"A theoretical model or framework, no matter how amazing, is usless unless you can put it into practice."
- Jane Burns
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was through a media pass provided by the event organisers.
There were a number of masterclass to choose from (see my preview of Masterclass day here) and for me, Jane Burns' masterclass around digital wellbeing was the one that stood out as being genuinely important, not just for education, but socially as well. The day did not, however, start out particulalry pleasantly.
I did eventually make it to EduTECH and found that I was with around thirty or so other delegates to hear Jane speak about digital wellbeing. Overall, the day was very interesting. The statistics were largely depressing, however, not surprising; and we were provided with a range of options, tools and strategies for workign with students to deal with mental health and wellbeing through digital tools.
Jane was upfront in that she did not want to spend the whole day talking, and so after introducing the PERMA model to us, she asked us to brainstorm about words, ideas, emojis that come to mind for each of the keywords that make up PERMA.
This was a very interesting excercise and the ideas that the group I was with were quite varied.
The PERMA model, we were told, was developed by Martin Seligman (watch a TED Talk he delivered on the concept here) and provides a way of thinking about issues that arise. as we went around the room, sharing our ideas on each of the keywords in PERMA, an underlying theme emerged; generally, there seemed to be a theme that accountability, when coupled with appropriate support, created an environment where mental health was more achievable consistently. However, Jane pointed out that PERMA is a theoretical framework and that irrespective of how good/nice any theoretical framework is, unless it can be put into practice than it is useless.
Jane then moved onto Paula Robinsons's Mental Fitness framework, which was something that I had not heard before. Jane spoke about the language around mental health and that rather than mental illness we should talk about mental health as mental illness carries a rather negative connotation and also carriess with it some help-negation history as well, wherein the more that you need help, the less likely yo uare to seek help. The conversation then shifted to considering what has changed in society that has made suicide such a prevalent option. One of the statistics that was spoken about was that one in ten students ina Year Twelve class have attempted suicide. When I look back at my classes from the last couple of years and consider that statistically, if they were in Year Twelve now, that three of them would have attempted to take their own life, that is a rather horrifying thought. You can read some statistics about youth mental health on the Beyond Blue page here. The discussion that the group was having was all predicated on the stereotype of young white male, the statistics for at-risk groups such as the Indigenous, LGBTQ, rural/remote populations are even higher.
Jane commented that having mental health issues is still seen, by and large, as a weakness. THis is despite widespread acceptness of the validity of mental health issues. Jane was asked why this is and she replied that we do not know, there are so many factors, not least of which is the historical attitudes of buck up and men don't cry that completely decry mental health as being valid. The below video has done the rounds on social media recently and it applies the language that we use about mentla health to physical health. I challenge you to really watch and listen and consider the langauge that you use and how you conceptualisemental health issues. It is quite confronting. I actually scrolled past it about halfway through the video the first time I saw it (and it is not a long video) because it was uncomfortable to watch, highlighting the inadequacy of our attitude towards this significant problem.
One of the challenges aroud mental health that Jane spoke about is help-negation theory because there is a body of research that indicates early intervention and helps significantly increases the chances of recovery. You wouldn't delay the treatment of cancer by saying I can deal with this myself so why would you delay seeking help for something else that can severly cripple or even kill you? A stark thought, but true. The attitudes of society and individuals around mental health have changed, there is more acceptance of mental health as a valid concern, however, our actions around mental health have not necessarily changed; people still do not seek help often until very late and people still receive disparaging remarks if they open up about having mental helth issues.
Jane noted that we have reached a point of saturation around awareness. The statistics have changed as awareness has increased, hwever, therewe are now at a opint where we won't see a further change, a reduction in suicide numbers for example without a change in actions. It is our actions which now need to change. Research like the Growing Up Queer report highlight that there is still a sgnificant problem with discrimination and bullying around mentla health; our actions need to change.
