Back to the Chalkboard: Behaviour Management

In the past few weeks I have read a lot about behaviour management. As an experienced teacher in my 9th year of teaching I have become aware that I have coasted on strong relationships when it comes to behaviour management but now I have a real need to understand more about the science to be able to run an effective classroom. This blogpost is a summary of some of the key things I am now trying to embed in my practice.

The Right to Learn

This is a new way for me of framing the idea of rules. The idea of rules is stigmatising and distracting from effective teaching. From the Cult of Pedagogy, I discovered Michael Linsin, the founder of Smart Classroom Management, who framed rules as the following:

Rules protect the students right to learn and they protect the teacher’s right to teach

Co-constructing rules from a shared understanding of why they are needed changes the dynamic in the classroom. The primary purpose of being in the classroom is to learn and that needs to be understood by all for it to be an effective space for learning. I’ve found the assumption that the majority of students in London understand this underlying principle is not true – explicitly addressing ‘why are we here?’ is necessary.

Modelling Behaviour

Albert Bandura is a key contributor to the idea of Social Learning Theory which explores the idea that behaviour is a learning concept coming out of observation and imitating others. As a theory this is persuasive for me as it has made me consider how many opportunities there are for observational behavioural learning in contexts where poor behaviour is so frequent that it is almost always visible. Where is the opportunity to build and learn about self-efficacy in this system?

Linsin also has a solution for this and talks about modelling the expected behaviour in explicit detail. “You may bring a desk or a table up in front of your classroom, sit down, and pretend to be a student. You may have other students acting as models also. Show students how you expect them to behave while you’re giving instruction, and then how you expect them to behave when they’re doing independent work.” It’s important that the students see themselves in this activity, practice following the expectations and understand what not following these instructions does to the learning of the class. This process of modeling is outlined in this blogpost and this image:

Economy of Language

Something I think I’m guilty of is increasing the complexity of a instruction of explanation when it isn’t understood the first time. Doug Lemov in his book Teach Like a Champion talks about the economy of language: the fewer words you use, the clearer your message. The messages need to be direct, clear, and concise in order to maximise the response from the class. It’s one of those areas of teaching which can always be on the area for development list.

It’s the Teacher’s Fault

This is a hard one. I’ve carried a lot home over the past three months. I’ve undertaken some deep soul searching and experienced some dark moments. It’s because I reflect – I’ve been trained to reflect, to always gaze into my own actions. I process, and I believe it when I hear Linsin say the following:

When your students are, all of them or most of them, when they’re not doing something that you’ve previously taught them how to do, whether it’s talking or entering the classroom, and they don’t do it well, even though the students are responsible for their behaviour, when that happens, most of the class is not doing what you ask, it’s on you. It’s about you.

On top of this, it is hard not to be swept up by the media tornado looking to reposition teachers and the education system wherever it will sell more papers.

But then there is cognitive dissonance because I also know that I shouldn’t care when students’ misbehave. I know I am not responsible for the choices my students make. I know this. But when I am on the supply chain or teaching in a new school, applying consistent consequences is hard. Navigating the tension between owning the situation and letting go is tough.  But to be effective – it has to be done.

Advertisements

Supply Teaching: A Lesson in Real Time

The following takes place between 12.01pm and 1.09pm

24_Legacy_Real_Time

No names have been used and while I don’t identify the school this lesson happened at, there are several schools in London where the experiences I had were similar. 

12.01 – I arrive to period four, Year 8 Geography, after a short commute. I’m lucky today because arriving before the students is an uncommon but handy advantage. The teacher’s desk is a nightmare to navigate and no obvious cover work is visible so I’m back to the door to greet the early birds. It may be a relief lesson, but it is still all about relationships. Most walk past without acknowledging my greeting and the ones that do have a smile on their face which isn’t warm; it’s the smile of a hungry hyena that has just spotted dinner.

12.03 – I’m still looking for the coverwork and now I have a sensible student with me who is either helpful or using the opportunity to scout the teacher’s desk in detail. The room is filling up fast and the noise level is reaching migraine-inducing levels. I have learnt not to try and compete with this initial roar – without any established authority, shouting won’t get me far at all. Instead I wait for things to settle to address the behaviour.

