Monday, 10 June 2019

Blog Break

Hi all, 

For a few reason's I'm going to take a blogging break for a few weeks:

I've injured my finger at touch!

Also, as always, here are my goals:

To make time for my mental and physical health. 
To carry out all my roles (teacher, HSA director and Across Schools CoL) to the best of my ability. 
To support staff wellbeing. 
To actively maintain a positive personal outlook.

It's nearing the end of Term 2 and it's always the most stressful term for me. In Term 2 I try to run a lot of internals for my seniors, and they sort of.. aren't feeling the pressure or any sense of urgency just yet. I take on board most of the stress! In Term 3 they realize it's crunch time and that it's basically their last term at school - it's the best time to teach exams because they see impending value in their learning - even if it IS just high-stake exams.

Term 2 means LOTS of feedback and marking, practice practicals, moderation, and I'm feeling a little snowed under. Pausing my weekly blog for a few weeks will give me extra minutes back to try and do the core of my roles! 

I'll keep chipping away at my interviews of last Year's Y8 teachers (probably voice-recording interviews as holding a pen is a little tricky at the mo) and will start to analyse their answers soon. 

See you in a few weeks.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Week 5... halfway?

To make time for my mental and physical health. 
To carry out all my roles (teacher, HSA director and Across Schools CoL) to the best of my ability. 
To support staff wellbeing. 
To actively maintain a positive personal outlook. 
  • Visits to the gym this week: A.. half. I didn't sleep well one night and had a terrible day (likely as a result) and after a passing chat to one of the school's social workers, decided to go to the gym to cheer up. I tried to do a class and accidentally chose the hardest class I've ever been to. Think I made it about 3/4 of the way through before deciding that was enough! 
  • McDonald's eaten: none. 
  • Casual sports games played this week: 2 games of touch, one with no subs so that was good.
  • Books read: Vladimir Putin continues.. I am making my way slowly through the book.. it's very dense and factual but fascinating. I would recommend it!  I also ended up watching a short series on youtube of him being interviewed about Russian interference in the American presidential election. 
  • Teaching highlights: 
    • Going in to set up the plant investigations with Panmure Bridge Year 8's - they describe their perspectives here:
    • Another period I enjoyed was one of complete concentration (and dead silence) as Year 13 attacked their massive booklet of readings for their upcoming assessment. The reading pack includes 2-3 newspaper articles, a welfare report, three completely full-on scientific peer-reviewed journal articles, and a herd book. It's ENORMOUS.  Students requested it be on paper for them, so they could highlight and annotate, and quickly flick back and forth.
    • It is quite incredible to me that the kids arriving in Year 9 struggle to focus and read five paragraphs at a time, and yet if they want to go to university through Biology, then this is the level of reading that's expected (for Excellence) in Year 13:

    • This is also a comment on the rigours and demands of biology as a subject. I think it's unreasonable to expect students to work THIS hard for just THREE credits in Biology - there are certainly 'easier' subjects to take that still pathway to university! And the standard is just getting higher and higher; I have friends in two different schools who have dropped two different standards because external moderation came back at a ridiculously high - Stage 2 or 3 of University - sort of level to be awarded an Excellence.
    • It feels like someone out there is actively TRYING to scare kids away from Biology! The NZ Biology Teachers facebook page said the same thing after the Scholarship-level Human Evolution exam last year, and the impossibility of sitting three exams to Excellence in three hours. Even as a university graduate and a teacher of Biology, it took me 2 hours and 45 minutes last year to write just 2 Excellence-level scripts - I found it physically impossible to read, (barely) plan, and hand-write/scrawl out answers in the given time.
    • Anyway, that was a small tangent! My kiddies spent a full 50 minutes slowly reading and highlighting the texts and creating drafts of the shape their assessments will take. I was really proud of them.
    • Probably my FAVOURITE teaching moment in the whole week was Laite requesting a new thriller from my class library. Then Jen requested the book Laite had just returned. Then Gloria asked for a book too, so I gave her one narrated by a very witty and sarcastic djinn. Then Jeff quietly asked for a book - he turned down the true survival story of a guy chopping off his own arm and instead took away one of my teenage favourites; City of Masks. I feel like that one teeny after-the-bell interaction was maybe the most impact I've made as a teacher in this entire year. If I can get kids to enjoy reading, I will consider myself successful :)
  • CoL things: 
    • I interviewed another two teachers about their class' reading comprehension in 2018. 
    • Attended the after school CoL teacher meeting on Thursday.
  • Health Science Academy Things: 
    • Took the class off to the Careers Conference. One of the students report she enjoyed herself because she got to see different careers, although there were none that were 'new' to her. She now knows that podiatry definitely isn't for her, but enjoyed the physio demonstration and having the experience of using a wheelchair with the occupational therapist. More than anything, I think she enjoys the connections with other schools and feeling supported. The students have created their own instagram chat group to keep in touch, which fires up around the time of meetings. 
  • Teacher well-being support: 
    • This week was the 'Brown About Town' Pub quiz. Alex is too good at pub quizzes, so he was banned from playing and given the Quizmaster role instead! We had two teams vying for first place, and in the end Karen, Vaughan and I (supported for a time by Graham and Aman) came out on top!
    • Gratitude emails sent: none this week.

