Shadows may heighten a mysterious atmosphere, create tension or conceal danger in suspense texts.
In the work context, though, shadowing can yield insight, often by illuminating patterns through interplay, overlap and contrasts.
CC Image Source: http://mrg.bz/Y3tosL
Yesterday, my Monday-Friday car trek north was exchanged for a train trip to West Leederville.
With the generosity of an English team who operate dynamically to make learning visible (theirs with students, of students, and also in the moment-to-moment with each other) I shared an opportunity to work shadow at Perth Modern along with two teachers from Geraldton. Powerful improvements in learning occur
…when teachers work together to develop plans, develop common understandings of what is worth teaching, collaborate on understanding their beliefs of challenge and progress and work together to evaluate the impact of their planning on student outcomes (Hattie, 2012, p. 41).
Here’s a whimsical narrative literally on the path (Old Perth Road, Bassendean) to whet our appetites for what lies ahead:
Come join the post-train-ride experience (or view a PhotoPeach version):
- culture is crucial
- focus on the learning
- lectures can work with tag-team teaching to extend thinking, and ensure student engagement
- possibilities exist in seeing how others do – teaching/ learning – what you often undertake in isolation
- I love the idea of a cross-curricular thinking group which hones the heartbeat work – driving promotion of learning
- learning with + learning of = leading next practice
Documentation pictured below illustrates how
…students’ thinking serves another important purpose in that it provides a stage from which both teachers and students may observe the learning process, make note of the strategies being used, and comment on the developing understanding. The visibility afforded by documentation provides the basis for reflecting on one’s learning and for considering that learning as an object for discussion. In this way, documentation demystifies the learning process both for the individual as well as the group, building greater metacognitive awareness in the process (Ritchart, Church & Morrison, 2011, p. 39).
To say I learned a great deal would be faint praise for the inspiration afforded by colleagues sharing what they do. One busy Friday spent inside another school’s praxis reveals that
It’s not a good thing when teachers work alone. Nor is it good when schools operate in isolation either, no matter how collaborative they are internally. Teachers improve when they collaborate with and learn from other teachers. Schools also improve when they collaborate with and learn from other schools (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012, p. 136).
Hargreaves, A. & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional capital: Transforming teaching in every school. New York: Teachers College Press.
Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximising impact on learning. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
Ritchart, R., Church, M., & Morrison, K. (2011). Making thinking visible: How to promote engagement, understanding, and independence for all learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
CC Image Source: http://mrg.bz/tCJdg4
With exam marking and moderation saturating our week at school, data leaked from both students and teachers:
- Anxiety rose/ stress levels increased
- Meeting rooms were in high demand from lone markers/ sushi and lolly-consuming students
- Similar habits were apparent in both the exam room and staff collegiate area (sighs, stretching, glassy stares into the distance, muttered outbursts, frenzied pencil sharpening)
- Chatter levels swelled during breaks.
Also interesting are the results from both my study-floor-paper-midden, and the insights threading discussions:
- Highly creative expression among Year 8s thanks to focus on poetic language
- Year 10s oblivious to the requirements of analytical thinking (need to revisit in Semester Two)
- Year 12s under-prepared for an exam demanding more than personalised summary or faux argument construction.
How best to share this feedback?
For me, recognition is emerging from what was once a puzzle.
Here’s our exam marking guide:
Students’ pre-exam fears are explained by where X failed to hit/ met/ exceeded their personal mark.
Attending a mid-week WACE English network meeting where teachers from different schools reaffirmed ties, evaluated exemplars, and discussed marking expectations proved an invaluable filter and measure of relative worth. Viewing section? Yes, we agreed the selected images were likely to yield superficial interpretations. The two questions, though, afforded scope for able readers.
Students’ journal reflections assessed last week along with a Teacher Report rubric evaluating my approach in our English class this semester revealed a hairline disconnect between goals/ expectations and students’ assumptions/experience.
CC Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/orinrobertjohn/29774796/
This is why assessment is the central process in instruction. Students do not learn what we teach. If they did, we would not need to keep gradebooks. We would, instead, simply record what we have taught (Wiliam, 2011, p. 47-8).
