Sunday, 29 December 2019

Challenging Conversations: A Checklist

Difficult conversations "are all about coming to a common and workable solution that helps everyone to grow and move past the situation" (Brian Gatens). In education there may be several times we need to have a difficult or challenging situation; with students, whānau,  student teachers, colleagues, leaders etc for a variety of reasons. Throughout this year, I have needed to have a few myself, particularly with student teachers and colleagues. As a result, I wanted to learn further about difficult conversations. 

After researching and reflecting on what I read, watched and discussed, below are the key points I have taken away about having challenging conversations;
  • Scheduling the chat to be at an appropriate time is important. This is to ensure there is plenty of time, so the conversation doesn't feel rushed or incomplete at the end. When scheduling, give some indication to the other person what the conversation will be about if you feel it is appropriate, so that they have time to think about it/make their own notes prior.
  • Prepare a list of things you would like to say before going into the conversation and stick to the facts throughout. These will help you to stay on track, and reduce opinions and emotions coming into the discussion.
  • At the beginning of the conversation, explain the purpose of the meeting clearly and deliberately. Disclose concerns/problems honestly and respectfully. If you aren't open and honest throughout the conversation about what you are thinking, there may be limited steps forward to resolve the issue.
  • Support your point of view with specific examples to illustrate - remain factual. Be assertive, not passive. You want to get your point across, but you also want to maintain a positive relationship afterward.
  • "Get curious, not furious" (Richard Wells) - ask questions as opposed to giving statements, inquire rather than instantly attempting to solve a problem.
  • Be prepared to have your own assumptions and beliefs challenged, to increase validity of reasoning and demonstrate you are open to a conversation. Be sure to consider the possible causes of the concern/problem (this is key!).
  • Use tentative language as opposed to definitive - opening up and inviting them into the conversation. Provide time for the other(s) involved to share their perspectives. 
  • Paraphrase what the other person or people are saying, to demonstrate you are actively listening. Ask open-ended questions to encourage them to elaborate further, to gain further understanding of their perspective.
  • Once you've heard and considered all perspectives, brainstorm possible solutions/next steps together. What do we value moving forward, not what do I value. The decision making process needs to be shared. All should understand the 'why' behind the solutions suggested, not feel as if they are being put in place because the 'person in power' has said so!
  • Summarise the meeting, write down the next steps/where to from here, and make a time/further meeting to check in on these steps and how they are progressing
  • Afterward, once all members of the conversation have had time to process and reflect, there may be further questions or comments to discuss (so be open to emails or another meeting to be scheduled).
Alongside is a sketchnote created by Richard Wells. The bullet points in this post came from a discussion we had using the sketchnote as a prompt, as well as the resources listed below.
I thought this was a great final post for the year, to feel more confident to have difficult conversations in 2020 - bring on my fifth year!

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Supporting Māori Students, As Māori

New Zealand teachers are required to maintain their full registration status every three years once fully registered (this occurs generally after the first two years of teaching). When I moved from being provisionally registered to fully registered, there were 12 criteria I needed to provide growth and evidence for - now there are 6 standards (see further information about the criteria here). 

I have often had stacks of evidence for most of the criteria, but standard 1 I have had little to support my growth (evident from the lack of labels on my blog, and from my final appraisal discussion with my appraiser this year). Standard 1 is about demonstrating partnership to Te Tiriti o Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi), and commitment to tangata whenuatanga (the history and connections of where we come from). As a result of this gap, I knew I needed to complete further readings and start to develop greater strengths in this area throughout 2020, so thought I would get the ball rolling.

Earlier in the year, Hana O'Regan presented to our cluster of local schools. Hana mostly spoke about her own experiences, and the experiences of others she knows, growing up as a Māori in New Zealand. She explored some of the common stereotypes and educational challenges that exist within our education system, that are consistently reinforced. We are surrounded by statistics about low achievement rates for Māori students (here for example), and we are constantly placing labels such as 'priority learners' onto our Māori students. Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have an unconscious bias, and this bias is often shaped by what we are surrounded by. Associate Education Minister Tracy Martin comments that this unconscious bias, and racism, plays a significant role in the gaps in Māori achievement. 

