A disclaimer on my previous post

Today was my first TRT day of the year. Today I feel absolutely amazing, it was so good to get back to work in the job I love.

I just wanted to post this quick disclaimer, simply to say that while I stand by everything I posted yesterday, I think I need to clarify that the last time I worked was at the start of December and the monotony of “holidays” has really been getting to me emotionally, making a massive impact on my mental health. I genuinely love working as a relief teacher and it has amazing benefits, allowing me to experience a completely diverse world of teaching. However, the long period of time off, and the feelings of social and professional exclusion that occur when you are not directly involved in your workforce, looking in from the outside, is enough to lead anyone to question how much they really enjoy their job.

Today I got to be a teacher. I was fondly greeted by many students in both the classroom and the yard. I was warmly welcomed back to school by my colleagues, and to make things even better, I was offered a weekly fixed day, backfilling in a classroom with one of my closest personal friends at the school (someone I went to Uni with and with whom I’ve have always had a great relationship). I am not totally sure if this is just karmic coincidence, considering how useless I felt yesterday.

Anyway, I just wanted to justify what I said yesterday and the conditions under which I said them, as well as to reiterate that I am truly grateful for the work I have.

Warmest of regards,

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I love my job, but…

I love my job.

Don’t get me wrong.

When I was younger I used to sit my stuffed toys in front of a whiteboard we happened to have in our house. I would call the roll “Good morning Ted, good morning Peter Rabbit, good morning Pillar (named after a Spanish lady on a kid’s TV show I watched), good morning Big Josh the wombat”. None of them ever replied, but in my imagined world they were the most well-behaved class an aspiring teacher could ask for. Occasionally I invited my neighbour’s kids around (I had three years on them) and forced them to sit and learn Year 3 Maths on their Saturday afternoon. I took role-play to the extreme. When watching television and film, there was no character I idolized more than Embeth Davidtz’s Miss Honey in Danny Devito’s 1996 adaptation of Matilda. I adored her. I wanted to be her, the perfect teacher, loved by students, caring, kind and beautiful.

Miss Honey
TriStar Pictures

As a teenager it took me a while to really identify where my passion lay. I was torn between being the fiercely independent feminist, the tortured artist, and the dependable educator. I wanted to have a successful, high-paid job in a male dominated industry, like politics or engineering, to prove my intelligence and abilities… but I desperately wanted to do a job I knew I would enjoy doing for the rest of my life. I wanted to perform, to act and be the center of attention… but sensibility and awkwardness soon drew me away from pursuing performing arts. It wasn’t until someone handed me a university pamphlet on education that it really occurred to me that teaching was a job I was absolutely passionate about, and gave me the opportunities to really have an impact on the lives of others, and leave my mark on a new generation of children.

 

As a child I idolized my teachers, as a teacher I idolize my colleagues.

 

Throughout university I worked hard. And I don’t work hard for any thing. To become a teacher though, for that, I worked harder than I have ever worked for anything. I came out the other side with a Grade Point Average of 6.4/7 (that is the 90th percentile) and received three letters of commendation across my degree. I went the extra mile to undertake professional development in areas of education that are in current demand, like differentiation, open-ended numeracy, literacy intervention strategies and incorporating ICTs. I was in the top 15% of students who studied my degree and I maintain community and extra-curricular school involvement, despite only being a casual reliever. I volunteer on camps, at sports days, I attend out-of-hours school events, I go to assemblies and special celebrations. I love my job.

 

Yet I am here, a second year graduate, highly educated, sitting at home on a school day, watching the Superbowl and feeling sorry for myself, while my colleagues and peers go about their days in their classrooms.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I have written before about the great perks of being a reliever, and I would hate anyone to think I am ungrateful for the work I DO have. I am working tomorrow for the first time this year in a classroom I absolutely love, with children I have taught previously. I cannot wait. But I am also incredibly sad. I watch teachers post excitedly about their new classrooms, about their job interviews, about their new roles. I see pictures of beautifully set up classes that are Pinterest-worthy. I see friends writing about their cohort of students, about the challenging ones, the gorgeous ones, the quirky ones. I am sad and I am angry at myself for feeling jealous. I wonder if I should have worked harder to have that for myself. Or wonder whether I have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. OR, maybe there is something wrong with me, perhaps I am unlikeable and I am being looked over because I don’t act in a certain way or ingratiate myself with the right people.