12.05 – A teacher aide walks in and our eyes meet. We worked together earlier in another class. In that instance their eyes were welcoming – this time their eyes spell out fear.

12.06 – On the teacher’s desk I finally find a planner. In the box for the current period are two words “Bangladesh Floods”. Earlier I moved aside a worksheet that I remember reading Bangladesh on it – bingo.

12.07 – I haven’t been able to look for the cover all this time because of the need to resolve behaviour issues that have been happening around me. Throwing paper towards the bin, using white board pens to draw graffiti on the board, and moving the furniture around to facilitate gossip is just a small sign of things to come. Now my focus is on turning the room back into something resembling a classroom. There’s a big group in the back corner where music has started to play and a desk has just fallen over. “Make your way to your desks thanks” I state calmly but there’s a hint of futility that I’m not sure I’m successfully hiding. “Where you from sir?” and “Are you Australian?” are the familiar questions that fly back from students who have just heard my voice.

12.09 – It turns out many of these students aren’t even in this class. They leave in a way that ensures every knows they are leaving. I’m still convinced that there are more people in the room than desks, but at least now most people are behind one.

12.10 – I stand in front of the class and ask with a loud voice, but without shouting, for silence. No one beyond a one meter radius takes any notice, and it’s likely they haven’t heard me. I repeat my expectations, another couple of times and slowly the ripple of awareness moves through the class. I start the countdown from five, pausing between each number to reiterate the expectations using consistent instructions. Now the response is pure defiance. They just don’t care.

12.11 – “Shout at them sir” comes the advice from the front row. I have only shouted at a class twice. Once in my first year of teaching where a group of boys were imitating a classmate who had Global Development Delay and I actually lost it. The second time was in my first week of teaching in London when emotions, exhaustion and frustration reached tipping point. I’m not proud of either moment. I refuse to intimidate students into compliance.

12.12 – The teacher aide is targeting individuals, getting them to notice me at the front by turning around or quieten down. I’m focusing on individuals too, using non-verbal gestures to reinforce expectations and trying another countdown. At this point something needs to happen, but I don’t feel like I have enough respect to be able to take any significant action. To be fair some students in the room want to do the right thing, but they are largely yelling “shut up” at the defiant people and just making the situation worse. I feel helpless.

12.13 – Having heard the noise down the corridor, the Head of Department now enters and the change in the air is palpable like the room has frozen over. The senior teacher manages to achieve virtually perfect behaviour while not acknowledging anything that has passed before it. When another teacher enters a riot that I’m supervising I always feel a sense of shame. Are they judging me for not having a functional class in front of me? What is it that I’m doing wrong?

12.14 – The subject leader has the students immediately get back into their seating plan and at a glance has deciphered the relief instructions. He picks a student to come forward to explain “cause and effect” a necessary concept for the worksheet. He pretends to whack the student and then defines the concept with some excellent hands up input. The selected student at the front jumps on board and falls to the ground more dramatically than the death of Nick Bottom’s Pryamus. The teacher says “I sure know how to pick them”. I just managed to stifle the laugh.

12.17 – When he leaves the next part of the lesson is the most calm, work focused, section of the lesson. It almost lasts 30 seconds. A student then busts out a song that I don’t recognise and they are off again. I pace the room refocusing the students on the task in front of them. Many complain they don’t know what to do and I find myself repeating the instructions over and over again one on one with students increasingly briefly as it almost becomes a game to them.

12.21 – The class is still madness. I ask a student sitting at the front who I haven’t seen say anything to go to the office and ask for ‘on call’. He’s confused. I repeat the sentence but he is still unsure. I suspect he’s just nervous about getting out of his seat which would enhance the chances of being hit by any of the objects that are now being thrown across the class. The student sitting next to him instead braves the journey and heads out the door.

12.24 – On call arrives. The class is frozen again. I have a quiet word next to the newly arrived teacher and describe the classroom as a “zoo”. I ask her to stay for a few minutes and take anyone who acts up away. She doesn’t say anything directly to me which doubles my shame, but instead begins to scold the class about their behaviour and signs off by telling the class that she is just across the hall before marching out. Previously I’ve had on call turn up and drag me out of the class to tell me how I should be controlling the kids. So maybe I should just be grateful.

