7 Things to Blog About Right Now

Sometimes blogging is hard work. For me, it can feel like I am speaking into a void.

“Hello? Hello? Is anyone there?”

Coming up with new ideas to write about can be a challenge too.

So I’ve put together a list of seven things that I will blog about over the coming weeks. If one of these ideas appeals to you and you want to write about it, please send me a link to your post in my comments section. I’d love to read about what you write too.

7 Things to Blog About Right Now

  1. What do you procrastinate over? Why?
  2. What are you currently enjoying? Why?
  3. What has a student/patient/client/colleague or friend taught you recently?
  4. What is something that you’ve done recently that you’re proud of? Why?
  5. Where do you hope to be in five years time?
  6. If you weren’t in your current job, what would you be doing?
  7. What are some of the challenges that present themselves at your place of work? How have you overcome them?

I look forward to being introduced to your blogs! Happy writing!

 

(Featured image: freeimages.com)

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Teachers are humans too.

I challenged another blogger on WordPress to be more honest in her posts as I felt her latest post was aiming for a cheap laugh and certainly not her best writing. Needless to say she was unimpressed and she returned with a sarcastic comment.

So now I need to be honest.

And to be honest, this week I feel very blah about all aspects of teaching. This is the last week before Easter break and I am struggling with a severe case of ‘Can’t be Bothereds’. I will lose nine of my twelve students come Thursday as they complete their time at our school. Anything I plan this week is really a bonus in terms of their learning. I had one student who left early. His family managed to convince the school that someone back in Iran was unwell and the family had to return there. On quizzing the student, no one was sick. Grandma just wanted to meet the baby brother. And fancy that, it coincided with Iran’s New Year celebrations too. What did I tell you about Grandmas? It still makes me feel used.

Another reason for feeling blah is that I am losing a dear friend and colleague. I wrote about Miss Lee last year in an article attached to my portfolio. Miss Lee has managed to get a job in the Department of Education in the EAL unit (English as an Additional Language unit). So she sort of becomes my boss. I shall miss her greatly as there are some colleagues you just gel with more easily and she was one of those colleagues for me. What disturbs me though, is her recount of going for her interview and saying that different workers for the Department were queuing up for coffees at the cafe at 9:15am in the morning. At 9:15am in the morning I am already working hard and there are no coffees in sight. It would be nice to think my employers work just as hard…

We have also been working at home to determine whether there is any mold issues in our home. I had a microbiologist do his laser thing and spore trap thing around the house last week after I discovered that my genes make me multi-susceptible to molds and bio-toxins. If the fatigue from teaching wasn’t challenging enough, I also deal with ongoing allergies and inflammation. It might take a few weeks to get the results from the testing but if we solve this issue, things hopefully will improve. This certainly adds to the ‘Can’t be Bothereds’.

Today we also said ‘farewell’ to the pastor at our church. We’ve only known him for about two short years but he is moving on. His passion for Jesus and love for people were very much evident in all that he did and he will be sorely missed.

Tomorrow is Monday. I shall get up and pop a smile on my face. I shall face my students and then face their parents in what becomes a three-hour parent-teacher interview session that lasts into the evening. I shall get through this week and then take time to grieve, adjust and recover from this term over the holidays. I just need to you to know that behind every teacher’s smile, things can be going on. So let the teachers in your life know that you appreciate them and all the work they do.

*Featured image: Pixabay

 

Dear Mums and Dads…

Dear Mums and Dads…

(…and future Mums and Dads),

Please allow your child to grow up. Please allow them to be responsible for their own belongings and to get themselves dressed.

We took your children to the beach last week as part of our unit on The Beach. We had a lovely day and the children enjoyed participating in games and water safety activities with the life savers. They enjoyed playing in the sand and learnt that it is OK to sit on the sand and not a picnic rug to eat their lunch.

But…

…when it comes to getting changed from wet swimwear into dry clothes it is not really appropriate for your child at 7, 8 or 9 years of age to stand there, looking like a lost, limp starfish with arms spread-eagled waiting for someone to help them. They need to know how to dry themselves off with a towel and how to get dressed without help from their teachers. We are there to supervise but shouldn’t have to yell – “Put your undies on! Put your undies on!” (whilst doing the miming action) to your big child.

Please teach your child problem solving and responsibility.

One of my students forgot to bring her lunch. She should be packing and checking her bag at age 9. It is not our job to run off to the shops to buy her lunch because you she forgot. She will not starve with missing one meal. Yes, she will be a bit uncomfortable but maybe next time she will remember to bring her lunch.

