From the category archives:

Philosophy

Visualise

I‘ve been lucky enough to be accepted for a strategic leadership professional development course. It seems to be a good opportunity to get back to blogging, which I’ve been away from since I’ve been working, and have a regular space to reflect on what I’m learning and how it relates to my work.

One of the topics we spoke about in this session was performance management and professional development. It’s a really big topic and I’m not going to talk about it directly here, but about something it sparked. I like finding connections between different topics, it lets me explore them and see them from a different perspective. What I found interesting in this session was the emphasis on discussing and describing what makes an effective teacher.

That connected all the way back to when I was doing classroom management coaching – we used to get people to visualise good teachers they had had in school and describe what their classes were like. It also connects to what I’m doing right now in project planning. A really important step in scoping a project is to visualise and describe what teaching and learning will be like after a successful project. We do this because it helps us make decisions along the way – if I go with this solution, will it take me to where I need to be?

I think this is a deep connection – one that tells us about a similar process, rather than just a similar activity. These are all change processes where we are trying to change a system to a new state – all three of them are looking at evaluating, developing and maintaining new teaching practices.

So are there other areas where this technique would be useful?

  • Teaching itself is a change process, we are changing the students’ knowledge, understanding and skills.
  • The department has several reviews and reports in the pipeline, that will be changing the way remote and middle years schools work.
  • My work unit is being reorganised and has a change of staff.
  • I am developing myself as a leader through this course and professional learning in general.
  • It could be useful in managing up, to have a clear vision of what you are trying to achieve or to lead a team through the process to get buy in and build the change community.
  • Introducing technology in schools! It is so big and moving so fast that knowing what you are trying to achieve is essential to stop it being an expensive waste of unused devices.

I think it’s important to note that in all of these cases you are clarifying a vision of what, not how. How is about solutions – it shuts down creativity because you are already directing movement into a particular pathway, and it discourages you from critically examining that pathway. Describing what opens up the possibilities because there may be many ways of getting there, and you have a clear final destination to help you weigh the costs and benefits.

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This is a response to the #onsci twitter chat on the 9th of August about the Australian Curriculum (AC) that I think might be useful generally. Judging from the chat there seem to be a few broad themes of concerns, some of which I’m placed to explain or discuss. This seems the appropriate time to put in the obligatory disclaimer – this is all my personal understanding and opinion, and is in no way official.

I work in a state curriculum area, so the short answer to ‘who determines how science is taught now’ is ‘Me.’ And of course my colleagues, within the constraints of policy and working together with all the other teams including other learning areas and assessment and reporting, differentiated learners, English as Another Language/Dialect (EAL/D) learners, student services, technology, the list goes on. And determines is rather a strong word – we can suggest and provide advice, interpretations, templates, professional learning and examples. We may even get to contribute to policy. But in the end it all comes down to schools, resources and teachers. And teachers already have a full time job.

My colleagues and I have the time that teachers don’t to grapple with the curriculum and consider the wider implications, then hopefully come up with frameworks and tools and explain them to teachers so they can successfully use it. I currently have a happy little group of guinea pigs who have volunteered to use the AC in their classes, so they tell us what problems they are having, what we aren’t explaining clearly and what tools they need, and from that we modify our message or try to get it for them. Eventually it will go out to all staff, and believe me I know how frustrating the vacuum is because I’ve been on the other side, but getting the wrong message or unclear and conflicting advice out there would be even worse.

So what and how curriculum is applied is an extremely complicated and specialised question with a myriad of influences, and I apologise to non-teachers if I don’t explain something clearly. But I would like people to understand that curriculum development and implementation involves specialists just as much as something like immunology, and many newspaper stories about education resemble reality about as much as vaccination debates on Facebook. I’m definitely not complaining that other people want to be involved and have opinions – passion and engagement is good and even a responsibility for an informed populace. I just want to provide a bit more context than is possible in chats broken into 140 characters.