12.28 – It’s settled for a while again but now of the 32 students in the class at least half of them ask to go to the toilet. It is a game. Many of the students attempt ostentatious performances to try and convince me of how desperate they are. The student who demonstrated the effect in cause and effect is on the floor again. I target him for extraction but the response to “stand up, take your things and stand outside” is to debate the fairness of this when other students are doing x, y and z (and he’s right). The packing up his things is now the show that everyone needs to see and he starts ranting to his captive audience about how I have “come at him” and this is completely unfair. He chooses colourful language and slang I don’t recognise. The on call teacher is back in the hallway and suddenly leaving the room goes a lot faster. One down.

12.32 – Now a student has got my attention for feeling sick. I really don’t know how to address this effectively. My useful response is ask them to do a couple of simple things and then tell me again if they still feel sick in 10 minutes – most students don’t ask a second time. This situation feels different and the student is making a good case. I scribble them a quick note and send them off to medical.

12.35 – A group of students notice that my stubble is a little bit ginger the students discuss this among themselves unmoved by how much I can hear. The group’s dialogue is interrupted by a boy who directs a related question at me: “Are your pubes ginga too sir?” Eyes everywhere immediately widen. It’s a comment that in this context I have no instant response to. Everyone nearby is watching how I react; the student who said it is looking forward to my response, knowing that they’ve been successful in testing me and having no regard for any consequence that might follow. After a long pause I’m stumped. I feel completely useless. If I attempt to sanction now I’m not going to get it right so all I can do is defer. I know I haven’t dealt with this properly and the shame intensifies.

12.37 – Meanwhile, the toilet traveller has returned which I become aware of because of a commotion around their seat. The student has sat down in their chair and is now stuck thanks to a gluestick. The aftermath brings the on call teacher and the head of faculty back into the room. They are standing at the door and calming pointing out students who then leave the class including, to my relief, the student who was interested in my pubes. The student stuck on the chair is next to be withdrawn; they attempt to bring their chair but are promptly told to leave it and suddenly it doesn’t seem to be stuck at all. The performance is over. Six down.

12.41 – The settling is more sustained this time with the primary instigators gone, but others quickly self-promote. A student who is out of their seat gets told by me sternly to sit back down. They tell me: “Sir, I’m dealing with a problem”. I reply bluntly “So am I”, which is received with cheers from the class. Maybe this earns me a little respect, but it also costs me a noisier classroom.

12.45 – Three quarters through the lesson I have my third learning conversation where I am actually beside a student and help to develop their understanding of cause and effect through some simple deduction questioning. To do that I have to deliberately ignore behaviour that I should be addressing. The teacher aide is on the same page and circulating as well. I’m addressing students who want to refill their water bottles, desperately need hay-fever medication or claim to be experiencing claustrophobia. And I still haven’t even attempted the roll.

12.55 – I’m surviving. The light is at the end of the tunnel. Time is moving slowly because I’m constantly checking the clock, but the end of the lesson is near. I’ve managed as many learning conversations in the last 10 minutes than I had in the first 45 minutes. Is this the sign of a successful supply lesson? What measures success? That the lesson ends and nothing has caught fire?

12.57 – Instruction are given to pack up, even though most students are already well on their way. I follow this up by asking students to stand behind your desks and wait for dismissal. Most start wandering again and some go for the door. I am now a physical barrier to them leaving the class. There are two students that have no issue with invading my personal space despite earlier being told to move away from theirs.

12.59 – “You will not be dismissed until you are waiting silently behind your desks”. Many students forget where their desks were and end up being as close to the door as possible. It’s a long process and yet another battle but eventually they go back. The bell goes for lunch so I point to students that have largely been cooperative and indicate that they may leave. Many others attempt to follow and again I find myself acting as a physical barrier in front of the doorway. The incentive is leaving, the consequence is not. It’s so clear. But for the remaining students the game is too tempting.

1.03 – I could give up and just let the remaining 10 students go, but I stubbornly believe in following through. I am thinking that in an hour of defeat, it’s important to finish this lesson with a victory. Outside the classroom a group has formed like it is the arrival gate at Heathrow. Their presence in the window just encourages the defiance of those who are left. They plead and whine. I repeat the expectations. They argue and debate. I repeat the expectations.

