"I'm realizing for the first time, your life goes on while you're trying to pursue this career. I saw my career as everything. But you have this life, too. Living your life fully, you come to know yourself better. You'll find the place for it."
- Attributed to Nicholas D'Agosto
Whilst this is rather late, given that term two ended nearly a month ago, I have been struggling with time and juggling a new direction in my career along with my family responsibilities and have not had time to write. Term two was, for me, incredibly hectic with trips for work visiting schools in Wagga, Wollongong, Tamworth, Coffs Harbour (twice), Port Macquarie and Nambucca Heads, and Dubbo, attendance at FutureSchools in Melbourne, the Association of Independent Schools IT conference in Canberra, EduTECH, FlipCon New Zealand, two deaths in the family which resulted in a funeral in Tamworth on one day followed by the second in Western Sydney the following day, as well as continuing to wrap my head around being a father to an increasingly independent and cheeky daughter.
One thing that I learned in term two was that I am often too focused on the details and forget to look at the bigger picture. I was away from home far too often in term two because I would look at a week and see that I had no bookings and so could get in a trip to a regional area to visit schools without looking how often that would have me away overall. A rookie error and one that I've corrected by blocking out the weeks when I will and will not be travelling regionally throughout term three and four to ensure no more than five regional trips of two to three nights each. Mrs C21 is much happier about that arrangement than she was with term two's travel arrangements.
I know that I have commented on this before, but I have noticed how there is a common threa running through every school that I have visited thus far, irrespective of socio-economic status, sector base (i.e. Public, Denominational, Independent etc.) and that is that students are all trying to deal with being teenagers and teachers are trying to do the best they can with what they have. As someone from w wholly public school background, as a student and a teacher, it is easy to fall into the trap of just assuming that non-public school teachers are in rich schools and therefore have it easy. I am coming to realise that that is certainly not the case. Whilst the school may be better funded and thus have access to better or more resources, the expectations and demands placed upon teachers are commensurately greater. The obvious example of this is the expectation in many non-public school that every teacher is involved in coaching a weekend sporting team and thus required to spend Saturday morning at a sporting ground with that team.
This realisation has reinforced the need for us as a profession to band together and protect our professionalism and use our expertise as educators to know how to teach to build and maintain networks to share knowledge, resources and practice across schools as we support the influx of new teachers to the profession. A quote from someone at FutureSchools has stuck with me; there is not a dearth of excellence i teaching, but the distribution of excellence is uneven.
Get involved in your local TeachMeet group and help promote professional unity and collegial sharing. Find an early career teacher with whom you can work and mentor to help support their growth as a teacher; but be mindful that they can also possibly teach you something. Brian Host said something to me a few years ago that has stayed with me and gave me the courage to be more active in sharing. He asked if I was presenting at FutureSchools (which is where we were when we were chatting) and I laughed at the apparent absurdity of the notion, remarkign that as an early career teacher I had nothing to offer on par with what others at FutureSchools could offer. Brian said (paraphrasing) that it is not about how long you have been teaching but about how you have been teaching.
I think that my mentality at that point in time is typical of many early career teachers as there seems to be an undercurrent of bias towards more experienced teachers, especially when it comes to trying to find a permanent job. We all come to teaching with out own backgrounds and we need to find a way of sharing that appropriately. Put your hand up to share at a TeachMeet, ask your Principal if you can share a pedagogical approach that has been working for you in the next staff meeting, apply to present at a conference...get involved and share your knowledge and expertise. Early Career Teacher is non synonomous with has no idea what they are doing. There will be somethign they are an expert in and as more experienced teachers we need to find and nurture those things whilst supporting them in the areas where they are strggling.
There is a great chance to get involved coming up. Steph Salazar is organising a TeachMeet event focusing on support and encouraging Pre-Service and Early Career Teachers which is taking place on Tuesday 22 August at Woolpack Hotel Parramatta.
"Have something cool to share as a PST or early career teacher? Perhaps you have golden advice for PSTs! Indicate below that you are interested in doing a presentation and we will be in contact. Any questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @stephygsalazar."
The above snippet is what this particular TeachMeet is focusing on. Not in Sydney? There is likely a TeachMeet group in your area and if not, then why not start one? TeachMeet events in my area started quite small several years ago and were organised by one person once a year. Now TMCoast runs an event each semester and has a consistent showing of between forty and fifty educators.
I will end this article there as it is will and truly well away from where I thought it would go. I would encourage you to register for TMWooly though as it will be a great event with lots of knowledge for and from pre-service and early career teachers.
"Racism is a disease in society. We’re all equal. I don’t care what their color is, or religion. Just as long as they’re human beings they’re my buddies."
- Attributed to Mandawuy Yunupingu
I consider myself quite fortunate to be able to engage with a range of other teachers through the TeachMeet Central Coast (TMCoast) meetings. In Term One of this year we held a slightly different TeachMeet event. The regular TeachMeet consists of a series of short presentations from teachers sharing a practice or tool they have been using which has been useful for them to hopefully provide their peers with an idea or inspiration to take back to their own classroom.
In Term One of 2017, we engaged with the Cooinda Aboriginal Education Consultative Group around the possibility of utilising their meeting place, the Aboriginal Resource Room at Henry Kendall High School to focus on Aboriginal culture and Aboriginality in education. They agreed and it was arranged that Elder Gavi would attend and welcome everyone through a traditional smoking ceremony and welcome.