Firstly, there seems to be some confusion about the different levels and responsibilities in getting to the classroom.

On top is ACARA, which developed the AC. This involved several versions over many years, with contributions from states, teachers, universities, scientists, industry and lay people. This includes the Australian Academy of Science, it doesn’t get much more expert than that. I wasn’t involved in any of this because I was employed later, but it is still on-going with feedback now it is being used, further developments for senior years and assessment trials.

There was public consultation that may or may not have been advertised effectively – I knew it was happening even though I wasn’t employed with an education department, I know of at least one group that should have put in a submission and didn’t, I’d be shocked if industry and professional or interest groups hadn’t got their act together and submitted their concerns or opinions – the opportunity was there. How that process was done and whether it was fair is a legitimate question and area for creative solutions because other curriculum areas are still being developed.

ACARA runs a limited amount of professional learning but it’s mostly aimed at people like me rather than teachers themselves – they don’t have enough people to do that as well.

At the next level, when, where and how the AC is implemented is a question for the state education departments and there are many different solutions. NSW has opted out, Queensland has mandated a set of units for all students (C2C), I have my happy little guinea pigs (who, by the way, are an awesome bunch). States still put in place the policies on things like assessment, mandatory hours and subjects, and run most of the professional learning. Two states following the AC can still come up with very different looking science classes.

In addition, states all have their own forms of registration for teachers which sets out their ongoing learning and performance management requirements. The registration boards include several stakeholders and accredit professional learning, including learning put on by outside organisations such as national parks or even mining companies (if they wanted to, I have no idea if they do or not).

Finally the schools and individual teachers make decisions about resources such as text-books or programs. In most states teachers write their own programs to cater for their individual class, context and interests, taking into account all the other organisational limitations in a school.

In reality it’s far more complicated with other levels and influences going back and forth but that’s the overview. If you have a particular problem with the general way the curriculum is set up or don’t think year 3s should be learning about heat*, for example, that’s ACARA. If you don’t like the way your kids are being assessed and reported on (including common or mandated assessments), the way units are put together, or feel you aren’t getting enough support to teach it, talk to the states. And if you don’t like the textbook or emphasis the teacher is putting on the uses of heat, start with your school. From what I understood about the #onsci chat, most people’s concerns are actually with their state departments’ implementation and schools, not the AC itself.

Part 2 will be about the parts of the curriculum and how it works, especially the popular ‘science as a part of life!’

 

* The Year 3 achievement standard, which is the important bit, reads in part:

“students use their understanding of the movement of the Earth, materials and the behaviour of heat to suggest explanations for everyday observations.”

That’s 3 of the 4 ‘traditional subjects’ dealt with, the next few words are about biology. There is just not that much scope for bias at the generalised level of the AC.

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This is not some technical detail. It’s the basis of the entire mass education system, the social contract of teaching. In the past, wealthy people hired a tutor or governor, someone they could oversee and be sure exactly what their children were being taught. Poor people were grateful for whatever they got.

With mass education, parents no longer have direct control over what their children are taught, so there is an unspoken but very real agreement – teachers will teach what society has agreed upon, and not go off on their own tangent. That’s the entire point of the curricula, frameworks and testing that underpins education systems.

Choosing what teachers are allowed to teach is the reason for private schools – so parents have the option of particular pedagogies or religions. Parents don’t enrol their children in a Montessori school to have a teacher say ‘Sorry, I don’t like that philosophy, I prefer this one.’ Bad luck teacher – you don’t have that option.

And that is true for every single philosophy or opinion that teachers offer in the classroom. As a science teacher I’m sensitive to it, it’s the basis of the creation wars and the reason that science outcomes are very, very carefully written. There are certain things that you may not teach in a science class, except to demonstrate how they are not scientific. As a teacher you can believe anything you want, but the Big Bang, unchanging speed of light, and evolution are not options. If you can’t do that, then you cannot teach science. At all. Ever.