In 2009 over nine thousand youths (16-24 years old) were admitted to hospital for injuries resulting in self-harm.Women are admitted at two and a half times the normal rate, and Indigenous youth at five times the normal rate. If these kinds of statistics were applied to motor vehicle deaths, there would be an outrage socially, politically, and across the media, however, mental health gets a modicum of media airtime.
The conversation changed to talking about sleep hygiene and the role that technology can play in supporting mental health needs at odd hours during the night, however, I will cover that in the next article.
Thank you for reading through this, and don't forget that if you or a loved on need support there are lots of options such as Beyond Blue, LifeLine, Black Dog Institute, Mind Blank, and Headspace, among many others. This is an important conversation that we need to have as a society. Engage in the online conversation through twitter, Jane is @JaneBurns and there are a range of hashtags on Twitter such as #mentalhealth, #mentalhealthawareness and many others.
If you have missed any of the articles in this series on EduTECH 2017, you can find them here.
The storifys of the Masterclass day can be found below:
"The current education system is like batter hen farming. We're too focused on the output."
- Peter Ellis
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 was under a media pass provided by the organisers.
I entered the auditorium within which the Future Leaders stream was taking place to hear about the last five to ten minutes of Shane Spence's talk about video self-modelling. It sounded very intriguing. From the small snippet that I heard, the use of recorded videos modelling behaviour expectations for things like packing up, putting something away was having a significant amount of success in reducing negative behaviour and lost learning time, particularly for students who are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. The key point for me in the small segment that I heard was that showing a two minute video six times to a student struggling with some sort of behaviour yielded a far greater return than twelve minutes of any regular intervention.
It was also useful in those schools that had adopted the Positive Behaviour for Learning program as rather than simply showing or reading students a statement about what is expected, they can be shown a video, which can be much more explicit as students can see exactly what is expected in the particular scenario. A specific example he gave was a student struggling to put his tote tray away. The student was shown a video modelling how the tote tray should be put away and after watching it a several times, the student was able to put it away without any issues. I wish that I had caught all of Shane's presentation.
Peter was announced as the final speaker for the afternoon, which indicated that the final speaker per the agenda was not presenting for an unknown reason. Peter was speaking about disrupting the model of education by moving beyond student voice towards student empowerment and he began by telling the audience that "we are one of the most innovative schools in the world...self-labelled of course." Peter indicated that there is always a case for change but that engaging the community in the change process is critical. The current model of school has worked well for the last one hundred years because the career model over the last one hundred years needed the model. However, the career model for students no longer matches the school model which has created the current dissonance between school and careers that our students and industries are currently experiencing.
Peter told the audience that due to declining enrolment numbers and a poor reputation in the local community that his school had been to close. Twice. A new Principal and a new team (Peter did not actually specify which part of the staff he meant by this, but I imagine a combination of formal and informal leadership staff) created a new opportunity for change. Now, an unspecified period of time later, the school has restored its reputation, is growing with a current population of just over 1100 students and is maintaining good results in the Victorian Certificate of Excellence (VCE - the final set of exams in the Victorian K-12 education system). Additionally, there are now students running businesses alongside their studies, and doing well in both.
One of the key changes in the school that has lead to the turn around has been the desire to make school relevant again. This is one of the reasons for the change in decision making processes within the school. Now, the default setting for requests is yes. Unless there is a significant time, monetary cost or potential for a negative impact on others, the answer to requests is, and should be, yes. This is something that I find rather challenging to contemplate. My experience with schools' decision making is heavily typified with bureaucracy; the need for hoops to be jumped through, certain forms filled out in certain ways with particular types of additional information supplied. I can on the one hand see why this needs to be done, in an age where you need to cover your backside from a legal standpoint, however, how many great ideas never even see the light of day because whomever has had the idea knows that the hoop-jumping required to see the idea to fruition is too hard and to confusing to deal with?
