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Finding the ‘bright spots’

I found this post in my drafts – And I think it is worth sharing, even if it is unfinished. Hope you are all finding some bright spots.

For a multitude of reasons, the last couple of months have been a bit tough in my teachy life. Work stresses including two teachers resigning in the space of two weeks, the upcoming teacher strikes, multiple interruptions making it hard to get into a routine and get through work required, report deadlines looming, knowing that some teachy friends are going through some really tough times…. well it has all contributed to a big pile of unhappiness. And those creeping thoughts of  why don’t we look after the people who are still turning up and working hard as well as the people where the wheels have fallen off. The kind of time where it is easy to forget to find the ‘bright spots’ and things I LOVE about working with young people. And ‘old people’ too.

So I thought I’d take some time on a friday night (with a gin in hand after take aways for tea) to write some of these down.

I guess this was mostly highlighted for me this week on Wednesday, when I had 4 out of 24 students arrive for Level 3 Chemistry. The rest where out on a Biology field trip. Bugger this, I decreed – let’s go get a coffee. And so off we went (after leaving a note on the board so if anyone came looking for us they could call my mobile) to a cafe 5 minutes walk from school and they were all ridiculously polite and ordered small drinks and I topped it up with some cakes. And we just talked about future plans, uni or polytech? Gap year? Work? Our international student talked about plans for when she returns to Germany. We talked about travelling, and then about formal dresses and suits (the formal is in 3 or 4 weeks). And it was really lovely to just sit with some exceptional young people and talk, to be able to listen to them.

Another moment was today, P5 on a friday, where my yr 10 Science class are finally starting to see some results from their independent learning around windmills and/or renewable energy generation. Having worked on a high trust model, and given them some space, it did take 3-4 hours for them to settle into the task, but now some of their projects are really taking shape, and they worked pretty solidly with very little input from me for the whole hour today.

Different ‘windmills’ taking shape

I also attended a girls coding event for tech week (which I will cover in another post), watched the girls football team play superbly well for a 4-3 loss, took pleasure in being able to help some people because their need was greater than mine, and also made some progress on the rather long list of things to do.

And this is where I got to…. I can’t remember what I was going to add…. but the windmills were definitely very cool and I was proud of what the students acheived. 

 

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Reflections from the PPTA ICT committee June 2019

Once again this post has taken some time to get to sorry – Life is just a bit busy at the moment. But Friday a week ago I went up to Wellington for the day for the PPTA ICT committee meeting. As usual, this post comes with a disclaimer that these points are my interpretation and I am happy to be corrected, and/or provide any additional info. An additional disclaimer that I was pretty sick with the lurg doing the rounds, and dragged myself onto the plane at 6:25 am that morning on some pretty good cold meds to boot!! But, as usual, it was a very worthwhile day with lots of interesting discussion and some projects moving forward.

Stuart Wakefield – Chief digital officer, MoE

Stuart was on the agenda to talk around anti plagiarism software (a common discussion point at OCT meetings) but he actually offered a much more broad overview of some of the ministry projects going on, and ‘what could the ministry listen too’ to make sure they were meeting the needs of as many as possible.

There were 3 key ‘rolls’ for the office/team Stuart leads

  1. digital support internally –
  2. Digital support for so different education type agencies eg, NZQA, ERO, Library, MSD (study link) people
  3. Direct support of schools

The support of schools includes all sorts of things, from software licensing (hence the plagiarism software), digital equity for students (how is this managed, supporting pilot programs, internet access etc), digital wellness – screen time, cyber safety (netsafe, N4L, and government level cert stuff)  mental health, and physical features such as furniture .

Several points of interest for me, the first being equity. Massive discussions around the table about what that looks like and what that means, both with Stuart and then later in the day talking about technical support in schools. It is one thing to give a student a device, but if there is no internet at home, or the infrastructure of the school can’t support it, or if teachers are not confident in changing their pedagogy, then the device can’t function fully. John C talked about virtual desktops for devices in his school – they are looking at this route so that less powerful devices can be virtually upcycled with software that might not run on a less powerful machine – trouble is it comes at a cost for a very grunty server. Discussion around how to get wifi into all homes without undercutting the market (I hadn’t considered this) but the ministry is looking into some creative ways to manage this (linked to maintaining a free view TV network – as it seems TV is going to be universally through the internet sooner that we might think).