Hana encouraged me to think about my own biases, and be more actively aware of my words, expressions and mannerisms in the classroom, and how small things may come across as rude, disrespectful or racist. The kids are a product of the environment they are brought up in - and unfortunately many have preconceived ideas about what it means to be Māori, negative ones, and consequently believe it of themselves, internalise these ideas. Māori are low achieving, Māori are naughty, Māori are drop outs - stereotypes which many students believe they need to conform to. Being more aware though, we can begin to challenge and interrupt the discourses, and educate our learners as to why they are not factual and definitely not written into their futures. (Sidenote: if you would like to read more about Māori ontologies/tikanga, I would suggest reading Rachael Dixon's post).

The Education Hub have suggested seven principles to support Māori students, as Māori, as outlined/summarised in the infographic I created alongside. I would recommend reading more of their posts related to this topic, such as this post and also this post (both more specifically about culturally responsive pedagogy).

After reading these posts, creating the infographic, listening to Hana's presentation, and reflecting on my own experiences, I now need to put into action some of the alongside principles in 2020 (some I feel I already do, but implicitly). I look forward to learning more, to see how I can further support my Māori students in particular, but all learners!

Monday, 16 December 2019

Student Achievement: More Than A Grade

As blogged previously throughout the year, I have been completing comparisons of student results between 2018 and 2019 for my 2 of my Senior classes. This will be my last one until the exam results are released next year for my Health students. There are clearly many differences between classes - the kids themselves, the number of students, my own experiences, and the class dynamic, so I've needed to take the results with a grain of salt when comparing. It has however, been interesting to see the differences and start to draw some conclusions about why they may be different, and to determine what the next steps may be.

Even though there is an evident drop in the amount of students in my class who 'passed' the 1.4 societal influences paper, as below, this unit was substantially more enjoyable to teach this year. The students were more actively involved in lessons, as they appeared to be actually interested in the topic on the whole, whereas the previous cohort weren't as interested. I don't feel this is a true reflection of my own enthusiasm, as it is a topic I enjoy teaching and learning about (what impacts on our own understandings, biases and involvement in a variety of physical activities). I think the enjoyment is more a reflection of how the students took on the opportunities to be involved in different activities, and were inclusive and positive towards one another. This was evident from observing the students during lessons, as well as the individual reflections and evaluations students wrote. Reading through some of their comments, many of the students became more aware of the stereotypes that exist within physical activities and began to shift/challenge their own opinions - this was the real learning, what actually mattered to me. So even though there may be more orange on the graph this year, I feel confident more students took away greater learning experiences than the previous class. The next natural step, is to ensure more one on one time with students to support them with the jargon in the assessment, to support their ideas to form assessment answers (a common issue this year).

Our final unit this year was the anatomy, biomechanics and exercise physiology unit - the one with the most content and the most difficult for majority of students. I felt rushed last year to complete the unit and assessment by the end of Term 3. This year I made the suggestion to utilise the three weeks of Term 4, because last year this time was given towards practicals for another assessment we no longer do. This allowed flexibility to go off on more tangents, complete more activities for fun, go more in depth for the content I was teaching and more time for students to revise and review their learning (at their own pace). The results clearly show how positive this change was for student success. Not only is there a significant increase in student grades, there was a reduction in rote learning (evident from informal conversations with students), which I also consider to be a massive success. Due to the nature of the content such as muscles and bones, historically students memorise the names, but once tested forget them. I feel more confident about the retention of information moving forward for this group of students compared to last year, which I think is largely contributed to the extension of time for the unit. Next year I am going to have about 10 additional students, so regular checkpoints with individuals are going to be vital.

Overall, irrespective of the differences between cohorts, comparing the data has been useful for my own reflection. As aforementioned, I will finish the 2019 comparisons once the exam results have been released, and then for 2020 I am going to focus on my Year 13 PE class (as it will be my second year teaching in a row).

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Student Success in Sexuality Standard: Small Steps

From the 2018 Year 12 Health students, there was lots of feedback around workload for assessments. Many found there was a significant amount to do, and as a result some became demotivated. This was particularly evident in the Sexuality and Gender assessment, because many students did not hand in the assessment at all, or did not complete it (reducing their potential grade), and this was mentioned several times in the end of year feedback.