The above tweet captured some of the beliefs about educations that Peter not only views as outdated, but that he questions as to why they are still considered normal in any way. The first dot point I can agree with. Teaching is about relationships and I have never understood why not smiling until some arbitrary point in the school year is remotely helpful to your practice. Personally, I do not have a poker face. I was that kid who would smile at inappropriate times out of nervousness, even when being told off for doing something wrong, and would therefore end up in more trouble because I apparently thought it was funny. Actually, I am still that kid, even as an adult. As an early career teacher, I have been given that piece of advice on numerous occasions. I cannot do it, it is not my personality to not smile.
I have to confess to not quite understanding the issue with the fifth dot point. I do not see that comment as an ownership statement, but as a relational statement. In 2016, I was offered a twelve-month contract to teach a Year Five and Six class for three days per week job-share arrangement. In term four, that became full-time as my job-share partner went on maternity leave. I already had a strong relationship with my class but that switch to full-time developed it further. It was the first class that I had taught for a full year, having been employed casually, or in an RFF / non-contact arrangement previously. At the end of the year we had a reflection conversation as a cohort, all of us, myself included, sitting in a circle on the floor.
I told them then that they would always be my students. Not because I owned them, but because they were the first class I had taught for a whole year, that we had developed a relationship with each other. I believe it was mutual, when I gathered them together (the now Year Six students anyway) and told them that I would be finishing up at the school that week they were gutted and there were tears. On my final day at school they all came to my room as soon as the bell went and wanted to say good bye, give me one last high five, a card they had made and some of them wanted hugs. Those were my students. Not because I own them, but because we have a relationship built on mutual trust and respect.
I disagree somewhat with some of the other dot points, however, that is the one I passionately disagreed with. Peter posted a list of current rules at his school; the student is in control, yes is the default, a strengths rather than deficit model, a one person policy (respect, first names, access to areas and facilities). Many of these I found myself nodding to, in particular the first name policy. I still do not quite understand why it is seen as respectful for the students to have to refer to Mr Teacher or Mrs Teacher, when we can refer to them Jane and John and I have written about this in the past.
Additionally, all students have access to to a kitchen. What message does it give, began Peter, when you have to wait until Year Twelve to be treated like a human? I do not have a problem with this. I remember wanting to take leftover dinner for lunch the next day at school but was unable to do so as there was nowhere to heat it up. Actually, even in Year Twelve I did not have access to a microwave or hot water. I do know schools who have a Year Twelve room with kitchen facilities, but my alma mater did not.
We were shown some more rules at the school:
Peter pointed out that students will keep learning past their schooling and we as teachers are just a small part of their education. The school therefore has students manage their own individual learning plans. Peter did not go into it, however, I hope that there is some education provided to students around how to develop and manage a learning plan on an ongoing basis. As a further extension to this, they have removed year levels which means that no-one necessarily knows what year another student is in, resulting in there being no stigma over needing or taking longer than the normal six years to complete your secondary education.
He then spoke about something that I am not familiar with, that they used a vertical system to eradicate bullying. I am not familiar with the vertical system and have not been able to find anything on Google, so if anyone could shed light on that, I would appreciate hearing from you.
The above is quite a drastic change for most teachers. One person responded to the photo by saying that if they turned up to an interview and there was a student on the panel that they would turn around and leave as they did not see what a student could have to offer or contribute to the panel and therefore having them there would be tokenistic. I can certainly understand that point of view, however, personally, I am not sure how I feel about it. It does make sense that students have an input into staffing in the school as the students are the ones who deal with the staff on a day to day basis, however, do they have to undergo the same training that staff and community members do in order to be on staff selection panels? Peter did not elucidate on that or in what capacity students are asked to be on the panels, how they choose which staff, or what role they are expected to play.
Peter began to wind down his presentation by talking about the businesses that students are running alongside their studies. He showed a list of some of the businesses they have seen come and go, but I did not manage to get a photo of it. Many of them seemed fairly straightforward, newspapers, journals, radio, coffee stands, however, they did have a snake breeding business in operation at one point, which was apparently quite profitable. Peter also said that where possible, they employ students into various roles such as Grounds keepers, administration, cleaners because they would rather employ a student internally than someone they do not know. He did add that they are demanding as employers and that they have fired students.
