Monday, 22 June 2015

Teachers do stuff.

I like primary school teachers. Don't get me wrong. They are hardworking and love their jobs (in the main) and their students. 
Although, -  they are a bit overloaded with "doing National Standards." They are a busy lot. Some are also busy "doing" Science or busy "doing" an inquiry or busy "doing something for assembly."

 I don't like to be a pedant but isn't it the students who should be "doing" stuff? Or rather, shouldn't the students be LEARNING stuff rather than have the teacher "do" stuff to the students (or for the students).

 It grieves me to see teachers working their butts off making nice wall displays, or preparing a million and one resources that a student will never use again aften they have "done" that topic. It grieves me to go into a class and see acres of brightly coloured wall displays all "done" by the teacher or worse still, artwork "done" according to teacher recipe.

 What happened to the original student work up on the wall - their questions in scrawly writing on an old fingerprinted scrap of paper? Or even Post-It notes, or a modern day equivalent on a digital noteboard? What happened to the answers that the students worked out themselves, displayed in a myriad of styles of communications?

 An attractive environment is nice BUT learning is not always bright and beautiful. It is often messy and mucky. Students need to learn to make connections between what they already know and new stuff. Some of the best learning corners in a class have bits of wool connecting ideas and questions that the students have put up, not the teachers.

 It also grieves me to think of whole school "doing" topics like "the environment", being covered in a term or other set time frame. Who thinks up these topics? Please ask yourselves another question - what do you want the students to learn? Once you know the answer to that question, you will be able to let the students decide the context that they work in. Give them choices of contexts if they have no idea. Don't give them a topic or a unit.

And secondary teachers "do" units of work, too.  The trouble is that they often do not have a context to "do" the stuff to the students and learning is very disjointed.  It all comes back to that same question - what do you want the students to learn?  Once you know that, students can choose a context in which they can explore the answers.    If they don't have a clue, put some choices in front of them and let them come up with the answers.  Better still, let them come up with the questions.  There is a lot more learning involved in that.

I think a lot more learning needs to happen under the title "The Big Picture".  How does this relate to that?  What intereactions and follow ups and follow ons and backward mapping and forward steps will help students understand the big picture?

And where will you find the big picture?  Why, in the New Zealand Curriculum of course. On page 4 in the foreword, Karen Sewell writes the NZC ..."is a clear statement of what we deem important in education".  On page 6, under the purpose and scope, "Its principal function is to set the direction for student learning and to provide guidance for schools as they design and review their curriculum."  It is a framework for every school to align their curriculum to.

Does your school curiculum truly align to what is important in education?

Teachers, you work far too hard on doing stuff.  Take a step back and speak to your colleagues and principals about what is really important for your students to learn.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

RTC blogging as a way of gathering evidence for teaching criteria

In New Zealand, all teachers must provide evidence that they meet the registered teacher criteria every year.  There are twelve of these criteria.  The teachers council (soon to be EDUCANZ) is the registration body for NZ teachers and every three years, teachers must apply to have their teaching registration updated with the support of their principal who is charged with ensuring that the teacher is meeting the standards and signing them off.
I have shared a template and videos for creating a google site for the purpose of gathering evidence against each of the registered teacher criteria before.  This new video is about how to create a google blog (using Blogger) which reports on your "teaching as inquiry" with a view to also gathering evidence against the RTCs and Tataiako (the cultural competencies).
The idea is to write a blog (I would make it private as shown in the video and share with only your colleagues, your principal and/or professional appraiser) about your inquiry and as you write a regular "diary" of what has happened in your inquiry (with videos and photos to support), label the posts with the appropriate RTC or Tataiako or both.
This way you will build up a good body of evidence without having to rewrite your evidence against each criteria because sometimes your evidence crosses two or more of the criteria.  It is then much easier to retrieve evidence by just clicking on the label.
Good luck!