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Teacher Externship

Tomorrow I am about to embark on a brand new experience which I feel extremely fortunate to be a part of. I am going to take part in a Teacher Externship. Teacher Externships are a unique experience for teachers to connect with the business world.

I am hoping to gain much insight into the working world to bring knowledge to the classroom and increase the skills of my students. It will allow me to gain a great insight into how areas of STEM are used in the 21st century working world and to observe, first hand the skills that are essential for success. As teachers, we discuss the importance and relevance of 21st century skills and I will be in a unique position to see these skills in action.

I am feeling surprisingly nervous, it feels like my first day on a new job. Who will I meet? What will I do? Will I miss anything exciting back at school? The questions are whizzing around in my head – I really do have butterflies!

I am truly grateful to my school for providing these opportunities and for selecting me to take part. I do feel that it will be of great benefit and begin an important dialogue between education and business and allow me to develop lessons plans that integrate business standards and competencies. It will bring relevance and meaning to my classroom and that of others at my school, a unique opportunity for myself, and them.

My day tomorrow begins at 9:00, something to ponder as a teacher who usually arrives at work at 7:00. It will be highly unusual to get up at a leisurely pace, grab a coffee and hop on the train, like a civilised human being! I am looking forward to this part of the experience.

I know that my experience will enrich the lives of many, including myself, and I am not going to waste this time. I know that I will be itching to get back to my students, to see the end of the year out with them, which is always a special time. Perhaps my new found knowledge of 21st century skills will further enhance this time?

I am eternally gratuitous to both my employer and temporary employer for this wonderful experience. I can’t wait to write my next post as a reflection of my Teacher Externship.

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EdTechTeam GAFE Summit Reflection

Today I attended my third EdTechTeam GAFE summit and was once again completely inspired and in love with all things Google. Every time I walk away with a burning envy – I want to be a presenter that has such energy and knowledge that the audience walk away feeling motivated to make a difference.

The sessions I attended were so varied and engaging, from Google Search to Google Expeditions and Break Out Boxes to Digital Technologies – I was not disappointed with any of the presenters and as always felt my brain was about it explode with all of the wonderful binge learning.

I made an Android avatar, learnt about the A-Z of all things Googley and how to become immersed in any country in the world through a virtual reality excursion.

The problem is, after you have attended an EdTechTeam summit, PL is never the same again! Every PL I go to, I compare to GAFE and it never turns out well! They are truly the best learning sessions for teachers out there!

I highly recommend that all teachers attend an EdTechTeam GAFE summit to experience the energy, collaboration and opportunity to meet some amazing people. I love how we all have so much in common and we are all there for the same reason – to make a difference to the lives of young people and to disrupt education!

EdTechTeam – I am your biggest fan and hope that I can continue to learn from you, work with you and hopefully fulfil my dream of being a presenter one day.

Tomorrow – Google Educator Level 2 – Here I come!

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Innovator’s Mindset

I have been inspired to write my next blog post after reading The Innovators Mindset by George Couros. This book is up there with the most inspiring books I have read. I started to mark pages with post it notes and probably should have given up half way through. Nearly every page is bookmarked!

This book was of particular interest to me as I have recently been given the title of ‘Innovation and Creativity Coordinator’ and I now feel ready and inspired to begin this new journey!

I was hooked from the start – George talks about how teachers fear technology and how we bombard our students with horror stories of what can go wrong. He made me smile when referring to writing with a pencil and saying – imagine if all we talk about is how you could stab someone in the eye with one! A very good point for which I will refer to in my own profession.

Thanks to George – I now have a clear definition of what innovation is – creating something new and better – and can share this with my students. He talks about innovation as a way of thinking – and I have been convinced for a long time that thinking skills are essential for survival in the 21st century world.

Being an innovator starts with a question, another skill I try to encourage in my students. Questions are the basis of inquiry learning and are integral to successful investigations. I encourage my students to develop well thought out questions for their weekly Genius Hour time as this forms the solid foundations for their projects. One of my students recently found a problem with iPad case designs and therefore decided to design and make one of her own. She is an innovator and I am incredibly passionate about developing and encouraging these skills and solution finding.

George talks about ‘Identity Day’ where students get to spend the day sharing their own and learning about others passions and interests. I have always said that it is vital that we know our students and this is a great way to develop these relationships. Thank you George for sharing this wonderful idea.

I love Sylvia Duckworths diagrams throughout this book – they are meaningful and incredibly useful to educators today. My favourite would have to be – The 8 characteristics of an innovator’s mindset – I encourage you to look this up.

