Keeping it fresh

A commonly levelled assumption about teaching is that we have short working days and many holidays. True in part, at times, maybe.

Over the last week of the school holidays, I have been surrounded by 40 other teachers, also 6 months into their teaching experience. These 40, while positioned all over the country and teaching different subjects, have one thing in common: we are passionate about the educational outcomes of the students we teach.

At the end of 12 hour days, we have gathered together chatting excitedly about our experiences in the classroom so far. Seriously, can teachers talk.  Stories about students who have blown them away, and turned around behaviours, attitudes, abilities. Stories about terrible days, being threatened, being sworn at, having a lesson plan go out the door five minutes into class. Stories about the funny, the unexpected, the sad, the upsetting, the beautiful.

At midnight each night this week there has been a buzz in the room with no sign of conversation dissipating.

All in all, my young colleagues have discovered a love for their new profession and the students they are teaching. Like me, many are now feeling more settled in their schools, while also realising that this isn’t a job that sits still. Assessments, phone calls, meetings, planning, incident reports, photocopying, yard duties… oh, and classes.

Honestly, the education industry can be overwhelming  at times. I have seen teachers who would prefer to give up or take an easy route, rather than confront challenge. In coming together and sharing our stories, however, I have been reminded about how much can be gained in this profession from being surrounded by like-minded colleagues who motivate you to continue to do your best and to stay positive about what can be achieved.

 

Looking back in order to move forwards

Over the past week, I have spent a lesson with each of my classes setting goals for next term. At first thought, this may seem like a lot of time for the one task.  However, I am a strong believer in continuity: being able to reflect on what you have learnt, in order to plan for the next stages of your learning.

Goal setting, in this way, places emphasis on student responsibility for learning; as the teacher, it is my role to facilitate the learning, but the student’s job to make the most of the opportunities that are presented for them.  Spending some time reflecting and setting goals, enables the student to take ownership of their learning.

In each of my classes, students were given individual goal setting sheets.  On these, they noted down standardised test scores, reasons for why they have achieved certain results this term, what scores they would like to aim for next term and how they can get there.  While I am not the biggest fan of standardised tests, they provide a useful benchmark for students.  With this in mind, I have suggested to students that these tests are not always 100% accurate in indicating their true abilities.  The students themselves should know whether they are keeping up with the work or not.

Aside from setting individual goals, I see it as important to set class goals. Students should not just see themselves as individual learners, but as one of a cohort who are learning together.

Having shared goals enables the development of class cohesiveness and collaboration, and ideally will result in social facilitation – that is, where the presence of others, improves individual performance. Clearly what is required for this, is a class that is comfortable with one another and has a relationship that is built on mutual respect.

From each student, I collected a class goal then typed them up and popped them into wordle. Below is an example from one class:

For some classes, working towards a goal as a group will be easy, while for others this will not be the case.  Either way, the sort of improvement that can be gained from reflecting and thinking ahead, will take more than just the short school term that has now passed us by.