(I need to acknowledge the significant amounts of work done by the Science department of my school in getting this set up, especially Kevin for his work on Sharepoint and Ryan for his work with OneNote and the unit plans, and EVERYONE for being willing to go along with this and make it AWESOME)
At the end of last year, our department made a considerable push to update our unit plans and rejig our junior science programs. A big part of this was planning for the use of Microsoft Classroom in our school, and taking advantage of all of the features of the classbook that came automatically with each classroom. To this end, we have a staff portal on sharepoint with a ‘master’ Onenote that staff can take content from and easily add to their individual class note books, while still having access to shared resources to personalise as required for students particular levels or interests. It also allows for new or different resources and ideas to be added. It has saved an AMAZING amount of time having this back of resources all set up before we even started for the year.
The Teacher ‘Hub’
We have a pretty amazing Science set up on Sharepoint – we can book equipment, find our SMUS (safe method of use sheets), find curriculum reports etc… as well as a bank of resources for our classes.
We updated our unit plans to include live links to any documents, videos or animations you might use with your classes.
And have set up a conbines OneNote stored on the site that has a bank of resources also – which means you can copy the page into your classbook content library, and then students will have their own copy almost instantly after you have clicked the button.
So it doesn’t matter if it is an admin page (Like a year plan…) or sharing an interactive activity, it is all there and with maybe 4 mouse clicks, your students all have their own copies.
This has made the start of the year so easy. These digital portfolios were made in minutes for whole classes of students. Because the students had been entered into Microsoft classroom, teachers didn’t even have to manually enter students into the class notebooks. For the staff new to our department there was a ready made first few lessons for them while they came to grips with everything else. For our non-specialist science teachers, there was a range of resources they could just grab, whih gives them more time to explore any more indepth questions the class has.
For me, it has meant I already have a baseline. So I was able to spend more time getting to know my students, establish those relationship and find resources or learning activites specific to them. I am hoping that by the end of the first term, I won’t need to be finding the resources at all, the students will be able to find them or make their own. Which can then be shared in the collaboration space as meaningful activities to them.
I have been playing around with Minecraft in my classroom for over a year now without ever really getting fully into it myself. I have mostly allowed students to use it as a tool for their learning if they chose, and some students did amazing things like build a chem lab or a heart, or some electrical circuits using redstone, or spawn a million chickens (currently a pair of yr 8 students are using minecraft to make a model water cycle…..). To keep up with what the students were doing I joined in occasionally, learned more than I care to admit about setting upservers while still having no idea how to set up servers, did a course at pycon on coding in Minecraft and generally had some fun without ever getting a full grasp of what was available. When MinecraftEDU was available with a microsoft Office 365 login, I wondered some more about how this would work in class. So when a MOOC course popped up for MinecraftEdu I thought ‘Ha, I should get me on to that’.
And as always, the very best learning has not been exactly what I expected. The very best thing about this course is that it is being run through microsoft classroom so I get to experience classroom as a student – which is super helpful as we are currently rolling out classroom for our whole school (I am running some whole school PD on it tomorrow!!).
To start with, the MOOC runs for 3 weeks, and involves 3 webinars. The first was a little laggy (A consequence of living on the other side of the world….) but still packed with some useful tips and tricks, and it is always nice to connect with other educators. There was some admin like getting logins sorted, a preach to the converted about why minecraft is pretty cool, some basics around moving about (it is funny how quickly the wasd key muscle memory comes back when playing minecraft), a walk through of the tutorial world and then we were off. We had an assignment and a due date and the time of our next call.
So my first error came through the assignment, I heard midnight Sunday as the due date and went sweet, that means Monday for me. Which is did, just not Monday Midnight. Hopefully they don’t mind it was late…. but he first assignment was one of three options based around putting yourself in the place of a beginner and trying a world through their eyes.
So I did the tutorial world, as part of the reason I am doing the MOOC is I don’t know what I don’t know. It was actually really good to walk my way through it, and I did make some mistakes…inlcuding breaking the lever that opens the door – luckily I could just smash through the door 🙂
But there were lots of other fun things to do, and I do think that if you have never played Minecraft before, the tutorial world via the Minecraft EDU site is a great place to start to see what it can do…..