1.06 – The last students are dismissed. On the way out the door is slammed and a huge bang follows, maybe some kicking in the nearby lockers. I don’t look to find out. I feel exhausted, drained and shamed. The teacher aide has already left, but their warm smile as he left is encouraging. Earlier in the lesson he told me quietly that things were normally like this. I suspect he is lying, but maybe it’s not too far from the truth.

1.09 – Walking to the staffroom – not feeling entirely safe – it’s not the personal toll that I’m processing; I’m thinking about education and the system I’ve found myself in. I know I made several poor decisions in this lesson, but I didn’t get it so wrong that what happened was inevitable. I could have done many things differently, but so could the teacher that left the cover work, and so could the teachers that came into the room during the lesson, and so could the people responsible for making the arrangements for the supply teachers who come into the school fresh each day, and so could the senior leadership team who lead in the culture of the school. Are these students really getting a fair chance?

LGBTed Launch – The Power of Values, Stories & Authenticity

Live your values; don’t just laminate them.

29594667_1804198772982189_1708641959281625103_n

Bennie Kara delivered this perfect summary of the day in the panel that helped to close the launch of LGBTed. Held last weekend, it was an occasion for workshops, networking and the start of an organisation with real potential to make a serious difference. The organisation’s main function is to create more visibility in the UK education system in order to make schools more inclusive places. It was an inspirational day. This blogpost is some thoughts on some of the key themes that emerged for me over the course of the day.

Stories

Claire Birkenshaw‘s session titled ‘A trans perspective on nurturing a sense of belonging for young trans and non-binary people in learning communities’ was the most explicitly narrative driven session of the day. She set about sharing with us her story (‘safari’), as a means of promoting learning through creating empathy. It was a powerful session, very tweetable: “Every child should feel they belong in their school environment and nothing should hold them back.”

Professor Jonathan Glazzard presented a compelling case for the existence of LGBTed when he showed through statistics that the stories aren’t changing. However, what reoccurred consistently across the day was the power of knowledge to disrupt narratives. This came through the buzzword of authenticity, and the idea of being your authentic self to create meaningful learning environments. David Weston also included the quote on the right from Harvey Milk in his concluding keynote along this theme. Author Sarah Ban Breathnach was also quoted during the day: “the authentic self is a soul made visible.”

The Progress Divide

I remember the idea of progress being challenged at the ILGA Oceania Conference in 2016. The divide there was between LGBTI+ rights in the Pacific Island nations compared to progressive New Zealand (“Don’t ask me how far away from marriage equality we are when we are not safe in our own streets”). It was the rural/urban divide that arose at LGBTed. The stark difference in statistics on the experiences of LGBT teachers based on where they live was shocking.

This rung the bell of inclusion and the need for diverse voices within diversity. The majority of teachers at the conferences represented the first three letters of LGBT and were predominantly white. It’s important that we are sensitive to representation and ensure we are listening to other perspectives. David Weston also made this point; inclusion is key to progress which includes conservatives and readers of the Daily Mail.

Othering

Related to the divide is the notion of othering. David Weston suggested that “when people look at LGBT communities and ‘other’ us, it’s a natural psychological thing but it is deeply scarring”. This then creates shame. Claire Birkenshaw responded to the current so called ‘trans* debate’ by saying that of all the things that are being questioned, the one that cannot be challenged is that we are human. This framing immediately changes the expectations around the dignity and nature of the discourse that should be allowed in this questioning dialogue. Knowledge is again the key, and that is where educators – armed with a knowledge curriculum – are so vital; we can be the champions of equality for the future.

Diary of a London Supply Teacher

I’ve now spent six weeks supply teaching in mainly central London schools. I’ve had some short stints of continuity a couple of times and many one off days covering everything from IT to Spanish. It has been quite an experience and I’ve got some observations:

A good measure of a school is how the students treat supply teachers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Ready for a day of supply. 