The assessment had 3 tasks in 2018. 3 tasks that required lots of evidence to support their explanations. SO. MUCH. MARKING. Using student feedback, and my desire to decrease teacher workload too, this year I reduced the assessment to 2 tasks, with less questions than previously. I cannot recall actually creating an assessment task before, aside from during uni, but by using examples from other schools, TKI, and NZQA exemplars/clarifications, I felt confident the students had the potential to meet any levels of achievement to demonstrate their learning, even with less than 2/3 of what they were previously asked to do. As a safety barrier, and a confidence booster, I asked Rachael Dixon from NZHEA to have a read through, to double check the task was suitable before the final step of the standard moderation process. 

Not surprisingly, there was an increase in the number of submission of assessments, as well as the motivation to complete the assessment tasks this year. With less to do, and the same amount of time (as well as emphasising they were lucky to have 2 tasks instead of 3), I feel overall the reduction of workload for the assessment made a positive difference. This is from my own interactions with students; the conversations I have with them, as well as as the below data (see another post with data/results comparison here). 

There has been a considerable increase in the amount of students who are passing with an Achieved, rather than Not Achieving when compared to last year. This is a win for me! The next step is to increase depth of understanding to encourage more students to achieve with Merit or an Excellence. To do so, I would like to spend time getting students to mark exemplars from previous years, and justifying why they gave that mark with the marking criteria. I didn't do this in class for gender and sexuality this year, but I did do peer marking with a practice scenario (the kids struggled grading their peers though, in case they hurt each other's feelings). Students marked and justified grades for the external, and were really engaged, as well as accurate with their grades and justifications, so I think this may help with understanding of what to do to meet each level of achievement for the gender and sexuality assessment next year.

Interestingly, when I compare the feedback from 2018 students to 2019 students, majority of students said their favourite topic and assessment was gender and sexuality last year, but this year the favourite topic was spread evenly across the 4 units/assessments. So even though many rated the unit lower for enjoyment than last year, there was still a greater pass rate. I'm looking forward to seeing next year how the cohort engage with the content, and seeing whether the results continue to grow!

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Behaviour Management: Conversation Over Confrontation

Late last term, Adam reminded us of the importance of attempting restorative conversations. These are a behaviour management strategy, which focuses on the repair and rebuild of relationships, as opposed to a punitive approach. The aim of developing confidence to create restorative chats with students, is for the students to gain closer connections with others and become more empathetic and aware of others thoughts, values, feelings, decisions. 

Learning how to hold a restorative conversation, and practicing how to complete them, are important for the future of the student's relationship with you and others, but also their long term behaviour. I leant a lot about these conversations at Tamaki (see here and here), but as I was so new to teaching, I found these conversations very difficult. Throughout this year I have been attempting to have more, because I think they are significantly more beneficial for the student's learning than punitive measures like writing lines and detentions (which I unfortunately still give, as they are part of the school system!), because the students are likely to learn more from a personal, honest chat as opposed to copying words onto a page or a confrontational grilling!

I decided to write this post late last term, when Adam asked the department if we are open to learning. If we are open to discuss the things we are challenged by or things that are not working. It is of course much easier to write a post about things that are going amazing, but we are obviously more likely to learn from reflecting on and thinking about the not-so amazing stuff. For me, two  things I am struggling with are having these conversations with students, but also having challenging chats with my colleagues (I plan to read a lot more about the latter and write a post in a few weeks).

The most recent attempt I had at a restorative chat was with a Year 9 student late last term. This student had repeatedly been disruptive throughout the lesson, disrespected others and was not getting involved the activities. After several reminders of how to talk to others, he threw a racquet forcefully at the ground for his own entertainment. By that point I'd had enough, and asked him to sit out. He went and sat on a chair a few metres away from the class game and a couple of minutes later I sat on the floor in front of him. I attempted to maintain the WARM layout for the conversation (as previously linked and alongside), and keep a calm voice. He was able to explain to me what'd happened throughout the lesson and who may have been affected by some of his decisions. He agreed that these needed to change. What actually emerged from the conversation was that his mum was really sick, and it was unexpected. He was angry about this. Why did his Mum need to get sick? Why couldn't he help her? So every time he was bugged by someone or something, that was pushing him closer and closer to the edge. We both felt a lot better after our discussion because he knew that I was more understanding of how his actions came about, and he was more understanding of how some of his behaviours were unacceptable. Moving forward, I hope to see more positive choices from him, to see whether this conversation did have an impact on him!