 

Don’t get me wrong though. I love my job. But I am disheartened at sitting at home. I am saddened at the feeling of not being good enough. And I am also annoyed at myself because I know there are others who have been in this situation much longer than I have, who have worked just as hard. I wonder how long I will wait, and how long I have to keep justifying how much I love my job and how great relieving actually is. I DO love my job. There ARE wonderful benefits of relieving… like I totally got to hang out with my Dad and watch the Superbowl today, we ate toasties and shared a pot of tea and have a guilt-free day off work because as a casual, that is my prerogative. I get to schedule dentist appointments without the stress of booking it off. I have no obligation to go to staff meetings, to do programming, to stay at school past 3:30, to throw class parties, to spend my cash on resources for my classroom (although I do half these things anyway). There are certainly perks.

 

I love my job.

But, I also hate my job.

I am saddened by my job.

I question whether being a classroom teacher was only ever a pipe dream.

I question myself, and my abilities.

I question whether I can financially justify staying in a casual role.

I wonder if my passion for education, my hard work, my love for my students, my enthusiasm, my dedication, my intelligence, my approach to teaching will ever be enough.

I love my job, but it is killing me.

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Giftedness and Creativity: questions regarding the social/emotional dimension of the classroom environment

As part of my degree I am studying gifted and creative learners. As part of the reflective process we were asked to develop five key questions to engage thinking in regards to the social/emotional dimensions of creating a classroom environment that fosters giftedness and creativity. The questions were to have reference to our extended reading, and I have provided references to the appropriate sources following each statement. I have posed the following questions to my peers and tutor, and will follow this post up with the subsequent discussion that occurs. However, I am interested in what others have to say in regards to these questions, or to gifted education in general, please post any thoughts/responses in the comments or by emailing me personally, this is an area of specific interest for me which I might pursue in the future.

 

Questions:

 

1.“There is a concern that ‘Martin’s’ teacher is not facilitating the development of his gifts”(p. 5). While it is absolutely necessary for teachers to allow students opportunities to make independent, personal discoveries in learning and construct their own knowledge, how can this always be achieved when curriculum or school mandated processes/procedure dictate specific methodologies to be taught in the classroom? Is the curriculum actually limiting and confining the experiences of gifted students and contributing to underachievement? How do teachers find a mutually agreed balance?

Diezmann, C. M., & Watters, J. J. (1997). Bright but bored: Optimising the environment for gifted children. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 22(2), 17-21.

 

2. “Obtaining the right answer without being able to reflect on the processes that led to it would not be considered as a successful achievement” (p. 8). As teachers, what type of reflective practices should we model in our own lives, as well as to provide for students, that allow for gifted students to continue being engaged, while simultaneously creating these optimum holistic learning experiences? Following the reflection process, how do we provide students with the opportunity to expand further and create deeper meaning?

Diezmann, C. M., & Watters, J. J. (1997). Bright but bored: Optimising the environment for gifted children. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 22(2), 17-21.

 

3.“Social pressures to conform and achieve acceptance among peers develops early and can impact negatively on achievement oriented goals”(p. 11). Positive classroom culture appears to be a recurring thematic concern in the discussion of gifted education, and specifically in relation to the peer-peer relationships, and the impact social pressure has on student achievement. What are some specific strategies that can be employed in the classroom to a) promote a culture of acceptance and encouragement towards gifted students, and b) develop resilience in gifted students who may face pressures and social stigma from their peers?

Diezmann, C. M., & Watters, J. J. (1997). Bright but bored: Optimising the environment for gifted children. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 22(2), 17-21.

4. Ugur Sak (2004) remarks that teachers of creative students should possess three critical personal characteristics or behaviours that reflect the necessary “personality (e.g., openness), intellectual (e.g., creativity) and knowledge prerequisites (e.g. instructional knowledge)” (p. 216). With this in mind, do all teachers possess the appropriate traits to teach creative students? Can any classroom teacher be an effective educator of all students if they don’t meet or are lacking in these criteria? If a teacher does not consider themselves creative, are they disadvantaging their students by limiting their access to a teacher who is regarded as highly creative?

Sak, U. (2004). About creativity, giftedness, and teaching the creatively gifted in the classroom. Roeper Review, 26 (4), 216-222.

