Back to School

I’ve really enjoyed typing this week.

Why? Because I got sick and lost my voice, and a keyboard was the least painful method of communication!

I learnt a very important lesson when I went to school on Wednesday with almost no voice and tried to teach. I felt so useless without my voice and probably would have been better off at home resting and getting better quicker. So the big message – don’t be afraid to take time off if you need to! I’m so used to teaching rounds being short, I’ve never had to take a day off, and I had to resist the temptation to say “but I’ve got the year 7s today” or “I have to do X, Y and Z today.

Good news is the voice is back (but I’ve got a cough and a runny nose still) so I’m back at school tomorrow. I’m itching to get back into it!

Whooshing past…

Its halfway through September! The last post I wrote was July!

2 main reasons:

  • uni is hectic – we have 6 weeks out for rounds (I love my school and the first lot of rounds went really well – kids are challenging my classroom management skills and my concepts of engaging curriculum) BUT we still have the same semester workload. AND two subjects are very theoretical, which at the very end of the course seems backwards and frustrating to be writing 2000 word essays. I want to do practical stuff!
  • THE dance concert. ‘THE’ because its massive – 190 dancers from preps to year 12!!. As well as teaching and choreographing and sewing and painting props for my two classes, I have been heavily involved in the organisation and running of it this year, making sure each dancer is in the right costume and the right place at the right time (I’m in charge of the backstage movements!).
    Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE details and precision and the whole thing has been a big learning experience, it just kind of takes over the closer you get to the weekend. (which was last weekend so I’m finally finding time to write this post :-)) It went so smoothly thanks to all the preparation and contributions from many. I’m so proud of us!

What I keep thinking through all of this is how good it will look on my resume 😛 and how it will be useful next year – who knows where I will be working and what sort of things I will be doing. At least I can be confident in my crowd control and organisational skills!

Update on dance teaching challenges

This is a post I should have written a long time ago! I had been describing the experiences and challenges stemming from teaching a prep dance class. (Have a look at the Dancing category for a reminder)

I was feeling a little unconfident and unsure about myself as a dance teacher when I wrote about a new student with some behavioural issues. I think this a lesson for me in trusting myself more! He (and I) just needed some time to settle into the class and implement a few little things. He has so much enthusiasm even if it is sometimes misplaced. And the dance for the concert is going alright. They mostly love the idea of performing, and even though they are all over the place they are so cute it doesn’t matter! We have a whole term to improve.

We do have to careful not to overwhelm them though. The idea of having lots of people watching can be frightening, and there will be other dancers going everywhere on the weekend of the performance. We will be talking about it all a lot, so that its all not too new.

Holidays!

I know its been ages since I wrote anything, but holidays go so fast!! I’ll do it tomorrow……

Well now I’ve been on holiday for about 4 weeks, I figured its about time I committed some of the ideas floating around in my head to the screen. That includes my portfolio!! Apart from wanting some time away from uni, and work, there is so much flexibility and choice in how I can turn my ideas about teaching into some recorded form. It’s a bit scary! So I’ve decided to just start with something, and refine it from there or I will never get started! When I get it going, it can be found at http://erinburton.teachfolio.net

But apart from what I haven’t done, this past month has been very productive in other ways! My sister and I have been doing a serious amount of work on the dance concert for the school we teach at. We have been costuming (organising and sewing) and planning for how to coordinate 150 students. That’s going on the resume…:-P It’s a big job and we are part of a great team, and I find this kind of thing an engaging challenge, so I don’t really mind spending lots of time on this.

We also borrowed 3 seasons of Stargate Atlantis from a friend, which has kept us all very occupied!

Classroom Management Website

It’s done (mostly!) I have had that assignment buzzing around in my head for weeks, and yesterday it all flowed out onto the screen and now my website is up and running! I suppose all those nights when Icouldn’t sleep for thinking about it and having brilliant ideas were worth it 🙂

You can see it at
http://ekbu42.googlepages.com/classroommanagementstrategies

The only thing left to do is for you – any feedback you can give me to make the website flow better, and any suggestions of classroom management strategies would be much appreciated. We’ve all got something to share so why not share it here?

Use these questions to guide your thinking as you read the website:

  • Have you learnt anything new from my website or has it reminded you of something you think is particularly important to classroom management?
  • Do you have any suggestions on the strategies I have discussed or do you have any others to add?
  • Is the website easy to follow and well-presented?

I hope you enjoy reading it!!

Potatoes!

Just a little sidetrack for today – I spent this morning digging potatoes. While my hands and back are making themselves heard now, this emphasised the sense of achievement from creating something from sratch. I planted the potatoes, Daad watered and weeded, and then we all got out there to dig them up. There is a lot of work involved, but I really think they taste better than anything you buy at the supermarket. And you get a warm, satisfied and slightly self-righteous glow when you finally get to eat them!!

A good metaphor for persistence and the rewards of a bit of hard work maybe?!!!!

Proactive Management

As part of my investigation of classroom management strategies, I have been reading an thoroughly practical and useful book called How to Plan for Behaviour Development and Classroom Management: Maximising Student Engagement by Bob Cope (2007). I know its a long title, but to me all of the key words in the title sum up my developing ideas on classroom management.

Maximising Student Engagement
To over-generalise a bit – take away the boredom by engaging your students in the learning process and you take away so much of the issues you may have had to deal with. Its that simple.

Behaviour Development
Kids don’t automatically know how to behave, and they certainly don’t remember if you just tell them once. It is my responsibility as a teacher to not just teach my subject but to help students learn about life skills like groupwork and persistence. Imposing some rules and then punishing kids for not following them already seemed like a bad idea to me, but Bob Cope describes the impact of this rather well.