I watched the above Ted Talk which explores restoratives practices to resolve conflict and build relationships. Some of the key points I took away from the talk were;
- Students may not understand what they have done is incorrect or wrong, so it is important we educate them about why it is not ok. If they don't understand why it isn't, the behaviour may reoccur.
- Katy used a 'time in' instead of a 'time out' - when students were deemed as 'misbehaving', instead of sending them out of the class, she had designated a 'time in' zone, where she asks the students to go, to then have a chat with them.
- Before having the conversations, consider how whatever had happened leading to the chat, and the chat included, could have actually contributed positively to the future.
- Be honest and empathetic
- Understand why the restorative conversations are important in the bigger picture.
- Use I statements rather then saying You, to avoid blaming or accusing.
- Consider and attempt a discussion about why the student made the decision(s) they did - what is going on in their lives, did anything possibly trigger it etc.
- But also avoiding the use of the word why when possible
- Talk with the student, not at them!

Monday, 7 October 2019

Highlights & Challenges: A Visual

Throughout the year I have volunteered again for Auckland PENZ, helping with the Graduate Mentoring Programme supporting beginning teachers and undergraduate students (see last years post here). At one of our sessions, Sarah Loomb from Alfriston College showed us this reflection tool - draw 9 things that have stood out for you so far this year including highlights and challenges. I thought this was a great idea for an end of term 3 reflection, and a great visual. I ran a session with the first and second year teachers at Orewa, with the focus around the practising teacher criteria and registration, then used this to discuss what criteria it may give evidence and reflection for. So what do they mean to me?

Snow Camp
I was lucky enough to attend one of the Level 3 Outdoor Ed trips to Mt Ruapehu in August. I learnt more about risk management, including preventative measures and responses when things do happen. On our first day up the mountain, there was an avalanche that made the news and we went into lock down with kids as a precaution. This is a once in a lifetime experience, and one that I will never forget. The biggest thing I took away from this trip was the importance of everyone being prepared for the outdoors and to stay calm!

Associate Teacher
As previously blogged about, I was an associate teacher earlier in the year. This was both a (positive) challenge and a highlight, because I learnt a lot about myself but found it hard to leave him to do his thing! Trying to teach someone how to teach, but also ensuring the students were still learning/achieving what I wanted them to achieve was difficult, but great for my own development.

Integrated Unit
I am getting very very excited for the 2020 integrated curriculum. I think it’s going to be incredible for the kids, but I’m also starting to feel a little anxious about how everything is going to pan out! Creating a unit with 5 other people has been hard. Very hard. We all want what is best for the kids, and our subjects, but sometimes these wants don’t align. The group I’m part of though, have all been quite flexible and accepting of these differences and tried to make it work. We are quite lucky we are somewhat compatible with one another! 

The one thing I don’t like about this process though, is that we aren’t guaranteed to teach the unit we’ve developed next year. There will be 75 students with three subject specialist teachers - but these teachers could be anyone from the department! So it may not be the other person or I in our integrated group, which will be disappointing after investing so much time and effort into creating the unit.

Teaching with Adam 
This year Adam and I share a Level 3 PE class. We don’t co-teach like I did in first year, we have half of the periods on the timetable each. I was really nervous to see how this would work for a variety of reasons; Adam and I teach quite differently, he is much more experienced than me, Level 3 students may be hard to motivate and the time we would need to plan together. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been hard, but not for most of these reasons (the kids have certainly been hard to motivate!). I believe we’ve worked well together, trying to find a balance between what we both want in the lessons as well as what we want the students to learn/achieve. Our communication between each other has thankfully been our strength. 

What I’ve actually struggled with is the content; what I need to teach to ensure all the kids have the possibility to achieve an Excellence. Adam is knowledgeable and experienced, so he knows the course in and out, but I don’t. Throughout the year I’ve tried to ask lots of questions, and read lots of information, but I never felt like I fully grasped the big picture of what the kids were learning, what the purpose was. As a result I feel guilty that I didn’t give all students the chance to achieve an E, purely because I didn’t fully know how to support them to get there. If I was to teach this course again, with the baseline understanding I have now I feel I could minimise the risk of this happening again.

