Tuesday, 31 March 2015

April Wallpaper

This month's wallpaper...commemorating 100 years since the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli.

This wallpaper has been constructed using Stampin Up's My Digital Studios using  Designer Series Paper/_Designer Kits/Back to School - designer series paper/Back to School - 6.

The font used in Charcuterie Etched purchased through Creative Market and Wallpaper Poppies purchased through Creative Market.
Sunday, 22 March 2015

Keep Learning

Being open to learning is important.

For a teacher it is even more so.

I can get so passionate about the topics that I am teaching and want to share that with my students. I want the, to be as passionate as me.

But that isn't always the reality. My students aren't always as passionate as I am about what we're studying.

And they don't have to be - I know there is a lot that I can learn.

Today I visited the David Lynch exhibition "Between Two Worlds" at GOMA.

I always attend the exhibitions at QAG and GOMA because I like to learn about different kinds of art. I remember first seeing Ai Wei Wei's work and falling in love.

I was so excited when I was in Washington years later and saw an Ai Wei Wei exhibition. I really grasp what is happening with his work. I am fascinated by how he portrays our devaluing of history.

Personal Photograph - December 2012

But the most recent exhibition at GOMA...not so much.

But it isn't about not enjoying...it is about not understanding.

I know I have students who would take one look at a drawing or mixed media piece by David Lynch and grasp what it was all about. They would clearly understand his message.

I know students who I sometimes have difficulty engaging with, who I can now begin a conversation with, I can ask them their thoughts about the exhibition and how they relate to it. I can start a conversation about filmmaking, design, art and music.

And I can learn from them.

I didn't walk away from the exhibition thinking - I didn't understand that; it was a waste of time. Instead I walked away from a new experience and an open mind - to learn what I could about different mediums and a different artist. I am happy to learn what I can.

Because really that has to be the first rule of teaching - to keep learning.

This poster was made using Stampin Up's My Digital Studios using Embellishment Playground Project Life 3x4 - 114, Stamps Playground Project Life - apple and 1.25 square punch filled with DSP My First Day - chalkboard.
Friday, 20 March 2015

Queensland Senior Assessment - One Teacher's Thoughts

When I was at school, something became very clear to me - I'm not good at exams. I remember my first experience with block exams - I got a rash all over the right side of the body which the doctor attributed to stress. Medical Certificate in hand I returned to school on the Friday of exam week to sit my Biology, English and Maths B exams in the space of 4 hours. Not a good introduction to exams.

Currently in Queensland, exams aren't the most important piece of assessment for students. They complete exams of course, but it's within a range of other tasks. This allows them to have multiple opportunities to show their learning, but in different ways.

I value the opportunity that I have as a HoD English and a teacher to develop work program within a school context that will engage students. I have taught in a number of schools in my career, and in no school have I done the same thing.

Each context is different. 
Each group of students is different. 
We are able to choose texts and tasks that suit their learning needs and abilities. 
We tailor the opportunities to meet our students needs.

There is a debate in Queensland about the way that we do things. A debate about school-based moderated assessment versus externally-marked assessment.

What's the difference? 
What is unique about Queensland?

In Queensland schools, a work program is designed based on a syllabus. This is put together based on stringent criteria. Each school is in a district and in that district there is a panel of teachers of that subject. They receive the proposed work program, make sure that it meets the criteria outlined in the syllabus and approve or ask for changes. Within a school, after assessment is collected and marked, teachers work together as a team to moderate the assessment. They discuss the pieces, they question each other, they make sure that the mark matches the criteria and standards set out in the syllabus document. In Term 3 schools send a sample of student work to the district panel. Independent panellists examine this work, discuss it, make sure that it represents the standards of achievement and provide advice back to schools. If they don't agree, they ask the school to adjust their result. This is a comprehensive process, and the work is done by teachers who are in schools and working with students. They are the experts.

We don't send our work away to be marked independently. We don't devalue the work of our teachers by telling them that they don't know what they're doing and that someone else needs to mark their work.

Instead we value the professional judgements of our teachers. We value them. We trust them.

We have a test that provides a balance - the Queensland Core Skills Test. Has it been manipulated in recent years? Yes. I've been in schools where an external consultant has come in and demanded students not be allowed to sit the test so that other students can achieve higher results. Is 'gaming' happening - absolutely. But if we are going to rely on data for everything in education, this is inevitable, not matter the testing system. We are naive to think otherwise.

