Monday, 24 April 2017

Supporting Gender Equality

Throughout the years, I’ve typically handled everything associated with our children and my husband handled our finances. This worked for us. However, the other day my husband suggested that I needed to learn more about our finances. While visiting our accountant, the one thing I noticed was how she responded and spoke directly to me most of the time. I mentioned this to my husband who also noticed. This was a new experience and I wondered why. Was it because I said I was there to learn more about our finances? I don’t think that was it. She was never condescending and when I made suggestions regarding our finances, she listened attentively and responded positively. I felt respected. I reflected on other recent meetings, doctors, the vet, and a bank manager, everyone had addressed or spoke to my husband. Had we unconsciously accepted this as the norm?

Am I noticing this more now that I surround myself with people and literature that promotes equity? I thoroughly enjoyed reading 'Lean In' and am currently reading, 'Fight like a girl' by @Clementine_Ford. On 1st August 2015, I created and moderated a chat for Women as Educational Leaders. Through organising this Twitter chat two years ago, I became friends with and supported by Women In Education such as-

Recently asked to support @WomenEdAus, I’m excited that supporting Women in Education is gaining momentum and more global support. @WomenEd has expanded globally (UK, Canada, USA & soon Australia) as it connects existing and aspiring women leaders in global education. #WomenEd are celebrating their second birthday and have gone from strength to strength. Working at Wenona with @BrionyScott and focusing on Renaissance Women Leaders’ Network (#RWLN) have clearly influenced and broadened my thinking. More importantly, it has me questioning more.

It was wonderful that I learnt about ‘A conversation in gender equality’ from a male edu-friend, @Borto74. The Australian Human Rights Commission (March, 2017) provides information to advance equality across various sectors. Along with the link, Jason stated that ‘men also have an important role to play in promoting gender equality’. I agree with Jason for while it's important to educate and support women, it is just as vital to educate men and our youth so that they don’t value one gender over another. As a child, I remember my dad telling my brother to purchase a block of land as soon as he started working. I never got to ask him why he didn’t feel it was necessary for his daughters. I am glad times have changed and equity too...but we have a way to go. What are you doing to support gender equality? 

The learning continues...

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Confidant or Collaborator?

Another educator who is learning to be a coach asked me- “So am I still a classroom teacher? It’s like I don’t fit in like I use to. “

I explained that I know exactly how she feels and that I struggle with this everyday. I’m no longer viewed as a classroom teacher, a leader, or part of a team. Although, I view building the capacity of others is a form of leadership. Others have also recently shared that by being out of the classroom, I should be concerned about my credibility. I wonder who determines your credibility? 

Working independently as a professional learning coach, confidentiality is a vital component. And yet, I’m very much a collaborator. I can work on my own but my best work and ideas comes from bouncing ideas off others. I can push myself out of my comfort zone but I much prefer to contribute to a team and grow and learn together. I enjoy working with people and receiving real time feedback. As an extravert, my energy and edu-mojo comes from interacting with others. The one part of my role I really wrestle with is the isolation. The one-on-one conversations provide an opportunity to contribute and build the capacity of others. Coaching relies on trust and I would never share a coaching conversation. That, in itself is isolating. Moving from a learning environment where you share, seek second opinions, and gain others' point of view, to the world of coaching, takes some adjustment. I'm fortunate to have a network of coaches from other schools and even other countries. 

So coach, you're not alone... I know exactly how you feel.   


Monday, 13 February 2017

Experts within the classroom

Teacher's Voice
Recently I read Charlotte Pezaro’s passionate article, Specialist science and maths teachers in primary schools are not the solution’. Following this, I watched Paul Browning talking about killing creativity on abc newsBy sharing their thoughts and convictions, educators are given a voice, which promotes and provides an authentic view of the teaching profession. To combat the deprofessionalisation of teachers, more educators should share their thoughts and opinions through various mediums. Deprofessionalisation is defined as removing professional control, influence and discrediting the professional status. It's time for educators to have more influence and control over decisions made regarding education.

Professional Autonomy
Model of "best use" of a textbook?
A tweet (right) showing textbooks as a doorstop recently reminded me of a paper I wrote over 10 years ago. The topic was about mandated math textbooks in California. My views are from a primary perspective. Textbooks may be mandated for equitable reasons, so all students are provided with the same content for the standardised test. However, when teachers are provided with a textbook or program to follow (without choice), I believe it undermines their professionalism. While some may find teaching maths by 'page number' a more simple approach, I would find it not only uncomfortable but a little condescending. It appears standardised tests and accountability is influencing learning activities. If given no choice and told to use a textbook or particular program to improve students’ outcomes, teacher autonomy is lost which may decrease self-efficacy. Does the textbook or program build the teachers’ capacity? With a strong interest and to build my capacity to teach maths, I completed my masters in education. From a primary teaching perspective, I believe in using various resources to create a positive learning environment for all students. Literature books, music, games, songs, dance, and technology can be used to help students learn mathematical concepts. Being trained in Primary Connections program (science) provided an opportunity to train other educators, which built their capacity for programming and teaching science, while providing them with choice and a voice. If a program or textbook is mandated, it should facilitate differentiation and provide opportunities for teacher input. Could a teacher create successful individualised learning experiences using one program or one textbook? I once worked with a colleague who had only taught using textbooks and after one year of mentoring, she embraced and developed her ability to use various strategies, tools and resources to teach maths.

Contexts Make a Difference
Teachers are told what research indicates or suggests, but I think it’s vital for all of us to recognise that each country, state or territory and school is unique. Similarly, each student arrives with various beliefs and abilities. In my opinion, 'context' is not given enough recognition in education. Some students come to school having been read to since they were 6 months old, while some students do not speak English when they walk into their classroom. When I attend TeachMeets or converse with educators on Twitter, I learn about other contexts, which fascinates me. How can we possibly standardise education when students, teachers, and contexts are not standardised? According to an article written in TeachThoughtteachers make 1500 decisions a day and many of our decisions are dependent on our context, and our students’ immediate responses, engagement, questions and actions. Receiving feedback means making decisions which may generate adaptations and change.

Magic in the Moment
Much magic happens when teachers apply their knowledge and skills in the moment. That moment when students’ curiosity is captured, when they’re eagerly engaged and when their love for learning is evident. Teachers make decisions each day in their classroom but it is time to have more influence and control over decisions made regarding education. We need to recognise and acknowledge that the 'Experts are within the classroom!"

I appreciate your opinions & please share any blogs that highlight the teacher's voice. @stringer_andrea