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 many 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 I finally realised just how my mum always knew in the times before social media…

Image: pinterest.com

That aside, my mum was the best in many ways. 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.  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 🙂

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

This post also addresses prompt number 6 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’ 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 cake 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 Plan 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. 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 🙂

“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.  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 whether 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 dinner 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?’ 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 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s coaching got to do with glitter?

This week’s #2PencilChat moderated by @nathan_stevens in @MagicPantsJones’ absence was on the topic of Glitter. Now while you’re probably in doubt as to its validity, it actually was quite an inspiring chat. Stevens used glitter as an analogy to do with education, with teachers, students and learning.

Question from #2PencilChat 7/6/16

Question from #2PencilChat 7/6/16

Since I used my blog hour time participating in the chat, it got me thinking…

Thinking

“What does glitter have to do with my idea for a blog post on coaching?”

So here it is… (Hilariously I wrote this while waiting for my dad at the dentist!)

1. Coaching has been around forever and it is slowly infiltrating our schools in a positive way, so hopefully, like glitter, it will hang around and infiltrate every corner from leadership to students, from grounds people to parents.

2. Glitter adds sparkle to every project, so too should coaching in schools ignite a passion for learning, setting goals for improvement and actioning ideas to promote optimal learning and teaching.

https://au.pinterest.com/pin/91620173646780264/?from_navigate=true

https://au.pinterest.com/pin/91620173646780264/?from_navigate=true

3. Glitter surprises people, especially if it is included in the envelope containing a Christmas card (no I’m not apologising for this) – just making a point about the element of surprise in coaching especially after a coaching conversation where the coachee realises they can and has a way forward which they themselves developed!

4. Glitter is plural, only as a handful or more does it make an impact. Collaboration is the impact in coaching. Coaching needs lots of people and a positive mindset to make a difference. Coaches need other coaches to help them grow and develop the skills to coach. Coachees need to be open to sharing and to believe in themselves as change agents, just as much as coaches believe in them.

handful of glitter

5. Glitter is made up of all shapes and sizes just as coaching in our schools can be seen in all manner of ways. In coaching everyone is learning, everyone is responsible for growth, no matter what your title or position, coaching is about the coachee – be all in, grab that chance to sparkle and make a difference to learning and teaching in our schools!

Yes, I think coaching is a lot like glitter. Get out there and sparkle!
Thanks for reading 🙂

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 🙂