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Monday, 23 February 2015

MIT Update 1

This is an update post about how my MIT inquiry is progressing.  I can already identify a need to refine my inquiry in terms of how it will be delivered to my students in a practical way.

I started the year, as most teachers do, completing my classroom description.  Two key questions we added this year were: "What language do you mostly speak at home?"  And, "Can you read, write and speak in another language?"  This helped me to identify some initial groups of students or target students in similar instructional groups.

One reading group in particular has three speakers of Tongan and two students who identify as being able to read and write Tongan.  We read and English language story called 'Rescue' but were asked to discuss comprehension questions in Tongan and English.  The follow up task was to justify why the characters in the story could be identified as being 'heroes.'

This student personally chose to answer his questions in English and Tongan.  This was a great first step for me because it shows that students are feeling comfortable enough to use their first language in the classroom, and use it in an academic context.  This student was also responsible for suggesting Tongan names for our learning groups, which I allow students to choose for themselves.  If you visit the Room 9 Class site, you will see 'Lau Tohi' which means 'Read the Book', and 'Fika' which means Maths.

However, as you can see, the task above could be improved greatly - there were no sentence starters to guide the responses. I have no explicit way of encouraging students to use two languages - it was purely out of choice. I am going to refine my practice further to make more purposeful tasks that require the translanguaging strategy in the Learn Create Share process. 


Where am I at? 
I know which students I want to focus my inquiry on.

Where to next? 
I need to refine tasks and gain clarity on what I want to do and how I will achieve it. 

Who can help me get there?
I may need to revisit TESSOL resources, and perhaps seek feedback about my programme from past lecturers or teachers who have also completed their TESSOL diploma. I could go and visit the local Kura Kaupapa Maori, and observe how they go through the Learn Create Share with their bilingual learners, and if they use both English and Maori.

What a journey I have embarked on!

Friday, 13 February 2015

You can't help yourself if you can't see yourself...

Today is my first day meeting with the whole 2015 cohort of Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers as part of the MIT programme for Manaiakalani.

Today, we were asked to identify the 'disruption' to student learning that we would focus our inquiry on for the year.  The title of this post was inspired by a fellow MIT teacher, Jason Borland who is inquiring into how to use video for the purpose of analysis of movement for students and looking at how this video could also be used as an assessment tool in Physical Education.  He stated "You can't help yourself if you can't see yourself."  This sparked thinking into my own inquiry, which aims to accelerate the achievement outcomes of priority students by weaving together two pedagogies; Translanguaging (when bilingual students are processing new learning in both languages e.g. using information from a Tongan language story book to complete a character study Google Drawing English) and Learn, Create, Share, which is the underpinning pedagogy of Manaiakalani.

My disruption is, that many of the students' learning and achievement is disrupted by the fact that they have two broken languages, meaning they are not proficient in English (the medium of which I teach), nor their heritage or home language.  There are many learners who are first, second or third generation migrants, who believe that their heritage language is a hinderance on achieving "success" (having a job and making money, basically).  Actually, being bilingual has been proven to assist in academic success, but more than that, it can help to empower, affirm identities - which in turn, help to create actively engaged citizens who feel they have something to contribute.  So when Jason said, "You can't help yourself if you can't see yourself."  I took that to mean empowering students with their language and identity.  Having students that could visualise a positive future self - to SEE themselves so they can HELP themselves.  To SEE that their language and culture and families are relevant, and can contribute to a future in the world that they see as their ideal, if they so choose to.

I am a big picture person, and yes, I acknowledge that reading one Tongan book will change the future for the Tongan learners in my class, but I am trying to balance out the scales of 'risks' and 'preventative practices' and ensure that Education is on the right side.

I am monolingual myself, but feel that this is an advantage, because I will hopefully be able to convince other mainstream, monolingual teachers in New Zealand that it can be done.  Robyn Anderson, another MIT teacher said today, “Create something that is going to help somebody else learn.”  And that is exactly what I am aiming to do.  And that somebody else for me, is every priority learner in New Zealand.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Happy 2015! Welcome Back!

Welcome back to 2015!  It has been an intense, crazy, enjoyable start to my year.  I am in a couple of new roles and also adjusting to another year level and academic level of students in my class.

This year, I am the team leader for the Kia Maia team (Year 5-6 team).  This is my first time in a leadership position of this kind.  Luckily, I am having a great introduction to the role, working with two experienced teachers in my team.  My goals in this role are to:

  • Foster a collaborative team ethos.  Sharing is caring and also helps to keep teachers afloat in this sometimes hectic job!  
  • Enrich the classroom teaching and learning with the use of digital technologies and pedagogies.
  • Develop my skills in mentoring/coaching with adults in the teaching profession.
I am also continuing in my role as the Manaiakalani Facilitator.  However, this year I am spending half at day at Tamaki Primary and the other half of my day at Point England working with three more teachers.  This is an exciting opportunity to see how other schools work and to gain more ideas to put into my own practice.  It is also a way to help develop my mentoring and coaching skills.  

One interesting thing in particular that I noticed about the way we have embedded the 'Manaiakalani Way' in our school was in Week 1.  I had emails from all 1:1 digital immersion teachers asking for dashboard help, blog help and resources to be shared and at first, this was very overwhelming.  However, upon reflection, I thought it was actually a very significant sign that this way of teaching had truly become our default.  Then I was overwhelmed with pride!!!  These teachers have made 'the shift' and cannot see teaching and learning occurring any other way, so were demanding that we have the infrastructure for this way of learning to begin!  This was a wow moment for me - in my journey from pilot class, to trying to persuade others that this way works, to facilitating in these classrooms to now.  So, I took a deep breath and made my way through the emails and requests and took my concrete pill!

I am teaching in a Year 5 and 6 class this year, with priority students in urgent need of accelerated achievement.  Over the last two weeks, I have had to adjust, adjust and readjust again, my lessons, my pace, my scaffolding and my expectations of what can be completed in a certain time frame.  Not to say, I have lowered my expectations of the students - but I have raised the expectation of myself, in how I will deliver the curriculum in a way that they understand in order to accelerate their achievement.  This leads into my MIT (Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers) research project, of which we have our first meeting on Friday.  I am really looking forward to unpacking my proposal further and being challenged about the way I will make this a reality.  I am also looking forward to seeing the impacts of this in my classroom.

A particular reflection point for me, was realising my love of team teaching!  After a challenging, emotional, frustrating, amazing, rewarding, fun year of team teaching in 2014, I have that feeling, again, that I find it hard to work any other way!  So, when asked if I would like a student teacher this year, I said,  "Absolutely!"  To deliver a programme like we did last year, you need more than one teacher.  Aireen and I have both reflected on that, as the mentor teachers - so much of what we achieved last year, couldn't have been with a lone teacher.  I love collaborating with our amazing teacher aide in Room 9 this year, and I am treating my student teacher like a first year PRT.  It's awesome!  I am a believer in team teaching if you have the right mix of people and philosophies.  Who would have known that would be added to my list of 'firm beliefs about teaching.'  Without the MDTA programme, I would have never come to that conclusion.  So bitter sweet! 

2015 has certainly started with a bang.  I am enjoying getting to know the learners in my class.  They have a fantastic work ethic and are so respectful.  They are ready to learn, and I am ready to teach!

This is my first selfie of 2015!  We're having Whanau Conferences and it's 6:30pm and my next appointment isn't until 7:30pm, so why not?