Tag Archives: innovation

Failure equals Success

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Ok, so the School Holidays are over again for another Term. I always start the term bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, keen as to get into my classroom.
And then…

BAM

School hits me in the face.

Really??

Really??

We started with this great workshop and discussion at Staff Development Day on middle schooling pedagogy. Middle School is those awkward years from Year 6 to Year 9, when a lot is happening developmentally and socially, but learning and engagement is not first always first on their agenda?! We were discussing some effective strategies to support our students to achieve success and learn to love learning. Some great ideas were popping up: more community involvement, more acknowledgement of achievement, more PBL. I was excited to be having this discussion with my colleagues.

Great ideas happening

Great ideas happening

So, I then added to the discussion, and suggested that one problem is the pressure with assessments… Especially at this time of year. Reporting. Because when all a students teachers are writing reports, they need results. These results are collated from assessment tasks… So for Year 7, at the beginning of Term 2, they will probably have at least 10 assessment tasks due to align with all their subjects. This was clearly not a popular statement, and was told I should organise myself better and that reporting was our obligation as a teacher.
So wait…. I never said I didn’t want to report- I love giving kids feedback…. But the question I had was the why are we pressuring kids with so many assessments (often due at the same time) just for the sake of a mark on the report?


 

Then something wonderful happens in my own classroom…

I have my GATS students finishing a project where they were divided into 4 groups. They were randomly chosen groups and allocated 4 real world projects to achieve by the end of Term 1. Now, some groups finished…. and some didn’t. One group organised a very successful popcorn stall where they raised awareness and money for the Black Dog Institute. Throughout the project (especially at the beginning), I explained how hard it was to work collaboratively, and that you really need to identify your ‘leader’ at the beginning. I said you would always have a ‘slack ass’ that you would need to constantly tell what to do, and I also told them not everyone was equal and jobs needed to be allocated if you hoped to be successful. I saod you needed a goal and a plan as to what to achieve in every lesson. I gave students some great goal setting and project management sheets that I adapted from BIE.

As the project progressed, I watched as some groups fumbled and as the term ended, some had even lost their direction completely.

At the beginning of this project, I told them that many groups would failThis is the GATS class, so they looked at me horrified – these are high achieving kids who would rarely ‘fail’! As predicted, some groups just couldn’t get it together to finish the project.

I smiled at them.

This is what I wanted. I wanted them to learn from their mistakes.

At the end of this project, the only thing I really care about, is the self-reflection that the students submit to Edmodo. I asked a few questions of them and told them their group members weren’t reading it, so you should be honest.

These are the questions:

1. What was the criteria to achieve success? 
2. What have you learnt from this task? Describe the purpose of the organization/theme that your project was based upon.
3. Do you think that you have made other people aware of the ideas and issues that are explored by your organization/theme? Explain why/why not.
4. We always learn from mistakes and failures. Show how failure, mistakes and accidents have led to the discovery of worthwhile things. 
5. If you were to do it again, how would you do it differently? Evaluate solutions and answers in terms of their consequences and implications
6. Describe your role in the group. Were you a team player? Did you achieve the learning goals you set for yourself?

So how does this link to my frustration at the beginning of this post… and the title of FAILURE equal SUCCESS?

I think sometimes we are so consumed by a system that grades and assesses students for numerical outcomes that we forget that learning can be about making mistakes. It is not always about getting 100% everytime. I get frustrated that I can see the benefit of less grading and classifying and wonder why it can’t always be this way. But I also know realistically, that is how the school system works – that is what the HSC is after all. It is much easier to control this model of examination equalling success. So many people have become accustomed to associating a number with the amount of knowledge a student has about a subject. I don’t think 76/100 tells me anything about the students I teach. I love talking to my students about their successes and failures and asking what they enjoyed or hated about a unit of work.

So, I leave you with some of my students insightful self reflection statements. Because these made me smile, gave me goosebumps and a little tear in my eye… Cause I realised what I believe in does work, and it DOES make a difference. 

* I liked when everyone just got the job done and we worked as a team. When we did, we had great out comes. The task was definitely challenging, but I really learnt how to try and communicate with others and how important planning is to working as a team. I actually think that by not getting a complete finished product, we all learnt that teamwork is really important and makes a big change to how things turn out.Overall I thought this project was fun and interesting, but it certainly had its up and downs!

* Yes I did enjoy it. I found it challenging working in a group and I learnt a lot of group skills and a lot about filming. It was also good at the start of last term when I was new and we were all new, I got to know some of the other people in my class because it was grouped randomly.

* Not everyone was motivated the same amount. If each person in the group was motivated to the same level, we wouldn’t have been distracted as easily and we might have better achieved our goals. The different level of motivation of the group members contributed to what I considered as disappointing outcome.

* What did you learn? I learnt a lot trying to achieve a project as part of a group. I learned that planning in this situation is very important. I used to think that planning was not needed all the time, but now I think you should always plan, although sometimes you need more planning than others. The most important things I learn were:
1. Planning is one of the biggest building blocks of group work and you will fail without it. 
2. Everybody needs to be motivated so they don’t get distracted.
3. You have to listen to everybody and be prepared to compromise your ideas to make everybody happy and to get the best ideas.
4. Sometimes despite your best efforts you will be disappointed.
 
Was there a time that you have made a mistake or failed but learnt so much from it?

 


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.