from conversations feeling emotionally exhausted supporting these students as they felt anxious, stressed and were struggling through a variety of things going on in their lives. I felt like an unqualified counsellor, a feeling I had often at Tamaki too. Twitter was timely and I came across a couple of articles to think about, as well this webinar/course about accidental counselling (which I will be completing on Sunday).

Relief washed over me when I stumbled across this reflection by Nycol Didcote about the difficulties of teaching and how to find a balance. It is well-known we work around the clock, and give and give and give, and as a result many teachers leave the profession within the first five years of teaching. Didcote was real. She spoke about the behind the scenes struggles, and I felt relieved it wasn't just me! "So if you’ve lost your sense of purpose or feel as though your efforts aren’t worth it, know that you are not alone. But before you consider leaving the profession – really think of what you are leaving behind. You’re leaving your mark on those you serve everyday. You’re making a difference." This gave me the boost I needed, and was looking for to move forward.

I also found this article about how to confront anxiety, which discusses how feelings of worry can affect a child's ability to learn and function at school, and they cannot do the normal developmental tasks of someone that age, when the feelings are excessive. Anxiety needs to be recognised and supported, because if it is attempted to be eliminated, the more it increases. I know this myself! The article includes an interview with Lynn Lyons (social worker and psychotherapist), whom suggests we need to find ways to help our students to problem solve, to learn to take risks and to build resilience - we can't do it for them. Reading this really stuck with me, because I often try to help my students feel better and solve their problems, because I care for them and want them to be happy. However, upon reflection I feel I may have given some of my students a disservice, as I have not given them steps to support themselves to increase their resilience - something I will keep in the back of my mind moving forward.

Mrfallickpe wrote about the fear of getting something wrong, the fear of judgement, the fear of being in a toxic school environment. He reflects on the importance of the teachers believing in their students, not giving up on them, even though sometimes they make mistakes. I read this after the least enjoyable day I had last term, when I'd struggled to motivate some of my Year 11 students for a few weeks, and then clashed with them. I found this article refreshing, and a great reminder to take each day as it comes, and consistently have high expectations of students to TRY, even if they make mistakes - as that is how we learn! The comment I took away most from his blogpost was

We may say a comment or a sentence that we feel is not important to us however for the student it may be the most important message they hear and might stick with them for life”.

Resilence, and the ability to manage change, is coincidentally what the first Year 12 Health unit was. So I was teaching, implementing and discussing various strategies with the students about how to be resilience and manage change - right as I was doing it myself. Some strategies included having a nap, playing simple games and colouring in! I still have a lot to learn, but am feeling like the busiest and most difficult time has passed and I am excited to start Term 2 with a bang!