5 things I want my pre-service teachers to know

Of course, if you’ve been following this blog you already know that one of my professional goals was to teach pre-service teachers and that this semester I am privileged to have my own tutorial group of 29 students. Given the large number and the course outline which stipulates that they must prepare and deliver a 30-minute lesson first to a couple of Year 7 students in a school -you can read about that here – and then to their peers during our tutorial time over 6 weeks it leaves me very little time to review or give feedback out loud. Our sessions are all about getting everyone a turn to deliver their class, while feedback is provided in writing or sent via email after the sessions. I have to say, there has been much learning in these sessions and as second year students they have done a great job!

Next week the students are due to go out on their professional practice rounds and so there will be no tutorials scheduled for two weeks after which there is only one more session for the semester aaarrgghhh!

Hence this blog post. I really want my pre-service teachers to know the following:

1. Relationships

baggage

baggage

All of you have delved into this area at some point in your peer teaching session but I cannot stress it enough for when you are teaching and learning students. It does not take much to learn your students and does get easier the longer you remain in the most rewarding of all professions. However, sometimes we forget, especially when our own baggage comes in with us into the learning space. I have always said and will continue to do so – when going into your learning space, leave your baggage outside as there will be no room for it given there are between 25 and 29 other pieces coming in. Please remember that those students come into the learning space with needs, some with more needs than others, but they always need to feel safe, to be respected, to be loved (you know what I mean here) and for you to believe they can and be prepared to show them how.

2. Aims & Objectives

SMART goals

SMART goals

There is a clear difference between aims and objectives but they are constantly running into each other. Your aim (usually only one) is what you hope to achieve or the overall big picture item. The objectives are the steps that need to be taken to achieve the aim. In other words long- term plan and lots of short term plans to make the journey more enjoyable, less stressful and more achievable. Objectives usually begin with verbs – doing words. I encourage you to use the S.M.A.R.T goal process in developing them.

By the end of the lesson/class/week the students will be able to….(now list the objectives based on SMART).

 

3. Information overload

MacMeekin's infographic on Blooms 'revised' Taxonomy

MacMeekin’s infographic on Blooms ‘revised’ Taxonomy

So you are about to plan and teach a class -how much information is enough? By information I mean knowledge and skills. I think you can never have enough knowledge and skill but one can only digest certain amounts at particular times. This is mostly true if you are ‘feeding’ them the information. I want to remind you that you don’t have to have all the knowledge nor do you have to give them all the answers. I’d like to see you take more risks and allow time for students to explore a little more and hence develop their own skills and knowledge. Consider practical applications to encourage your students to think, to evaluate and to analyse. Why do they need to know this? How will it help them in the future? These are sometimes really hard questions to answer especially when there is a set curriculum to get through. Don’t be afraid to accept any teaching moments that occur BUT be wary you are not leading them down the garden path. Incorporate into your lessons some Bloom’s Taxonomy – you don’t have to do it all, all of the time but we do have to move from just receiving and regurgitating knowledge for testing and then forgetting all about it. Create ‘fun’ ways for them to seek, find and apply.

4. Learning activities

'FUN'

‘FUN’

While it is important for students to develop collaborative skills, there are many who don’t enjoy it, feel they have nothing to offer, or take advantage of the others and choose not participate. Sound familiar? As a pre-service teacher you need to build a repertoire of different ways you can get them to collaborate without saying, “Okay now let’s get into groups and discuss…”  Sometimes it’s important to allow them time to think on their own or perhaps with just one other peer. The way you ask is also crucial  – let them know there is no one answer – I always like to say for example, “What do YOU think of ….?” ” Can you give me an example from your own experience ….” “What does your partner think of ….” These types of questions don’t require correct answers because it’s their opinion and these are the types of queries that help build confidence and lets them know that what they think is important and they are encouraged to share it if and when they wish. Can you think of ‘fun’ ways to group your students without exclaiming the dreaded “Okay now let’s get into groups and discuss…”? Why not share them below so we can all begin filling our tool box. 

5. Thinking scaffolds

FAIL - First Attempt In Learning

FAIL – First Attempt In Learning

Every student has different learning needs and every class is different and I understand that this can be quite overwhelming for any teacher but most especially for pre-service teachers. Don’t be intimidated by this, remember what I said; each of your students needs to feel safe in your classroom, a place where it’s okay to make mistakes and that learning is challenging (this is good) but there are plenty of scaffolds you can use to help them get to the goal. Providing scaffolds my dear pre-service teachers is not the same as giving them the answers or making it easier -they are different kinds of challenges that don’t overwhelm students and burden them so they give up. Think of it this way…there is treasure on the other side of a deep, deep forest and each student will take a different path through that forest to reach it. Some students are armed with sickles and make their way quickly only having to stop when the trees are very thick to re-think their options. Other students take their time and discover little entry points here and there and follow the paths, stopping at lookout points along the way to take photos, others plunge into the forest without a plan and soon find themselves lost and without supplies, another lot of students stand at the clearing, too frightened to attempt the journey in case they are discovered as imposters as they haven’t a clue where to begin. These are the students in your class; there might even be others. Scary isn’t it?

No.

Believe.

Everyone will learn, eventually, you just have to help facilitate and encourage that learning through scaffolds. It is always a good idea to begin with a plan, ask questions -both open ended and closed and discuss some scenarios. “What would you do if…?” “What options do you have?” “Which option would you be willing to try? Why?” “What do we need to …?”

