Tuesday, 8 February 2011

3 for the price of 1! 30 Goals Challenge, Nos 4, 5 & 6

A busy weekend left no time to catch up on the 30 Goals Challenge and now Shelly has posted Goal 6 so yet again, I present you with 3 responses at once! This time, I save you from video me as, just to mix things up a bit, I’m going to type this one (or three!)

Goal 4 - Leave it behind, let it be

For this goal, Shelly challenges us to think of and try out ways we can ‘leave stress behind and not carry it into the classroom’. Now, I’m not one for meditation or relaxation techniques. I generally try to stay cool, calm and collected whatever the situation and focus on the task at hand rather than anything else that is going on. Some may call it escapism but I enjoy my job and see it as a way to take my mind off other stressful activities like my MA studies.

crawling babies

Stop! Don’t crawl over there! Image by Artshooter

But I’d like to continue this post from the perspective of a parent. Watching my son grow up is a constant joy and I enjoy every minute of it. Sure, sometimes there are stressful moments like when he gets ill or hurts himself but these are far outweighed by those moments of joy. However, I’ve seen many parents who get hung up on the stressful things. When their baby starts to crawl, their delight is almost instantly taken over by fear as they worry about electrical outlets, sharp corners on coffee tables and low cupboard doors. And so, they start to chase the baby round the house, picking her/him up whenever within a metre of ‘danger’ and moving him/her away.

Come to my house and you’ll see no protectors on the tables, no child locks on the cupboards and no covered up sockets. Is this because my wife and I don’t care? Of course not! We just decided to let it be. As our son started to crawl and then walk, we warned him about the possible dangers and they have never been a problem. He has never been curious about what is in cupboards or attracted by the wall sockets. I believe this is precisely because we never made them off-limits so he was never curious in finding out why…

I think there is a lesson for our teaching here. Why do we react to certain behaviour from students and get stressed about it? I see teachers yelling at kids about running around inside, writing on the board in breaktime, making jokes in class, sitting in the window… Maybe if we don’t react and get stressed about these things they won’t be such an issue.

Goal 5 - Reflect, step back, act

The short-term goal this time is to reflect on the best and worst lessons of the week. As I’m on holiday at the moment, I will pick out a pair of recent lessons from before the mid-year break began. Reflecting on lessons is one of my main reasons for writing a blog and recently, I’ve been calling for more reflection on lessons that went wrong from the blogosphere so this goal is a welcome one for me. And just to show how each class is different, the worst and best lessons I’m about to describe were (in the planning stage) exactly  the same!

reflection

A pair of reflections. Image by lrargerich

In the last week of the semester, the students at my school really switch off. They have little interest in lessons or doing any work and constantly ask for games or videos. I don’t blame them really as they have two very long semesters with hardly any breaks - a lot for primary school kids to take. I decided to bridge the gap between their desire for games and my desire to review a book we’d just finished studying by making a quiz. I used a quiz generator called ‘Fling the Teacher’, which works in the style of Who wants to be a millionaire? only instead of winning money, if all 15 questions are answered correctly, a teacher on screen gets flung from a catapult!

The worst lesson was a perfect example of all that we are told is wrong with introducing teams and competition into class. I divided the class into 4 teams and said we would see how many questions each team could answer right. They got angry with each other and started dishing out blame in the vent of wrong answers, they deliberately tried to put the other teams off, they were on the verge of tears when losing and there was far too much gloating when they were winning. And this class is usually such a lovely group! Obviously, the end of term ‘holiday’ feeling combined with a competitive quiz-show style game was too much for them.

The best lesson came when I did the quiz with another class (I go into 5 different classes each week). After the previous experience, I considered not bothering at all as this class is difficult to manage at the best of times. However, I had promised them a game the day before so I didn’t want to disappoint them. I reminded them beforehand that they should not get over-competitive as it was just a game and, much to my surprise, they paid attention to that. Usually, they fight in class and behave disrespectfully towards each other all the time but in this lesson, they worked in teams really well. The consulted each other before answering a question and they didn’t laugh or mock the other teams when they gave wrong answers neither did they get angry with each other when they got wrong answers. Usually, I avoid using teams and games with this class because I know they can be a handful but perhaps I should use them more often.

Goal 6 - Invite them in & leave the door open

Goals 6 is a call for transparency, to share what goes on in our class with parents and other teachers. Unfortunately, video recording of my classes is not allowed and there is little chance of that changing in the near future. We are also waiting for permission to get class blogs or wikis set up so for now the options are limited.

open doors

Not my classroom door but an open one nonetheless. Image by *Fede*

One thing I will say about my classes though is that the door is quite literally always open. I only ever close the door when we are going to be doing something that needs quiet, like a listening activity, or something that may be loud enough to disturb other classes in the corridor. I invite the main class teacher and other English teachers to come by a take a look inside. Of course, this doesn’t happen very often but I think it’s good for the students and other teacher to know the option is there.

It’s a sad fact of life that people remember and retell negative experiences more than positive ones, as shown my Shelly’s example in the video. I always encourage kids and their parents to talk about what has happened at school at the end of each day. If done on a regular basis, more of the positive things will be discussed and problems that maybe the student is reluctant to bring up at school can be discovered and addressed as well.

When the new semester starts, I would like to make my classroom more open. I am planning to discuss with some colleagues the possibility of observing each others classes and team-teaching on a regular basis (at present, it happens very rarely - perhaps once or twice a year). These kind of activities are a great way to learn from our peers and offer support to each other, kind of like being a beam… or an axle. Winking smile

See you tomorrow for Goal No. 7!

2 comments:

  1. Dave,

    What an awesome response! I like what you say about stressing over children. I understand there is a balance but when the kids are loud, running, or playing in my class which is often I tell others they're kids. They are supposed to play! It's more natural than them sitting in chairs 6 hours a day.

    I also think that is great advice to encourage children and parents to talk about each day. I will try doing this!

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  2. Thank you Shelly, both for the goals and the comments.

    I agree 100% on the reminder that they are kids. Some over-excited behaviour and 'wildness' comes with the territory. All the time they hear what they shouldn't do - they need to be given some looser boundries from time to time.

    As for encouraging parent-child chats about each day, it sounds obvious but it's surprising (and sad) how many parents admit they don't really talk with their kids about it. I always tell them that just 5 or 10 minutes is enough and not just a 'how was your day?' but 'what did you learn today?', 'what did you do in class?', 'what was the best thing you did at school today?' - questions to really get the kids talking and the parents listening!

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