The next was why do we need anti plagiarism software. I get a bit titchy about this – if you assign a ‘project’ and get 30 identical reports back, then it was a recipe, not a project. How can we move to more authentic learning experiences for students so they are not just copying. But also, in Science, there are only so many ways you can say something like ‘more successful collisions per second means the rate of reaction is faster’ so everyone would be ‘plagiarising’ Those with experience using turn it in or other softwares commented on the PLD required to use it well, and some said using the software had provided students with the opportunity to learn more about plagiarism, which provided great opportunities for critical thinking. I think the take home message is the ministry is open to funding something like this, but it might be at the expensive of something else – so teachers/schools would need to think careful about what their digital priorities would be. BUT also, with the new NCEA review, will this still be an issue?? Watch this space I guess.

Mixed in with the discussions around PLD, I leaped in with my usual comments on the TELA scheme and that PLD for teachers receiving ‘new’ laptops is still lacking….. and what information has been gathered to determine satisfaction around the scheme? So TELA is still simmering in my background, but was not one of the main points in this meeting.

Another idea was around a machine readable curriculum – how can we get ‘resources’ so they can be read by any device/browser (at least, I think this is what it meant) so that is doesn’t matter what devices students have, they can all access the materials. This would mean students don’t need ‘grunty’ devices if all the tools they needed could be web based……

So a really interesting, forward thinking discussion was had.

Round Robin

Due to weather delaying flights and people not being able to arrive, I ended up dominating this a little…… but points of discussion were

  • Tech support – still not enough movement on getting a more uniform technical as well as e-learning/changing pedagogy in schools. Tied into teachers not always being tech savvy using new devices, much less new software. Discussion around how schools are at liberty to spend their money as they choose – do not need to fund a tech if they don’t want to. But round the table there was a massive discrepancy of support in schools – one school with around 1300 students had a 1.5 teachs (one full time, one part time), another slightly smaller had 0.5 of a tech who often worked longer, and another of similar size had no on site tech. Some schools had teachers with time allowances to support staff using technology in their classes, so had teachers with time and units, and some had nothing. So it really is an area of concern as more resourcing goes into digital technologies and learning, especially with the increasing use of online and digital assessment. If teachers are not comfortable using IT in their teaching and learning programs, how can students be expected to be successful in online assessment? And if the infrastructure is not in place so technology is reliably usable, how can teachers be expected to use it?

Outcome was the committee is going to write to the ministry and the PPTA exec to look for ways forward to get a more uniform support for schools – at the moment there is no ‘legal’ route as schools do have autonomy over how they spend there operations grants. There was a comment made that as the NCEA fees have been scrapped, there is going to be even less money (or less chance of money) available to schools to get ready for digital assessments.

  • As already mentioned, John talked about virtualisation of desktop computers for students, so the students could use cheaper computers and still use grunty software. Asked for opinions and ideas around this – the ministry is pushing for schools to shift to the cloud, but this means you no longer control availability or cost of access – to quote John. So if you have any thoughts or experience on this, please reach out and let me know and I’ll take it back to the group
  • I raised an issue around VC courses for language learners, especially Te Reo Maori. I have spoken to a few teachers and schools about this, and VC is not really meeting the needs of these students as well as it might. There was some discussion around how this might work better, but no concrete ideas, so again if you have any please get in touch.
  • DTTA update. Chris Dillion gave a big update from the Digital technology teachers Aotearoa group. Ket points of interest were

– the teacher shortages for DT teachers is going to hit HARD. Many schools were unable to offer DT due to not having a suitable teacher – what impact would these have? And what would ERO think

– New curriculum content – difficulties around working out what was teachable and workable at yr 9 and 10. Varying levels of competence coming from primary schools, some have made massive strides while others not doing much. (I quietly thought this was a bit like Science – some primary do loads while others do not much). Makes it difficult for teachers who are still coming to grips with the new expectations. It is the old chestnut I guess, do we box students in to a year level of ‘skills’ or try and find ways to let them work at their level? But when a kid comes in and says, oh, I’ve already ‘done’ ‘scratch’ it does make it difficult, especially because you can do loads of things with various programs or softwares, but some students won’t see past the tool.

