Time to revisit my #oneword2016

My word for 2016

My word for 2016

How far can #oneword go? It seems that it can travel quite a long way. On January 3rd I decided to get on the bandwagon and wrote a reflection on one word that would describe my journey for 2016. It is now May and time for me to review the journey so far…

My #oneword2016 is further’. I still very much love this word and it has, to date, served me well. There are five areas in my professional life in which I hoped to make progress during the year -to go ‘further’ and so far after 5 months I am really happy with where I’m at.

notes

Writing up my PhD proposal for confirmation

1. The PhD

The PhD is chugging along very nicely. In fact, I have just now received the email I was waiting for, “Jo I have just finished [reading] the final draft and am happy for this to go the panel now.” Of course that now means I am preparing for my confirmation -the 20 minute presentation to an academic panel who will feedback and hopefully give me the green light to go ahead with not too many amendments. I’ll let you know how that goes in a couple of weeks.

The second part of my PhD journey is continuing the #survivephd15 chat on twitter which has now morphed to just #survivephd and happens every first Thursday of each month at 8:30pm AEST. It’s not as fast paced as others but I’m happy to be able to extend the conversations beyond the themed questions. To date I have been following the same topics covered in the MOOC course last year but after next month that will end. So I’ll be looking for ideas from fellow PhDers on themes they would like to chat about. If you’re interested you can have a look at the storify from our last chat on BOREDOM.

2. Me as learner and teacher

IMG_0027

Oxford

 

Well I did say I wanted to go ‘further’ with this too and while I’m still doing some CRT work, I am also privileged to have a tutorial group of 2nd year pre-service teachers. They are currently on their school placements so won’t be seeing them for two weeks but trust me I have plenty to do, while they are out, marking their assignments. I have really enjoyed these classes watching them grow even in the short space of time, from when they first entered – only a few months ago – but in that time they have accomplished so much from being asked to teach a short session in a local school to getting up in front of their peers and running a half hour teaching session, to now finally completing assessments on reflective practice. I will miss them once the semester is over but hopefully there might be another opportunity in second semester to work again with pre-service teachers. Here’s hoping…

3. My coaching model

“In 2015, I was asked to work with a small team and develop a made to order coaching model for staff.”

Coaches in training

Coaches in training

The coaching model is developing well. We have now completed the initial training for our volunteer coaches and established a group of coachees ready for the pilot program which begins in August. Throughout the training we developed coaching contracts and conducted role plays in coaching conversations. We used multiple sources including AITSL coaching guidelines, GCI (see below), CEM, Group 8 Education, ideas from Instructional Coaching by Jim Knight, and reflections by Chris Munro,  to help develop our very own coaching model. We are also piloting different platforms for coaching conversations to happen including our own twitter hashtag #mlmccoaching, a private Facebook page and a Google classroom platform where we can share resources and give feedback. I intend pushing ‘further’ here and encourage the coaches take part in some coaching chats on twitter, most especially the Australian based #educoachOC.

I also decided that it would be beneficial learning for me in training others that I too follow this lead and signed up with Growth Coaching International (GCI) to learn more abut coaching and am currently in Phase Two working on telecoaching techniques. I am really enjoying reading the resources, making contact with peers and developing my skills. I hope to take this ‘further’ and sign up at the end of the next phase to become a qualified GCI coach!

In the meantime I’m preparing / developing the pilot program for my coaching school. The first two sessions will focus on building trust and relationships, without these there is no coaching success. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

4. Special needs advocacy

With the announcement by the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT) earlier this year requiring teachers to attend professional learning specifically to assist and improve their capacity to teach learners with a disability, came many more enquiries from schools. I have also had a sharp hike in attendee numbers for my workshops with Critical Agendas. Last week’s session was over capacity with 47 teachers and support staff attending. Hard work, but I’m so happy that the message it getting out – certainly with a little help this area has gone ‘further’ as I have quite a number of workshops booked with schools across the metropolitan area and will continue my work in spreading the message that everyone deserves to be taught how they learn no matter where they start.

t-shirt logo

t-shirt logo

Continuing in the same vein of ‘special needs’ is the opportunity I have to work with a great bunch of people from the English Connect department and Monash University. I’m in the Peer Support group helping international students with written or spoken academic work. I’m loving this experience and the opportunity to witness our clients improve their grammar and pronunciation skills. I am so privileged to be teaching while at the same time growing as a learner myself, listening to their stories, and meeting lots of new people along the way.