I can see the logic in this, giving students real-world experience, however, I cannot wrap my head around how it would work. Is there not a conflict of interest in being paid to do work in a school where you are currently enrolled and being taught? Or is that just my own imagination? I wonder what processes they would have had to go through to gain approval from the Victorian Department of Education for those arrangements.
Peter closed with two points. Firstly, that although they believe the education model is broken, it is not just them doing things similarly to this, there are other schools in the area doing things with their own students and with refugee students that are providing them with not just an education but an indication of what adult life is like. He also commented that we need to get out of students' way and remove barriers to learning, to "...stop saying "you have to do x before you can do y" in order to develop."
His presentation was a fantastically engaging and challenging way to finish FutureSchools 2017 and I am glad that I did come to the session. Jenny Luca, the chairperson for the Future Leaders stream closed the conference by thanking the speakers for their ideas, the delegates for sticking around for the final session and by confirming that FutureSchools will be in Melbourne again in 2018.
Thank you for reading, and if you have missed any of the articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them here.
"It's not actually about the technology"
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
My original plan for the opening session of day two at FutureSchools was to attend presentations by Leanne Edwards - Steve Allen - Melinda Cashen - Peter Tompkins - Sally Wood and Simone Segat. However, staying to listen to Sarah Asome's excellent presentation meant that I had missed around half of Steve Allen's time slot. I made the decision that rather than entering with less than half of his presentation to go, and then moving again to a different conference stream straight after, that I would be better served by going straight to the FutureLeaders conference stream so that I would be ready for Melinda Cashen's presentation.
I entered the Future Leaders stream from the rear doors and found a seat in time to hear Chris McNamara talking about how students shape their day through managing their calendar. It turns out that Chris is Deputy Principal of Learning and Development at Melbourne Girls Grammar School (MGGS), so there was a certain amount of crossover and expansion of some of Mary Louise O'Briens presentation. This seems like such an obvious thing to do, to use a calendar to manage your time and commitments, yet it is something that is not only not taught explicitly in schools but is a significantly useful skills in everyday life, as a student and as a working adult. It allows for accountability to others and to yourself for time-based goals like assignments (whether school or work), for appointments, birthdays and other events.
It also plays a role in the structure of student-life at MGGS, where mastery learning and trust are key to the school. Mary commented in her session that students are only timetabled to classes for 70% of their time at school and that it is up to them to self-manage and regulate the use of their time for learning. As part of this, students are empowered to move the due dates of assignments around to suit their mastery; they can bring a date forward if they feel they are going to be ready early and accordingly push another one back that they need more time for. I can see that this system has the potential to be heavily abused, and I would like to hear more about how they rolled out this structure and how they provided learning opportunities to students (and staff) about how to manage their time and track their assignments and other responsibilities.
Things are not completely out of the hands of students as staff do have visibility of where students are up to in their coursework through a mastery report which students are required to complete on their end. This allows teachers to keep an eye on how students are tracking and to address any potential issues that appear such as a lack of progress before it becomes a significant issue.
To track the well-being, MGGS utilise a program called VisualCoaching Pro to track and monitor student well-being, however, an intrinsic part of it is that students have access to their own data and are expected to self-monitor as well. I am intrigued as to how strong the uptake with this program was in the early days, as well as how honest students were then and are now. Are students taught what to look for in regards to red flags or triggers that indicate to them that something is amiss? I am also very curious as to the impact that it has had since its introduction on student wellbeing; has it generated a general trend upwards towards improved student wellbeing or has there been no significant macro-level change? I wonder if MGGS has considered introducing the wellbeing platform for their staff to allow them to self-monitor their own wellbeign and what ramifications such a move would have on stress, workload, wellbeing, and productiveness.
Changing topic, Chris spoke about the analytics behind the school's learning management system (LMS), which allowed staff to identify not only the level of mastery that students were currently at, but also how students were engaging with the learning content that had been provided, often a reasonable indicator of the academic success in a topic.
