Reading eggs…cellent!

I planned a lesson today based on a big book from Reading Eggs that my mentor recommended.  Under the “teacher” section of Reading Eggs, once logged in, a teacher has access to fantastic engaging and interactive “big books” (amongst other things!).  Some of these books even have worksheets to go with them.

These sorts of things showcase what’s great about technology. There was no photocopying required, no library trip, no book stand, students were all able to view the book clearly and with beautiful colour on the interactive whiteboard screen.  Image

The worksheets gave me ideas from which I created my own activities, and the lesson was so successful that my mentor asked me to do two follow up lessons tomorrow! I’m doing another follow up English lesson, and a math follow up in the afternoon.  My mentor was so encouraging and her feedback is very specific.  That’s something I’m learning a lot about- giving feedback that encourages improvement.  Even when giving feedback to children, instead of saying simply “good job”, we can be more specific in what we appreciate about their work.  For example: “I really like the way you have tried with every activity – that makes me really happy, and we’re going to work a little more on these rhyming words tomorrow.  Good work!”.  Even though this feedback takes more time, it actually saves time later because your feedback was so specific that the students know what to work on for next time, and what to do to get some positive attention!!

Loving it (today!).

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Reality Bites

I thoroughly enjoy blogging – writing is such a passion of mine that having the opportunity to write with my genuine perspective and no “boundaries” as such is very liberating.

So why haven’t I blogged for a week?

Oh you funny thing! That’s where I’ve realised reality bites! I have been so busy “doing” that I haven’t had a chance to “write about doing”.  I read other teacher blogs and find it fascinating and valuable, but the time is just not there! I’m spending my nights making resources, scouring the internet for additional resources, making meals for my family, studying for my other subjects and generally chasing my tail.  So I’ve spent considerable time (while I’m in the car!) thinking about how I would integrate blogging into the classroom as I see the value in it.

My answer isn’t simple, but I have some ideas.

  1. Habit.  It must be habit to use the blog, write things and reflect.   As a teacher this would have to become part of your day- what happened today, what is happening tomorrow/next week/next month.
  2. Integrate.  Integrate the blog into the day’s plan – perhaps some days it’s a student job to write on the blog, or perhaps you plan it into the day – the first 10 mins of lunch break is devoted to blogging.  Planning for it will enable it to become habit.  Using the blog to integrate things like homework, newsletters, notes home and projects will make it’s use essential for everyone – parents, teachers and students.  The integration would encourage clear communication which is vital to high quality education.

What other ideas do you have for the integration of blogs? I have genuinely wanted to use the blog with my students on prac, and while I’m not, I have set up a “mock” class blog that I have used for some assignments to test out the integration of a class blog. You can view it here, by using the class code: afhktu.

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Prac – Week 3

I’m in the fortunate position of working as a literacy coach 3 days per week, and therefore my practical experience is actually only 2 days a week but it’s spread over 7 weeks.  Life is exhausting for me at the moment but I love every second. The students at both my workplace and my professional experience placement are just lovely and I’m learning so much.  The thing about working as a teacher that the first few days of professional experience has taught me is how exhausting it is.  My mentor is absolutely full of energy and positivity.  It’s amazing, and the students respond with such delight at being in school.  Keeping up with her energy is exhausting but it’s so important – it really makes such a difference to how the students respond to her.  Image

The first week gave me an insight into how ICTs are being embedded into the year 2 classroom, as one parent (who is also a distance education teacher) arranged an author visit from someone she knew that had written a book called “Monster Primary School“.  How was this embedding ICTs? Well, the author (Michael Paulsen) didn’t actually come into the classroom! The parent had prearranged a blackboard collaborate session with Mick, and he read the book, displaying the pages in a presentation on the virtual “blackboard”.  Students were able to see him, hear him read the book, and then using a headpiece and webcam, he was also able to hear questions from the students and respond to these.

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What I loved about this experience was the flexibility of the teacher to just give it a go.  The experience was completely new to her, and as I use blackboard for university, I was actually more experienced than her.  However, she enthusiastically responded to this offer from the parent and made her class and time available to provide this enriching experience.  The key to it’s success: she wasn’t afraid.  What if it hadn’t worked so well? what if the Education Queensland blocking on the internet had prevented the blackboard use? these things can happen, but trying it out doesn’t do any harm, and the result this time around was so wonderful!  Here’s a few snap shots from the setup in the classroom.