5. Teaching the teacher

To date I have learnt so much already – completing my confirmation paper for my PhD was such a great learning curve and my main supervisor has taught me many new skills, as well as challenging me and supporting me in the process. I can’t wait to move into the next phase with still so much learning to do. My academic writing has improved – I am really chuffed at my skills of ‘crafting’ all my ideas into this paper. I hope I do it justice at the presentation.

The coaching model and training with GCI is something that I cherish and will continue to do so as I complete the training process.

Teaching and learning with my pre-service teachers was a career goal and hopefully I’ll have more opportunities to explore this ‘further’, along with learning at English Connect.

At the end of my post back in January I wrote:

My wish for 2016 is that I can go further but more importantly that as I go so it is that I am not alone, too far ahead or even too far behind. Will you take up the challenge with me? Are you willing to go … further?

Still stands….

Thanks for reading 🙂

How far can one word go? #oneword2016

I joined twitter in December 2012 but didn’t begin using this fabulous learning tool for quite a while. I’m not sure when I first began tweeting as such but I’m going to say that in the last two years of engaging with it I haven’t looked back. This year I began seeing lots of posts regarding #oneword2016 and decided to come on board. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and the very first word that came to mind was MORE. I thought about it wondering why this particular word but then it came to me – it wasn’t ‘more’ I wanted, it was to go further.

“Further” in 2016

I want to go… ‘FURTHER’ this year. It’s not that I haven’t accomplished enough in 2015 but rather, I began many things and now I just want to take them ‘further‘. See? Not ‘more’ but ‘further’; additional to what already exists or has already taken place, been done, or been accounted for..

So, here are my hopes for furthering my professional life 2016 in no particular order:

1. The PhD

In 2015 I changed the direction slightly for my PhD study, mainly methodology related not topic as such. This meant I had to seek out a new main supervisor. I was well supported in this task by the out-going supervisor and have not looked back. My current supervisors are very supportive and don’t pull any punches -they tell it how it is and I really appreciate this. It makes the positives so much more satisfying and funnily enough gets me really motivated to attend to the not so good bits with gusto. This year I’m working towards my confirmation – a 20 min presentation of my proposal and 10,000 word document of the first milestone. Last year I also signed up for The Thesis Whisperer’s MOOC course “How to survive your PhD” via EdX and ANU. It was a great experience and the hashtag lives on with many still posting on twitter and taking part in my monthly tweet chat #survivephd15. This year I can’t wait to get into the actual process of data collection and disrupting the status quo…going further.

2. Me as learner and teacher

I have always enjoyed my time in the classroom with students. When I first resigned my full time leadership position in school I very much missed the students most. I quickly made moves to get back into the classroom while still following my dream of being a full time education consultant. I was told it was a gusty move coming out of school but I’m big on risk taking and learn from my mistakes. I really believe in F-A-I-L being the First Attempt In Learning.

I love learning and teaching and the idea of being a CRT or a short-term contract teacher doesn’t phase me. I work really hard to get to know my students even if it’s only for a short time – from 45 mins to a term or two – it’s worth it and you know you’ve been successful because the students aren’t afraid to tell you so. It makes learning and teaching so worthwhile and so much easier and fulfilling. I will be exploring the possibilities further in 2016 both in schools and in adult education. (Note to self – send emails to daily organisers re: CRT availability in 2016).

