Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Navel-gazing? Maybe. Productive? You bet :D

I wrote this post about 2 weeks ago and never posted it because I wasn’t sure if it was good enough….Anyway, there’s no way I’m going to be able to write anything as coherent now so I’m just gonna post it….

OK, so I attended some PD (Professional Development) last week (NB – ‘twas at least 2 weeks ago now), and a discussion arose about the Registered Teacher Criteria - this is the new criteria that semi-spurred me into creating this blog. To clarify, one of the criterion is that teachers are expected to demonstrate that they are actively reflecting on their own teaching practice. So I thought a blog would be a fun way to both reflect and prove that I’m doing so. Also, I’d wanted to start a blog for ages but couldn’t think what the hell to blog about - experts reckon you should blog about what you are passionate about - so the logical choice for me was to blog about teaching. Seemed pretty straight-forward to me. Anyway, one of the facilitators taking the PD commented that reflection needs to be productive and not simply “navel-gazing.”

Of course, I was insulted by this comment. And then I thought about it a bit more and realised that the facilitator was right. Kind of. I do need to act on (or react to) my reflections. It’s the whole inquiry cycle thing (see the NZ Curriculum). But when I teach a poor lesson, I reflect straight away. I don’t actually need to sit down and follow a template and/or write about it. I can see if the work I set my students was too hard immediately by the students’ behaviour; if the work is not achievable they will simply switch off…and begin talking…and texting…and being generally off-task … so I make sure that I am actually pitching the lesson at the right level(s) in my next class, as I don’t want a repeat of that rather unproductive, vaguely stressful lesson. Similarly, when students are bored, I can tell straight away - they don’t bother contributing, they have that glazed expression on their face, they slump over (and I have to tell them to “sit up”), or they might say (rather loudly, in my experience), “this is boring. I’m bored.” So it’s really not brain surgery, reflecting on the day to day teaching of your classes. No teacher wants a repeat of the lesson-from-hell, so we all do our best to avoid just that.

I must admit, I don’t really use this blog to reflect on the units I’ve taught – I know what’s worked well, based on student engagement and results. But I realise that reflection on taught units is something I need to document more carefully, and I will try to do this for the remainder of the year.

Interestingly, a significant proportion of my blog posts so far have been reflections on two aspects of my job; the systems (in particular, assessment) and the workload. So I have to wonder - why? Why do I blog about these issues so often? Well, because these are the two most challenging and stressful aspects of my job; managing the horrendously never-ending workload whilst trying to stay sane, and actually dealing with all the systems and procedures that come with teaching in a school and assessing senior students. And if it’s simply “navel-gazing” to critique the issues and faults in these areas of the job, then I’m all for navel-gazing…

I think it’s really important to reflect openly in public about these issues. True, I might not be able to act on them as quickly or efficiently as I would like to. (That’s not to say I don’t try though…I do almost pity some of my workmates who listen to me go on about the changes we need to make to things in preparation for next year…). Personally, I would like to see more democratic assessment procedures in my school for NCEA assessments in my subject. I would also like to see accurate terminology linked to the curriculum used when reporting to parents (verbally, as well as in written reports). I would like teachers to be able to leave their prejudices behind when they enter the classroom, in particular, when it comes to teaching the not-so-high-achieving students. I would like to see teacher’s salaries come into line with the importance of education in society. I would like to see pastoral care contact-time, such as form time, acknowledged in our pay. But I can’t actually change the system on my own, in one week. Or one month. Or one year. I can do my best to make those changes happen through the systems that we have in place and by building positive relationships with colleagues. I can work together with teachers to implement changes over time that make things fairer and better for both students and teachers. And I can reflect and discuss and work through the injustices I see in schools in writing on my blog, and then with my colleagues. In my opinion, reflection on schools’ systems are just as important as individual teacher reflections on their practice.

…that is all. EB is back and I have to write reports (somehow) so I possibly won’t post for a while. Unless something pops up that really irks me, heh.

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