 

5. “she [the student] was at times very expressive and could hardly contain herself, frequently interrupting the teacher” (p. 219). When teaching creative students whose enthusiasm and intensity towards original thoughts and ideas causes disruption in the classroom, what management and interpersonal strategies can be employed to keep students focused, to give opportunities to all students to express themselves, and to maintain a productive climate, without diminishing students’ ideas and suppressing their opportunities for self-expression?

Sak, U. (2004). About creativity, giftedness, and teaching the creatively gifted in the classroom. Roeper Review, 26 (4), 216-222.

 

Other reflections/comments:

Sak remarks that “[s]tudents displaying creative behaviours tend to be unappealing to teachers… [w]hen teachers don’t know what creativity is, how it manifests and how it is important, they may ignore teaching for creativity” (p. 216). This comment resonates deeply with personal understanding of education for gifted and creative learners, as I have observed many missed opportunities for flourishing creativity in the classroom setting. Teachers have a responsibility to develop opportunities for students to maximise their potential, and for many students this entails expressing themselves through exploration, making mistakes, trying new things and realising their imagination through the physical – that is, through being creative. I am intrigued by the impact that a lack of teacher understanding can have on transcending levels of being, that is, the impact it can have on the individual, on a class, on a school, on a community, on society and on humanity in general. Fostering creativity for lifelong success is at the foundation of societal revolution. Again, this reinforces to me the huge role that teachers can play on a global scale.

 

Sak, U. (2004). About creativity, giftedness, and teaching the creatively gifted in the classroom. Roeper Review, 26 (4), 216-222.

 

 

 

QR Codes: I am obsessed!

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I am completely obsessed with QR codes. For those playing at home, a QR (or Quick Response Code) is a barcode that is scannable on most devices and holds information, in particular linking to online documents and sources.  I spent a decent portion of time trying to figure out the best way to create an online ‘to-do list’ of jobs for my older, very techno-savvy brother, just so I could plaster QR codes linking to said ‘to-do lists’ all over the house in an attempt to trick him in to doing jobs for me. I might add that my brother is a sucker for anything remotely out of the ordinary, so I thought I might fool him in to a QR code treasure hunt, that conveniently leads him all the way to the unloaded dishwasher. I’m yet to implement my wickedly devious plan, but somehow I don’t think he will fall for it, he is 24 years old after all. But it really got me to thinking, how can QR codes be used in the educational setting?

Before I take this any further, let me draw your attention to the AITSL Standards for Teachers

grad standards

 

This is just five standards, at graduate level, that I observe to be related to ICT use in the classroom and in the professional capacity. I thought to myself, how can I, in a short space of time, demonstrate this? There are hundreds of students graduating as teachers every year, all competing for the same job roles, from my university alone, not to mention the teachers who are already out there looking for work. How does one show to potential employers in a single snapshot, that they are competent in these standards?

I recently created an About.me online profile and I couldn’t help but think how good it would be if I could make a link to this online business card on my resume, and then I took it a step further and started thinking about how good it would be if I could attach links to my online portfolio, to my twitter account, to a digital copy of my resume, and even to this blog.

It occurred to me – my old friend the QR code.

Smart phones are everywhere, and by making my online presence available to employers at the simple scan of a code, I am demonstrating the forward thinking attitude that AITSL are desperately trying to promote within their standards.

What’s that future employer – You want to go to my blog and check out how I have been developing my PLN and staying in touch with education? You want to see my demonstration of the AITSL standards online? You want to gauge the type of person that I am? You want to read a post all about my love for QR codes? Look no further, here is a QR code linking straight to my professional blog, no messy typing required:

qrcode.23849998

What I want to know, is how can I take this further? How can I use this in the classroom? How can I make my love for QR codes a valuable teaching asset that transforms learning and makes tasks engaging for students?

Some examples I have come across for QR use in the classroom include, questions and answers activities, where students can self-assess work by completing a set of tasks and are then given a QR code linked to the answers, a classroom treasure hunt, in which students can follow a set of QR codes directing them to the next learning task, for setting homework tasks, students can scan a code to discover a task to complete at home, to create digital assignments which extend, expand and exemplify physical assignments such as books and posters, to direct students to specific online sites for activities, to provide different tier groups with differentiated tasks, to attach voice recording to physical projects such as pages of a class book, and to use in displays in a class window which provides those outside the classroom with information such as ‘about this class’.