But what about the softer subjects? It’s incredibly easy, even there. You see there are three wonderful little words that need to be an integral part of every teacher’s vocabulary:

“Some people believe … “

Even better if they are followed with options, like

“Others believe …”

Because then we might actually get into comparisons and discussions of why and then even talk about tolerance! What an exciting, and empowering, thing for kids to learn.

This is an absolute pass/fail for any teacher, but it’s especially important in the Territory. You might get away with it when your students believe the same things you do, but the vast majority of students out here don’t share your cultural baggage. Blithely spouting your own beliefs might go against and devalue important beliefs of your students, which is not going to make school an engaging place or you an effective teacher.

It’s a slap in the face for your students and their parents every time you open your mouth – I wouldn’t willingly send my kid to a classroom with such a blinkered teacher, who blatantly fails the very basics of their job. How can I trust them to actually teach anything of worth when they show contempt for their own students and the agreement that is the basis of their employment? How can I trust a school leadership which not only allows, but as far as I can see as a parent, supports and encourages biased treatment and incompetent teaching?

Now the argument could be made that there are some things at such a deep level, such a basic part of your world view, that you don’t realise it’s an opinion and that others view things differently.

No.

While we all stand up at PD days and mouth that we want our students to be life long learners, to be curious and self motivating, that excuse doesn’t cut it.

Teachers are both the obvious result of our education system and its avatars, responsible for perpetuating it. If teachers are so unreflective that they haven’t thought about the differences between the culture they grew up in and the culture of their students, they are failing. If they are so lacking in curiosity that they are unable to use Wikipedia, they are failing. If they are so unmotivated that they can’t even make three little words a habit, they are failing.

Pathetic.

It doesn’t matter whether it is religion, or the value of having a job, or the relative abilities of boys and girls. The only word for a teacher who is failing so miserably and a school that allows them to is pathetic.

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Planning heirarchy

I‘ve been in a few conversations lately that have made me think about my way of viewing classroom problems. Top down and bottom up aren’t quite right, but I suppose it’s such a common metaphor that I’m finding it difficult to break free of it. The top and bottom in this case are not people but the different levels of action and planning that go into teaching.

Have a look at the heirarchy at the top. The base level is the classroom, the things you do in the moment. Above that is your lesson planning, the detailed short term planning. Then there is programming, where you ensure that your activities are leading to your outcomes and you have the assessments to prove it. At the top is your class philosophy – your vision, your goals and your behaviour management policy. The size of the step indicates the time spent in each level, and each step does some of the work for the step below it.

All levels are influenced by outside things like school policies and procedures. But they cannot be replaced. It may sound as if it’s just extra work, but spending a bit of time clarifying and writing down how you want your classroom to run and why supports everything else you do. It keeps you on track because you know where you are trying to go. It gives you a range of options for managing behaviour that you’ve already thought about.

Examples

By classroom problems I mean things like engagement, assessments that aren’t working or behaviour – the day to day ‘this isn’t going how I want it to.’

Focusing on fixing the problems individually is bottom up thinking. Looking at your whole program or delivery is top down thinking. Say you have a group who are coming late, opting out and mucking around.

Bottom up –

  • You could have a consequence of making up the time they’ve missed, either through lateness or not working.
  • Set a minimum amount of work that has to be done and chase them in their own time for it.
  • Have a system of escalating consequences that are followed through including involving parents, contracts and other supports.
  • Use routines, agendas and break lessons down so that there is a sense of moving forward, not getting bogged down.

Top down –

You might analyse the pattern in the classroom and decide it is based around non-engagement, they are deciding not to be involved in the work and finding ways to avoid it.

  • Look at your program and try to increase buy-in so they want to do it. eg negotiated curriculum or directly relevant work.
  • Increase learning activities that play to their strengths and interests, eg art or presentations rather than essays.
  • Have lots of active lessons such as visitors, experiments or going places around the school so they aren’t spending a lot of time sitting at their desks.