Causation is a dangerous game to play in matters of education; however, without explicitly suggesting as much a trend is very clear. Schools where I’ve found the students treat supply teachers with respect tend to uniformly be schools that are welcoming and well organised. This means meeting both HR and a Senior Leadership Team member or appropriate Head of Department on arrival, receiving key information like a school map and overview of school systems, and appropriate access to the necessary classrooms or staffroom via a key or swipe card. The offers for assistance, frequent ‘check-ins’ and smiles in the coridors are all forthcoming as well.

On the other hand, schools where the students have more problematic behaviour offer a contrasting experience. The vibe of the school is clear from the reception where sign in procedures are offer unclear, the discourtesy can start with the office staff before a student has been sighted, and the important half an hour of preparation before classes is often wasting waiting in reception. These are the schools where cover work is sometimes hard to find: buried in a colleague’s email, left in the wrong classroom, requiring ICT access that a supply teacher doesn’t have, or simply non-existent. Often it is not meaningful – pages from a textbook which the students have no prior knowledge of, or worksheets that might be pitched entirely at the wrong level.

A day of relief offers a very small window. But I feel as though that experience is more than a little bit telling.

To survive there is a right level of care to bring to each day

When I began relieving I approached each day with an intent in the same ballpark of the way I approached each school day in New Zealand. Less than a week later I reached a feeling of rock bottom as the constant failure to reach my expectations weighed so heavily. It wasn’t necessarily the battle with the students to behave in a respectable manner, it was more the battle with myself. I found myself ill-equipped with the skills needed to deal with such challenging behaviour, shouting in the classroom for the first time in a very long time.

After deep soul searching I changed how I approached each day in order to survive. I became far more relaxed and flexible in terms of what each lesson entailed. Specifically this meant responding to behaviour issues by passing it on rather than feeling responsible, and being responsive in my expectations so that students may not achieve any meaningful learning outcomes, but at least they didn’t break anything.

You may only know them for an hour, but relationships are still the key

The more relaxed approach opened up the space for classroom conversations that I was far more used to. A student off task watching a football video under the desk got a football chat before being asked to put their phone away. A conflict between students was dealt with using humour rather than separating them. The result was less confrontation and more meaningful interactions.

Part of this was how I grew to set up each class. The pattern I developed was to introduce myself before introducing the work. This meant saying I was from New Zealand, asking what they knew about my home, whether they knew of our two official languages (te reo Māori and NZ Sign Language), teaching them to say “kia ora” and delivering my mihi. This made me more than a supply teacher, it made me a person and it enabled conversations that mattered a lot more than many of the worksheets I then had to pass out.

Making Diversity Visible for Gender & Sexuality Inclusive Schools

This blogpost was originally published on the CORE Education Blog here. 

At any conference or professional learning event, the idea of “inclusive education” tends to buzz. It’s a theme that many workshops or presentations have at their heart. But when we talk about inclusive education, are we also including sexuality minorities or gender identity?

Data capturing the voices of same-sex or both-sex attracted, and transgender youth suggest we are not. These groups of students are regularly overrepresented in statistics for bullying and well-being in the Youth2000 surveys (Clark et al., 2013; Clark et al., 2014). Sexuality and gender diverse students may not be visible in a lot of Aotearoa’s schools, which can make inclusion complex. However, it is now 2018, and our diverse young people are beginning to make more noise. They are proudly coming out and demanding change.

Last year I was privileged to be selected as one of the 2017 CORE Education eFellows. Seven teachers from various contexts undertook action research projects over the course of the year with guidance from CORE mentors and the support of one another.

I set out to work with a small group of teachers to develop their inclusive practice to support making sexuality and gender-minority students feel welcome, included, and accepted at school. I was interested in delving into the teachers’ historical understanding of sexuality and gender and support the development of that understanding. The inquiry investigated what makes a difference for teachers in this area and to encourage ongoing practice that promotes empathy and acceptance. I hoped that understanding the teachers’ journeys, both past and present, would help to develop gender and sexuality inclusive practice in others.

diagramMy findings led me to develop this diagram (with some source inspiration from this blogpost). Our inclusive practice is in tension between the pressure to be more inclusive and the pressure to be comfortable. Pressure comes from well-being initiatives or professional development opportunities, the statistics (above) that tell us that more needs to be done, and student voice that demands change for inclusion. The pressure in the opposite direction comes from internal pressure that naturally wants to maintain the status quo, the drive to stay in your comfort zone, and competing priorities.

