They say a picture is worth a thousand words.
Here are my 12 000 written over 2 days.
Thanks for reading 🙂
I often encourage participants in my workshops to forget about what students with disabilities can’t do and focus on what they can. We can use this to approach the learning, get them comfortable and then push a little so the students begin to use what they can do to strengthen what they can’t. What do you think?
Let’s have a look.
Take the term disability. I’ve spent the past eight months asking research participants to describe for me what they think this is – you can articulate what you think it is now…
For me, it’s a negative term – something that gets in the way.
By simply crossing out the ‘DIS’, it becomes a totally different word, ‘ABILITY’.
Why don’t we focus on that for a moment? ABILITY. What can we change, put in place, introduce, or challenge so that we focus on the student’s ability rather than get all twisted up about what they can’t do? How would your planning and delivery of teaching and learning look then? Allow me to introduce Julian. He is a boy in your class, non-funded, presenting with the following ‘disabilities’
Let’s just say we changed our thinking and presented Julian’s ‘disabilities’ as ‘ABILITIES’.
How would planning a differentiated lesson for this class be different if we focused on what they can do?
Take another word – dyslexia. By removing the ‘dys’ we are left with the word LEXIA which has origins from the Greek and Latin and refers to reading. (It’s also a raisin, but that just doesn’t suit me here). *clears throat* If we were to address reading, how could we encourage it to those who have dyslexia? I have a few ideas, you may have others and the more we can share the better it will be, as we know that not all strategies work every time, all the time nor forever and so having a full bag can be rather useful.
Here’s a few of mine:
Next word – dysgraphia, by dropping the ‘dys’ we are left with GRAPHIA, the process of writing. I have used graph paper successfully with a number of students to help formulate their letters within the spaces and I suspect it would also assist with numbers. We should never comment on how bad a child’s writing is (yes – no matter how bad) as this will only lead to them refusing to write altogether. The way one can improve their writing both aesthetically and content wise is to keep writing, don’t ruin that process, instead try a few different strategies to get encourage them. Use their body to form letters, take photos and have them trace around it – lots of different letters make words, sentences and so it goes. Help them manipulate further with plasticine, writing on the board, or on a wall (put paper up first!) with chalk on the path. I like to challenge them by having them use their ‘other’ hand – it’s fun!
Getting the idea?
Let’s try one more – dyscalculia, difficulty understanding numeracy. If we remove the ‘dys’ we have CALCULIA – obviously closely related to calculus – you get the idea. How can we assist with this? There are many ways we can address it but one of my favourites is more for parents than Maths teachers… it’s cooking!
Imagine how many things we need to measure, count, estimate, time, weigh and plan? Trust me, the benefits out weigh the mess.
There are many others I haven’t shared but I’ll stop it here and take the opportunity to invite you to add to my list of ‘dys’ words made positive and even better – strategies to enhance them and my ‘dys’ words above. Please take the time to share an idea that might help an educator change the life of a child today.
Thanks for reading 🙂
This week’s #EdublogsClub Prompt 35 asks us to respond to the below image in a 100 word challenge.
“Nonno, where’s Nonna gone?”
“Ah Marco, I tell you before; she go to visit your other Nonna.”
“Nonno, when is she coming back?”
“Ah Marco, she take her time. It’s a lovely place where the other Nonna is.”
“Nonno, what’s the other Nonna’s place like?”
“Ah Marco, it’s a colourful place, people very happy there – they like to stay for long, long, time there.”
“Nonno, can we go too?”
“Ah Marco, one day, one day we go too, don’t worry. There will be a beautiful colourful place.”
“Nonno, I miss Nonna.”
“Ah Marco, me too, me too, miss her.”
Thanks for reading 🙂
Last week I attended a professional learning day at ACU, one component of a course on mentoring pre-service teachers (PSTs) which includes both online and face-to-face activities. This post is a reflection on that learning.
Mentoring Pre-service Teachers is a privilege and a duty
Similar to how teachers connect with their students by way of forming sound relationships, so a mentor needs to ‘learn’ their mentee in an effort to guide and inspire them to learn while also being open to learning themselves. Teaching and mentoring is learned through practice and by teaching, we also become the learner.
