Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Most Challenging Post to Write...

"We are all teachers and we are all learners in our learning environment."

We're at the halfway point in our 30 Day Te@chThought Blogging Challenge for our Reflective Teacher month and this just might be the trickiest post to write.  There has been lots of discussion on Twitter that suggests that this is true for many of us.

As teachers we are just not good at stating our strengths.  We don't want to brag and yet we are so good at encouraging our students to state their strengths and the things they are proud of.  Weird, very weird.
We should be able to do this too - and should be proud of our strengths.  So...I'm sitting here typing and guess what??  It's so HARD to be able to do this!!  I'll give it a go though as I don't ever expect my students to do something that I wouldn't do.  It's also a great challenge as I apply for a range of leadership positions.

I love helping my students find their passions and become excited about learning.  It's crucial for me to know my students as individual human beings - what are their passions, hobbies, what drives them and how can I use this to help them become intrinsically motivated learners?  This is always my goal.

The quote at the top of this post was created by my class of Year 5/6 students back in 2010 and it became our motto.  It's something I've held onto ever since and I'm always quoting them.  I encourage and expect my students to be able to share their knowledge with others - no matter whether it's other students or parents and teachers.  I love being able to learn alongside and with my students.  For me, this is one of the key reasons why I do what I do - and love what I do.  There is no fear of 'giving up control'.  We share the control.  It makes for a fantastic learning environment which is incredibly respectful and fun.

I've had my hair dyed red by students, set up the silliest April Fool's tricks...you probably get the idea.  I love to laugh and learning, while sometimes hard and challenging, should always have a sense of fun to it. School camps have always created an environment for some serious learning - and serious fun.  There was one year where, six months later, I was still removing breakfast cereal from my pack!!
Don't take yourself too seriously and you can go a long way.  We take our learning very seriously but there's always, always a sense of fun and enjoyment too.
I'm passionate about learning and teaching.  It excites me and drives me to constantly strive to be the best I can be.  My students need and deserve this.  I am as passionate today about what I do as the day I began training to become a teacher.  If this ever changes then it will be time for me to leave the profession.  My students and school deserve nothing less than passion for what I do.

From the first day I entered University to train as a teacher I've been passionate about the use of technology to impact learning and teaching and to help all our students achieve no matter what their skills, talents and abilities.  I'm also passionate about keeping up with best practice so I'm always reading and researching to make sure that I am able to provide the best learning and teaching for my students.  I also have a very large global PLN which I rely on to challenge my thinking and ideas and expose me to new thinking.

This probably ties in with #4.  I'm constantly reflecting on what I can do better.  Student voice and student data is a major part of this too - it drives me to reflect and alter my practice where necessary so that I can meet the needs of every individual student to ensure they have the most successful year possible.  This is what drives me and what I am incredibly passionate about.

#reflectiveteacher 30 Day +TeachThought Blog Challenge

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Day 14 - The Importance of Feedback for Learning

There is feedback and then there is effective feedback.

Feedback has always been a strong area of interest for me and in 2011 it formed a large part of my research for one of my Masters papers.

Student voice is key for me - in terms of being able to provide feedback that improves student achievement but I also expect feedback from my students to improve teaching and learning.  We've used our blogs over the past 6 years to improve our achievement but it's also crucial to teach those skills to our students.


How will my teaching change in 5 years?

"We are all teachers and we are all learners in our learning environment."  

A wonderful motto created by my Year 5/6 students a few years ago.  We learn with and from each other.

I'm a passionate user of technology but only if it impacts learning and teaching in a positive manner - if it adds to what the students and I do.  If it doesn't and I can't justify its use to do this, then I don't use it.  My classes have been largely paperless over the past 4 years and I know this will continue into the future.  This is a given when thinking about how my teaching will change in the next five years - it will continue to be a focus.

I will also continue to develop my passion for connecting my students to the real world, both locally and globally, something I've tried to always do over the past 15 years I have been teaching.  My goal is to be able to help and support other teachers to see how powerful this learning and teaching can be.  I want them to also be able to share the learning and teaching with their students - to not be threatened by handing over some of the 'control' to their students.

