The Secret Life of Teachers

Well I’ve been sitting on this blog post for awhile. I’ve just come out the other side of writing reports for Term 3. We’ve also been planning the next holiday and dealing with house renovations.

Anyway it is time to submit the next assignment. The assignment was a non-fiction writing task and I chose to write a feature article much like you might see in the Stellar Magazine in the HeraldSun (a Melbourne newspaper) on the weekend.

I interviewed a colleague about her intended career change which ties in with a very current issue facing many countries. That issue is teacher retention.

Anyway you can follow the link to The Secret Life of Teachers or look on my portfolio page.

As part of the feedback process I had different comments.

  • My 12 year old son said ‘I love your article Mum – I love the facts!’
  • My husband said ‘I love the narrative!”
  • My colleague said ‘It’s excellent – you’ve told it like it is.’

I’d love to hear your feedback too.

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And how are your Grandmas?

 

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(image: freeimages.com)

This question should be mandatory at enrollment at our school.

I work at a school where there is a high proportion of Chinese students. They come to learn English whilst their parents either work here or one parent stays in China and the other comes out to make a new life in Australia bringing the children with them.

Every year there are a lot of sick grandmas in China, especially in August.

“We are going back to China. Her grandma is sick!”

It has happened to me before and it happened to me today.  The office lady snorted when I mentioned it to her and said “School is going back in China!” It’s frustrating and infuriating at the same time. I have basically been used as a baby-sitter for the last five weeks. My poor student has basically spent her summer holiday in cold, wintry Melbourne at school! And all the data that I’ve had to collect and the effort that I’ve put into her has been for nothing. As the assistant principal said, at least I won’t have to write her report.

So, how are your grandmas?

Where are we again?

I haven’t abandoned my blog. Life gets busy. Unfortunately teaching demands a lot at times and not of all the demands are useful, helpful or constructive.

I have been implementing further strategies for our instructional model into my classroom. There is a lot of frustration from many of us because the text-book that we are working from is very much secondary based and mainstream. There is nothing Primary based or for EAL based. We are starting from scratch. And that is tough.

I have been celebrating my oldest child’s birthday. I can’t believe he is now twelve.

I have been chasing up on a few health issues that need attention. Actually, when I get to this point, it is because my body is screaming for attention.

I have also been researching and preparing to write a feature article on a colleague from school. I interviewed her today and will be interviewing her sister on Monday. It was actually quite a bit of fun asking her questions I don’t normally get to ask and finding out more about her. I have been mulling over the direction of my article. I am quite looking forward to the challenge of shaping my article and pulling it together. I seem to enjoy the process of how my work evolves throughout the planning, writing and editing stages of the project. I love reading biographies and autobiographies of people. Real life can be so much more fascinating than fiction. Who knows, maybe I have found my calling?

How have you been going?

And around we go again!

Where did the holidays go?

For me the holidays were spent catching up with friends over afternoon teas, catching up with a bit of shopping, checking out different blogs on WordPress and getting our house renovated. We had the heating installer crawling around under our house one day and the electrician crawling around in our roof the next.

Well, after being back at school for one week the biggest topic of conversation among the teachers is how tired we are already! It’s actually been fascinating to hear how many of us don’t sleep particularly well before returning to school and during the first week back. The other topic of conversation is how challenging it is to return to getting up on schedule, eating on schedule and going to the bathroom on schedule. If that’s challenging for the teachers, how much more so for the students. At our school it is like starting a new year every term and that is exhausting.

I actually had to congratulate myself the other day: no one in my class has been crying and no one has wet themselves. (Yet!) What an achievement! The average age of my class has dropped by about another six months. I began the year with a Year 2/3. Term 2 I had a Year 1/2 and now I have got mainly Year 1. This term we had a huge influx of Prep children which is why my class is younger. The students have all been pushed up.

 

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(image: http://www.freeimages.com)

Student B is back in my class for this term. He began the week looking very settled and seemed to be understanding most of what I was saying. He seems pretty pleased that he is now one of the ‘old students’ and I have had to ask him to help me with the ‘new students’. However by Thursday, he couldn’t help himself. He began niggling other students in line and got into a fight at playtime. After sorting out the lining up order, the next thing on my list to do is to instigate the floor seating arrangement.

One thing I find fascinating about EAL teaching with new arrivals is how much the students learn and how much one actually teaches in a short period of time. By Wednesday, my class was beginning to settle quite nicely. We had played ‘Classroom instructions’ – which is a bit like musical chairs. The difference is that when the music stops, I call out an instruction like ‘Sit on your chair!’ and the students have to follow. We’d also done colours, days of the week, making requests and numbers to 20. Then… on Thursday I scored my thirteenth student… and the poor kid is having to work out which way is up when the other new students have already learnt this. He gets a crash course in colours and numbers to 20 which we revise but obviously don’t get to do in depth again. The class dynamics change yet again.

Such is life in the New Arrivals Program.

Winter holidays

Images: http://www.freeimages.com

ice skates

It’s a funny thing coming out of a term. It takes awhile to wind down. There is so much to do but what do I really want to do? What is the quickest way to wind down? And how to wind down when there are three children in the house desperately wanting to do something – “Something that is fun Mum!” The three of them have had their engines revving on high for a long time, so it will take awhile to slow down.

