I am so hating this last assignment. I can’t help but feel that this course could be structured a little more “student-friendly” with regards to allocation of assignment marks.  Ass1 was worth bugger all marks but required big analysis of perspectives/assumptions about ict in education and extended most people regarding presentation choice. Lots of work for small recognition. Is this how I would choose to motivate my students? Hhmmmm. Ass2, again challenging and extending, moderate/high workload…barely any marks. Seeing a pattern here anyone. Finally, prac, the culmination of the course. A massive investment of time, energy and passion that has huge impact on working, family and personal commitments. Worth 1 mark. But wait, there’s more. NOW you have your opportunity to shine. 40% assignment! Based on guess exactly how the lecturer wants it set out! Lucky you. 

I have enjoyed this course. I have gained knowledge, improved my future teaching practice, and developed as a student and person. But I hate playing guess what the teacher wants and think the structure of assessment within this course is much more about showing results for uni than measuring student learning, a dilemma discussed in David’s latest blog.


First tears

I have cried on every prac I’ve been on.

I’ve listened to teachers complain about students who cry when they can’t get something right, or when they want extra attention on every prac I’ve been on.

I stopped my tears before they started today. Because I listened to and heard and remembered what I’ve heard all my mentors say about all those crying students. It’s OK to get something wrong the first time you’re trying it. It’s frustrating. It’s OK. We all learn differently. If you don’t get it this time, we’ll be doing it again later, and it might work for you that way. Keep going.

I stuffed up today by trying to use ICT when the students are at a stage where they need hands on. I forgot to talk to them, to find out what they know, what they have seen and experienced. I had students in tears because they couldn’t do what I asked them to, due to my lack of planning based on what they needed. I have never wanted to cry so much on a prac. What a horrible thing to do to little people!

I stopped my tears in their tracks by remembering it’s not about me. Apologised to my mentor for not covering something well enough, so she’ll have to go back in the very limited time she has this term. Had a consolidation chat with my class that made things a bit clearer for (most) of them; and vowed to never teach this age group that way again. So I learnt something, which my future students will benefit from. Which means my prac is working.

Got an end of day report that was overall positive. Raised my concerns and got reminded that the skills I’m lacking (driving the IWB, knowing the students) are expected to be developing at my level of experience. Ended the day with a laugh (although I’m still disappointed) at my mentor quote “just because you’re up the front DOES NOT mean you are in control.”

Little confidence boost. 

Our school has 5 prac students at the moment, and four of them are 4th year from uni’s that seem to have a much more organised placement process and structure than ours. They do lead in days for a term, then a four week prac, then come back next term for a 10 week internship in the same class. This obviously means they have a much better opportunity to get to know and be known at the school and within their classrooms, which benefits them, their mentors and their students. 

Their uni also requires a detailed, written feedback sheet linked to standards for every lesson they teach. While this means more work for mentors, it gives really effective feedback to the pre-service teacher which greatly helps them improve their practice. My school was a bit horrified at the lack of feedback requirements of our uni, and has insisted on using these feedback sheets for me. Thankfully our Liason has also requested a copy she will pass on to the prac office, so maybe some changes will be made to the current process to help us get more effective feedback more professionally. 

So this morning, the praccie from the other yr2 class (who I have been enviously admiring because she looks like she has it so together- I feel like she’s the one they’re holding me up against) came in for a chat sans mentors. And asked me for lesson ideas. Asked if we could join classes on Thursday for science after we discussed what we were planning and I had some stuff she hadn’t thought of, and hasn’t been getting to where she wants to with some of her lessons. I was able to share some resources (ict based even) that we’d already used that worked well, because she admitted she’s so tired she’s struggling to plan. 

I don’t share this to gloat, I’m sharing because it felt so nice to hear that I’m not the only one who feels like this. I hope I get to work with people like her who are smart enough to reflect on practice, to share ideas and to ask for help. Also really hope the mentors agree to joining up on Thursday because I’m a bit nervous I may have over enthusiastically planned some activities that may be a little too stimulating for little old me to handle on my own against 25 little critters 😳

Week 3..already? Thank the stars!