While means, grades and standard deviations are recorded on the - open in tab browser - page where I’m currently finalising data entry for Reporting to Parents, individual students are becoming known, complex quantities to me. In order to assess, and only if we know
…the whole child in order to put a FACE to the learning data- [can] we humanize him or her fully and be reminded that we [are] talking about real kids with real hopes and dreams.
Good teachers spend time getting to know their learners academically and socially-emotionally… (Sharrat & Fullan, 2012, p. 65).
Our collegiate discussions around marking papers this week revealed
The process of using data to identify the learner-centred problem is an iterative, inquiry-based process. The questions raised by your data overview should lead to further investigation of the data, which inevitably leads to new questions and investigations. Recognizing both the messiness and the richness of this process… shows how to use data wisely… (Mintz, Fiarman & Buffett, 2006, p. 83).
CC Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/exper/1488367543/
- Ongoing review of our students’ Humanities exam performance in light of other evidence
- Discussion with colleagues in Maths/ Science to cross-check findings/ compare results
- Evaluate our approach to inform refinements (3 subject tests allocated in one day became a bellwether of concern for Year 8s)
- Modify curriculum plans for Semester Two based on what we now know
- Consider feedback from students (Noteworthy – my Year 10s claim exams are boring, like coming to school on a wet Monday morning)
- Keep in mind that “we cannot predict what students will learn, no matter how we design our teaching” (Wiliams, 2011, p. 46).
Mintz, E., Fiarman, S.E. & Buffett, T. (2006). Digging into data. In Boudett, K.P., City, E.A. & Murnane, R.J. (Eds.) Data wise: A step-by-step guide to using assessment results to improve teaching and learning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Sharratt, L. & Fullan, M. (2012). Putting faces on the data: What great leaders do! Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Wiliams, D. (2011). Embedded formative assessment. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
Recommended reading: Transforming through Student Engagement
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/adam_t4/3121511810/”>Adam_T4</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/orinrobertjohn/29774796/”>Orin Zebest</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>
A truck roll on Great Northern Highway last Wednesday delayed my journey across the city to attend a briefing on WACE 2016. The after-school meeting focused on how Foundation – Year 12 History will be affected by mandated changes. While the flow of trucks, buses, cars, tractors, horse floats and cyclists sharing this route strikes me, at best, as an uneasy enterprise, road crew sweep-up and contorted wreckage revealed another more dangerous perspective.
May sound macabre, but I’m reminded of education as a system.
CC Image Source: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/101781
One benefit of sitting bound in a truck-sandwich awaiting the all-clear signal was continuation of my reverie on driving as a metaphor for culture shift shared elsewhere. It might not be fresh, but I first heard the pace of educational change defined as glacial by Dr Neil Selwyn at last year’s ACEC conference in Perth; it’s a view that’s echoed by teachers, administrators, educational bloggers and tweeps. Or there’s a corollary: What goes around comes around – so, nothing bar acronyms and letterheads really changes. Encountered this one while sharing aforementioned WACE adaptation (yes, I made the 4.30 pm start!) with our Humanities team. What bothers me about this thinking is it arises from a
Culture [which]… is affected by the conditions and contexts in which it operates.
If you spend all your time with people who remind you of yourself – people from a similar race, the same profession, or the same high school subject department or elementary grade level – it’s likely that over time you will all come to think the same way and believe the same things, and that these beliefs will become stable and even stale (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012, p. 103).
Secondary threads of connection continued unspooling from that moment until now, sitting here, Saturday focused as I am with Daughter 1 at her final year Law exam (very pleased with a high distinction earned on last week’s returned essay), and Daughter 2 saying she’ll tidy her room, but evidently resisting plans, first with her laptop at the kitchen table, then disappearing while dressed in a navy trenchcoat.
Once again, unpredictability seems inevitable.
CC Image Source: Yellowskyphotography
- completed exam preparation for next week’s focus on moderation with students in years 7-10
- garnered feedback on performance from my line manager, our principal, the registrar and my year 12 students
- prepared for our week 5 exam onslaught by marking in-class work from my upper school English classes – one load on A View From the Bridge, and another responding to propaganda posters. Applied pairwise comparisons; shared feedback.
