Wednesday, 30 September 2015

#EdBlogNZ Reflecting on my teaching practice

Having been focused on school, playcentre, some other work for my own business and studying for my masters I haven't made the time to blog like I was last year where I would post about once a fortnight. I have missed it and see the #EdBlogNZ challenge as an opportunity to do this... despite a large essay being due in a few days (or perhaps because it is due...?!)

Lately I have been doing a fair bit of reflection on my teaching as I prepare for the coming term so I'll start here I think.

This year I have returned to the regular classroom in a job share model and next term will be teaching full time as my teaching partner is on maternity leave. It's been a huge year, with a lot of learning for me at least!

Prior to teaching this year I have been working in a management role in an educational not-for-profit organisation and studying consistently throughout that time (I completed my post grad part time and participated in NAPP2012 along with other things). My role had me working with teachers, managing learning programmes, leading PLD and occasionally teaching. Last year I had a year of sifting where I was learning, taking on new work and doing some relieving as well as lots of playcentre stuff. It was great to play and try some different things, I learned about blogging, I set up my own business, I started my masters.

Despite all of this I have still found the shift back into regular classroom teaching a challenge... not that it is a bad thing at all- challenge is where the learning happens. Some of the challenges have been in getting out of my own head! I have been teaching Thursdays and Fridays all year, this worked well for fitting in and around both of our personal/family schedules but probably isn't how I would go about things if I was to do it again, two days at the end of the week is not quite enough to establish any real flow but I have found a better rhythm recently.

Learning curves:

  1. beware of assumptions- we had assumed our children would be largely self managing (age appropriately of course) at the start of the year so set up a programme on this basis, they weren't and we weren't ready for that so had to take some steps back early on after realising this
  2. only connect- for the first term I really didn't take ownership of the class, figuring as I was teaching less it was really my partners class and I was just doing some days. We shared the planning, assessment and other management tasks but I hadn't made that emotional investment like I would have if I had taken on the role of classroom teacher, I know that sounds a bit odd especially knowing the work I used to do but it was almost like I had a relieving mindset about the teaching. Again I know that if I was to do this again I would structure the start of the year differently so I could make those connections as I would any other time.
  3. be realistic- I was also over planning and expecting too much of myself and the children... seriously one art piece took us over eight weeks to complete but then we weren't doing it every day and I was only there some days! I needed to think about what we could conceivable achieve and remember that I was only teaching a percentage of the time so couldn't cover everything! We both struggled a little with this initially as new job share teachers. I also needed to keep in mind how long I had actually worked with the class... in Term One I had 16 teaching days with the class, that is a little over three weeks with students, not 8-9 whole weeks which I was judging myself on.
  4. don't forget what you know- there are many things that I haven't done or used which I used to and it has taken me a while to realise that. In the start I got hung up on literacy and numeracy and trying to do 'what was right' rather than what was right for the children right now! I have started playing my guitar again and plan to use drama as well which are things I used to do a lot.
Gardening- Sustainability
Room 5 the Place to Stretch and Grow
I am grateful for the work my teaching partner has done and the experience she bought to our role, she had much more and indepth recent teaching experience so I have learned heaps from her. I have also undertaken further study into maths through E-Ako and NZ Maths as well as recently completing a free online Stanford maths course. I have pursued an interest in the brain and learning with focusing on learning differences and behaviour... it has been brilliant and full of stuff I wish I had known as a young teacher. Thankfully my work into teaching as inquiry, brain based learning, inquiry learning and health has given me a good grounding to build from at least.

Highlights of this year so far:
  • having a brilliant job share partner who I felt comfortable to share my fears, beliefs, triumphs and failures with... we didn't know each other very well before we started off but I have really enjoyed working with her
  • seeing our class operating at the end of Term 3 as self managing classroom citizens- it's been a lot of effort from everyone to make this happen
  • success in inquiry learning over the year and now exploring learning through play and discovery learning opportunities for our class
  • seeing our inquiries flow from one into another at natural times and then last night looking at our overall plan and realising just how much we have explored as a class this year (which was quite a surprise!)
  • learning about gardening, sustainability and weaving with the class... thank goodness for one particular crafty student who has been a great source of expertise with our weaving projects that children have self selected... love this ako where we are all learning together- there has been a lot of this for me this year
    Our completed class weaving artwork
    We did plate weaving first, then a CD
    each and after that individuals could
    choose a project that interested them.
    It's been terrific. 
  • sharing some of my learning around the brain and learning with the class and seeing them 'get it' and build on it together
  • working with a great team at our school, I love the vibe we have and how we are building a shared philosophy with several of us coming together over the year so a relatively new staff
So what next:

Well I have started building discovery time (I am calling it Meaningful And Independent Learning (MAIL)) into the programme, I have some great learners in the class who are becoming quite self motivated and this works for them as well as others. It is a great chance to work alongside individuals or small groups, for children to learn from each other and for children to pursue their own interests. We are focusing on self management and co-operative skills so this is a great opportunity to teach and learn through doing. Our big thing is that you must always be able to explain what you are learning if asked, and I am hearing some wonderful responses already like "learning to stick with something even if it is hard", "learning what fractions of shapes look like", "learning to make words that rhyme with -at etc", "learning to share my ideas with painting". Like everything this is a work in progress but I see it paying huge dividends for our class.

I have also created a google site for our class which at the end of the term I shared with our parents so they can use the links etc at home for learning at home if they want to. It was great to put some of my old skills into practice in a new setting.

And finally, just enjoying the last weeks of the year with our fabulous, challenging, unique learners as we keep on learning together.

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