Prac has been any number of adjectives (which we have been using in poetry).

Or expletives (which my mentor is sometimes fond of, I’m refraining from using where possible to try and appear professional and apparently the year 5 & 6 students, and someone who uses the junior toilets and carries a permanent marker know heaps of, as I found out in the playground today.)

And pretty RAT… I’ve replaced lots of my practices, amplified a lot of my understandings of students and transformed where I’m at as a pre-service educator.

I’m exhausted. Although I work full time in a fast paced, people based environment, I’m finding that prac requires new levels of stamina (and bladder control). Maybe it’s the fact that you have to match little AND big people expectations with parenting and uni responsibilities AND you’re in a new environment so have to deal with all the usual social nuances BUT they’re now shaded to include parent/teacher; student/teacher; prac student/prac student, prac student/mentor teacher, prac student/mentor teacher/executive, prac student/admin staff, prac student/casual or relief teacher. So many people to deal with, so little time.

Maybe it’s having assignments due at the same time as having to plan a gazillion teaching experiences, and having a printer die, and living way too far from the shops. Oh, and a family that needs feeding, clothing and attention at some stage of the day.

Maybe it’s having to plan lessons that you get good feedback on, but that you just don’t feel went all that well. I’ve had ups and downs with my lesson planning this prac. I finally got feedback that I have an effective range of behaviour management strategies (yay…although I still feel they are too noisy/off track too often…have to remember they are widely spaced ability wise, like Liv’s class and ONLY year 2); and that my time management has improved greatly. Timing is one of my bug-bears, I have always judged this badly, so feel this is a real step forward for me. Now to find the perfect balance to getting through stuff in time so they actually have time to learn.

Technology wise I’ve moved ahead leaps and bounds this time around. I’ve been able to download smart notebook which means I can prepare notebook files for the IWB at home, and they have some great tools in the gallery to assist student learning and modelling of concepts to make my activities run more smoothly. My kids now greet my lessons with “are we watching a video? Making a brain chart?” I’m relying on PowerPoint’s or notebook files to guide me through my planning, but they don’t realise it’s my crutch, and it helps them learn too, so it’s a win win.

I’m at times really down on myself. My mentor had to leave the room today (she’s ICT coordinator at the school, and apparently the only person who can call a help desk about a photocopier :)) so missed my maths lesson, meaning I had obs from a casual. Before we read his feedback she asked me how it went…I felt pretty badly. Kids were noisy, I wasn’t clear enough with my instructions, lots of off task behaviour and noise. Feedback was “very effective explanation of expectations; need more time modelling but effective learning experience that engaged students and that they enjoyed and learnt from.” Then I marked their work, and (especially the lower groups) GOT IT! They did it!! I taught something!!! Most of my top group even surprised me (although a couple of them were challenged…not a bad thing IMHO).

I’m really sad at the thought it all ends this week. I feel like I’m just starting to really find my level, and it all has to end.

But I am really looking forward to semester break.

Happy last week everyone.

Reflecting on what I’m learning

Yesterday was a bad bad day. I am catastrophising (something we discussed at our afternoon professional development session after school yesterday). If it was not me in the situation I would probably have been able to identify positives. Recognised some weaknesses, provided some feedback, viewed it as a learning opportunity, a space for growth. Supported the person in that spot to realise that we all make mistakes, we are all learners and that they now have some valuable information they can use to move forward and improve with.

Prac is really the place that makes you or breaks you in a teaching degree. I have done the core literacy subject with Stew Riddle, and really appreciate most of his views on teaching and education, one of which you can read about here. It all comes back to the those who can quote… you know it; “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. This quote sums up university studies in my humble opinion, and also demonstrates the low regard in which teachers are held in this country by some legislative bodies and sectors of society. If we do not recognise teaching as a quality, respect worthy profession, we will not attract quality educators. And we will be failing our students.

