Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Best Thing

Luke* hated writing. He would be the first to give up and would then behave in a way that distracted other students from their learning and require intervention from the teacher.

Working with Luke to develop his skill as a writer was slow and painstaking work. In the beginning, he would tell me his ideas and I would madly try and keep up with him and get them down on to the page. After writing a paragraph, we would read back over his work. It took some convincing for him to believe it was his work; after all I was the one that had done all of the ‘writing’. “But they’re your ideas” I would tell him. “I didn’t come up with any of that.

"Writing" by Rubin Starset. Used under a Creative Commons Licence 2.0

“Writing” by Rubin Starset. Used under a Creative Commons Licence 2.0

As his self confidence increased, we would alternate. Luke would start off and I would write down his ideas. After three sentences we would then swap the pen and he would take over the task of writing. Three sentences became two, and then two became one. I would sit with him as he went about his writing. Keeping him on task and reminding him that he could do it.

We used planning templates to record and organise his ideas and to remind him of what he needed to do next. We would use the computer to take the focus away from handwriting and instead focus on completion. Occasionally he would slip back and we’d need to go back a few steps to get him back on track again.

I can’t remember when I happened but I remember Luke handing me a piece of published writing. It was a persuasive piece that he typed it up on the computer. I remember seeing the pride that he had in himself; the smile that was beaming from his face. Here was a boy that less than six months ago was so disengaged and wouldn’t write a sentence handing me a page of writing that he had written and published himself.

I looked down at his work and also noticed that I had goosebumps down my arm. I could feel my eyes begin to water. I remember thinking to myself how lucky I am to be in this profession they call teaching. That I get to do this…. and get paid for doing it.

It is the moments like these that are the best thing about my job.

*Not his real name.

This post is the fourth in a series as part of the #youredustory challenge. For more information visit their website.


Blank Canvas

With school set to go back in a few days in Australia, I’ve been busy preparing my classroom ready for the start of the school year.

It’s also been interesting to read a few posts from other who have focused on how classroom design and layout impacts on pedagogy.

My process for setting up my learning space at the start of the year begins by moving all of the furniture out or into the centre of the room and starts with cleaning: wiping away the dust that has settled over the holiday break, removing pieces of old blue tack, taking staples out from pin boards… so that I have a ‘blank canvas’ to begin with.

My next step is to usually setup my desk. I know there has been a lot of discussion about the need for a teacher desk within the classroom. In some years, I have had a separate “office” either adjacent or away from my classroom whilst other years it’s been in the classroom. In deciding where to position my desk, I don’t like facing the wall and like to see people as they come into my classroom. I’m also mindful of sun glare on my laptop screen and access to power points.

Once I’ve located myself, I then work on the layout of student tables and resources such as bookcases and other materials. Again there are so many variables to be considered in doing this. I like my students to work in groups so I usually position my tables so that they are in groups of 4. Usually I will have 1 larger table of up to 6 for larger group activities that require extra space. I try to space these out so that there is enough room to allow for good ‘traffic flow’ as students transition from one task to the next.

Photo from author's collection.

Photo from author’s collection.

I also try to make sure I have ‘floor space’ for students to sit. I like to use use ‘circles’ as a way of sharing, solving problems and presenting new information.

Finally, I then add posters and displays to make the environment feel warm and inviting. Some of these include:

  • Daily Schedule\List of what’s on for the day
  • Map of Australia\World and World Time Clocks
  • Classroom Agreement\School Rules\Values\Procedures (eg: start of day, end of day, wet day etc…)
  • Class Mission Statement
  • Literacy Support Materials – eg: writing processes, vocabulary etc…
  • Numeracy Support Materials – eg: times tables, processes etc…
  • Birthdays
  • Information\Posters related to our Unit of Work\Inquiry topic
  • ICT Acceptable Use Agreements and links to websites, our blog, class twitter etc…

I also like to ensure I leave enough space to display student work and photos of our learning throughout the year.

Creating good classroom displays are not my strong point. Earlier in my career, I would have made these myself but have now come to realise that my time could be better used so I am happy to rely on Google and Pinterest for inspiration and am willing to download free or pay for the odd display to save time.

Whilst the layout of my room generally stays the same I think it’s important to remember that it shouldn’t stay static. Depending on the activity planned, it is sometimes necessary to move and alter the layout to suit the learning that is occurring.

What’s your process for setting up your learning space?
What additional resources\materials\displays do you use?
What considerations do you have when you setup your space?

How will you make the world a better place?

Close friends and long time readers of this blog will know that Student Voice and Student Leadership is a passion of mine.

Most schools have some form of student body; be it a student representative council, student leadership council, a junior school council, a student congress, student voice – the names for these organizations are varied, but ultimately, there is a group that represents student within the school.

But… Why is such a having a student council important ? And what sort of things should we be working on ? I mean, we raise money and stuff, but how can we move to that next level ?

By having a student council within your school, you can draw upon their knowledge which will ultimately lead to better decision making.

At a global level, this is recognised through the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, with Article 12 stating that a child should be given an opportunity to express their viewpoint. That age should not be a barrier in their participation in matters they have a degree of understanding and comprehension over.

But more locally….. Often there are things that students know about the school that teachers and parents just are unaware of. By involving all stakeholders, it ensures that all viewpoints are heard and in turn leads to more informed decision making.

By involving students in how decisions are made, it provides them an understanding and point of reference when wanting to be active citizens beyond the school context. Research also suggests that schools who involve students in decision making, will in turn, have improvements in student learning.

By having a student council, you will improve relationships and connections between staff, students and the broader community

For me though, the reasons behind having a student council are somewhat more personal. I have been involved in student leadership since I was in Grade 5 in 1993. I continued to be involved in student council throughout my time and secondary school and once commencing my teaching career, I quickly took on the role of SRC Teacher Advisor.

Had it not have been for some great teachers who saw student councils as something important; who gave their time freely to support what we were doing; who coached, mentored and guided me through the process,  I would not be the person I am today.

Images from author’s collection.

It is my hope that I can provide the same opportunities for my students. That I can pay forward the experiences and the lessons I have learned.

The road to a Victorian Junior School Council

It is with this in mind that one project I would love to establish would be a  state wide Junior School Council for primary school students.

Within my role with the Victorian Institute of SRC Teacher Advisers Inc. I volunteer as a supporter with the Victorian Student Representative Council. I am excited that they are considering a primary school networking event in 2015 to explore the appetite from schools and the possibility of such an organisation existing.


A colleague and friend of mine recently said that “too often in life we place our own obstacles in the way of our dreams, be it excuses, time, etc…I say to you, no more!  Take that great idea, challenge, relationship, learning that you should do and “just do it”.  The world needs dreamers and doers and the best is the combination of both.” 

I look forward to being part of the team that turns this dream of mine into a reality. I hope to share the journey of this exciting adventure with you through my blog.

Image generated author.

Image generated by author.

This post is the second in a series as part of the #youredustory challenge. For more information visit their website.