Nonno, where’s Nonna?

This week’sĀ #EdublogsClub Prompt 35 asks us to respond to the below image in a 100 word challenge.

Image: www.theedublogger.com

“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.”

 

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Mentoring pre-service teachers is a privilegeĀ and a duty

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.

View from Daniel Mannix building – ACU Fitzroy Campus

Mentoring Pre-service Teachers is a privilegeĀ and a duty

Similar to how teachers connect with their students by way of forming sound relationships, so a mentor needs to ā€˜learnā€™ 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 itā€™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 ā€œthe specific goals of mentoring in the context in which they are working and is familiar with the tasks to be undertaken by the menteeā€ (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.

1: Inclusion

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 ā€œsee a possible future and believe it can be obtainedā€ (Shawn Hitchcock), much like the idea of inclusion.

Quote – Shawn Hitchcock

2: Coaching

There is a fine line between mentoring and coaching ā€“ while I agree that mentoring is reciprocal learning, it is still very much a hierarchical relationship. As John C. Crosby states, ā€œMentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction.ā€ 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 doesnā€™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 Negotiatorā€™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 ā€œopportunity to create [and re-create] themselvesā€ (Spielberg).

Collaborating

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.

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References

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.,Ā & 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).Ā An Examination of the Construct of Critical Reflection: Implications for Teacher Education Programming in the 21st Century. Journal of Teacher Education,Ā 51(1), pp. 39-49.

My mum

Prompt number 24 of the #Edublogsclub asks us to write a post about parents.

My mum passed away 27 years ago, 2 weeks after her 49th birthday.

My mum

My Mum has always been an inspiration, even though most of the time she drove me crazy. She always seemed to know everything about what was happening in my life as a kid. I couldn’t understand it. It felt like I couldn’t do anything without her finding out. I must admit, I wasn’t a terrible teen – but having been raised in a very strict Italian household even talking with boys who were not family was frowned upon back then. In the end after manyĀ tantrums, when I wasn’t allowed to go to parties or go out with my friends, in general, I soon gave it up and just made excuses to my peers to avoid the embarrassment. I just had to accept that this was how it was and that there was no use trying to get away with it. As an adult – I think IĀ finally realisedĀ just howĀ my mum always knew in the times before social media…

Image: pinterest.com

That aside, my mum was the best in many ways.Ā She always supported our learning, both my brother and I were encouraged to go that extra mile with our studies. My mum always attended parent/teacher meetings and made sure we were on top of things. We are the first lot to go through post-compulsory studies and gain university degrees. If you follow my blog you’ll also know I’m currently chewing through a PhD. I love learning and so did my mum. She was the only one of her 7 siblings who finished school and if it wasn’t for the antiquated thinking by my maternal grandfather, she would have gone onto university. But alas, ‘there were things to do other than filling your brain with useless knowledge’ as he used to say.

At 20 she migrated to Australia, learning English on the boat, she landed with at least some idea of what awaited her. Mind you, she never really gave herself away, choosing to just blend into the already growing community of Italian migrants in and around Melbourne. She joined her big brother and his family, along with her 2 sisters and together they formed a new extended family. She worked and lived as they all did to make a better life for themselves. She learned heaps on this journey, though she never boasted at how much she understood English – choosing instead, to blend into the Italian community.

In 1963 she married my father, an Italian migrant, her brother’s friend and together with my dad’s two sisters and their husbands, they moved to the house in which I am currently writing this blog. My own family now live in this wonderful house – though it has been extended and refurbished over the years. Still, it holds all my childhood memories and will forever be my sanctuary.

Wedding Day, 1963

I remember my mum always used to say she wanted to be a social worker. She was a great listener and problem solver. She supported many people and often as a child there were many friends who came by to have a chat – little did I know that they were actually seeking out my mum’s for advice on all manner of things – but mostly about relationships. My mum loved having people over and organising wonderful dinner parties. Our extended family always gathered to celebrate everything and anything. My childhood and young adulthood were a stream of parties, dinners, celebrations with family and friends. Ā She was an avid church goer and loved being part of the Italian Community. Many can attest that they met their partners at some ‘do’ that mum helped organise for the community.

