Warning, what follows is a self-indulgent reflective blog post. Reader beware!

2012: My first year of teaching.

2012: Amesbury School’s first year open.

Obligatory Amesbury School / community panorama
Having these two run concurrently has been a winding road of a journey; sudden swerves, long straights, gradual curves, ups and downs, speed bumps (wow I got more mileage out of that metaphor than I thought…).

These two “firsts” have also shared a symbiotic relationship. Each has strengthened the other.

  • As I was finding my feet as a teacher, Amesbury was finding it’s feet as a school.
  • I wasn’t slotting into a team, I was a founding member of the team.
  • I didn’t just have new kids, everyone had new kids.
  • I didn’t just not know the expectations and norms in the beginning, everyone didn’t.
  • I was learning how to teach and learn in an environment where experienced teachers were rethinking what teaching and learning means to them.
  • I didn’t just not know where the tea towels were kept, everyone didn’t.

It has been an incredibly full year. Here are some highlights!

Team Teaching
During my first few months (and throughout the year), Tara, Urs and Carolyn were my safety net. They were incredibly supportive, inclusive and actually listened to my hair-ball, mostly lame ideas. Team teaching for a BT is awesome – you are in a constant state of observing, while also being observed by others. You learn from osmosis. You are an edu-magpie and gather the best, shiny bits of teaching from all around you and bundle them up and mould them with your own way to create something even better. A+++++++ Highly Recommended for BTs.

PBL / Ignite Projects / Impact Projects
I wrote about these in a previous post, but they are indeed a highlight. We had our Year 6 leaver’s dinner last night and most of them spoke about how much they enjoyed them. Passion based, collaborative, exploratory, real-world, community-focused. Hard work for teachers, but amazing, wide, authentic learning.

Increasing Nerdyness
I was always a bit of a nerd-burglar, but this year has really given me the opportunity to embrace my nerdist tendencies. I discovered Twitter as a rich, endlessly informative tool for communication, collaboration and PD. RSS readers, movie making, blogging, Apple, PC, Android, tablets, embedding, sharing, Google, tech problem solving. I’ve grown a passion for using technology smartly in the classroom; to enhance real learning, not as a token gesture, mindless brand devotion, or as a slave to the next new thing. Being a nerd is not a negative thing these days – get amongst!

Finding out we need to talk less
It kind of clicked about halfway through the year. Kids can zone out pretty quickly. We absolutely need to keep things short and snappy. Mix things up, keep it diverse, keep it interesting, keep it fun. The last thing they need or want is for a teacher to warble on in front of them for anything longer than ten minutes. A highlight of this year was discovering my new mantra: “keep it snappy”.

Expectations
Another discovery (which should have been obvious to me, but nope, I’m slow) was “getting” that kids need constant reminders there are expectations for their behaviour. How should they know what is expected of them if we don’t let them know? I’ve found a wee reminder here and there, especially before times we know will become looser, does wonders. At the start, these were longer, but as they have sunk in we need to have these little chats less and less.

Developing Relationships
With teachers, parents, kids. I’ve met some wonderful people, both young and old. I’ve laughed every single day with them, which to me, makes Amesbury School a pretty great place to spend my days. The Amesbury community is supportive, friendly, and forward-thinking. Good bunch of peeps.

These are a few of the many highlights of the year, and just quickly, here are a few more:
Friday morning tea, Ignition 2012, @taratj teaching me iMovie / twitter / tizmos / Google sites and blogger / minimally invasive education / Sugata Mitra / how to relax and not take things too seriously, sunny days on the staff-room balcony, our official opening, camps, Christmas cards, quiet kids finding their voice, PRT days spent on beanbags in the library (right now as I’m typing!)…

The 2012 Harakeke Hub crew

Contributions

Lisa (my mentor teacher) wanted me to write a little on what I think my contributions to school life has been this year.

In no particular order:
IT skills and using cool new web-based thingys, contributing to positive and friendly relationships, the ability to deal with left-over food, putting smartphones in teacher’s hands, enthusiasm, sharing our learning with others – especially on blogs, organisation, contribution to an epic and innovative learning programme for our kids, laughs, supporting others, contribution to the growth of a strong guitar / music culture.

2013

A PRT day only every two weeks? How will I ever cope! When can I write my long-winded reflections?

I’ve got a couple of possible goals and areas of focus for next year:

WRITING:
Do kids love writing? Do they see themselves as writers? How can we make writing cooler?

