Who’s your awesome teacher?

VeniceAsk any teacher why they became one and the most common response is that they once had an awesome teacher that made them want to become an educator themselves. Mine was Zacher a wonderful art teacher who made me want to learn about how art came about, about egyptians and greeks and romans and romanesque and gothic and renaissance and baroque and then some. I can still see clearly in my mind the wonderful notebooks she put together and the very special times we spent huddled around the art tables going through the history as she told stories of what had happened and invited us to contribute, to question and to seek our own responses. I still have my essays, hand written on foolscap lined paper. More importantly, I never forgot those learning sessions and to this day I teach, I learn and I question. I also make art – not in any common studio form such as painting and ceramics like I did in university but I think and do art works – differently. I have a collection of diaries, for examples, one each for my adventures overseas. In them I poured out my thoughts and feelings, I described my adventures, I drew and I tore paper and images and pasted them in. Then I drew over the top and even used water colour pencils something I had dismissed due to my experiences in that same university. You see I don’t particularly like rules, nor do I think that there are always ‘right’ answers. I approach everything through a visual, emotional perspective. Some might say that that, is why I get into trouble! And that’s true I get emotionally attached and then it hurts when things don’t work out. At the same time that’s okay too, because I like capturing those moments when you’re suddenly struck by a new thought and take the risk regardless.

As an educator, I value uppermost the importance of relationships. I suspect that the teachers mentioned by my colleagueArt educators have this gift to connect with their students in many ways. These are the teachers that become the ‘awesomes’. They seem to be always the ones that make the effort, that give a damn about how and who you really are. They’re not superficial, they really do want to know. They are also the same ones who do everything in their power and then some, to allow you to succeed. They take opportunities to connect with you. They seek your learning preference and find out what you like and then they ingeniously combine and blend, mingle, amalgamate, and intermix them strategically within the content to get you hooked – all of us – hooked into learning.

So, if you get one message from this post it’s that tomorrow when you get to school you make an extra effort to connect with that kid who always gets away. I recommend 5 simple things to get you started:

1. Make eye contact and smile 🙂

2. Greet them individually by name

3. Notice something they do well and let them know about it

4. Tell them what you like to do and why.

5. Ask them what they like to do and why.

I’d love to hear what you do to form your learning relationships with students.

Thanks for reading 🙂

“This is not how our teacher does it!”

Good Morning Folks,

The other day I had the privilege of delivering the  Keynote address at the TLN CRT Conference. I have to say I was rather nervous at first but once I put my hands on that lectern it was all over and off I went. I really love doing what I do and I love meeting and speaking with educators, sharing ideas and anecdotes about teaching and learning. During my Positive Classrooms workshops, at the same conference, there were many ideas thrown around that I hope participants might try the next time they are in the classroom. My favourite idea was the alphabet game where the first person chooses a word – say –  learning, the next person must then say a word beginning with the last letter of the previous word – growth – and so it goes until everyone has had a turn. We then tried it using only words relevant to the topic at hand, and while this was rather difficult it is an excellent way to really challenge the students and stay on topic. It might also be useful as a revision or prior / post knowledge game.

Many thanks to all those who participated on the day. Remember that each child is taught by a CRT for almost 2 years of their 13 years at school. We can make a BIG difference to their lives, make sure it’s a positive one!

Lastly…for those who would like to know how the “I failed preps” story ends please click here

tigerinjunglebookThanks for reading 🙂

What do we teach for?

Last week I got to hear Charles Fadel speak on 21st Century education. I really enjoyed listening to what he had to say. He has one of those accents that really soothes and you kind of ‘get hooked’ in before you know it. There were many things he said that resonated with me and that I really and truly believe are very important at this time. I was chuffed to hear him say things that I have been trying to say for ages, though not as eloquently as he did the other day. Along with Fadel we also heard comment from the Principal of Haileybury and the Head of Mathematics at John Monash. Between them and the audience there were many comments I thought worthy of publishing below:

  • Alvin-Toffer-on-21st-century-learningFuturists describe the world as VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous
  • to be successful in the 21st Century one will not need knowledge as much as they will need skills and character attributes
  • “Assessments are not a bad thing,” says Fadel, “bad assessments are stupid. How and what we measure makes a difference.”
  • The ATAR score is the brick wall of education
  • Humanities and Arts is what makes your life worth living!
  • Core subjects get you a job BUT the Arts get you through it!
  • STEM could become STEAM with the addition of the ARTS!
  • Let’s get rid of AusVELS and introduce a superVUCA curriculum!
  • It’s not enough to just depend on what kids know about technology, we must be their moral and ethical guides.
  • There is a need to break down the resistance to allow kids to be creative in maths. Sadly the VCE Maths study guides are full of content and allow very little scope for creativity.
  • Take the risk. Teach kids creativity and thinking and they will ‘get’ the knowledge regardless.
  • Teach kids to ask questions.
  • Teach kids to SYNTHESISE as they already know how to ‘get’ knowledge but how to bring it all together and make sense of it? That is what they need to learn.
  • We are not working fast enough to get kids ready for the 21st Century world!

21st CenturyAnd then there are these questions, some others asked, some are mine.  I’ll leave them with you to reflect upon- feel free to respond below…

  1.     What do we teach for?
  2.     Are we adequately preparing our kids for this world?
  3.     Why does there seem to be a disconnect between employers and educators?
  4.     WHAT should students learn?
  5.     What will we do with all this computer power?

Fadel ended with this: “We as teachers are sitting in the driver’s seat – make it happen! Seriously.”

Smart is cool!

Thanks for reading 🙂