So once I had (a bit of a rushed due to my assignment being late….) look around the world I completed my assignment (again, once I had learned how yo export the screenshots I took…. mild panic there) and uploaded them into the assignment section of microsoft classroom
We also had to share our assignment on to the collaboration space of a shared notebook and comment on each others experience. This was really cool, reading about what other people had done and seeing some more experienced users than me and what they could do – definitely super awesome stuff right there….
So already it has been a really worth while course, and I am looking forward to webinar 2 this week. And I will definitely not be leaving the assignment so late this time 🙂
My favourite (professional) week of the year is Hands on at Otago. This camp used to be Hands on Science, and 19 years ago I went along as a nerdy nearly 6th former. Fast forward a few years and I was running the project in my department. A few more years and I am the camp ‘manager’ which is really the camp Mum for the 300 odd students and 30 odd post and undergrad student helpers. It is an amazing week, full of stress, chaos, ridiculous laughter and late nights, and has given me some of the best experiences of collaborative, genuine team work and problem solving.
For some back ground, Hands on this year was about 420 kids from all over New Zealand and a couple from Aussie and the Pacific coming to Otago University for a ‘week of serious fun’. I was living in at Arana College with 299 of the students (Blueshirts) and 26 redshirt student helpers (a couple had to pull out, so we were a bit light on red shirts this year)(The other 120 were over the road at Studholme College). Myself and the redshirts pretty much go all out all week to provide pastoral care and a super awesome time for these kids, while they also go to projects for 1/2 the week (eg comp sci solve a cyber crime, geology take and analyse soil samples from around Dunedin – this is actually going to get written up into a paper, music made a music video..), and a couple of 2 hour ‘snacks’ (eg, the English snack got students to make their own quills and learn cursive, or students attended the anatomy museum, or went of the polaris research vessel or went to the Maori Center to learn about the support offered there).
So the red shirt team has nothing to do with projects and snacks (other than getting student there and back safely) but they do organise orientation, an amazing race to get the students to learn their way round the uni, north ground games to get them moving, a quiz night, and an AMAZING DANCE (we had gravity events again this year – totally recommend them, the owner did Hands on Science while at school so he totally gets what we are about). And then we listen to what the students did for the week, and we get them home again.
It is really hard to describe the week to people that haven’t done it. This year we had several people pop by to see what we do and how we do it. One of the hardest questions I got asked was how do we pick the team of redshirt to help out. Essentially, we have a spectrum of people, people who are outgoing/quiet, people who are from NZ/overseas, people with different cultural backgrounds and capital. We try for a mix of subjects, sexualities, ethnicities and experiences. And on top of that, will that person be able to a) connect with a blue shirt in same way (even if it is a that person is kind of like me, so maybe I can do this to type connection) and b) work with everyone else to get all the jobs done that we need to.
And boy do we need to problem solve. People are messy. And when you get that many people living together, things happen. Some are major (like a family member passing away and needing to get home, or dealing with being told to stay and not let it ruin the week), NCEA results coming out (oh my goodness…..), crashing cars (I once seriously dented the proctors car hitting a bollard… I have NEVER had an accident like that before or since) illness and injury (trips to A&E are always fun) and staff issues.Some are purely logistical – how can I get group A, B and C to locations D, E and F at x, y and z times, or which packed lunches do I need to order. Some are minor – forgotten keys to a van, miscommunications, scraps, bumps and bruises, lost property. Some are kind of funny (seeing a blue shirt teaching a group of other blueshirts how to use a washing machine) and some are heartbreaking…..
And all of these things and more happen throughout the week, often all at once and all together. There are periods of calm, periods of painting decoration for the dance, and periods of intense scrambling.
Photo credit – red shirt Andrew 🙂
Leading this organised chaos has done so much for me. It has taught me about compassion, about boundaries, about sharing your faults so others are comfortable to admit theirs. I have learned how to find the information I am looking for at jobs interviews (although this is still a work in progress…) which has in turn made me feel more confident in my own interviews. It has taught me how privileged I am to have led the life I have, while also being in awe of some of the amazing kids who are more privileged than me. It has taught me you can’t fix some problems in a week, but the importance of being a positive influence. I have learned (again) that when you deliver the impossible, it becomes expected and you can some-how find more to give. It has taught me to lead people, not manage them as things. I have had to find strategies to role with the punches, let upset tired people be heard while secretly wanting to either slap them or agree with them, or stop myself problem solving when all they need to do is vent. To manage difficult professional discussions and stick to my guidelines. To let people find their feet and their own systems and strategies, or to try to guide them through failures. It has taught me how to squeeze something out of people they didn’t know they had – and how to try to pick up the pieces when things get to much. I experience pride, heartbreak, exhaustion, elation, pure joy and belly laughs.