Conclusion

I’d like to emphasise that there is nothing wrong about either of these ways of dealing with classroom problems. Both are valuable strategies and should be used in their place. However teachers have a tendency to get stuck in bottom up reactions rather than pro-actively looking for top-down preventions. It’s top-down that is going to give you long term momentum, and ultimately it becomes less work.

Yes it’s a little more at the beginning of term. It does give you less control if you are negotiating (although I question how much control you actually have). It can be hard to think of inventive ways of teaching some topics. But it soon becomes a habit and a style you don’t have to think about. I haven’t done more than re-read and tweak my behaviour management philosophy in years because it’s at a point where it’s working for me. And that is far easier, and much less depressing, than writing out incident reports after every lesson or giving up my breaks chasing students.

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Standing Desk

My desk is currently covered in boxes, and I’m loving it.

I work at a little table that fits in the space between the window and the bookcase, opposite the lovely large table with the sewing machines on it. I use a laptop that sits directly on the desk and a cheap office chair. It’s crowded with paperwork, rubbish, cords and electronic equipment, things I looked up a while ago and random offerings from my children. I’m a fidgeter and I swing, wrap my legs around the chair base, lean sideways and twist.

None of this is ergonomic, and I’m used to waking up in the morning almost unable to walk because my back has set solidly. Sometimes I’m tempted to get a sling to support my right arm after a night of heavy mousing.

I knew I had to rearrange and get at least the basics right, when I was prompted by a blog post on standing desks. I’ve seen them talked about before in an educational setting, and as a science teacher I love the fact that I get high benches and stools. So I thought I’d try it out.

Two of the boxes I’ve been meaning to unpack from under the sewing table put my screen at exactly eye level. Some paper trays with a shelf on top and more with a favourite hard-cover picture book now hold my keyboard and mouse so my elbows are almost at 90 degrees – it’s not quite perfect. A cleared shelf of the book case holds boxes with all the sorted crap.

And I stand in front of them, rocking from foot to foot while I think, stepping back and considering, even a little pacing and handwaving while I work out the next paragraph. I swing, move, stretch and stand on one foot, then come back and stand in an ergonomic position while I type.

My shoulders are back and my back is straight – I don’t know if it’s even possible to slouch and type when you’re standing. And it’s definitely cut down on my procrastination – standing and flicking through Facebook just doesn’t have the same effect.

I do have sore feet and knees, about equivalent to when I started teaching and was standing all day. And just like teaching, decent shoes make a difference. It makes me appreciate sitting down to relax, but then I find myself fidgetting and want to spring to my feet again. (I don’t work full time, just at night or when my daughter is at preschool.)

The absence of stiffness in my neck is a revelation. I find myself stretching my neck and turning my head several times a day just to feel how freely it moves. I know this probably has more to do with the screen height than the standing but for God’s sake people, MOVE YOUR SCREEN UP TO EYE LEVEL NOW.

I am filled with an evangelical zeal and want to tell the sitting world to cast off their chairs and stand. And can you imagine how cool this would be in a classroom? Difficult to see, sure, most teenagers are taller than me. But look at all the energy they would use productively and possibly even healthily. The difference in perspective and focus I’ve discovered is huge, and I’m someone who loves my work. I could be really annoying for my next line manager.

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Chick shoes

No, that’s not a euphemism. I have an actual chick, hatched from an actual egg, that has a few ‘issues.’

He (I have no idea, we just call it he) has one enormous eye – it appears the eye has either popped out of the socket or the socket never formed properly. I assumed he was blind in this eye or soon would be, I was just worried about how delicate it would be – would it get pecked or knocked? He also has extremely curled toes so that he couldn’t walk but was shuffling around on the sides of his feet.

After a couple of days I worked out how to make little ‘chick shoes’ that straightened his toes out and he started standing up and eating. That was very exciting because we lost some chicks in an earlier hatch, so if he’s eating and drinking on his own that’s a big step to making it.