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Which hat am I wearing?

I took a deep breath.  Each step I took was carefully considered.  It was the concentration of putting my left foot in front of my right that kept me from buckling at the knees. I held my head up, and let the air out of my lungs.  “You can do this” I said in my head.  The concentration of walking was no longer working and my thoughts began to get hectic.

What do I say first?

Who do I see first?

I should try to be warm, but professional.  Personable but intelligent.

You aren’t the aide here, the children don’t know you.

These people have no idea who you are or what your experience is, so you need to show your capability without overtaking.

There were many more things that went through my head, but they came and went too fast for me to remember.  I knew the teacher – I had seen her before and I knew her class would be amazing.  Why was I so nervous?

Because this meant something.  This process, this step, was a step closer to the goal that I’ve been working towards for 4 years.  Even though it’s a little step it feels like such a big one.  When I’m the aide I don’t take responsibility for the lessons or the class or behaviours.  I work with the teacher to achieve their goals for the children in the class.  This is different.  This is my time to really think about how it will work for me as the teacher.  That’s so hard.  I’m used to being the assistant in the classroom.  For years that’s been my place.  This step is a scary one.  The next step I took was one I will never look back from.  It was the first step I took into a classroom as “an almost” teacher.

That first day was all the good, wonderful, scary and tense things that teaching brings.  I loved it.  I loved every minute.  Like a roller coaster when you lose your stomach, I sat through the ride, I smiled, felt like screaming and enjoyed the view of the world of learning.

Tomorrow I commence day 3.  I’m taking deep breaths.

 

Preparing for Prac

As I was recently fortunate to be given a position as a literacy coach at my local primary school, alterations have been made to my prac, meaning I now start on Thursday (EEK!).  After chatting to my mentor from the school I feel so excited about the experience ahead of me. We chatted about how teachers have a tendency not to want to share ideas.  There is often a sense that what we know/have/use is our property and for some reason, exclusively ours.  Blogging has helped me share with and learn from others in a collaborative environment.  It’s such a valuable thing for educators to share with each other, and when we stop, it’s my opinion that our students suffer.

My mentor then raised the point that my prac experience is so valuable, as once I graduate, I will rarely get to see another teacher work.  It doesn’t happen.  When I think about that, it makes sense.  Once I’m teaching, I will hardly ever (if ever!) get to observe other teachers in their environment and learn from them.  It makes me think that blogging and other online resources (such as padlets) are valuable for teachers.  Imagine setting up a padlet with your teaching partners with the purpose of discussing “christmas concert” or “mother’s day craft”.  You could share with each other ideas, restrictions, sites and information without needing to arrange a meeting.  The padlet could be added to at any opportunity given, and wouldn’t require a great deal of time.

How else can we continue to share once we are practicing teachers?

Academic Integrity

I’ve never really felt the need to protest many marks that have been issued to me throughout my academic life. In primary and high school I pretty much survived with common sense, very little study but attention during class.
University has been generally the same for me- provided I engage in the course material (lectures, readings and tutorials) I have passed with credits or high distinctions. Some courses have involved much more effort, some have interested me more, and therefore my attention is drawn to course material more frequently.
I received a disappointing mark today. I know that if you’ve ever studied at university this isn’t new, but the difference is that I had some very specific feedback on this assignment, and made changes according to this feedback, only to have different comments made on the same points! It sounds confusing, but it really isn’t: firstly I had a lesson at 90min, the feedback was “too long- 20-30min max”. I changed the lesson to 30min and was then told in the final submission that this was too long. So, I’ve started the procedure for having the mark reviewed.
My reason for addressing this in my blog is a reminder: as teachers, we have the responsibility to adhere to high levels of integrity when assessing our students. The mark I received has put me in a mindset that makes me want to throw the towel in. I’ve worked hard, and get marks like this, while I am actually working with these kids, seeing the lessons in practice, and I know what works and what doesn’t work with these kids in my classes. That doesn’t mean I’m right, but I have a level of experience and knowledge that isn’t negligible either.
Our marking shouldn’t reflect opinion or preference. They should reflect the level of understanding our students have about a subject. Whether they do things our way or not, we need to remain neutral.
I’m going to try not to quit uni tonight and just chalk this one off to a bad day.