What is teaching ready?

Over the last few weeks I’ve been marking Teaching Performance Assessments (TPA) submitted by my 4th year pre-service teachers (PSTs). I have to say nothing in marking has given me more pleasure than reading and assessing PART 1 where they share their context, student group, lesson plans and mentor feedback, and write about their experiences on placement, and what this may mean for their future learning. In a few weeks this latest group of PSTs will complete their studies and hopefully most of them will be out there making a difference to children’s lives.

Every TPA I read was unique, every student had their own way to present and every subject & topic was different. I was enthralled with some of the strategies they used to engage the students from primary, secondary, international, and special schools. This cohort of PSTs are what the Chief Examiner calls ‘bipedagogical.’ They have experienced both face to face and online teaching (no need to explain why). They have experienced the same trials and tribulations as many of my colleagues, moving from one to the other sometimes within hours due to sudden lockdowns. It got me thinking…

The ‘bipedagogical’ teacher

What does it mean to be teaching ready?

Lots and lots and lots of hard work.

Today, it’s not just about the subject or unit you’re teaching. Expertise in these areas is, of course, important but before you get to share this, it is imperative to establish a safe and secure learning environment where you can build relationships with students and understand the contexts from which they come. I’ve shared some ideas about building relationships before here and here. My PSTs on the whole recognised how context affects learning. It means you need to prepare and cater for a diverse range of learners, your learners, in this classroom or in this learning space. It’s pretty daunting coming into an online space with a group of students you’ve never met before from a school you may or may not have visited in person and work with a mentor whom you’ve only recently met.

I often mention to my PSTs that they need to always be carrying a great big bag around (metaphorically of course – as we teachers know, we already have enough ‘stuff’ to cart around), which they can fill with strategies for teaching, learning and reflecting. Every time they see, hear, feel and think of an idea they can use in teaching and learning, they have a place right there into which they store it for that off chance they just might need it in the future. And they will. Even I bagged a few new ones for myself as I was reading through their TPAs. 

The strategy bag

Though these strategies might already be in that bag, somewhere, I might not have used them in a while, or it might be that my PSTs thought about it differently or presented it more creatively than I have thought to do. 

I wanted to share just two that I really liked. 

The first is around questioning for feedback. Think about how you ask your students if they had enough time to finish their task and the connotation that has on them as a learner. “Have YOU had enough time? This type of question might make them feel inadequate or slow if they haven’t completed the task. But what if we turned the question on its head? 

“Have I given you enough time?” What does this question say to our learners now?

The second strategy is an ICT tool called ‘Pear Deck’. Have you heard of it? I hadn’t but it sounded good, so I looked it up. The tech allows you to turn presentation slides like PPTs into interactive activities for your students or anyone else for that matter, so they can actively engage with the learning. Here are 20 ways to use it. My PST used it in his Year 10 English class to have students work as a group or individually at their own pace, responding to questions. Their responses come to your screen where you can give immediate feedback, and can also be shared anonymously on the slide projector for the whole class to discuss.

So, what is teaching ready? Well, for me there’s a list;

  • it’s building relationships,
  • being reflective
  • understanding context,
  • learning how students engage,
  • having expertise in your teaching areas,
  • planning explicitly for teaching and learning
  • understanding how to give and receive feedback for learning,
  • be willing to learn things yourself and …
  • loving it all!

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

The Learning Support Officer: 5 prompts to share with teachers

This week I returned to Critical Agendas and had a great time facilitating a couple of workshops. The second workshop explored the role of the LSO. This topic is very close to my heart as it is part of my PhD research, of which I have not spoken much about in a while. That’s another story but suffice to say that after much heartbreak and stress I’m getting back on track. I have my wonderful supervisors, my colleagues and mostly my friends and family to thank for that.

Nonetheless, facilitating a workshop about the role of LSOs always makes me happy as I see both teachers and LSOs are open to being challenged. If you know anything about me, you will certainly know I don’t pull any punches when it comes to learning and teaching. I’m passionate about it and I assume everyone else in the most rewarding of all professions is too.

What is my role?

A number of participants approached me after the workshop asking various questions which have prompted this post.

Share the commitment to teaching and learning

 

1. Support the classroom teacher

Schools are very busy places. There are meetings and administration, more meetings and more administration and somewhere in between, we get to do what we really love – teach and learn our students. Rarely do teachers and LSOs get to sit down together and plan lessons for classes, let alone for individual students who might need modified tasks. Hence, many times LSOs are deployed to classes where it is deemed they are most needed.  My advice to LSOs in situations when you arrive at a class and the teacher asks, “Who are you here for?” is very simple. “I’m here to assist you. What would you like me to do?”

2. Effective communication with teachers

There is no doubt that both teachers and LSOs would love more time to collaborate. How and when that happens varies greatly. However, I suggest considering the following when approaching teachers. Communication and collaboration are most effective before class and if they are on-going. I encourage LSOs to continue to make it clear that you are there to support them –the teacher. Arrive with concrete strategies that will assist particular students under your care to learn. Lastly, you need to be accessible.

