"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."

~Neale Donald Walsch~

Monday, 21 April 2014

Is there magic in teaching?

Yesterday I came across a TED talk that really got me thinking. Christopher Emdin presented a TED talk that considers pre-service teachers and their education and their journey to becoming teacher. Best watch this video first to understand the rest of this blog post.

Whilst I think there is great merit in wanting students to be engaged you can't manufacture something that is cultural different and perhaps unique to certain social settings. I know that this approach would not work with my students. There is a lot to be said about engaging speakers and techniques that you can use when presenting ideas to students however the students would soon become bored with this style fairly quickly if it does not come naturally to the individual teacher. 

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What can be drawn from this talk is that there are no magical tricks to teaching but rather it is the unique personality and style that we bring to our classes that can assist student engagement in the long term. It is our sound knowledge of our subjects and good incorporation of educational theory in relation to pedagogy and andragogy and excellent communication skills that can bring out the best in all of us. Experience is the one thing that can't be taught and for all pre-service teachers they need to bring with them life experience into the job and as the years go by they add their teaching experience to their skill set. 

I do agree with Christopher Emdin that mentoring is extremely important and perhaps there needs to be more of this in a teaching degree. There certainly can be more said about mentoring in schools no matter how long you have been teaching. Without dialogue about your classes teachers become stale and out of touch with not only their subject but loose enthusiasm for what they do. Mentoring and reflection should be part of normal teaching practice. New methods, new ideas and fresh ways of teaching are crucial to teacher quality and there should be more discussion about how this can be achieved in work places. 

The magic in teaching is created when a student connects with their learning
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and goes on a journey of discovery that captures and enlightens their lives. It doesn't matter how old learners are they can still enjoy the wonder of learning something new or gaining confidence in a skill they have been working at. Yes it is our job as teachers to engage our students to achieve these goals but we must be ourselves and bring to the job the unique abilities we all possess. I love the fact that my colleagues all have a different teaching style to me because they inspire me through their ideas and teaching methods. 

I do wish all my teaching friends a wonderful term 2! 

Until next week,

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Stronger and smarter students

There are moments in life when a concept, value or idea grabs you and holds your attention longer than other things would. That happened to me today. I have been thinking about a group of learners that I teach that I feel as though I haven't really connected with them as well as I could. I have been pondering this for several weeks and chatting with my colleagues on how
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better to engage them in class. I had a light bulb moment this morning after listening to Dr Chris Sarra talk with Richard Fidler on ABC radio about his experiences as an Aboriginal Headmaster in remote communities in Queensland and the Northern Territory. His personal philosophy in building a sense of identity and value comes from his belief that all students can be strong and smart. I now need to go out and buy his book, Good Morning Mr Sarra and further examine how he has inspired a generation of isolated and remote Aboriginal people to live to their full potential. The Stronger Smarter Institute continues to inspire young Aboriginal people to become the best they can be through leadership and excellent teaching and training.   I absolutely love this idea because it gives control of an individuals life over to them. There is an expectation that all people can be strong and smart. Of course there are major hurdles that Aboriginal peoples face in society but I think the idea is certainly one that speaks to the core values in each one of us.  There are so many values wrapped up in these two words and yet the driving philosophy behind this concept is that within all of us there is the ability to take control of our lives and use our brains, emotions and all aspects of our being to drive the choices that we make.

Being smart enables each person to acknowledge that we all have intelligence. It may include academic excellence and skills related to ones job but it can be much more than that. It can include intelligence in regard to relationships, social situations, work situations and overall management of life. These two strong verbs also allow us to stuff up in life and build on our mistakes to make us stronger and smarter. These verbs are timeless and so even when we leave the education environment they can stay with us in our jobs and in our lives.  Reflecting on your mistakes and learning from them is so important in the learning process and this is one thing we should never stop doing.

So with this in mind I am just about to program a new course for work and I
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have decided to keep these two verbs in mind in all that I do. Building confidence and building skills are core to what I do and building students who are emotional, socially and academically smart will enable them to learn and develop their skills for the work place and for further study. Encouraging students to be strong in their convictions and decisions, resilient and resourceful means they will be better equipped to face life's challenges.

