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 🙂

 

It’s NOT homeschooling! Here’s why …

Image

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.

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 🙂