I love working with the red shirts. I try hard to lead by example, join in the ‘little jobs’ when I can, and REALLY enjoy learning about what they are studying and working at. I’m not sure if they all realise it, but talking to them keeps me honest and keeps me fresh. I hear the ‘latest’ science and research, about changes to student loans, the pitfalls of flats and colleges, all sorts of things. And because they are such a varied bunch, I learn such a variety of things.
I am so privileged to be involved in this week. Even though I give it heaps, I always get more back.
One of the ‘perks’ (and there are many) of being Camp Manager (Camp Mum) for Hands on at Otago is I get to go to an amazing public lecture. This years speaker was Ian Taylor, whose company Animation research LTD does a whole lot of really cool graphics for sports events amongst other things. His talk was AWESOME, and for me the idea of never stop dreaming really hit home.
Ian started by talking about his ‘literal’ light bulb moment – the moment when he was 7 years old and his house was connected to electricity for the first time. (We also got a pretyt cool animated journey to see his old house….) He said when he saw the light bulb go on he knew that anything was possible. He went on to say that we need to use our experiences to inform our paths going forward. I am sure the way he talked through this would mean something different for everybody – for me it was learning from your mistakes, never forget where you come from, and don’t be afraid to add a new footprint to your journey.
He also talked about how all through his adult life, he had to think around issues, or almost just ignore them, and find a way around it to get what he wanted. He dreamed of being in a band, so he leapt at the chance when it came up (and the band was called Kal-q-lated risk, which pretty much sums up his whole story). He had just finished a law degree, but got offered a position in TV, so went for it. While reading the news (the video of him doing so was an absolute crack up) he introduced a segment on digital technology and thought I need to get into that. And so he did. By dreaming big and not being afraid he has had an amazing array of experiences through his life – his stepping stones are varied and full of detours.
Ian also talked about the importance of paying it forward. How kind deeds or freebies are often the best way to get future business, or just build up a reputation. He talked over his lack of a business poker face when talking over money, which meant he was respected and people trusted him when he talked about costs. And he was big on the impact of technology on health, and how technology is not all just whizz bang, we should not forget that without the human spirit, technology is nothing.
An example he gave of the can do attitude of his team – they built a cricket pitch out of cardboard and used JAFA’s as cricket balls in the early R&D for ball tracking.
The part of his talk that stood out for me the most was a quote that is their ‘business philosophy’
‘Bugger the boxing, pout the concrete anyway’
I was so intent on what he was saying I didn’t even take a photo!! but it was an amazing idea of if you plan too closely, you can lose the ability and opportunity to do other amazing things. That he who hesitates is lost. And sometimes sidetracks, diversions and failures can lead to amazing things.
For my experiences, this really resonates. I have been frustrated over plans, documentations, forms and expectations. Really, bugger the boxes. Learning will lead where it will, as will life, if we let it. If we follow dreams and ideas, they can lead to beautiful creations.
So this idea is going to be somewhat of a mantra for me this year. I know schools are very different to private companies…. and that I do have a ‘duty of care’ to lots of different sources, and that some jobs do require more structure than others. But when it comes to those jobs where I could ignore the boxes, I am going to make more of a concerted effort to do so. Ian said he worked with an incredibly team who’s standard reply to any request, no matter how out there was ‘I don’t see why not’. So why can’t I do them same.
So thanks Ian Taylor for sharing all your ideas and your enthusiasm for technology. It reignited a spark…. and I can not thank you enough. I will keep dreaming and learn how to pour some concrete
Over the holidays I have taken great pleasure in 1) having a holiday and 2) reading lots of books as I unpacked the last few boxes from our shift last October. One of these books was the Power of One by Bryce Courtney – an old favourite. But (as with all good books I guess) this time I picked something else out of it, which was about ‘St John’s’ people at Peekay’s school.