There are so many things I want to share from this book – The mantra of an innovative educator, Sylvia’s many diagrams and the 8 things to look for in today’s classroom.

If have learnt many strategies to incorporate into my teaching and future career as a potential leader. Trust your employees, empathise with students (spend a day in their shoes) and spend time in the classrooms. This is not to intimidate and observe the teachers, but to be present  and get to know your environment and school community.

Last year, I completed my Masters in Educational Leadership and completed an assignment about the importance of empathy in education. George has solidified this thought by taking about how empathy is the most important component of innovation. Understanding our community is critical if we want innovation to flourish and this is why I connected so strongly with this book.

I highly recommend you read this book – to be inspired, motivated and ready to face the challenges we encounter in the 21st century world. Thank you George for your empowerment to be a better educator.

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World Class Learners

I have been inspired to write my next post after completing – World Class Learners by Yong Zhao. I recently heard Yong speak as part of an education series and his lecture left me wanting more. His views on education and how we must change what we do sit extremely comfortably with me and I agree wholeheartedly that we must take action.

Yong Zhao speaks about entrepreneurs and how employers of the world, now and in the future will be looking for school leavers who are creative and innovative. Are we allowing the floor become the ceiling? Are we setting standards that once met, there is no where to go? I have learnt over the last few years that students are capable of much more than we give them credit for. Why is it that students undertake amazing projects and produce inspiring creations, often outside of the traditional school day?

My students recently undertook a project that involved them recreating a scene from the First Fleet. With guidance and support from me, they worked on their creations at home. The work they produced was exceptional, we had large ships with many levels representing both the convicts and the captain whilst others created a scene of the arrival, from an indigenous perspective. Now don’t get me wrong – I know that they have help from family members, but deep down, I hope that they have created these pieces together, with deep discussion which leads to understanding. Perhaps we should be encouraging this collaborative family time where students are being creative and innovative at home, rather than watching the TV with no interaction?

I am making it my goal to incorporate more time for creativity in my practice as a teacher to ensure my students solve problems and think outside of the box.

My favourite reference in the book was that to sausages. When comparing the Chinese and American education systems, Yong spoke about the traditional sausage machine education in China. They aim to produce sausages – students which fit the mould and are all the same. America on the other hand follows a prescriptive teaching method which also produces sausages, but they also manage to produce bacon. Bacon was not intended but is a much appreciated by product.

The final point I want to raise is that of the student voice. Is it important that we give students a voice and allow them to contribute to the general running of the school. Much reference has been made to secondary schools but as a primary school teacher, I would like to consider the effect of student voice amongst younger students. I advocate strongly for our younger generation and feel that they have a lot to give.

More than anything, World Class Learners has given me a lot to think about and has inspired me to take action and consider how I can make a difference to the skills my students develop and embrace. I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to educate creative and entrepreneurial students of the future.

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Teach Tech Play

There I was, sitting in the school hall listening to our Principal during her welcome back to Term 2, when an overwhelming urge came over me to take out my phone and start tweeting her inspiring messages. But then I remembered – there is a time and a place for tweeting and Teach Tech Play came flooding back.

A prize! For the best tweet! The competition was on – my enthusiasm for the conference was overwhelming for my colleagues at 8am during school holidays but I knew this was going to be excellent PL. The atmosphere was alive with energy and as soon as Eleni stepped on stage to welcome us all, I was back in the learning frame of mind and ready to take risks and try something new.

Alice Keeler brought the room alive with her energy and I completely understood when she said she was feeling like a fluffy pink unicorn dancing on a rainbow. It made me realise that if we, as educators, are passionate and enthusiastic, our students will not only want to learn but also challenge themselves to make the most out of every opportunity. Her videos were engaging and her passion for Google reminded me why I was a teacher – sometimes we need this when we are feeling snowed under with the amount of work we have to do.

I was then ready to head to my first workshop; the hardest part of the two days was choosing where to go without experiencing the fear of missing out! I decided that Mike Reading’s ‘Using Technology Better’ workshop would be relevant to me at the present time and I couldn’t have been more inspired! Mike gave practical advice to ensure that we are using technology appropriately and effectively as a complement to our already strong teaching methods. The ‘Three Pillars’ – Access, Professional Development and Confidence –  gave me many ideas to take back to my school and allowed me to reflect on my use of technology in my classroom.

I can’t write a reflection on Teach Tech Play without mentioning the delicious food supplied by Ivanhoe Grammar. The morning tea and lunch provided were a great addition to the conference and it was wonderful to have a space to share ideas with colleagues and meet new people.

