Sometimes it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey. In our instant, bells-and-whistles, digital world it’s nice to give students an experience of something new, something hands on, something that requires patience and care. This is an activity that I’ve been doing for a few years and it’s one that carries so many benefits with it. We made a wooden photo block for Fathers’ Day (it was supposed to be for Mothers’ Day but Covid came along…) and it gave the students quite a few new experiences such as sawing and sanding wood, spraying lacquer and manipulating digital images. While the results were great, the major focus was simply to give the students a fun activity and a few new experiences. Check out the images below.
If only we had more time, but unfortunately we’ve all become victims of “the system”. As teachers, we give the students a task to complete but then serve them with frustratingly mixed messages: “Take your time, take care with your work, think about what you’re doing, but do it quickly as we have to do something else.” If the pressures of the curriculum aren’t enough, students are fighting their own pressures and the innate expectations of their modern, instant world. Students know knowledge is instant, available at their fingertips, and a contact, a photo, a purchase or a movie is only a click away. Waiting is a thing of the past and the need to spend time creating something often seems alien to the modern student. Time, it seems, is a thing that needs to be taught, and that’s exactly what we’re doing in LA14. We’ve started an art activity which is going to take right up until the end of term to complete. On top of that, we’re also creating a special Father’s Day gift which requires a vast amount of patience and care to complete (not to mention sawing, sanding, sticking and rubbing). These special activities are forcing the students to take more care and time with their work and to be much more thoughtful. If we’re lucky they’ll even learn the of pleasures to be gained from once in a while being able to slow down and just smell the roses.
As a kid I’d sit for hours letting my imagination run wild as I constructed all kinds of vehicles, buildings bridges (and much more). Now, as part of our STEAM (integrated Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math’s) activities, we’ve been using Meccano in the classroom, the toy I enjoyed all those years ago. Meccano has strong connections to the topic of robotics and digital technologies, which some students will be choosing to follow in high school; in fact it’s such a fabulous tool with a huge educational value. Besides helping the students develop their problem solving skills and their construction skills, it is also great for their literacy development. The students are having to cooperate in pairs (boy and girl) as they attempt to read, decipher and follow the fairly complex instructions. The instructions are all visual, the type that Ikea tend to use, but a lot more detailed and complex with steps having to be followed in clear stages. As well as requiring good reading skills, the students have to use clear, polite and constructive conversation skills to overcome any difficulties they encounter. The instructions are very similar to an algorithm and must be followed closely. When finished they should have a great model with working parts and can post about their experience on their blogs, as long as they stay on track and don’t come off the rails!
Education is a team sport! To imagine that a student sits in a classroom and the only owner and disseminator of knowledge is the teacher standing at the front would be to miss the huge resource which resides in every individual. It would also be to deny the creativity and vision that others see, which we ourselves may miss. For this reason the character analyses in our new novel study (Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt) are being carried out in groups and the discussions and the learning have been more valuable than in my previous novel studies. The ideas and opinions have flowed from everyone and the characters have been fully and deeply investigated. Not only has the learning improved and been shared by everyone (not everything is a test) but the students have enjoyed it way more than simply struggling to write in their books, alone and without the benefit of hearing others. Check out the images below.
Sometimes, despite my best efforts, life still feels like an endless slog, like each day is spent wading through custard. We may be back in class but my mind is refusing to catch up, rebelling at the sound of the alarm clock and reminding me when my holiday nap time comes around each afternoon (how naps aren’t a thing past kindy I’ll never know). Nevertheless, we must push on: we must turn our minds to narrative writing and novel studies: we must awaken our senses to the sounds of sawing, keyboard tapping and collaborative chatter; we must shake off the lethargy which holds us back from our investigations and explorations of Asia; we must focus our thoughts on the beauty of 3D shapes, the simplicity of ratio and the practicality of rate. Term 3 will wait no longer, it’s already at our door. Although… I’m sure a quick nap won’t hurt, and I must empty these squelching wellies, they’re full of some yellow stuff.