Thank you message from a student

Thank you message from a student

3. My coaching model

Last year (it’s weird saying it already) I was asked to work with a small team and develop a made to order coaching model for staff. It was a challenging task but we were determined to come up with something that would tick as many boxes as possible. The proposal was accepted and we are currently in the process of further developing the model. Late last year (there it is again) I facilitated the first of the training sessions for the self-nominated coaches. This year we will be taking it further…Finding out how we work, learning and teaching and developing ‘our’ model using the framework as the foundation.

4. Special needs advocacy

My PhD study is about relationships, collaboration and optimal learning environments. I will be investigating how it works when teachers and learning support officers become the researchers and work collaboratively to meet the needs of students with disabilities. My advocacy stems from my own experience of school and the difficulties of learning a new language. Last year I spent two terms as head of the Special Education unit in a Catholic Secondary college. During my time there I reflected on what I was learning and feeling on this blog. While personally I found it rewarding, I also saw many things that made me mad. My whole purpose for coming out of a full time position in a school was to spread the message that everyone deserves to be taught how they learn no matter where they start. I spend much time travelling to different schools, primary and secondary to facilitate workshops on learning in particular focusing of differentiation and modification and on working with students with disabilities funded and non-funded. My most popular workshop runs regularly through Critical Agendas on “Practical Strategies for Teaching Non-Funded Students with Special Needs.” I would like to spread the message even further this year…

“I believe everyone learns in their own special way, we must endeavour to find what this is and then facilitate the learning using strategies that support these preferences”.

5. Teaching the teacher

This last one is related to all of the above. All teachers must be learners first. My PhD is about me as a learner and how I can go further as such. I want to make a difference. I want to see every student learn and teach at their own pace, in their own time. I want every student to have teachers who really know and understand how they learn and assist each of them in that learning.  As a learner and teacher it is always exciting being in a school, to have the opportunity to work with students and colleagues. I like to assist in making learning ‘fun’, engaging, challenging and to help it last forever. I love running workshops for teachers and to facilitate collaborative structures where teachers learn and teach other teachers. My coaching model is supported by the motto ‘teacher as learner’ first.

My wish for 2016 is that I can go further but more importantly that as I go so it is that I am not alone, too far ahead or even too far behind. Will you take up the challenge with me? Are you willing to go … further?

found on Buzz-inn Community fb page

found on Buzz-inn Community fb page

Thanks for reading 🙂

Gelatophobia – the fear of being laughed at

furrowed brow

Furrowed brow to an Aspie with a love of numbers = 11! Nothing more.

 

I spent 5 hours in a big room on Friday with about 200 other guests listening to Tony Attwood talk about “Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders. It felt like 30 mins. He is a very engaging speaker, with lots of wonderful real life stories and anecdotes collected over the last 30 years of working in the industry. Sue Larkey also spoke prior to each session – mostly it was a sales pitch but her introductory comments set the scene and revealed just how she does ‘get’ ASD kids.

I think there are many of us who ‘get’ them too! Part of knowing and understanding these kids is innate. There is a large component – that of empathy – the key to understanding and forming any sort of relationship with an Aspie. I often remind participants in my workshops that we need to walk in their shoes in order to understand where children, ALL children, are coming from. But you know -there’s more to it.

No two ASD kids are the same. There is not one strategy that works everytime. There is however, one thing that Sue Larkey reiterated yesterday that stuck with me. We must teach our ASD kids social skills as this is what will assist their survival out in the big wide world of society’s service industry. At school we often talk about preparing our students for what will come – but really what is that? What is coming? How will we know when it gets here?

campersASD -Aspies are “nature’s natural worriers” (Attwood), they have a different way of thinking that doesn’t include anything social. An Aspie, as Tony explained, is “someone who has found something in life more interesting than socialising.” And so we have to make exceptions.

Aspies don’t know unless you tell them. That said, one of the major challenges for Aspies is auditory processing. To remember means that Aspies have to experience it first hand. So how do we tell them? More importantly, how do they tell us?