11PE Class
I have drawn angel emojis because that is how I refer to my Year 11s - my absolute angels. I have been really lucky to have a class that enjoys learning, are actively involved and supportive of one another. I look forward to teaching this class because they are a dream. Many still struggle with learning difficulties and we still have P.E. is not P.A. chats from time to time - but the culture of the class is incredible! To paint a picture - during the last period of term the kids were all working peacefully on their assessment and there was only one passing comment about wanting to have a practical. This felt like a massive win!!

Working with new people 
I’ve touched on this briefly above, referring to snow camp, the integrated unit, and sharing a class. Additionally I’ve been in charge of a course (below), and taught courses alongside some different people and some the same from last year. Without going into too much detail, I’ve found some professional relationships really hard this year. It can be challenging to have some conversations with other teachers, when they are more experienced than you, have been around longer than you and/or have positions that you don’t have. I have quite a loud personality; I’m opinionated and happy to stand up for what I think. This can be problematic. I’m having to learn when to bite my tongue and how to change my tone of voice to ensure my intentions are clear, are positive and are not treading on anyone’s toes. Because every challenging conversation I have, needs to be approached differently.

Strike Day
A momentous occasion that’ll be part of NZ history. I felt proud to be a teacher walking down Queen Street, but also immensely sad how the negotiations played out. This was an emotional roller coaster for me, having to constantly remind myself how I teach for the kids not money, but how overworked and undervalued I feel. The process certainly reminded me why I love teaching, but I also noticed I felt deflated and reduced the amount of time I invested in schoolwork at home.

Teacher In Charge of 12Health
Being in charge of a course has meant I’ve learnt more about moderation procedures, planning senior units, facilitating meetings and adapting the course from student feedback. I plan to write an entire blogpost about this later in the year!

I’ve previously blogged about what the Miss D is proud certificates are here, and student feedback here. This has been a considerable highlight of my year. I get warm fuzzies when I send the certificates home, and look forward to it! I decided to send them on Friday mornings, which has been a great way to end each week - particularly when I’ve had a stressful or horrible week. 

Overall this visual has been a great way to reflect on many things throughout the year, and recommend others to do the same! One term to go...

Friday, 20 September 2019

The Future of NCEA PE: How Does This Look?

NCEA was initially designed to be flexible, to allow for multiple methods of assessment, to capture student learning. However unfortunately many of us now have the assessment at the forefront of our minds, some even say it is what they are 'teaching'. The reality is, kids are credit counting and it's sad to admit many are most actively involved when they know the task is being assessed. One of the hopes of the upcoming NCEA Review is that these sad realities can change.

Today I was lucky to attend a thought provoking 'Big Ideas' day at Hobsonville Secondary School faciliated by Sally, Adam, Anne, Margot and Michelle about this review, and how we might be able to reshape the future of PE assessments. The overarching focus of the day was for us to consider the qualities, skills and knowledge we want our students to leave our classrooms with - what actually makes a Phys Edder?

One of the first activities we completed, was to list all the key knowledge we want our students to leave school with, by the end of Year 13. My group found this a little difficult because the list is so huge! The first picture below (SOLO hexagons) shows these initial ideas and the groupings we made from these ideas (also very challenging as some things fit into many boxes!).

The next step was to list all the subject specific skills, and generic skills we would like students to develop during our courses (post-it notes). We then needed to create one possible unit that encompasses some of these skills and some of the knowledge. From start to finish this whole brainstorm was about 45 minutes and really highlighted how much we do teach both explicitly and implicitly. This was a really great reminder of how rich our subject is - and we had not considered assessments at all!

The last activity of the day, as below, was to envisage our dream Year 11 PE class. What would the students be doing? How would they be interacting with each other? Where will their learning be heading next? Naturally, we all had a similar vision: actively involved students who are self managed and can explain what their learning/purpose is in PE. The discussion then became, how do we get there and what recommendations can we make in this review to get there? Although, obviously, we did not create a life changing programme to change the world of NCEA PE, these discussions were insightful and incredibly exciting!

Adam frequently expresses we are only a product of our environment, and so are the kids. We need to be comfortable in the uncomfortable, so they are too. We need to challenge and change the sad realities for the future of PE, and the quality of Phys Edders we create! I look forward to seeing how this review shapes our curriculum.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Whānau Pride - A Student Motivator

Throughout the year I have been sending home 2 Miss D is proud certificates per week, as previously blogged about hereTo check in how they've gone so far, I decided to ask 8 students the below key questions about the certificates, to use their feedback to reflect;
How did you feel when you received the certificate?
- How did your caregivers respond?
- Have you had any positive things sent home like this before?
- Do you think receiving the certificate affected how you were in Health/PE afterward?
- Would you suggest I continue to send these? Why/Why not?

