Day 1: Excerpts from my travel diaries

Hiya everyone!

It’s school holidays again in Victoria and, well, we’re still in lockdown. So, I thought I’d take us on a little virtual adventure. Everyday during the break I’ll share with you an image and an extract from one of my many travel diaries. Yes, I know it’s Tuesday, I’ll make it up to you with two posts on one day.

Hope you enjoy and perhaps you might share your own memories of wonderful journeys.

My first visit to Paris

May 18, 2007 – My birthday and my very first visit to Paris

“I cried. I couldn’t help it. As we cruised down the Seine, even though it was pouring rain, there is something about this city that just overtakes everything else we’ve seen and done. Yes! Even the gondola ride in Venice!!. I had the best birthday celebration ever!

We walked to the Eiffel Tower just around the corner from our Rue Amelie apartment which is lovely and spacious, and had a look around then onto a cruise of the Seine with commentary. This was an excellent way to get a quick overview and for 10 Euro, great value!

On our return we had dinner at 9pm at a wonderful cafe called Champs de Mars, just at the end of the boulevard – nice food, everyone enjoyed it. We celebrated with two desserts which mad up my birthday cake, a choc mousse and creme caramel. My husband and 2 daughters sang happy birthday softly and I pretended to blow out the candles (sugar sticks). Just wonderful, a most memorable birthday and it took 43 years to do it! One day I hope to do it again!”

Thanks for reading 🙂

It’s NOT homeschooling! Here’s why …

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Finally, I get to revisit my blog! My offshore Foundation students are sitting exams and my 4th-year PSTs are on professional placement. It’s been a l-o-n-g and exhausting 18 months and it doesn’t seem that we’ll be digging ourselves out anytime soon. Once again our students are showing their capabilities to deal with the ups and downs of online, offline, ‘any-line’ teaching and learning. The media continues to report the impact of ‘homeschooling’ on students and parents. To begin, IT’S NOT ‘home-schooling!’ Please stop reporting it as such. Homeschooling is not run by schools, but is the responsibility of parents or caregivers who may or may not be teachers. Students who are homeschooled are registered to be taught at home – hence the term. Currently students who usually attend school are learning ONLINE due to lockdown and other Covid-19 restrictions.

Online learning

 

Online learning is education that takes place over the internet. While at home, parents should be supervising students as they would at anytime when their children are at home. It’s just tougher right now because, well, they are ALWAYS home, and so are you. Your children might just be thinking the same. The online learning that happens during Covid lockdowns is planned, guided and delivered by teachers on various platforms which may include Zoom, or Microsoft Teams. This learning may be synchronous or asynchronous depending on decisions made by individual schools catering to a vast expanse of student capabilities, access and engagement. School leaders, teachers and learning support staff everywhere have been working above and beyond expectations to ensure our students are learning. We love and care deeply for our students and experience similar emotions about being online. We likewise have families and children at school, bad internet, loved ones who work from home, elderly parents or relatives to look after, meals to prepare, places we cannot go. We too are human. We do not make the rules, but like you must follow government directives to ensure our safety and that of others.

I don’t doubt that parents assist their children with learning tasks, but in online learning, teachers set the agenda. That said, I’d like to offer a suggestion for both parents and educators to help with the daily grind of lockdown learning.

  1. Parents, establish a routine where your children ‘get ready’ for online learning in a similar vein as they do to go to school physically, except forget the uniform, but no pjs, that’s just asking for trouble. Get dressed, have breakfast, brush teeth, yadayadayada, roll call, recess – all screens off, lunch – all screens off, after school go for a walk, play, run, skip, jump, anything but screen for 30 mins. I know teens will need to urgently check their social media, like that’s not what they have been doing ALL day (cue eye roll) but just try it, no screens for 30 mins!
  2. During online learning, I find that sometimes changing spaces helps – this may or may not be possible depending on whether you are using a portable device. Moving to different spaces is the same as reading nooks, desk work, floor or other learning stations in primary classrooms. For secondary aged students, well is the freedom to move around and find a space that suits the subject, like changing classrooms – even standing and writing notes on paper or whiteboards or windows might help. I say this because they mostly have their cameras off anyhow so they might as well be moving around! Hopefully as the weather improves, outside might also be an option for a learning space.
  3. Educators – see points 1 & 2!

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

 

Online tutorials: What I learned

After many hours of planning with colleagues and setting up my platform to facilitate online learning, yesterday was D-day. I had two, 2 hour tutorials back to back of the same unit. This arrangement seemed fine back in February but then COVID-19 happened. I sat in my chair here in our study at home for 4 hours knowing many of my colleagues in universities and in schools are doing even tougher. It is draining, yes, but strangely rewarding – especially when the chosen platform works. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, I am hearing today that some platforms are not coping, making it even more stressful for both teachers and students. That aside, the reality is here and it’s here to stay. I wonder how we might change as educators, as learners and as humans once it’s over? I do hope we bring with us what we have learned and evolve into even better humans. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I want to share with you all what I learned during my online sessions.

The many faces of me!

Firstly, I missed the physicality of a class, seeing my students walk into our learning space – being able to move around that space, see them react to the learning, laugh at my jokes (or not), see them working collaboratively – all at the same time. In the Adobe Connect platform I could move them into break out spaces but then I had to continuously pop in and out of the groups, and while it was great to spend a few minutes there I was also conscious that I couldn’t see or hear the other groups simultaneously. I realised I had FOMO (fear or missing out), so while I had the opportunity to focus on just two or three students and really listen, I found I couldn’t and I really regret that. Nothing beats a physical space full of learners.