This may be with me still in the classroom or it may be in other positions...I'm still working on this.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

My Current Top Tech Tools

From Teaching and Technology 

I'm a huge fan of technology to change how we teach and learn but I always start with the 'Why' of using it.  I need to be able to clearly articulate how it impacts learning and teaching in a positive manner and why I'm using it.  I need my students to also be able to do this.  If one of us can't, then it's not a tool we need to be using.

We start with the learning and then look for the tool to support what we are doing or trying to achieve. We also focus on using the SAMR model of technology use so that it is changing our learning and teaching us skills for the future.

Over the years I've tried so many different tools.  Some I still use regularly while others have been exchanged for more effective tools.  The tools I've chosen are those which I've consistently been able to use with my students of all ages over the past few years and which can be adapted to meet changing needs - both for the students and myself.

My top tech tools that impact learning and teaching are:

This is still my favourite blogging tool.  I've used many others but love the simplicity and ease of use of this one.  Great for students and new bloggers.  Huge benefit that it links in with all things Google.  Blogging has been the single most powerful thing I've done with my students in recent years in terms of creating and sharing learning and giving and receiving feedback.  Blogging gives our students an authentic audience.

If you want to motivate writers - including the 'reluctant' ones, then you really can't go past this.  It's a wonderful tool for digital storytelling.  Beautiful artwork - all free to use so you don't have to worry about copyright - that stimulates the senses and the imagination.  Great for all ages.  Completed writing / books can be shared and / or embedded.  Easy to use.  Completed work becomes a virtual storybook.

I am such a fan of Google Apps for Education (GAFE), Google Classroom - just starting to explore this and everything else that can be linked to create anytime, anywhere learning for my students and also for me.
This has been one of the most powerful suites of tools I've used in my teaching career.  It's been a way of creating online communities where collaboration and creation of new knowledge is to the fore.

I love this application for sharing learning and giving and receiving feedback.  Feedback can be given by typing in your response or recording your response.  It incorporates images and text as well as sound.
Can be used on mobile devices too  - great for quick recording on the go and sharing learning.

This is software that my class and I had a part in designing.  It's a video tool which has so many different uses - only limited by our imaginations.  It's point of difference is that it incorporates a rolling teleprompt feature which is absolutely fantastic for building student confidence - great for students learning another language too.  The completed videos can be uploaded and embedded in a variety of places or, if under 1 minute, you can attach supporting documents for sharing through email.  Fantastic for assessment too!

Day 13 @TeachThought blogging challenge  #reflectiveteacher

My favourite part of the school day and why

Day 11 of our challenge!

Thinking about my favourite part of the school day is really difficult.  Generally it's any part where there are challenging discussions happening, where students have gained confidence to share their thoughts - and challenge the ideas of others.  It can also be those moments where a student sees another student needing help to understand a new concept so they patiently explain and support for as long as needed alongside me to make sure that someone else can have the understanding that s/he has - that's incredibly special.

It can be those moments in the playground where a group of students encourages someone to join in.  Seeing someone pulled into a new group of friends and made to feel welcome warms my heart as do the moments when you see a student stand up for someone or something they believe in.  It could be that they are doing the right thing and not allowing bullying to happen in any form, or it could be when they stand up for themselves because someone has judged them in some way...and been wrong.

I love the times when we're all sharing books and can't wait to recommend them in our Literature Circles groups.  To hear the excitement about books, especially from those who were not so passionate about reading in the beginning is simply magic!

Every minute with my students - even in the 'challenging' moments...these are my favourite times of the school day.


Friday, September 12, 2014


Day 10 already!  I'm a little behind as yesterday I went with my partner to Government House where his father received his Queen's Service Medal (QSM) for his amazing commitment to the New Zealand Fire Service over the years.  It was an incredibly special day and we all got to meet the Governor General who is the Queen's Representative in New Zealand.

So, onto the post...

5 Random Facts About Me

  • I can still do the splits - even at my age...
  • I've been told my impersonation of Frank Spencer is pretty top notch - check out the link.  (Completely mad British comedy character from the 70s).
  • I've flown a glider.
  • My Year 8 students dyed my hair bright red - from blonde - a few years ago while on school camp.
  • I was originally going to become a doctor.

