“Everyone is in awe of the lion tamer in a cage with half a dozen lions. Everyone but a kindergarten teacher”
– Unknown (found here 9/11/15)
Ordinarily I would post an FTPL video on a Monday afternoon, however due to working on the elusive beast known as work-life balance I was unable to record one over the weekend. Instead, you have some musings on a day spent in a kindergarten class last week. My long-time readers would be aware that in my current role, Thursday is a day where I am utilised as a way of affording those teachers whom have missed out on their Release from face-to-face (RFF, also known as non-contact time in some states I am told) for various reasons. Last Thursday I spent the day on a kindergarten class as the teacher was at a course. Some of my friends from university would have been ecstatic with this, however for me, there was an element of fear.
I have felt, all the way through my initial teacher education program and the associated professional experience placements, and the teaching that I have done since graduating that I am better suited for upper primary. Teaching the younger years, particularly kindergarten, is out of my comfort zone. I have not been able to put a finger on exactly what it is about kindergarten that unnerves me, however going in for a full day on kindergarten had me rather nervous and feeling well out of my depth. At the end of the day however, I felt like I had achieved something with the class and was quite happy.
We began with a book reading (Mr McGee Goes to Sea), after which we discussed words that could be used to used to describe the main character, and students were then asked to write three describing sentences (the three snippets on the left-hand side of the above photo). Some students needed substantial support, but I was impressed with the effort and achievements, not having any real experience with kindergarten writing. The depth that some wanted to go to was, to me, impressive. There were a number that wanted to write about the main character’s pyjamas, but did not want to use the colloquial pjs, and needed help spelling the word.
When we moved on to mathematics, I introduced the concept of perimeter to them, something which I knew the regular teacher had not yet introduced after a conversation with the teacher next door. In this, I feel like I achieved something of substance. When we were finished, the class were all able to explain what perimeter was, could explain why each group had different measurements for their table, despite them being the same size, and could explain why you would not use small objects (e.g. paddle pop sticks) to measure the perimeter of large objects (e.g. the school) and vice-versa. When I showed some books to my supervisor, she was also impressed with the quality of their efforts.
The day gave me hope that, although I certainly do not see myself as a kindergarten teacher, I can be effective in a kindergarten class. As I gain more experience and confidence, who knows, I may well change my mind and move into the kindergarten space.
“There’s a mindset of flexibility and adaptability that comes with us. We don’t mind hardship. We don’t mind somebody saying, ‘Go in and do this nasty job.’ Whatever the job is, we can do it. That’s why the nation has a Marine Corps.”
-Attributed to James F. Amos
The above quote may have come from someone talking to the context of the United States Marine Corp, but it applies equally to the teaching profession and the jobs that teachers do. This week, all year three and five students, and their teachers are undertaking the annual NAPLAN assessment. Wherever you sit in regards to the NAPLAN Debate, it has to be acknowledged that NAPLAN causes a large level of disruption to the whole school community, and for some students, is a highly stressful experience.
Yesterday saw two sessions of NAPLAN testing, and for me, personally, it was the cause of no small amount of frustration. My first class was unaffected, as it was a kindergarten class, however that was only the start of things. After the first half hour with the kindergarten class, I proceeded to a Year three and four composite class. I had been advised that morning that that particular class would consist of only the year fours from it and another class with the years threes from the two classes sitting NAPLAN in the same room. That is okay, I thought to myself, I can work with the year fours first, and then the year three students, as two separate blocks of students, cover the material needed and not double up.
Unfortunately, that didn’t work. When the session was finished, and I was packing up, I was told that the NAPLAN session had not yet finished and they needed more time, which was not really an issue, as I simply took my RFF (release from face to face) session then, and came back after that, expecting to have the combined cohort of year three students.
Wrong. I had the entirety of the class, both the year three, and the year four students I had previously had that morning. My initial thought was that this was a good opportunity to have the year four students cement their own knowledge, by peer tutoring the year three students on the skills I had just taught them. I did not have enough year four students for this to work properly, and then lost further year four students to errands that needed to be done.
At this point I decided that it was not working, and changed what I was doing with the students, and worked through some different topics using my store of videos, which allowed me to work through some different areas of learning with the class.
Today has been an even bigger mish-mash. My first session was as normal, with a year four class, I lost my entire second session due to NAPLAN, and then had technical issues with my third session. I was usingmyedapp.com with a year five and six composite class, which was also a BYODD class using iPads. I had created two quests that I wanted the students to undertake, the first being a fundamental computer skills quest, and the second a book study. The computer skills course consisted of a series of short videos, each covering one skill, with formative assessment throughout.
Unfortunately, the videos were not working, the upload file (for students) was only allowing photos or videos for the students, and when I tried to upload a video in place of the link, that also would not work. A quick message to the myEdapp team via their in-app contact button resulted in a phone call from Yohan, the CEO a few minutes later, for a quick conversation to let me know what the issues were, while I was live in the room, which was hugely helpful.
I have another year five and six composite class this afternoon, and I will be doing similar skills, however will be utilising the school bank of laptops, which unfortunately only have Internet Explorer loaded, a browser that myEdapp does not support. This means that as a workaround, I will be showing the videos on the class projector/interactive whiteboard, and we will be discussing the skills. This will not be as engaging for the students, however, I will be able to intersperse this with some practical hands on activities as well.
As always, thank you for reading, and I would like to hear from you as to how you have been impacted by NAPLAN this year, and how you are working around it.