Category Archives: life

To Teach is to Learn

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I am at an interesting point in my career….

I love what I do… but I want to do more! I feel like  have a lot to offer other teachers and sometimes my brain feels like it is going to explode with all the ideas that I have that I want to try. I have been so lucky with the experiences and opportunities that I have had in my school. I guess I am one of those keen beans who gets asked to participate in lots of different things. This has then led to the development of my own ideas, new approaches to the classroom and changes in my teaching values.

Last week I was inspired by two things. These things have made me further think about what I am going to do in the future.

ONE

I have often wondered why I thrive off being given new challenges. Many mornings I walk past my Deputy Principals office and she stops me… “Jess….. I have this idea…….”. For the past 8 years I have been at Mosman High School, I have accomplished a lot of things and am always busy.

It began with a literacy project, then the completion of my NSWIT accreditation and involvement in an Element 5 professional development project for this, then I did my Masters of Cross Disciplinary Art and Design for 3 years, had a studio residency and an art exhibition, have been involved with different technology roll outs, gone to and presented at MANY conferences, worked towards and received the Ministers Quality Teaching Award, done my maintenance of accreditation, have been teaching Year 12 HSC Visual Arts, done HSC marking, have been teaching the GATS class and have gotten engaged and married.

This is just a brief summary of my accomplishments – but I won’t bore you with more!

After watching this TED talk by Kelly McGonigal, I realised that I have embraced the stress around me – and I LOVE it! It opens my mind and it inspires me to do new and better things.

TWO

In a staff meeting last week, two colleagues presented on their learning at the GATE Conference. At first I was frustrated and annoyed… and then I was sort of happy.

Why?

Well, they were focussing on differentiation and some strategies they had heard about at the conference. Then one teacher was saying how she had learnt about ideas that focussed on a student- centered classroom. And that she was slowly trying to change her approach to how she teaches, getting students to ask the questions instead of her. This annoyed me at first, because I have been saying this for at least 2-3 years when I present to staff!!!! But then I was happy, because FINALLY, maybe, a shift was happening! The teacher commented that it takes 2 years for reflecting and change to happen…. and she claimed she was only at the beginning of her journey!

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*sigh*

Thinking about these things made me think of this graph:

A graph of Everett Rogers Technology Adoption Lifecycle model

A graph of Everett Rogers Technology Adoption Lifecycle model

I wonder where to from here?

Change is slow, despite the forces that push for it to happen. And it is frustrating for me, out here, by myself, seeing how this change can be good. (I am not really by myself – there are many people like me, and I am not discounting the role they play in my life – this is just a figure of speech!)

I believe that as I teach, I learn. I am inspired to try new things and this has led to some exciting lessons in my classroom.

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I like to take risks and challenge my students think creatively and problem solve. I have embraced technology and the potentials that this offers. Now I want to see a shift into more blended learning with cross KLA projects and collaboration across schools and across the world. I have researched differentiation, Project Based Learning, collaboration, Games Based Learning, gifted and talented strategies, an array of assessment strategies and creative thinking.

So, for the future, I see myself as a leader who wants to make change happen. But this is not as easy as it may seem. What type of leader should I be?? Where can I be most effective? Would I miss the classroom? Would I miss my school? Does the role that I think I want even exist? Would I be a good leader??? These are crashing through my brain right now. I think I can only do so much within my classroom context and see potential for more.

I think I am lucky to have a great PLN around me and great friends to keep me stimulated… but I will still keep looking for an answer to my conundrum…

To teach is to learn. 


How is BYOD going?

It has been a few weeks now and we still have the one class enjoying having their own devices in the classroom. We are looking at expanding this by the end of the Year to include all of Year 7 and 8.

However, this will have it’s set backs. There are still teachers who don’t really use technology in an integrated way in their classrooms, and the network at school may need a little oomph! But these are things can be worked through.

Sometimes I think that it would be better to have no choice of device, and support teachers better with one system that can then be managed and monitored and have professional development modelled around it. I don’t have a preference for a device I guess, but do like the workflow of iPads. This however, is not a device that would last the students through the whole of high school… as by the time they are in senior school, they would definitely need a laptop instead. And really, my philosophy of education is not about the technology, but about the teaching pedagogy.

As part of the implementation of BYOD, I had the GATS class do an assignment on what they thought it would look like in our school, and how lessons can be transformed with technology. They presented to a panel of myself, the principal, and two kind parents who are a part of the P&C technology committee.

