Sunday, May 26, 2013

Ken Robinson: How to escape education's death valley

Sir Ken is always an inspiration.  This TED Talk does not need a great deal of comment.  The power of it will be in the discussion it provokes.

If only those in power would listen to what he says.  We know it's commonsense.

No Child Left Behind in the US is not working.  The drop-out rate is terrifying and creativity is being stymied.

Too narrow a curriculum that stifles creativity, imagination and innovation will lead to a much higher drop-out rate no matter what country.

Commonsense needs to prevail.   It is imperative that we retain curiosity and creativity.  We have a fantastic education system and curriculum in New Zealand.  Let's keep it that way and not travel too far down the track of the US.  Testing is important - as long as it impacts the teaching and learning and helps to identify the individual learning needs of our fantastic students and ensure they make the progress they deserve.

Let's keep them engaged and if they're not engaged, let's get involved, get to know them and find out what we can do as teachers - and learners - to re-engage them.

Finding - and Keeping - Fantastic Teachers

A while ago I was contacted by Erika Phyall from USC Rossier Online to see whether I would be interested in using the infographic below on my blog, given my interest in, and passion for, all things education.

The issue of teacher retention - and particularly of retaining teachers who are passionate, caring and knowledgable in teaching and learning - has been one I've been thinking about for many years.

How DO we keep the best while making sure that they also have a life outside of school, do not burn out through their passionate commitment to what they do and the learners they interact with, ensure that they develop professionally and, most importantly in my mind, retain their passion for this career they have chosen?

The infographic is an interesting one and possibly raises more questions that it answers.  The first line is scary - '30% of our teachers quit within the first 2 years."  I can remember being really concerned with how few of my graduating year were still teaching after 5 years.  I wonder if the retention rates are the same in other countries, or is this figure unique to the US?  My gut, and conversations I've had with teachers around the world tells me that this is not a situation unique to the US.

The first years of teaching are indeed the hardest, but do they really ever get any easier?  Does the 'difficulty' just shift to other areas?  Why are we losing teachers at such an alarming rate?  I remember a discussion earlier this year around the fact that there are many 'older' teachers staying in the profession longer but we are losing our younger teachers soon after graduation.  Why?  Is it that our support systems aren't as strong as we believe for our Beginning Teachers.  Is it that they are suddenly left on their own when the support ends after the first 2 years - in New Zealand at least?

Are the issues more complex and it is something that is fundamentally wrong with where our system is heading and we are losing our creative, passionate teachers as they become stifled by constant testing and assessment.  I think this issues goes far deeper than we think.  There is a great deal of discussion around this particular issue world-wide at present - what are your thoughts?  Has this always been an issue and is only now being addressed by the more vocal among us?

The infographic, while being US-based, is still relevant to the situation around the world in my opinion.  I would love to read your thoughts on this.

USC Rossier Presents New Infographic- How To Save Our Educators

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Importance of Liking the Students We Teach and Learn With or "Kids don't learn from people they don't like." - Rita Pierson

How important is it that we like the students we interact with and teach and learn with each day?  For me, it's an essential part of what leads me in everything I do on a day-by-day, minute-by-minute basis.
Teaching is not just about 'facilitating learning'.  It's so much more than that.

It's about connecting with our students and showing them that we care about them as human beings.  We care about, and are interested in, their hopes, dreams and aspirations, the sports they play, the hobbies they are interested in.

I watched this presentation, (another fantastic TED Talk), by Rita Pierson, a teacher of 40 years' experience and would love to read what you think. She raises an interesting question in relation to whether our students' achievements can be at their optimum level if we don't 'like' them and believe in them.  Is this part of the 'x-factor' in teaching - that element of difference between a good teacher who has the pedagogy and content knowledge and a great teacher who also possesses these elements along with being able to connect with their students on a collaborative and friendly level, and who also shows a genuine interest in who these amazing human beings are whom we have the privilege to teach and learn alongside every day.

Some of us live this profession - it's so much more than 'just a job' - we live this life.

Rita also speaks about some of the 'reforms' in education but her main focus is the value of human connection and relationships in learning.  It's a powerful message.

'Kids don't learn from people they don't like'.  True.  Rita is an inspiration and what she says is so true, powerful and valuable.  The power of self-belief cannot be underestimated - for both students and teachers.

We need to make a difference, not just academically, but in the human context.  I believe in my students unconditionally, I like and respect my students - yes, even the ones who dyed my hair red on a school camp many years ago.  (I was secretly proud of their creativity and innovation in completing the task they set themselves!!)

Teaching is connection.  Success for our learners comes through connections.  Taking time to get to know our students is key.