As you would expect when a school is planning on significant change, the parents were nervous. Fortunately, the school’s relationship with the community was such that the parents by and large trusted the school to do what was right by their children. This attitude may be an unusual one for many teachers who are used to parents complaining quite vociferously about anything and everything, without ever coming to the teacher in the first instance or the school in general in the second instance.
The culture of the school is vastly different to any in my personal experience, and I cannot fathom what working or learning in that sort of environment must be like. If you are a current or former student (or teacher) and happen to (rather randomly) be reading this, I would love for you to comment and share your thoughts on what it was like from your perspective.
Following Chris was Melinda Cashen whose abstract indicated she would be talking about cultural thinking required to embrace ICT across the curriculum. Melinda opened by remarking that the Digital Technologies curriculum is more than just coding. It is a breath of fresh air to hear someone say that in public, as the default setting for many schools when they say they are going to engage more with the digital technologies curriculum is either coding or robotics. This focus on coding seems to create a panic and a stress among a great many teachers who feel woefully ill-equipped to teach in these areas which has resulted in private enterprise filling the void. There are, however, many resources available out there for teachers to upskill themselves in this area, as demonstrated in the below tweet.
This session reminds me of one of the pitfalls of Storify, that it does not necessarily capture all of the tweets under a hashtag. I know that I tweeted more than what I have captured in the Storify from this session, but they did not get picked up for some reason. I may need to look at going back to handwriting my notes, whether by hand or using my wacom tablet and OneNote (more on that in a later article), I do not know.
If you missed any articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them all here.
“We often use words like loyal, respectful, wise, steadfast etc. with our Grandparents, but not, it seems with today’s generation.”
– Teresa Deshon
Disclosure: My attendance at Education Nation (#EduNationAu) was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
The fourth and final session for day one of the Rethinking Reform stream at Education Nation was rather full, as it contained both the Rethinking Reform and the Digital Dimension streams. Teresa Deshon opened the session by speaking about People of Character – Your Best Self which was a focus on the pastoral curriculum that often appears to be ignored or subsumed by the focus on the academic curriculum and what that looks like at Kilvington Grammar. Teresa began with a series of back in my day… sayings and then related that it often appears as if the character traits and virtues which were taken for granted in generations gone by, resilience, steadfastness, loyalty, persistence etc. appear to be largely missing in the current school-bound generation. This, Teresa commented, was played out in (uncited) OECD data where Australia appears in the top third of many welfare concern issues tracked.
There are significant issues facing parents in the current age and it feels like, for many teachers, that more and more of what was traditionally the domain of the parent is becoming the domain of the teacher. This has led, Teresa contends, to an increase in the need for socio-emotional skills teaching at schools. Teresa related to the audience the RULER program from Yale University which is utilised in her own school as part of the wider Character Initiative which focuses on explicitly teaching character traits and socio-emotional skills.
Teresa spoke about how there are three climate types and that all three play a significant role at Kilvington grammar and that students are able to utilise to three climates to be their best self. Within the Character Initiative, the focus is on helping students from Kindergarten to Year Six set goals based upon the character trait being explicitly taught that term, whilst in Year Seven to Twelve students, they set the goals based on the character traits, complete quizzes to measure the engagement, understanding, and appreciation of the character traits whilst engaging in an analysis of the character trait as it is portrayed throughout various types of media including news, books, and movies.
Teresa also noted that in Years Nine and Ten, students had the choice of undertaking the ethical leadership elective subject which focuses on three areas:
It was here that Teresa made a brief reference to a flipped curriculum, and even showed a stock flipped class graphic, however, the terminology was being used in a context that was not flipped learning in the sense of flipped learning that I have written about at length in the past. Teresa was actually referring to the flip made from focusing on the academic curriculum to the pastoral curriculum as opposed to flipped learning of the type I have written about previously.