I am always learning, always growing in knowledge and life experience. Being a strong and smart person means I can be there for my family, friends, colleagues and students. By raising my expectations of my students I hope I can help them to see that they are strong and smart too.

One of my favorite videoes from Dan Hasseler  was delivered at the Central Coast Teach Meet and highlights the importance of never underestimating our students abilities.

Until next week,

Monday, 24 March 2014

My favorite words.. Creative, Innovative, Passionate and Enthusiastic

So I am sitting at my computer applying for my job and have decided to take a break. There are a lot of points to be met in the selection criteria and right now it has taken me a few hours and I need a break. You know I don't know about you but "selling your wares/ experience" is not something that comes naturally to me. I'm not really someone who likes to blow my trumpet at all the things I can do. For the most part I just do my job and try to excel in everything I do and hope that is enough to get the job done.  More than ever in this tough job market I find myself reflecting on what it is that I do and now I feel exhausted. Teaching certainly isn't for the faint-hearted and anyone who tells you we only work 9-3pm is not a teacher!

So as I type away I have been reflecting on my core values and philosophy as a teacher and I have come up with this. 
"Providing quality, innovative, creative and enthusiastic teaching and learning environments for students is what drives me to work each day. I am passionate about building skills and confidence in students as well as providing professional development for colleagues particularly in the area of technology and education. "
I have thought about the teachers in my life who inspired me both at school, uni and TAFE and I find that they possess many of these qualities. You can't be a champion for your students without enthusiasm. They need encouragement and support. You can't engage them without creativity. Creativity allows you freedom to engage with them as learners both individually and as a class to meet the learning outcomes and allows them to develop of their skills and builds confidence in learning. You need passion about what you teach because it is the thing that drives you to continually learn and improve upon your skills and knowledge because it is so exciting and interesting and has the potential to impact your life.  You need innovation otherwise you become stale. Innovation allows you to try things out, make mistakes and improve upon methods and systems in order to drive change or gives you freedom to think outside the box. 

Teaching is a wonderful profession and it has enriched my life in many ways. There have been many students that I have taught that have greatly humbled me as a person through their personal struggles and there is so much more to this job than meeting outcomes and implementing syllabuses. 

So in this blog post I celebrate teaching and my four favorite words... Creative, Innovative, Passionate and Enthusiastic. I hope you can find some of these elements in your teaching today. 

Until next week,

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Does technology make us disconnected?

Seiko Wrist Computer
There is no doubt that technology has majorly impacted our lives. If you think back over the last twenty years you will probably remember some pieces of technology that no longer exist. Technology has moved at such a fast pace that not only do we bank, shop, socialise and express ourselves and our opinions online that the online world is fast becoming the new 'norm' in our lives. Marketing companies are analysing data to show us customised ads so we will buy certain products. So using technology in the work place also become the better part of the new 'normal' in how we go about business. 

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Technology has traditionally been created to give us more time. Thank goodness someone invented the wheel. Cars, boats and aeroplanes have greatly assisted us with travel and they do save us a lot of time getting from place to place (provided you aren't sitting in traffic). Once personal computers were invented we suddenly had new ways of doing the old ways more efficiently. Email revolutionised the way we communicate with family, friends and work. Social Media has now taken over the way we communicate in an online capacity and we as humans seem to be forever chasing our tails to find the new and latest thing. So in all of this are we any more connected to the people we love, share our lives with or work with? 

15 year old Blake Seitz sums is all up, "Why talk to someone face to face when you can just write them an email? Communication is key to relationships, and relationships are key to life."

"Multitasking is another problem. Listening to your friend while tapping out a text message, reading an instant message, and listening to music—in my opinion, that’s a recipe for relationship disaster."