    Thursday, 30 May 2019

    Week 4 Summary

    To make time for my mental and physical health. 
    To carry out all my roles (teacher, HSA director and Across Schools CoL) to the best of my ability. 
    To support staff wellbeing. 
    To actively maintain a positive personal outlook. 
    • Visits to the gym this week: One, I think.
    • McDonald's eaten: one BLT and coffee again.
    • Casual sports games played this week: 1 game of touch.
    • Books read: Still slogging through the Vladimir Putin book.
    • Teaching highlights: Definitely Period 4 on Friday when our student teacher Ms Cheyne revealed she'd written a song about CRISPR to the tune of Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together," which the Year 13 class then proceeded to sing through twice with absolute gusto. 
    • CoL things: 
      • On Monday I went in to Panmure Bridge to teach some science to a small group of Y8 learners. We are going to set up investigations into the best fertiliser to grow food on mars! You can read some of their recounts here:  
      • On Tuesday I visited Karen's class at her request, to record data on the talk happening in her classroom. Here are the fascinating results she uncovered. 
      • I also interviewed three teachers later in the week about how some of their students may have accelerated in their reading comprehension during 2018! I'll be doing a qualitative analysis and looking for trends in their answers later. 
    • Health Science Academy: Had a meeting with one of the tutor kiddies and the Year 11 Dean to set some academic goals, and also some around being on time to class.. We will both monitor progress for two weeks and meet again. I also had to submit a report to Mrs Pamaka on the HSA. 
    • Teacher well-being support: This week I asked the PE staff if they would set up and run a game of badminton for us! Great fun had by all - and lots of red, sweaty faces at the end. Thanks PE :)
    From left: Karen, me, Alex and Caitlin

    From left: Brenton, Vaughan, Cunard, Lepa
      • Gratitude emails sent: none this week.

      Tuesday, 21 May 2019

      Week 3 Summary

      To make time for my mental and physical health. 
      To carry out all my roles (teacher, HSA director and Across Schools CoL) to the best of my ability. 
      To support staff wellbeing. 
      To actively maintain a positive personal outlook. 
      • Visits to the gym this week: Zero. Terrible. Was so exhausted on Wednesday that I went straight home, napped for an hour and a half, made dinner, ate, and went to sleep for another 9 hours.
      • McDonald's eaten: one BLT and coffee again.
      • Casual sports games played this week: 1 game of touch.
      • Books read: Started my first non-fiction book... perhaps ever? It's about the rise of Vladimir Putin.
      • Teaching highlights: Mum coming in to volunteer with the Year 9 class. She came in with her paperwork on Friday last period as I was about to take them - so I invited her in to meet them and see what a class is like. Mum's going to help with the reading of the 4 ESOL/low-reading ability students in the class. They really do require as much 1:1 reading time and support as possible, and I just can't provide that quality or quantity of time within their large, energetic class. It was both nice and nerve-wracking to have my Mum watch me teach. I was more worried about what she'd think of me as a teacher than I ever was recording Class OnAir for the general/teaching public. The kids were GREAT and took to her well - Mum said "one of them was calling 'Miss, Miss!' and I thought she meant you - but she was asking for me!" They're so used to visitors from being in Manaiakalani schools.
      • CoL things: Russell Burt and I sent out emails to principals of the teachers who helped The 31 accelerate in their reading last year to ask if I could please meet and chat with some teachers! 
        • I met with one of the teachers from Glenbrae and we had a fabulous chat about what reading looked like in her class last year and what she thought might have caused the acceleration of each student individually, as well as as a class. 
      • Health Science Academy: Completed the paperwork for our May 31st Careers Conference at North Shore Hospital. It's our last trip for the year. And continued to track the class attendance at Period Zero - students know they must attend 70% of Period Zero tutorials to stay in the HSA next year. It's one of the only expectations they need to meet, to show that they want to invest in their goals and future as much as we are. 
      • Teacher well-being support: I arranged for my team-mate Joey to come in and run a session for us about breathing and meditation. I learnt so much! He told us about the different muscles used to breathe as we age, and how it's linked to sleep. We practiced breathing with our diaphragm and then did some guided meditation. It was really relaxing, and I'm pretty sure a few people were close to nodding off! Karen messaged me the next morning that she'd slept better. Joey mentioned some apps he finds useful, so if you'd like to check them out they're called Smiling, and Insight Timer. He also said "Mountain Meditation is a good guided meditation track by Andy Hobson." Thanks for visiting, Joey!
      • Gratitude emails sent: none this week.