– Assessments are now available – schools will need to ‘book’ a time and a set.

– Support for the Hangarau Matihiko curric and assessment seems to have stalled – difficulties with translation and information from different sources. Watch this space

– Check you the webinar from Kate Curtis and Nathan Owen on the NCEA review changes.

– The date for DT.HM embedding is still 2020 – below is a copy and pasted exert

The following has been passed on from MoE via email, and will be communicated to all schools soon. I have highlighted the relevant parts.

What will ERO be looking for in 2020 in terms of implementation of the new curriculum content?

The purpose of internal and external evaluation is to improve education outcomes and to ensure that schools are accountable for their stewardship. Under the Education Act 1989 all schools are expected to be involved in an ongoing, cyclical process of evaluation and inquiry for improvement. Through the annual reporting process, they are required to report on the achievement of their students, their priorities for improvement, and the actions they plan to take.

ERO supports this review to ensure schools are providing their learners with the rich and engaging curriculum they are entitled to.

It is expected that by 2020 students will be meeting the progress outcomes for digital technologies to match the curriculum level expected for their year level at school?

Over time students should be supported to progress in their learning in technology. In 2020, the Ministry of Education expects that schools will be using the revised learning area to provide students with even broader opportunities to learn in and about technology, informed by the new content around computational thinking and designing and developing digital outcomes.

As for all parts of the curriculum, teachers will design learning programmes with rich and authentic local contexts that provide quality learning experiences for students.

So lots of info from the DTTA – and I again want to acknowledge how hard various members of that group have been working in the back group to support the new curriculum.

Andrea Grey – NZQA

After the last PPTA ICT meeting, I had a comment on my blog from NZQA asking to respond, so I was a teeny bit nervous about them coming to talk to us. Turns out I had not much to worry about, and Andrea was very pleased to come and talk to us to try and build on the/the NZQA’s understanding of where things are at, and what steps might be taken moving forward.

Here are the key points as I remember them – it is also worth having a looksy at the NZQA/NCEA website for more info https://www.nzqa.govt.nz/about-us/future-state/digital-assessment-ncea-online/

  • exams will be online ‘where appropriate’ from 2020 (but paper copies will still be available).
  • Exams have gone online in response to more and more learning experiencing being online. In my opinion, this links into the growing disparity between schools in NZ, some students are using computers very often, and so doing an exam and typing etc are much more ‘natural’ to them than using a pen and paper, while for other students and/or schools, they are still doing most of their learning from work books or paper, so online exams are exceptional and strange. So school who have the infrastructure are finding this all ok.
  • NZQA are working with N4L and school providers – ‘on the journey together’ to understand the main issues/problems and attempt to find solutions. There is no one size fits all….

There was a side discussion around exam centers – some smaller schools and Kura are not exam centers, and sometimes needing to travel is a barrier to learners – so how can those barriers be overcome? Would online assessment mean more students can access assessment from their own school/Kura/Marae? And do students need to be in a big vast hall? Or could they be in a more familiar environment that they feel more comfortable in and so do better…. And even with paper exams, I think it is a shame we shove kids into a hall because it is ‘easier to manage’ either with staffing or timetable changes, rather than give them the best chances of success in environments they fell comfortable with. Personally, when I’m ‘thinking’, I like to sit on the floor and spread out with my laptops and papers all over the show….. I HATED sitting in a desk for 3 hours.

  • about 200 schools have tried one or more online exams to date – some big cohorts and some smaller.
  • Feedback from students has been positive (around 90% strongly agree or agree) – even in instances where technical issues occurred (perhaps because students are more resilient to tech fails than teachers….) although it was acknowledged only about 25% of students who sat the exams completed the feedback forms (which I don’t think it too bad for teenagers!!)
  • Special assessment conditions are a work in progress – text to speech from next year and aiming for speech to text for 2021
  • Any time assessment is still on the radar, but not the immediate future. Will be assessed with the NCEA changes

This also lead to a fun side discussion around some research needing to be done around the timing of assessments…. Is there a magic number for time after learning to have an assessment? How to we promote long term retention? How do we promote skills rather than content ‘regurgitation’? I know from my own teaching that I get frustrated with students who learn something for one assessment, and seemingly can’t remember the skill two months later for another topic (eg writing balanced equations in chemistry…. but there are others). So is assessing straight after the learning always the best option? What are we trying to assess when we assess? How might this look with the changes to assessment with the NCEA review. How might classrooms and learning programs need to change to accomodate varying ‘assessment’ timetables?? I hadn’t really considered the timing of assessments as much as I might have before this meeting and have had several interesting discussions online and in person about what this might mean for different learners, subjects and skills.

