Just realised how boring my post title is but since it is 5.43am, I hope you will forgive my lack of creativity.
About 4 weeks ago I was asked via email if I could present my experiences with PBL at my region’s English Head Teacher’s network meeting. Before I get into the guts of this post, let’s just get a couple of things clear first. 1. I am not an English Head Teacher. I am a teacher of English is a medium sized faculty with a brilliant, caring and trusting head teacher. 2. This is my seventh year teaching English to high school students. 3. In Australia English = Language Arts. 4. I only started experimenting with PBL in Term 4 of last year thanks to the inspiration of Dean Groom.
Being asked to present on PBL was fine. The person asking me to present had seen me present on PBL previously at the NSR DER Innovators Conference late last year. But presenting to Head Teacher of English? Not the same group of people. At all. Having presented a couple of times at the annual English Teacher’s Association conference, I’m familiar with the stomach churning anxiety that English teachers as audience can stir in a person. Head teachers? Let’s just say I was feeling pretty queasy for a number of days leading up to the presentation!
PBL, in my opinion, is essential for the future of English in Australia. Survey results from past HSC students reveal that most of them found their HSC English courses lacking relevance to their future careers, lives and the wider world. This fact distressed me considerably. Something is very wrong in the state of HSC English. There are numerous reasons for these results – but I can’t give them to you yet. What I can tell you is that as a teacher I am uninspired by the HSC and its narrowing of subject English into the essay-writing under examination conditions funnel. I don’t want to spend two years teaching students to ‘spot the technique and reference to concept’ in works of art. If I hadn’t found PBL, I would have lost faith in my subject and myself as a teacher. I know I was close to calling it quits last year. Imagine how other young teacher must feel who don’t have the support, guidance and inspiration of a powerful PLN?
Here is my prezi for yesterday’s presentation. It went SOO well. I was terrified but so excited to be surrounded by such passionate and intelligent teachers. They knew the score when it came to English. Maybe they hadn’t taken the looming National Curriculum with its three strands (language, literacy, literature) as a dire sign for subject English as I have (how do we know they won’t take just one strand – say, um, literacy? – make it compulsory – and relegate the rest to student choice? I bet no one foresaw that Maths would become optional in senior studies?) … but it was great to see them take this idea on board as one worth considering. I made amazing new connections and have been given the title of ‘honourary Head Teacher’ thus being allowed to share in the professional dialogue of this very experienced team.
My PBL journey is just at its very beginning steps but already I am reinvigorated as a teacher and a learner. This approach to learning forces students to engage with their world, not just dead white males on a page. I’m excited that my enthusiasm for PBL has helped my great friend and mentor Kelli McGraw as she begins her journey into the world of teaching teachers.