Category Archives: Student Leadership

A reflection on 2011

Having recovered from the end of school madness, Christmas and the New Year, I have enjoyed the opportunity to sit and rest for a few days and catch up on some blogs in my Google Reader. I’ve really enjoyed reading posts (and posts and posts) from both friends and members of my Personal Learning Network (PLN) about their reflections from the past year and how it has helped them set goals and directions for the coming year. I’ve always been one to set goals and targets for the year, but have never really reflected on my achievements from the year before. So, thanks to some help from my Outlook calendar, the following jumped out at me as achievements throughout 2011:

Photo created by Carol Browne - Used as part of a Creative Commons Licence 2.0

Photo created by Carol Browne. Licenced under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

New School – New Role:

Part of moving to a new school saw me take a new role; that of the ICT Specialist Teacher. This was a big change for me, having been a class teacher since the beginning of my teaching career.  This experience has taught me a lot; particulary about the value of time. As a classroom teacher I had the freedom and flexibility to move and manage time throughout the day depending on the activity and the outcomes I wanted to achieve. As a specialist teacher, I only get to see each class for 1 hour a week, so this simply is not possible. It has taught me to “cut the waffle” when explaining tasks and be much more succinct in communicating information so students can have more “time on task”. It has also required me to develop the student’s skills in becoming self directed learners and to create resources and provide access to materials that allow for this to occur.

I have also loved the learning curve I had been on. Having never taught ICT has required me to research lots, draw upon my own experience and the knowledge of my PLN to develop my program. Highlights would include the cybersafety movie making exercise I attempted in Term 1, seeing students develop their own Scratch projects and finally getting my Prep classes to log on.

Establishing a new student council:

Regular readers of my blog will know that student leadership and student councils are an area of passion for me so it has been really exciting to establish the a student council at a brand new school.

Given we were a new school, it took us until mid Term 2 before things were well and truly up and running.

Highlights of the year included students developed campaign posters in the lead up to the election and using the Victorian Electoral Commission to help run elections. I had used the Electoral Commission at my previous schools and was excited to be able introduce the students and staff to the experience with many commenting on the professional nature of the election.

2011 was also the first year I worked with students outside of Grade 5 & 6 on a student council. I really enjoyed having younger students on board and to provide an alternative perspective and to offer their support. The majority of them were keen to take on jobs and roles and with a little bit of coaching and support demonstrated they are capable of achieving great results.

Towards the end of the 2011, we also held our 2012 elections, enabling our student council to be operating from day 1 of 2012.

Online Assemblies:

Through my work as a Web Conference Leader in 2010, I trained students in my class in the use of the web conferencing software, Blackboard Collaborate (previously known as Elluminate) so we could run an online school assembly.

I have been able to continue this at my new school in 2011 and have again trained some students to help in the running of the assembly. This has now become embedded in the culture of our school, with an online assembly operating each fortnight. It’s been great to see teachers and students exposed to this technology and to also have members of our school community that would otherwise be unable to attend school events log in from home, work or wherever they might be.

Ultranet:

Having lead the introduction the Ultranet at my previous school, it was great to be able to apply my learning from previous mistakes made when we went about setting things up and going about student registrations.  By the end of 2011 we successfully registered all of our Grade 1-6 students (being aprox. 300 students).

Another great advantage of starting at a new school has been the ability to use the Ultranet in establishing processes and procedures. Rather than make the transition from one process to another, it has been far easier in using the Ultranet from the beginning. Through the community space I developed, staff have been able to add school events as well as book rooms and resources using the calendars and post meeting minutes using a blog. I consider this to be a great achievement in our first year.

One of  greatest challenges we faced being a new school was the flow of our data from CASES21. I was hoping to do a great deal more with students and the Ultranet earlier in the year, however numerous technical difficulties set us back and meant that we truly didn’t get to it until mid Term 3. Having said that, I have been really excited about the use of Learning Tasks and hope that I will able to build upon this next year.

Acting Assistant Principal:

OK, so maybe it was just for two days, but it was an experience I really enjoyed and one I hope to get the opportunity to do again. The experience gave me insight into the bigger picture of our school and understand why sometimes they just don’t get to your issues when they do. It was amazing the number of issues and tasks I was required to do in two days.

Presenting at the Innovations Showcase:

After a gentle nudge from a few people in my PLN, I submitted an application to present at the 2011 Innovation Showcase run by the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. My presentation focused on the work I had done with student councils at my previous school and sharing some of the valuable resources out there to support SRC Teacher Advisers.

Increasing Network:

Moving school has also seen me become involved the ICT Network that exists within our local cluster of schools. Again this has been a great source of knowledge from those in the know. I have taken on board many ideas and suggestions from this group in regards to my teaching and have also loved to opportunity to share my own experiences and knowledge.