One of the activities we were asked to do stands out. Tony asked that we work with a partner -one closed their eyes while the other was shown a slide and then asked to communicate the message without words.

The first was quite simple really, although my partner totally missed it as she put her cup down and had to play Chinese whispers with the lady two seats down from us!!

These are not word for word but the idea remains

I want my green shoes

The second was a little harder

Will you be here tomorrow?

The third even more

Where is my hat?

And last

There’s someone at the door to see you.

Give it a go with someone – it is really quite a difficult task but this is the frustration in communicating that Aspies deal with day in day out, not to mention our own frustrations in not undertsanding and the patience it takes to really get to know them as individuals.

no routine

via Caroline Kee / Via BuzzFeed

routine

via Caroline Kee / Via BuzzFeed

Processing time is an important element and one that causes much anxiety. Aspies need more time to process because they need to process the social, linguistic AND cognitive aspects of the communication. Many mainstream students already have the social and lingusitic skills and only need concentrate on the cognitive. Tony gave a detailed explanation of the functioning amygdala in ASD kids. We are all aware that the amygdala is the fight or flight compartment of the brain. It is connected to the sensory system and in ASDs it is enlarged and hyper-reactive because it doesn’t connect and warn the frontal lobe as in other non ASDs and so it leads to an ‘over-reaction’. On a scale of 1-10, 1 being calm, 10 being melt down, ASDs go immediately to 8 or 9 in these fight or flight situations.

One of my favourite lines of the day was “They are the last to know they are going to cry.” This really resonated with me. Tony explained how Aspies are not consciously aware of their feelings. While we receive signals through facial expressions and body language Aspie are not aware of these signals. This leads us to assume they lack empathy. This is not an accurate assumption as Tony continued…

The 3 forms of empathy are cognitive, emotional and compassionate. Cognitive is to know, to respond, to read signals such as those we take for granted through facial expressions. An Aspie fails to read these and so they get a bad wrap -but these are the same kids who give up their pocket money to help others. The emotional form, to feel, is revealed by our Aspies through their reactions -they react more explosively but don’t know it. Tony compared it a little to a cactus -the prickly exterior that protects the soft subtle insides. He spoke about a heart rate monitor in the form of ‘hip’ wrist watch that can monitor to ensure they see it coming – or at least- we can! The final form of empathy -compassion – the ability to respond and repair when for example someone is crying is revealed through what works for the Aspie in question, not necessarily for the person with the issue. Aspies don’t lack empathy, they just express it in a way that would make sense to them -so for example walking away from a sobing parent is what they would want someone to do for them when they are crying.

They don’t lack empathy -we lack understanding.

pretendtobenormal

Ain Eineziz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is soooooo much more I could write -but enough for now

Something to watch:

Oh just one more – The real ratio of Aspie boys to girls is 2:1. Girls are diagnosed later because they are much better at coping socially so they fly under the radar. They cope and camouflage through observation and imitation. Diagnosis comes during their teen years.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Beginning what could potentially be an eight year journey…

phd-symbolsLast Wednesday, October 1, 2014 was the official start date for my PhD. Of course it wasn’t the date I started doing research. I have been preparing for this all my life. Actually as I was thinking of a title to head up this latest blog I was catapulted back into Year 6, 1976. I don’t mind revealing my age, you see I’m ecstatic to have reached my 50th year because it marked a milestone and not only because it happened to be the big five o, but because it meant that I made it past 49 which is the age my mother was when she lost her life to bowel cancer. It seems apt that I be starting this PhD in her honour really as she didn’t get the same opportunities I’ve had and that this has become another ‘thing’ I’m going to do for me first, but also for her. This journey is personal.

But back to the Year 6 thing. One of my most vivid memories in Grade 6 was losing a point on a spelling test because I misspelt the word beginning – double g instead of double n – I can still see the paper in front of me. I remember this because it was attached to an emotion – one of feeling helpless but not because I didn’t get full marks but because I had cut my leg quite badly a few days before and had stitches which meant I was unable to get around as well. I never, ever misspelt the word again. I believe that some of the best learning happens when we become emotionally or personally related to what it is we are learning. It has to be relatable or nothing happens – well something does happen actually – we remember long enough to regurgitate for an exam and then it’s gone.