Check out some examples:

Student ONE

Student TWO

Student THREE

My reflections

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While their presentations were great (albeit some had WAY too much text on their slides that they proceeded to read), I was saddened. Saddened that they still believe learning to look like the teacher is at the front of the room, and they have to take notes and do tests. It is so embedded in them to think this, that even when told they could make the changed lessons anything they wanted, they didn’t know what that could look like.

I watched Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on TED on the weekend again, and hope that I can at least change the landscape of education in my context.

How do you think you will bring the LEARNING REVOLUTION to your context?


Teaching teachers

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And so ends my first ISTE conference!

I have had a blast in San Antonio. Not only have I hung out with 15999 other like minded teachers, but I have also hung out with my edugeeks friends from Sydney; Monique, Bianca and Ashleigh.
I have been thinking for a while about the value of teachers teaching teachers as professional development and how much I love it. Hearing about real experiences with real ideas makes it much more valuable.

I love sharing what I do with teachers!!!! Be it my successes or my failures….

I feel that I have so many great teaching ideas that are trapped lifeless inside my head. I believe that I have a creative mind and want to do so much more in my classroom. Ironically, I am restricted* by my subject area of Visual Arts. I am dying to do more cross-curricula projects, but many of my colleagues at school are unsure about this concept in their classrooms.
*restricted may be too harsh- I do what I want in my classroom, and achieve the Art outcomes at the same time…. I just get excited by English and Science and History and how they can become blended in my classroom.
This is why I like to teach teachers. I can share these many ideas and engage in a dialogue about how to make them happen. By talking about my success, other teachers reflect upon their classrooms practices and realise that perhaps other things are possible.
Presenting at ISTE as an international presenter was certainly a highlight for me. I did a mini-workshop that participants had to pay to come to. This meant they really valued what I had to say. They read my workshop description and believed in my ideas. (I sure hope that I delivered!) I presented on collaboration in the classroom and discussed ideas for how technology can make this run more smoothly. I also gave suggested rubrics and classroom management strategies to make it feasible.

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I have also recently done two weeks of tutorials at Sydney uni for the M.Teach course. This was exhausting but great. A room full of potential and keen pre-service teachers who want to learn about the art of teaching.

Over the last 14 weeks I have had a Prac Student under my supervision. While giving him feedback on his lesson plans and classroom management, this has also been a great tool for me to reflect upon myself. Some things that I was suggesting to him reminded me to keep doing these things too. I believe you have to practice what you preach! Watching as he built relationships with students and really blossomed as a teacher made me really proud. Don’t get me wrong- he already had an amazing body of knowledge and excellent ideas for the classroom, but as a teacher teaching a teacher, it was an invaluable experience. He was so good infact and I was so confident with the teacher he has become, that when he finished his prac, and I was heading overseas to ISTE, he then stepped in as my casual teacher and took my classes for a block!!!!

All of these experiences lately make me even more excited to make connections with teachers and share my ideas. I want to be inspired by teachers who are as passionate as me, and I want to help other teachers to build their own classroom practices so they can have as much fun as me in their classrooms!


Connectedness

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connect |kəˈnekt| verb [ with obj. ] bring together 
or into contact so that a real or notional link is established

I like to be connected.

I confess that I am a social network addict and love to share aspects of my everyday life. My partner has rolled his eyes at me plenty of times, and asked if just this once, our meal could remain private. HAHA! (Sometimes I appease him, but I really do enjoy taking pics of my food – sorry!)

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It is increasingly easier to share your everyday comings and goings with the virtual world and it is rare to feel alone. Using Instagram, I feel a sense of community with many like minded people, also sharing photos of their daily lives. Twitter is where I share my teaching ideas and Facebook is a more personal space for me and my close friends.

In my own little world, I have noticed how this sense of connectedness makes me so happy. And how it has helped me to become a better teacher and a better friend. I have my own little ‘communities’ or ‘networks’ that provide me with constant laughs, challenges and ideas.

Besides my partner (who is amazing), my colleagues and my uni friends, there are 2 groups of people that I talk to everyday… and without those conversations, I think I would feel stifled.

CONNECTION #1

The Work Ladies

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Jude, Lorna and I at Lorna’s Wedding in Wales, July 2012.

