Monday, 27 November 2017

Reflecting on my year as a SPARK Innovative teacher

This year, I have had the privilege of being part of the SPARK Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher programme that has allowed me the opportunity to inquire into an aspect of teaching and learning to create better outcomes for my learners.  I started the year with a goal to basically change the world but in reality, the changes haven't panned out the way that I'd expected.

There were 3 areas of my inquiry:
  • Better student engagement
  • Implementing effective writing strategies
  • Making 'blogging normal' for students and staff
I guess with student engagement, it's hard to put a definite measure on it.  My kids looked happy and said they loved being in my class but does it come down to what and how they were learning, or was it because I am a chilled, cool teacher??  My thoughts are then deeper, it's about how we approach teaching and pedagogy.

I wanted to create an integrated cross-curricula unit for our year 9's to help them be engaged because I thought that that is what they were used to and it would help their transitions to college be a lot better - done, although I was really surprised in how my assumptions were challenged.  In a recent survey I did, students said they loved being in a new environment and meeting new people so maybe it wasn't about continuing what they knew from primary but helping them adjust to the new environment.

I wanted to connect better with our primary schools and find out what writing frames worked for them - yes, to some degree this has started.  I learnt that to really get this right, it's about making solid and collaborative relationships work.  It's not all about the frameworks, it's about the connections and networking.

I wanted to work with the teachers in my department to get them to blog so that they could understand the thinking behind it - started but not achieved.  I needed to allow them to feel safe and comfortable with where they were at and 'close the gap' slowly but surely.

Yes, some practice has changed but have they been effective?  When I think about what has worked and what hasn't, my main objective was to help the staff in my department take on the monitoring of blogging for the kids in front of them.  This started with a whizz and bang, then all of these (many self imposed) barriers shot to the forefront, and we as a team didn't achieve the mark.  I think my lack of clear direction and purpose for having them blog as well didn't help.  I figure it was partly because I saw the big picture, but my getting there wasn't clear.


What next?
Next year, our school is undertaking the cluster wide shared approach relating to teacher inquiries whereby all staff will have to blog about their inquiries.  Blogging itself has been an issue for many of our staff for so many different reasons, and with the new approach kicking in at the start of the year, my hope is that my team will feel empowered to blog.  My hunch is that if they are comfortable with blogging, they will see the value and need for it for our kids.  I hope to encourage our staff to blog more through modelling the blogging progress, something I struggled with at the beginning, but have found got easier the more I blogged.  The reflective nature of blogging for me as a teacher, has allowed to critically think about my pedagogy and the redefine my practice.

There were 3 areas of my inquiry:
  • Better student engagement
    • Getting the students to decide the topics
  • Implementing effective writing strategies
    • Classroom visits.
  • Making 'blogging normal' for students and staff
    • Holiday blogging
    • School wide blogging
Next year, I hope to continue looking at fine tuning these areas of my inquiry and have found be part of the SPARK innovative team an invaluable experience.

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