I had such a wonderful experience today! I was sitting on a bus heading off to one of the prac schools I went to visit, when suddenly two of my ex-students hopped on and came to sit with me, saying: “Remember us, we were your students three years ago and now we’re both teaching in Indonesia and we’re teaching functional grammar (in context!), visual literacy (we’re using films and analysing shot sequences with the kids!) , and multiliteracies - all because of what you taught us - and our classrooms are going so well and the students we have stand out so much that we’re doing professional development sessions with lots of other teachers to share it with them”.
After the initial surprise I felt soooo happy and proud! A man sitting in a seat across the aisle stood up to leave and as he was waiting for the bus to pull up said, “that was the best story I’ve heard in a long time”. It was so nice and so rewarding to hear. Both of them told me that they wished they’d paid even more attention because they now realise HOW IMPORTANT it is, and they wish they could sit in my classes all over again! They’re coming to visit me soon to get updates before they return to Indonesia. I’ve been walking around with a silly smile on my face all day.
More prac visits today - since I have no car it means public transport and walking. In between one place and the next I walked along Wilson street, which has a long section of corrugated fence covered with skipping girls!
Today was a very busy day and none of it actually spent in my Uni office.
Until about 3:30pm I was out and about doing more prac teaching visits. These next two weeks I have to spend a lot more time watching and observing the students in action than the past three weeks. Today I watched a drama lesson. I love drama - I worked as a drama consultant for 2 years and did my masters research thesis in drama. This has its benefits and drawbacks for the poor student I was evaluating. One the one hand, I think I pointed out lots of ways she could develop her techniques, strategies, and objectives for future lessons (and I really encouraged her and did it in a very supportive manner!). But on the other hand, I feel badly about giving too much critique - I pointed out all the things I liked as well, so I am hoping it was a positive experience for her.
There’s something I have really noticed in NSW schools in stark comparison to Tasmanian schools. The classrooms are totally ghastly in terms of style, colour scheme, caring for the room, and making it a welcoming and stimulating environment for the children. There’s a complete lack of artistic vision anywhere, and kids work is simply tacked up all over every single square inch of the walls, the floor, the celing, handing across the room, dnagling everywhere, shoved into every space possible. It’s a nightmare and considerably lacking aesthetically. I am shocked every time I visit a room about how lacking in respect to the children, the space and the place they are. I am going to hunt out photos of my classroom and start adding them to my lectures to point out basic common sense about presentation of work.
I followed these principles in my classroom:
- children’s work is double mounted on card and pinned in small groups on the designated display boards. It is changed often to ensure that each child’s piece of work gets a turn.
- I had cane screens, cane tables, cane baskets, a coffee table an easel I stained with special polish, several large pot plants, a cane arch with special books of the week displayed it in, a cork board for the display of weekly favourite art work.
- background colours on boards or any display space was neutral so that it didn’t detract from the focus on the child’s work
- the class was divided into spaces - reading corner, art area, learning centres, group work, and whole class areas.
- pine boxes stacked on each other made cool bookshelves or learning centre areas
- no teacher’s desk! it sets up divisions and assumptions, makes for laziness in working about the room with groups and wastes valuable child space. My special chair and coffee table at the front of the room was my space some of the time, but all of the equipment was set up in spaces for self serve areas for the kids.
- children’s desks were in groups to encourage co-operative learning.
- In always had a display of interesting objects that could be used for storybuilding, writing inspiration, drama etc…
- I had pottery pipes with long grasses in them here and there
- i had lots of neutral coloured cushions in the reading corner (colour scheme is so important!)
- No clutter!
- displays of children’s writing should be either in book format and added to a special basket in the reading corner, or mounted on card and placed at children’s eye level where they can actually read it!!
Honestly, learning spaces and the environment really has such an impact on the classroom atmosphere, yet here in NSW schools all I see is a mass of mess - ugh!!! We used to have consultants who would come around giving talks and helping teachers do make-overs to their classrooms to maximise the learning spaces and to make it aesthetically pleasing. Valuing the children’s work by double mounting, display, and organising the room properly really sends out an important message to them.
I should become a private consultant and do a TV classroom make-over reality tv show - it would be the only way possible that I’d see a change happen in some of these horrendously ugly classrooms.
Now, besides having my rant of the day about that, today I also:
- spent a couple of hours with my Masters student - luckily we met at my house for our meeting and it was relaxed, productive, and uninterrupted.
- marked about 15 more assignments - they’re taking me ages because I had the students do a really really long complete text analysis of a child’s work, write a report about the child’s piece of writing, and then design a teaching experience to cater for one of the needs they identified in the report.
FlickrCentral has a very funny and very clever glossary of Flickr terminology devised by members. I love the way that language is alive and constantly developing according to community practices. Here are some examples:
Pool Jacking - Dumping an excessively large number of photos on an unsuspecting group pool. Generally considered bad etiquette as it pushes other contributions off of the group page and turns the group slideshow into a solo-act.
Schadenflickr - delight in seeing someone elses photos removed from a group for “breaking rules” or for any other misfortune experienced by a fellow flickrite e.g. a lack of positive comments. Obviously not something I induldge in ;o)
Tag whore (n):Person who applies completely unrelated tags to his photos in order to rack up high viewership
Flickrology: A post-grad course that examines the history, lore, quirks, behavior, pros & cons, highs & lows, lines of code, up-time & downtime of Flickr.com and the addictive behavior of its members.