It got me thinking about my ‘crew’ of kids. Maybe we all have them, or maybe I am alone in having a few kids that I seem to be able to do more for. I don’t like to use the word favourite, but I guess in that traditional sense they could be. The ones that pop in during a break to ask a question, make a point of trying something different or being brave, or email me links to coding tutorials during their holidays (thanks Ben), or makes silver nitrate (amongst other things) in their own ‘lab’ at home. A couple of them probably don’t even realise I go out of my way to catch up with them, or check in on them (these tend to be the ones not doing so well…….)
Because these are the kids I am especially excited to teach. In fact, some of them aren’t even in my classes, but I will see them round school and have some sort of conversation. I might have them in previous years, or just bumped into them some-how. Some of them are the kids that ‘are fine in my class’ but not in others that drive so many teachers bonkers.
So, I started to wonder if I was to like Singe ‘n Burn, and neglecting the many for the few. Not deliberately, or as focussed as Singe ‘n Burn perhaps (there is certainly no interview process) but subtly am I putting more effort into these few students at the cost of others.
Or is it simply that these kids are demanding more effort because I can support them in ways that other teachers can’t? I am sure that there are other students interested in other things who connect with other teachers out there – perhaps not even at school but a sports coach etc.
And then the question rattling around in my brain is does it matter? Does it matter if I put a little more time and effort into 5-15 kids out of my ‘140’ odd in my classes. If I am making sure I am still doing the best job possible for all my students, then I suppose it doesn’t matter if I make more of an impact on some than others. There are always going to be students who prefer another teaching style, or just another teacher. Beating myself up over this is pointless and unhelpful – I just need to do my best for each student as I find them. With this in mind, I guess it is perfectly fine to do more for some than others, so long as I keep in mind to not let the many suffer for the few.
So I will keep thinking about my crew – how can I extend them and nurture them, while not making a big deal of it or being exclusive of others, or at the expense of others, or at the expense of myself. But I am certainly looking forward to seeing them in Term 1 and putting some ideas into shape for what 2017 can bring for them.
That is not to lessen the all important challenge of how can I impact those students ‘who come with minds already narrowed’, who I am ‘forced to fatten with sufficient information to pass the matriculation exams’ to quote Peekay’s reflections on education in the 1940’s. Doesn’t sound all that different to now does it………
It is the end of the school year for me now. 2 more weeks, which will be pretty awesome really, I have a mystery skype planned, a visit from education perfect pencilled in, a Chem teachers day and a big day out with the students where we go to the pool and the movies. I have the year 13 leavers ceremony tomorrow night which will be a little long but still lovely. And a few classes with my yr 10’s who are working on passion projects of sorts, so I am learning with them, and watching (most of) them do meaningful learning to them. So it is not a wasted 2 weeks to finish off the year, it is busy and productive.
And yet I have been feeling rather frustrated and down lately, and am trying to figure out why. After all, lots of awesome has happened this year. This includes, but is not limited too
Bett Asia – a definite highlight in terms of professional learning, networking, playing with cool toys and presenting/representing NZ and my school
NAPP – a full on year of learning, again meeting lots of cool people, talking through some meaty ideas and learning loads – I really enjoyed some of the tasks we were required to complete, while others where a bit of a drag but still useful. The Secondary day in Wellington, the Hui in Auckland and the PLD days in Dunedin where awesome sauce, and I am very thankful for the mentoring roll that Paul O’Connor played for me this year, and that I got to meet some really cool people (including a complete ‘professional crush’ Rachel Bolstad) during the course.
NZ MIEE – this group really moved ahead this year, and we had some good sessions. We are thinking about how we can expand this learning and network, but it was still awesome to connect with cool people doing cool things.
ScichatNZ – still rocks my world. It did get a bit tough at times this year, we were all so busy, but we had good meaty chats, a range of participants and I gained a lot from it. The EducampScience was a good experience too, and I hope we can host another one at Matty’s new school next year.
Shortlisted for the PMs Science prize – I didn’t win it 😦 but to get nominated and get an interview is something right 🙂 maybe next year…..
Asked to present – I have been hugely honoured to present at a couple of local PD days, at Bett Asia, and at the energise conference next year. Lots of work, but also really nice recognition in some ways, and I also love feeling like I can contribute to others learning and give something back.
MoE accred – I also gained MoE accreditation for the new PLD systems. Am still working through what this means.
