Posts Tagged “Reflections”

I scheduled this post for one year after it was written? Has much changed?

Surprisingly, aged 33, I am about to embark on my first significant career change. All my previous decisions focused on accepting educational opportunities rather than purposeful career changes. It would be neglectful of me not to consider and reflect on what I have learnt during my employment at Tauntons College, predominantly teaching, but also managing and coaching. To reinforce the positive experiences, review the mistakes I made in an effort to benefit the new students and colleagues I will be working with and for at Hamble School.

Notable for me, there have been four significant learning opportunities;

  1. Through simply observing experienced practitioners teach or manage.
  2. Second, professional learning that took places as a result of my teaching mistakes or errors in judgment.
  3. Solicit feedback from our students, consider it and act upon it.
  4. What I learnt for myself.

Set as few rules as possible but enforce them consistently as possible (1).

Give quality time to students. Listen more than lead the conversation (1,3,4).

Written communication between student and staff can be very powerful (4).

Occasionally support students without them knowing you were the teachers that helped. An educational secret Santa so to speak.(4)

Discipline does not always work best when it is immediate, identify the misdemeanor, outline that the student will be sanctioned. Wait. (1. Howard Tear)

Not all expert teaching requires technology, in fact most requires very little technology but a very skilled teacher (1).

Do not do for a student, what they can do for themselves (2,4).

Challenge the students. The student, who is never required to do what he cannot do, never does what he can (2,3).

You can not accept every philanthropic challenge presented to you as a teacher. Be thoughtful as to those you accept. Ensure that it is the student that succeeds and not you, the teacher (1,2,3).

Complete few things, but very well (1).

Learning is not a spectator sport (3,4).

Rather than teaching, provide conditions in which the students can learn (1).

Let students teach. It’s demonstrates what has been learnt, its supports the development of others students and most importantly it allows students to recognise your craft (1,3).

It is not what you tell your student that counts. It is what they hear. More importantly, what they act upon (1,4).

Only make new mistakes (4).

Tell students regularly that intelligence and success is a learnt ability, not an innate ability. Develop a “growth mind-set.

Know what kind of teacher you are, and what kind of teacher you want to be (4).

As a Manager it is a little more difficult. To date the list is a little short. I would like to try and keep it that way.

  1. Hire the best staff. This is not a ‘chance’ process.
  2. Make the difficult decisions, decisively.
  3. It is better to be seen than it is to be heard.
  4. Learn from the staff in the Department and the school.

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Expected difficulties can be managed. In terms of the curriculum; new staff, a new KS2 curriculum, a new Unit of work for Year 9s, in their new sets. A revised unit of work (well, almost) for Yr 10s and finally, a new course for low ability students in Yrs 9 and 10 (with a newly associated ICT staff, a Teaching Assistant, workign with a full time member of staff) and not being able to set in Yr 11. We knew that challengeing the expectations of students with 2/3/4 years experience at Hamble College would be professionally draining. We are also expecting a PGCE student, thats another 1st for the Department, but another strain on my time.

On a positive note, our new member of staff has made a very positive start. The lesson are prepared for each class ahead of schedule and a senior member of staff has prepared hard resources where appropriate. He has made an impact on the Department immediately, his professional IT knowledge and ICT skills are very strong and his enthusiam for ICT infectous, his open classroom at lunchtimes means rearely is there not an ICT facility open. Finally, having three staff members occupying the three IT rooms has improved security and overall behaviour within the rooms. What will it be like when / if we get a fourth?

Unit 4 has been prepared and scripted for all staff (revised as it is taught for the first time), Unit 1 was in the process of being revised, more of that in the ‘things we dont know, we dont know.’

In terms of the IT Management; a new network, AUPs, classroom management software, online registration, implementing wireless through out the site, mobile simms, preparing the new IT office and projectors in all classrooms. I knew that these tasks would drain time. It was going to be a demanding terms, did I mention my wife gave birth to our fisrt Son Harry at the end of August??? At least we knew to expect him!

So to the focus of what all young managers learn, I presume the hard way. It is not what we know and plan to manage that causes the most frustration, but the ‘things we don’t know, we don’t know.’

The new term has been really challenging, despite knowing it was going to be demanding, alloting overflow time, I will try and summarise the reasons for this;

  1. network issues, we expected some issues, but we got more that we had expected. User areas dropping out led to teaching being stalled.
  2. not having the expect AUP and classroom management software meant it was more difficult to manage students classroom behaviour. With just three days of ABTUTOR being installed, we are already seeing improved productivity.
  3. College website lost and community website lost in the network upgrade
  4. wireless not fully installed, impacting on registration. This was always possible outcome, but poor cabling / patch manangement, meant a delay.
  5. network and registration took priority, this meant other smaller jobs got delayed.
  6. no IT help desk / ICT room booking – that is purely my fault. I did not know that this was essential. Let me emphase how important it is. Without order to the IT Network management, jobs we not completed with forethought or planning. In term this meant more ‘time’ spent managing following up what was, or wasnt completed on time.
  7. Science were expecting a new IT suite. This was only confirmed in the thrid week of term. Another 2 days work unaccounted for.
  8. Unit 1 was not completed as proscribed. I did not expect to have to push a second SOW through aswell as Unit 4, (I was a little disappointed). Again the infrastructure behind the teaching should a serious concern for 2008/9.