Teresa’s presentation timeslot was brief and it went by very fast. There was not, for me, any particular takeaways from the session. There were no tools or strategies talked about in depth that could be applied, but anecdotal discussion of how a program was working in a particular context. The move from focusing on the academics to the pastoral side of things intrigues me, especially when you consider that the academics do still need to be attended to, however, I do agree that the pastoral issues need to be addressed. Teresa’s opening point, about the shift of pastoral concerns being from a parental burden to a teacher burden, is an issue, and I think it goes back to the need to establish the purposes and goals of education, and whether it should include pastoral issues, or whether they need to be the domain of the parent (which is in itself another debate).
As always, thank you for reading, and I would appreciate any feedback you care to offer in the comments below or over on Twitter.
If you have missed any previous articles in this series, you can find them by clicking here.
“Mobility can be really difficult for children and can often interrupt their learning, so it is important that we focus not only on their education but also their well-being…”
– Lila Mularczyk, President of the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council, as reported here.
In early March of this year, I stumbled upon an ongoing Twitter conversation (storified here) about student mobility and its impacts on student learning that stemmed from this article published in the Sydney Morning Herald. The author, Alex Smith (@alexsmithSMH), wrote an article with the summary of “Students who change schools several times do worse in NAPLAN than their peers and are more likely to drop out of school” and the ensuing Twitter conversation made for interesting reading, with the opening tweet in the conversation being this:
I agree with Alice, in that the reasons behind why students move schools are typically completely out of the realm of influence for schools and teachers, yet the impression that is left after reading the article, for myself at least, and I suspect some others in the conversation, is that the schools are to blame. It is an interesting article to read, and the statistics (based on enrolment data from 2008-2014) are, in many ways, not that surprising.
The reasons behind why students move schools are myriad, and are, indeed, often outside the sphere of influence of teachers or schools. Speaking personally, I attended six different schools (East Tamworth PS, South Tamworth PS, Orana Heights PS (Dubbo), Inverell PS, West Tamworth PS, Tamworth HS) in three towns (Tamworth, Dubbo, Inverell and back to Tamworth. I wrote five towns in my Tweet, however, I am not sure where I managed to pull five from). The moves, for my family, were mostly related to my father’s occupation, where he would be transferred from one office to another, across towns. The moves within the towns were typically related to the fact that we were renting and the house would be sold, or we needed to move to a bigger house as my siblings were born and we then grew up and needed more space.
There are so many other reasons for student mobility, as alluded to in the above tweet, more than can be covered in this article, but there is no way that any school or teacher would have been able to influence my mobility as a student. There are steps that can be taken by schools and teachers to help students settle into a new school, however, and that was the focus of the majority of the conversation.
Alice’s above Tweet provides an interesting insight into the importance attached to developing strong relationships with students from refugee backgrounds. The tweet implies that developing strong relationships, including characteristics such as mutual trust and respect, plays a key role in the student’s ability to integration into the school community, form social bonds, and see academic success.
I do not believe I would hear too many opposing voices if I put forward the notion that those ideals form a key part of any teacher-student relationship, and that any student who joins a class after the start of the school year will require assistance. My recollections of changing schools during the year are rather hazy due to the passing of time, however, I do not recall any particular teacher who spent time with me to determine what gaps I had in my knowledge based on what the class I was joining had already covered.
I managed. I completed my HSC (poorly), found myself a job and worked for ten years before returning to undertake my initial teacher education (which I completed with far superior results in comparison to my HSC). I feel confident in saying that any teacher would tell that NAPLAN does not represent the students in their classroom accurately, that Student A gets incredibly anxious with time pressures, that student B struggles to articulate their thoughts in writing, or that Student C is living with a messy divorce, or came to school without having eaten that morning any one of a dozen other emotional, psychological or wellbeing issues that teachers see in their students each day.
The point was raised that teachers invest time and effort and heart in their students who need it, in order to support them, bring them up and the growth that is achieved, across a range of domains can be immense, yet at the same time they are being questioned about NAPLAN or HSC results.