Hands on Science – is always a full on massive week – but it expanded in 2016 to be Hands on at Otago and it worked. Teething problems aside, it worked. And we have over 400 awesome kids coming to visit Dunedin for a week of serious fun again in Jan of 2017. Doing the interviews for the student helpers was one of the hardest things I have ever done, I was only allowed to pick so many and they were all outstanding young people in the later stages of their degrees. I am so lucky to have these connections with the university but also the energy, passion and ‘making me feel old’ these ids bring is amazing. (except when they tease me for crashing the proctors car into a pole….)
Shifts at school – Some of these are small, but they are starting to happen. MSFT classroom promises to open all sorts of doors for our staff next year, and some of our schools teachers are doing amazing things. Some are doing quiet things that are significant shifts for them, and so are also amazing. I have kept my time allowance for ‘e-learning/365’ next year, so I guess the powers that be are happy too.
MineCraft stuff – I learned heaps, and my students have had fun…. but there is still more to come I think….
My mixed chem class – I can’t stress how much I LOVED this class this year. They were really just amazing students, who were open to learning, got on with each other, learned from each other and had a great year. I am proud of all of them, but especially stoked for one who has made the initial training squad for Olympiad next year. I haven’t had a student achieve this before, so something must have been going right in that class. I will soooo miss them……
All my classes really – I think they all went pretty well, and feedback indicates that too. Still some things to tweak and twist, and a couple to rip the guts out of and change completely, but also that will depend on the cohort of students I have.
buying a new house – was sad to leave our little cottage, but LOVE our new project of a big ole’ Villa, complete with lace around the front door, sash windows and a high ceilinged hallway that will be a nightmare to heat (Al loved that I loved it….). Also has room for a trampoline for the wee man and an office so I keep my work away from the family room in the lounge.
Which is rather a long list. With lots of good things on it. And so I can’t help a nagging doubt… how am I going to do better next year?
(as a disclaimer, there were also several things that went to custard this year, including but not limited to sick relatives and family members, sick me, sick Ollie, sick hubby, a failed effort at purchasing a house, hubby losing his job and the tough relationship issues that that brought…. several uncomfortable discussions at my work around decisions I was unhappy with, watching people I value get really raw deals which SUCKED, tough decisions around jobs (including backing out of one I had indicated I would take.. still feel shit about that), the ppta mag published exerts from my blog without my permission, the failure of my campaign with the ppta to get a shift on the TELA scheme……. so lots of good but lots of not good too. I consider myself to live a charmed life in that I am generally happy and healthy and have an awesome wee boy and a ‘mostly’ awesome hubby, but my life is by no means perfect)
I recently asked about a PD project on twitter and got lots of awesome ideas, but one stood out for me – find something that grabs you. Nothing is at the moment….
And then there was a great #edchatNZ about being in a rut. And is it really such a bad thing – if you are in rut, but can see you are in it, then it is a challenge and you can be innovative and creative to find your way out. So maybe this is where I am at. I am failing to see my way out of it. I just need to find something to pull my into motivation again.
Is it just tired? Do I need to go away and have a break and in that rest the spark will come back? I sure hope so. Because at the moment I feel like I am being tossed on a current and I have no direction over where I am headed.
Or maybe it is a time thing. Next year will be my 4th year at my school, I did 4 years at my first. Maybe it is time to find a new challenge. Seriously consider options for 2018 – the small person will be at school, and hubby more settled in his new job. Perfect times to move them to a remote place somewhere in the world.
So as I take time to reflect on the year that was and plan for the year to come, I am struggling to shake that little nagging feeling of what next….
I was fortunate enough to be asked to attend BettAsia this year as a MIEE fellow but also as a panel speaker on the roll of social media in teacher professional learning. It was a full on trip, but I had an amazing time, learned some new things, made some new connections and strengthened some old ones, and also had a bit of fun exploring Kuala Lumpur. There was a group of 10 from NZ + the amazing Anne Taylor from Microsoft, and it was awesome to get to know this group of people better.
The conference welcome session were held on Monday evening, and I was invited to two. An ‘it never rains but it pours’ moment. The first was at a super fancy bar where I caught up with some of the microsoft crew, including properly meeting Kalpana Kishorekumar (a fellow MIEE) who was going to be on stage with me the next day with Anthony.
