A process of becoming…

Last Friday I attended the MERC conference at Monash University. This was a day to celebrate research to share ‘insights thoughts and practices’. The week leading up to the day I spent tossing up whether to attend at all – could I afford the time? Did I want to spend the day listening to how successful others have been in their journey? Did I want to hear again that a PhD is a rewarding and wonderful learning experience? But then the day came and I felt excited to go, so I went.

I’m glad I did.

The MERC team did a great job of organising the conference. I learned a lot. I met some great people and was able to chat to others I’d seen and heard speak in other forums.  I was even inspired.

The day began with the keynote speaker, Associate Professor Lucas Walsh; I used his message as my title for this blog. He spoke about how the process of becoming changes us and that we should enjoy it. Walsh described the journey using a theme park as metaphor.


The main aim of going to a theme park is to have fun. One has a plan for what to do while there; go on this ride, eat this food, play this game, and see that show. We encounter signposts that help lead us in different directions. We try new things and once the day is over we meet up with friends and family to share our adventures and plan the next. Have a plan; remain focused but open to new ideas, said Walsh.

The process of becoming…


This message remained with me all day as I moved from room to room to listen to the presentations by fellow PhD students. Each presenter had 30 mins or so to discuss their research and take questions. I heard from researchers of self-management interventions, spirituality, use of guided questions, teaching practicums, young men’s access to universities, task based language teaching (TBLT), mindfulness intervention, and the last, and most animated of the day for me, on arts based research.

In these sessions the process of becoming was very evident, not just for the presenters but for me personally.


The afternoon panel session featured stories from the field by five academics. I listened with interest as they spoke about their journeys and experiences in becoming… I heard that it’s okay to have doubts. I certainly have many in relation to my PhD journey to date. This was one of the reasons I attended the conference – to see if I was on the right track. I wanted to be able to analyse if what I am doing has purpose. Is what I’m doing important enough to spend such time and effort? I was happy to share my ideas about the research and received some positive feedback. But still there are doubts. Am I good enough and determined enough to pull it off? I’m not one to give up, as many who know me will attest, but I find myself grappling with these thoughts every day.

There was lots of talk about life balance at the conference and at this moment I’m not sure mine is balanced.

Am I spending enough time on my PhD?

Am I giving my consultancy work enough attention?

Am I putting enough into my current leadership position in school?

Am I giving enough to my family and friends?

Do I have enough time for me?

Am I trying to do too much? (Don’t answer that – I know what you’re going to say!)


Can this be measured?

My favourite quote from the conference came from Dr Marc Pruyn who said,

“Do what you want to do, on purpose.”

I think I’ll do exactly that. It is the purpose of becoming…

recite-1m74d0Thanks for reading 🙂


“My brain is full!”


2014conf_1dinst_7Connecting Content and Kids: Understanding by Design and Differentiation – 1-Day Institute

Last Monday I attended one day of the Hawker Brownlow Thinking and Learning Conference. I attend almost every year and have always chosen to follow one ‘hero’ for a day. This year I decided to attend Carol Ann Tomlinson‘s and Jay McTighe‘s 1 day institute. They played it like a tag team where Jay talked about Understanding by Design (UbD) and Carol on Differentiation. They integrated the two and while one day is simply not enough to really do these two areas justice we got an overall picture of how to integrate them to benefit the students in our classes.

12 things I heard that made me think:

1. Curriculum is a plan to get kids where they need to go

2. UbD provides the framework for developing the curriculum

3. Instruction is a plan on how we need to teach the curriculum

4. Differentiation provides the framework to carry out instruction

5. Teach all kids as though they are really smart

6. Start with planning for top level learners rather than aiming in the middle, do not dumb it down but work towards getting the students up there

7. Formative assessment is not for filling in report cards but to inform instruction

8. There is a logic in backward design

9. Essential questions are not the right answer questions

10.Teaching is not just serving ingredients but rather blending them in different ways to suit all people’s tastes

11. We learn when things are just a little too hard for you

12. One cannot ‘hand over’ understanding; this is something each learner needs to develop for themselves

Some other things I thought you might find interesting…

Evidence of understanding means you can do one or more of these:

  • explain in your words and justify your responses,
  • interpret,
  • transfer the understanding to a new situation,
  • see other people’s point of view or take a critical stance,
  • empathise, and / or
  • know yourself as a learner.

Reading and writing shouldn’t impair the student from showing you what he/she knows and can do.

One cannot differentiate poor quality curriculum.

Differentiation does not mean multiple assessment tasks, instead, one can simply change the complexity of the task to challenge students based on their skills and knowledge.

As a reference check on the validity of your assessment tasks in meeting your original aims and objectives, why not show the tasks to another teacher and ask them to state what they think your initial goals might have been.

I also think it’s valid to carry out the above with the students who are actually going to be working on the task.