- students at our school are nervous, but also able to share insights as to why, along with what assistance they’d prefer in order to overcome this state of being
- cultivating weekly collegiate review of what is working is building awareness, trust and understanding among staff
- tackling exam review with my year 10s exposed the need to forge a way ahead with something more heavy duty (flamethrower, perhaps?). Will persist with refinements.
Here’s our exam review tool which helped define gaps:
<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/boswellsam/year-10-sem-1-exam-review-2013″ title=”Year 10 sem 1 exam review 2013″ target=”_blank”>Year 10 sem 1 exam review 2013</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/boswellsam” target=”_blank”>Sam Boswell</a></strong> </div>
Along with colleagues, and in order to support our students, I am hopeful that next week’s planned processes will enable growth for us all. We’re definitely feeling the pressure that we’re under to make changes in the school’s learning culture.
There is a sense of urgency about challenging teachers’ practice, yet also a patient realization that the essential trust and relationships that underpin PLCs can only develop over time (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012, p. 135).
And the lessons from my mid-week truck block?
- Impasses arise and – with effort – they are overcome
- Just because the trucks are big doesn’t mean you can’t cycle on the highway.
Hargreaves, A. & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional capital: Transforming teaching in every school. New York: Teachers College Press.
CC Image Source: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/845098
Despite the fact my mornings are mist-shrouded rather than neon dazzled, and Great Northern Highway offers truckblocks along with grapevines, a smattering of alpaca, and the odd tractor view, this photo captures the frenetic daily enterprise of school/life/work.
Cue the video I reimagine at critical points during the drive:
Of course, no renegade truck driver is out to ram me across occupied traintracks, but there are 35 minutes each morning and evening where I have space to think about curriculum, exam design, instructional strategies, and less altruistic ephemera such as passport photo acquisition for that September trip to Paris, largely pleasant reverie and rare, fleeting fears. Normal human psyche stuff, nothing too unusual, though I am mindful that meditative practice has potential to shape both my days and how I’m left feeling about events that occur within the brackets.
Cue a favourite from Twitter:
Thoughts and emotions come and go like passing clouds.
So, how to cultivate a sustaining practice of driving thoughts?
Music is one source of inspiration. This requested for the 100kmh overtaking lanerush:
More cinematic soundtrack?
Picturing low sunrise over the Darling Range, headlight-halo burning through fog, and the joy of traffic-toiling south towards Midland as you head in the opposite direction:
Driving questions also filled my mindscape this week as year 10s undertook a planned visit to year 1 & 5 classes so that surveys of potential customers’ tastes could be incorporated into their design process for ad campaigns. Driving question starters:
- what appeals to young viewers?
- how does advertising work?
- what techniques can we use to create elegant ad campaigns?
Hmmmm… needs ongoing refinement given yesterday’s query regarding standards: Makayla (to me) is the draft good enough? She had a point. The year 1′s proved relatively uncritical. My response drew on cognitive coaching – evocation of states of mind:
Is this the best work you can produce to reflect your ability as a learner, or you are hopeful it’s just-good-enough for your teacher?
In this instance, efficacy and craftsmanship were my focus for mediating thinking, and
In brain terms, a state is composed of a cluster of neural firing patterns that embed within them certain behaviours, a feeling tone, and access to particular memories. A state of mind makes the brain work more efficiently, tying together relevant (and sometimes widely separate) functions with a ‘neural glue’ that links them in the moment (Siegel quoted in Costa & Garmston, 2012, p.27).
We continued finalising business cards (they resisted the pitch) for the remainder of Friday’s period. Having reviewed images collected on the iPad, regaled each other with stories about what little kids say (one year 1 boy claimed to own two pets – a dog, and a sandwich), the process demonstrated responsibility while dealing with younger students.
Habits of mind came to the fore; students in their own driving seats.
So much for our collaborative practice in the classroom and across the school (one significant bonus of being on a K-12 site). Our Humanities team also drove considerable energy along reflective paths (performance management finalised), planning avenues (how to innovate in second semester given what we now realise about our current approach in 7-10 course outlines), and problem resolving to ensure that students at risk are given opportunity to access exam papers we are designing for week 5.