  • next target for online exams is languages – there has been some complications with browsers auto-translating!! (I thought this was awesome…..) and then into maths and Science – but how do we move passed substitution
  • for 2019 there are 35 exams online – manly text based as there is confidence that these work as the exams are mostly just substituted for the written exams

Which lead into a really cool (and hopeful) discussion about how online assessment might move on from straight substitution of paper exams into other different ways we could assess students. How could these exams meet the needs of all learners. How could the ‘language’ base of maths problems be removed so it is easier for students to interpret what the questions are actually asking? How could ‘2D’ pictures students are asked to draw or label be redone as animations or VR immersive sessions where students can display their knowledge in different ways? Good an exam have an element of game based design – a pick a path story of sorts? It was a really cool discussion around what assessment could look like, and how might we like to look?

 

So all in all a slightly different meeting with a few more ‘big picture’ ideas than there have been previously. I left with some ideas to ponder and research to do, and some hope around what learning might look like in future

As always, I’m happy to be corrected, and pass anything on to the committee if you have any questions or concerns 🙂 some things don’t fall under the umbrella of the committee, but I’m happy to try and find where issues should go as well.

Have fun

 

 

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On burnout, moral injury, tiredness and I’m not sure……

Today is the middle Tuesday of the 2 weeks easter break. Today was a fabulous autumnal day filled with holidays chores like getting a hair cut, chimney sweeps, gardening etc. And marking. And then some-one popped round which was a very welcome distraction from marking. I was talking to them about how I had felt burn out after the last term, which isn’t like me because I usually have pretty good coping strategies etc, and how frustrated I was with teaching and education in general and she introduced me to to idea of moral injury (see the youtube clip below). Moral injury has been mostly explored (from what a quick google search could tell me) from a military perspective, where those who had gone into a war zone (or other traumatic place/experience) but is increasingly being used in health and in education. 

 

For what ever reason, it has really hit home. I am not burned out, and I do not need a well being program in my school to make me feel better – I need education to be better. And society too!

Easier said that done right 🙂 Sigh

From what I could find (in a brief search where I can’t access a whole of of journals due to pay walls etc), the idea of moral injury is a real thing. For example, this paper gives an example of whether to exclude a student or not – something I know that I have grappled with as an educator when I am struggling to understand the steps my school has taken (or not taken)

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Source – https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/17368460/Moral%20Injury%20and%20Educational%20Injustice%20HER%20FINAL.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y

It is the very classic damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario…. for schools, for school leaders, for teachers and for communities……

Another example is HERE, where a teacher just didn’t want to come to school after a decision was made that they didn’t agree with. The post goes on to talk about how to find ways to still enjoy your job.

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Source – https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/fall-2015/healing-from-moral-injury

 

And the hopelessness is real. Knowing that change could be made, but constantly feeling hamstrung by the very system you are battling against. Knowing that there must be good reasons for decisions being made, but not being privy to them, or not agreeing with them.

So I’m going to have to re think how I look at systems, and system change, and if nothing else from today, I have found a way to be kinder to myself and to my colleagues. Because there is shame attached to burnout is a thing. And I have often wondered why some people blow out and others don’t. As the video said, when we think of burnout, we wonder what strategy or resilience did they lack? Or was it simply the case of the straw that broke the camels back? We teeter around on tiptoes not trying to upset some-one to try and avoid things getting rough again, or shift classes, or re-arrange time-tables without ever addressing the underlying reasons why people are struggling.