This learning partnership is encouraged through active participation in the mentoring of PSTs. While on professional placement, PSTs need and want to learn to be classroom ready. They are brimming with enthusiasm and eager to hone their skills. While in university we can provide the theory and discuss what it’s like in schools. There is no way we can replicate real life; that remains the domain of the school. As possible mentors to PSTs, we need to be mentee ready.
In schools, there is a need to move away from the supervisory model into a more productive and engaging mentoring program for PSTs. For this to succeed schools need to take an active role in providing professional learning for all staff so that quality mentors understand “the specific goals of mentoring in the context in which they are working and is familiar with the tasks to be undertaken by the mentee” (Ambrosetti, 2014, p. 32). Mentoring skills can be learned, so why not have schools and higher education institutions working in partnership to establish professional learning opportunities such as the one offered at ACU last week to enable mentoring skills to develop in school in preparation for PSTs?
I encourage educators to put aside concerns about time and extra workloads and instead, begin prioritising activities and tasks most close to our educative hearts. For me, at this point in time, they would be – inclusion, coaching and mentoring PSTs. These three priorities are linked and attention to them may just make a difference.
For those who read my blog, you would be aware that I am currently in the midst of a PhD seeking to learn more about special needs and inclusive practices, through collaborative partnerships between teachers and learning support officers (LSOs, AKA as teacher aides, paraprofessionals). Inclusion for me is belonging, not just a body in the classroom but feeling as if the person can and will succeed and is an integral member of the community in which they find themselves. Everyone has something to offer and would relish any opportunity to reveal it to us.
This idea is reflective of mentoring and coaching. Mentoring should be a positive learning experience for both mentor and mentee (Ehrich, Hansford & Ehrich, 2011). It empowers us to “see a possible future and believe it can be obtained” (Shawn Hitchcock), much like the idea of inclusion.
There is a fine line between mentoring and coaching – while I agree that mentoring is reciprocal learning, it is still very much a hierarchical relationship. As John C. Crosby states, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction.” Mentee seeks mentor expertise, guidance, and feedback but similarly, there is room for a coaching relationship to also develop, not only between peers but also between mentor and PST. Coaching doesn’t provide answers but rather, a coaching conversation is one where the coachee is guided through questioning so they may come to the solution themselves. Parker (2012) discusses the roles of listening and questioning in his book The Negotiator’s Toolkit, where he encourages us to listen attentively and question with intent. This is an integral process of a coaching conversation and hence is valuable in a mentor/mentee relationship. While the mentee seeks answers during the conversation or observation, the process should also become an opportunity to figure it out for themselves. Our role as mentors should be to create safe havens in which PSTs can take risks, fail and gather themselves to go again, an “opportunity to create [and re-create] themselves” (Spielberg).
3: Mentoring PSTs
As educators, I think we should view mentoring PSTs as a privilege. It becomes a chance to fine tune and develop our own skills. It just may be an opportunity to see things differently, to be challenged and reflect deeply on our own practice. More importantly, it places us in an extraordinary situation where we get to imbue passion and love for teaching and learning to a new generation of educators. We are privileged to meet those on the cusp of a new career and as such should remember the words of Dewey (1933) who identified three key attributes of reflective people: open mindedness, responsibility and wholeheartedness (Yost, Sentner & Forlenza-Bailey, 2000). As educators, coaches and mentors we must be open to new possibilities through listening and observing others. We ought to take responsibility in seeking the truth and apply it to problem solve and overcome our fears and uncertainties in order to make meaningful change. As reflective practitioners, we need to critically analyse and evaluate ourselves and others, as well as our educational institutions and communities in general. As mentors, we have the possibility to instil this in our PSTs and offer them every opportunity to become great educators. We must prepare them to continue the great work we have started, teaching and learning with future generations. This is our responsibility to PSTs and to our future children.
Thanks for reading 🙂
Ambrosetti, A. (2014). Are You Ready to be a Mentor? Preparing Teachers for Mentoring Pre-service Teachers. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 39(6), pp.30-42.
Ehrich, L. C., Hansford, B. C., & Tennent, L. (2004). Formal Mentoring Programs in Education and other Professions: A Review of the Literature. Educational Administration Quarterly, 40(4), pp. 518-540.
Yost, D. S., Sentner, S. M., & Forlenza-Bailey, A. (2000). An Examination of the Construct of Critical Reflection: Implications for Teacher Education Programming in the 21st Century. Journal of Teacher Education, 51(1), pp. 39-49.
