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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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