What do you do to unwind quickly at holiday time?

I’ve also added another piece to my portfolio page. Titled – School Snippets: Of Dental Delights this is a short piece on the types of interactions I have with the students at my school. This event took place last year. Names have been changed for privacy.

I hope you enjoy the read.

What if…?

A colleague and I were talking the other day. We came to the conclusion that there never seems to be enough hours in the day to get everything done.

Which makes me wonder – What if…?

What if teachers actually walked into school at the time they had to and walked out at the time they paid until?

For me that would mean turning up at work at 8:40am and leaving at 3:40pm. I would have an additional one hour meeting two nights a week and a negotiated hour of work for one night a week. This would make up my allocated 38 hour week.

Last year, the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union (AEU) commissioned the Australian Council for Education Research (ACER) to survey Victorian teachers on their workload. It found that teachers in Victorian on average work an additional 14-15 hours per week. This number increases for teachers who hold positions of responsibility and increases again for principal class.

This week the Victorian AEU had its 2017 Agreement accepted by the Victorian teacher workforce. It now finalises its deals with the Education Department and away we go for another four years. Two features of this agreement are:

  • Four non-teaching, professional practice days per year for teachers
  • A 30+8 model

Neither of these two things really will do anything towards alleviating the workload facing teachers.

I have face-to-face teaching time for 22.5 hours per week. I am entitled to 2.5 hours of planning time per week. I then have three hours of meetings and .75 hours of yard-duty. Lunch clocks in at 2.5 hours per week where I don’t technically have to do anything work related. This takes me up to 31 hours of allocated time for the week. Then there is 45 minutes of planning time taken if you consider my start time is 25 minutes before the students start and my finish time is 20 minutes after they leave.

And I am still expected to:

  • display/update student work
  • upload photos to the system so that assemblies can go ahead
  • find or make resources
  • assess (whilst I teach or maintain some sort of learning)
  • write reports
  • communicate with parents
  • communicate with colleagues
  • deal with inappropriate student behaviour
  • complete teacher self-reflection
  • submit data and be prepared to justify why students may not have progressed
  • read, read, reflect and comment on the Teaching and Learning Cycle before the next staff workshop
  • reflect on my introduction of learning strategies into our specialist setting

And all of this needs to be done in my own time!

What if teachers turned around and said “No! I’m going home and I am not doing any more today!” Where would that leave the system?

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Image: www.freeimages.com

 

The latest ‘In Thing’

I forgot to bring home the maths tests that my students did today so that I could finish their reports. Ooops…. so I’ll do a bit of a catch up here instead.

…meanwhile in Victoria…

Schools are forever trying to improve student achievement and data scores and so new strategies for teaching and learning are always being implemented. Victoria’s latest thing is the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes. Our school is focusing on different strategies that research shows to be effective in improving student learning.

After our Professional Development day two weeks ago, the lower primary teachers set about designing a co-operative learning task. The challenge for us was that the task couldn’t be too language based because the group would fall in a heap with some students having very little English and others quite a bit more. We decided as part of our house unit, that the students could make a 3D house together with each student being responsible for a certain aspect of the house. The language would be built in with the criteria – what we were looking for in the group work and also in the debrief session that could be conducted afterwards.

I had my students work in groups of 2-3. One student had orange paper and was responsible for the top part of the house – the roof, the chimney, the TV aerial.

Another student had brown paper and was responsible for the middle of the house – the walls, the windows (there had to be at least four) and the doors (there had to be at least two).

The other student had green paper and was responsible for the garden, the fences and the letter box.

It was fascinating to watch the students. For the most part they were highly engaged and were using lots of English. There were a few little outbursts, but that is to be expected. The students seemed to enjoy taking on the responsibility of their roles and no one really tried to do someone else’s ‘job’. Student B, whom I wrote about a few weeks ago, was fairly subdued, when he realised that no one wanted to work with him. He was put into a group with two girls and together they did a good job.

I was possibly slightly disappointed that no group made 3D shapes for the roof or other aspects of the house considering that we had been learning about 3D shapes earlier in the week. But this could just be a developmental thing – they didn’t or couldn’t think in terms of 3D shapes.

 

 

Another aspect of the strategies, that we are implementing, is putting a Learning Intention up for the students to see  (and anyone walking past the classroom). Whilst I know that other schools have done this for quite a while, it is new for us. Also the idea that students evaluate how much effort they put into different tasks is part of the strategies that we are having to implement.

There was a lot of language in the debriefing session after the activity and the students assessed themselves critically against the criteria for making the houses. They were fairly self-critical too when I gave them a sticky note with their name on it and asked them to place it on the effort chart that you see above.

It was an interesting day of learning. I will never benefit fully from the students learning to work together as some of them will soon be leaving for their new schools. But it is something that needs to be started and learnt somewhere. If I had to sum up the day of learning in one word it would be – intense!

Have you been implementing strategies such as these at your school? What does it look like for you and your students?