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Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Change – An Educator's Enemy or Best Friend?

Why is it that we as educators love comfort, predictability and routine? Why is it that in many other professions change is encouraged and fostered? I am crucial aware change can be both positive and negative and it is our outlook towards this that makes the difference in the outcome.

Professionally change is upon me with a major shift with the grade that I am teaching. As such I need to get used to a new cohort of students, a new teaching partner, a new teaching team, new sets of parents and a new room. On top of this I have new curriculum material from our new syllabus’ and in the back of my mind I know I will have another major change at the end of the year moving into our new learning center.

Personally change has not eluded me either as I look over the past 20 years I have experienced many major changes starting when I got married. Without going into too many details there have been countless adaptations that I needed to get used to when going from the single life to one, which is happily married.

Just over a year after I was married I watched my house burn to the ground in a Sydney wildfire on Christmas day. In the year we rebuild I graduating from study and was appointed to a position then lost it due to a back injury. Being off work for a period of time and then told I could not go back to the profession I loved was one of those changes that could have lead to depression.

Starting a new course of study and moving into outdoor education and professional coaching soon caused me to begin to look at how change could be viewed in a positive light. Around this time I became a dad and like with marriage this is creates a major alteration to life. With this new appreciation of change we began to build a team of volunteers that would work with children at risk as early intervention support. After focusing on building my strength, I was again able to return to the sport I loved and began to teach high level of athletes. Continuing my evolution I furthered my study and was appointed to a school. In 2010, I moved to my current position adding the portfolio of ICT Learning Coach two years later. I have come to know change happens even when we are not looking for it.

There is a story written by Spencer Johnson called “Who moved my cheese?” In this he tells a story about change that takes place in a maze where four little characters look for “cheese”. Cheese is a metaphor for what we desire, our goals, hopes and dreams. In one of my previous post One Degree Makes a Significant Difference I stated, “The bottom line is we get to decide what success is for each of us” this is our cheese. If we lose it, don’t achieve it or it is taken from us it can be distressing, so we need to take care to anticipate change and adapt to it quickly so that we can enjoy the new cheese. Throughout all the changes life has, I could become upset, dig my heals in and refused to accept them but this doesn’t change the fact that the change has happened. I now understood that change only surprises us when we are not expecting it or not looking for it.

In nature we know change happens, without it things become dry and stagnate. Denis Waitley tells a story in his book Psychology of Winning (1986) of Earl Nightingale visiting Australia’s magnificent Great Barrier Reef. He noticed that the coral polyps on the inside of the reed where the sea was tranquil and quiet in the lagoon, appeared pale and lifeless… while the coral on the outside of the reef, subject to the surge of the tide and the power of the waves, were bright and vibrant with splendid colours and flowing growth. Earl Nightingale asked his guide why this was so?

His guide responded ‘It is very simple, the coral on the lagoon side dies rapidly with no challenge for growth and survival. While the coral facing the surge and power of the open sea, thrives and multiplies because it is challenged and tested everyday.’

This story resonates with me because in my personal and professional life whenever I tried to spend too much time in the tranquility and comfort I found myself losing my desire to become better than what I am, my cheese began to move. Though the still waters are appreciated when they come, as they are a source of refreshment and reflection the challenge of change invigorates growth.

The facts are the choices I have made in the past have brought me to the place I am at now. As I build on the present and develop a magnificent future I choose to accept change is going to happen and I can choose to allow it to stagnate or invigorate me. I have grasped the notion that life and my profession as a educator is an adventure that needs to be savored and like any adventure storms come and battles rage. How I grow through these define the type of person and educator I chose to become.

So decide for yourself… Is change your enemy or your best friend?

Johnson, S. (2006) Who Moved My Cheese? Ebury Publishing, London
Waitley, D. (1986) The Psychology of Winning. Penguin Publishing Group, Berkeley 

Sunday, 3 January 2016

My Vision for Education, My Desire for Students, My One-Degree that Makes a Difference

In beginning a new year we are able to begin a new set of goals for ourselves personally and professionally.  It is as though a new season is upon us and with this new season new possibilities are given.