I am sure that there were other issues, some small and others more significant, but the workload has meant that I have found it almost impossible to write to this blog regularly. I am conscious that I need time to reflect and  I am committed to this blog. Unfortunately, my professional reflection time has been almost completely eroded by a task list that keeps adding to itself.

Despite the fact I gave our teacher and network teams ‘overflow time’ I doubt if I will ever experience another year in Hamble College ICT like it? Everything was push push push it through. Yes we can, we will try, we hope to be. That is not to say I will not experience something similar in another role or College. So crucially, what woudl I do differently? Well I am not sure I could have done much differently. Only to learn from the experience, I dont think within the current situation we could have taken on less?

The network faults, the lack of wireless (cabling), the need for online registration, appointments (or lack of a network manager) were constants and were outside my control. I do believe that not having a help desk and the ability to record and prioritise ‘jobs,’ negatively impacts on IT management and staff time. Also I am sure it has negatively effected the wider College staffs overall impression of the IT management with College. With two weeks to half term, we still have jobs being actioned, we are looking to half term as our first opportunity to move the IT office and improve communication, to finalise the requried tasks and start to impact on the teaching practices within the College.

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So today we took the work the students created in class and uploaded a range to AuthorStream. The motivation to get their work on the site was impression. I also learnt a few teaching points for E(ngage)-Learning and was left with one or two questions to reflect on;

  1. Although I created a short presentation about using AS, actually creating an account needed a little more structure. Perhaps a slide or screencast. Even though we had talked about online safety, this must be reinforced.
  2. The structure of the activity must be very clear, so that the work chould be completed and perhaps checked before going online, (emphase the size of the viewing audience, perhaps the ratings/feedback they receive might reinforce that point?
  3. Tags, I forgot to explain the importance of tags. As yet you can not yet create groups on AS, tags would be a very good way to search for students work and create “groups.”
  4. Q. How do you encourage students that dont want to post? We had one student who was less than positive.

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Friday afternoon, two talented, socialable and engaging male students choose to disengage from class. It would be easy to excuse their behaviour as “last lesson of the weekitis” or to attribute their behavious to the slightly dull topic of databases or to blame the situation that they are ”boys.” However I am in the business of finding solutions, of working with young people, not reinforcing stereotypes and accepting excuses. I believe “we” can be successful, that we, is “the students and I.” I did asked the boys to think about our situation, I hope they do, but there is a lot more enjoyable things to think about than ICT last lesson on a Friday.

So to reflect on Clarence Fishers post on time for ”personal interests.” Are we asking our students to learn appropriately? When did I last use a database? Would I have used one had I been taught the skills in school? Would I have enjoyed the learning process? Would I accept the “spoon full of medicine is good for me argument” if I didnt? Maybe now, as an adult, but I am not sure I was ready to accept this as a student….

Lets take a thinking side step, Google (and other companies) allow their employees to  take 10% – 20% of their on the job time to pursue their own interests, resulting in some amazing innovations. Like employees, our students are often tied into a rigid schedule of “getting things done.” If I gave my students more time to pursue their own interests (not fancy pants though) would they work more deligiently and successfully on their coursework?

“The ability to work on an agenda that actually interests you would be a massive change in education.”

I agree with Clarence, but its not easy connecting with databases? Do I in fact even need to? Woudl the students respect the time to focus on databases if they were given more freedom? Do they realise that if we complete the unit we could try to use the time for more exciting and experimental ICT? Do they see the finish line? I do hope the boys give the lesson a second thought as I value their thoughts and contribution to the conversation. Perhaps I will take a risk and email them, asking for their opinion….. If they respond and permit me, I will let your know the outcome.

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I have now spent two days at Hamble. I felt that it was important to reflect on both the Department and the teaching experience.

Leadership

The first two days incorporated a series of small but significant challenges, including get the physical environment structured, removal of unused hardware, locks, keys, chairs, noticeboards, office, timetables…. There are still a number of further issues to resolve; storage of student work, common meeting time for staff, class lists, access to students data…. and not forgetting the ‘unknown unknowns.’ What are the prioritise for me first full week?

Establish a ‘shared’ curriculum. (This may include creating a wiki for staff).

Future Prioritise have been outlined in a short meeting with the Headteacher, constructing and engaging the staff in a VLE and E-portfolios. These particular prioritises will be revisited during halfterm.

What I have learnt, recommendations for NEW staff:

Staff would welcome a formal induction; to include two days in school without a teaching commitment.

An opportunity to review the staff handbook and discipline procedures. Second, to meet with the office staff, support staff, IT team, reprographics and to go through the school paperwork. To be provided with a folder with their timetable, class lists and prepared registers.

Teaching

I didnt expected the students to welcome me with open arms, but I was not prepared for the angst the students felt towards their own learning experience. I met with a very diverse student body, in terms of their academic motivation and aspirations, how to engage these students will be a challenge.

  1. Organise class lists, CAT scores, seating arrangements for classes and therefore clearly label PCs.
  2. Teaching Prioritise; establish teaching style, try and watch an experienced practitioner, talk with the students, set class room expectations. Set clear lessons objective that require students to be active in their own learning.

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