Step by step graphic

Step by step graphic

You may give them some tools to use to clarify their thinking – my favourites are graphic organisers and there are hundreds of websites and apps you can use just google it and see. I also think that if each student had a chance to discover which 2 or 3 were their favourites they could use them over and over when they needed to plan out their thoughts.

There are, of course, many more things I would like to tell you but taking my own advice in information overload, I’ll leave that for another time.

Finally my dear pre-service teachers, remember teaching and learning is meant to be ‘FUN’ don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Now get out there and make a difference!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Lava lamps, origami, magic and many more pre-service teacher adventures

This year I am very excited about having my own tutorial group of 2nd year pre-service teachers. Our adventures began just four weeks ago and since then we have been busily exploring what it is to be a teacher and a learner. They are an interesting bunch of students coming from all different backgrounds and for the most part quite enthusiastic, although at times I think I’m more excited than they are! I love teaching. I have said it many times.

Having the opportunity to work with pre-service teachers has been one of my goals for many years. I want them to experience the same passion I have for teaching and I hope that this semester I can share some of my experiences with them so that they may come to love teaching as much as I do. I hope I can instil in them the essence of learning. They have the key to the future of education and I hope they use it wisely.

So while the first few weeks of tutes were all about theory, standards, their own experiences of schooling, their favourite teacher and a little boys’ Ed thrown in for good measure, this week was all about practice.

I just had the privilege of watching my tutorial group fully engage a class of Year 7 boys in a 30-minute session. My pre-service teachers were waiting on the pavement outside the school when I arrived. Nervous but excited. They had come with bags of tricks, coloured paper, bottles filled with oil and water, laptops containing presentations and videos to shares.

work in progress -homemade lava lamps

Work in progress -homemade lava lamps

The Year 7 boys we were to teach seemed anxious but ready for action. Each pair had 30 minutes to ‘teach’ a couple of students. They prepared a wonderful array of learning and the boys seemed to be lapping it up. As the lesson began the pre-service teachers showed no signs of their initial nervousness. Fourteen round tables, two teachers and two students on each totally engaged in learning and teaching.

Aerodynamics

Aerodynamics

A couple of groups displayed their plane making skills while others engaged in different aerodynamics feats.

time to see if it works

Time to see if it works

One group learnt magic tricks while others ventured into the world of critical thinking and music.

Making magic

Making magic

Teaching Chinese with music

Teaching Chinese with music

Boys on another table were experimenting with volcanic eruptions using Oreo biscuits. Another mixed a concoction of water, oil, food dye and alka seltzers to make homemade lava lamps. There was some history, space exploration, mathematical calculations, geometry and a whole lot more. The session flew by and in no time it was gone.

3-D geometry

3-D geometry

“One minute to go folks!” I call out. “Oh no,” says a student in the corner, “Quick! Let’s have another go!” he calls as they take one last shot at getting the plane to spin.

A round of applause goes out to my class and to the students and teachers who supported us at De La Salle College. I look forward to seeing these same pre-service teachers in action with a class of their own, approaching it with the same apprehension but feeling themselves ‘hooked’ as their students’ faces come alive with curiosity.

Teachers are not born great – they become great.

Be great teachers.

Thanks for reading 🙂

What makes me really angry…

It’s been a while since I sat to write a blog and as always it’s been brewing for quite a few weeks now. As I learn to learn all that goes with my new role, I have begun to get to know our students with disabilities a little better each day. I have had opportunities to speak with them directly, to learn with them, teach them, to meet their parents and spend time with other adults who work tirelessly to support and develop them as learners. I’ve seen and heard quite a number of things that reflect past experiences both positive and negative and it seems that there are some things that still surprise me.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 8.55.43 PM

Some days I’ve left with a heavy heart while other days see me leave happy and confident that things might change or that I’ve made a little bit of difference to something or to someone’s learning experience. Those days where it seems that there is nothing more I can do only gets my brain churning, sometimes through sleepless, anxious nights in search of a solution or at least the next tiny step we could take towards the ultimate goal.

Amongst the school action there is also my consultancy work. I’m still running workshops and visiting schools to facilitate PD. Lately I’ve been spending time learning with primary school educators. In preparation for these workshops I have been trying to think of more innovative ideas for promoting positive classrooms and igniting passion in both students and teachers.

The Pirate, Dave Burgess, and his book Teach Like a Pirate is still prominent in my planning and prep of workshops. Paul Solarz’s book Learn Like a Pirate also makes headlines as schools strive to get their students to become more independent. These promoted me to add to my teacher toolkit with a recent trip to Bunnings – yes Bunnings! Suffice to say that for a few dollars each I now own and promote plumbing equipment that can be used as reading props and language enhancers as well as instruments to assist with addition and subtraction. I’m saying no more…

So… what makes me angry? Oh yes.

1. Teachers who don’t know their students AND don’t take the time to learn them

2. Lack of empathy

3. Unfair consequences

BUT there are many things that make me happy…

1. The support of colleagues and friends

2. My family who keep me sane while allowing me to be who I am

3. My students who surprise me, challenge me, annoy me, and amaze me all in the one lesson!

4. My time, though rare, when I get to write this blog

5. Tweet chats

6. My supervisors who as soon as they find out I’ve hit a wall call a meeting and make arrangements to call and talk even though they are on leave

7. I could go on…


every student

Thanks for reading 🙂

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 🙂