This year I have seen some real improvement in the results that my classes are getting compared to previous years. This has made me, and my students, pretty happy. It is great to feel like I am doing a good job.
Some examples include:
- Year 10 English: 10 Excellences for their film essays compared to 3 at the most in previous years.
- Year 11 Internal English: 8 Merits for Formal Writing and only 3 Not Achieved grades compared to no Merits for last year. 1 Excellence for Static Image – first ever in one of my Internal year 11 classes.
- Year 12 Viewing and Presenting: 3 Not Achieved, 8 Achieved and 5 Merits for the visual text practice essay, a massive improvement on the first practice essay where 10 did not pass due to non submission or lack of understanding.
I believe that I am seeing this improvement because I have made a few changes in my teaching style:
Change 1: Not sitting on my chuff behind a desk
Getting rid of my desk was one of the best things that I ever did. I have been free to “get in amongst it” and have really enjoyed getting to know my kids. We chat about the work and also their jobs, sport or other interests. I have a stool on wheels (my hairdresser chair) which I can zoom around the class on travelling from group to group. I am at the same level as everyone else who is also seated so I’m not standing over anyone in an intimidating manner. I’m not a short, slim kind of gal so this is a positive.There are lessons when this doesn’t happen such as when we are watching a movie so I have an armchair for this purpose. A gal has to be comfy!
Change 2: Flipping the classroom.
This has been a major factor. My colleague and BFF, Linda Rubens, and I spent time at the end of last year creating iBook study guides for our students with all the relevant information that our students would need for the year. It has meant that we have spent less time at the front of the classroom teaching at our students and more time actually engaging with students and helping them in either small groups or one to one. I was chatting with one group and was about to explain a point when a student, who usually finds the subject difficult, interuppted me excitedly and said, “Don’t tell her, Miss, I’ll explain!” She was happy that she had understood and wanted to show this to her group. Pretty cool!
I created a Solo/Gardner’s activity matrix for a year 10 class to study The Outsiders by SE Hinton which included a link to the Shmoop website about the novel. All the information they would need is on this website. I was chatting with some students saying that I felt I hadn’t really taught them anything but when I checked their work I could see that they had learnt a lot. They replied that they like being able to work at their own pace and find information without being told what to do.
Change 3: Making more time for one to one conferencing.
Having more time for one to one conferencing leads to better relationships and has resulted in students being more motivated. At the end of one lesson, one of my students complained because I had not seen his work that period. He said, “Miss, you didn’t come to see us this period!” Conferencing with as many students as is possible each period is hard yakker but it is totally worth is to see more students engaged and motivated. The results of this are proof and gratifying after the hard work that has been put in from both parties.
Change is a Challenge
Anela Pritchard, a student, recently gave a speech critiquing the value of what was taught in school and the way that some teachers taught. What she said had merit but was not expressed in a tone that was largely well received. It has caused a bit of controversy and a lot of conversation amongst my colleagues. However, it does highlight the fact that education needs to be in the process of change. Many teachers do need to consider whether the methods that they have used for the last 30 years are still effective for their kids.
Pritchard’s message may become a more regular message that we receive from our students, they will start demanding that we all change, not just the “Lone Nuts.” These are the teachers who have already changed the way that they deliver the curriculum and this is positive. However, they often have trouble creating any momentum as other teachers can be reluctant due to fear of change and/or a negative attitude. Their “first followers” are essential for this momentum to take place. This video provides an entertaining explanation of creating a change movement:
At Orewa College we are finally creating some momentum after 3 1/2 years of technology enabled pedagogy and the promotion of SAMR as a way of making sure that we are developing the way that we use technology with our students. This is exciting and great to have more colleagues on the journey towards more effective learning for our students. There is always more to do, though. I had a student say to me that his learning should be personalised, he should be able to choose the subjects that he wants and not have to fit a restrictive timetable. I had to agree with him. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future.