Friday, 27 February 2015

What I learnt from my Dad

It may have been yesterday, Mum says it was and she would know, but I thought it was today. I'm not great with dates and usually have to link a significant date to an event of some kind so it's not surprising I have the dates mixed up. Or I wait for my sister Jenny to post a picture on facebook and I know for sure. She hasn't done that this year so I'm a bit at odds. It's not really important though.

I thought my final day of #28daysofwriting was going to coincide with the 7th anniversary of my Dad's passing and I've been planning to write this post for the past week. When I spoke to Mum yesterday she reminded me that it was Dad's anniversary. As Mum says though, it doesn't really matter what date it is, everyday has a bit of Dad in it, a bit of sorrow, a bit of fun and a lot of love. Time just makes it a bit easier to deal with. We have a few of these days in my family so I feel a bit of an expert in this area of acknowledging the life of others and what their life means to us.

So today it seems fitting that I write about the things I learnt from my Dad.

My Dad was a very humble man who lived his life without too many monetary gains but abundant in love. He was an only child who ended up having a brood of 7 children, all in 11 years (probably more a testimony to Mum than Dad!). We were a tight knit family and I had an idyllic childhood.

I learnt from Dad that you need to be generous with your time, to help out where you can and to be involved. Growing up he was always part of anything that we do: president, secretary or chief organiser of school fetes, Parish Councils, endless fundraisers, Little Aths, netball, tennis, table tennis. Whatever we did he did and he did it with enthusiasm, kindness and empathy.

I learnt from my Dad that you accept people for who they are. You trust them until they aren't trustworthy, you respect them until they show you otherwise and you never abuse people in any way. You can put your point across but you are always respectful.

I learnt from my Dad that you need to support the decisions of those you love and care about whether you agree with them or not as long as those decisions aren't harmful to anyone. This one could be especially difficult for my Dad when it came to me. I always wanted to take a risk, try something different, change a part of my life. He may not have agreed with all my decisions but once they were made he was right there helping where he could. I remember the day I moved out of home for the first time. He wasn't keen on any of us leaving the nest, but I was 19 and oh, so excited about the prospect. He wouldn't come out of the bathroom to say goodbye despite the fact that he's helped me find a place, move furniture, suss out the surrounds and talk through the logistics of it.

I learnt from Dad that you love your family unconditionally, that the children need to be looked after, cared for, but most importantly you need to be with them whenever you can. My childhood was filled with trips away, morning trips to the beach for a swim where we would float with him in the calm water, trips to do the grocery shopping, all of us, much to Mum's possible horror. We spent idyllic summers at Mt Martha for years, firstly in tents and then in the van although I never got a position on the inside. We had a massive garage that had a pool table, a table tennis table and housed many a party where we met with our friends and family to laugh, dance and drink together. We had a pool where we could swim and a pergola and bbq where we would dine together. As we all started to grow up the grandchildren shared in this wonderful life created by Mum and Dad.

I learnt from Dad that you can do all of the above even if you didn't earn much money, you finished school at 14, you had to finish your working life at 42 because of a debilitating illness or you had to spend most days of the second half of your life in some kind of pain. I learnt from Dad that whatever life dishes out to you doesn't control you. What you want from life is in your control and if you keep it simple and real and know what's important to you then your life can be rich and full. People will remember you for how you lived, not for what you have.

How lucky I've been to have been able to learn so much from this wonderful man who is my father.

Thanks Dad.

A final reflection for #28daysofwriting

I know I've still got another day to go but I have something special to write about tomorrow, something I hope that is worthy of a final post in this project. So today I'm reflecting on how far I've come with my new classes this year so far.

Today I've had one of the best days since moving schools. I had four classes and all went pretty well. In the first class my tricky 9's played dice games that showed me they understood the idea that area takes up space. Nothing ground breaking except that instead of routinely following a set of instructions they played strategically and thought it was pretty easy. And, they played until the end. They still chatted, got distracted, moved seats, even had some dice throwing across the room but they all finished the game. And it was enjoyable. We had fun together. I'm called Mrs Maths by some of the boys in this class and I don't mind that at all. They've created a respectable, special name for me and I'm ok about that. The other tricky year 9's also had a good lesson. No fun games for learning but a lesson where no one walked out, no one had a go at another person, some work was done and I had a couple of laughs with some of them. Despite their behaviour this group has the widest variety of abilities and more stronger students than the other class. Perhaps its this diversity that makes them a bit more unsettled than the others group. But today the tension between myself and the students was lessened. I feel more hopeful.

