On Monday, thirty eager and possibly anxious students will file into the classroom, look for their assigned seat and sit down. Their faces will look up at me in anticipation and I will start another year of their education. In the primary school setting, it will be my face, voice and body language that will dominate their week. My teaching buddy next door will take them for their twice weekly dose of German, and on Wednesdays, another to-be-determined teacher will release me for my day in my ICT Coordinator role. So it's my decisions and choices that will determine what unfolds in 2007 for these ten and eleven year olds. I have my SACSA curriculum to guide me, there are quite a number of MYLU team planning of inquiry based learning units in the pipeline and I have my twenty years of teaching experience up my sleeve.
In a conversation with CEGSA president, Trudy Sweeney, last year I expressed to her my frustrations regarding the atrophy of my classroom teaching skills. The demands of being a part time classroom practitioner became secondary to grappling with my then new role on the first rung of primary school leadership. Thankfully, Trudy said that I could have been describing her professional life in her first year of ICT leadership. I ended up relying on tried-but-true programs and ideas from my past repertoire, knowing that at a new school they would appear fresh and competent. But I wasn't moving forward, just treading water. Sure, I was introducing new ideas in the computing room and last year I worked across four classes using wikis and digital stories. So that part of my work life was developing and having some influence on my colleagues and their classroom practices. In mid 2005, I began my foray into blogging and the world of networked learning opened up for me. 2006 became a year of unprecedented personal professional growth, with the vast majority of that documented right here.
My online learning has led me to a number of classroom teachers connecting their students to the online world, using their curricular content as the vehicle. I've read about Mark Ahlness' assertion that blogging is the most motivational tool he's ever used with elementary school students. I've read Doug Noon's online student writing portal at Tell The Raven. I've seen Darren Kuropatwa and, more recently, Chris Harbeck use Web 2.0 tools to cement mathematical concepts in place. Locally, Al Upton and his Mini-Legends have led the way and he quite rightly chides me for not connecting my own classroom to the shared learning.
So, I know want things to be different but how? Firstly, an up front approach that acknowledges that I am not the font of all knowledge, but I can be the powerful role model that seeks answers from a variety of sources and explicitly explain how I determine the validity and then the use of that information. And then connect them to be able to use the online world as part of their learning.
This morning our staff had a short presentation from Deb Daniel who works in our district here in Restorative Practice and Behaviour Management. Her talk was titled, "Getting the year off to a great start! Top Ten Tips." The tips were covered in brief detail as she spoke but came through to be was a big reminder that teaching in the primary school setting is built on the solid base of positive relationships. Her position was that a clear focus on classroom behaviour management is crucial to getting the year to a good start. Sounds obvious, I know, but sometimes teachers are so busy trying to hit the ground running that the important business of setting the groundwork so that a diverse group of students can feel secure in that classroom and be clear about the expectations and opportunities of the year ahead is forgotten. And I really liked Deb's final question to the staff, "What would we see in your classroom in four week's time?"
Maybe that's a great question to pose to the thirty anticipating faces in front of me on Monday.
As I read your post for the second time, your sentence re: building positive relationships in the classroom where a diverse group of learners feels safe really resonated with me. Having taught for nearly 11 consecutive years now, it wasn’t until this past fall that I went beyond the piece of paper called, “Miss Profe’s Classroom Expectations.” For the previous 1o years, I distributed my expectations to my students, and went on faith that they were going to read it. What changed for me was a five day experience at Landmark College in Putney, VT re: Teaching MFL to Students With LD and ADHD. The point brought home time and again during that week was setting clear expectations for all learners. So, I applaud you in your deep desire to achieve this end, and what’s more, to empower your students by posing the question to them.:)
Graham, it certainly is a topsy-turvy world, as we in the northern hemispheres are halfway through a school year and you southies are about to embark on a new one. Of course it’s been this way for a long time, but the communication medium is now so immediate and powerful, engaging and overwhelming. We have to notice.
But then just when I start to think I am sharing so much with you in the big picture, I hear mention of a “twice weekly dose of German”. Goodness. I guess we are not as similar as I thought…
Anyway, my kids this year are just going nuts with their blogs – writing like I have never seen before. Again.
Best of luck to you as you launch your new year! – Mark
Have a great year Graham!
Well said Graham.
I’m excited about a new ‘start again’ year. It’s not really – more building on what has been. Our building blocks and inspiration (the kids) are different ‘though … and that’s what makes it so exciting.
Have a great year. I look forward to seeing what you discover and develop with your class … your new connections.
Our new 2007 miniLegends blog will be at http://alupton.edublogs.org/
My eTeacher ‘Create, Connect – Blog’ event is at http://connect.edublogs.org/ and
My educational dialogue blog is at http://ccclearning.edublogs.org/ – there you will find five things you probably never knew about me 🙂
Have a good one mate. I’ll catch up with you soon. Cheers, Al
Hello Graham. Thank you for your blogging. I’ve just started blogging myself to share what I am giving to classrooms for free. It is my intention to support you and other teachers by providing music and the arts as tools for learning core knowledge curriculum. If you are interested, let me know and it would be my pleasure to send what I have to you for free.