Although I have 5 major classes, I have only sent one certificate to one Year 13 so far, so decided to focus on my Years 9-12 for feedback. Alongside are some of the key comments the students made, which left me thinking further (and feeling warm fuzzies!).

When I went through the students' responses to the above questions, the common words which appeared were good (8/8), proud (5/8), happy (4) and recognised (4). The overall consensus was that students felt good or happy they had been recognised for working hard in Health and/or PE, and their caregivers were proud of them. This is great news, because this was the intent of the certificates - to increase positive messages and connections with whānau and to spend some of my time acknowledging the incredible things the kids are doing (as opposed to the time needed to spend chasing up students who have been off-task or not self managed for example). Many of the students also spoke about how the certificate started positive conversations with their caregivers about their school successes!

Between this feedback and my own observations, I have noticed how I have begun to look forward to Friday morning when I sent home the certificates. Although some times I struggle to narrow them down to only 2, and other times struggle to think of 2 people who have gone above and beyond, it is a great feeling spreading positivity home to the students and their whānau, making me more excited and passionate about my teaching in hope to send more home!

Another interesting statistic and observation, was the difference in student responses within my class, after the students had received the certificate. 4/8 students explained  that receiving a certificate did positively affect how they were in my class after, 3 Juniors and 1 Senior. Some commented it motivated them to continue to succeed, and others said it made them feel special I had recognised them, so they wanted to give their best to continue to be recognised. The 4/8 students who said the certificate did not affect how they were in my class afterward were interestingly all high academic students, who already want to be successful and I don't think the certificates made a direct difference to their engagement or work ethic for example (as identified by the other 4). Though, the certificates possibly strengthened my relationships with these students. In conjunction with these stats, I have observed the students who are in Years 9&10 are generally more positively receptive to the idea than the Years 11&12. Possibly the Seniors feel the certificate is childish, so I may need to reconsider what to do next year for my Seniors. But I will definitely be keeping the certificates going - particularly as my Year 11s have now started calling it a club that only some people are part of!

A couple of further comments/suggestions from the students I will consider further;
- Tell my classes at the beginning of the year, so the students know they may receive one if they go above and beyond. (This year I've kept it on the complete down-low, and sent the certificates directly home, without discussing them or who received them with my classes). BUT students may feel disheartened if they know about it, but don't receive one.
- Have a board of all of the 'members' and/or the 'ex-members' of the 'club', so we could strive to get onto the board.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Integration: A Different Lens

In our school currently, there is one Year 11 integrated Sport in Education class. The class was pioneered last year and continued this year. This year there is one PE teacher integrating a class with one Maths teacher. Sport in Education was designed as a pedagogical tool to increase engagement and learning, using sport as a platform. Recently I was grateful to attend the Auckland regional hui for the current schools implementing a Sport Ed model/class.

Throughout the day, facilitated by Celia Fleck, we heard synopses of the school programmes as well as the challenges they have faced throughout the process. I really enjoyed the day, as I could relate a lot of the discussion to our current PLGs as we develop our 2020 integrated units (see here for more info about my group). Some of the key points/things that stuck with me were;
  • When creating integrated units, consider how you can embed the school values within the unit, so can easily refer to the values.
  • If possible, have incentives for lower level/lower motivated students.
  • Look into the use of other assessments (i.e. achievement objectives or internals), that are outside of your curriculum area (such as sports psychology within Senior PE).
  • When assessing against the A.O.'s, ensure the rubric is the same for all students, and thus all teachers. Split the students and try have the teachers marking for all curriculum areas, and then moderate some together.
  • Know your why - what is the purpose of the unit?
  • Don't refer to the courses as the subject names, or the teachers as the PE teacher for example, because it continues to reinforce the silos.
  • It is important to have regular meetings and open communication with your co-teachers.
  • If the links aren't there, don't force them!
  • Have a skill versus content drive - what skills would you like the students to develop throughout this unit as opposed to what content would you like them to learn?
We had one discussion about trying new things; teaching methods, resources, activities, and how this can be nerve-racking - especially when few or no people have tried that thing before. But, it is important someone begins the movement to implement new things, to get momentum on that - just like the dancing guy below! I'm looking forward to being able to develop more of our 2020 unit, implement it next year and share our process with others, just like the school's did at the Sport Ed hui.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Student Results, Then Vs Now