Some  very bad decisions from some of my teachers at uni this week (its a whole other story…when I’ve calmed down and gotten over it I may tell you about them) has really shown me what I, as a learner, value in a teacher. This is CLARITY and CONSISTENCY. I want to know what exactly is expected of me, and I want the teacher to be consistent with marking and expectations. The other major, major factor in effective teaching for me is that the teacher makes the learning engaging. I haven’t had much chance to work on this on rounds, but I do always try to be very consistent while on rounds. Clarity is something I think I need to work on, I think in part because I have been teaching to another teachers plans and wishes.

I guess after all that writing, the main things that I have drawn from Cope’s book is that preventative and proactive measures are essential in classroom management. I still must have appropriate consequences  pre-prepared (for consistency and clarity), but so many issues can be prevented from occuring with the right prepartion, both mental and physical.

Reference: Cope, Bob, 2007, How to Plan for Behaviour Development and Classroom Management: Maximising Student Engagement, 2nd Edition, Pearson SprintPrint, New South Wales

Classroom Management Strategies

Its getting to the pointy end of semester again!! Where did all that time go? I feel like I have gotten so much out of this semester – I already felt like I could call myself a teacher, but now I think I know how I can become a good teacher! Formal avenues like the projects for EXE (more on that later), other uni subjects, and PD sessions have been stimulating my thoughts on my teaching philosophy, and providing lots of practical ideas. Informal conversations with other education students have also been invaluable.

As for the EXE projects, I haven’t had much feedback from the first one, but just doing it has shown me the kind of things I should chose to make the project both achievable and beneficial in terms of how I measure up to the VIT standards. I was originally going to look at Individual Learning Plans, but I think that would be better done in conjunction with practicum.

So I needed another topic. I went back to the audit I did at the start of the semester. I haven’t had much in the way of difficult behaviour in any of my teaching rounds, but as you can read under the Dancing category of this blog, I am starting to experience some difficult students. I have also attended a seminar on Student Behavioural Issues, and plan to attend several PD sessions at the Intensive PD Week being held at Deakin Uni in study week.

For this project I would like to draw all of this together, as well as do some more research, and achieve some measure of clarity and consistency in my classroom management strategies. I’ll keep posting on how I’ll do this, and what I learn!

Dance Teaching Challenges

I mentioned in my last post a new challenge that I (and my fellow dance teacher and sister, Alice) have with the students in our prep dance class. One big thing for the whole class is preparing them (both physically and mentally) for the annual dance performance/concert. We have choreographed their dance, and plan to introduce the skills in it, such as knowing left from right, remembering a sequence of movement, and working as a group, before we actually introduce the concert and the dance. Slow and steady should win the race!!

The more immediate challenge is in our new boy, who has behavioural issues which require a fair bit of planning and management on our part. I am very glad to say that his second class was much better than the first!! This is mainly because we planned strategies to deal with his behaviour, but he also was not so uncomfortable in the new environment.

What we think will help us teach the whole class without him dominating:

  • He has a blanket up the front where he can sit, and be told to stay or go back to if need be. It is his space, and we will make sure not to have the other kids using it
  • Accepting that he can watch – he doesn’t feel too comfortable participating yet, and when he does participate can get out of control, but he is happy to watch which is perfectly alright. Another dance teacher at the school has had kids who spend terms just watching before they are ready to dance themselves.
  • not praising good behaviour that has only occurred because of prompting/discipline “thats better” is a better way to praise him
  • Being more aware of my own authority as the teacher. I tried (and it worked!) to be firmer, and even a bit bossy. I think sometimes I am too nice, and too focused on everyone enjoying my classes. It helps a lot that we are bigger than prep kids!!
  • Involving him in what the other kids are doing, mainly by giving him the prop that we are using (coloured scarves, feathers, balls…) he doesn’t get disconnected from the group, or bored, so he doesn’t act up as much, and also he can see how the others dancers behave.

These things are great management strategies, but mostly they work because there are two teachers in the room – one teaching the class, and one either focusing on, or working with him. I am conscious that this is not likely to be possible in a school setting, and I will have to deal with everything myself, but its great to be able to start like this, and learn from it, but

Where to now? Teaching challenges

Well its nice to have finished the VELS assignment!! I’d like to revisit it in a few months once I have some experience from PD’s and rounds to add. I’ll also keep an eye on comments from other education students (might have to remind them!!) Now there’s all the other assignments to do 🙁 I still haven’t decided what my next education assignment will focus on – there are so many of the VIT standards that I could look at, but I need to chose something that I can do without going into a classroom. More on that later. I’ve also started tutoring, so there will be lots to discuss and reflect on there!

One challenge I am facing in my teaching at the moment is in the Prep creative dance class I teach with my sister. Preps are interesting and fun to teach, and the class was getting the hang of everything nicely, but now we have a new student. As well as catching him up with all these new types of activities, he has some behavioural issues that I have never really had to deal with before, in any classroom, such as calling out random things (a lot) which unsettles the other kids. He has also shown signs of hitting other students with the props we are dancing with. I think these are enlarged by the creative setting, as I am never aiming to be too strict with them!

Next class we intend to try some strategies with him. If he isn’t behaving appropriately, we will have a place for him to sit and watch from. I’ll see if this helps with the calling out. I think he also just needs time to become comfortable with the class – its quite a different environment for any child.

We are lucky in that we are surrounded by experienced teachers who will (and are already!) helping us with this challenge. I’ll keep posting as this unfolds – it will be interesting where it goes!

But now I have assignments to write – the role of Japan and radio technology in Indonesia’s struggle for independence sound interesting to anyone?? Maybe not… 😛