All systems can be improved. Of course they can. Anyone who says that nothing has been done to change the system we currently work under is wrong. In my 14 year career I've seen syllabus processes developed and syllabus documents changed; I've seen tweaks to the assessment regime to meet the needs of our students more widely and their needs. Changes are important and necessary to any system. And they have been happening and will continue to happen.

The ACER Review (click here to read more) has a number of recommendations that I believe should be enacted e.g. pre-approving assessment items - who can argue with that?

However my personal belief is that what we do in Queensland works. How do I know? I'm a panellist. I'm a HoD and I'm a teacher. I work at the chalkface and see this process in all it's forms. It is transparent. It it stringent. It has checks and balances.

I shudder and question my place as an educator if we have a system where the knowledge and skills of our students is reliant upon an externally marked piece of assessment that devalues the work students are completing in schools, especially if one task is worth 50% and school-based assessment, which may be three tasks is worth the same. How is this equitable?

Not all students are good at exams and we would be disadvantaging them. We don't currently have a system of exams and if what is being stated anecdotally in other states is true, we would need to train our students to complete a test. How does this prepare them for real life?

School-based moderated assessment has some exams and some assignments (both written and spoken) in English as well as, in other subjects there are pracs, performances etc. Students complete a range of tasks to best illustrate their strengths and weaknesses. This is valuable. This is real. In real life, in the workplace, students have opportunities to continue to learn and develop their skills. How often will they sit a test for knowledge? And lets face it, if you don't know something, you look it up. You use the skills you've developed through school and life to evaluate the information to find what you're looking for.

These are my thoughts. They don't belong to anyone else but me.

I love the system we have in Queensland and would hate to see it disappear because of misinformation in the media which has rolled out into our wider society. Our system is robust and accountable. Can we make changes to improve it - absolutely, but let's not throw it out altogether. That would be tragic - for our teachers and our students, and in turn our wider society.

If you're a teacher in Queensland and value the system we have, please have your say. There is a survey on the DETE website here and the QCAA will be releasing a survey soon. I will link back to it when it is live.

If we are to have change, let's make sure the teachers of Queensland are heard. You may not agree with me, and that's fine. Have your say too.
Monday, 2 March 2015

If I could visit any place I've read about in a book...

I'm very proud of my new display.

I completed a warm up activity with my students a few weeks ago to help me build this display. Students were asked to take a post-it as they came into class. I made templates that asked the question

"If I could visit any place I've read about in a book it would be?"

Students entered the room and wrote their answers on the post it. Once they had completed this task, they put them on the whiteboard, collecting them in groups where there were similarities. 

I have used their answers to create the display. This was a Year 9 class, and I admit that the one that surprised me was Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, but I guess that is somewhere I'd also love to visit.

You can find a pdf copy of the template here. To use the template, print off one copy of the document. Attach six post its by placing them directly over the top of the box. Place this sheet back in your printer. Print the pdf again. The borders will print out as well. Redo until you have enough.

You can find a copy of the arrows used in the display here. I printed in colour and as A3 so that they were a bit larger.

The quotes can be downloaded here. The banner can be downloaded here.

The fonts used in the arrows for the display can be found below:

The wood photographs used for the background of the signs come from a collection by Dustin Lee, purchased through Design Cuts with a commercial licence.

The banner was created using Stampin Up's My Digital Studios using 
    Extras/Build A Banner Simply Created - punches/Build A Banner Simply Created - 2,  Filled with: Designer Series Paper/_Designer Kits/World Traveler - designer series paper/World Traveler - paper 8;     Basics/1.25 Circle Punch, Fill Color = 175,190,174
    Alphabet & Numbers/Timeless Type Junior Letters/Timeless Type Junior Uppercase - i, Junior Lowercase - w, a, n, t, o, v, i, s.

The quote posters were created using wood backgrounds from a collection by Dustin Lee, purchased through Design Cuts with a commercial licence. The font is Castor One, purchased with a commercial licence.

March Wallpaper

4+ weeks to the end of the term...it's time for rest and reflection...somewhere in there with the marking and reporting.

This wallpaper has been created using Stampin Up's My Digital Studios using fonts AZClaire and Brave, both purchased with a commercial licence.


     Designer Series Paper/_Designer Kits/Hello Perfection - designer series paper/Hello Perfection - 1

    _Designer Kits/Hello Perfection - embellishments/Hello Perfection - tape and paper 4
    _Designer Kits/Spring to Life - embellishments/Spring to Life - bird