3. Questions to consider

When LSOs and teachers have an opportunity to collaborate before classes, there are some questions the LSO might consider asking:

What will the students be learning?

What tasks will the students be doing and what will success look like?

How will the lesson/unit be structured and what should I be doing?

What should I watch, listen for and do in the classes?

Collaborating

4. Guide the teacher’s knowledge of the student and how they can best support them in their class.

The teacher brings with them content and pedagogical expertise. The LSO adds information about individual students based on their experience with them across a variety of different classes and situations. This is a wonderful combination which could be enhanced with appropriate questions to pose.

I highly recommend the KUD, that is, what do we want the students to KNOW, UNDERSTAND & DO?

How will we know when ‘Johnny’ understands?

Is it possible to …?

What if …?

What strategies have worked before?

5. The LSO’s role does not include the following:

    • Modifying curriculum
    • Behaviour management
    • Supervising classes
    • Doing the work for students
    • Teaching classes
    • Covering for your students

If you’re interested in exploring this further, please do not hesitate to make contact and organise a workshop for teachers and/or LSOs at your school.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your experiences, please comment below.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Suzhou: Voicing your opinion in academic settings

Our students here at SEU/Monash have completed the first seven workshops, beginning with simple concepts such as appropriate greetings, addressing different people, conversation patterns, interjections, and body language and are now moving into more complex areas. Tuesday’s workshops, for example, were all about “Voicing your opinion” in the context of an academic English university classroom.

Suzhou Conversations

In a university environment, where classes are held in English, tutors expect their students to be active learners. One way this is evident is through discussion and voicing opinions about the learning. It is through such activities that tutors get a sense of how students are engaging with the material and how they can critically analyse and formulate opinions about the different concepts and ideas presented.

In our workshops, students were asked to voice their opinions on various scenarios associated with university learning. One such scenario included enforcement of a new rule where homework, assignments and theses would now have to be handwritten to ensure students were completing all their own work. This proclamation was met with surprise, disbelief and awkward shifting in their chairs. In their groups, the students had to formulate arguments for and against the concept and convince others that it was either a good idea or that it needed reviewing. I thought I’d share some of the arguments they wrote down.

Reasons for disagreeing

It’s a waste of time

Waste of paper

Difficult to check spelling mistakes.

Handwriting is not formal.

Unconvenient [sic] for teachers to review and check repeatation [sic].

People can copy the homework by hand also.

Pay more attention on the handwriting rather than content.

Inconvenient to submit your homework by email.

Teachers have difficulty recognizing some hand-writing.

Typewriter will be useless.

Change easily.

Reasons for agreeing

Handwritten show the devotion.

Improve handwriting skills.

Convenient to write some math formulas.

If we forget to save the document, we will lose it.

Improve understanding.

Can’t copy and paste.

Can record our thinking/ideas easily.

Be more sincere.

Good for eyes.

My favourite response was this: Handwriting would mean we have more time to think about it, our attention will be focused. If we write more, we will write more beautiful English.

For me, this is what learning is about. Thinking, feeling, seeing, doing, and most importantly loving it.

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

 

Nervous but excited: Our first day

We got this!

Yesterday was our first official day at South East University / Monash in Suzhou. I left our hotel full of self-doubt and angst. I have never felt so nervous, even though teaching is what I have done for the last 33 years. The welcoming party was wonderful. We met the staff at the university who put on a lovely morning tea but our conversations soon came to an end as it was time for our first sessions.

Gulp – we’ve got this!

Here is Suzhou, we are privileged to be in spacious, well-equipped rooms, the natural light from the giant windows streaming in, everything up and operating AND the students arrive.

Oh what joy!

I’ve discovered that Let’s Chat comes naturally to us and once we start – well, there’s no stopping us. We have a great program and now we get to share it with our partners in Suzhou, China.

I’m with a great team of colleagues who are dedicated and determined to make this work. Our first day was a testament to that!

Greetings from Suzhou, China

It’s been a while since I posted but I feel it’s time to share some learnings again. It’s not that I haven’t been learning in all this time – believe me I have.

The beauty of Suzhou

I’ve been busy planning and writing in consultation with a great bunch of people from English Connect at Monash University. I’m currently writing from my spacious hotel room in Suzhou, China, where my colleagues and I will be for the next 2 weeks, facilitating English Conversational sessions with the students from Southeast University. I’ll be keeping you posted on a regular basis. This is an important alliance and one that I hope will be most successful and more importantly, make me a better learner.

We spent our first day in Suzhou getting our bearings and seeing some of the sights. It’s a delightful and eloquent city. I saw beauty in everything. I have many emotions. I almost feel helpless not knowing the language and with very little English signs and explanations I am lost – but I will be fine.

Over the next 2 weeks I know I will see, hear, feel, think and learn many new things. I can’t wait.