Mmmm... Clearly this 15 year old has some sense that relationships need to be maintained with a level of engagement that goes beyond technology. Surely there has to be a balance between how much we use technology to make our lives easier and how much it becomes the focus of our lives. Clearly we all have a rational head in our brains somewhere and you cant blame technology for all ones relationship problems. Having a chat with a friend over a nice cup of coffee or tea just can't be replaced with technology. There must be balance in the force!

So next time you feel that technology is taking over your life stop and phone a friend and organise a face to face catch up and have a laugh together. 

Until next week,

Sunday, 26 January 2014

How to have a fresh start...

In my life there are some things that never go to plan. For many people making New Years resolutions is the way to go but I have found that I am not too good at keeping them. However a new year can sometimes feel like a new beginning. It has dawned on me today that for many children and adults this year will be a fresh start. Perhaps a new school, uni or TAFE college. It might be that you may have decided that you need to change how you do things this year and in that case join me in a fresh start. 

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Most people that I know don't like change. Some people feel anxious, lonely, confused, sad and stressed.
Change means putting behind the past in order to move forward to the future. Whenever we embark on something new it means we have to adapt and either face new challenges or face our fears that may be holding us back. Life will never be stagnant. In an ever changing world workers are being pushed through either technology, social pressures and economic factors to adapt... to change.. to be a chameleon in a world where the skills we possess today may not even exist in the future. So why all the philosophy? 

Change means putting behind the past in order to move forward to the future. 

This week due to circumstances beyond my control I am having to broaden my career opportunities. Whilst I will continue to teach at TAFE, (because I love it) I am also pursuing some other avenues to share my love of technology. In my classes I have seen how it can help break down social and economic barriers and build confidence and self esteem to people who otherwise have struggled to use technology and have felt ostracized  and disconnected because they lacked confidence to engage in a technologically driven world. So I have booked in some dates with the NSW Teachers Institute to deliver my courses to teachers who will educate the next generation of technology savvy and creative young people. You can check out these courses at eLearning Educational Solutions

So how do you have a fresh start? I have decided to embrace change. My deep faith in God also means I know I will be fine. I have established a network of family and friends who love me and support me whatever happens. I decided to have a 'brain dump' the other day and wrote down all my skills and options for the future on 3 big pieces of paper using coloured pens and pencils. I then devised a plan and now have a place to start. I have invested in a yearly calender (thanks to these ideas from my good friend @salifix - Twitter). I have begun to map out when and where things will be happening in my life and how I will fit everything in. So being somewhat of a control freak I am beginning to see that I can accomplish more than I thought I could. The future is brighter than it seemed. 

If you have new students or new colleagues to your school or institution this year then spare a thought for what they might be facing. Making a change and or being part of the change can be daunting but not impossible. 

I do wish all my teaching friends and colleagues a great teaching year! 

Some interesting articles I stumbled across... 

"New pedagogy" activated by technology transforms classrooms

Until next week,

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Every organisation needs a heart beat

After enjoying the spoils of the festive season I feel refreshed, revitalised and ready to go again. So with this in mind it is back to my blog for 2014. Hugh MacKay has commented on numerous occasions that we all feel the desire to be part of a tribe. Over Christmas there were many tribal moments with my family. Some good, some bad however being part of a family tribe means you have to stick to it long term through thick and thin. 

This idea has been festering in my brain over the last few weeks as I really want to nut out why I enjoy working so much and what it is that keeps me connected to this 'tribe' more so than any other organisation I have worked for. If you think of a family unit each member plays a role. Doesn't matter what sort of family you have each person will bring to it their unique personality quirks and interests. So too with organisations. Organisations are made of up people with different skills sets, experiences, ages, gender and personality types. So if all organisations contain these things how is it that some organisation appear to do things exceptionally well and others do it really badly?  I have come to the conclusion that it is the heartbeat that matters. People who care about integrity, hard work and have some sense of a moral compass are the ones who drive passion, innovation and are fearless about change and push ahead to improve the lives of their customers, employees and the society they live in. 