Following workshops on day one included a collaborative session hosted by No Tosh where we explored taking on different personas to consider questions from another perspective. This is something I am definitely going to use with my students very soon indeed! Bec Spink inspired me to integrate more coding into my teaching and learning more about Seymour Papert – I see a project coming on! The final workshop of the day – ‘Stop, Collaborate and Listen’ – was an introduction for me to the Microsoft Suite – so much to learn!

The first day ended with another inspirational Key Note – Ryan Trainor and I truly couldn’t believe the day was over. My mind was buzzing with ideas and my phone was well and truly on its last legs with all the tweeting – an early night for me to prepare for another exceptional day.

Day two was certainly not a letdown – dare I say better than day one? Mark Anderson opened the day and once again, I was ready to learn. Mark’s personality added humour, grace and passion to the room with his KISS  (keep it simple silly) analogy resonating with me. There were so many ideas from this one-hour session that I was already taking home more than I imagined I would.

Suan Yeo was a definite highlight of the two days for me. Google Expeditions have such potential and I can really see a future for exploring our world first hand. I was truly amazed at the potential and have since purchased five for my classroom in the hope that we can trial some world-wide adventures.

After his inspiring Key Note, I decided to listen to Mark once again and learn about Adobe apps. Wow! The ability to create powerful posts with Adobe Post is such an addition to my already strong ability to communicate with my school community. I then ended the day with two sessions by Alice Keeler – Sheets and Slides. As a recently qualified Google Educator, level one, I wanted to brush up on my skills and advance my learning in order to progress to level two. I wasn’t disappointed.

The day ended with some student digital leaders sharing their experience and the handing out of yet more prizes. Despite not winning the ‘Best Tweet’ prize, I was not disappointed, the conference had exceeded my expectations. I highly recommend that all educators attend this phenomenal conference next year, I know I will be there with bells on!

 

 

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Change

I have today been inspired to write my next blog post after a truly remarkable talk I heard earlier in the week. Richard Gerver came along to a professional learning event at my work place and I sat through his one hour talk completely encapsulated. This resulted in my going away to buy and read his book – Change.

The book has given me food for thought on a number of areas and has inspired me to reflect on many aspects of both my personal and professional life. As a teacher, my job is everything, I live and breathe teaching and never really stop thinking about the next idea that will engage and motivate my students. I have been inspired to ensure I know who I am not only professionally, but personally too – and it is ok if they are different! After completing the first chapter, I found that I went to grab a note book and pen and reread the introduction to this book. I knew from the first page that it was one of those books for which I would immediately connect.

One thing I love about reading books related to my career, is when the author recommends or mentions other books to read. I have added at least three new books to my wish list and feel inspired to get online and annoy the receptionist at my school with the never ending deliveries from online book stores. The only thing that saddens me is the decisions I have to make in which book to read next!

The concept of “trying new things” is the principal element I am going to take from this book. After a year of studying my Masters, I have become rigid in my routines. I would work through the week, quite often 12 hour days, and my weekends would be spent reading and studying for my next assignment. I would get up on a Saturday morning, go on the same walk, eat breakfast in the same cafe, come home and sit in the same spot to study. I have now nearly completed my first ‘study free’ month and I have to admit, I am finding the new unstructured routine challenging. However, a new wave of motivation has hit! Change is good and I will challenge myself to try new things and step out of my comfort zone. Richard made a suggestion of going to see a movie alone – something I have never done but is now on my ‘trying new things’ list.

Richard has challenged me to consider my ‘brand.’ What do I stand for? What are my passions and interests? This is a harder question to answer than you might originally think. I challenge you to consider this and create your personal brand for how you want others to perceive you. This idea was addressed during my recent studies in educational leadership and is something which had slipped my mind in the madness of trying to write 15000 words on the future of education. I now wish I had heard Richard speak before submitting my paper as my ideas have developed and I have been inspired to think a little differently. Perhaps that is what is good about change, only months later, my viewpoints and ideas have developed, not necessarily for the better, but in considering different viewpoints we allow ourselves to adapt and be flexible.

I encourage all educators to read this book. I have personally been inspired to think about myself and who I want to be, to challenge myself, try new things and make an effort to get to know people who I may be threatened by or who are the polar opposite of who I am. I will trust in those around me who give me advice and will treasure those whom I can be honest with and who I can share my feelings without censoring them.

Change is a powerful tool and it will be my goal to not only accept change but to embrace and encourage it for the better good of myself and my students.