My mum loved learning and so do I. She is and always will be my inspiration to continue my work in education. I hope to make a difference, to make trouble, to unsettle, to challenge and encourage others to think, to take risks, to go beyond that which they think possible. I owe it to my mum and I owe it to myself.

Thanks for reading šŸ™‚

7 boys, a mum & 28 pre-service teachers: A narrative of challenges

This post also addresses prompt number 6Ā in the #edublogsclub challenge – Challenging situations.

Once upon a time….

No, sorry…

This semester sees me working with 2nd-year pre-service teachers. The unit is the same as the one from 2016 and once again we get to go out to a school in Week 3 and ‘teach’ a couple of Year 7 students on campus. This is usually done during our tutorial time, however, this year proved to be a little challenging in that our tutorial time is 4-6 pm!! Um, schools don’t usually have students ready to go at that time – but alas – the time slot couldn’t be changed regardless of how important this ‘teach’Ā visit is to my students’ first assignment, (that’s another story!).

Anyhow, let’s not get side-tracked. I wanted to share once again the wonderful adventure we had that afternoon and how we managed to pull it off considering we went from 28 Year 7 boys willing to participate, all the way down to 6. With pizza and choc mud cakeĀ on the menu, the boys signed up to remain after school and participate in the activity. Until…

The bribe

They realised it was actually parent/teacher/student (P/T/S) interview evening and they finished school at 2 pm! The numbers dwindled down to 10 boys, and with only a couple of days before the activity, we went to Plan B – there is always a PlanĀ B!

The hour we had with the students would need to be split into two. We have 10 boys participating in two sessions. This would be okay, as the teaching was only for 30 minutes, so my own pre-service teachers would be prepared and it would not impact on their lesson plan. Emails were sent to all and preparations made. I would pick up the food and make my way to the school, arriving in time to feed the students and set up the space. A half dozen of my students, who didn’t have a class before the tutorial would meet me to help with preparations.Ā And then the phone rang…

It’s the day of the activity.

“Hi Jo. How are you going?”

It’s my contact from the school.

The conversation goes something like this….’Everything is okay. We are all set to go except we are now holding the activity in the library and not in the performing arts centre (where I told my students to meet me). No problem we’ll send the boys down to direct them. See you later in the afternoon.’

All good.

And then the phone rang…again…

“Hi Jo. How are you going?”

It’s my contact from the school.

“I’ve got some bad news.”

We are now down to 6 students.

Time for Plan C. Hang on. I don’t really have a Plan C. I have 11 groups (28 students in 2s and 3s) and 6 students. Each group except for 2 are expecting to be teaching 2 Year 7s for 30 mins. I get in my car to pick up the food and head on over to the school. Plan C, if I had one, won’t work, at least not without disppointing my students.

Later, at the school, I’m so happy to see my students who have arrived early as promised. We make our way to the library space, Plan C still isn’t coming.

“Hi Miss!” exclaim 2 little Year 7 boys awaiting our arrival.

I already feel better.

“Here boys, have some pizza. Now while we set up why not go find a friend to join us?”

“Ok,” they reply enthusiastically.

They soon return with another student willing to join in. That’s 7. Is Plan C on it’s way?

Slowly my other pre-service teachers begin to arrive while a few get caught in traffic and message to say they are running late. No problem. Plan C is slowly appearing. We have 3 groups already here and we’re 30 mins early – let’s start the first session and instead of 2 rotations we’ll do 3, plenty of time till 5 pm! H-E-L-L-O … Plan C!

And so the sessions begin.

In no time at all we have paper planes flying, gold coins appearing and science experiments taking shapes.

