Tag Archives: resilience

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Dealing with disapointment

It is Friday evening and I am feeling down and disappointed. You see, I applied to be part of the Google Teacher Academy that is coming to Sydney in April. And I, along with many other amazing educators was not successful. Now please don’t get me wrong, this post will not be a rant about the how and why of I was not chosen. I am deeply disappointed but I will move on, I will find other ways to learn and grow as a teacher.

Instead I am trying to use this situation to learn from and reflect on. In particular I have been thinking how do we as teachers help, guide and assist our students to deal with such disappointments?

The sport staff at my school tell me that every year the interference from parents gets worse, that it gets harder and harder to deal with parents who are deeply disappointed and even angry when their children do not make the ‘A’ team in everything. I too have had parents come to me anxious and upset when their students were not made school captain, or performed badly on an important national test.

Last year one of the key words for our year group was resilience. In class we talked a lot about developing resilience but whether we actually helped our students learn it, is hard to measure. Without deliberately causing disappointment how can we teach our students and families to become more resilient? To realise that not everything in life can go their way, all the time.

Pernille Ripp wrote a reflective post last year on her pain at missing out on an edublogs award.  She was not complaining about missing out but merely pointing out how disappointing any award ceremony is for those who miss out. Pernille is a teacher who dislikes awards in her classroom and reading her post I really understood her perspective. Yet as I write this I cannot help but feel that it is only by missing out sometimes, by not getting the award, or not winning the prize, or by not making the team, can our students and their families ever truly learn the resilience they will need in life.

And as for me? I will have to show resilience when reading of those more successful that me on twitter tonight. You see I was really, really hoping I could go. I had planned how Google would be my focus this year. And now I will need to find something else.

Luckily for me, this afternoon I also read this tweet.

@deangroom If you didn’t make #gtasyd, come play with virtual worlds and games. No limits, no rejections. A lot less typing.

And that reminded me, that joining and taking the training for Quest Atlantis was also on my ‘to-do- list for this year. So now I have no excuse for not getting on with it!

pencilsthumb

Testing in the Primary classroom – NAPLAN

It’s National Assesment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) week here in Australia. For those of you overseas what this has meant for my class is the following:

On Tuesday they had a 40 minute language test of grammar and spelling, followed by a 50 minute narrative writing test. On Wednesday they took a 50 minute reading comprehension test. And today, Thursday, they finished off with a 50 minute maths test. All of these, excluding the narrative writing, were largely multiple choice.

This is my fifth year teaching Year 5 at my current school, so I am well used to these diagnostic tests. Prior to NAPLAN being introduced it was called the Basic Skills Test and it was administered in August each year.

So why am I telling you this? Well for the first time ever I am actually feeling more than a little nervous about the testing and the results my students might achieve. And that is wrong, so wrong. The reason I am feeling nervous is complex but essentially driven by the furore over the My Schools Website and the resulting league tables that have been published from it.

Most of my assessment is formative and my class are well used by now to receiving work back from me covered in my pink scrawl. Yes, I use hot fluro pink and they use green, so much nicer than red don’t you think? I do not have a problem with NAPLAN as such, after all it will provide me with useful diagnostic information. Which will inform me about how best to help my students. I am however, distinctly feeling anxious for my students and school to score higher than it did last year and so not slip down the league table.

I know that I am a creative, interesting and inspiring teacher. I know that most of my students will try their hardest in these tests, as they do in all the work I ask them to do. I also know that in the past few weeks I have devoted a very small amount of time to NAPLAN practice tests. My excuse is that I have a busy, full and diverse timetable. I also know that repetitive grammar and spelling exercises will send even the most motivated of student to sleep.

Anecdotally though, I am hearing tales of schools devoting hours to NAPLAN preparation, of students being kept away from school during the testing in case their results should pull a school down. Of teachers being unable to teach from their core program because they must spend all their time drilling their classes in basic facts. I even read today of a teacher being stood down after a cheating allegation.

In the May 12  edition of the e-School News is written this opening paragraph. “To remain competitive in an increasingly global, knowledge-based economy, today’s employers need graduates who are adept at so-called ’21st-century skills’ such as using information and communications technology (ICT) to gather and assess information, collaborate, innovate, think critically, and solve problems.”

I am concerned for my future as a primary teacher because I do not want to spend my days only teaching spelling, grammar, structured writing and maths facts. I want to continue as a teacher who engages and inspires my students. I currently do that with a full and interesting program, one in which the use of ICT is paramount, where maths is hands on, spelling is interesting and differentiated. Grammar has its place but is not studied daily. Where the reading of a good book is valued. Where students take risks, are challenged and come to school happy, interested and eager to learn.

So with this in mind, today NAPLAN  is now over and tomorrow my students will be having a creative problem solving day. They will need to ‘gather and assess information, collaborate, innovate, think critically, and solve problems’.

Watch this space for details of the amazing day I know we will have – I can’t wait to get there.

Relationships, Resilience, Respect, Responsibility

local wildlife in the bush near Sydney

These four words have been chosen by my co-teacher Pru to reflect Year 5 2010, we are using them extensively in our PDH program and they define our approach to much of what we are trying to achieve. As I lay in bed last night trying to sleep on my lumpy camp mattress and pillow I reflected on how they seem to have defined our year 5 camp experience too.

I am on camp. Years 5 and 6 are spending 3 days together in a beautiful bushland setting north of Sydney. ‘Challenge by Choice’ is the theme of this camp, challenging activities offered to the girls by young exciting leaders trained in the art of persuading youngsters to abseil down a sheer cliff face or rock climb up an indoor climbing wall. They have also played team building games in the pool, tried their hand at damper making, learned bush craft survival skills, bmx bike riding and archery.

We always go on camp at this early stage in the year as we find it really helps in the building of relationships and in of the forging of new friendships. Away from home most of the girls adapt quickly, they muck in, have fun give it a go.

Some girls are already resilient, it seems to be inbuilt, they will give everything a go, up the highest rock face, first down the bmx track, over the edge of the cliff face.  I watched one fall off her bike, get up, fall down, get up again and keep on going, she is already resilient, nothing fazes her, she seeks no approval for her actions, she just is who she is.  Others are building resilience, slowly and carefully. One of my students was very nervous about coming away, I spoke to her Mother and she was determined for her to stay. She spent most of the first day and much of the second day sobbing. She felt sick, she had a sore tummy, you name it she tried it. Today camp ends, today she will go home. She feels proud, she made it. We agreed together that she may never like camp but she will always know that she did it. She made it through 3 days away from home. She built resilience.

Last night we had a camp concert, a time for the show offs to perform, to strut their stuff, to shine in the lime light, not everyone wanted to take part, some did reluctantly, dragged in by their friends. Respect was shown to all, as even the worst performers, the off key singers and the slightly strange skits were wildly applauded. The cheering for them all rang out into the night. The judges may have scored them poorly but that did not matter, they left the stage heads held high with the respect of their peers ringing in their ears.

Now they are packing up, finding lost belonging, fitting clothes into bulging suitcases. Taking responsibility for their possessions without Mum to help is new and hard for some. No one is helping them pack though, no one will carry their luggage and they  can take that responsibility on.

We believe and maybe you do too, that these re words will form our core values this year, since it is only by developing relationships, building  resilience, earning respect and taking responsibility, will these girls fully develop into the learners they will need to be for the future.