E-PORTFOLIOS:
Set-up of individual student e-portfolios. Have students (and parents and teachers) collect evidence of their learning goals and more holistic learning (key competencies).

BLOGS:
Set-up of individual student blogs. Quad-blogging. Networking. Worldwide focus.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION:
I want to work on my ability to sort out arguments. I tend to be quite blunt and just tell kids to get over it. I need to learn more tact, and how to get to the core of the problem through effective questioning.

IGNITE PROJECTS:
Our PBL. This won’t be happening all year, but when it does, I want to refine the system, keep moving it forward, and encourage greater positive impact on the community.

TE REO:
I want to keep working on my Te Reo, learn my mihi off by heart, and make Te Reo a more natural part of everyday school life.

Here’s to more messy, student-centered, creative learning in 2013

_________________________________________________________________________________

So there we have it.

It’s been a fun-filled, mind-blowing, weekend-chomping, thought-provoking year. I can barely remember what I was like last year, but am pretty sure the guy sifting around Palmy doing his Grad Dip Teaching degree would not recognise the fellow in front of him today.

Here’s to another year of pushing the boundaries, personal growth, new friendships, and new learning.
tl;dr Had an epic year. Ready for more of the same next year.

[Note: I’m saying smartphones. Not Androids, not iPhones, not Windows phones. They all do the same stuff, with a few little differences here and there. Lets not narrow the focus to one particular brand. Although I kinda did that in my last post…]

As promised a few weeks ago, I’ve cobbled together a couple of ways in which smartphones are impacting assessment, sharing and communication around our neck of the woods (a primary school).

Check out my last post for the first half of the story – smartphone apps that can help keep teachers organised, connected, up-to-date, and sane.

But now, here are some of the ways smartphones are changing up the game.

Assessment

We all have to do standardised tests and OTJs, and I think by now we all realise that this just isn’t enough. It’s a narrow view of learning in a mucky system fraught with inconsistencies. I’m not saying they are useless – they have their place – I’m just saying traditional tests and government mandated judgments should not be the be-all-and-end-all.

Assessment needs to be holistic. We need to value competency based achievement and personal growth right alongside traditional academic achievement, on an equal footing.

Smartphones can facilitate the collection of both! Hoorah!

We can snap a picture of a piece of writing, or take a video of a child reading a story fluently, or explaining how they worked out a maths problem and use that as evidence that a child has met certain learning indicators. Use this evidence (along with other evidence – observations, traditional assessment etc.) to triangulate learning goals and next steps.

We can also collect evidence of participation and contribution in a game of tag at lunchtime, relating to others on the soccer pitch on a Sunday morning, collaboration skills during an inquiry, or responsibility and self-direction when working on personal goals.

Capturing team-work and participation                                              Capturing evidence of maths learning

Having a smartphone in your pocket and a quick trigger finger can validate and celebrate a wide range of learning.

It lets you record the hundreds of tiny snapshots, the highs and lows, the triumphs and tribulations of regular school life that whizz past a teacher every day.

Sharing

But then you need to do something with the collected evidence of learning right?

Photos, videos, and audio can be put into an e-Portfolio: a living scrapbook of a child’s development across a wide range of learning areas. Media can also be put onto blogs and shared with parents, often minutes after it was captured. We have a weekly ‘Top Shots’ slideshow we put on our school blog every week filled with the week’s highlights, for example.

                       Capturing collaboration and tenacity                                   Capturing ability to sort and report information

This has been a big hit with whanau. It’s a window into school life, and can pull parents into the fabric of life at school, creating a closer home/school link – a central determiner of a child’s success and happiness.

This has been especially powerful on camp recently too, with teachers reporting live from the field and posting to the blog. Parents have commented that these posts have been reassuring and entertaining, and many have been checking multiple times throughout the day.

                   Capturing responsibility and trust                                     Capturing self-direction and basic facts recall

Communication / Translation

I talked a little bit about this in a previous post, but having quick access to a translation app has been so beneficial to the ESOL learners in our hub. Harder technical words can be translated into the native tongue, so kids can really get a grip on what and why they are learning.

So, there are a couple of ways smartphones can be utilised inside and outside of classrooms. They help you to:

  • stay organised, connected, and enjoy PD in your pajamas 
  • collect, asses, and share a wide range of rich learning evidence. 

tl;dr