In my previous post One Degree Makes a Significant Difference I stated, “The bottom line is we get to decide what success is for each of us. In doing so we can align our thought patterns and actions towards achieving this goal ensuring it is congruent with our purpose and values. 

Our values define what is the most important to us and give us purpose and direction. To be living out our purpose we need an existence that is in accordance with our values. Purpose calls forth passion, which is the driving force behind accomplishment.”

Throughout my professional life I have seen many people inside and outside of education climbing the ladder of success come to a point where they discover their ladder was leaning up against the wrong wall. They discover that much of their time and energy has been diminished because their goals were not in alignment with their values and purpose. They had been sabotaged by what was thought to be success but in reality was costing them the things that really mattered.

To be an educator that impacts the lives of many students in positive ways they must be willing to be vulnerable and willing to grow, increasing their capacity. Their burning desire to do the best for the student is in the centre of their vision and they realise by doing a great job with the small things, great things happen.

In societies quest for instant gratification, patience is sometimes something we as educators essentially need to humour ourselves with. It is a key element to in being able to reflect on the progress being made, identifying potential trends and begin to strategically plan for the future. It opens the door to a long-term vision of what something could look like.

In my long-term vision for education I hope to help the students learn how to combat the negative feelings and stereotypes that plague our society. Rather, empowering them to see that they have the ability to be a great generation. My responsibility in their lives is to ensure that my students are getting the best education I can provide tapping into the resources of my school, parents and the broader community so that they can succeed in whatever area they choose. 

This is my vision for education, my desire for students, my one-degree that makes a difference:
  1. Teachers will know their students – As the teacher understands what motivates and engages their students they are able to see each as an individual unique learner whose style of learning can be utilised and catered for to create richer learning experiences for all.
  2. Students will be inquirers - The way students learn to interpret is to question. Through questioning, students learn to create their own interpretations, thus making the information their own. This allows student directed knowledge building and interpretation.
  3. Students will be knowledgeable – Students come to school with different forms of social and cultural capital that when utilised within the classroom context enriches the learning environment for themselves and those around them.
  4. Students will be thinkers – Students will be encouraged to form links between various interpretations of information to their own lives. If students can read, understand, interpret and link a story to their life, then that student can understand more of the world around them.
  5. Students will be communicators – This includes both written and oral communication. Students learn how to write; develop oral communication through question and answer time and presentations and read in many contexts. All this prepares students to effectively be rational thinkers, able to take ideas and either make them their own, or discard them.
  6. Students will be principled – Understanding the moral obligations we have as humans, being able to know right from wrong and appreciate actions create consequences.
  7. Students will be open-minded critical thinkers - Two important aspects of critical thinking are questioning and interpreting. When a student can do these things with freedom, they can critically think through and analyse anything.
  8. Students will be compassionate – By encouraging students to look out for each other, others in our community and the world around them establishes principles of service and custodianship.
  9. Students will be risk takers – Establishing a safe and challenging classroom climate is essential for students to feel able to freely think and express their ideas. Making a mistake is not a problem as students are aware that they are perfectly imperfect and learning from this mistake that is important. Problem solving, it’s about life skills that our students need to have.  The ability to think ‘out of the box’ and not simply do what has been done before because it is the common thing to do.
  10. Students will be balanced – A student with balance will be able to understand the highs and lows of emotions and situations and be able to assess their importance and relevance.
  11. Students will be reflective – When students are aware of the connections they are making between learning class tasks and their own knowledge and experiences, they take ownership of this and consider on how it can be utilised in a real world experience

Professional development is often an under utilized resource we have as educators in supporting our students and our goals.  Any time that a teacher can learn about new educational theories and practices, they are able to become a more effective teacher.  The world of education is ever changing and our interconnectedness is ever increasing.  New theories and practices come and go.  Without learning of these changes, we cannot discover those that may be superior.  In order to become a more effective teacher, it is essential that we determine for ourselves how those superior theories and practices can be used to advantage our students become the future leaders of our society.

Now this is my vision for education, my desire for students and my one-degree that makes a difference, my challenge to you is to document what is yours? 
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