Like I said at the outset, frenetic. Your day-to-day is probably remarkably similar. Art comes into play while monitoring this process. Moment-to-moment judgement coupled with small-scale adjustments. But what happens when we encounter this:
CC Image Source: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/589162
There’s my roadblock.
During a 3 hour professional learning workshop conducted this week, I engaged in an online conversation-post with one of my year 12 students (who had a relief teacher in front of them) via Edmodo in order to resolve concerns she was having with a planned in-class assessment. For this, in a private conversation, I have been chastised as unprofessional. What do you think?
Ethically ill-considered behaviour? Etiquette breach?
I have been floored by this remark for the past 24 hours; driving home last night (when I allowed myself to reflect) felt surreal.
Here’s salve according to system-thinking theory:
Whenever we deny life’s self-organizing capacity, leaders must struggle to change these systems by imposition. They tinker with the incentives, reshuffle the pieces, change a part, or retrain a group. But these efforts are doomed to fail, and nothing will make them work. What is required is a shift in how we think about organizing. Effective organization occurs as people see what needs to happen, apply their experience and perceptions to the issue, find those who can help them, and use their own creativity to invent solutions. This process is going on right now in organizations, in spite of efforts at control. People are exercising initiative from a desire to contribute… Can we learn to support people and leave behind fear-based approaches to leadership?
… Enough people drive to work wondering how they can get something done despite the organization – despite the political craziness, the bureaucratic nightmares, the mindless procedures blocking their way… (Wheatley, 2007, p.66-7).
Sleep certainly helped calm the turmoil, and affords me some distance. However, my current attunement to what was said reveals insights:
- Not everyone thinks (as I do) that mobile devices are essentially time-saving tools designed for ubiquitous, invisible use in order to communicate freely with others
- Not everyone believes (as I do) that students’ learning comes first, especially while working with students in school contexts and – more specifically in this instance – students in my classes.
One lasting legacy is my sense of being treated like a child. How I have been upbraided will stay with me for some time. What I choose to do in response to these feelings is entirely within my control.
Strange yielding edges gave way to illumination during this week’s passage. Strange only because I’m no stranger here.
First, my much-adored friend’s return to her old-home-town meant that together we revisited past haunts. Silver Slipper? Now a backpackers’ hostel. Canterbury Court? Famously imploded. Red Parrot? Well, there was a May 2 reunion I failed to attend.
Great music; my now-Sydney-centric friend is there on the dancefloor around the 3.08 minute mark. Lots of smiling faces – obviously a touchstone re-visitation. Images reminding me that
Time is not straight line, it’s more of a labyrinth,
and if you press close to the wall at the right
place you can hear the hurrying steps and voices, you
can hear yourself walking past there on the other side… Thomas Transtromer (Garner, 1996, p. 47).
To offer perspective on the current state of Perth’s cultural orientation, I submit this intriguing artefact:
Love the establishment shots, eclecticism, expressions on faces – some guarded, most hopeful, odd momentary splinters of pain – and, yes, even the banality of a number of those comments. What would you expect on a Saturday morning in a city’s central shopping arena?
According to Carl Rogers:
The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.
Second, I attended a Wednesday-opening-night revelation at the Heath Ledger State Theatre with Daughter 2.
A review of Goodbye Jamie Boyd can be found here.
For me, this glimpse of pain and redemption filtered through the solo protagonist’s experience of schizophrenia revealed hope:
We outgrow, grow up, move on.
So, too, me and my friend while maintaining warp and weft within our long-practiced friendship:
Image in my journal bottom left taken during the infamous cool of Red Parrot ascendancy. How grateful I am to be me-now and caretaking daughters at that difficult age. Me-then is a work-in-progress, though she does look familiar.
Third, last night I played make-up artiste to Daughter 1 who went to the annual Law ball sheathed in a red satin dress so tight she could barely draw breath once zipped. I am still versed in the arts of eye-liner and false eyelashes, but left the house early to attend a comedy club festival session at the sumptuous Astor theatre. That in itself was strange; me-now out on a Friday night? Daughters impressed.