As part of one of my inquiries (as blogged about previously here), I wanted to complete a comparison of academic results from 2018 to 2019. Even though these comparisons don't paint the whole picture of what is happening in the classroom, they are a great intro for me to use data to inform my practice. So far, students have completed 2 standards in 2 of my Senior classes; Year 11 PE and Year 12 Health, as below.

Last year was the first time I taught the performance improvement programme unit and standard 1.6. There is a lot of jargon, and the internal is ongoing over a period of time, so it really took me a while to get my head around the purpose of the unit and what I was actually looking for, for the standard. We also taught this unit at the beginning of my first ever term at Orewa, while I was finding my feet! Therefore, I went into the unit this year with much greater understanding than last year. This is evident in the considerable increase in students passing this year. In addition, I had a much smaller class (8 less students), so I was able to provide students with more 1 on 1 time and individualised feedback than last year. I believe this is why there were more students who passed above an Achieved, 4 of which achieved an Excellence. If I was to teach this unit again next year, I would have checkpoints for students (like in Year 12 Health), where I would provide feedback and feedforward, which may further support the students who weren't quite yet an Achieved (many of these students simply lacked depth or mixed up sections).

This was the first year Orewa included a Self Management unit (assessed by standard 1.9), hence no data from last year to compare to. Overall, the students were consistently engaged during this unit. Their participation within all activities was astounding. Although majority of students passed the internal, not all of them, I feel all students learnt a lot about what self management actually is and strategies they can employ to increase their self management. To increase results further, an optional lunchtime tutorial in addition to class time around the critical thinking questions (i.e. the Excellence level questions), may be of benefit for students to deepen their writing for a higher grade.

Unfortunately, as evident below, there was a large decrease in students passing the 2.2 resilience unit. This is not a reflection of their learning and engagement, but entirely teacher error. This year I am in charge of Level 2 Health, therefore complete all the paperwork and prep behind the scenes. As we were marking the internals, I realised that we (the other teacher and I), had not made clear one section of the assessment, one section that essentially determined whether or not the student would pass. After looking into this further, this section appeared to have been taught and assessed incorrectly in previous years too. So - the below cannot actually be compared, as the results from last year are likely to be inaccurate. This really highlighted the importance of double checking and triple checking every single time something is taught - not simply rinse and repeat!

Feedback from my 2018 students about the 2.3 Health Promotion unit last year, was that they felt like they didn't have anything to work towards, no end goal. So after the completion of their projects I added in an exhibition - students made a display and set up during a lunchtime a stand to further spread awareness about their health issue. I feel that although this exhibition needs greater advertising next year, it helped students to have the end goal which was missing previously. As a result, more students were engaged throughout the 9 weeks, and more students had critical discussions to an Excellence level. Contacting home throughout the process, and having checkpoints for students also resulted in  a greater number of assessment hand ins than last year (albeit similar results). I think this was a good step forward.

Overall, even though the classes are completely different across each year, I found it useful to look at these results. I have been able to identify possible strategies to increase student grades next year, and distinguish any possible patterns. I will complete another comparison like this, later in the year (and will reflect on my other inquiry shortly too).

Monday, 1 July 2019

Planning Trips - Not Yet My Cup of Tea

Last year I attended a play called Yes, Yes, Yes. This play followed the two stories of two couples, addressing issues around consent, or lack of. There was lots of student voice included within the performance around their relationships and things they wish they knew about. I thought that this would be a great learning opportunity for my Senior Health students, to start discussions. So immediately I started planning!

This was the first trip I had planned before. Up until now I had helped supervise on trips, but never actually needed to complete the paperwork before. To be completely honest, I can see why many people are put off - there was soooo much admin! Between permission letters, trip approval, booking buses, budgeting, risk management forms, medical reports, play tickets, relief and chasing up kids it was certainly a learning curve. I learnt a lot along the way though, and thankfully I had months to get everything sorted. 

