With just days left at Orewa College it feels so recently that I arrived at School fresh out of Teacher’s College, wide-eyed, nervous and excited. I have developed so much personally and professionally and this blog entry is a reflection of both; things I can improve in my professional practice and a few personal points.
The biggest thing that I have learned is to be prepared (I have also learned that being under prepared is not completely awful but, I’ll discuss this later). As a Beginner teacher (BT) the achievement standards and everything was new to me. This meant that I had to do a lot of background reading; exemplars, clarifications, AS documents, explanatory notes and study guides. In the future, I need to make sure that I access these documents far before a Unit begins so that I have time to assimilate the information and have opportunity to ask questions. This will help me feel more confident at the start of units and that I am more certain of where the unit is going.
Marking is an area that I have become much better at. I did not really trust my marking ability because students’ work and grading was a very new process to me. I have learned that the best thing to do is taken from the Nike slogan “just do it.” Once I have reread the documents, made a few points of things that I am looking out for it is much easier to just begin. After, I have marked about 5 I found it helpful to check these with someone else to gain some confidence that I was marking accurately and not be time-wasting having to remark them. Another helpful thing that I have learned is to “chunk them.” This means that I break down how many assignments I have per class and the time that I have to do them. I allocate a certain time for and a target number I want completed. This works for me and I will continue doing this because I know when I should have the marking done by and it improves my quality of marking because, I don’t get bored marking the same thing.
Something that I will continue to do is to ask for student-feedback on units. This includes asking the students their “barriers” (things that stop them learning) and “enablers” (things that help them). This informs my teaching practice and helps me to modify my delivery depending on the needs of the students in that class. By doing this I learned that for some students, their lagging devices and ipads were actually a hindrance especially if they were slow at typing or it was outdated. I changed my teaching in the following way. I still created their task on a Google Doc but they did not have to type their answers into it. As an option, I provided felt tip pens and blank paper for students to write their answers. They answered on this paper in brainstorms, lists and other ways. I found that I got far more productivity doing this as it helped me realise and then minimise a barrier to learning. This is one example of how it was useful hearing students feedback.
I strongly think that learning is students’ responsibility but, I have learned that students need to have their work/deadlines scaffolded or steps broken down with them. so they can see practically what they need to do to achieve. For some students, they need more guidance with this process and I would introduce more strict checkpoints that had to be reached. I think this would help students who have tendencies to fall behind but also, students who are aiming for higher grades so they can receive feedback on what they need to do to keep them motivated. In my goal setting Unit for Health there was a large amount of self-management of writing, implementing and reflecting on their goals. If I did this unit again I would have checklists that they have to meet or come back at lunchtime to catchup on. Similarly, I would have liked to have been more on top of the students’ work for 1.1 Active Participation which required ongoing blog entries throughout the year. In the future, I would like to avoid having a backlog at the end of the Unit. What I did do well in this area was provide the students with all their entry dates and get them to checklist themselves. This was an effective way to do it but, it would be more accurate for the entries to be done immediately as the participation occurred. Next year, I will be stricter with checkpoints (like small steps) that students have to meet so that the students don’t fall behind and hopefully by reaching checkpoints they are motivated to keep going.
This year, I tried some new things that I have never done before. This included the Flipped Classroom and verbal assessments which I would definitely do again but, quite differently. Firstly, the flipped classroom felt very experimental. The hardest thing as a teacher was to change the locus of control from the teacher to the student. As a teacher, I found it difficult not always knowing exactly what each student was doing. It was a high-trust model. A method that we used to keep students accountable to their work was having them write on small whiteboards what they were doing and then remove it when they had completed it. I was to take a photo of it at each stage to see where they were at. This is an area that I would do differently because, it was tricky knowing. Instead, I may make a small task as “proof” that they had done it. However, when I received feedback from the students they enjoyed having this onus even though at first it seemed daunting. I would do the Flipped Classroom with more structure and checking of the progress of learning.
Verbal assessments was another area that I used this year. I think for a number of students verbal assessments were really well-suited to. I found that some students were able to articulate their answers really well in conversation and with some probing but, were unable to write it down. Also, when these students were being assessed they often were quite kinesethic and were further able to show their understanding through their movements. An area that I struggled with verbal assessments was that if sometimes meant that I was 1 on 1 with a student which meant that the rest of the class needed to be on-task. I often found it hard to concentrate on the student I was assessing because I could hear the other students. This would have worked better if the students were playing a game on the field, for example and I could pull them aside and assess them. Some students were also very nervous about verbal assessments so some more preparation for them would be helpful. Verbal assessments are something that I would like to do again in the future.
This year has also strengthened my philosophy on Health & Physical Education. For me, my success story is of a girl who was toxic at the start of the year, forgot her gear very often, was riddled with anxiety and refused to participate. Throughout the year, I have contacted home, empathised with her and been very patient. Even though, this approach is sometimes emotionally tolling the long-term results are far greater. This same girl got Excellence in her Health Assignment and recently, came bowling into the PE office asking if we could play touch in PE. She is also taking both Health and PE next year. My subject is more often than not not about the loud students who are successful at Sports and confident but those or are quiet but perfectly articulate, not confident or aware of what their bodies can do. It is the small gains for these students that will be lasting and make teaching worthwhile. I would like to make sure, in my classes in the future that I hear from everyone, not just the students who put up their hands first or shout the loudest. It is for students to emphasise and understand that excellence looks different for everyone and outstanding for one person may only be ordinary for someone else but, it is vital to be respectful and celebrate the success of everyone.
Personally, I feel like I have built resilience and confidence this year. Teaching has the ability to consume you if it is not well boundaried. This year, I was very careful to make sure that I had adequate rest, playtime and sleep. I rarely ever did work at home because I liked to maintain it as a place to rest, relax and recover. Weekends for me were a real mindshift because, as a student I worked right through them including assignments and part-time work. However, this year I have reviewed them as a place to reenergise and have fun. For me, reflection and quiet time by myself is very important. I intentionally disconnect from technology, spend time in nature and do things that I enjoy. I have learned that self-care is vital as a teacher because, you are constantly caring for others but it is impossible to do so if you don’t look after yourself. It is important to do things that you enjoy.
Something else that has helped me this year is having a SMART goal of my own. This goal was to swim the Auckland Harbour on the 4th of December. For me, this was important because it gave me something tangible to aim for. My goal was a set distance and set date. It was progress and results were something that I could measure. Teachers can go largely unappreciated and results or the impact that you are having is often hard to measure and may never be revealed. I found having a goal which was measurable meant that I was experiencing success and it was rewarding.