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Source . – https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm/
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Source – http://moralinjuryproject.syr.edu/about-moral-injury/

 

And then sometimes the world just does get too much. Illness, moving house, relationship issues, there are rafts and rafts of reasons why people sometimes struggle at work. And they perhaps need to be made more seperate from when the reason some-one is struggling at work is because of the work, rather than another life event.

Another friend said to me last week in when I was catching up in chch when I said I wasn’t sure I still enjoyed teaching ‘well, there is a reason people get paid to go there, not many people would if there was no money’. So where is that line between being ‘precious’ and actually being fulfilled enough to be content. When do I need to remember I am paid to do a job, and I should (sometimes) shut up and do it……..

And I guess I still don’t have an answer, and I’m still not sure where this thinking might take me. It is another reminder I need to do better by my family and myself. Make that time. Just make it. But if you are out there, feeling ‘burnt out’, you are not alone, and maybe, just maybe, you are not as burned out as you think.

Keep swimming

 

And I really wanted to read this article, but it was locked behind a paywall – https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00344087.2017.1403789?journalCode=urea20 

 

 

 

 

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On international and/or exchange students

I’m a little bit sad today. Partly because it is the last day of term, and my goodness the tired is, well, tiring. But mostly because a fabulous German exchange student who has been in my L2 chem class is heading back to Germany next week. We had a party to wish her well and most (some of the boys didn’t listen) bought some food to share. We talked about what people were doing in the holidays, about time differences so we could skype Clara during a class time, how jealous we were of Clara going back to summer. I helped a kid who is also leaving with an extra internal they are doing over the holidays (to get L2 NCEA before they also leave for the UK next term) and it was just an awesome chilled hour with cool kids.

This hour quietly reminded me of the importance of recognising and celebrating diversity, as well as maintaining our own unique ‘kiwiness’ (or Germanness). Of how modelling inclusive behaviour in schools can help create tolerance and understanding, and an interest is places away from our immediate home. The football world cup has also been a talking point, our softly spoken Japanese teaching assistance flooded with tears when I talked to her about how well Japan has done in the game against Belgium, and she should be proud. She replied they are not the All Blacks, but I am very proud of them.

So it was a good reminder of the small things that make relationships work, make connections form and make learning happen. From finding a hour of code activity in Arabic for our new Syrian student, learning Te Reo, ‘gentle banter’ of sport events, taking time to uses translator tools to talk to new international students….. all of these actions benefit not just the international student/ESOL student, but also other students learning how to be kind, patient, and to learn about other cultures in their turn

I will miss ‘The German’ and I wish her well – and I am very thankful for this reminder today

 

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Google, ISTE, and the Death of EdTech

An excellent post – why are we celebrating making technology more efficient for ‘assessments’ when we are desperately trying to open up the world for our students…

maelstrom

ISTE ‘18 was all abuzz with imminent news of a major announcement from Google. This, the Google foot soldiers proclaimed, was going to be the most transformative thing to happen Google Classroom since its launch. Word over at the Blogger’s Cafe – where automated tracking was in full flow – was that this was going to be huge. And why not, when one considers that this was the annual showcase of EdTech and the lofty goals of the host organization: “ISTE sets a bold vision for education transformation … to accelerate the use of technology to solve tough problems and inspire innovation. Our worldwide network believes in the potential technology holds to transform teaching and learning.”

When the launch was announced, I was aghast. The big news was “locked mode” in Google Forms and, bizarrely, this news created quite an excited stir. The locked function permits teachers to eliminate…

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Perspective

So another end of year has rolled around, and I have this song on repeat in my head.

But I also got a very traumatic reminder of just how precious life is, and how we do need to try and find a way to treasure every moment.

So, to myself and all my colleagues in the teachverse out there thinking of how the year has gone, and what they could have done differently, I hope you all have spend more time with friends and family at the top of the list.

For next year, I am going to take a step back, and try to remember my job is just a job, even though I LOVE it and HATE it (hate the frustrations is more accurate I guess) and try to leave it at school. I am passionate, and I do care, but this shouldn’t impact my life as much as does. I need to spend more time with Mr 5 and the hubby, and my friends, and more time on me too.

I’m looking forward to a break, to going to my parents for Christmas, ripping down some walls in my house and sorting out my garden, and then of course Hands on, which is always such a pleasure to spend a week with amazing young people from all over the country. I have weddings, friends babies due so blankets and hats to crochet and my first school holiday with me wee man.

