A Year of Expansion

I can’t think of a better word than ‘expansion’ to sum up this year

That’s not just because of my waistline. My whole world has expanded. It’s been a year of expanding my ideas about teaching, my pedagogy, my network. I feel energised at the end of it, having achieved so much, and with so much to think about and look forward to in 2013.

Here are some of the ideas I’ve been toying with:

Introverts in the Education Setting

In March I read Susan Cain’s ‘Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking’.  While it’s not a book written specifically for teachers, there are many implications for the classroom. The book takes aim at some of the most common practices in education, and explains how some of what we do, such as our emphasis on cooperative group work and brainstorming, is counter productive for introverted people. A lot of it made sense, and it made me wonder how much my classroom set up may alienate my more introverted students. I started to become more flexible in the options I provided for my students, setting up areas where they could work alone if they chose, and allowing more opportunities for students to opt for either individual or group work.

Here is Susan Cain’s TED talk about Quiet.

And here is a fascinating article from The New Yorker about Why Brainstorming Doesn’t Work.

Mindset

In May, I read Mindset by Carol Dweck. 

Like Quiet, this was written for a general audience but had some significant implications for the classroom. Dweck’s research revealed that our belief  about intelligence and learning has a drastic affect on our achievement and that the way we praise students can actually be harmful. I blogged about it here.

Reflecting on Learning

Providing time for student reflection has always seemed like a good, but slightly idealistic notion to me. Where would we find the time in our busy, busy days? I decided to get serious about it after being privileged enough to attend a workshop by Dr Alec Couros at Macquarie University earlier this year. His workshop was about digital literacy rather than reflecting on learning, but he showed some great examples of reflections his students had made using various ICT applications. This inspired another blog post and some opportunities for my students to publish their own reflections. Here was our first attempt.

Individual Goal Setting

This year I tried to put my students firmly in the driver’s seat for their learning. For each area of learning I managed to build in time for students to self evaluate against criteria and to choose a goal for improvement. Then, at regular intervals throughout the year, reflect on how they were progressing towards those goals and set new ones. I was very happy with how this worked. My small cluster of gifted students remained challenged rather than coasting along, and my students with learning difficulties were able to have a strong sense that they were progressing and achieving. Celebration of milestones on each individual’s learning journey became far more important than comparing and competing with each other.

Connected Learning

Not only did I start this blog, and make a belated attempts at a class blog, I also gave each student their own blog and participated in projects including Quadblogging,as well as directly connecting with some classes I had met through Twitter. My student’s writing improved as soon as they were given their own blogs or asked to comment publicly on other blogs. They understood that because it was public, what they wrote had to make sense, and they paid greater attention to proofreading and editing their work. They would spontaneously ask friends to check their comments and ask me to check that their spelling and punctuation was correct. They were motivated to write, with even my most reluctant writers eager to work on their private blogs and comment on their friend’s blogs. The social aspect  of  it,  the fact they had a real audience, and the chance to work on the computers all seemed to be highly motivating factors. Unfortunately, in Term 4, the blogging dropped off. I didn’t keep up this blog at all, and barely maintained my class blog. I hope to do better with that next year.

Twitter

I suppose I could also call this year the year of Twitter. I’d been lurking on Twitter before 2012, but this year I started to participate. I learned a lot, met great educators from Australia and overseas and became part of an amazing network of like-minded educators. These educators not only inspire me and challenge me through the constant exposure to new ideas, but have also been  a great support. #Ozprimschchat on Thursday nights and #Teacherwellbeingchat on Sunday nights in particular, have been a source of friendship, ideas and advice.

Here is a post I wrote earlier  with advice for teachers starting out on Twitter.

Looking ahead to 2013

There are so many things I want to think about and try in 2013. A lot of them are ideas I’ve had exposure to through Twitter, so thanks again to my wonderful PLN.