But it soon became clear he wasn’t doing well. He spent most of his time sitting against a fence or the edge of the box, and he sits with his blind eye out. It must be blind now, most of the time it’s covered in dried tears although there doesn’t seem to have been any infections and it’s cloudy. I probably made it worse by putting some betadine on it – there was some blood and I didn’t want to risk infection, in hindsight I probably should have just left it alone.

We kept him inside for a bit when the other chicks went out, just to make sure he was walking ok and could get to the food without competition – not only is he unsteady and half blind, he’s half the size of the other chicks. There was another chick with a cut on its back we were keeping an eye on and had the two of them together for company. But after the second chick was ready to go back, there wasn’t any real point keeping Bung inside.

Through it all he’s been an amazing little fighter – he obviously has huge problems, but he can move around, he’s trying to scratch in the dirt, he finds the food and water and even though he’s tiny he’s developing little feathers. We keep preparing the girls that he’ll probably die, but every morning he’s still there. It might sound a bit cruel to put him out, but what else are we supposed to do – this is a chicken we’re talking about. If he can’t walk, scratch and find food and water he’s going to have a pretty miserable and short life, so better to find that out now and deal with it if we have to. Starvation and bullying is a nasty way to go. We’ve only given him minimal help – some splinting on his feet, keeping him warm and a bit sheltered. At some point we need to see if he can live as a chicken, so out he went.

The chicks have a separate enclosure in one corner of the chicken run. It has their own food and water in it but no lid. It’s a bit protected for the little ones and under the cover so no predators can get to them, but everyone is getting to know each other and getting introduced. Bung has been doing fine, he’s happier with the other chicks but he still seems to spend all his time curled up against the fence. At least they aren’t bullying him and he’s obviously eating and drinking because he’s still with us.

Seeing there’s no lid on the chick cage, as the little ones try out their wings they go up and over. There’s generally one or two racing up and down the outside trying to work out what happened and where everyone went. And this morning it was Bung. Something pried my special needs chick away from his secure fence and tempted him to fly.

I wouldn’t want to push it too far – these are chickens we’re talking about. But I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there.

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Conservative?

Teaching is an incredibly conservative profession. These are people’s children you have in your care and parents have this little habit of being hypercritical of whoever is responsible for their kids. Twenty-nine of your families may love your spiked pink hair and tattoo sleeve, but if one doesn’t you could be in for a rough year.

It gets worse.

Parents have experienced education. Most of us are lucky enough not to have spent significant time as a patient or defendant, therefore if we are suddenly in that situation we don’t have anything to judge the doctor or lawyer against. We assume that they are up to date and know what they are doing until there is evidence otherwise. But pretty much all parents have spent large amounts of time in classrooms and have very clear ideas what should be going on there. Unfortunately they’re at least 10 years out of date.

For that matter, many teachers have spent more class time as a student than they have as a teacher. By the time you’re qualified you’ve spent almost 20 years as a student. Our subconscious expectations of ‘what should happen’ are shaped by what happened to us. Which means they are at least 5 years and possibly decades out of date. That’s a big block to get past.

So there is a tendency for teachers to drift towards the most conservative of their parents’ expectations, at least in their public and professional presentation. How much does that affect our thinking? If you are spending five sevenths of your time dressing, speaking and acting conservatively and archaically, how much does that carry into your planning and programming? My year 12 maths teacher was unquestionably brilliant, but is he still a good model for my teaching? (Actually I think he would be. Mr Wieman was, well, brilliant.)

Unfortunately, teaching should be the absolute cutting edge profession. Progress in every other profession depends on education, and spending time in a classroom that belongs in the past can’t possibly help.