The importance of Empathy in Educational Leaders

I am currently undertaking a Masters in Educational Management at the University of Melbourne and a recent assignment asked me to consider various leadership theories and look upon well-known leaders to assess their styles.

Whilst undertaking research into the successful leadership of the South African President, Nelson Mandela, it became apparent that empathy played an integral part of his leadership style. Contemplating this aroused an interest in the importance of empathy in educational leaders of today.

I completed an online assessment to analyse my own leadership style and upon completion, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my top strength was empathy. Now my mind really was alive, the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle were finally falling into place. Mandela had inspired me to think further about this intriguing trait and I was finding that I personally had an element of empathy in my personality and I wanted to analyse the connection to leadership.

It became apparent to me that empathy is much more than being compassionate or sensitive towards another and many of us claim to be empathic without truly understanding the meaning. School principals and executive leaders communicate and interact with a wide variety of people on a daily basis. Students, teachers, parents and the wider community make up a large percentage of their daily interactions and positive relationships are imperative. Does empathy make a difference to the success of our leaders? Can empathy be learnt? Is empathy an important trait in order to lead and influence the many people we encounter in education?

The research undertaken into the importance of empathy has led me to develop my own Model of Positive Empathy for Leaders. Several characteristics are commonly mentioned in the research into the importance of emotions and considering the feelings of others. There are six in particular for which I feel are a true indication of a harmonious culture.

Empathy Heart

Figure 1: Self Developed – Model of Positive Empathy for Leaders (Glenton 2015)

(Graphics constructed by K. McClintock 2015)

This model demonstrates that having empathy is not enough. Successful leaders should act positively upon this empathy in order to develop the six traits displayed. If a school leader does this, they will ultimately develop a harmonious culture. The six characteristics will now be explained further.

  • Empowerment

Transformational leaders empower their followers to feel that their contributions are valued. It is my belief that if we empower those who work with us, we will ultimately develop a positive culture.

  • Motivation

If we can enable our staff to be motivated to be the best they can be and be passionate for their work, emotions are positive and staff feel content and that they are making a difference and will be open to new challenges. This creates a culture of optimism.

  • Persuasion (to follow the shared vision)

Many marketing websites offer techniques on how to empathically communicate with customers to lure them in. It is my opinion that Mandela used the art of persuasion as one of his key leadership traits which ultimately assisted in his success.

  • Awakening

Awakening describes the ability of a leader to enable their staff to have a clear understanding and belief of their vision and be inspired to act upon it.

  • Trust

Leaders who display empathy and act positively to improve the working conditions of their staff will ultimately develop a culture of trust. School leaders should build relationships inside the school community.

  • High morale

Having high morale enables people to be encouraged and enthusiastic about their job which in turn encourages them to complete their job to the best of their ability.

  • Harmony

If these six characteristics are fostered amongst staff, it is my belief that this seventh trait will automatically develop. A harmonious culture in the institution will, amongst other things, assist in increasing student outcomes which is the ultimate goal of a school leader.

 

If school leaders can truly understand how their staff and students feel, they can then take positive actions to improve their working conditions and ultimately achieve positive student outcomes.

The model proposed suggests an idea for leaders to consider when attempting to adjust the culture of their organisation or adapt their own leadership to becoming more transformational in their approach. It is apparent from the research undertaken that understanding the emotions of our teachers and students has a positive impact on performance. We must consider, however, that there are many influences on leadership and the most successful leaders adapt their style to suit the situation. I propose that by simply considering developing empathy as a lifelong skill, and positively acting on these emotions, can only assist a leader in becoming more influential and to be considered as someone who has positively impacted the lives of others.

Flamingo Teacher

 

New Years Resolutions

I am not someone who has really made new years resolutions in the past, or if I have, they have been very short lived. I have therefore decided that writing a blog is going to be my goal of 2016.

I am a 33 (soon to be 34) year old primary school teacher, living in Melbourne, Australia. I moved here in 2010 to experience life in another country. I have been a teacher for just over 11 years and have mostly taught Prep (Foundation Year) and Year 4.

This year, I have been completing my Masters in Educational Management and I have learnt a great deal about myself and others. I am also a Google Educator and feel passionately about integrating technology in the classroom.

In my personal life, I am a passionate reader. Reading is my escape from the stresses of life. I am also an avid walker and lover of food. In 2013, I went on a life changing journey which saw me lose close to 50kg. Being health conscious is now an integral part of who I am.

This blog will combine education with health tips and my passion for reading. Hopefully you will enjoy some of what I have to say and might even learn something along the way.

Flamingo Teacher