I have a few students in my class who are new to the school, and I am fortunate that my class is very welcoming and supportive (the whole school is incredibly supportive of each other in general, to be honest) and I feel confident that if a student transferred tomorrow, that they would be made to feel welcome by their new classmates, and that myself and my teaching partner, Mrs. W, would also be able to support them and build a positive relationship with them as we have with our other students.
The questions implied in the original newspaper article, or what I see as the questions being implied, is what can be done to better support students and the families who are considered mobile vis-a-vis changing schools after the commencement of the school year, and beyond that, is reducing the need for families to change schools, something that can be impacted?
I would be very curious to hear your thoughts on this complex issue and the variety of factors that play into it.
“Taking care of your mental and physical health is just as important as any career move or responsibility.”
– Attributed to Mireille Guiliano
Work-life balance is an issue that we have been hearing more and more about over the last decade (see here and here), particularly with the now ubiquitous nature of smart phones and the resultant implications on the ability for you to check your work e-mail, do that report, respond to that request etc, anywhere. you can It is rather telling that there are now websites dedicated to providing tips about managing your work-life balance. It is a topic that often comes up amongst the education chats on Twitter (for example #teacherlife or #teacherwellbeing). Given the apparent teacher crisis, the media seems to change its mind every other day as to whether there is one or not, teacher work-life balance needs to be addressed as part of the larger discussion about the education sector.
The above drawing by Joel Alexander is very accurate and a now expected part of teaching. I arrive at school, most days, at around 7:15 each morning, and I am not the first one to arrive. I leave between 4:00 and 4:30 each afternoon, and am not the last to leave. During a conversation in the staff room today I heard someone relate that when they were a Teaching-Principal, they were only allotted two hours a day to run the school. As a consequence this person indicated they arrived at school at 6:00 am and left at 8:00 pm Monday to Friday and then went in and worked from 11:00 am until 6:00 pm on Sundays to get ready for the week. That was the most extreme, but far from the only story relating similar horrid hours. This is not healthy. This is not good for the mental, physical, social or family life of the teacher, and this kind of overwork would certainly have a deleterious impact on the students.
How do we address this? How do we change this culture where it is expected that you are at school for around nine hours each day, and then spend another two to three hours at home working in the evening, as well as work on the weekends? I know that now that the football (soccer) season is over, I spend the weekend working on marking, lesson preparation, recording FTPL videos for colleagues, researching and planning for next year while Mrs C21st is at work (her weekend is Monday and Tuesday).
This weekend just gone Mrs C21st and I had some family and social events planned. A cousins twenty-first birthday (nineties themed, it was fantastic!) in Sydney on Saturday night, and then catching up with some friends on Sunday for brunch and then lunch. I was really excited about the cousins birthday as his parents are my Godparents, and I have always been close to them, and it was a good chance to catch up with them and some family at the same time. It was a great night, and I was not the only Woody from Toy Story, but I was definitely the best Woody. It was also the first time that Mrs C21st and I have done a couples-costume, with her going as Jesse. We left home at around 5.30 pm to get there on time and it was well after midnight when we got home.
Sunday morning we had arranged to catch up with friend for brunch and spent a few hours there chatting with her and her husband and laughing at their daughters antics (she is right into magic at the moment). Now it was great catching up, but the friends is also a teacher and we all know what happens when two or more teachers get together. Lunch was with another couple and it was late afternoon before we left there, though it was fantastic to spend some time with them, especially as it was pouring rain all afternoon.
I enjoyed the weekend with friends and family, and felt tired but relaxed….and guilty. I spent Saturday before going to my cousin’s house working on a job application, before which I spent an hour involved in the #satchatoc Twitter chat, and so got nothing done for this week. When we got home on Sunday evening, I jumped straight back into working on the application. I failed to get an FTPL video done for this week, to get the next chapter of Invent to Learn read and a review article written, and I have a Stage Meeting tomorrow and I have not done the assigned reading for that.
I have noticed in the last few weeks with the bad weather that I have not been exercising as much as normal, and I know that has had a negative impact on my general health and motivation levels. I decided today, that even though I had things I needed to do, that it was more important for me to go and exercise, so I did. I feel better for it, I know I will sleep better tonight, but I still feel guilty for not getting things done for school.