Once I got over my catastrophising, I got my big girl panties on (another gem picked up from yesterday morning staff meeting) and recognised that I was overstepping my level of experience. I was admiring the ease with which my mentor employed her knowledge of the students and pedagogy that works for them (which I don’t yet have), her pedagogical content knowledge (which I am still developing), her technical capabilities and access to department and school resources (which I also don’t have) and thinking that anyone can step in and do that. I need to recognise her as the true professional she is. I need to realise that she has trusted me enough to teach her class, so she obviously sees something in me which can be developed.

But I am not going in without a PowerPoint or notebook lesson that spells it out from start to finish from now on.

I got up this morning and made a PowerPoint for the next lesson I’ve been asked to teach (on Friday, with a casual). After yesterday’s debacle I think my mentor was surprised when she saw it, but what I was really happy about was our conversation about it. I shared with her that I went into full panic mode when she wasn’t there to support me like I thought she would be yesterday…my plan B was lacking. I need to work on my preparedness for unexpected within a lesson, and be much more explicit with my instruction and expectations to the kids. She liked it 🙂 Suggested inclusion of some NAPLAN Q’s to prep the kids for that, but otherwise very well covered. Hopefully tomorrow will be a day for me like Natashar described in her blog.

I had to explain to my mentor; because of uni, I know how to theoretically plan a lesson. I can write a kick ass lesson plan based on learning outcomes that incorporates any number of pedagogies, theories and resources. It’s just that they’ve been mostly hypothetical. I’ve got my head around the theory or the art of teaching, I need practice and help with my craft.

Maybe by week 3 when I have been “on the job” as Stewart discusses, I’ll be ready to wing it a little. Until then it is all about the ICT to guide me, and hopefully transform my teaching and the students learning (even if just a bit).

Prac roller coaster 

Day 2. Flowers and compliments from students. Year 2 so while flattering it’s kinda standard with this age group. Big shift in workload from some students (both ways and from both ends of scale). Will wait and see how this plays out. Wait for novelty factor to wear off. Thrown in with nil planning = MUST plan at my level of experience. I love the easy natural feel of my mentors class but am not capable enough to run with it yet. Plan, plan , plan.

My mentor is awesome. Very knowledgeable and experienced with a range of learners. Open to ICT. But was off class all day yesterday and kept from her own kids commitments after school due to the mechanics of employing ict in schools, with the huge range of support and training currently offered. She spent another day today chasing stuff up through recess and lunch (for once my kids got to rouse on me for an unempty lunchbox). Add to this that apart from the iwb I’ve not seen any tech used in class and I am increasingly nervous about whether I can meet assignment requirements, and whether assignment requirements really accurately measure the state of classrooms right now…

Up, down away, tomorrow’s another day.

Diorama drama

So as well as contemplating the needs of my 25 year 2 kids this weekend, I had the pleasure of helping my smallest petal (Miss 9) work on her due in 4 days now assessment task based on their studies of Italy. Diorama. Speech. MELTDOWN.

I’ve previously posted about how proud I am of this one for demonstrating ICT general capabilities as a learner. She thinks in a way that incorporates technology, and has already developed her learning processes to incorporate a lot of very useful technology skills. She’s a clever chicken. But MY GOODNESS is she impatient!!

If my little miss can’t figure out how to do it RIGHT NOW, or looks at a website that isn’t explicitly spewing information (that she is looking for) at her in the first few seconds, she’s gone. Out of there. And out of the learning space, because as I discovered, she gets frustrated and cranky and teary in a split second. Which led me to this article about the link between ICT, student attention and implications for teaching.

This has got me thinking how I will need to be quite explicit with the resources and teaching of analysis skills I incorporate into my lesson plans for prac, as the kids in my class are a lot younger than her, and being taught by teachers (i.e. me) a lot less capable than hers, all very experienced and open and practiced with technology and ICT in the classroom.

Day one down

Everyone is talking about prac. Last week, a lot of blogs such as Michaela’s, Lucas’s,  and…well just about all of us featured musings about our upcoming placement.