Twitter once again has proved to be invaluable in providing professional knowledge. I was please to learn about the experiences of those who attended to Google Teacher Acadamy in Sydney at their Meet Up session and finally put some faces to twitter names. The Melbourne #TeachMeet session towards the start of Term 3 was another great opportunity to meet members of my PLN and share and learn from others.

Ultranet Share N Tell:

I feel really privileged and proud to work alongside Anne Mirtschin and Mel Cashen in delivering these online sessions. It’s great to always see and hear what others are doing with Ultranet to spark your own ideas. Wendy Macpherson and Graeme Henchel from the Ultranet team at Central office have been invaluable in offering their insight into updates and developments taking place and have always been willing to hear suggestions and ideas from those using the Ultranet within their schools and classrooms. With the loss of our Ultranet Coaches in 2012, I can only expect that the demand for these session will increase (and see the UltraTweeps Teacher’s Games team increase and take out the gold medal in Laser Tag!)

VISTA:

The Victorian Institute of SRC Teacher Advisors has continued to move along and has been involved in some interesting projects throughout the year. A major highlight was initiating a discussion around the establishment of a state based Junior School Council for primary school students. Whilst this had been something many of us in the field had been thinking about, it was great to get some of the key stakeholders together and get some ideas down on paper. Other highlights include working with Joel Arrons to develop the VISTA Podcast, the presentation of the inaugural VISTA Award for outstanding SRC Teacher Advisor at the VicSRC annual Congress and being involved in providing teacher professional development sessions at the Junior School Council congress sessions across the state.

Personally, I also achieved many things throughout 2011. Having worked in the education system for over 7 years now, I was able to access my Long Service Leave pro-rata and used this across the Melbourne Cup Weekend to attend a close friends wedding in Sydney. Melbourne Cup weekend in previous years has involved me chained to my computer for 3 days writing end-of-year reports. Taking leave made me realise that through some strategic organisation (and a last minute marathon effort!) it was possible to take some time off and still get my reports done.

Another major development has been selling my house. Having lived in my local area for just under thirty years of my life and with most of my friends and family now living on the western side of the state or closer to the city, I felt it was time to move on. We’re hoping to find a nice townhouse or apartment closer to Melbourne and enjoy the benefits associated with inner-city living. With settlement taking place in just a few more days, we’ve been fortunate in finding a place to stay in the meantime whilst we continue what seems like a never ending search for the right place to live.

So, with 2011 well and truly completed, it’s time to focus on 2012 and the year ahead. I have numerous thoughts and ideas swimming around in my head about what I hope to achieve both professionally and personally throughout the year and hope to post some of them with you soon.

What were your achievements throughout 2011 ?

What goals do you have for 2012 ? What are you looking forward to ?

Dealing with the bad apples

Being a member of a Student Representative Council (SRC) is not always about wearing a badge and missing out on classes. For some, the initial appeal wears off when they soon realise the volume of time and level of commitment required to fulfil the role effectively. This can lead to SRC members backing away their responsibilities, dragging down the SRC or choosing to opt out of the SRC all together. So, what can be done to prevent these situations from
occurring? How do you respond to situations where the  bad apples are starting to spoil the rest of the bunch?

PREVENTION:

Having students aware of the accountability involved prior to taking on a role can be one way of preventing burn out or issues during the year. Developing clear job descriptions that state the tasks involved and the time required each week could be one way of informing students about the commitment required. Having past SRC members who have filled those positions speak to potential candidates can also help in communicating the degree of involvement and work required.

During the year, it is useful to complete an audit of your SRC. The VicSRC resource kit, “REPRESENT!” features a section features an audit tool (1.7 An effective SRC) to enable you and the SRC members to obtain feedback about how the SRC is operating. Being aware of how others perceive the organisation is a useful exercise and will provide with you data to help discuss the operations of the SRC with its members and school administration.

 After a mid-year review of the SRC, the data showed that SRC members where frustrated with giving up large amounts of their lunchtime for meetings and other commitments. As the teacher advisor, I raised this with school administration and we agreed to rotate meetings fortnightly between lunchtime and class time. The SRC also agreed that they would allocate a portion of their budget to provide catering at some of the lunchtime SRC meetings.

IS IT AN SRC ISSUE OR A SCHOOL ISSUE ?

As the SRC Teacher Advisor, you will no doubt encounter an experience with a member of staff who will tell you about the inappropriate behaviour of a student who is a member of the SRC.

The Year 9 Co-ordinator approached me about Damien’s behaviour in a class that was covered by a CRT. The co-ordinator was called to the class after rude and disruptive behaviour by Damien and other students. The other students were reprimanded by way of after-school detention, however, as Damien was an SRC Member, he was told the matter would need to be taken further. The co-ordinator was calling for Damien to be removed from his position on the SRC.