In order to create a shift, I propose drawing inspiration from Newton’s First Law: an object at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. What is required to shift teachers to more gender and sexuality-inclusive practice is greater pressure for change. To avoid diversity inertia, we need to make the compelling reasons to change more visible.

Friday 18th May is Pink Shirt Day. This is an opportunity for visibility, for schools to shift the inertia.

The purpose of Pink Shirt Day is “to create schools, workplaces and communities where all people feel safe, valued and respected.” While the day sets out to address bullying in a general sense, the origins of the day come from the LGBT+ community. It is important that homophobia and biphobic and transphobic bullying is specifically addressed by Pink Shirt Day events because sexuality and gender minority young people experience higher rates of bullying (Bullying Prevention Advisory Group, 2015).

It is easy to be involved; many schools already participate. The harder part is ensuring that the day results in a deeper understanding of the prevalence and impact of bullying on young people’s mental health and wellbeing. The Pink Shirt Day toolkits are a great place to start. This is also a good opportunity to reflect on our practice too: how do sexuality and gender minority students know they are safe in our schools? In our classrooms? How does our practice support the disruption of heteronormativity or binary views of gender?

Participating in the day is one action that can make a difference. Taking part could mean one individual wears pink, or a whole school. But this is only a start. We need a tidal wave of action to push us out of diversity inertia and start turning around Aotearoa’s embarrassing statistics for our sexuality and gender minority youth.

Links to further information:

pink-shirt-day
Newlands College staff on Pink Shirt Day, 2017

References

Bullying Prevention Advisory Group. (2015). Bully prevention and response: A guide for schools. Bullying Prevention Advisory Group. Retrieved from http://www.education.govt.nz/school/student-support/student-wellbeing/health-and-wellbeing/bullying-prevention-and-response/bullying-prevention-and-response-a-guide-for-schools/

Clark, T. C., Fleming, T., Bullen, P., Denny, S., Crengle, S., Dyson, B., Fortune, S., Lucassen, M., Peiris-John, R., Robinson, E., Rossen, F., Sheridan, J., Teevale, T., Utter, J. (2013). Youth’12 Overview: The health and wellbeing of New Zealand secondary school students in 2012. Auckland, New Zealand: The University of Auckland.

Clark, T. et al. (2014) The Health and Well-Being of Transgender High School Students: Results From the New Zealand Adolescent Health Survey. Journal of Adolescent Health 55, 93-99.

The Solo Traveler Sitting In Your Classroom

Since mid-February I have been travelling through Vietnam and China on my way to make a new home in London. For most of Vietnam I had travel companions, for most of China I have been a solo traveler. By myself I’ve felt like the outsider at times, being the only European and English speaker in many situations. Particularly in China I’ve been in environments that by their very design exclude me from particpating.

While I’ve enjoyed the extended break, I’ve been missing the classroom and pedagogy has never to too far from my mind. Traveling and education are much the same in how they are both about journeys. Traveling from the south of vietnam to the north of China could be a metaphor for a student’s journey through school: its about making sense of new environments, gaining knowledge, achieving success. There is also the challenge of maintaining your own identity and agency in the face of systems that tend to favour homogeneity.

An important part of my identity is that I am gay. It has been a struggle at times to have that part of my identity validated on this trip. Buying clothes, most shop assistants will attempt to sell me something for my girlfriend; arranged marriages with local girls have been proposed more than once after locals discover I am traveling alone. In Vietnam, I spent some time in Yen Duc Village a couple of hours from Hanoi. At my homestay I had to give up trying to explain I had a male partner. At first I was laughed at, then later I was reasoned with – my homestay mother explaining through a translator that if I only held other boys’ hands then it would be ok. This might not be homophobia, but more of a cultural clash where my identity cannot be seen for this family in Vietnam.

More overt homophobia happened later in Chengdu, when an Australian in a food tour group delighted in telling us his ‘awful’ story about accidentally going to a Chinese gay bar. He told us he didn’t know what type of bar it was, found it was full of only men and experienced guys hitting on him. He then explained how he got out of there as quick as he could barely disguising his disgust in his reenactment. This form of homophobia pales in comparison to the young fabulous boy I saw being spat at in Shanghai. While that was disturbing to witness, the ubiquity of spitting in China makes me doubt how directed an attack that was. But then again there was no attempt to apologise.