After training on Mondays and Wednesdays, we have breakfast together. This gives us the chance to debrief and gather our thoughts. As friends and work colleagues, we can talk about anything: from assessment tasks to weekend adventures. Having such a great support network at school is seriously undervalued. I know not all teachers are lucky enough to have friends in their workplace, but I can tell you, without these ladies – some days at school would be more difficult.

CONNECTION #2

The Edmodo Ladies

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Me, Bianca and Monique

We met in the most random way. While we had already been connected on Twitter, we had never met in real life. Until Edmodo brought us together. All three of us were selected to present at EdmodoCon 2011 – an online Virtual Conference. In preparation for the conference, we thought it would be a good idea to meet up and discuss what we were going to present. The random thing was, we all lived a suburb away from eachother and were able to meet. (Edmodo had no idea about this – they just thought we were all from somewhere in Australia!!!!) This random meeting developed into great professional relationships… and awesome friendships. I think the highlight of this connection has been the EPIC group SMS that we have been sharing over the last month or so. These ladies are great to bounce teaching ideas off, have a laugh and reflect upon our day in the classroom.

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So….

With all these connections in my everyday world, I started to think about how important it was to replicate this dynamic into my classroom.

It is written clear as day in the Quality Teaching Framework document:

 ELEMENT

What does it look like in classrooms?

What does it look like in assessment tasks?

Connectedness

Lesson activities rely on the application of school knowledge in real-life contexts or problems, and provide opportunities for students to share their work with audiences beyond the classroom and school. Tasks apply school knowledge in real-life contexts or problems, and provide opportunities for students to share their work with audiences beyond the classroom and school.

While a traditional classroom exists in the one space… in-between the four walls that are prescribed to us by a school

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In the amazing 21st Century classroom, there are no boundaries as it can exist in an online space

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Modelling the way I connect using Social Networks, I have tried to develop this sense of collaboration in my classroom. Building up the students understanding of how to communicate and share with their peers as a community.

But I wanted to take this a step further. 

This year I was allocated 3 Year 8 classes.

*sigh*

I thought I was going to go mad if I taught the same thing three times in a week. I had to change the programme, not too much, but just enough, so that while it was more exciting for me, it would still cover the outcomes that the other teachers were covering.

I reflected upon the way I connected… and how it had opened up my eyes and has helped me everyday to understand my teaching practice more. Why not bring this into the classroom???

I reached out to my Professional Learning Network and asked if any teachers here or overseas would want to connect with my Year 8 classes who were studying the topic of ‘The Suburbs’.

Bingo! There was a teacher from Alabama who said yes… and from there my idea developed. Inspired by the blog/photography project 52 Suburbs, I wanted the students to not only look at their suburbs and their small worlds, but compare this to other students experiences.

What am I going to teach then?

I decided that I wanted my students to study the artists we would normally study, but instead of writing about them, they could make little videos that we could share with the class overseas. This will be particularly interesting, because the two key Practitioners are Reg Mombassa and Lin Onus. Mombassa is an Artist who uses many Australian icons in a humorous way. Onus uses his art to reflect upon his identity as an Anglo Saxon and Aboriginal living in a white community.

I also wanted them to make art to share with this new audience. While they are sharing images of their different communities using Edmodo, I thought about how cool it would be to be PenPals with these overseas students. Going back to old school letter writing to compare their lives on the other side of the globe. So, the students are going to design their own postcards and send them to this new connection overseas.

Exciting times ahead!!!

Check out the outline for the unit of work. I have used Bianca‘s PBL model to nut out the ideas that the students are going to explore.

How do you get your students to connect in the classroom?


Jumpstart!

As the Year draws to a close, it is hard to find motivation. Everything is winding down as the school year ends.

I believe that I am a dedicated teacher who is creative and passionate…. but I am feeling stifled at the moment! Perhaps I am on the verge of being bored even! (But the kids stop that from happening… ) This is not to say that I am not putting in as much effort to deliver exciting and engaging lessons, I just feel that I can do it really easily.

I have noticed that I am not one to be bored…. and always line myself up with a challenge to keep myself entertained. Usually this has been related to work:

  • Completing my Masters
  • Having my first Exhibition
  • Presenting at Conferences

But of late, I have been focusing on me. 

WARNING: Before you read on!! This is not a blog post about Exercise – bear with me!

At the beginning of the Year I started regular training sessions with the Master Trainer – Josh. I also decided to try and eat better by ordering Lite’n’Easy for my school meals. The thing was, I started to noticed some results! I started to lost weight and was quite excited.