I felt like I was holding it all together pretty well in the lead up to prac. I was lucky enough to get to meet my mentor 2 weeks ago (although very briefly in the middle of the school cross country). I had a grade 2 class, which suits me to the ground. She mentioned they were a great bunch of kids, no major behaviour problems, mostly mid-range learners, with some support from parents with sight words and home reading. Other staff I met around the school were friendly, welcoming and I left feeling pretty positive about my upcoming experience.

Today it all began.

It began with me waking up at 3 am, only a little earlier that Sonia and not able to get back to sleep, worrying about how the day would roll out. With me cyberstalking the school website, reading the past school annual reports, the current reports, re-reading the literature about the (fairly innovative) school wide behaviour program they use Solving the Jigsaw. Panicking that I had not asked enough questions, I was not prepared enough, everything was going to go to hell.

Then realising we had run out of coffee, and none of my last minute research would matter because I was going to be a walking zombie.

When I arrived at school, I was met with a mentor who was off class due to the installation of new printers/photocopiers and almost unusable running speed of the school Ipads and computers. She’s the ICT co-coordinator, so that left me, a classroom full of kids I had never laid eyes on before, and a casual, while she spent the morning rebuilding and installing.

It went pretty well. I got another chance to think on my feet in an unfamiliar environment, to apply what I am learning in theory to see if it actually works with real life students. By recess, I had kids moving where they were sitting to be closer to me, coming to ask me questions instead of referring to the relief teacher, and I (think) I managed to remember a few of their names.

After lunch, I was also surprised by a fantastic professional development opportunity. My mentor was scheduled to complete an online PD this afternoon through My PL@Edu, a requirement of teacher accreditation and ongoing development in NSW. So, I lucked out, and was able to participate in an online collaborative session that counts towards my registration and new scheme program when I finally make it out into the workforce. Best news is, anybody can log in to My PL, and there are a heap of free courses available. AND as an online uni student who has sat through many a WIMBA and BBC tutorial, I was skilled.

Tomorrow (should) be a little more settled and will give me more of an idea of what the rest of my prac will be like. I get to see my mentor in the classroom, and we’re planning out what she wants me to teach. I did get a little nervous about her joke today in the staff room that by next week, I’m taking over entirely and she gets a rest, but at the same time, if that’s where I want to end up at the (seemingly so far away) but ever approaching end of my degree, maybe I should live a little and dive in while I have the chance!

Just a little share

Does anyone else find that as soon as you start something at uni, the universe seems to start throwing stuff at you? This isn’t a whinging post about how hard it is to study and have a life (that’s something we can all relate to I think, but I’m trying to stay positive leading up to prac, Pollyanna glasses firmly fixed!) 

What I mean is as soon as I did the Connect.ed activities this week I came across a whole heap of stuff about cyber safety, and digital citizenship. Maybe I just noticed it more because of our coursework. Either way I thought I’d share this http://www.literacyshedblog.com/

From The Literacy Shed Facebook page which caught my attention this morning. Happy Thursday before prac everyone!!

Same old problems

Working my way through course materials, I read the scary story posted by David in the week 10 Moodle. What happened to these people would be truly terrifying, and should be a wake up to everyone that by connecting digitally to the world we are putting ourselves out there (which means us personally, but especially our loved ones) in ways that haven’t previously been possible. This opens up new challenges for parents when thinking about how we need to protect our children.

This story also got me thinking about a weird situation that occurred when I was in grade 10. Back in the days before mobile phones or the internet or big scary baby monitor hackers. Early 90’s high school. Somehow, Telstra (might have been Telecom back then) either had such outdated cabling in our suburb, or did some work on cables (the big overhead running down the street type) that meant our phone line got crossed with the neighbours across the road. Which meant that every night at 8 pm, when my boyfriend (who was a boarder at the affiliated boys grammar school was able to use the big clunky yellow/orange public phones in the common room to call me) rang for his allocated 15 minute phone call, we ended up in many a four way conversation with the 14 year old girl across the road and HER boyfriend. AWKWARD much? At the time I was horrified at the invasion of privacy and really pissed with the technology.

Not much has changed, so maybe all this new technology isn’t as bad as what it’s painted, given that we have certainly increased the level of individual control we have over privacy settings and security like firewalls and virus protections.