In our classrooms, students may find our educational spaces similar to traveling in a foreign country.

How do we ensure we are validating our students’ identities? How are we ensuring that everyone feels like they belong? Are our classrooms inclusive of all the differences that our students bring? Alienation can be brought about through language barriers and cultural practices that don’t find space for difference. The challenge here isn’t for China and Vietnam to change, it is for educators to make our classrooms inclusive destinations for all our travellers. I think I’ve learnt a lot from the reminder of both what it feels like to be the outsider and the privilege of experiencing this so rarely.

A sample from a series titled ‘Jerome standing in front of things’ – in this instance a street in the Old Quarter of Hoi An, Vietnam

2017: In Review

Last year I wrote a 2016 in review to reflect on a year of professional learning and the blogposts that I had written. It was an interesting exercise, reaffirming the reason for writing this blog, which is more for personal assimilation than for any potential audience out there (the potential audience pressures me to assimilate). Three trends from reflecting on the blogposts I wrote in 2017:

Technology in the Back Seat

I’ve felt the ubiquity of technology (the second year teaching in a full BYOD environment) has made it less of driver around professional learning conversations. This came through my own refocusing on inquiry through the work of Kath Murdoch as well as the action research of my eFellowship.  The keynotes at uLearn also reinforced this shift. Eric Mazur’s focus on shifting from transferring information to assimilating information and Abdul Chohan’s articulation of the role of belief in change initiatives both moved away from the tool to the pedagogy.

The place of technology in education was really nailed for me by Richard Watson in his book ‘Digital Vs Human‘. He was very clear that technology needs to be purposeful and not driven by capitalism. Derek Wenmoth contextualised this when presenting the 10 trends, suggesting that any technology, any new trend in education, needs to be explored through lenses of ethics, citizenship, safety and equity. Using technology just to grab a student’s attention isn’t good enough in 2017. What is the point of presenting a new technology tool to a staffroom if you aren’t going to discuss how it impacts on student learning? Pedagogy is the driver.

The Politics of Diversity

In 2017 I continued to present the Safer Schools for all workshop also got to share this work at the CTU Pride Union Conference. I discovered the work of Peter DeWitt, which was inspirational to read. I was also very proud to peer review the vital ‘Supporting LGBTIQA+ Students’ inclusive guide on TKI. But it was Welby Ings and his book ‘Disobedient Teaching’ that really gave a political context for this work. He stated “waiting for permission means very little ever gets changed” and this work with promoting diversity is so often dependent on permission from straight white cis-males in leadership positions. My eFellowship research took aim at this in a way by working with teachers in the middle and making ripples to impact change. Going forward I want to hold this work with strong values while remembering being inclusive isn’t something that teachers need permission for.

He Tāngaga, He Tāngata, He Tānagata

The overwhelming trend in my thinking this year has been the importance of putting everybody (not just students) at the centre. From professional reading on this to a class EduCamp, there has been a clear theme of stories that has connected a lot of my journey in 2017. The eFellowship brought together seven stories to work alongside one another and the intersections between those journeys was often the most rewarding. One of those eFellows, Heemi, was exploring specifically indigenous narrative frameworks and story as data. Another moment this year that bought stories together was the ‘Learning with Our Community’ day. Having so many people from the community in the school inspiring the students with their personalised stories was a real special opportunity to be involved in.

Last year I drove away from Newlands College for the last time. After eight years I needed a change and shortly I’m going to be making my way to London to teach in a new system in a new country. I’m disappointed this comes at a time just as I’ve been woken up by Ann Milne who has helped me find my internal bias and my need for action to truly become a culturally responsive teacher. I’ve found through the process of reflecting on leaving along with Milne’s book and uLearn presentation this year that ‘people’ is the key to my educational philosophy. Something I tried to capture that in some of the last words I spoke at Newlands College:

Celebrate our differences, our uniqueness, our diversity. Champion our people, because it is the people that make this place so special. It is the people here that have made the difference to me. It is the people I will always remember. He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.