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So, I increased the amount of training sessions that I was doing and even did some of my own… Motivated by some great Fitness Apps.

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The thing about group fitness training, was that we were also having a lot of fun and becoming really good friend….

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Stretching after training can often lead to fits of giggles!

This was all well and good… I was happy! But I needed to set myself a goal – my friends wedding in Wales. I want to drop a dress size and treat myself to a new dress for the occasion. To do this, I started to do one-on-one Personal Training sessions along with Kate. These were more high intensity and Josh worked us hard – knowing that we both had goals we wanted to achieve!

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I was so excited and loved that I could buy a size 12 dress!

Achievement unlocked!
Jude and I in Wales!

Jude and I in Wales!

Training continued, as it had been…. and I felt great. Then Josh told us about this great new eating program/lifestyle food plan/diet called Metabolic Jumpstart. 

The thing with me is, I don’t just half do things…. From the beginning of the year I had committed myself to changing my lifestyle. I wasn’t going to let myself down.

To date, I have lost 7cm from my waist and am now a size 10.

Achievement unlocked!

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By now, if you are still reading, you are probably wondering what this has to do with my teaching.

Well, for one, it has kept my motivated and has probably been the most exciting thing happening at the moment! (Perhaps sad, but true) I don’t want to think that I am someone who obsesses about weight or food, but it has certainly transformed my life.

I have therefore been deconstructing what it is about this years achievement that has kept me motivated? What is the key ingredient that is missing from my teaching practice? Is there something from this experience that I can take away and apply to a new context…???

(And yes, I have an over-active mind too!)

I thought about Jane McGonigal’s. I thought about her analysis that Reality is Broken and her definition of the four traits of a Game… and why these games make people happy….

  1. The GOAL is the specific outcome the players work to achieve
  2. The RULES place limitations on how players can achieve this goal
  3. The FEEDBACK system tells the player how close they are to achieving the goal
  4. VOLUNTARY PARTICIPATION requires that people playing the game know the goals, rules and accept the feedback
Now for the A-HA moment…

My training and weight loss journey has had these traits!!!! That is why I have had success!

And this is where my reality is broken, because the thing that I love the most – Teaching- is lacking in these things at the moment.

I am trying to set my own GOALS to unlock new achievements… but I feel like I have already done this. I have tried to share in my achievements with the people around me, but they are not all VOLUNTARY PARTICIPANTS.

It is hard to be goal orientated person with no goal…. I want more…. I am seeking it… but don’t know where to find it.

Teaching for me, needs a jumpstart!

If you have any ideas where I can find it… Please help: Apply within!

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The Wild Survival Kit

As part of a transition unit at school, we developed a cross-curricula Project Based Learning (PBL) unit of work with a driving question:

What kind of wild thing are you?

I have written about the art focus in an earlier post here, but to reiterate, it was great to have all the faculties work together for a common assessment goal. The great thing was that we also worked with the local primary school to embed language that was consistent with Stage 3 into Stage 4. So the students had to create 3 products and/or performances to demonstrate to a panel their understanding of the question. So, while they were working on this group goal, each class they went to for at least the first 4 weeks of term taught within their faculties an understanding of the WILD THINGin that subject. For examples, Maths was: Is your wild thing a thing of the past? Where the students used History and Mathematics to analyse different number systems. Geography used field work at the Zoo to analyse data about the environment around them. Technology produced animal ipod cases, footprint stamps and morphed digital animal beings.

I went and watched some of the presentations and it was really interesting to see how the students had synthesised these concepts and worked in groups to produce great examples of their Wild Self. It would be even better next year to have some Team Teaching going on to illustrate the links between subject areas more consistently.

I have the Gifted and Talented (GATS) class in Year 7 which we call the Academic Extension class. They have 3 periods in the class and it is not based upon a set syllabus. The curriculum is open to extend their learning and develop their creative thinking and problem solving skills.

So, I got to think of an exciting way to explore the concept of the WILD THINGS with this group and I developed the task:

Design a Survival Kit to aid you in the wild.

There were three parts:

A representation of the wild thing inside of you.We all have wild emotions and the desire to fit in. When Max runs away and ends up in the land of the Wild Things, he encounters lots of new friends but has very different relationships with each of them. Discover what makes you who special. 