With the 10's it was interesting to watch them grapple with the standard of effort I have set. I'm checking on their workbooks regularly and talking to them about what's been happening to prevent them from being up to date. Today they had to submit their stats poster. The two week process has been challenging for most of them. They keep telling me that they've never had to decide so many things themselves before, that they've never actually done a maths project before, they've never used a rubric in maths before and they've never been so unsure about the work they are doing and how to ask good questions to get help. I haven't made it easy for them and I have prompted them to be specific in their questions, to go back to their research question and ask themselves what story is the data telling. I have seen how hard they have worked and ried too and the reality is the final product doesn't matter so much. I'm almost reluctant to mark it because the process itself has been invaluable. I got them to do a self assessment with the rubric and I expect they will be harder on themselves than I will be.

I've been so impressed with them as they've grappled with the workload and the openness of the task and the balancing act of moving on to something else and having to meet up with their group outside of class to put together their poster. While they'll be looking for the grade I have to somehow impress upon them how far they've come in such a short time.

My students never cease to amaze me and every day we can learn something about them if we are looking for it. It's one of the greatest joys of teaching.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

A quick reflection with 2 days to go

There's three more posts in #28daysofwriting including this one so, with all good projects some reflection is needed. Over the next few days I'll reflect on what I've learnt and where to from here.

It's an early call but barring a tragedy I'll have blogged for 28 days straight and for 28 minutes each day. I think I've stuck to the 28 minutes most days and have a feel for when the time is up. I've found the time limit to be hugely beneficial for a newbie blogger. It was long enough to think about what I was writing, to pause as I wrote and ponder what I would put down next.  It was short enough for me to feel I could manage the task and, even when I had no ideas, I could still write (waffle) about something.

From reading a few other blogs I got ideas of what I could write about but mostly I stuck with what was happening in my life and occasionally I branched out and wrote on an educational theme. I think I was lucky that I'd just moved to a new school in regional Victoria so I had plenty of new experiences to use as a source of inspiration. I've tried not to think about who, if anyone was reading it but was always heartened when anyone left a comment or retweeted my musings.

The thought that there were others in this with me helped me to write each night and build up a habit. I won't be writing everyday after Saturday but I will be maintaining my blog. It's something I wanted to do this year anyway so this month has helped me get in the habit and start writing without worrying too much about it. I originally stated that a lack of confidence prevented me from blogging before and I think I've gone a long way to overcoming that and t really is only an attitudinal change. I was the student that wanted to get everything right and wanted to do things well. I've not lost this too much over the years I've just got better at failing and learning. This blog is another example of this....I've taken a risk, failed, learnt, taken a risk, failed, a beautiful, recurring decimal.

It's been fun sometimes, a chore at others but mostly just a chance to have a go at something different. That epitomises this year for me.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Travelling Lightly

I'm squeezing my 28 minutes between dinner and a night out. This means that I've not got the time or the inclination to do any school work tonight. Consequently I have left all my marking/planning and my school laptop at work and stepped out into the gorgeous sunshine with just my handbag slung over my shoulder.

I've had a bit of time to do this in the last month and have tried to embrace it without the feeling of dread or guilt that often accompanies a night off. I wonder why we do that. I'm lucky that tomorrow I'm only there until recess as I'm 0.8 and this is one of my short days. I know that I'm ready for the morning lesson but not so ready for Friday's. I will have to do some work tomorrow but it seems the right balance.

As teachers we are constantly balancing our personal time with the work we need to do to be ready for class. When we have high standards of our teaching it can often be difficult to let go and take time for ourselves. This is especially true for me at the moment. I feel that some of my classes are not what I want them to be. I'm grappling with balancing student management issues with preparing engaging lessons. There's a level of trust that is missing with some students that is holding me back. It seems when I get one part working something else upsets the status quo. Today it was a new student and the change this made to the way students treated each other. I had my lesson planned but all went out the window. I find myself hoping as I walked into each class that I've got it right and he students will join in. If only they would, I know they will learn and they will enjoy things more.

For some reason today's lesson was particularly upsetting but I'm forever grateful to the wonderful coordinators and sub school leaders who continue to help me work through things with these students. I'll probably get things right just as I'm June.

So, tonight, I travel lightly. I'm taking some time out so I don't think about it for at least one night. I hope next time that I'm travelling lightly because I've had the most wonderful lesson.

What does it take to get you excited?