      Sunday, 12 May 2019

      Week 2 - Creative!

      To make time for my mental and physical health. 
      To carry out all my roles (teacher, HSA director and Across Schools CoL) to the best of my ability. 
      To support staff wellbeing. 
      To actively maintain a positive personal outlook. 
      • Visits to the gym this week: One on Saturday again. The first-week excitement of joining a new gym QUICKLY wore off. 
      • McDonald's eaten: one BLT and coffee when I was running so late I wouldn't get a chance to heat my porridge before my fully booked day began. 
      • Casual sports games played this week: 1 game of touch again - I didn't stay to fill in for random teams because Kurt was patiently waiting for me to get home to watch Game of Thrones!
      • Books read: I'm slowly slowly working my way through the book Karen gave me at our Week 1 Holiday Book swap!
      • Teaching highlights: 
        • My absolute favourite was the double-period study session with Year 9. I had created a series of revision activities to help them study for their upcoming test, and they ABSOLUTELY LOVED bringing it up to me, getting feedback and then getting to colour in another rectangle to show their progress on the board! The majority of the class worked incredibly well through a full 95 minute block of time.
        • Year 13 used play-doh to illustrate one of three delivery methods for getting CRISPR into cells. They're presenting them to each other in class tomorrow. 

        • On Friday last period I asked Russell to come and help me run a busy practical lesson with Year 9 to reward them for their fabulous study and sitting of their first science test. It definitely required 2 teachers. We also had my student teacher Caitlin helping to supervise, and Chris the teacher aide there for safety too. On one half of the room we had three stations; dry ice rockets, dry ice bubbles and dry ice target-practice. In the other half of the room we had elephant's toothpaste! All the students absolutely loved it. I haven't trusted them with chemicals since they showed they couldn't listen to safety instructions during the tectonic-plate sandwich debacle of '19. It was time to give them another chance - and they did MUCH better this time around.

      • CoL things: I'm waiting on permission to speak to a few teachers around their teaching of reading comprehension, but need to follow the right procedure to do so. 
        • I ran a 'create' session in the Monday PD which 3 people attended. We all created educational songs. We quickly recorded Vaughan's one about language features. 
      • Health Science Academy: This week I ran our second parent fono evening, which was attended by Tuliana, David and Ola from the WDHB, two guest speakers - Sela and Agnes - three parents/caregivers (one I hadn't met before, so it was lovely to connect) and three students, two of whom gave speeches! It was an enjoyable night. I just wish more parents had made the commitment to come. One thing I learnt was not to run it on a Wednesday in Term 3 as it clashes with church events, and to call earlier - probably even before sending home letters (that seem to remain in the bottom of student's bags)! 
        • I also recorded Leo and Makoni's speech, in the hope that it would help them to gain 4 Speech credits in English. They both spoke for over 4 minutes and were both confident to speak off-speech spontaneously. They were engaging and entertaining! I've sent the video off to their English teachers :) 
      • Teacher wellbeing support: this week we had a shared lunch on Friday, and about... 12 teachers contributed food? Everyone enjoyed it. Will have to repeat in Term 3. 
      • Gratitude emails sent: tagged Graham in a facebook post telling him he's doing a good job both 'Dadding and teaching.' 

      Sunday, 5 May 2019

      Week 1 Term 2 - Back At It Again

      To make time for my mental and physical health. 
      To carry out all my roles (teacher, HSA director and Across Schools CoL) to the best of my ability. 
      To support staff wellbeing. 
      To actively maintain a positive personal outlook. 
      • Visits to the gym this week: FOUR!! I decided to join a second gym, so now I'm a member of one on each side of the city. Why? And isn't that a waste of money? No because now when I'm early I can go move my body and exercise rather than sit around and eat scones and BLT bagels, which was getting so frequent at the end of the term that it was costing me $45 a week. 
      • McDonald's eaten: zero McDonald's visits this week. Too busy doing silly ballet and weightlifting classes at the gym.
      • Casual sports games played this week: 1 game of touch, but it's 5-a-side so it's INTENSE.
      • Books read: Currently have three sitting on my bedside table but none of them have grabbed me. Taking recommendations.  