“Lights, camera, action! Get ready for the all singin’, all dancin’ show of shows, the most entertaining…” Teaching can be a funny job, one where the serious aspects of curriculum and education meet the theatre and imagination of showbiz. Motivating students is a demanding and exhausting part of what we do, but whose job actually is it? For my own part, the creativity needed to produce imaginitive and interesting programmes is one of the most enjoyable parts of being a teacher. I get excited when introducing new activities and seeing the students’ enthusiasm at becoming immersed in discovery and learning. On the flip side, though, it can often feel as flat as a popped balloon when, despite my best efforts (clown makeup, dancing shoes etc.), I look onto a classroom of blank, expressionless faces that look as enthusiastic as a sloth in an unusually lazier mood than usual. On days like these I feel like the students forgot to pack their own motivation when they packed their recess and sandwiches that morning. And that can be the point, in the three-way partnership between student, home and school, who takes the lead in motivation? Is it the teacher, the parents or the students themselves? Whatever the answer is, I’ll carry on regardless and await my inevitable Oscar!
I am so glad that this is all behind me, a long way back in a faint and distant past. I’ve been there, done it, didn’t particularly like it and (and I can’t stress this enough) have no intention of ever doing it again. The dreaded cross country race came and went this week amid icy cold wind and a downpour of very unwelcome rain. My own reservations of cross country are driven by nightmares of running around Manchester streets in shorts, tee-shirt, regulation “pumps” (no fancy trainers back then) and, worst of all, snow! Funnily enough, I seemed to see my own memories reflected in the faces of some of my students, although there were still quite a few whose excitement for sport knows no bounds and who flung themselves gleefully into the arduous, tortuous task. Regardless of what the students themselves thought about it, they all did a fabulous job, some even with a smile on their face.
There seriously isn’t anything we can’t tackle, all we need is imagination and high expectations. This year we’ve tackled some incredibly complex topics from Australian history: Indigenous rights, the Vietnam War, equal rights for women and World War 2 are just some of them, but now we can also add World War 1 to the list. The reason I can introduce such “hard” topics is that I know the students can meet my high expectations, that and we all have great imaginations. Imagination and and a desire to learn have carried us through many situations and have helped us develop a good understanding of how Australia evolved throughout the 20th Century. Once we’d done our reading, had some fun, discussed key ideas, the students got together to fill a page with all the information they had, using pictures, bubbles, colours, in fact anything they wished to reinforce their learning. This wasn’t a test, it was a learning activity, one where imagination and creativity opened our thinking and consolidated understanding.
“When are we ever going to use this stuff?” Yeah, if you’re a teacher a question like this will definitely be one you’ve heard before. Well, LA14 have been putting their classroom learning to use and learning skills they can use throughout life. We’ve been learning a lot about area calculations on paper and took an opportunity to get out of the class. Due to a minor earthquake at school (not really) we needed to replace some of the paving and grass. The students had to measure the areas, some of them very complex, and calculate the price (from real commercial websites) of the replacements. The students needed to measure accurately, use their calculation knowledge, give reasons for their choice of pavers and grass and explain the process involved. Their work was presented creatively in a hand-written project (a strange beast in our digital world) and the students seemed excited and motivated by the project. Here are some photos of the students measuring for their project.
We all need to take care of ourselves! I can’t think of any issue on a personal level more important than our own mental well-being. For too many it’s something that we come to realise mostly when it’s way too late, when our mental health has taken a hit and we are left with the stressful and debilitating consequences. The problem is that we tend to take good mental health for granted, a bit like a well running car; why tinker with it if it’s all fine? However, to keep running smoothly we need to maintain ourselves, especially during the good times, or one day we may just find ourselves in a big mess.
One way of staying mentally healthy is to make sure we give ourselves time for something we enjoy. My stunning little MG F isn’t only my car, it’s my hobby, my interest and a thing that I thoroughly enjoy. I suppose part of it may lie with the fact I used to be a car body repairer, dismantling smashed vehicles and fixing them up like brand new. I’ve still maintained a great interest in cars and I’m always looking to tinker with my MG and improve it (although it does drain my bank account a little). Doing this ensures I make time just for me, to do something I like and that takes my mind off the pressures of everyday life. This new blogging task is to take a photo of your pastime or hobby and post it as a new header with an explanation of what it means to you. How does your hobby make you feel? Does it give you space and time alone? How long have you been doing it? If you don’t have a hobby, how do you find time for yourself to relax?