Some who know me well say it takes a bit to get me excited. This is generally true but sometimes it doesn't take much. My football team kicking goals and winning games springs to mind. In education of you combine the words team, maths, collaboration and planning then that would do it too. The often maligned maths departments of schools, especially secondary schools, don't often inspire feelings of excitement in some school leaders but for me they are the best. You've just got to understand them!

So this afternoon I got excited. I had the opportunity to show the use of Google apps in curriculum planning to the maths tram. There was docs, drive, links, sites, activities, standards, possibilities, byod and maths. The people got it. They understood how they could pull together all the great stuff they were already doing and present it in a cohesive, professional manner. They just needed convincing they were already nearly there.

Oh, it's such a joyous thing when the stars align. All the work still needs to be done but the seed is planted and now we need to call for backup. It's important that the people who work behind the scene are on board and can see your big picture too. So now there's a few conversations to be had, a few things to organise and a backup plan if things don't happen according to the timeline. There's enough expertise in the team to ride the bumps. I always believe that you just need to find the strengths of the people in the team and then let them do their stuff. You all know just need to know where you are going.

I've been at my new school for 4 weeks and have been going about my business quietly. It takes some time to suss out how things work and know what you can do to help. It takes time for people to get to know you too. But the opportunity has arisen and now I'm super excited.
What does it take to get you excited in your workplace?

Monday, 23 February 2015

5 Days to go...

"5 Days to go" said +Tom Barrett 's email.   I was a little surprised, a little relieved and a little curious. Surprised because I thought I had longer, relieved because I thought I had longer and curious because I wondered what I might do once the #28daysofwriting ends.

I'm planning to go on blogging but probably not every day. I've been determined to not miss a day and expect to accomplish this but I wonder what will happen when I'm not part of a group that has a focus and a goal. I'm a team player so I don't like to let the team down. I'm a committed person so I'm dogged when a challenge has been set and I'm reflective. I wonder what I will do in March.

I've seen a few posts about commenting on blogs and I want to start trying to do that. It's the comments that are most meaningful and yet I've done very little of it myself. I feel buoyed when I get some feedback and while I have read a few others blogs when I see a catchy heading or when a colleague posts I haven't provided that boost too often that I know enhances the experience of the blogger. I try to trick myself into thinking this is because I've little time but honestly, n the moment, I'm hesitant about my feedback. I'm not a wordsmith, my writings are simple not complex and I struggle to put into words the thoughts in my head and so, I lack the confidence to respond. It's a funny thing that when I was asked in Tom's survey why I hadn't blogged before I stated that I lacked confidence. A funny thing for someone who would appear to others as fairly forthright and confident. But it's true. It's similar to when I tell people that I'm a bit shy. It's hard to believe, but it's true.

I've come full circle then in this experience. I'm a lot more confident about my blogging since I grew to understand that my words were for me and my growth in the first instance. Perhaps for March I need to start commenting on others' blogs. Not #28minutesofcomments but possibly #2-8minutesofcomments.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

An Aussie wanting to teach in New Zealand

No, this isn't a request for a job! In June I'll be heading to New Zealand to stay for about 12 weeks. It's all part of my big adventure this year and an unexpected opportunity. A very good friend of mine has a sister who lives there and I'm going to be house sitting for her while she and her husband go to Europe. I'm looking forward to it immensely and hope it will be a time for quiet, peace and space.

While there though I thought I might do a bit of relief teaching to help fund any travels I might do. I am connected to people in NZ through Twitter and through having spent a fabulous week at ICOT 2013 in Wellington. I'm hoping to have a chance to visit some schools and perhaps catch up with my social media 'friends'.

To work in NZ for an aussie isn't a big deal. Head over there and find a job but to work as a teacher there's a few hoops to jump through. Our countries have a 'Mutual Recognition' policy so it's a matter of filling in forms, getting documents together and putting together a profile of myself and my ability to teach before I can be registered.

Every time I think I've got things ready to send off I find something else I need to do. It is a fairly strict process even though the mutual recognition is there. I've been thinking about this process as I gather my evidence and it makes me wonder why wouldn't my registration in Victoria be enough? I feel a little affronted at some of the things I needed to do but on reflection isn't this just the standard we want for our on schools. Any school wants the best teachers they can get to teach their children. Despite the sometimes endless stream of documentation needed I understand completely why most of this documentation is necessary.

I'm looking forward to my time in NZ and I hope to meet up with many of you who are taking part in #28daysofwriting. I jut hope they accept me and approve my application if I ever get it completed! I don't expect to teach a lot and perhaps not at all but it'll be good to know I have options once I get there. And any chance to see a different school environment has to benefit my professional learning.