Monday, 9 September 2019

Teaching mindfullness as part of a school curriculum

I stumbled across an article on mindfulness and it made me think about reasons for students underachievement.

Article link

In particular, I believe students struggle to stay in present thought and spend too much time thinking about the past and the future. This can lead to anxiety and unproductive work habits. What in my opinion compounds this problem is the access students have to their phones and technology. Students take their issues everywhere are often dealing with multiple things all at one time. It is obvious to any teacher that many students have become addictive to their devices.

I often hear students talk about their barriers to learning. My standard comeback line is that it is your thinking and your thought processes that lead influences success, not the trauma or barriers that you perceive.

I have found mindfulness relatively easy to incorporate into a PE curriculum. At Level 1 'Self Management is an ideal way to teach and reflect on mindfulness. In Level 2 we discuss 'learning a physical skill' and the importance of staying present when involved in the learning process.

I have found that when I start discussing psychology the students immediately become engaged. It seems they are interested and what to learn. In fact, I only became interested in this topic based on off-topic conversations I was having with students. This idea of teaching psychology is something I would like to prioritise in my planning for 2020.

In beggers another thought. Should thinking and psychology be taught as a subject at high school? In my opinion yes. Understanding the mind, the power of self-talk and optimistic thinking is so vital to success and happiness and should be a priority in any curriculum

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Great article from Dr Aaron Wilson from Woolf Fisfer research

I have worked a lot with Aaron over the years. He opened my eyes to teaching techniques that really do enhance learning and engagement. In particular, I remember participating in a study which looked at classrooms discussion and difference between small group, whole-class discussion, open and closed questioning techniques. It was an eye-opener to me and I consider this almost every lesson I have had since. I was amazed how much of discussion was about myself talking and how often I gave closed questions to my students. The open-ended questions were far more important in developing critical thinking skills.

With this in mind, I really enjoyed reading Arron's article that I stumbled upon online. He reiterated a lot of my concerns working in low decile schools. This is how he sums up his thoughts on proposed changes to NCEA.

These schools and teachers are going to need professional development and other support from this and successive governments to really transform learning about the hard stuff. They do not deserve to be pillorised when pass rates drop. After all, they have been responding in completely rational ways to government targets and media league tables that have focused on the quantity rather than quality of academic qualifications.

Link to full article here

I am required to present to my school board next Thursday. All they are interested in is the pass rates in my subject in percentage terms, and how many students gained 14 plus credits in my subject. I plan on sharing with them a few of the unintended consequences of setting targets on academic achievement.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

High Expecatations PLD

High Expectations seems to be the new buzz word around the school. As with many of these buzz words, they sound great but the meaning behind the word is detailed and not always outlined. The Papakura ERO report talks a lot about the need to raise expectations on the students, but little about what that means

I was thus interested in the PLD session we attended by Christine Rubie-Davies. It outlined research into student achievement and the pitfalls of placing students into ability groups and how teachers sub-consciously treat students differently.

The session made me think about Starpath and credit counting. I have long been disappointed in the way teachers are judged on the credits the students receive. Setting targets and making teachers accountable almost guarantees teachers - ignore vulnerable students
- choose standards based on the easiest assessment opportunities
-  pick unit standards over achievement standards
-  get creative with their marking or pass students that should not be passed.

Schools are more than ever before judged on NCEA achievement rates and not on the quality of education that is being offered. In my situation, I am grilled by senior leaders and board of trustees over achievement rates and have to justify the quality of teaching in my department. This has to lead me to choose easy standards and move away from the more difficult Science topics. At my school, we do not offer chemistry or Physics presumably because achievement rates were low.

I do not blame my senior leaders for this. I blame the system that has placed our school in a position where we feel we need to justify and raise the perception of the education we are offering.

Students learn very quickly how to play this system. They realise the pressure is on the teachers to raise achievement and they know they can wait for the teacher out and get the easy option to gain their qualifications. sometimes they are even sent on a first aide course or similar to lift their credit profile

Personally, I have been lucky. I have always felt secure in my job and role and not had to conform as much as others who feel more threatened. I still teach anatomy and biomechanics despite pressure to remove these standards due to low achievement.

Recently I have had the privilege to work with two younger staff who teach and assess without fear of consequence. It is refreshing to see and I just hope they don't become too disillusioned lower their expectations of what they expect. Michelle Lloyd who works with me in the PE department failed students in the first unit standard due to their poor writing habits and their lack of detail in their answers. The students were so surprised. they were used to teachers giving them more time, and in some cases doing the work for them. Michelle refused to do what other teachesr were doing and did not mind that her percentage pass rates would be poor. As her HOD the job I felt was to shelter her from the Senior leadership and BOT analysis and I did not mind doing this. The outcome of these high expectations was a much higher standard of work and in better work ethic in following assessments.