Thanks for reading 🙂

Can’t you make it more interesting? To me it’s like I’ve heard it all before.

Yesterday I spent quite a while making a new infogram about what Year 12 students must do over the Term 1 holidays. Before I publish these types of things I always seek my daughter’s opinion on the points  – she being in Year 12 – I find it is very important that she thinks it is worthwhile putting it ‘out there’. Well last night I got a response that I was not expecting – you can read it in the post heading…

I must admit, I was offended. I did try to explain how important it was but to no avail, so I just shut down and watched some mindless TV prior to one of my favourites on a Wednesday night – I love “The Good Wife” – are you shocked?

parmiggiano sauceAnyhow, back to the point, I can be easily distracted, and am especially good at procrastinating with work although this tends to be an advantage for my family as I mostly procrastinate and avoid ‘work’ by cooking. BTW I have already prepared a Calabrian parmiggiano sauce for tonight’s dinner!

Fight it – back to topic at hand. So now after I’ve had a chance to think I’d like to propose 7 ‘interesting’ points that I hope will inspire Year 12s and in fact any student to ponder during the term break.

You’re tired. Tired of early wake ups, tired of trudging your way to school, tired of attending and listening to blablablabla lots of work to do, blablabla here’s the homework, blablabla SAC coming up next week, blablabla in preparation for SACs you need to … blablabla. Tired of coming home to do more work, prepare study notes, watch this video, read that text, complete these exercises, study, study, study. Am I warm? Okay then, why not take a break? Yes I know, your teachers have said that you need to do at least 10 hours of work over the holidays – and for Year 12s that’s for EACH subject! So that means 50 hours of homework /study, over 10 days, not counting the weekends, that’s 5 hours a day on average. So let’s break that down:

  1. 10 days = 240 hours (not counting 3 weekends x 2 days in each = 6 days, 144 hours free).
  2. 24 hours in a day minus 5 hours of homework / study = 19 hours free
  3. 19 hours free, let’s say, 10 hours sleep = 9 hours per day free
  4. 9 hours a day for 10 days = 90 hours free
  5. 90 hours over 10 days to work, travel, socialise or just lounge around, finally…
  6. 144 hours (weekends) minus 40 hours (per day) average sleep time (or less cause you are too busy raging) + 90 hours (week days) over two weeks = 194 hours free over the term break – and yes it does include lunch at Nonna’s house on Easter Sunday BUT the Easter Monday public holiday makes up for it, so no complaints!
  7. If we do the calculations for time over the last term, that is 10 weeks of school (50 days, actually less due to staggered start times, and a public holiday or two) but essentially 50 days x 24 hours = 1200 hrs. School’s in for 7 hours (8:30am-3:30pm) a day for 50 days = 350 hours, Year 12s should be doing at least 3 hours of homework / study a night, 3 x 50 = 150 hours. Calculating an average of 8 hours sleep per night over 50 days = 400 hours. That means 1200 minus 350, minus 150, minus 400 = 300 hours free, not including weekends over the 50 weeks. So you only had 300 hours during weekdays over 50 weeks of the term BUT you get 194 hours free over two weeks during term break. Get the picture?

Okay, was that a bit more interesting, something you haven’t heard before?

Good! Now … let me spell out your 6 MUST DOs for the holidays…that is… if you WANT to do well in VCE / HSC at the end of the year. If not, well enjoy your holidays but don’t blame the system if you don’t achieve your best, whatever that might be + effort = satisfaction. Dreams + No / little effort = Disappointment. I’ll let you choose…

Here’s the infogram I prepared yesterday
6Mustdosovertheholidays title=

You can’t teach what you don’t know

NeurotransmitterWelcome 🙂

Let’s learn a few things about the Logic of English

Did you know…?

  • English words DO NOT end in i, u, v or j

That’s why ‘boy’ is spelt b-oy and not as the sound suggests b-oi

  • C softens to an ‘s’ sound after e, i and y, otherwise we say ‘k’

think about it in terms of the word ‘circus’

  • a, e, o, u usually say their names at the end of syllables 

think paper, pa  – per

we use double letters to shorten sounds in syllables, for example, sound out pepper, pep – per, otherwise we would pronounce it ‘peper’ pe – per

  • one of the most misspelt words is ‘miscellaneous’

now let’s think about it as we apply the rules above;

mis  cel  la  ne  ous

mis (all good) cel (why is it an ‘s’ sound? because of the ‘e’) la (a says its name at the end of a syllable) ne (e also says its name at the end of a syllable) ous (ou is a phonogram, both letters together make this sound). Does that make more sense now?

Cool, right?

Want to know more?

Watch this Logic of English video

Do we teach this to our students? Could we? Would it make a difference to our understanding and development of reading and writing and would it improve spelling? Let me know what you think, click below and leave a reply.

Thanks for reading 🙂