I have essentially been told by many that it is the norm to put in the hours that I am, especially given that I am in the early stage of my career. This is not sustainable. Something will give. I cannot maintain sixty hours a week for another forty years…I do not think I can maintain it for another five years. I miss spending time with my friends and family. I miss just sitting on the couch with Mrs C21st and chatting about our day. I do not enjoy being folded up in my office chair for so long, but feel that I must in order to keep up with everything that needs doing.
All of that said, I will wake up tomorrow, and will be excited to be in the classroom, will be giving my classes the best learning that I am able to do, and will be happy to be doing it. I would very much love to hear from other teachers about how they deal with this issue. I am not sure if I am just too busy, if my time management skills are not up to par, if I am focusing on the wrong things or where my problem lies. But I need help paring things back to a manageable level.
Every successful individual knows that his or her achievement depends on a community of persons working together.
-Attributed to Paul Ryan
I stumbled upon this article via Facebook today, and it is so powerful, beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time that I felt it had to be shared.
Colorado Teacher Shares Heartbreaking Notes From Third Graders
Kyle Schwartz teaches third grade at Doull Elementary in Denver.
Schwartz encourages other teachers to use the same lesson in their classrooms. Although she says her students are a pleasure to look after, the educator of three years adds that many of them come from underprivileged homes.
“Ninety-two percent of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch,” Schwartz tells ABC News. “As a new teacher, I struggled to understand the reality of my students’ lives and how to best support them. I just felt like there was something I didn’t know about my students.”
In a bid to build trust between her and her students, Schwartz thought up a lesson plan called “I Wish My Teacher Knew.”
For the activity, Schwartz’s third graders jot down a thought for their teacher, sharing something they’d like her to know about them.
“I let students determine if they would like to answer anonymously,” she says. “I have found that most students are not only willing to include their name, but also enjoy sharing with the class. Even when what my students are sharing is sensitive in nature, most students want their classmates to know.
“Some notes are heartbreaking like the first #iwishmyteacherknew tweet which read, ‘I wish my teacher knew I don’t have pencils at home to do my homework.’ I care deeply about each and every one of my students and I don’t want any of them to have to suffer the consequences of living in poverty, which is my main motivation for teaching.”
Blown away by her class’ honesty, Schwartz shared some of the notes on Twitter using the hashtag #IWishMyTeacherKnew, encouraging fellow teachers to employ the same lesson with their own students.
The tweets and photos of notes from other schools came pouring in from around the world.
“I think it caught on so fast because teachers are highly collaborative and freely share and explore resources,” Schwartz says. “In the end, all teachers want to support their students, and #iwishmyteacherknew is a simple and powerful way to do that.
“Building community in my classroom is a major goal of this lesson. After one student shared that she had no one to play with at recess, the rest of the class chimed in and said, ‘we got your back.’ The next day during recess, I noticed she was playing with a group of girls. Not only can I support my students, but my students can support each other.”
Schwartz says she also hopes her lesson can help her connect students and their families with the proper resources they need to live comfortably.
The lesson here is about trust and community, and building strong relationships between students and between the students and the teacher. There is so much potential for interpersonal learning in this simple movement, powerful relationships can be built on the back of this. Of course, there are going to need to be ground rules about how students react, with some silliness, but if you have a strong relationship with your class already, this could help to solidify it even further.
I encourage you to not just read this article, or the original source article that I have copied into this article, do not just look at the #iwishmyteacherknew search results on twitter. Share it with your friends, your colleagues. share it with your students and ask them if they would like to do the lesson together.
It may change the dynamic of your class, and it may take a dysfunctional class and help to sync it together. Those unruly students, the ones who are rebelling against life because they feel that no-one is in their corner? This could potentially turn them around when they see how you and their peers react and become supportive after there is a more general awareness.
I would love to hear from anyone who plans on doing this, and how you implemented it. As always, thank you for reading.