Image by Deborah Copper-Asbury
Now these ideas are not new to anyone and one would think they contain a fair amount of common sense however I see that there is a great cost involved in order for these values to be maintained in an organisation. After reading the article TAFE in the era of skills reform by Pat Forward it has kindled in me a desire to see what is the motivation behind what I do in my job. I share many of the frustrations outlined by Leesa Wheelahan in her interview but wonder how one person like myself can ever make a difference? It is middle class teachers and students who are the heartbeat of the organisation. TAFE would be responsible for a huge percentage of the population gaining employment and skills for the duration of their working lifetime and yet it is having a triple bypass at the moment and will never be as it was. So in the face of such sadness I seek out the heartbeat at the start of a new year. 

With a new year comes new opportunities, new students and the same passionate, professional, intelligent and innovative teachers I get to work with each and everyday. Each semester I have worked at TAFE I have been inspired by my students to be a better teacher and am continuously reminded that the social justice role TAFE plays in my community is met through dedicated, experienced and highly qualified teachers who seek to nurture and encourage all aspects of our students and it's not all about delivering a product. 

The heartbeat of an organisation is not always measured by a $ sign. Those who value the strengths of this organisation need to be vocal, professional  and consistent in showing those who do make decisions that the heartbeat of TAFE has had long term success and prosperity to our society and continuous cost cutting will have a long term impact on our society. 

Whilst I am not in the habit of writing political blogs I can't remain silent because I am part of the change. I want to be part of the change and in my own way I am part of the heartbeat that educates adults in our nation to be confident and courageous life long learners who contribute effectively in our society. 

So be the change in your organisation and be the change each and everyday. 

Until next week,

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Let the creative juices flow

Over the last few weeks things have been changing. TAFE finished, my kids have been on holidays for a few weeks and I'm back to be a full time stay at home mum. The problem with that is I have been finding the adjustment a little difficult. Coming down from a very busy year has set my brain into 'now it's time to deal
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with all that stuff you put on the back burner to think about and I am going to think about it NOW!' So consequently not only do I feel like I am 'filing things' away in my brain but my creative and ideas part of my brain has gone into overload and I can't sleep. I was so encourage by all your messages from my last post that I set about thinking about the future of education and philosophy for a few weeks before I was able to get my head back into the reality of teaching for next year. So having processed some of these thoughts about technology and the future of education I am now up to thinking about how I can practically take on board some of these things and incorporate them into my programs and teaching for next year. It's time to be creative!

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Not many people know this (although you are all about to know now) that in my previous life I was a professional musician. I spent many years of my life as a flautist. I use to play in bands and orchestras many years ago and I still play on a regular basis at church. I also play piano and guitar and use to sing in choirs and at weddings. So my first love and passion in life was and still is music. Whenever I feel strong emotion I often thump it out on my piano or flute and I find music helps me process my thoughts. It's my 'soul food'. Whilst I can't draw for quids I have a very strong creative side to my personality. I love the discipline and creative capabilities that music brings to my life. I also know that I can use both these things to make me a better teacher. So after having a few down weeks to reflect on the things that worked and the things that need to improve for next year I have decided to be disciplined this week and allow myself time for creativity. So I have joined Lynda.com  and am learning all about Photoshop for a start. I could find all these things on Youtube however I like these well paced and plain English lessons and they are great for my beginner level. I can fit it in around the kids and school holiday activities and they aren't too pricy. I have also slotted in some time for my music and I am working on Debussy's Children's Suite as a school holiday project on piano. 

So when do I relax? Well after many conversations with people I don't know. I have never been very good at it. Sitting by the pool for hours on end or at the beach is boring. I love spending a few hours but not all day. I love to read but even then I can only do that for a few hours. Put simply I find the art of doing nothing frustrating. However I do know that in my own way I need to find time to recharge. By using music and other creative endeavors I find this the best way to recharge. Feeding my soul as such. I find this through spending time on my spiritual faith, my family and the creative side of me helps me recharge and look at things with a fresh and new perspective. So with this in mind.... Let the creative juices flow!
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I do hope you all have some time to unwind and be creative over the holiday break.

Until next week,