It was an amazing night and I feel that I learned more about Aboriginal culture in that one session than during my own education as a student, or during my Aboriginal Education course within my initial teacher education program. We streamed the event and I have included below a playlist of the session. I have broken the approximately one hour long session up into smaller thematic clips.
"Debates focusing on the achievement gap, where in 2014 only 59% of Indigenous students complete Year 12 or equivalent compared with 85% of their non-Indigenous counterparts, tend to place an emphasis on contextual factors such as the role of poverty or socioeconomic status as an explanation of lower educational achievement.
In the wider public, this can spiral quickly into blaming students and families, or gives schools and teachers permission to find some comfort in the status quo.
Focusing on the opportunity to learn gap removes the emphasis from locating “the problem” in the person (or family or culture), and turns our attention to the accumulated differences in access to key educational resources."
- McKinley, E. (1994), The Conversation, "Stop focusing on 'the problem' in Indigenous education, and start looking at learning opportunities." Retrieved from tinyurl.com/jstlp9kp on 27 February 2017
TeachMeet events in Australia are popular, which a significant number occurring each term across the country. The Central Coast branch, TMCoast, organise two events each year, typically in Term One and Term Three. The next #TMCoast event is being held on Thursday, 16th March 2017 (Week Eight of Term One) in the Aboriginal Resource Room at Henry Kendall High School beginning at 5pm. A networking dinner (#TMEat) will be held afterwards, at Central Coast Leagues Club.
This event will be slightly different to a normal TeachMeet event. In respect to the local Aboriginal community and the Cooinda Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG), whose meeting place we are fortunate enough to be able to utilise for this event, we will be entering the room after being welcomed to the site by a member of the local Indigenous community through a smoking ceremony. The evening will then move to the Heritage Listed room, recognised as being of cultural significance by the NSW Department of Education and will include a Welcome to Country and a talk from a local Elder. As part of traditional cultural practices and protocols, rather than a series of short talks, we will be engaging in a yarn; sharing practices that celebrate and highlight Aboriginality in education, culture, that have provided benefit to the learning of Aboriginal students. We welcome anyone to attend who can share their own stories of or those who want to listen and learn and ask questions.
It is an event that I excited to be able to attend as it is an opportunity to engage more authentically with Indigenous culture. If you have ever been curious about Indigenous culture or about Aboriginality in education, then I would encourage you to come along. The image above is a link to the registration page. It is a free event, and will be followed by a meal at Central Coast Leagues Club for those interested.
On Friday of last week, I was fortunate enough to attend another TeachMeet, this time at Ourimbah on the Central Coast. After some conversations and encouragement from Paul Hamilton and Alfina Jacksonat FutureSchools earlier in the month, I decided to put my hand up to present this time, having sat quietly in the background at previous TeachMeets I had attended. For those who were unable to attend, and we had a good turnout on the night, I have storified the event, which is available here.
There was a broad range of speakers, from the inspiring Liesl Tesch (@LieslTesch), to TAFE teachers, Secondary English and Mathematics Teachers, an Actuary, Teachers Federation employees and Primary School Teachers, and a broad range of topics were covered as well. I nominated to speak about Flipped Learning, which is something I have been looking into for a while now and recently have been able to start putting into practice. I decided, rather late in the week, that I would like to flip my session and so put together a short video, which fit within my seven-minute timeslot going through the basics of what flipped learning was with the aim to turn my actual timeslot into a Q&A session so that we could go deeper.
Unfortunately, I left it rather late and in the end, the video did not get out in time for people to watch it, so I did end up presenting at the event. Despite my nerves (my heart rate kicked up to 115 beats per minute) the feedback was positive, and a colleague of mine who was there said I hid my nervousness well. I felt like I was speaking at the proverbial million miles an hour, but I had some good discussions with a few attendees after the event and was able to answer a few questions.
I tweeted out the link to the slide deck I used, which included links to some of the articles I have written on the topic, as well as links to other teachers who are flipping their practice. I include the link to that slide deck here for the benefit of those who are curious.
If you have the opportunity to share something at a TeachMeet in your own area, I would encourage you to bite the bullet, put aside your nerves and present. I am glad that I did, and hope to be to contribute again in the future.
You can find the TMCoast website here.
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
– Attributed to Charles Dickens
I wrote an article yesterday about the benefits to myself and to my school community that come from investing time in your colleagues professional development and in your own. This afternoon I have the opportunity to attend my first TeachMeet. The Central Coast TeachMeet site website describes a TeachMeet as being a meeting or un-conference where teachers come together to share good practice, practical ideas and personal insights into a designated topic. Presentations are short (two or seven minutes) and are delivered, voluntarily by teachers who nominate in advance to present. Additionally, TeachMeets are an opportunity for teachers from a variety of sectors and backgrounds to meet and exchange experience, knowledge and ideas, and to invest in the broader school community.
Today’s Teachmeet is being hosted by Bradfield Senior College with the focus being learning spaces. This is a topic I am particularly interested in at the moment, with the movement of our school to open learning spaces as part of our school rebuild. On the back of the TeachMeet, is a TeachEat, an opportunity for further networking and exchanging of ideas, thoughts, insights and practices.I am very much looking to hearing from those who are speaking, about various uses of learning spaces, both traditional and alternative.
If you are interested in attending, click on this link to check the details and to register. If you are unable to attend, watch for the hashtag for the event on Twitter this afternoon #TMSpaces.