This research is relatable – in fact it relates to a very important part of my memory and attitude to teaching and learning. I do this because I will never forget what it felt like to not understand what other people were talking about. I do it because when I was little I could not communicate with others – well actually no that’s not true. I could communicate but only in Italian. I still don’t understand why that nurse in the hospital did not ‘get’ that I was cold and wanted another blanket. I was five, I spoke italian BUT I also made hand gestures, I had goosebumps – I didn’t understand why she couldn’t just give me another blanket. As a first generation Australian born to migrant parents, I was made to feel stupid simply because I didn’t speak or understand English. I couldn’t read it either but that’s another story.

I am very committed, due to my own experiences, in ensuring all students have every opportunity to learn and that it is our moral obligation to find out how they learn and then facilitate the learning using strategies that support these preferences. Once students have experienced success then it is our duty to extend and challenge them to use a variety of strategies in order to further develop their learning repertoire.

Last year I completed a Post Grad in Educational Research  – in preparation for this PhD. This was a really positive experience and helped cement the idea that I could take this on. I had already made the decision to quit from my full-time teaching and leadership position the year before to take up consultancy full time and so I was definitely up for the challenge. There were 10 of us in that unit with 2 lecturers over seeing the project. I learnt a lot during those sessions over the first six months and then went into the actual research side of things during the second half of the year. My paper that explored the nature of the relationship between teachers and teacher aides (Education Support Staff) focussed on a case study of one very large Catholic co-educational college.

I thoroughly enjoyed the process and spent many hours transcribing and analysing the data I’d collected through one-on-one interviews and focus groups. I’m actually now in the middle of preparing an article with the assistance of my supervisor, in the hope that I can get it published. I kind of meandered onto my blog, I think, as a way of taking a break from the academic side of things and just doing another of the things I really enjoy (besides cooking and scribbling & drawing into my diary) and that which gives me time to think – reflecting on this journey.

My PhD is an extension of the small scale research I described above. My intention is to conduct a much larger study extending it into other Catholic secondary schools across the four Victorian diocese. I also intend to add student voice to this study by conducting interviews with students who have special needs as well as their teachers and education support staff. So if you are reading this and teach in a Catholic secondary school in Victoria yours might be one of the schools I target!

P1090380I’m very much looking forward to getting out into the field and meeting with participants, although that realistically won’t be for some time yet – what with all the hoops we have to jump through first including ethics approval from the university, permission from CECV, all four Catholic Education Offices and the principals of the schools we decide to include. But, I’m still really excited about the prospect. This will be another learning experience for me and I hope that I can contribute something back to the education community that will ultimately enhance the learning journey of all our students. And so it begins…

Thanks for reading 🙂

“Very informative, presented so well. Enjoyable”

“Teaching a room full of learners the same thing in the same way over the same time span with the same supports and expecting good results from all students has never happened and never will.” Tomlinson

row-of-reading-children2

Last week I facilitated a couple of workshops on working with non funded students. They were well attended, interactive workshops with a mix of teacher and education support staff  who were very eager to share their expertise and experiences with colleagues and other staff from different schools and sectors. One school even sent their whole education support unit!

Introduction

The morning sessions began with a quick discussion of the roles of teachers and education support staff and then covered specific learning disabilities with which students may present in schools. Many students who have experienced these learning difficulties are not funded but the impact it has on their learning and ability to work effectively in mainstream classes is similar to those who are funded. These difficulties can lead to withdrawal, behavioural issues, anti social behaviour and low self esteem. Our role as educators is to help these students overcome or compensate for their learning difficulties, funded or not. Below is a representation of Dr. Sheldon’s Horowitz‘s idea of the basic psychological process used in understanding and using language. His explanatory videos are great, easy to follow and well explained.

