The Creative Teacher Project

An NQT Bringing Creativity to the Classroom


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The Career Series

manifesto

The Family School Partnerships Manifesto

Based on some Twitter conversations I’ve had recently, I thought it would be interesting to gather some interviews on this here blog with people who have made their careers in the education sector. So first up, we have Michele Sampson of Michele’s Community Classroom Blog. Michele is a Family School Partnership Convenor for Catholic Education in Melbourne, Victoria.

Take it away Michele!michele

 

Tell me a little bit about you – how long have you been teaching for, and in what content area? 

I was a Primary school teacher in the Western Australian Ed Dept for more than 25 years. Over that time I taught in every year level but was most interested in Early Years education especially Pre-primary to Year 1.

What made you decide to be a teacher? Are you still teaching or have you moved on?

I always had an idea of myself as a teacher. I thought it was my service to the world. However, once I made the decision to move sideways and work in professional development for teachers instead of in the classroom, I realised that I no longer had the stamina or drive to be at the coal face and working directly with children and their families.

Can you please tell me what your pre service teacher experience was like?

I did 3 years at Mt Lawley College of Education (as it was called then) in a full time course to get my Diploma of Education. It was a great course with many amazing lecturers who were very passionate about what they taught and inspired me to be the best I could be. We did a number of pracs each year culminating in a long term prac which was one whole term in a school but broken into two different classroom experiences.

What did you like about teaching?

I loved the kids. I loved their spontaneity and enthusiasm. I loved being able to be creative and guide children through learning experiences that made them wonder and explore the world

Did you have an experience as a teacher that you would describe as a great achievement?

Every single child I taught who connected with a spark that I helped ignite I would consider as a great achievement.

What did you find was the greatest challenge of teaching?

The administrivia. Every couple of years there would be a new framework or a new way of collecting data and you sometimes had to jump through hoops for no real reason.

If you could give PSTs one piece of advice, what would it be?

Connect with the families of the students you teach. Reach out to them and get to know them as humans not just as the parents. Be curious about their story and share yours.

When you hear the phrase ‘creative teacher’ what do you think of?

Teachers going beyond the mediocre and crafting experiences for children and their families that use the richness of the children’s context with their enthusiasm and sense of wonder of the world so they can find meaning and love of learning.

Do you have a blog or a website that we can visit?

Yes – my personal blog: Michele’s Community Classroom Blog and especially this site for the family school partnerships manifesto: http://vimeo.com/80584793

 

Thanks so much for your time, Michele. If anyone would like to read further into the Family School Partnerships in Victoria, skedaddle over to them via the link!

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What You Wish Someone Had Told You

Hey all, I’ve been rethinking about this blog and what I wanted it to be over the last week or two. In part it’s definitely a recording of my time as a student teacher and exceedingly-soon-to-be-qualified-teacher, but I also wanted it to be a resource for other students out there.When I signed up to learn how to teach, I really struggled to find out tips and hints about what to expect, and the first few months were pretty daunting for me. There are a lot of great resources out there, but they can be tricky to find. I found especially so for my content area of drama.

As I’m coming to the business end of my Graduate Diploma, I thought it might be handy to gather some simple interviews with people I have found incredibly helpful during the year, and ask them to share some of their wisdom. I’m thinking along the lines of what they wished someone had told them when they were graduating.

Is this something you’d be interested in reading? Is this something you’d be interested in sharing? Do you have any tips for me? They don’t have to be drama based, although these are particularly welcome. Hit me up in the comments with your thoughts!

Thanks

Sam


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Reflecting as a Student Teacher

I’m a reflective person by nature. Despite being outgoing, I am also an introvert and I gain my personal energy from time spent alone, thinking about things.

As a PST, we’re often reminded about how useful a tool reflections can be, allowing us to really see how we can improve and what our strengths already are. But if you’re the kind of person who thinks a lot about what you do before you even do it, how useful can further reflection really be? How can we use it in such a way that gives us real insight into our blind spots, instead of being a general process we already constantly go through?

Today’s tutorial went some way to answering these questions for me, insofar as we were given a model for reflecting known as the “5R Model”. Snappy name. Modified from the work of Bain, Ballantyne, Packer and Mills, it looks a little somethin’ like this:

Reflecting5R

I like this. I like it a lot, because I need a life like criteria! Even more than that, I like criteria that I can check off with a satisfying “DONE”. But let’s unpack this a bit further:

Report

  • What can you see or hear happening? Write it down – write it all down!
  • What modes of communication that represent learning can you see? It is language, gesture, moving around? This is particularly relevant to drama education, where we assess on performances.

Respond

  • What do you think is happening? What is working well and what is not?
  • How do you feel about the situation you’re reflecting on?
  • What is it about the situation that makes you feel that way?

Relate

  • How do the insights I have about this situation relate to my experiences, both personally and professionally?
  • How do they relate to my knowledge and skills?
  • What “lens” are you viewing this situation through? From a classroom management or co-operative learning perspective? Whether you need to up skill in terms of content knowledge?