@tombarrett has put together some really great examples of using QR codes in the classroom here.

@edu_thompson also has some great ideas on her wonderful blog here.

And finally a comprehensive list of ideas by Greg O’Connor with further links here.

And of course, don’t forget Pinterest!

The point I am trying to make here, is that using a digital barcode like the QR code opens a number of avenues, particularly for graduate teachers, both inside and outside the school context. Of course, we also must consider the limitations of using these types of codes in the classroom, including access to devices (such as iPads) that can read these codes. Obviously it is vital that one doesn’t rely on a QR code when producing a resume, as not all employers will have the conceptual understanding of how to use these, or the necessary technologies available.

 

Personally, I am really excited by the potential these types of ICTs have in my own future classroom. For example, I can visualise a parent-teacher evening or open night, in which each student may have a QR code and password attached to their work area, linking to a series of digital work tasks displayed as an e-portfolio. These types of opportunities really emphasise the digital revolution in transformative education, and allow students to share their work instantly with their families and broader community.

 

And now, for your amusement:

qrcode.23929833

 

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Reflection on materialism and the power of ideas.

The topic of my post today is about materialism and what we consider precious in society, and the run on effect that has in context of schools and the way we educate young people. Just recently, some good friends of mine, a couple in their thirties with a three-year-old daughter, lost something very precious to them. On September 5th 2013, at three in the morning, police knocked on their door to inform them that their Art House in rural South Australia had burned down in a devastating fire. I received an e-mail later that day telling the Art House followers the outcome of the blaze; the entire building was gutted, leaving behind only a collection of teacups that filled a single shopping bag.  Before I go further I would like to just recognize that this particular Art House was the dream project of a family who have lived through many wonderful, artistic experiences, but as is the case for many artists, it was a financial struggle to put such an inspiring project together. It is for this reason that the Art House was uninsured; the costs to insure such a project would be unimaginable, especially for a family so committed to non-for-profit community activities.

 

Black Cockatoo Arthouse fire

 

A building is just a building. But this space that had been created was somewhat of a refuge, hidden within a bustling world. I have a strong sensual memory of when I first walked in there. The family served the customers homemade organic curry, local cider and delicious pastries; the kind of smells that penetrated the very fabric of the building. I sat in the back row to watch a touring band perform – The Rising Lotus with local guitar legend Chris Finnen. Every seat was unique, arm chairs and sofas, dotted with cushions and vintage throws. The warm lights were golden and soaked in to the rich artworks that lined the walls. This was the kind of space that I felt at home in. This was comfort and belonging. But for the creators of this space, this was the embodiment of an idea, the life form of their vision. I can’t even begin to imagine how it would feel to lose something that precious in just an instant.

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I suppose that brings me to what I want to say. The owner, creator, curator and father of this special place, the visionary, had lost – along with his unique space – a collection of personal items including over fifteen years’ worth of photographs, valuable DJ-ing equipment and a record collection, that he estimates was 10,000 strong, that he began compiling as a youth. When I spoke to him today he said he was sad to lose everything but that the vision will not perish in the fire. In under a week he has already made plans for alternate venues to present his performers, and a pop-up cinema to showcase indie films like the Art House once did. It got me to thinking, why is it we hold so much in store of our material possessions? If someone like this man, who has lost so much he holds dear, can bounce back and hold on to his dream, can’t we all? Isn’t that the type of ideal we want to see in future generations of young people? I know I want to inspire my students to always dream big, and to always struggle as strongly and passionately as possible to realise those dreams. I want my students to know that they might fail, and they might lose, but when they do they can hold on to the ideas, and rebuild. The phoenix will rise.

 

 

I reflect on James McTeigue’s (2005) V for Vendetta, in which the premise is that an idea can outlast man, that ideas can withstand any trial, that “ideas are bulletproof”. This is how I feel about the Art House, and about the visionary. By not letting it waste away in the fire, his idea is invincible. The entire world is materialistic, and yet our society thrives on ideas, on science and on art, on people’s visions and dreams, and on bringing our ideas to fruition by exploring beyond our perceptions of the impossible.  As educators we need to always encourage our students to explore, to be visionaries and to understand that sometimes people, or even nature, might destroy the things we care about in the material world, but that as long as we strive to always better ourselves, to always pursue our dreams and never give up when we are challenged, our ideas will truly be bulletproof. Our ideas will be untouchable.