Homework

I definitely want to reform what we do with homework. This year I started experimenting with some different formats, allowing more choice and opportunities for students to develop their interests. I’ve ordered a copy of ‘Reforming Homework’ by Horsley and Walker to read over the summer holidays. The book reviews current research literature about homework and proposes what the authors claim is a better model. It will be interesting to read what they have to say.

Project Based Learning

I really want my students to be engaged in learning that is authentic, and puts them in the driver’s seat. One of my challenges for 2013 will be to try to introduce PBL into Year 2.

Reward and Merit System

The nice thing about being the student welfare coordinator for my school is that it gives me an excuse to review our merit system and the opportunity to introduce some changes. Like many schools, we have a token reward system for positive behaviours which feeds into a merit system – 10 tokens = a merit card, 10 merits = a bronze award, then a silver, then a gold award. I used to swear by it but I question it more and more. Another book on my holiday reading list is ‘Punished by Rewards’ by Alfie Kohn.I hope he has some good suggestions.

Daily 5

I really like the look of this model for running a literacy session. It has all the elements I like: choice, goal setting, reflection, independence. It fosters reading and writing for pleasure as well as reading and writing to complete set activities, and I want to know more. I’ve downloaded the book – another one for my holiday reading list.

Leadership

I want to do a better job as a school leader. Much of my time the last two years has been taken up with management issues, rather than educational leadership and developing the team I look after. I directly supervise 8 people, but also support a lot of other teachers in various roles. I also have a full-time teaching load, and at times, I think I neglect my team, hoping that no news is good news, because I feel buried under the management and classroom teaching roles. Next year I want to focus more on the welfare of my team, helping them to build their capacity not only as classroom teachers and also as leaders. I guess I’ll be reading more about team leadership over the summer holidays as well

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “A Year of Expansion

    • Hi Danel,
      Thank you so much for your comment. I’m glad you liked the post.

      By the way, I just checked out your website and blog about creative classrooms – I love the way you use mind maps. I think I’ll be adding that to my list of things to experiment with next year!

  1. Hi Corinne,

    It sounds like you’ve had a very productive year – good on you!

    Re. Homework, I’ve been through a similar process in the second half of this year to that which you are looking to do next year.
    We have significantly changed out whole school policy regarding homework, moving towards a more flexible (parents need to ‘opt in’) approach that promotes better-quality tasks (no worksheets… ) and, hopefully, reduces teacher workload (previously, teachers have set, ‘chased’ and marked homework for every student, even for students whose families don’t support homework!).
    We thouroughly discussed the various perspectives that were held as a staff, as well as a school council. In the lead up to these discussions, we sent a collection of readings out to people: http://www.diigo.com/list/wgpbudge/homework
    Good luck with your learning re. This and putting it into practice at your school.

    Bye for now,
    Warwick

    p.s. as a fellow introvert, I’ve just gone and bought Susan Cain’s book – thanks!

    • Hi Warwick,
      Thanks so much for commenting. The process you used to reform homework looks like a good model to follow – I like that you educated and involved your whole community in the change. I’d love to learn more about the kind of tasks you are setting now.

  2. Hi Corinne,
    I trust you are having a relaxing and restful holiday – make sure you have some time off from thinking about school things (though it is hard, isn’t it).
    I thought you might be interested in reading a post of mind, and the related links, on homework. while it is not reforming per se, it might prompt some thoughts…
    http://davidw.edublogs.org/2012/10/18/homework/
    Also, I am interested in hearing more from you as you progress through the changes you wish to make in your leadership role. I can’t believe you are expected to do all of that and manage a full-time classroom role. That is crazy and I am so pleased I have a 50/50 split in my job. But I still need to do much better in managing my times so anything you can share would be wonderful! I’d love to bounce some ideas back and forward if you wish, too.

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for stopping by my blog. Yes, the full time AP and full time CT roles are difficult to juggle. There’s not much I can do about that unfortunately, unless I go for promotion, which would mean leaving the classroom. I’m not sure I want to do that. Time management is a constant issue – it would be great to bounce some ideas about with you.

      Thanks for the link to your blog, and the reading. I’ve just left a comment at your blog. 🙂

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