Monday, 23 December 2013

Impatient and enthusiastic: Synonyms or antonyms?

I observe my students and relate to them in many ways. I see myself in them. Eager, enthusiastic, impatient, engaged, and frustrated.  I was not eager nor engaged in my learning at school but once I began university (as a mature age student), I had an insatiable desire to learn. I'm the same today. I've been described as enthusiastic and eager. Yet throughout the years a few have said that I'm impatient and appear frustrated. So are these synonyms or antonyms, positive or negative traits? Is there a fine line between the two or do they cross over? I decided to look at the definitions-

: feeling or showing strong excitement about something 
: filled with or marked by enthusiasm

:  to induce feelings of discouragement in
:  to make invalid or of no effect

:  marked by enthusiastic or impatient desire 

: not willing to wait for something or someone
: wanting or eager to do something without waiting


Every context is different; everyone's perspective is different. When one says you are impatient or frustrated, I previously viewed this negatively. I see being eager and enthusiastic as more positive attributes. Through much reflection, my beliefs have changed. I'm keen, eager and enthusiastic and while I may get frustrated and impatient at times, this is usually short lived. Frustration comes from being passionate or having an interest in the project or learning. My enthusiasm and eagerness are long term. So when I see students getting frustrated and/or impatient, I am reminded that these are short term responses in their learning journey. It indicates that they are engaged and they care about their learning and I need to acknowledge this. We should develop their resilience through modeling and discussion. Being enthusiastic, eager and engaged in their learning are the long term attributes we need to maintain, encourage or even ignite. So yes, I'm enthusiastic, eager, and at times frustrated and impatient but in my opinion they are all suitable characteristics of a passionate learner.

Developing a growth mindset,

Monday, 16 December 2013

Global Accreditation.

My teaching journey began in Brisbane at ACU and then we were transferred overseas. As long as I could continue to study education, I was happy. University of New England (Australia) allowed me to do just that. As an external student (2002) I had assignments due the same date as internal students and sat for the exams at the University of Washington (monitored by cameras). I completed a Bachelor of General Studies/Bachelor of Teaching with a major in Physical Education and minor in World Religions. We were living in Seattle and I completed my three practicums there. To be accredited by Washington State I needed to sit CSET & CBEST exams. With this completed I received my credential only to be transferred to California the following week. And guess what? California did not recognize Washington State certification.

In California, I had to get the World Education Services (New York) to evaluate my Australian teaching degree. A couple of hundred dollars later I received a GPA and my degree evaluation. With this, I applied to the Marin County Office of Education who eventually recognized my teaching qualifications and gave me credit for CLAD (Cross-Cultural Language and Academic Development). With this I was allowed to apply for teaching positions and once employed began my BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support & Assessment) course. This Californian mandatory course could be completed within two to five years. Through BTSA I met my mentor, Chris. We met weekly and attended workshops together. Although Chris was assigned to me and paid as my mentor, she became my friend and I still seek her advice today. Mentors are assigned to you and chosen outside of your school. I completed my Clear Credential and enjoyed the process and learnt a lot from Chris. While my Australian degree gave me a solid theoretical foundation, this framework and the mentoring program made me a more effective, reflective teacher.

Our school had its own salary system, the Teaching Excellence Program, where teachers demonstrated their effectiveness in five domains. Teachers applied for a band increase which was linked to salary. As a member of this committee I valued this system because if you were eager, enthusiastic and ambitious, it was recognized and you could advance. Your band and salary were not determined only by your years of experience but by your accomplished goals which were set by you and your supervisor. Not confined by your years of experience, all your accomplishments, be it academic, presenting, researching etc were acknowledged and resulted in a band and salary increase. Some teachers are content and satisfied staying in the same band but if you wanted to develop further, you were encouraged. While the salary was increased each year, if you moved bands, your increase was more substantial. I learnt I received a band increase and promotion the day I advised my Principal we were being relocated back to Australia.

Upon arriving back in Australia, I began the accreditation process once again. While I had two Australian education degrees, I hadn't taught in NSW before. This meant I was identified as a New Scheme teacher. So I had to go through a very similar process to California (but with no mentor) with the New South Wales Institute of Teaching (NSWIT). I completed this in nine months and received the highest teacher salary possible six months later. This particular system acknowledged my teaching degrees, child rearing experience, and US teaching experience. Now I was credentialed in two countries, three states.

Last year I changed schools and now find myself in another accreditation system. They acknowledge me as a teacher but only from the time I returned to Australia and received my NSWIT accreditation. While I accept accreditation and systems provide accountability and consistency, sometimes they may discourage teachers if we don't acknowledge postgraduate study or overseas experience. My CV reflects all the additional projects, research, degrees and learning experiences I accomplished both in the US and Australia. Systems need to acknowledge that effective teachers aren't only determined by time frames and experience in certain contexts but other accomplishments too.  I can't seem to work the system and would like the system to work for me!