This is one of those philosophical things I don’t think there are easy answers to, it’s something to reflect on. So I have a series of questions that might get you started, the sorts of things I think about:

Teachers

  • Is your classroom like the ones you grew up in?
  • Do you think your content is up to date?
  • Are you a lifelong learner and are you putting your lessons into practice?
  • How do you use technology in your own life? Do you give your students the same opportunity?
  • Are you becoming more conservative?
Parents
  • How has the world changed since you were at school?
  • Do you think your kids’ classrooms are different?
  • Have you thought about what you expect from your kids’ education?
  • Have you taken an opportunity to talk to the school or teachers about it?
  • How do you use technology in your work? How do you use it with your kids?
What do you do to help you move against the inertia?

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Chat

and discussed Avogadro’s number, trains approaching the speed of light, the Mpemba effect, should you walk or run in the rain, multi-dimensional worlds, throwing ping pong balls at trains, electric cars, and should you pour the milk into coffee straight away or wait. We also poured acetone and turpentine on foam, set fire to methylated spirits and wondered what the embryos in the picture on the iPad were.

For the record, 6.02 x 10 ^23 is the number of molecules in a mole, none of us knew enough about special relativity, sometimes warm water appears to freeze quicker than cold water, it makes no difference, interesting to speculate, the ball will slightly deform the windshield, they use a constant speed petrol engine to recharge the electric motor, and if you pour it in straight away the coffee will stay hotter for longer. And we suspect they were frog embryos but it wasn’t connecting properly.

None of that (except the chemicals) has anything directly to do with what we are teaching. But it is what makes us science teachers. We enjoy it and we had fun – there aren’t all that many people you can have those conversations with!

And those conversations are what build your professional networks and are part of keeping you passionate about what you’re doing. If you aren’t enjoying yourself, teaching can be a hard slog. Plus if you are used to having those sorts of conversations it’s so much easier to talk about problems, ask questions or work together to improve programmes and lessons.

Brainstorming.

I’ve spent a lot of time as the only science and maths teacher in remote schools, and looking back I can see what I missed out on. When I started teaching we were still in the days of faxes and phone calls. How much easier now to jump onto Twitter or surf the blogosphere! It can’t replace the sort of ramble we had today, but it’s certainly better than being on your own.

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Chaos

I taught a chaotic class this morning. There were teenagers everywhere, laptops, chemicals, singing, maths game websites, shouting at each other, quite a bit of swearing. I’m fairly certain there was no actual hitting, and though the walking may have been fast I don’t think it could really be classified as running. If only because there was too much stuff all over the place and no room to run. And I was out of the room several times so it could have happened then.

Like many science teachers, I am a control freak at heart. They may be diluted but they are still acids and corrosives and fire for goodness sake. Nothing would make me happier than to force them all to prove that they are serious and careful and safety conscious and will never, ever be distracted before letting them loose. Except it would either mean we never do practicals, which would make me very unhappy, or it could mean there was very little fun happening, which would make me unhappier still.

So in spite of the fact that this morning’s class had me figuratively curled up in a corner gibbering, I’m also extremely proud that I can corral my inner control freak enough to do it.

Good chaos and bad chaos

There is most definitely good chaos and bad chaos, and being able to pick the good chaos and ride it is essential in teaching. Because if you want independent thought and experimentation and engagement, good chaos is where it happens.

Having one group up the back showing neutralisation, another at the side making bath bombs, one at the front catching hydrogen in a balloon and another comparing red cabbage indicator to universal indicator would be difficult enough. Add in the fact that they have designed the experiments themselves and there’s another layer, with forgotten items, elaborations and bits that didn’t work out the way they expected. Then add in video cameras and suddenly they don’t need to just do the experiment, they need to make sure it’s in the light and held up against a white background and they are standing out of the way.

Chaos.

And unfortunately there was also some of the other kind. There were technical problems with transferring the videos onto the laptops. The editor couldn’t deal with the file type from the camera and there was no converter. Videos are big files and take a long time to copy, save and manipulate which means hanging around waiting.

Reflections

I made some mistakes here. I checked that we had the editing software but it didn’t occur to me that we would need or not have a converter and I should have checked. I think it was a reasonable assumption that the school video cameras would be useable with the editing program, but assumptions are never good and can always trip you up, as this one did. Always check.