Does inappropriate school behaviour warrant sanctions imposed by the SRC? Should this be in addition to any consequence imposed by the school?  Having a clear policy or SRC constitution that is understood by year level co-ordinators and school leadership that states how such situations are to be managed can assist greatly. I have heard of SRC’s threatening to withdraw support from wider school events or stage class walkouts by the student body when such processes have not been followed. Whilst the school may choose to impose sanctions based on the student code of conduct, if the sanctions were to impact on the student’s involvement in the SRC, at a minimum, the SRC Teacher Advisor as advocate for the SRC should be present at all discussions.

DO YOU INVOLVE THE SRC WHEN DEALING WITH THE ACTIONS OF AN INDIVIDUAL MEMBER ?

Depending on the matter, it can be useful to involve SRC members in managing disciplinary matters. By doing so, you are demonstrating that their involvement in decision making isn’t tokenistic and limited to fundraising and where the new bins should be placed in the yard.

Carl was a Grade 3 member of the SRC. He always arrived late to meetings, failed to complete tasks he agreed to undertake and disrupted meetings by making inappropriate noises and offing comments unrelated to what was being discussed. The school captains who chaired the meetings raised their concerns with me. We discussed strategies they could used during the meeting to manage Carl’s behaviour. The school captains also met with Carl to discuss his behaviour. The conversation between the school captains and Carl was far more powerful as it was coming from an equal level rather than a top-down approach.

The Meetings Resource Kit developed by Second Strike contains further information and advice about responding to certain behaviours during meetings.

Alternatively, having SRC members deal with disciplinary matters against students may impact negatively on their relationships with other students and school staff so you may wish to remove them from the processes.

The Victorian Institute of SRC Teacher Advisers has recently uploaded some new resources to the MEMBERS ONLY resources section of our website. Resources on offer include:

  • Sample Job Descriptions
  • Sample Constitutions & Policies containing Codes of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures
  • Formal Warning Letters
  • Sample SRC Reports for students

 To access these resources or to become a VISTA member, visit us at http://srcteachers.ning.com

* Whilst the stories are based on real experiences, the names contained within the article have been changed.

Have you had to deal with negative behaviour from an SRC Member ?
How have you handled the situation ?
Do you have any additional suggestions or advice ?

 

The journey towards a VicJSC

Imagine a group of primary school students spread throughout Victoria working together to implement major projects, to provide feedback to organisations about policy and other new initiatives being implemented whilst learning about citizenship and decision making. Sounds impressive. At present though, all we can do is imagine, because such an opportunity for primary school students does not exist.

Since 2001, secondary students have had Victorian Student Representative Council to speak and act on behalf of secondary students in schools throughout Victoria. Each year, the VicSRC holds Congress where students are able to put forward motions that are voted upon and then implemented by a student executive throughout the following year.

The primary equivalent to the VicSRC Congress would be FRENZY, which Second Strike has facilitated since 2008. Like the VicSRC Congress, a key feature of FRENZY is a Congress sitting. Students who attended are placed into discussion groups where they form motions to be tabled before the Congress. Motions are then moved in the Congress, debated and put before a formal vote. At each Congress, primary school students have moved and passed a motion for the creation of a state student representative group. However, without a student executive or organisation to lobby for action, many of these motions have failed to come to fruition.

VISTA has a number of primary school SRC teachers as members and they too have been asking about an equivalent organisation for primary students.

The VISTA executive is therefore leading the charge in establishing a VicJSC (Victorian Junior School Council)

VicJSClogo

Whilst ideas are still very much under development, the initial proposal would see membership open to government, private and catholic primary schools from across Victoria. Students would utilise online tools such as web 2.0 sites and online conferencing to connect with other students and implement the recommendations put forward at a state based congress. The use of online tools would eliminate the need for travel and would enable students in regional and remote locations the opportunity to participate.

The creation of a VicJSC would provide primary school students with a united voice. It would harness the collective power and enthusiasm of primary school students and provide them with an opportunity to focus on specific issues and activities.

A VicJSC network would also allow other students from across the state to learn about the workings of other student councils and improve the operations and workings of their own student council at their school. It would provide the education system and other organisations with a reference group to consult with when making major decisions and in turn, provide primary school students with the opportunity to understand, practice and experience democracy in a real-life context.

It’s time that the voice of our young people was heard, but more importantly, it’s time for them to be given an opportunity to turn their ideas into action.
 

How can you get involved ?

  • Add your school contact details to the form below and we’ll keep you posted with any updates.
  • Become a member of the VISTA Ning Network and we’ll keep you posted.
  • Record a video of your primary school students telling others about why they think a VicJSC should be established. Let us know about your video
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