Reality of Week 1, Term 1

Having exhausted myself just thinking about getting back into the classroom after a 5 week break, I was surprised that I could feel any more tired – yet I do!

Wednesday spelt SDD for many teachers, me included – and I was both excited and anxious. Despite having only slept 4 hours the night prior, I felt rather fresh as I drove the 20 minutes into work – arriving at a crisp 7.15am as Peter the cleaner blew leaves out of my path. Eager to use my 1 hour for DER well, I had planned to head to the library, get computer room keys and turn all computers on, ready to go when the staff arrived. Unfortunately it had slipped my mind that the library doesn’t open until 8.30 and the SDD was to kick off at 8.45am. Needless to say, I failed in my first mission of the day – the computers stayed blank and quiet.

After listening to our dear Principal recap on our HSC successes and outline his vision for the year (including the implementation of a new school-wide policy called ‘Possitive Behaviour Enhanced Learning’, PBEL), it was my turn to get the staff up on their feet and ready to become active learners, not passive. I had organised graded workshops that would target an easy-to-master skill that could be immediately applied in the classroom using the netbooks. The beginners group focused on mastering track changes and adding comments in Word, as well as attaching files to emails – essential skills for providing effective and immediate feedback to students. The intermediate group were instructed in the basics of OneNote – creating NoteBooks, adding images, videos and audio as well as text from the ‘net. The advanced group explored a range of Web 2.0 tools  and added to the school DER wiki links, a review and suggested uses for the tool in the classroom.

I was surprised with how swiftly the teachers chose their skill level and with how happily they embraced the new skills they were shown. I led the beginners group, whilst two DAGs (members of our DER Action Group – thanks @simonjob) led the other groups. Throughout the day many staff thanked me for the workshops and felt happy to share their new found skills with others. How cool is that? I love seeing teachers ‘passing it on’. Success with technology really is infectious!

Following the DER workshops we were treated to a presentation on Study Skills. We have presenters come to the school often to talk to students about Study Skills, but never to teachers. A little strange, considering we are the facilitators of student learning and most have the additional role as mentor to HSC students. The ideas discussed were excellent and I highly recommend getting Prue Salter to talk to your students. The website has a number of resources also: http://www.enhanced-learning.net/ If you scroll down the page there’s a link to some freebies and files that she uses in her sessions. She is an energetic and passionate presenter – she kept us teachers engaged for the first half of her talk, however during the last half we became a little pre-lunch restless. I’ve already implemented a couple of her strategies – a large yearly planner for all classes displayed on wall and the philosophy that you should never ‘look back’ in a diary.

Thursday was the reality of students for the first time this year, starting with Year 11 Advanced and a new program to teach. The first module is the Area of Study: Encounters with Conflict and we will be studying ‘Oedipus the King’ and excerpts of Plato’s ‘Phaedo’. A couple of hugely dense texts that will be fodder for much discussion in class, on our class edmodo group and on our blog. I’m happy to be using edmodo again with this class. Most of the students were in my class last year and have spent at least a term using edmodo to share ideas, collaborate and submit homework and assessment tasks. They love it and so do I. I am most excited about out new blog. I have been fortunate enough to connect with many great teachers via twitter and our class will (hopefully) be connecting with a number of other schools in our discussion of literature and language. Did I mention I love technology and its capacity to bring people together on a journey of learning?

Friday brought me into contact with approximately 60 more young minds – Year 8, 10 and 12. Year 8 is a challenging year group and I’m looking forward to changing their perspectives of who they are as individuals and as learners. It was a great experience exploring what they understand about our three new focus behaviours (thanks to PBEL) – respect, responsibility and effort. Effort is a big one for me, and they all seem keen to make an effort to do their personal best if I make an effort to do mine. Awesome! I also informed them that this year technology would play a part in their learning in English. I’ve set them up on edmodo as well as creating a blog and a wiki. Why not?

Year 10? Well these are my little DER babies. It’s hard not to see them as furry, cute little guinea pigs that I can experiment upon. Which hoops can they hop through unassisted and just when will they try to escape the cage (if they haven’t tried already)? As was to be expected, some netbooks were not present. One was involved in a hair-straightener ‘accident’ and was in the emergency ward, whilst another two had ‘gone dead’ as if by magic. Out of a class of 25, this was a good start. As our school is now fully wireless, we have chosen to teach a unit that is entirely web based. The Cancer Council has developed a webquest that targets Stage 5 and focuses on Visual Literacy. (Check out the site at: http://www.albinowebquest.com.au) The kids happily logged on to their netbooks – all successful after installing the latest updates – just a little slow. They hopped on to the internet, typed the address into the address bar, only to discover that the page they were taken to was not the gorgeous homepage for the webquest, but a very plain, semi-filtered version. I hid my disappointment from the students and persevered. I don’t have a projector in my room, and didn’t have my netbook (yes, a big ‘no no’), so I roamed the room and assisted students in navigating their way to the introduction page. Some fruitful discussion about the nature of social networking sites My Space and FaceBook followed, with the focus on their purpose and audience. Five minutes before the bell, the netbooks were switched off and homework set – students have until Monday to search ‘Al Bino’ on MySpace, FaceBook and YouTube. Of course they’ll have to use their ‘unfiltered’ home computers to complete this educationally valid task. After a 140 character vent about the DET filter, I was reminded that ‘getting sites unblocked must become part of teacher lesson prep’ – thanks @benpaddlejones! He’s right, and I’ll be more vigilant in the future.

Year 12 went by in a blur of ‘our assessment is due next week?’, ‘what assessment?’, ‘can I email you my essay, Miss?’ and it is now 12.23am at the end of a very big three day work week.

Looking back over my last post, I can see that I was justified in my anxiety and exhaustion. But you couldn’t force me to change my profession. It’s busy, but it’s exciting.

Bring on Week 2!

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4 thoughts on “Reality of Week 1, Term 1

  1. Phew! What a week indeed! Glad the DER implementation is being taken on by staff – even beginners – that is encouraging for you. Get some rest – ha ha and enjoy Week 2. My week whizzed by and I’ve a feeling next week will too.

  2. Happy to hear you are fully wireless. It is the first hurdle at our school, and I couldn’t help but be supportive of colleagues in their refusal to embrace the full scope of the laptops when they have been timetabled in black holes. Sad, so very sad that we spent time creating moodles and no student can access them…Mmmm, I would have to disagree: ‘getting sites unblocked must become part of teacher lesson prep’. Why would a Cancer Council site be blocked in the first place?? I always check if a site is blocked, but who would check if the Cancer Council site is blocked??

    • It’s insanity, to be honest with you. I’m not for the filter at all, I can’t understand how it is possible to teach students how to navigate the ‘net safely and sensibly if we have a watered down version of it.

      I suppose what I was saying is that with the bubble we’re in, even ‘educationally valid’ sites are blocked, therefore one must check and unblock ahead of time to avoid disappointment.

      It does make for great class discussion about why the blocks are in place and what message it sends to the kids.

      So are we on for hooking up our classes? I’m keen to do the journeys writing task. I’ll DM the link of our blog to you.
      Thanks for commenting Troy 🙂

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