I then jumped into a cab (driving in the ‘jam’ in KL is an experience in itself) and was fashionably late to a reception at the British High Commission. At first I felt way out of my depth as most people where from tech companies (if I attend a meeting like this again I will definitely get some business cards made) and was getting stuck into rather too much of the NZ wine on offer, but eventually meet some really cool people and even found another couple of teachers who had found there way there to talk shop with.
Then it was back to the hotel for a quick touch base wine with the NZ peeps before bed time.
Tuesday was the first day proper of the conference. Originally I had intended to go to the educational leadership sessions, but I was put forward to do a live daily adventures interview with Anthony Salcito on stage. What an awesome opportunity!! So I went along to the opening session – getting mic’d up was a new experience – and was challenged by what I heard. I think it is an interesting thing that politics and business mix in with education – and a lot of what was said was about being able to export a marketable product to countries wanting to improve their outcomes. I am still trying to decide how I feel about this…but I guess there is a cost to making resources to some-one has to pay…. but it was really interesting to here the High Commisioner and different ministers speak.
Then Pasi Sahlberg came on to talk about the Finnish Education system and PISA results. Now as I have been working through NAPP this year I have definitely learned more about these tests and why they are ‘so important’ when really they shouldn’t be that important. So this talk was especially refreshing when he mentioned the idea of educational heaven – where you have high equity of access to education and high achievement and outcomes from your systems. He actually got the room (at least 1/2 participated I think) to sing along to ‘knock knock knocing on heavens door…) He was very clear on factors he thought contributed to Finlands excellent results – including allowing children time to play and limited homework – freedom to explore other interests and pursuits was important. Maintaining and increasing the professionalism of the teaching profession was also stressed – as well as reducing competition between schools. It was an excellent and thought provoking presentation, a real highlight of the conference.
Then Anthony was on stage, and I was a bit nervous by this stage so even though I tried really hard to listen, I am sure I missed some important points as he talked about the need to bridge the digital divide. And then I was up
Sadly time was short, so I only got the briefest comments in about the amazing work my students have done with minecraft and how we started with hour of code – which is coming up again this year – amazing to think who much I have learned about this in a year – and how much more I have to learn next year.
I then took a little time to chill out and regroup my brain, before heading into a teacher ambassador session on using 365. Which got completely railroaded by an excellent conversation with a teacher from France about flipped classroom resources and the what and how – we agreed on the why but had fun talking over the merits of different systems and exactly what consistutes flipped etc. It was really cool. I then popped into the leaders academy to and do a problem solving activity – the session was good but as I have read their book I kind of new what the process was. It was still really valuable to use the knowledge in the room to think about some problems facing education – and get a reminder that NZ really is incredibly lucky with our curriculum and resources compared to some other countries.
That night I was really really rooly tired, so bailed a bit early on dinner with the NZ crew and went to bed early. Thankfully I managed to get more than 3 hours in a row, and felt much better for Wednesday
Wednesday morning I went and hung out in the tech expo. There were some demonstrations in model class room that had been set up, as well as presentations and pitches. I enjoyed playing with some robots and checking out some 3D printing. The best take away from this session was blippar. And then I had my first go on google glasses – wowsers. I was in a WWII trench in the Soome designed by Computeam – I am going to show my history teacher this – I was so into it I walked into the booth. It was really really cool.
I then went up to meet Archit and Craig who were doing the panel on social media with me. It fascinates me in terms of my own pathway that here I was holding my own on an (somewhat small to be fair) international stage with 2 presenters who ‘meet’ 30 minutes before the presentation. We had collaborated before via email but we just came together and I think had a really good discussion. We all had slightly different view points, challenges and perceptions, and I really enjoyed the experience.
Then I sat and had a 30 minute conversation with Craig. We just chatted, about school, curriculum, managing work life balance, living as an expat, just talked a bit of shop and a bit of life, and it was awesome. It was an absolute pleasure to strengthen this connection with Craig – I hope he got something out of it too.
I popped back down to talk coding with some tech guys, and have pretty much decided I need to get serious and do a paper or two next year – sadly not having deadlines and goals means I just kept putting it into the background this year. But it is an area I want to upskill myself in, and I am going to look into papers.