Enjoy your break teachie friends, you have earned it. I hope that the break puts all those frustrations into perspective and you come back refreshed – it is my wish for me too. I hope you can save every day like a treasure, and you find what you want to do while there is still time left.

 

 

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Clawing at mud….

I have had to make an effort to dig myself out of a hole recently. I am still clawing at the mud and sliding back in really. My motivation has been low, I’ve found myself doing that thing I hate where I start talking up stuff I’m doing or have done to make myself feel better, I’ve felt under appreciated and under valued, and worst of all, I have felt like I am not hitting my potential. I do set my standards pretty high, but I have definitely not been even half reaching them of late. I have also been pretty sick with a nasty bug going round that just keeps on giving. #scichatNZ has become more managable, but I worry it is not growing. I ‘should’ get round to organising an educamp for Dunedin. I am making the effort to head up to educamp selwyn, but even that feels like a massive effort (Sorry Matt, I’m sure it will be awesome….). I am helping some cool kids around the country with scholarship chem, which is a fair way out of my depth, but I had intended to take it to more kids…. there is just this massive list of I have not dones….

And the weird thing is that when I sit and list what I have done or am currently involved with, there is still quite a lot. I simply don’t have time to fit many other things in, and I had to be rational (not always my strong point) and cut some things out. But I still feel burnt out. And like I am not doing enough. ALL at ONCE. And that I need a special certificate or something for doing what I am doing, when really, come on, I’m a grown up. It is just part of my job. A job I do LOVE and am passionate about.

I also had to make a really tough decision to say no to something. Saying no was HARD. In no way wanting to ‘bag’ the course, I had to say no to the mindlab course. I just could not find away to make it work for my family, as it was on a wednesday night, my hubby has cricket, and it would have cost a fortune in childcare. Not to mention I already feel like I don’t see enough of my small person. But on top of that, I looked at the course and wondered how much I would get out of it? That was an egocentric moment if ever I have had one. I was initially jealous as all hell of my colleagues doing it, but now they are balls deep in assignments and extensions, I’m not feeling quite they same level of FOMO. I still can’t quite feel relief though, nor contentment with my ‘choice’

And so now I am questioning what is important. What is it that I value. How can I feel I am filling my kete, rather than being stuck in an endless loop of filling others and never feeling like I am doing a good enough job. I blogged about teacher heriocs 6 weeks ago, and I still have not found an answer.

I also wonder about sharing failures. There are some things I have tried that haven’t worked, but that also feels braggy – hey, look at me, I’m trying cool shit over here. Is this tall poppy? Is this fear of not being perfect? I can quite happily say in the first 3 weeks of term my classes consisted of chalk and talk and lessons online as I lurched from lesson to lesson battling the cold I had. And no-body died. I think even some kids might have learned some things despite it being as boring as hell. Thankfully the relationship I have with my classes did give me that leeway, and by the end of last week I was feeling well enough to run some pracs…..

I wondered about depression/anxiety. Depression is not usually my sidekick (I’m more of an anxiety girl and have been down that road before and it doesn’t feel like now). I did go and talk to a professional (I highly recommend this – many schools will offer a free service if you need it, but I have some-one I see despite the cost). Which was useful and put some perspective on it – my family is important to me, and I need to place more importance on my own health. Find some boundaries and remember to take pleasure in things.  Work is also important to me but I do need to remember it is just work.

Because that is true of teaching right?? Sigh 🙂

Another thing worrying me is I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this right now. Maybe because I am there I am reading to much into little comments (or lack of comments) from others, but there seems to be an overwhelming current of tired, burnt out, just not quite there from a few people.

Or maybe, just maybe, I need to let go. Realise that I have grown and moved on from those things that gave me so much, but are no longer a source of inspiration like they once were. They are no longer fulfilling. Accept that others do not value them as I do and so they might not get carried on. Which is a shame, but if they are not longer filling a need they are not needed. Maybe my next challenge is just round the corner and it will spark up that learning again. Teaching is faddish after all.

After all, change is something I am trying to learn about, manage and support others to accept. Change is not new. Maybe I need to keep getting better at it myself.