My Homework-At the suggestion of Rhoni MacFarlane

Rhoni MacFarlane has gently nudged me to share through blogging!

11 Random Facts about me.

1. I did classical & jazz ballet, gymnastics and tap dancing for about 8 years.
2. I am terrified of grasshoppers and Christmas beetles.
3. I went to university at the age of 30.
4. I have lived in many places including Banff, Calgary, Seattle, San Francisco and spent 3 months traveling with our 10 week old son through Alaska in a VW camper van.
5. I am not fond of know-it-alls and arrogant people.
6. There's nothing better than a frozen Crunchie. I savour every mouthful. Try it!
7. None of my children look like me.
8. While living in Banff I walked everywhere, wore woollen socks with Birkenstocks, fleece pants, no make-up and rarely blow dried my hair.
9. My husband was charged by a black bear twice. I was charged by an elk... but I was 6 months pregnant!
10. I prefer the snow to hot weather. There is something magical about snow.
11. I was asked to party with INXS but said no as I had to be home by 12... I was 17.

Questions for ME!

1. What is a habit you wish you didn’t have? Sneezing really loudly!
2. Where is somewhere you have always wanted to travel? Ireland
3. Which way should the toilet paper face? Under looks neater but probably over for practicality.
4. What band/musician are you embarrassed to admit you secretly enjoy? Bing Crosby & Dean Martin-especially this time of year-Christmas. They remind me of my Dad.
5. What is something you keep that you should really throw out? My expired drivers license from other States/countries.
6. Ice cream/Frozen Yoghurt/Sorbet/Gelati? Just tried MOOCHI-coconut yoghurt with white chocolate buds as topping.
7. What do you wish you did more of? Exercise.
8. What was the first movie you ever saw at the cinema? I don't remember but the most memorable was The Shining! My sister and I were so scared. REDRUM
10. Who is someone that you are grateful for but never tell them enough? My children.
Summer/Autumn/Winter/Spring and why? Winter in Banff for skiing or Summer in Seattle at Alki Beach-awesome sea life.
11. Have you ever been to Darwin (Northern Territory, Australia)? No-but plan to when I'm older.

Questions for YOU!

1. What is your best feature?
2. Who is the person you most admire? Why?
3. White, dark or milk chocolate?
4. Where would your ultimate home be located?
5. What is your favourite Christmas movie?
6. What is your most memorable day at school?
7. What would you do if you had 6 hours of free time and money wasn't an issue?
8. Are you good at keeping secrets?
9. Who is your favourite James Bond actor?
10. Have you ever kept a diary?
11. What would be your ultimate pet?

Now It’s Your Turn: note this is the first time I have EVER passed on a “chain letter”, however for some of you listed, it may be the nudge you need to write an overdue post.

1. Jeannette James
2. John Goh
3. Holly Fairbrother
4. Henrietta Miller
5. Jason Graham
6. Corinne Campbell
7. Michelle Hostrup
8. Jason Borto
9. Peter Holmes
10. Matthew Esterman
11. Betty C

Here’s how it works:
Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
Share 11 random facts about yourself.
Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
List 11 bloggers.
Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.
Post back here with a link after you write this. Go on, you have homework to do.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Learning from every experience...the good, the bad and the ugly.

My perspective on my life experiences has changed this year. I can't put my finger on when or why but I've altered my mindset. Previously, I reflected on various experiences and said "if only" or "what if?" Thinking this way will not change the reality. I'm trying to view my past experiences in a more productive way and will apply these to my learning and teaching journey. I'm sharing three experiences which I call the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Ugly - I loved Preschool and Kindergarten. When Mrs Murphy sang 'Two Little Apples', her arms would wobble and make me laugh (I don't find wobbly arms funny now!). Mrs Smith looked like your stereotypical teacher of yesteryear; tall and skinny, with glasses perched on the end of her nose. I don't remember learning anything in particular from these teachers, but I remember their kindness and how much l loved attending. They said that I was a leader who sometimes became the liaison between teacher and student. Two years later I was enrolled in the local school where my siblings attended. My first year of school was extremely difficult. The teacher was expecting someone more like my sister. My quiet, introverted, 'ask no questions' sister. I was enthusiastic, outgoing and I did ask questions...a lot of questions. If I had a dollar for every time a teacher told me 'you ask too many questions', I would be blogging from my yacht. 

While my memory of the events of my first year of school is hazy, I remember how I felt. You know that saying, “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”- Carl W. Buechner. I cried daily and refused to go to school. I began to lose my hair so it had to be cut short and to make matters worse, I needed glasses. It was a rough year. The following year everything changed for the better. Teachers have a powerful influence on their students' experiences.

Teaching Lesson - Don't compare siblings as each student is unique. The best thing about teaching a sibling is that you have already established a relationship with the parents. Encourage parents and teachers to find the individual qualities of each child and discourage the comparison of siblings. Embrace student's questions as it reflects student engagement. Don't underestimate how influential you are. You create the classroom culture.