4 Things From My Bucket List

  • Travel to as many places around the world as I can
  • Run a marathon (hopefully completing my first official half in November)
  • Complete my Masters (2014) 
  • Begin my Doctoral Studies - hopefully 2015

3 Things I Hope For As An Educator This Year

  • Returning to education in an 'official' position by the end of the year.  Currently I'm completing my Masters and also working for TeachThought, etc.
  • That we begin to understand and see the value our teachers have for our students.  The students and parents often see and understand this, but we need the wider community and the 'powers that be' to also acknowledge this.
  • That we can grow our TeachThought online community into something very special and form a community and supports, grows and encourages each and every member.

2 Things That  Made Me Laugh Or Cry As An Educator

  • There are too many to name in this category.  Every day there is something special.  On memory that stands out though, is a very special young man I taught who went away to have surgery when he was about 7 years old.  While he was being operated on he had quite a major stroke.  His recovery was expected to take many months but, with his determination and also his wonderful mother's determination, he was up and walking soon after.  The day he returned to school, still in his wheelchair, but got up and walked towards me will be a day I will never forget.  He remains one of my greatest inspirations to this day.

1 Thing I Wish More People Knew About Me
That I am now completely deaf in my left ear and I'm not being snooty or ignoring you - I just can't hear you so you need to either be on my right side or tap me on the arm, pull my hair or something to get my attention.  :-)


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Biggest accomplishment no one knows about...

Day 9 of our Reflective Teacher Blog Challenge!  I've been inspired and challenged by all the blog posts I've read to date - that's just what Beth and I wanted out of this challenge.  Creating a vibrant online community for +TeachThought is also my goal and role.  It feels like we're finally getting there!

I thought a very long time about this post.  There have been many things I've achieved in teaching that no one really knows about.  I could write about those or I could write about something that is happening at the moment and is probably my biggest challenge - and battle - to date.  It's also very personal and I've kept much of it to myself.  If I can achieve this then it could well be my biggest accomplishment yet.

Teaching and learning mean everything to me.  I hope that if I'm known or recognised for anything at all then it is for the way I've given everything I can for my students so that they can find their way, their passions and follow their dreams.  I hope that my passion for what I do is clear and evident in everything I do and say.

That's why the current challenge is so hard.

Last year I was diagnosed with a major brain tumour and the expected outcome following surgery was not altogether positive.  One day I was in the classroom - August 14 to be precise - and the next day I was in the Neuro ward at Auckland Hospital being told that I hadn't imagined the weird symptoms I'd experienced for 10 years, that I had a Vestibular Schwannoma - cool name aye.  It was a benign tumour but was starting to press on the brain stem and had made me almost completely deaf.  To add insult to injury, it was evident on a scan from 2011 but had been 'missed'.  To cut a long story short "Arthur" needed to come out but there was quite a large risk in the 8 hours of surgery and I would also be completely deaf, may have severe balance issues and one side of my face could most likely be paralysed.  Oh great - that's all??!!

Surgery was on September 20, 2013.  While I was now completely deaf, I stunned them all and had absolutely no other side effects apart from some balance issues and went home after only 3 days - instead of the expected 7.  I'm stubborn and determined.  From here the battle began.

I thought I could return to school within a few weeks but was very knocked about by the surgery and really struggled to adjust to being deaf in one ear - you'd think it would be simple.  Not quite like that I found.  I couldn't give my school a definite return date so I did the right thing and resigned.  I was so angry and frustrated that I couldn't just return.  This is a very hard thing to explain to people.  They really don't understand and I can fully understand why.  My brain is absolutely fine - in fact my almost photographic memory has returned, (very helpful!!).  I look and sound fine but...

It's now a year down the track.  I am fighting to return to what I am so passionate about and looking for a suitable position either in leadership or consultancy and I know I will get there.  In the meantime I have the TeachThought online community to develop and I continue to meet some fantastic people online and in person.

When I do, it will be my biggest accomplishment in teaching.  Just to return to what I love.