Thursday, 2 September 2010

New academic year, challenges, changes and making sense of ‘WebSense’

After a nice break away from it all, I’ve been back at work this week in preparation for the forthcoming academic year (still plenty of time as school doesn’t start in Turkey until Sept 20th). Only two days in and it’s been interesting so far: very much a refreshing change to the usual post-holiday gossip accompanied by numerous cups of over-brewed tea…

The Big Meeting

‘Meeting for ALL teachers on Wednesday at 9am’ came the texted warning. ‘With the school director – be on time and no jeans or t-shirts!’ A stark reminder as I sat in my hotel room that a return to work was imminent. Unusual though that the entire school (from kindergarten to high school) would be called instead of our usual primary-only meeting with our principal. As it turned out, more than a perfunctory meeting, it was a presentation as the director set out a vision for the new school year and beyond. She had many positive comments to make about moving forward, increasing learner autonomy, embracing technology rather than avoiding it, learning with our students rather than just teaching them. ‘Yes,’ I thought. ‘This is what I wanted to hear.’ But quickly a couple of reminders of how much action will be needed to back up the words: we were shown an illustration of a boy surrounded by the latest tech devices, eagerly working away on his laptop. ‘Is this what we want to see from our students?’ came the question (following a 5 minute explanation of the benefits of engaging today’s youngsters through technology). ‘NO!!!’ came the chorused reply to which the director said ‘you were supposed to say yes!’. Later, she asked if our goal as teachers was to strive for one perfect method that everyone could use to teach. ‘YES!!!’ came the reply this time. ‘Hmmm,’ the director said. ‘Must be the heat, it’s getting to you.’ Lots of work to be done then in convincing the teaching masses to experiment a little and adjust their attitudes but at least the people in charge are pushing for it.

New Challenges

Once the meeting was finished, we retired to the English department hoping for news about what year groups we’d be teaching. As expected, I was told that after a few years in the 3rd grade, I’d be moved into the 4th grade ‘conversation’ programme. It will be a big change as rather than having my own classes, I will be sharing a class with the Turkish ‘grammar’ teacher. Despite the conversation tag, I’ll be responsible for developing speaking and writing skills as well as working with some readers and preparing the students for the Cambridge Movers exam. So, even though the message given in the opening meeting was positive, the reality for now remains that I have to work with story books written entirely in present tenses and teach specifically for a standardised test… Still, I’ve also been charged with creating a webspace for the students to access from home and this is where I see possibilities, especially for improving writing with some of the great web-based resources out there.

Furthermore, under my own volition, I’ve started work on a pbworks site aimed at promoting an exchange of ideas, advice and resources amongst my colleagues. I hope we can not only share and collect links to useful websites but also discuss and share our own ideas and perhaps even upload some screencasted tutorials and seminars. I’m selling it to everyone as an alternative to giving up evenings or weekends for in-house training! Join in when you want, from where you want. And there’s more…. my employer TED has opened a couple of new schools recently and I may be sent to visit and give workshops to the teachers there. The Northern Cyprus branch sounds like a good place to start! Seems like I’ll be busy this year then… Oh, and of course, year 2 of the MA will shortly be underway as well!

The First Obstacle of the Year

I’ve also encountered the first barrier to my plans and ideas this year. I want to create a webspace for the students incorporating some of the great tools I’ve seen and used in the first year of my MA and over the last few months through all the great links my PLN have passed on through Twitter: Voicethread, WallWisher, Glogster, Slideshare, DomoAnimate, LiveTyping and Zimmer Twins are all sites I planned to make use of but, to my horror, I found all of them were blocked by my school’s internet filter!! ‘Websense’ makes no sense to me! I’ve now spent a large portion of my evening typing a list of which sites I want unblocked and why to be submitted first thing tomorrow. As I said earlier, a lot of action is needed to back up the words…

2 comments:

  1. I thought this post was quite funny. Reminds me of similar meetings I've had or trainings I've done :)

    It's nice that the manager is promoting development and innovation. I can't say that's always the case in Turkey, but I've heard good things about TED.

    Good luck this year!

    FYI, I only seem to be able to post a comment with a google account, which I'm not a big fan of using. I'm not sure if it's my comp or your set up, but you might want to give it a look as people without google accounts will be unable to comment.

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  2. Hi Faust,

    Thanks for the comment. I'm impressed with the steps forward TED has been taking in recent times and I hope it continues.

    I thought my comment settings were openID enabled at least. The only level I had not permitted was 'anonymous' but I'll check again.

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