In Victoria, teachers are required to complete 20 hours of professional development (PD) every year. Though not specified, some of that time must be given over specifically to engaging in PD to do with special needs. The PD must also be linked to the three domains of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST): Professional Knowledge, Professional Practice and Professional Engagement.
#Edublogsclub Prompt 25 asks us to write a post about conferences and professional learning. I thought I’d take the opportunity to inform teachers and other staff in schools just how easy it can be to reach the quota for PD and perhaps have some fun doing it.
For a number of years, we have been using the term PD interchangeably with professional learning (PL). Some have attempted to separate, or at least differentiate these terms, including AITSL and George Couros. It would seem that PD is something which is ‘done’ to you while PL is something you do yourself. PD ends while PL continues even after the event.
As a way to improve teaching, student outcomes and keeping up to date with all things education, oh, and pass the VIT audit, educators ‘do’ PD. However, if you just attend PD to gain knowledge, then you’re wasting your time. The most important and relevant part of PD is not PD at all, but the PL that happens, before, during and after each session.
So how do we ‘continue’ the PL before, during and after the PD? Here are my 6 top tips.
1. Network at conferences
Conferences are expensive so be sure to get your money’s worth. Enjoy the learning, the food and drink but more importantly take the time to network. If they provide a list of delegates, be sure to note who’s there and don’t be afraid to say hi. Many I notice, get ‘selfies’ with keynotes or other presenters, but if you don’t take the opportunity to ask a question, get your book signed or make a friend for future reference then all you’ve got is a selfie.
I do not understand why more teachers don’t take advantage of the free, 24 /7 availability of professional learning that happens on Twitter. It is not about sharing what you had for breakfast or how many followers you have. My own Twitter journey over the last 4 years has been amazing. I first joined in December 2012, shortly after resigning from full-time teaching and leadership roles. At the time I had no idea of its potential as a learning platform. Today things are different. I only follow people linked to education, both those who support my views and those who challenge my thinking. I participate in a number of Twitter chats and run my own #survivephd monthly chat, an offshoot from my MOOC experience run by Dr Inger Mewburn (AKA Thesis Whisperer). In an effort to get teachers hooked onto Twitter I often use paper tweets to have them reflect or communicate their own experiences of the workshops I facilitate. I cannot recommend Twitter enough as the best PL for all those interested in extending their learning and thinking. Participating in education Twitter chats can be logged as PD. I use Storify to capture the discussion as evidence of participation.
Coaching, different from mentoring, is a great way to improve how you go about your work. Coaching encourages, stretches, and pushes others to take responsibilities for their own development, to set goals that reflect the bigger picture and to take action, that is, to GROW [Goal, Reality, Options, Will] first developed by Whitemore in the 1980s. Many schools are taking up coaching as a way to extend their staff. This can be a wonderful opportunity to ‘be better’ and to go beyond that one day wonder of a professional development session. Coaching is truly an on-going and rewarding PL opportunity. Coaching sessions can also be logged as PD, even more powerful, if you keep a log or journal of your goals, learning and action.
4. Read blogs
Many of us have taken to blogs to reflect, express, share, and learn. I often take the time to extend my professional learning, reading a variety of blogs to learn and be challenged. Some of my favourites include those written by great educators, researchers and ‘edu’ coaches. Time reading and reflecting can be logged as PD, simply but writing or recording the few main points or writing a comment or response on the site is evidence enough.
5. Collaborate with LSOs
I’ve included this as a way to encourage teachers to better use their Learning Support staff in schools. In my experience, both groups tend to work as separate entities and only communicate ad hoc moving from one class to another or in brief conversations over email. Imagine if we made time (think here what we do in meetings now that we could do without) to sit and collaborate with each other – teachers and LSOs – using our knowledge and skills about teaching and learning to enhance the learning of our students with disabilities. This is PL at its very best and it covers VIT requirements to do with special needs PD.
6. Take yourself on an excursion
Many teachers are not aware that visiting museums, art galleries, performances, historical sites and other events related to their teaching areas or as possible excursion sites for their students are considered PD and that time can be logged as such.
There are of course so many more ways to experience PL I haven’t mentioned but I hope you might re-think the approach to PD in education. Professional learning is much more engaging and has the potential for change or at the very least can become more than just a short-lived activity ‘done to you’ – get out there and do it yourself!
Thanks for reading 🙂