Planes, coins & science

My pre-service students keep arriving and another student arrives after finishing with P/T/S interviews in tow with mum and dad ready to join in the learning. “Please join us, mum and dad, you’re most welcome!” Mum is keen. So now we have 7 boys (yes I know that should be 8 but one has to leave to attend the interviews so really it’s still 7). The boys grab another piece of pizza and make their way to join another group ready to go again. In this session we’re doing kinetics, working probability and travelling to the land of ancient Egypt. There is also evidence of more science experiments to do with chocolate. I also spot one young man exploring through a paper telescope – I can’t wait to read about that one!

I spy…

Ancient emoji?

30 minutes later … A-N-D … TIME! Last cycle: the 7 boys and the mum rotate one last time. In this session I find more science experiments, this one has balloons and looks very interesting. In another corner, Japanese is being taught, while yet another group is deep into the medieval world and a third is working on area and perimeter – looks and feels nothing like when I went to school. Much laughter and engagement prevail and it looks like Plan C worked!

‘konnichiwa’

More pizza and mud cake, lots of thank yous and satisfaction prevails. We did it!

Time for reflection….

Reflecting on our teaching

Many thanks once again to De La Salle Malvern and especially their Year 7 coordinator who supported us all throughout this process, including entertaining the idea of having students stay after school to accommodate our tutorial time. Hopefully next year common sense will prevail and the tutorials will all be scheduled during the school day when students are actually in school!

Thanks for reading šŸ™‚

“Cook dinner, don’t just supply the ingredients” (Tomlinson)

You know when you hear something that really gels with you? It’s that moment when culture meets a light bulb moment and suddenly you know. You know this is something that just has to be said.

That light bulb moment

That light bulb moment

The other day it happened to me, sitting in the ACEL conference listening to Carol Tomlinson talking differentiation. Now this was not the first or even second time I’ve had the pleasure to hear her speak in person. I had even heard the differentiated story she told, but it was the first time I connected with it in a new way. Ā It really brings to the fore the idea of readiness to learn. In order to learn, one must be open to learning. So when we teach, how do we know whetherĀ our students are ready to learn? How do we know if we are ready to learn from them in return?

Tomlinson at ACEL conference 2016

Tomlinson at ACEL conference 2016

Tomlinson compares the ingredients for dinnerĀ with that of curriculum. As ingredients, they stand alone but have very little to offer unless combined with other ingredients to make a meal. In fact, depending on the ingredients one can make a myriad of meals using them in different combinations. Let’s take similar ingredients to those that Tomlinson uses in her comparison:

 

Ingredients

Ingredients

The above, when combined, will make a meal (or 5 if you live at my place – if you want a list, I’d be happy to forward one) – the same as all the components of teaching. Teaching isn’t just one ingredient but should be a whole lot of ingredients which are combined to create a great learning experience. In combining the ingredients, however, one doesn’t necessarily have to use them all in every meal but they can be used in different combinations. Teaching is like this too. These ingredients on their own are not very inviting – but in combinations can make a number of really appetising meals.

So let’s compare this idea to teaching. What are some of the ingredients in teaching and learning?

Relationship? I suggest kilos and kilos of it. In fact, in my opinion, there is very little, if any teaching or learning that happens without this ingredient.

Curriculum – knowledge and skills?

Assessment – formative and summative?

Differentiation?

Environment – inviting and safe?

Emotional Intelligence?

Curiosity?

Imagination?

FUN?

Communication?

Collaboration?

Policy?

What else would you add?

Share the commitment to teaching and learning

Share the commitment to teaching and learning

In teaching and learning, there may be any combination of the above and more. Each class would need more or less of these depending on the needs of the students in that particular class. Even if one is teaching the same content to the same year level in two different classes, the ingredients would not be identical in both type and quantity. So when planning your next ‘cooking’ session with your class think carefully about the ingredients and combine them in such a way that really gels with your class. Take the time to ask your students, ‘What would you like for dinner?’Ā It will help you to become a much better cook, I guarantee it and ultimately they’ll enjoy the meal a whole lot more.

Dinner's READY!!!!

Dinner’s READY!!!!

 

 

Thanks for reading šŸ™‚