Specific Learning Disabilities

Strategies

I then presented some strategies and ideas that can be used in the classroom to assist the students with learning difficulties in accessing the curriculum. I believe that if we take the time to assess what the students know and then plan a variety of activities that take into account learning preferences, abilities and readiness of students, our classes would be more engaging not just for those with difficulties but also the mainstream cohort as well as those students who display particularly well developed strengths in specific areas.

Differentiation and modification

The day continued with a focus on differentiation and modification. What is the difference? It is surprising, based on my own experience in schools, that many teachers and education support staff have a limited understanding of these two methods. I often come across so called ‘modified’ tasks where the teacher has simply removed the last few questions on the test or asked that the student completes every second question. This folks is not modification. I have found however, that teachers implicitly do differentiate their curriculum but may not be aware of the many more ways this could be done so all students are engaged in deep learning.

The ‘guru’ of differentiation is Carol Tomlinson. Her premise is that there are essentially 3 P’s in differentiation i.e. Presentation, Process and Product.

Presentationdifferentiation

  • How are you going to teach it?
  • What do you want the students to know and do?

Process

  • How will the learning be done?

Product

  • How will the students demonstrate learning?

When modifying work for students, teachers and education support staff must take into account the abilities, readiness and learning preferences of the child. Before modifying work for any student, especially those who are not funded, the school should seek permission from the parent. In some cases the parent will not give permission, and while this is disappointing, teachers must abide by this decision although they can make extra efforts to ensure the child has access to a differentiated curriculum. This is one where by the delivery of content is varied, and accommodations such as more time, different settings, choice in presentation and response are offered.

handsSimply, the difference between differentiation and modification comes down to the expectation of work to be assessed. In differentiation there is no change to the assessment criteria or rubric but a modified task requires us to make changes to the assessment criteria. In all cases, modifications are instructional or test adaptations that allow the student to demonstrate what he knows or can do, but they also reduce the target skill in some way. So if a student is provided with a modification, generally it will lower the performance expectations. It often reduces the learning expectations or affects the content in such a way that what is being taught or tested is fundamentally changed.

When planning for either differentiated or modified tasks, there are three questions we must ask ourselves:

  1. What do I want students to know?
  2. What do I want students to understand?
  3. What do I want students to do?

Collaborative task

The afternoon was dedicated to activities that allowed the participants to use their own assessment tasks, or mine, to make accommodations or modify based on student profiles that I provided. We then came together and discussed our learning.

boy2-1ne7o1bStudent Profiles

The day ended with an example of what I think a student profile should contain so that informed decisions about the student’s individual learning can be made.

Feedback

While two out of 53 participants thought the workshop was too focused on education support staff and one thought it more valuable for early career teachers, overall, the feedback was very positive (see below) and many participants took away ideas and strategies that I hope they have begun implementing in their classes. For me it’s always about the students, so anything extra we can do to improve their learning experience is very worthwhile and very rewarding for us as educators.

“Jo touched on many ideas that I can share and implement at my school.” Anita

“Wonderful & engaging presentation” Anon

“The course was quite informative, found out about a few strategies which can be easily applied at our workplace.” Claudine

“Very informative, presented so well. Enjoyable” Anne

“Very relaxed and informative conference.” Anon

“Presentation was very comprehensive and information was very beneficial to my teaching.” Anon

“Excellent speaker. Fantastic, useful info/strategies to put into classroom practice.” Debra

“A great presenter with lots of ideas, hints, etc.” Alexandra

Many thanks are extended to all who participated last week in Geelong and at the Mulgrave venue!

If you’d like to learn more, why not register for the workshop delivered through Critical Agendas. I’ll be running similar workshops in Geelong on May 29 and Bulleen on June 6.

Drop me a line, or comment below. I’d very much like to know what measures you take to support non-funded special needs students at your school.

Thanks for reading! 🙂