One thing I haven’t really mentioned is the conversations I had. Sadly my commitments to other sessions meant I didn’t quite see as much of the kiwi crew as I would like, but the conversations over breakfast or a beer in the evenings were awesome. It is a tad strange that we had to travel such a distance to get ‘hot housed’ as such, but when else do we make the time? So I got to meet some NZ MIEE’s face to face for the first time, learn more about some cool things NZ schools are doing, brainstorm (or just listen) to some of the frustrations we are experiencing, and just learn from some really cool people. I caught up with the super awesome Tamara from Australia, meet some other NZ principals and teachers, some more Aussies, educators and techies from the Netherlands, Britain, Maldives, Singapore, Malaysia, India (One of them new Veranda Sewag which was very exciting….) it was a diverse smogasboard of ideas, cultures, curriculums and conversation. Many conversations reminded me how lucky we are to be well resourced in New Zealand, but highlighted that despite this level of resourcing, we still have room to improve.
I also got to spend some time with my fellow ‘Fellow’s Steve and Nikkie. It was amazing. These people are my tribe, and I miss them already. We had some really cool conversations about what our next steps are, both personally in the class room and in our schools, with the MIEE program we are establishing in NZ, and just life. Much Arohanui for these 2 super super peeps. And of course talking with Anne Taylor who makes this all possible and manages to look super calm and collected while doing it, as well as others from the Microsoft Education team.
And then it was Thursday, and there was time for a quick trip up the sky tower (I don’t do lifts/planes/enclosed spaces well and nearly lost it…. Sigh) and a trip to the mall, and then it was time to start the journey home. An amazing trip, great connections and lots of learning. As well as loads of fun.
And when I think back to a little 2 years ago and my first post as an MIEE, it is ridiculous. So much has happened in that time, so much has changed, and still so much hasn’t. I have learned and achieved so much in that time, and yet there is still much work to do. And I can’t wait.
I was fortunate enough to be asked to attend BettAsia this year as a MIEE fellow but also as a panel speaker on the roll of social media in teacher professional learning. It was a full on trip, but I had an amazing time, learned some new things, made some new connection and strengthened some old ones, and also had a bit of fun exploring Kuala Lumpur… which is what this blog post is about. There is another one on my experiences from the conference.
I arrived late on Sunday night, and after waking up at 3am with my brain telling me it was 8 am and breakfast time, I got some more sleep in and then went on a ‘Country’ tour.. KL and NZ have quite different perceptions of Country it would seem 🙂 The tour included the pewter factory, the batik factory and the Batu Caves, and then on Thursday I went to the patronus towers. While none of the excursions was billed as especially Sciencey, there was lots of Science on display
WAS AWESOME. A weird type of chemistry heaven combined with a history lesson of the factory and settlement of the family to Malaysia, and an interesting display of different health and safety standards. The tour started with a walk through of the museum. To be honest, I was not that interested until I saw some old school Bunsen torches and burners and other Scientific equipment – To think what they made and had done!! There were some posters on the composition of pewter and how it was made.
Then I nearly lost my mind where there was a demonstration of the molten pewter being poured into a mould and being made into handles. The poor tour guide nearly lost her mind when I reached out to touch the freshly made handles – just like in where the wild things are, they were still warm 🙂 I still can’t get over the fact that there was just this cauldron of molten metal and the skill of the lady working on the counter. She had no barriers between her and the molten metal – and neither did the tourists. I could have watched it for hours. Sadly I got hustled along the tour (they really were very nice, and just trying to stick to the schedule, but I seriously could have stayed for hours – there was an option to do a class to make your own tankard, which I so wish I had had time to do) to see other amazingly skilled workers hammers, ingraving and doing all sorts of cool things to make the figurines, cup and trinkets that the factory produces.
As such tours tend to do, the tour finished at the gift shop. I was quite taken with an amazing silver sawn but at $100K NZ it was a bit much. There were also AMAZING chess sets, star wars figurines and all sorts of cools things.
Batik is a method of putting patterns onto cloth by blocking with wax and then painting over them. This stop was a little short on the Science than I would have liked (it wasn’t a Science tour, but there was plenty of Science there… I am totally thinking of stealing this idea for solubility next year) but it was still really cool to watch the workers painting the cloth and seeing the patterns come to life. There were also amazing scarves, which were duly purchased.