My eight-year old at home had to demonstrate problem solving that day. His older brother had taken off with younger brother’s lunch. My eight-year old put together a new lunch complete with snack and fruit. They can do it. He had to do it: I was already at work! He has autism but managed to avoid a total meltdown. What a champ!

So Mums and Dads how about it? Let’s allow our kids to grow up.

Your tired and overworked teacher,

Mrs Guscott.

PS – by the way, get your child to tell you how bad the Australian sun can be. Their teacher got badly sunburnt, despite standing around in a jacket and beanie because the wind was so cold.

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The term rolls on…and I revisit KWL charts

Term 1 started four weeks ago and I have only just come up for breath. For the first two weeks I did not have the same class two days running. As our enrollments came in, I would lose students to older classes and receive other students from the class below me. I thought I had dodged receiving any of my old students from last year, but one popped and proved to be old enough and capable enough to join me this year.

I have P7 this year and I’m loving it. Last year I had P4, which was about a Grade 1 / 2 or about seven-year olds. Currently I have eight and nine – year olds and I have the upper ability grouped class.  My teaching partner has the same age level but his class is the beginner group and he’s finding the adjustment tough. It’s amazing the difference a year or two can make and also when the students have a little bit more English. I am actually having more fun and am not feeling so tired at the end of the day. The crunch will come in two weeks, when I have to write ten exit reports as my students will leave for their mainstream schools.

I have fallen in love with anchor charts this year. Here is one that is really working for me. It has solved a lot of angst in the classroom.

 

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Late last year, I wrote a post on KWL charts in the EAL classroom. Certainly in P4 I did not achieve much success with them. I thought I would revisit them with my older group. To increase the challenge I had them working in groups with only one student allowed to write and only one student allowed to present to the class. Each person in the group had a role. My students did an amazing job! Even Student T from last year managed.

 

 

Here’s to a Happy New Year in the classroom too!

Graphic Organisers in the ESL / EAL classroom

Part of the ongoing Professional Development that has been taking place at our school this year has involved looking at different teaching strategies that are considered ‘effective’ according to research and then adjusting them for our English as an Additional Language setting.

One of the latest strategies which we have had to experiment with has been the graphic organiser. My teaching partner and I decided to give the humble old KWL chart a try. The KWL chart has been around for years but for those who may not have come across it before, it is a tool for organising thinking. It acknowledges that students bring prior learning to the current topic being studied and also allows them to think about what they want to learn.

The KWL chart is basically this:

– What I already Know.  (This step is completed before the learning takes place)

W – What I Want to know. (This step is completed before the learning takes place)

L – What I have Learnt.  (This step is done after the learning takes place)

 

Our first try was when we were studying houses way back in week 3 and 4 of this term. My preferred way of doing the KWL chart with young students (I have seven-year-olds) is to give them a sticky note and have them draw/write for each section. The K section went well. You can only just see some of the yellow pieces that are for this section. We hit a few problems with ‘What do we want to learn?’

First problem: Students don’t know, what they don’t know.

Second problem: When English is not your first language, how do you even begin to write what you want to learn?

The drawings on the blue squares did have some input from me.

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Maybe ‘Houses’ was too much of a thing topic rather than a concept topic. So after a bit of discussion with other teachers, we tried again with the next topic of ‘Zoo’. This time, I took the approach of me modelling how I might approach the ‘What I Want to Know’ section. I don’t think the students understood that I was trying to think out loud for their benefit. The conversation that surrounded this KWL was hilarious.

 

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Me: I want to know the names of different animals.

Student A: I like magpies! And ducks!

Student T: Giraffes!

Student H: There’s elephants!

Me: Shh! Stop calling out. I also want to know What kind of coverings do animals have?

Student T: (still calling out) Feathers. Birds have feathers.

Me: (wondering why that wasn’t drawn on his paper?) I also want to know Where do animals live?

Student A: Trees!

Student T: The jungle!

Student H: Do we have to copy this?

Me: (inwardly sighing) And I want to know What do animals eat?

Student T: (still calling out) Lions eat meat!


 

 

56A181E6-6659-4DA9-B0E0-A2998FFF775A    While we were on a roll, I thought we should have a try at a KWL chart for Addition.

This is really beyond seven year olds. This is Student A (from above) who is incredibly bright. He did not really understand how to use a KWL chart for Addition. His ‘L’ section shows things he already knew as we did not cover doubles as part of our addition unit at this time.

 

 

 

I have come to the conclusion that KWL charts may not be the best use of time for me with a bunch of seven-year-olds in an EAL classroom. Maybe seven-year-olds in the mainstream classroom could cope with this graphic organiser better or maybe older students in the EAL classroom could cope with this strategy better.

 

 

 

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.

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