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
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…
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.
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.
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?
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?
On Friday I went to a TENZ mini conference hosted at Tahuna intermediate. I had meet Bill at the 21 st century learning design session in the last holidays, and was honoured (and flattered) to be asked to open the conference by talking about strategies for implementing change in Education. And while I could only stay for a while as I had to get to the uni to sort stuff for Hands on at Otago (I can not recommend this for your Yr 11 & 12 students enough) and then back to work, I got to hear some super cool stuff that these Tech teachers were doing and the how they were working around challenges.
I thought a LOT about the presentation I was to give. Once I had decided what to talk about and what angle to take, it didn’t actually take too long to prepare. And, as always, forcing myself to take stock and arrange my thoughts was far more beneficial to me than I had imagined, and I hope my audience got something useful. I chose the Koru based on a presentation from the awesome Nikkie talking about unfurling ideas. And I chose some Kea’s for my ‘pack’ as a reminder not to be too destructive
Because when I thought about it, there are an amazing array of resources out there to help teachers upskill themselves. I have used some, and (as always) mean to use more. When I thought about it, things are changing. Maybe not with the urgency or pace I would like, but I also need to remember to change what I can and try to not let the rest bother me so much. And to not let frustration cloud better judgement and inhibit what I am trying to achieve.
And talking to this amazing group of tech teachers and how they are looking to move their courses and learning forward was super inspiring. Often, the tech teachers in intermediate schools are isolated from the rest of the staff. While they see a lot of students, they only see them for a short time and relationships are hard to build. They are specialists in their particular fields, be it art, hard materials, music, textiles, food, and they were all amazingly passionate about their areas. Job security, funding issues, communication with the main part of schools, or secondary schools they were trying to prepare their students for, where all talked over as challenges with possible solutions.
I was super impressed with how some of the school were doing their reporting. It was live, real, all online and collaborative. If internet access was an issue for the family, printed versions could be made. I am so jealous – especially as I am coming up to report writing time in a couple of weeks.
Also present was Otto, who is Auckland based in industry and is reaching out to schools who are wanting to build there own 3d printers rather than just buy one and run with it. Really really cool stuff.
So while I could only go for a couple of hours, it was very well worth it. It made me remember I am not alone. That there are passionate, awesome, fiery educators the country over who are working hard for change. And while it is frustrating that there isn’t more support for all of these amazing educators, it was inspiring to see them still working towards their vision for better experiences for their students.
Late last year I wrote a blog about how we were planning to use SharePoint and the office 365 environment as an LMS and as a ‘T drive replacement’. After 2 terms, I have been thinking about what different teachers are doing with their classes or with their departments and how things are fitting together. It is still very messy, with some teachers using OneDrive, others using groups, some exclusively using OneNote Class notebooks and some using nothing. We still have some classes using the ultranet (which is being phased out) and others are not in any online space as yet. We are also investigating Microsoft Classroom and whether this would be an effective solution for some of our staff.
So it is a good time to pause and reflect on the relative successes with the technolgoies we are currently using.
SharePoint is definitely the most flexible option for staff and students, but it does come at a cost of being technically demanding. So far, only Chemistry, Physics and Technology are using SharePoint to share work with students. This is working very well and it is easy to provide a wide range of resources, as well as options for students feedback/contribution.
My Colleague Kevin has done an awesome job of organising his physics students site
A view of one of the chem pages is not so exciting….. Although a really big advantage of having a site is that it is easier for multiple contributors. So my fellow chem teachers can easily edit and add documents in. We have also (as a comparison mostly) not put the shared documents in a library but just put the files on the site. This means students only have the option of downloading the files rather than viewing them online. We did this due to some queries around permissions and editing rights – it has worked well for this cohort.
Where SharePoint is really making a positive difference is in organising staff documents and bookings.
More of Kevin’s handy work – he has overlaid calendars to provide a colour coded chart of where members of the PE department are at a given time. This is awesome and I need to learn how to do it.
The science dept is also utilising the shared calender function to organise booking our practical gear – it seems to be working really well, helped by our awesome tech Aimee. It is also really nice to have single copies of assessment docs, marking schedules and feedback that we can all contribute to. Our ‘poor’ HoD does get a little exasperated with some of the comments we leave on department meeting agendas – but it also gets some of the discussion out of the way before the meetings which frees up more time for shared work.
The Arts department has recently come on board and made some excellent progress getting their documents shared. It is a wide spread and diverse department so it has taken a big effort for the Curriculum heads to get this started.
Several teachers are using groups to share files and discussion with their students. This is working well for these students and staff, it is easy to email the whole group with updates. The file share is an overlay for SharePoint libraries that seems to take some of the technical issues away for less confident staff. (when I tried to tell them they were using SharePoint a couple were a little overwhelmed…) You can share all sorts of files and links very easily with a target group of people.
One downside of groups is they are able to be seen by others, even if they are private groups. An example was a couple of staff set up pastoral care groups which we discoverable by students. Students couldn’t access the information but were able to email all the teachers involved…. so for use in schools it would be really nice if groups could be made undiscoverable to others in the network. The other thing missing from groups is the ability to format files shared – it has a very definite ‘folder look’. But it is working really well for staff and students using it.
Staff in several departments are using OneDrive to share student notes, assessment material etc. this can be a slightly time consuming set up, but once each student has a shared file with the teacher, it is up and running and easy to use. I am really hoping the soon to be released Microsoft Classroom automates some of this process. Staff have chosen this option over a classnote book as we are not a one to one school – so accessing a classnote book to access a word file was proving a bit much for the streams the students have access to. For NCEA assessments it provides a secure document storage solution that can easily be downloaded or printed of for marking/moderation.
A bonus in this method is despite the time consuming set up, it is simple to use. Because OneDrive was the first Office 365 app people used, it does have an element of comfort to it!! But students can easily access it, it works on any device reliably and work on students devices (with windows 10) can automatically sync to the cloud.
Shared docs via OneDrive are also slowly shifting our appraisal documentation into being a living document. By having a shared document it also a more fluid process for completing these documents.
OneNote Class note books
Some staff are purely using class note books to share learning activities with their students – especially in our yr 7 and 8 classes. The sci dept has also used this for the junior school (who are not yet on sharepoint) to scaffold and track progress of students science fair projects. OneNote Class books are really good – especially with the recent update where pages can be easily pushed out to all students in a class. We have had a few issues of where the OneNotes are stored – it had lead to syncing problems with some classes. The single biggest issue for us with the class notebooks is students don’t have their own devices, so it can be a bit slow if every student is trying to access or modify the pages at once. More recently, we have wondered if groups can be set up within a class note book for group assessments or tasks…..
We have made some really big steps in getting depertments and classes using the 365 environment. The next big step is to get the staff handbook online. This is such a big job it kind of makes me want to curl up in a ball and hide under a rock for a while. But I did get a kick in the pants when I helped host a workshop at Taieri in the holidays and people couldn’t believe we still had one of these…
So while we have made some great progress, we still have a way to go. Getting the staff meeting minutes online is easy, but getting all staff to accept that shift might be slightly more difficult. We have a shared calendar which still causes issues, but by gradually shifting important docs online we should hopefully see more shift. So my aim for this term is to start the process of getting more of the staff documentation into the 365 cloud