I should have had a backup ready. Do I think it would have been useful? In this case not really. Given that there were so many things happening I can’t really see those particular students quietly sitting down with another activity, but I didn’t even have the option of trying. And you never know, one or two of them might have. Bottom line, it’s always a good idea to have something you can whip out if things go pear-shaped, especially something like a relevant puzzle or cross-word so they don’t feel they’re being punished with more work.

Were they so bad?

One of the reasons I’m reflecting on this here is the perception of other adults in the room that the class should have been kept in. Of course I was reflecting anyway, but that really made me question the lesson.

I still think the correct answer was no.

Leaving aside the whole issue of appropriate consequences for student behaviour, I want to go a step back and ask what was appropriate behaviour in this context? Because I think part of the problem that makes planned chaotic classes even harder comes from judging them against an ideal, rather than reality.

classroom

The ideal but non-existent classroom.

In the ideal view of classes, all students are engaged and on-task. I’ll even bet that for the majority, if they were asked to envision a classroom with everyone learning, the image would include students sitting at desks and studiously engaged in reading or writing, or possibly bent over a computer. If you stop and think about it you know that this is an ideal image. Someone in that class is thinking about the weekend rather than the lesson. Someone is listening to a friend or an iPod. Someone is creating art rather than writing. We know that, and we accept it. So long as the majority are on task the majority of the time, we know that reality is everyone gets off-track occasionally.

Now translate that into a lesson that you know is going to be chaotic anyway, with people walking around, asking questions, needing help and needing a lot of space. Everything is noisier and more active. And that includes the people who are off task. When everyone else is being loud and walking around they aren’t going to surreptitiously whisper to the person next to them, they’re going to head over and see what the other groups are doing or call across the classroom.

And where was I while all this was going on?

I was in and out a few times, getting things that people hadn’t realised they would need. But the larger part of the time, I was helping students. Part of the deal when you plan a chaotic lesson is that you will run the whole time, because active thinking and exploration is hard and students need lots of support to confirm and push their daring. And the art of teaching is in the choice – is this disruptive enough that I stop what I’m doing here to go deal with that over there? Making those calls is why we get paid.

Of course I was keeping a lid on it – as I stated at the beginning I don’t think they went over the line, while the swearing was louder than normal I don’t think it was worse than normal. Everyone completed their videos and got them uploaded, which was the aim of the class. Do I wish it had been smoother? Of course. But I can’t blame them for technical problems and me not having a backup.

In the end

Chaotic classes are hard. I know teachers who can do them effortlessly and thrive on them, but that’s not me. I generally have a ball while they’re happening but it’s hard on the nerves. Because they really do put it up there in great big flashing neon lights – you are not in control.

You know what? You are not in control in the quiet classroom either.

In fact you’re almost never in control, and if that’s your aim then you’re in the wrong profession.

The thinking, the learning, the exploration that happens in a chaotic class are what it’s all about. And it’s more important to be riding that whirlwind than making myself feel comfortable by pretending I’m in control.

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Cornflour goo

We have a local park in the middle of town that has a barbecue and shelters and is a very popular meeting place. Our school is having regular classes in the park to get more community interaction. We have different classes demonstrating things that families can watch or be involved in, school leaders are there and liaison officers and we run a sausage sizzle. It has been a very successful way of talking to families and showing them what’s going on at school. Cornflour

We’ve had sport, art and now science classes down there. We’ve been doing chemistry this term so we played with cornflour goo, made sherbet, put smarties into potassium chlorate and tried mentos in pepsi.

Cornflour

cornflour

chlorate

Potassium chlorate is an oxidising agent. When you add chemical energy, like say a Smartie, it converts it into light and heat. LOTS of light and heat.

As both a teacher and a community member, I highly recommend them. Once you have the logistics organised once they are easy and I think they are a great way of making links.

 

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