Reason

  • How are your actions influencing teaching – learning effectiveness?
  • How do your actions relate to theory or research surrounding the issue? Are your strategies backed up by solid practice, or are you chopping and changing from different approaches?
  • How does your perspective affect the way you’re understanding the situation? Would another point of view be helpful?

Reconstruct

  • What have you learned from this observation, and how will it influence your practice?

I’ve found that much of teacher training is theoretical and insufficiently specific. I don’t just want the theory around a lesson plan, I want to know how to write a lesson plan! What exactly are the steps? The same is true for reflecting on my professional practice, starting with my upcoming 7 week practicum. What are the exact steps I should or could follow to gain useful insights into my work?

This model is great as a starting point for recording how we feel at the time, but also for encouraging us to link our experiences into the broader professional context using research and by taking the time to see if your refection could be helped by connecting with colleagues or through a wider learning network.

I’ve modified a table you can use to help structure your reflections and uploaded it here (5R Model for Reflection) for you to download at leisure! It’s not my own work, but it is referenced and I have changed some elements around so they made a little more sense to me.

Hope it helps – If you’ve struggled with turning reflections into actions I’d love to hear how you get on with this method. Happy reflecting!


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Learning Difficulties and Disabilities

One of my core units this semester is Teaching in Diverse Australian Schools, which I thought sounded absolutely fantastic – but then again, I’m into that sort of thing! We have only had two lectures so far, but today’s was really incredible. Dr Lorraine Hammond came in and gave a really fantastic lecture on students with learning difficulties and those with disabilities, and gave us some core definitions to help us try and distinguish between the two.

Learning difficulties: refers to students who experience significant difficulties in learning and making progress in school, but who do not have a documented disability such as an intellectual disability. Graham, L., & Bailey, J. (2007). Learning disabilities and difficulties: an Australian conspectus ‐ introduction to the special series. Journal of Learning Disabilities. 40 (5), 386‐391.

Learning disabilities: a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.

Click for image source

Have you ever had a lecture where you are just completely fascinated by what they have to say? Where they know their content and their presentation so well that everything just flows? It was like that. I was absolutely captivated by the topic – one which I have to say has really scared me in the past. I always imagined swindling my teaching load somehow so that I would only ever have to teach extremely talented, high achieving kids with a passion for drama.

Don’t laugh – I was imagining best case scenario! The further I come along with studying education the more I begin to realise how silly that fantasy was. Not just how separate it was from reality, but I have come to realise that I am actually looking forward to teaching disengaged kids, or students who have a hard time learning.

Something Dr Hammond said really struck a chord with me – in a classroom, the squeaky wheel needs the oil. But they don’t always get it. A significant amount of misbehaviour will occur because the students aren’t coping with the work or have some difficulty paying attention. To paraphrase the lecture, in a typical primary school classroom, 20 – 30% of students will need systematic, explicit and supportive instruction with intensive opportunities to learn. 30 percent! That’s huge. There is no way I currently have the skills to address those needs. I am just beginning to realise how vital it is that I get them!

I’ve said this before, but I truly believe that I am lucky to have drama as my content area – it’s a chance for kids to get up out of their seats and do some kinaesthetic learning, to muck around (a bit) and to approach learning in non-traditional ways. Our curriculum encourages it! That is absolutely wonderful in my book. While I’m upskilling in that area, it’s also key to remember how many other skills I will need to develop over time to be a truly creative (and effective!) teacher.

Some resources care of Dr Hammond which you may find useful if you’re interested in further research of learning difficulties and disabilities:

The Dyslexia Speld Foundation – WA based

AUSPELD – Australia wide foundation

Speech Pathology Australia

Learning Difficulties Online

Have a good one

Sam


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Pro…..crastin….ation

How do you get past it?

The scene of my current crimes of procrastination

The scene of my current crimes of procrastination

 

Over the break I settled into a lovely routine of notdoingverymuchthankyou and I have to say I quite enjoyed it. Now I’m back in the real world, I’ve got to get with the program and actually start working to achieve the diploma! Shocking, I know. I have found myself staring blankly at my readings for ten  minutes, scanning the same paragraph over and over again, and I find myself wondering why? It’s not that I don’t find the content interesting – quite the opposite in fact! Is it something to do with commitment? If I actually start reading now, does this mean that I am accepting that I need to commit to the torrent of work that is heading my way this semester? Please say no.

I often wonder if my behaviour is unique. Instinct says no, but one glance around my lecture this morning terrified me – I am surrounded by competent people! Surely they don’t faff around just like me? Who knows.

My technique currently is putting things off for a while, but then knuckling down and just getting on and doing it. I’d love to spring out of bed every morning and be enthusiastic about work, but right now, I guess that’s just not my reality. What about you? Do you struggle with procrastination? I’d be grateful to hear of anyone else’s strategies for overcoming it!