 

To donate to the Black Cockatoo Arthouse Emergency Fund please click here.

Come one, come all… and welcome!

Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!

I am so excited to be starting this new project in my professional learning network. As a University student I have found the use of ICT paramount to the success of my education, and I feel this sentiment applies to the younger generation that I will be teaching in the future. My expectations for this blog is to begin as a networking and sharing platform which will allow me to collaborate with other educators, students and the wider community. I hope that it will eventuate in to a space where I can share my own learning experiences, both at University and ultimately in the classroom. It is my belief that ICT opens many doors in connecting the global education community, and I hope to maximize this experience for both myself, colleagues, and most importantly for my students.

Here’s a little about me.

piano

To a lot of people, I am Amelia: University student, Harry Potter enthusiast, social media addict. I come from a close-knit family and have grown up with a passion for the arts, particularly music, and performance arts. Born in the UK, I have been living in the southern suburbs of Adelaide, South Australia since I was five (1997 -yes, I’m not very old). I was educated in both the public (Government/State) and private (Independent/Religious) education sectors, and have primary schooling experiences both in the UK, and Australia, including Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales (We spent a year traveling when I was in Year 3 – age 8). I spent one year of secondary in an all-girls public school, and finally finished up my schooling at Tatachilla Lutheran College in the McLaren Vale wine region of South Australia. With that in mind, I became a very well-socialized student with a passion for meeting new people and being immersed in different school cultures. I am sure, in-part, that this added to my overall desire to become a teacher. I am also involved in a project in which I facilitate a playgroup for pre-school aged children. The relationships I have formed with the children and parents at playgroup has consolidated my desires to become a teacher.

 

playgroup

 

This brings me to my second identity: Miss Smart (let’s face it, how many teachers out there wish their last name was “Smart”? It makes for a wonderful twitter handle @asmartteacher). In reflecting on my own schooling experiences, I have identified that I have always enjoyed close relationships with my teachers, from primary school, through to year 12. Ultimately, I think it was this respect for my teachers and the bonds with my own mentors that led to my decision to pursue the path to becoming an educator.

In the first assignment I ever wrote, in my first year of University I noted that “I intend to regard my students as individuals who each require to be taught in a different manner, catering to their unique learning needs. It is my opinion that by creating a welcoming and positive learning environment students will be more willing to learn, and more likely to feel enthusiastic about their education. I want to be the kind of teacher who inspires students to learn and to share their learning experiences both as youths and in the future. I believe that by respectfully approaching each student as an individual as well as a member of a cohort, students will receive a rounded education that allow them to reach their full potential.”

This statement is the basis for my personal teaching philosophy that I continue to construct through my own learning journey and the experiences I have had in schools as a pre-service teacher.

Here’s a little about this blog.

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I am starting this blog in my third year of my teaching degree. I have just started an ICT topic which encourages the use of social media, digital technology and global communication. After analyzing the Professional Standards for Teaching for graduate teachers in Australia, and reading a wonderful article (who knew assigned readings were actually interesting?) about blogging in the online educational sphere, I realized the time had come to start my own professional blog. While I consider myself reasonably technologically-literate, I have never created a proper blog before (aside from a Tumblr. account I created as a teenager which is limited in its exploration of the skills needed to be successful in the “blogosphere”). I found some really great resources for enhancing the visual quality of my blog at The Blog Guidebook: for all things bloggy! Visit them here:

blogging tips and tricks

Well, this is my first official post. I apologize that it is a little scattered. I am known to deviate on impossible tangents when I let my mind wander. My love for creativity is the only excuse I can offer. I hope to update as often as possible, although I feel once I leave University it will become more regular as I reflect on my teaching practice and experiences, and begin to share the experiences of my students.

Please feel welcome to leave me feedback, comments, ideas, constructive criticism and any other tidbits you feel need adding (please be nice, I have a zero-tolerance for harassment!). Also, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and subscribe to my YouTube channel by selecting the icons in the sidebar to the right.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this and for supporting me in my digital education adventures.

Adios Amigos,

~Amelia

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