      • Teaching highlights: 
        • Two activities with Year 13:
        The first was an introductory research activity into CRISPR (but not actually about CRISPR). It led students to research two famous people related to CRISPRs use or discovery, and a few extra bits and bobs I found interesting. We ran the activity as a jigsaw - two teams, with each person in the team responsible for one part, and then presenting back to their team. These Year 13's really seem to enjoy this format of learning, with presentations at the end. It motivates them to take pride in their segment of the learning and share it to the others.  The activity stimulated curiosity and a lot of really relevant questions being asked, which led on nicely to the next day.

        Here is one group's presentation

        And here is the other's 

        The second activity was end of a double-period the very next day, once there was a lot of curiosity combined with a basic understanding of CRISPR (from the first half of the lesson). 

        Students modelled CRISPR by 'reading' the 'genome' (segments of DNA stuck to desks around the room) to find the 'gene' that matched their own personal 'gRNA' (a strand of RNA stuck to the top of their scissors). 

        Once they found their 'gene,' they used 'Cas-9' (the scissors) to 'cleave' (cut) the double-stranded DNA at that precise loci (location). 

        Then they used the 'template' of a 'healthy gene' (attached at bottom of scissors) to 'knock in a gene' as the cell 'repaired the DNA' (stuck it all back together).

        I also really enjoyed collecting in questions from the class at the end of the period. The next day I shared with them my 'first draft' answers, and asked them to split-screen as they would when creating a 'second draft' of a University assessment (because we all know you don't hand in your first draft - they looked at me absolutely aghast as I said this). 

        Each person was then responsible for 'editing' my 'first draft' into a more succinct and clear 'second draft.' You can see their 'second draft' here. Then they explained and were quizzed on the answer they had just adjusted by a peer. It was a useful activity for:
        ~ learning about an area of CRISPR they were curious about.
        ~ learning how to split-screen (Laite didn't know and thought it was fabulous).
        ~ learning one way they can edit and create a second draft for assessments. 
        • CoL things: I collected student evidence by spending 4 hours interviewing students about their perspectives on reading, and then time after that analysing the qualitative data. Also further analysed PAT results (see previous posts).
        • Teacher wellbeing support: ran the Week 1 book swap again, but this time only Karen and I had books to swap so that was actually a bit sad! 
        • Gratitude emails sent: none.

        Thursday, 2 May 2019

        Holiday Drop-Off in The 31?

        We often hear about 'summer holiday drop-off' in our student's results and hypothesise about what that means, what causes it and how we can overcome it. 

        However! My data analysis has revealed some great news! 

        For the 31 year 9 Tamaki College students who accelerated in their reading comprehension last year, this wasn't a phenomenon. They made progress in their holidays at the same rate as the rest of NZ. It just wasn't as much as they made during their school year, which is encouraging because that means teachers and schools can help and DO have an impact on the students in their classes! :)

        Interestingly, 'summer holiday drop-off' is also not a phenomenon in the averaged reading comprehension results of ANY Year 9 Manaiakalani years who arrived at Tamaki College in the last three years; as you can see, the trend continues upwards from the last Year 8 result to the first Year 9 result. 

        Why might that be? Maybe students are nervous or excited about starting secondary and do some online research or reading over their break! Some might participate in the summer holiday learning journey, but the spread of participants probably include primary students too. The drop-off can't be a function of testing in Primary schools, (that students perhaps aren't prepared for their Term 1 test but do a lot of practice or pre-testing in class before the Term 4 one) because this would show again from Y8 to Y9 as in Y9 students receive little preparation and just head in to sit the test under standard test conditions. In summary - I don't really have a strong hypothesis for why there's drop-off between primary years but not between primary and secondary! 

        If we look at the top graph again, the reason why my inquiry is important is revealed: 

        Individually, each of the 31 accelerated in reading up towards the national mean during their school year. This is shown as an average in the graph above. Then, they have tracked along with the rest of NZ over the holidays to reach their Year 9 score, and didn't drift further away from the mean. This holiday improvement is an average again, as 22 improved on their final Y8 score but 9 dropped.

        The challenge here is "can I find out what caused this Year 8 acceleration?" Because wouldn't it be awesome if they made the same amount of progress in Year 9 and crossed that national mean line!  AND wouldn't it be amazing if whole classes and year groups could manage this, and the Manaiakalani cluster became as good at improving reading as we are at improving writing.

        I don't teach all of the 31 - in fact, I only teach 3 of them. So it's important that I create and share something from the findings of my inquiry, so teachers across the cluster can have a go too!