“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?
It’s a funny old world at the moment. Not in the sense of it being humorous, but it’s certainly more strange than we’ve ever been used to. However, in an attempt to reintroduce an element of good old fashioned normality, LA14 have dived right back into our familiar routine of hard work and creativity. In these past weeks we’ve learnt about the Great Depression, what caused it and the effect it had; we’ve continued with our work looking at Australia in World War 2; The Shadow, a mysterious 1930’s superhero made a visit to the class; we’ve created haiku poetry from images of the Great Depression; we’ve even learnt how to calculate the area of circles and are about to embark on a major math project. In the midst of a confused and crazy world you can rely on LA14 to be a small, calm island of normality.
I think right now we must be reflecting at how lucky we are to be the most isolated city in the world. Of course, that’s not always the case. When it comes to concerts, car parts (for my MG), the latest must-have trends being in WA can be a little frustrating. However, when it comes to a global pandemic… Isolating ourselves from loved ones or friends has been unusual, although I can’t really call it tough or even difficult, such terms should be reserved for those in other places who have been through or seen others go through illness and great loss. As I said, we here in WA have seen fewer victims but the social distancing and isolation was worth it.
For myself, the extra time I’ve had at home has been put to good use. I’ve been able to get more work done on my MGF as I attempt to change the whole suspension setup; I taught my granddaughter to peddle her new bike; I also managed to plant some much needed new greenery in the back garden. Despite my poor arthritic knee suffering from my exertion I think my inspiration during isolation was a revelation leaving jubilation and elation (did that work?).
Sometimes even teachers need a little boost to recharge our enthusiasm and remind us of how privileged we are to be in such a great profession. Today we got that boost! In the midst of all the current issues affecting the world we received a blast of light and energy from the very community we serve. Our principal arranged boxes of Easter eggs for the school to deliver to the students and we lined up in colourful attire (and bunny ears) as the community drove through the school to receive their gift. The eggs were immaterial, just a token, what mattered most was that for a brief moment we all reconnected, said “Hi”, waved, smiled and (for a few) shed some tears. School staff, children and parents were reunited, reinvigorated and reminded of the real meaning behind what’s truly important in life. It’s difficult to describe how we actually delivered the eggs without human contact but the images below should give you the idea. It was an absolutely cracking morning, choc full of fun, egg-citement, hoppyness and smiles from ear to ear. It did the trick, better than we could ever have imagined. We’re re-energised, boosted, raring to go and reminded of just why we do our job. Education is one thing, but community spirit is what gives us our bounce (sorry).
Shocking news broke this evening as it emerged the last chocolate biscuit had been taken from the fridge. This horrific event was met with stunned disbelief when popular local teacher, Mr Hope, decided to treat himself to a late night snack. “I don’t believe it, I’m stunned,” he was heard to say.
Mr Hope tried to get to the bottom of this shocking event but it just proved to be an impossible mystery to solve. He questioned his wife first but, despite her being a well known chocolate biscuit eater, she was adamant that she wasn’t the culprit. “I’m as stunned as you,” she declared, shaking her head as she returned to watching Coronation Street.
Mr Hope showed real tenacity and determination by refusing to give up the mystery and he confronted the last person in the house. “Choccy biccy?” questioned his three year old granddaughter in response to Mr Hope’s tough interrogation tactics. Despite his best efforts he could get no further with his investigation and his granddaughter walked back to her colouring book while licking her fingers.
This shocking, breaking news has shaken this normal family to its sheer foundations and this reporter fears they may never be the same again.
Lost a hairbrush? Someone drink the last cola? Something missing from your bedroom? Turn investigative reporter and write an exciting report about it.
Ever hear the one about the teacher who didn’t have any students? Don’t worry, it isn’t very funny, in fact it’s really quite sad. It’s a very strange situation to be in for all teachers, it goes completely against the reason we all become teachers in the first place – to work with students. However, we know it’s all for a reason and we’re all working hard to find solutions where we can, technology being one of them.
It doesn’t matter how well we teachers think we work with technology, this new environment isn’t the environment we’ve been preparing for. I’ve worked hard over the years to keep myself up to date with current technology and with designing ways to integrate it into the classroom. Not only that, but I’ve made sure I’ve shared my knowledge and experience with anyone who was prepared to listen (and those who weren’t). However, the use of technology is completely dependent on having a teacher in the class. Concepts, ideas, knowledge and skills all have to be introduced, scaffolded, discussed, worked through, all supported and backed up, when necessary, with the technology. It’s an unusual position to be in where we need the technology first before we can do the teaching. However, this is the position we’re in and we’re determined to find solutions, break new ground and make it work. Hopefully, before too long, these times will no longer seem so strange after all.
Below are some photos from just before we all split up.