Taster of Tom Gleeson’s talent for traumatising those in the front rows:
- comedy, like life, can be cruel
- laughter is cleansing
- faceache hurts
- transformation requires risk
- chance encounters with students-I-have-taught are wonderful
- NAPLAN is belatedly affixed as peripheral to the-week-that-was context
CC Image Source: http://www.morguefile.com
In electing to evoke a song to the siren, I have noticed that learning/praxis emerges from both engagement with events - teaching, meetings, planning, performance management, coaching - and thoughts. Credit is also due to mornings spent reading:
Teachers are more than performers. Teachers are people too. You can’t switch teachers on and off like a computer. You can’t understand the teacher or his or her teaching without understanding the person the teacher is. And you can’t fundamentally change the teacher without changing the person the teacher is, either. This means that meaningful or lasting change will almost inevitably be slower than nonteachers want it to be. Human growth is not like producing hydroponic tomatoes. It can be nurtured and encouraged, but it cannot be forced (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012, p. 63).
Final words from a real philosopher:
How can one learn the truth by thinking? As one learns to see a face better if one draws it – Ludgwig Wittgenstein (Lehrer, 2007).
And there’s only one song to choose as a coda:
Garner, H. (1996). True stories. Melbourne: Text Pubishing.
Hargreaves, A. & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional Capital: Transforming teaching in every school. New York: Teachers College Press.
Lehrer, J. (2007). Proust was a neuroscientist. Melbourne: The Text Publishing Company.
Much about teaching is revealed within an inquiry process where the practitioner persists in learning about learning. Tricky territory: As students, we observed numerous teachers practice what was deemed standard teaching; considering ourselves objective, we critiqued their style. Views were formed along the lines of what works and what is ineffective. As teachers, we further develop a learning practice in response to numerous classroom interactions. Feedback loops shape our ongoing decisions and manifest in beliefs.
Then – according to the logic of vertical progression – after years of practice, we become experts…
Wait – what’s the problem with this assumption?
One fixed view of quality teaching emerges.
As a graduate, I recall being told I would not be allocated a (high status) Literature class because I was young, unproven. My colleague informed me that he was “at the top of the profession”.
If expertise is set aside, and we see ourselves primarily as learners who engage others in the learning-cause, embrace as purposeful the role of abetting their journey, whatever the point of departure, shifts occur.
First, we maintain a beginner’s mind. Second, we learn with, or interdependently, in relation to others. Perhaps this is horizontal progression. For me, it is a desired state.
CC Image Source: http://www.morguefile.com
As a neophyte at cognitive coaching, I know that learning with others in my school community is critical. According to the definition:
Cognitive Coaching is a non-judgmental process of mediation applied to those human life encounters, events and circumstances that can be seized as opportunities to enhance one’s own and others’ resourcefulness. Cognitive Coaching also serves as the nucleus for professional communities that honour autonomy, encourage interdependence and strive for high achievement (Costa & Garmston, 2012, p. 5).
Relationships, then, are paramount, and will be nourished through tuning a considered skill-set:
- adopting intentional practice
- building purpose
…teaching like a pro is about improving as an individual, raising the performance of the team, and increasing quality across the whole profession. It is about developing, circulating, and reinvesting professional capital (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012, p. 23).
- Long term, life-changing praxis is required
- Sharing necessitates a safe working/ learning environment
- Benefits – like trust and consciousness – grow
Today our artist’s date involved re-stocking the pantry and walking through Northbridge streets.
Lunch was the destination.
My shutter captured cloudscapes and craneshifts.
Recent rain left a sheen; light caught like glitter residue.
And I reflected on four days spent this week at Cognitive Coaching workshops where the purpose was to focus on strategies to mediate others’ thinking.
Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful – Margaret Wheatley (Costa & Garmston, 2012, p.139).
CC Image Source: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/203532
Costa, A.L. & Garmston, R.J. (2012). Cognitive coaching seminars foundation training learning guide. Morrabbin, Vic: Hawker Brownlow Education.