Ian Marino came to the school and immediately shook things up. As a Maori teacher, he refused to accept Maori students underachieving. His interactions with students were empathetic but not sympathetic and he convinced me that consequences for the poor effort were culturally acceptable. Ian has made a big impression on me and made me understand the need to raise expectations. Again Ian did this without fear of the system he worked in where stand-downs and detentions are perceived as not culturally appropriate. The students love Ian. They know Ian demands more out of them than other teachers and he is not shy about telling the students when they are not reaching their potential or bring shame on their culture

I fear that these two teachers will become disillusioned as others have. For now, they have given me the spark I need to lift the expectations I have on my students

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Arguementation in Junior Health classes

This year I have been using professional learning from 2018 to develop critical thinking skills in Junior health. An example of this is exploring drugs in New Zealand as part of the Health curriculum. Today I had my students watch the NZ Herald video on the New Zealand Meth crisis.

The video explores approaches in dealing with the problem. It poses the question should our meth issue be a law and order issue or a health issue. The video sparked lots of great conversations between the students.

The follow-up activity was to write a blog post -  if was the Prime minister of New Zealand I would solve the meth issue in New Zealand by......

They then had to predict the outcomes of taking this action.

I really enjoy teaching critical thinking skills. I think too much we consume ourselves with work production in secondary school and we pass over the discussions we can have and the directions discussion can take. I think the engagement of students is best when we get the students talking about a topic and I am very fortunate this is the approach we have taken in Health.

reflection on introducing detensions as consequences

Over term 1 and now into term 2 the PE department has been keeping students back after school for acts of defiance. This has not happened in our school for a long period of time, mainly due to the logistics in following up students who do not attend and also because the school was advised by higher powers that detentions were not a productive way of improving teaching and learning.

I was initially concerned when introducing a consequences system that students would deliberately rebel against the system. There were also colleagues within the school that spoke to me about detentions not being culturally responsive. What convinced me that is was worth implementing was the Te Reo teacher, Matua Ian, who explained to me that consequences are culturally responsive and our students respond to discipline. I was also encouraged by John Rohs our principal who talks about us owing to our students the need for consequences of actions. This message resonated with me.

As a PE department, we agreed that defiance is an act of not following through with the teacher's reasonable request. This had to be explained to the students. Students who are defiant receive 10-minute detention after school. They are expected to come to us. When they don't, contact is made home and the students receive a one hour Friday detention. If they don't attend they are referred to Senior leadership.

In my mind consequences for students should not mean a consequence for the teacher. If the teacher has to put in extra work it is the teacher that is disadvantaged. Therefore students come to us and they do jobs that would otherwise have been done by the teacher or other students. Rubbish, cleaning, plugging in Chromebooks, jobs around the classroom all make the time productive.

Coming towards the end of term 2, we have got to the point where almost every student attends the end of day detentions. They are also a powerful tool the teacher has at their disposal in term of classroom management. We have had very few incidences of students being referred to Senior Leadership, and when this has happened Senior Leadership has been very supportive in resolving the matter.

In my mind, this action has been the single most important feature in increasing engagement and compliance from students in our department

Ki o Rahi

As part of Matariki, our PE department at Papakura High have been playing Kio Rahi. Part of teaching this unit is to explore the legend and the story behind the game. The video below

What I like about Ki o Rahi is that it is an invasion game that requires participants to access an open target in the Te Roto, and then accessing a closed target - the Tupu and Te o. This term our Year 9 students have been exploring invasion game strategies and Ki o Rahi is the perfect game to explore strategies to use for open target and closed target sports. This includes both offensive and defensive.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Trialing a new consequences system at Papakura High

I have long thought that at Papakura High all the pressure is on the teachers to lift the achievement. My feeling is that this pressure should be shared by the students. In my three years at the school, there has been very little in the way of consequences for students who are unwilling to put in effort or students that deliberately defy teachers reasonable requests

This will put the pressure of achievement back onto the student and also ensure that the teacher remains in charge of the classroom. Staff will share the load of after-school time. The students will be required to participate in a  restorative justice discussion and also assist the teacher with manual jobs such as cleaning classrooms. All defiance will be logged on Kamar and when a student refuses to participate contact will be made home. Referral to SLT will occur when students again refuse to participate after contact is made home.