The caves were such a juxtaposition. Sadly, there were repairs going on when we were there, so scaffolding meant we could not enjoy the Gold statue to the full extent – but we could watch the monkeys scramble all over it. The caves were reached by a concrete stair way – and the geology of them was amazing. I couldn’t not get my head around it, there was no water source, no stream or beach. All the caves I have been to in NZ have had water in them, but not this one. Maybe it used to be there and has been diverted somehow…. Also, all the caves I have been to in NZ have been left to nature (with the exception of a few parties in the caves in long beach) and so the natural beauty is clear to see.
We were lucky that when we went the caves were not too busy. They were absolutely beautiful naturally, but also had shrines installed. Some shrines were beautiful and intricate, others seemed a bit tacky, and the temple with flashing lights inside the caves just seemed out of place to my NZ sensibilities. Also, the monkeys (I hope it was the monkeys) like to thrown things so there was litter down the sides of some cliffs, which also took away a little of the majesty of the experience. But it was still really awesome.
The Petronas Towers
Where ridiculously high!!!! Scarily so. I wasn’t so keen on going up them, but subtle peer pressure and a want to hang out for as long as possible with some awesome peeps, meant I went up. After nearly loosing it in the lift, the view was worth the trip!! It was fascinating for me to be up so high – it really was a feat of engineering. So with this trip in mind, my next technology challenge might be to build two towers with a bridge and see if the position of the bridge alters the strength of the towers.
I have recently had doubts over my self worth. I believe that (almost) all teachers are genuinely interested in helping others and wanting the best for the young people in there care. It might not always be the same ‘best’ that I have, but you know, people give a damn. The job is just to hard otherwise. And some days, my best is pretty average too – we all have those days. But it makes my life so much happier knowing that most teachers are giving it their genuine best shot.
The other thing I know is that I love love love LOVE my job. I really do. I fight for it as much as I can, even when I know it is a loosing battle. I rant and storm and plot and think and tear my hair about what can I actually do to make education better.
But at this point, there are over 1300 vacancies on the ed gazette web page.
458 of those are in secondary schools, and of those, 102 have since in the job description (remembering that some might be social science.)
and 106 are for middle management.
So then my self doubt swings to inflated self worth perhaps. Science teachers, and in fact all teachers in general, are in demand. I have been very flattered by lovely emails asking me to consider apply for jobs. There is significant demand, and school ‘leaders’ are crying out for good candidates for jobs. Frantic facebook and twitters post saying anyone interested in this job. As a Chemistry teacher who is not completely rubbish at her job for a significant portion of it I am an in demand commodity.
Except I am not.
I am still just a teacher.
I have a time release for elearning stuff, but no MU and no official job description. I am one of probably thousands of teachers in NZ and round the world who does more than they need to because they give a damn.
I have actively decided against a middle management roll for the time being as it seems to simply incompatible with having a young family. Which definitely needs to change, right now I feel a lot of talent and skill is being wasted or under utilised due to the additional demands placed on families. I really value my time with Mr nearly 4. Even without a middle management job, I still find myself away from home for camps, sports trips, conferences, PT interviews, prizegivings, meetings etc. After school today he came with me to the girls cricket match (bribed with Lolly pops) instead of coming home and hanging out after daycare. I posted earlier in the year around my despair of so many awesome teachers leaving for ‘sunnier’ shores. Of my Tcol cohort, I reckon maybe a third are still teaching 7 years in.
Today I had to remind myself of why I got into this job. Why I left a Science research lab to go teaching. It is because I LOVE teaching. I am passionate about everyone having the opportunity to learn. I really value promoting strong woman in the work place and showing girls they can have a family and work too (even if my life is a train wreck of domestic disaster stories…..). While I support breaking down subject silos, I value having subject specialists with their enthusiasm, passion and knowledge.
And so today when I got heart breakingly cross again and through that schools really are nothing more than machines to churn out the most possible with the least possible resourcing and they don’t actually give a damn about who works in them and why was I remaining part of this horrid machine, I needed to remember.
I LOVE this job. I have so much fun, I learn so much, I am never bored, I get paid to watch cricket and set stuff on fire (don’t get me started on our new lab protocols and safety managements stuff – sigh) and work with amazing people and talk shop at parties and love it.
So I still ask what can I do for my school, and for my learners?
But I am increasingly worried that there are less and less people asking this. How will those gaps be filled, and who will help support those young people so that everyone has an equal opportunity to learn? Where are these teachers going to come from? And once they get there, how do we stop them leaving?