Thursday, December 20, 2007

Winners in the festival of life

Just found out I am a winner! No, not the Edublog awards, but the Stephen Downes awards. Thanks Stephen. And thanks for highlighting other great work that's going on that I didn't know about. More to read - luckily it's holidays.

And holidays are a good time to do some reflecting. I have spent a lot of time thinking about my job in the last few weeks. I had been called into the principal's office unexpectedly, never a good feeling, to be told that there had been a complaint made against me by a staff member. Not enough time administering the department and too much time on innovation. I just have to get that balance right.:) I was given a job of work to do - to make a timeline of all the management things I had to attend to at various times of the year so that I could plan for them well in advance. I have learnt a lot about management in the last few weeks, about filing and organising and I hope to see the benefit next year in a reduction of stress.

There are a lot of triggers for reflection around about now. The Year 12 results have come out and our figures this year are an improvement on last year, so there is much to be pleased with there, but it is not only about numbers and figures but about what the students will take away with them from their experiences at school. At the end of the year we also had an English Domain meeting, where we looked at the challenges we had set for ourselves at the end of 2006 and evaluate what we had achieved. There were lots of areas where we improved in the goal of making English a desirable subject and how we have been able to incorporate experience, achievement and engagement. The introduction of a Reading Area (with comfy chairs) in the library where students come for a whole period or half a period (35 minutes) once in a 10 day cycle. Here they can read whatever they wish; the emphasis is on reading for pleasure and there is no assessment. Each session one or more of the students can speak about the book they are reading or have just finished and recommend it or otherwise. One of the teachers used it as a time to hear his year 7s read aloud. I think that next year I will be asking the students to fill in a record of what they have read with a little notation of whether they liked it or not.

The writers group was seen as a plus and the debating and use of Literature Circles to study a text in a group and with their own choice of book. We also made some goals for the future. Some of the things we want to introduce are mainly in the area of providing a genuine audience for what students produce (blogging was seen as too difficult at the moment as too many teachers are unsure about it):

Online magazine, so genuine audience for year 12 student writing
Publish student writing on noticeboards and possibly with an insert in newsletter to parents
Staff-student debate
Research the audience: interview people at Elderly Citizens Unit and write up fictional piece to read or publish for the senior citizens (year 9)
Research the audience: Interview students at primary school produce a text that they would like
Have an exhibition of student work along with the Art show/English festival
Have a soiree to launch Ellipses anthology
Provide texts for schools we have a contact with in East Timor and Zimbabwe
In year 11 and 12 have students research their audience before they write in the Creating and Presenting assessment
Contribute to a regular MYP letter (each core group in year 7 and 8)

But the best way I had of celebrating the end of the year this week was having lunch with my twitter friend and blogging buddy Sue Tapp at her school. I met other English teachers there and the debating coordinator (Our schools debate each other in our local Hills Debating Competition). I had a tour of the school and saw Sue's classroom that she featured in her Voice Thread. I saw the place where the Night of the Notables was held and heard about the English Festivals she had organised over the years. Sue's interest in poetry was definitely inspirational and hearing her talk about the interdisciplinary units they were developing was great. I really wish I'd recorded the talk we had as she mentioned so many things she was involved in that I didn't know about that I'm going to have to keep meeting her to ask her more. I nominate Sue for Teacher of the Year. Thanks Sue.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Students 2.0

There I was, not posting very much and not on twitter very much either, and all of a sudden there is a new website to follow: Students 2.0. Here is the blurb:

"Administered, designed, edited, and written by a global mix of students of varying ages, interests, voices, and points of view, Students 2.0 will feature content written by both staff writers and guest contributors. From Hawaii and Washington, from St. Louis and Chicago, from Vermont, New York, Scotland, Korea, and other points on the globe, these writings will be united in one central aspect: quality student writing, full-voiced and engaging, about education."

Should be very interesting. I especially like the video, which gives an overview of some of the students who will be posting, many of whom I've met through their blogs in the last twelve months. If you haven't already go on over and have a look. I really hope some of the committed student bloggers from my school may want to be involved in 2008. Thanks to Dianne Cordell who gave me the heads up

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Just checking in

I have three blog posts in draft form. I want to finish them. There is so much I want to do. I will wait patiently until all the marking and the report writing is finished and I can think again. Until then I want to leave you with this podcast interview with one of my regular reads, blogger Gardner Campbell.
Gardner Campbell teaches English literature, film studies, writing, and -- woven through it all these disciplines -- a new one that he calls digital imagination. In this conversation with Jon Udell, he talks about how our emerging uses of the internet enable educators and students to create fresh approaches to higher education.
It is a good listen. Enjoy!