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I LOVE this cartoon – you can find it at http://www.officeguycartoons.com/product/change-not-new/

 

 

 

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The price of eggs…. the digital divide is not just the kids

I had an epiphany of sorts this morning doing the grocery shopping as I was considering eggs. I always go free range (but since I started working really….. in fact eggs are still something of a luxury to me), and as I was comparing prices this morning I realised how lucky I am to able to do to so. Living in Dunedin on a ‘just’ a teacher wage and a partner working in a similarly paid job to me, I have it a lot better than a lot of my colleagues who get the same wage for the same work and pay a LOT more to live. However, my school does not have this luxury. I had been wallowing in self pity after having a proposal for some funding to attend a conference segwayed into probably not being able to go. I was really disappointed, frustrated, a bit down and plotting how I could scrimp and save to get myself there (I had already offered to pay the flights anyway) and looking at the eggs this morning it really hit me that not all schools, and therefore not all kids, can afford ‘free range’.

To resolve my school of blame, they did suggest a really thoughtful alternative. (After a wine, I was even more ‘pissy’ about this, as it meant I couldn’t even be cross with them, they really are trying to support what I wanted to learn about. Which I am very thankful for. But the reality is, we are on a budget and the money just isn’t there.) And sadly, I can’t get to the alternative as it clashes with another trip.

And really, I got to go the E2 exchange in Toronto (thanks Microsoft for paying for me!!) and I did go to Energise in Queenstown (thank Cyclone for paying my conference fee and accomodation – I picked up the gas tab) so I have had some AMAZING PLD this year already. I am doing some EdEX courses, and of course chipping away on the Microsoft Educator Community, and I have put my name down for the Mindlab course running. I also hosted the scichatNZ teachmeet session, and got loads out of that. So I am doing some learning. And perhaps I just shouldn’t be so entitled!!!!!

I then wondered why the conference cost so much ($499+GST) for 2 days. The alternative offered was $150+GST for one day. I know you need to pay for speakers to attend, venue hire, possibly a meal, food for participants etc. But on top of this cost for schools is transport and relief, and the time for the people sorting everything.

It sums up why I LOVE twitter, #edchatNZ, why I started #scichatNZ with Matty and co, why I make an effort for #teachmeetNZ and why I do as many free courses online as I can. I know that there are loads of teacher like me, who’s schools can’t afford it, or won’t make that ‘out there’ conference a priority, and there are definitely teachers who don’t even know that there are free PLD options out there. I wish wish wish I could have gotten time to go to the EdchatNZ conference…. but at the time I couldn’t stretch for flights myself. But I love the unconference idea, and making PD more accessible to EVERYONE.

But as I sit now, closing the door on what could have been some pretty cool learning, some awesome Korero with some amazing educator peeps and also a nice trip, I am frustrated that the doors to learning are still being closed. And not just on our kids. I am confident that there are loads of teachers out there who have been turned down for funding for PLD this year…. and maybe some like me who sat down and worked out that if I put this money here, and that money there, maybe I can fund myself. I seem to remember some-one started a go fund me type thing to get to a conference once. It is also what drove me to the PPTA ICT committee, trying to find away to ensure teachers get access to devices fit for purpose for their teaching, and the support to use them. To many schools and teachers are held to ransom over device choice by cost, and teacher just get handed a new device with no help in how to use it.

And then you go to the supermarket and find yourself thinking if I don’t buy free range eggs, I could put that extra $3 towards my flights. And you have to do what the school does, and prioritise what is important to you.

Just like if the school doesn’t pay my $500 conf fee, the could put it towards something else. Like breakfasts for our kids that don’t have them. Or the power bill. Or Or Or Or Or. And it is tax payers money after all.

But will this keep us in a ‘battery’ style teaching philosphy, while other schools are allowing their kids to be free range. No-one think battery eggs are better, but they sure are cheaper. So what other costs are our underfunded school schools having…..? It isn’t just the students wings we are clipping…..

And how can we break free if we can’t even sit at the table where the discussions are taking place?

 

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Out and about in Kuala Lumpar

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

Pewter Factory

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 Factory

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.

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Batu Caves

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.

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