In a recent blog post, Steve Brophy was challenged to respond to a series of questions and then set the following challenge to me and other members of my PLN. Here are my responses.
1. If you had the power to make one rule in your school that every teacher would follow, what would your rule be and why?
My rule would be that teachers need to be networked with others outside of their school environment through some form of professional learning network.
As teachers we expect our students to be independent learners; to follow their passions and seek out new knowledge, yet it continues to amaze me how so many teachers work in silos and believe that professional learning is something that is done ‘to’ them.
Whilst technology helps greatly in facilitating these connections, I would necessarily mandate for this to occur. As they say, it’s not about the tool, but the outcomes. In this case, the outcomes I would be looking for would be the professional conversations and the thinking, reflection and possible changes in practice.
2. What is your learning process?
This varies greatly depending on what I’m trying to learn.
Most of the time, the things I want to know are ‘google-able’ questions meaning a quick online search will usually give me the answer to solving a problem.
Other times I need to ‘see and do’ something being done or work along side someone guiding me through the process. I am finding this to be the case as I try to learn more about ‘Google Apps for Education’. The recent Melbourne GEG MeetUp was a great chance to talk with those who had ‘been there and done that’. Being able to stop and ask questions as we go really helps my understanding of something new.
I also love ‘informal’ learning – teach meets, beer pedagogy, tweet ups and other informal gatherings of teachers that following a very unstructured approach can lead to new learning and thinking.
3. Where do you see education in ten years ?
The optimist in me sees education changing dramatically in the next ten years. I think more people are asking questions as to why we continue to do things the way we have always done them. The ringing of a school bell to signal the start and end of learning, lining up and walking around in two straight lines, ruling margins in books and the progression and grouping of students based on their age are just some examples of this.
I am also hopeful that as technology becomes more accessible and affordable we can see more students with their own devices and using them in classrooms. Much like now how students (particularly my Grade 5 girls!) bring in their own pencils and textas and gel pens, I see students bringing in their own technology to allow them to work. The challenge then for us working in school environments is to create the environment for this to occur and having the policy that supports this.
I am also hopeful that student voice and student participation becomes the norm within schools. That student councils and organisations are involved in school wide decision making processes such as curriculum development, facilities, staff recruitment and professional learning rather than being fundraising organisations or event management organisations.
On the flip side, the pessimist in me doesn’t see much changing in education at all. Change in education seems to happen as a glacial pace and bureaucratic red tape will slow down the process.
4. Why are you a teacher?
I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I would ‘play school’ with my friends at any chance I had; creating my own class roll and writing up ‘work’ on my little chalkboard.
Growing up, I also had some terrible teachers and I remember thinking ‘I could do better than this’. Fortunately those teachers we the minority and for the most part I had some amazing teachers who really inspired me. Had it not have been for these great teachers who gave their time freely to support what I wanted to do; who coached, mentored and guided me through the process, I doubt I would be the person that I am today. It is my hope that I can provide the same opportunities for my students and that I can pay forward the experiences and the lessons I have learned.
That light bulb moment when you see a student understand or achieve something new gives me goosebumps each and every time and this is why I continue to teach.
5. How should a technical team support teachers?
By making sure that things work the way they should. Too often teachers abandon technology in their teaching and learning simple because of the fact that things don’t work the way they should. Sadly this is not the technicians fault. They are often over worked, under paid and work in terrible environments. If we really believe that technology is a key part of education today, then we need to support schools with adequate tech support.
Technical teams can also support teachers letting them do what they want and by not being roadblocks. I have seen many technicians who over complicate systems and processes and make it much more difficult than it needs to be. They often talk in “techy-speak” language and forget that teachers are not technicians. Similarly, technicians are not educators. They do not have an understanding of pedagogy and what life is like inside a classroom. In a perfect world, both of these groups would meet somewhere in the middle and create an environment that supported teaching and learning whilst following process and capitalised on effective ICT use.
6. If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be?
Growing up I was quite active in my local community, so I’d see myself working in local government to make a different in my local community. (Early on in my career, this nearly happened)
7. What is the hardest learning experience you have ever had?
In Grade 6 I was terrible at Maths. I remember struggling with this and the huge amount of help and support I got from my teacher and my parents and amount of practice I did to improve.
Six years later, Maths would be my highest study score when I completed my VCE and is now one subject I really enjoy teaching.
8. What three books changed your life?
I don’t know if I would consider these books ‘life changing’ but they are books that I frequently keep revisiting and referring to.
David Allen’s, “Getting things done” has really helped me as I’ve moved through my career and stepped up in to positions of responsibility. His process for managing all the ‘stuff’ that comes in to your life has really helped me to organise how I work. When I feel overwhelmed with the amount of things I need to do, I often return to his book and revisit his approach to feel a sense of control again.
More recently, “Crucial Conversations” by Susan Scott has given me a framework to have difficult conversations with others. I was once told that “a behaviour excused is a behaviour accepted” and this book offers a structure to conducting these conversations.
“The five dysfunctions of a team” by Patrick M. Lencioni was a great book recommended to me that explores the elements that are needed to makes a successful team. It’s been interesting to reflect on teams I have been involved with whilst reading this book.
9. Who inspires you ?
My PLN (Personal Learning Network) continues to be my source of inspiration. I am always inspired by the amazing things that some of these teachers are managing to implement and achieve in their classrooms and in their schools.
10. What strategies do you use to bounce back from the tough days in teaching?
Debriefing with colleagues at the end of the day really helps. Forming strong professional relationships with those I work with allows for this to happen.
Inspirational quotes on my screen saver and letters from students and colleagues can also be quite motivating and remind me of what’s important.
Early on in my teaching career, we participated in an activity based around the ‘Warm Fuzzies’ story. I still have mine and when things are getting rough I like to pull out these comments and remind myself about what’s important and why I do what I do.
(A nice glass of wine also helps!)
11. What is right with education in 2014?
The fact that many of us are asking questions of what education and school is and what education or school should be. Whilst we all have differing opinions about what it might look like, the process of reflecting and justifying our these opinions and beliefs helps to reconfirm what is important, what we truly value and what kind of learners we want to create for the future.