The Bad - In high school I was placed in advanced maths. There was a textbook, no talking and a plethora of homework which was marked in class, in front of everyone! You know where I'm going with this...don't you? Why aren't you getting it? No, that's not right. What don't you understand? Needless to say I was 'dropped' to social maths. I went from a 3 in advanced (rating 1-7) to a 7 in social maths and I loved it! I always finished first, so I was 'allowed' to share my thinking with others. I helped those who struggled and we talked about maths. Now this teacher wasn't thought of as the 'best' maths teacher. And while she occasionally looked for the answers in the back of the book, she demonstrated the ideal classroom. She created a classroom culture where you were allowed to make mistakes. Talking about maths was encouraged. If we weren't being assessed, collaborating wasn't cheating. And yes, teachers don't always know everything!

Teaching lesson - Allow students and yourself to make mistakes and acknowledge them. This will assist with identifying misconceptions. Allow collaboration and encourage maths talk. So what about being grouped according to perceived ability? This experience and recent study has me perplexed about ability grouping. I see the benefits of clustering the highly able students but see the detrimental affect ability grouping has on self esteem and self-efficacy. I want to learn more about what research says about ability grouping.

The Good - After my first year of teaching, my Principal asked what were my aspirations. I shared my long term goals with her response; "How can I help you reach your goals?" At the time I thought that it was kind of her but now I see it as a learning experience in leadership. Lead teaching standards states that leaders need to support the involvement of colleagues in external learning opportunities. My principal was not trying to meet a standard but took a genuine interest in my aspirations. Today I see this gesture as a great teaching lesson. Imagine if we said to students or even colleagues, "How can I help you attain your dream?"

Teaching lesson - Support your students and colleagues' dreams and make it genuine.

Learning from the past, looking forward to the future...


Sunday, 6 October 2013

Smart is not what you are but what you can become...

I've been apprehensive about blogging and I've also struggled with identifying why that is. Is it because I don't think I have anything new or inspirational to contribute compared to other more experienced educators? Do I have the resilience to handle disapproval or disagreements from colleagues or educators? Why would people find my postings interesting or effective contributions? 

I watched people tweeting about their subjects taken in senior. Here's the thing....I finished in Year 10 because I was offered an apprenticeship and in my family that was a wonderful opportunity. Students who went onto Year 12 were the smart students who were university bound. That wasn't me...or so I and everyone else thought. 

I finished my apprenticeship, managed a salon and later became an owner/operator. I completed a TAFE course to be qualified to teach hairdressing but never did anything with this. Fitness became a large part of my life and so I became a fitness leader. It was at this time I realised I liked to learn. My husband, Andrew challenged me to get a certain mark for the exams and each time I exceeded it which increased my self-efficacy. He became the first person who truly thought I could do more or be more, if it was what I wanted. Not everyone needs a cheersquad but sometimes genuine support is pivotal.

While parenting my two children, I shared that I really want to teach but thought I wasn't intelligent enough to go to university. Andrew, a university graduate, disagreed and we began looking into it. I was accepted that year after completing all required tests. If I had applied the following year I would not have been accepted based on entrance scores. So I went to Australian Catholic University in Brisbane and completed ten subjects in the first year of my Bachelor of Education. I loved it! I mean I really loved learning!

We were transferred us to USA and I was happy to move as long as I could continue studying. The University New England offered the only external education degree so began my external study. And guess what... I loved that too! I enjoyed connecting with other students on the bulletin board (online chat group) who lived throughout the world. Remember in my schooling era, collaboration was known as cheating. My lecturers commented on how involved I was online supporting others and generating discussions....Go figure! Of course I started a teacher chat group called Teach'n'Talk once university was finished as staying connected was important to meI got on the Dean's list every year and after completing my Bachelor of General Studies/Bachelor of Teaching I was awarded the Dean's Merit Award. So now I should feel smart.....right? 

I continued studying whilst teaching and completed a Graduate Certificate, Masters in Education and recently a Graduate certificate in Gifted Education. After fourteen years of university, I realise I have an insatiable appetite for learning. So now do I qualify as 'smart'? I struggle with the word 'smart'. I believe being told you are smart or not smart can have a detrimental, long lasting affect. Especially when used to describe someone. Dweck's work has influenced my teaching. According to Carol Dweck, one of the worst things we can say to our children is how smart they are and the consequences may extend far beyond the field of child raising.

So why am I blogging now? Maybe a new teacher can relate or learn something from my story? Maybe I will become a more reflective teacher? Maybe my story will demonstrate to politicians and universities that while high grades are important, passion, enthusiasm and the love to learn is just as vital? Other attributes that aren't subjects taught or graded in school or university are empathy, compassion and concern for students outside of academics. If research indicates that effective teachers have the highest influence on student learning, we need to allow all those future educators with their immense potential. Identifying or finding one's passion may not happen until later in life and these people may become our most effective teachers because they possess qualities that cannot be measured. 

Getting smarter everyday...