I did, however, love seeing them on the webcams and hearing them speak up, even if it was a few of them at one time, but it was better than the chat window where I’m sure I missed many of the comments written. Next week I’m going to risk having them all turn on their webcams at once and see what happens. Just for a bit while we all say hi. I’m imagining the Brady Bunch opening credits but with 30 faces staring back at me (assuming they’ll all be online)!

Brady Bunch https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_The_Brady_Bunch_characters

Next week I’m also going to have them send emojis in the chat so I don’t feel like I’m talking to myself! I learned I need a lot more interaction if I can’t see or hear them while I’m speaking.

Finally, while there will be glitches, it will get better. My youngest daughter, who is an early career teacher, (2nd year out) heard some of my sessions and thought I was lacking my sassy self. I should just be she said – maybe I will.

One last thing, as we are both running our classes from home, I learned that my daughter and I could feed off each other. apparently she enjoyed listening to my sessions and was going to steal a few of my ideas. My daughter should know that I was sooo proud to hear her interacting with her little Year 7 Drama class on line early this morning and that I’m going to steal some of her ideas!

Stay safe everyone. Stay home.

Thanks for reading 🙂

(A)ALL around #mindblown

Academic conferences are not like education conferences. At least that’s what I thought. I even posted about that just the other day…

Ros and I presenting some of our Suzhou research at AALL

On reflection though, I think they might have some authentic overlaps. The first and foremost is a genuine commitment to student learning. The Association for Academic Language and Learning (AALL) Conference brings together a group of higher educationalists biennially to share research and understandings about international student cohorts. They come together to network and put faces to names seen only in journal articles and books. This year, in Fremantle, W.A., there were representatives from many universities and colleges who work with international students. The types of research I had the pleasure of hearing about over three full days are mind blowing to say the least. To have had the opportunity to present some of our research from our teaching experience in Suzhou, China earlier this year was a highlight.

Going through my copious notes recorded throughout the conference I have lifted out some of the things I heard that really resonated with me. I would love to hear your thoughts, please post below once you’ve had a chance to digest.

Interculturalism is a mindset. We need to be thinking about it all the time.” (Dr Janette Ryan)

“We all benefit from teaching international students.” (Athanassia Iosifidou)

“We become who we are by our interactions with others.” (Dr Maggie McAlinden)

Am I hallucinating my level of English?” (International doctoral student – ECU)

“Students don’t come with a deficit of language but a richness of language which we need to develop.” (Dr Jo McFarlane)

“We pay insufficient attention to their individualism. They all come from different countries but we bundle them in together as international students.” (Dr Pam Delly)

English is a language not a measure of intelligence.

“Champions of students” (Janette Ryan)

In her final address at the conference, Janette, described us as ‘Champions of students.’ For me this is not simply an uplifting comment but a call to action for all educators and parents. In fact it should be a moral obligation for everyone to be a champion to students – ALL students. Sure, teachers make a difference, we certainly do, but without students we are nothing. Be a champion to students – I dare you.

Thanks for reading 🙂

References

Bourdieu, P. and Passeron, J-C. (1994). Introduction: Language and the relationship to language in the teaching situation. In Bourdieu, P., Passeron, J-C. and de Saint Martin, M. (Eds) Academic Discourse (pp. 1-34). Cambridge: Polity Press.

What do Suzhou and de Bono have in common?

 

Nothing.

But when we asked our students at SEU/Monash the other day to give us feedback about their experiences in the conversation classes to date, the two came together as our Suzhou students shared their experiences using the de Bono hats.

It is amazing how they have opened up and shared both positive and not so positive experiences with us. Their confidence has soared over the last 10 days and more and more they actively volunteer responses and seek out further conversations. The hats activity was a testament to this.

I realise the last few posts have been about student responses but hey, that’s what we came to Suzhou to hear and it is music to our ears. So here are some of the responses the students shared.

White hat

“We met three beautiful facilitators!” (Now there’s a fact right there!)

“We connected with people studying other degrees.” (Yes! The students were divided up in our classes so two different disciplines came together).

 

Yellow hat

“Facilitators encourage us, don’t laugh at us when we get it wrong.”

“I enjoy the classes as they are more active and participatory with lots of activities.”

 

 

“I feel challenged.”

Red hat

“I am happy to have the opportunity to speak English with native speakers.” Me: Guess what? My first

language is not English! (students gasp) 

“I am happy because facilitators are friendly and ‘cute’.”

“I feel happy as there is no homework or test!!”

“Relaxed, so comfy to speak.”

“So happy to be here.”

It was interesting to hear this comment: “Ashamed because we are being taught by undergrads.”  (All our Suzhou students are studying their Master’s degrees).

And this one: Translation students thought their English should be better than other students who are studying different degrees.

Black hat

“I enjoy the class but don’t like that it is during our lunchtime.” (Students here all eat lunch at noon)

“Facilitators speak too fast sometimes.”

“Too short, we need more classes!” (I hope someone really important is reading and perhaps can accommodate this request! We’d love to do it again)

Green hat

“Interesting getting to learn a different style of teaching.”

“Wish for more permanent staff to replace SEU staff!” (Umm not sure what this means exactly, but the green hat suggests that a good idea would be to have more permanent staff rather than current fly in, fly out arrangements. Maybe?)

A couple of students expressed their desire to now take up teaching given their positive experience! Now that’s a great idea!!

Blue hat

“This has helped me put English into a bigger context.”

And I’ve left the best till last…

“Even though we had only 10 hours [of English conversational classes], in 2 weeks our time will stay with me for the rest of my life.” (I’ll admit there may have been a tear in my eye when I heard this reported back from another facilitator).

Thanks for reading 🙂