A study of the wild. Max travels to a land very different from the one he knows. It is full of new creatures, new abilities, new friends, and it is a place where Max rules as king. Use your imagination to create a world where you would like to live.

“Let the wild rumpus start.” In Where The Wild Things Are, Max experiences many different emotions, from trying to figure out how he fits in with his family to trying to figure out how he fits in with the Wild Things. In addition, the Wild Things manifest many emotions as they struggle with some issues that Max faces and some of their own. Start a wild rumpus of your own.

As academic students who are selected via the selective schools exam, I wanted to use the text as a metaphor for fitting in and discovering your self. But I also wanted them to understand that it is not always easy and that they are special students who are different from others.

The students were definitely challenged. I didn’t really know what I wanted the outcome to look like and I certainly didn’t want to define the parameters. But I also didn’t just want a boring essay submission that was not creative and didn’t think outside of the box. I got the students to look at different learning styles and how there were many ways to present information based upon these. Things like videos, board games, a timeline, a play, a poem or a song could all illustrate your ideas.

I also banned large pieces of cardboard with collage and glitter!

I ended up having to explain myself quite a few times and did some really fun brainstorming sessions to develop their ideas:

The REAL wild and the METAPHORICAL wild

Then the ideas really started to flow….

Here are some student work samples that I have curated into one document:

We ended the Term with their Wild Place… and while technically the unit is over, I still want them to Let the Wild Rumpus Start.

So, this is what I have developed for that…

wildrumpus <——– click to open document

How I envisaged this was that a WILD RUMPUS was something in the community that the students had a part in. So I found real situations that could translate to classroom activities and goals for the students to achieve in groups. Inspired by @biancahewes I wanted a real audience and real project that the students could link to their world and their understanding of the Wild Thing inside them. I wanted a spark to ignite about the way they can become involved in their community and that they can have an impact.

I am going to use Edmodo in small groups, Class Dojo and Goalbook to facilitate their learning. Constant peer evaluation and the creation of a time management plan to make this all possible. I am going to break down the walls of the classroom and allow them to respond to this challenge however they feel fit.

I hope they get something out of this. I will keep you posted on what their outcomes are.


Taking risks

Today I decided to challenge myself coming into the new year and release my creative potential……

I have created a new blog to document my leap into art making and hope that you enjoy my flailings…


Who Killed Modern Art?

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I am on the hunt for the History of Modern Art…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

This has been designed as a stage 6 assessment for learning task. Instead of me blabbering away at the front of the room, telling them what I already know about Modern Art, this is a scaffolded research task where students are given some evidence to solve the mystery, but then they have to synthesis their findings into their closing arguments of the case.

To make it engaging, I have tried to weave this detective case narrative throughout, with suspects, motives, evidence and breaking news as the metaphor for artists, influences, events and facts.

I know that at stage 6, Year 12, students fear that if their learning is not teacher guided with chalk and talk, they may not be getting all they need to know for the HSC exam. While  I know that this is not true, at the beginning of each theory lesson I present a breaking news segment where  present on one modern art movement with a key example, some facts about the visual qualities and the conventions, and a little video. For the rest of the lesson the students autonomously gather their own findings. These are being documented as blogs, websites or a onenote file.

Kids are really engaged and beginning to use the metalanguage in class. They are excited to post their latest work and see what I think. They are working  collaboratively to figure out the technology if they need help and are discussing where to find the best information.

They OWN their understanding of this topic. Won’t that last beyond the exam?

Xmas Gift ideas…..

Yes, you may think it is too early to think about Xmas, but if you want unique handmade items, the time to order is NOW!

 

In incube8r at the moment,  I have just stocked some awesome umbrellas!! Created from the Alphabetism collection of fabric designs, at $45 they would make great Xmas presses.

 

 

There is also U for Umbrella and J for Jewel designs to choose from….

Can’t see one here that you like???

Please tweet, email or comment on this post to have one custom ordered just for you!!!

And don’t forget there are cushions too…..

 

 

 

 


I heart shopping

I have just spent some time updating my online store…!!

Coming into Spring, I thought it was time to reduce prices and add some stock!

Cushions and Bangles are now available online! Just choose your fabric and items will be made to order!

Or, if you are in the Mosman area, my stock is also available at in.cube.8r!

A swatch book of all my fabrics is on show at the in.cube.8r store, or check out COPYANDPAINT to see all fabrics in the  Alphabetism Collection