On June 18th I took 22 students to see the play, hosted by Auckland Live in Aotea Centre. I was very nervous I had forgotten something or that something was going to go wrong - but I was literally getting on a bus, going into a theatre and then bussing back, so of course there was little chance of anything happening (I am trying to be less  less paranoid!). The kids were actually incredible, so well behaved and really respectful towards me and members of the public, which made the day smooth sailing.

We were stoked to get front row seats, which also meant we were super close to the stage! During the show, there were a few opportunities for students to stand up and speak one of the character's parts. I was really proud when two OC students volunteered first out of the 100 odd people there, and they represented us so well!

There were two 'pauses' during the show. These pauses were an opportunity for members of the audience to share how they were feeling, what they were thinking about and any questions or concerns that may be running through their minds. This was such a great way for the students to reflect on what they had seen so far, and a simple yet effective way to demonstrate that many of the audience members were feeling and thinking similar things.

Once we got back to school I debriefed with students and we had rich discussion about some of the messages that came from the play. The overall consensus was that the play was fantastic to accomodate the learning and discussions we are having in class around consent, pornography, pressure, sexuality and gender, highlighting some of the issues but being very careful and inclusive in the process. Please see alongside some of the comments the students made.

Despite the lengthy admin trail to get the students there, I am so glad that I did. It was certainly an experience some of the students have never had before and the learning they took away from the day was worth everything to get them there. Assuming the play is performed again next year, I have put into our course outline a course cost so that the play is included in the course, rather than an optional trip, so more students can have the opportunity and experience.

I look forward to finding more cool opportunities for the students, not only for their learning but also mine about trip planning!

Sunday, 16 June 2019

We Like to Move It, Move It!

As we are adapting our Junior courses into an integrated curriculum next year, we also need to consider how we are going to adapt our methods of assessment. Rather than giving students grades that are inconsistent across departments and within departments based off of Achieved, Merit or Excellence (which can be subjective even with a marking criteria), another major shift next year will be assessing students based off of levels of the New Zealand Curriculum. This is going to be a challenge for us, and for the students, especially when we are going to need to design the rubrics for these levels for each of our integrated units!

As practice for this method of assessment, this term we utilised the NZC levels to assess our Year 9 Movement Education unit. The purpose of this unit is to encourage students to step out of their comfort zones and to learn some new skills for dance, gymnastics and parkour. This new method of assessment the students are unfamiliar with, hence we started by co-constructing what these levels actually looked like in action, see pictures below. 

Once we had discussed these levels and the purpose of the unit, I asked my students to select one emoji to represent them throughout the term. We regularly had mini discussions about what level the students thought they had been demonstrating throughout the lessons and why. In addition, students moved their emoji to the self assessed level. See alongside the progressions from the beginning of the unit to the end of the unit - it's interesting to see how many students fluctuated, but also great to see so many students sitting at or above the expected level of a Year 9 student!

This method of assessment definitely required some more prep, and a more conscious effort to embed within the teaching and learning, but I think was a great way to have more consistency of grading and also students had more understanding of the why and how. I enjoyed discussing with students why they were moving (or not) their emoji, because most of them were able to give detailed responses related to their demonstrations, with examples. 

Some stand out comments from some of my students about the overall unit include the following;

"I think it is a very good thing to do it has definitely helped my confidence and it was heaps of fun once I got into it."

"I learnt a lot of new skills and things I couldn't do and I learnt that if you commit to something you can most likely do it."

"The dancing impacted me because it pushed me out of my own comfort zone to try something new and kind of scary. I don't enjoying doing dances in front of other people but it wasn't that bad once I was doing it with my friends."

"My main challenges were in the parkour where I was not getting too involved in the whole thing only one part of it but I thought I should give it a go so I could get up a level and try to enjoy it more and doing that helped a lot."

Moving forward into our next unit which will also use this method of assessment, I would like to have more discussions with students throughout the lessons, rather than just at the end when they are moving their emojis. I found this time I was only able to talk to each student once or twice throughout the unit, and obviously the more often, the greater students can demonstrate their understanding. I think that this is important, as next year we will have 75 students to assess against the NZC levels, rather than about 25. Additionally, I have previously learnt that gamification is a tool which many students positively react to - so I think I need to refer to moving up levels more often as a challenge for students to reach (as the last student voice has suggested).