Posts

I am not a number

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Last month, I attended the National hui for our countries Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts (MIE Experts) in Auckland. Apart from the excitement of meeting fellow educators face to face again after the tribulations of COVID, it was also a time to reflect on what we had learnt from the pandemic. One of those reflections was from Australian educator and part time ukulele player Pip Cleaves  who asked the question why do we need grades? Variability in our students is the norm, yet we do not build upon this uniqueness. Instead, we teach to the average and manage expectations. But as number six in one of my favorite series while growing up, the Prisoner would say: I am not a number; I am a free man! So why do we define our students by the grades they get? and what could be an alternative? Take Tim. Tim is a boy in my junior science class. He is a very sweet and caring boy; he is always the boy when a new student comes into the class, he immediately includes them. He is the boy who thank

Tehei Mauri Ora!

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As part of ongoing personal development at my school, I have been exploring the introduction of Te Ao Māori (the Māori world) into my educational practices. In Te Ao Māori, the development of the learning environment is about nurturing mauri ora .  The concept of mauri is complex, but in simple terms can be considered a vitality of life. There are multiple types of mauri and like a spider's web each type has many threads and I shall only touch on a few here, as I am still learning. Mauri  can be considered a metaphysical aspect of Te Ao Māori and could have useful practical application to our teaching practice. When the mauri  of your students is at its peak, the students are flourishing in your classroom – with alert and inquiring minds and mutually beneficial relationships between students and teachers and between students themselves, this is known as mauri ora . T his view of the learning environment is part of the  mauri ora model, as explained by Sir Mason Durie. The model

Assessing on the Blockchain.

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This year I am again teaching junior science and one thing that I reflected on last year was the nature of assessment. Most assessment I used last year was in the form of a written test at the end of units, essentially I was seeing how they understood the scientific concepts I had taught them over the unit.  Two things concerned me when I considered these assessments, first, is knowing stuff about science the only thing that is worth measuring when it comes to assessing scientific ability and second, I had a large number of neuro-divergent learners in my classroom and was this the best way to even assess their understanding?  Over the last 20 years, there has been a  marked change in the direction of students learning about science and about how science works (the processes, practices and people of science) as well as learning science content (the products of science). Due to the enormity of the task, I cannot as a science teacher provide all the science knowledge that they will need,

I give up, sir.

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This year, I have been given the opportunity to teach a number of senior science lessons. I have also noticed that for these classes, students are struggling with the concepts being taught. One of the fine balancing acts between junior and senior science is the desire for engagement yet also providing those students who move forward in science with sufficient content so they can succeed at these higher levels. Learning is unique in humans as we learn from each other. We have developed complex systems of communication to exchange ideas. So when it comes to senior science lessons. instead of starting from scratch, students can build on what has come before.  Though, I am finding with my present cohort that this is a problem. Looking at my year 12 physics class as an example, complex concepts like projectile motion are already hard enough without the extra problem of not having the sufficient skills in algebra and calculating vectors. So initially, I was having to teach this content expli

Minecraft World Building: Lessons for the Classroom

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This year I have the privilege of being a Global Minecraft Mentor. As part of being a mentor, we have monthly meetings to share best practices and collaborate ideas.  January's meeting involved the amazing Stephen Reid . Stephen outlined in his Scottish brogue, the critical characteristics of an effective Minecraft world, which allows students to learn and express that learning.  As Stephen was presenting, I thought, wait a minute, these are not just critical aspects of a Minecraft world, but also key to any successful classroom. Now I am not one for silver bullets in education, except maybe if your Minecraft world is under attack from vampires, but I think considering these ideas and personalizing them will allow a teacher to consider the design of their lessons for the benefit of their students and lead to better learning outcomes. So what is the secret sauce? The Importance of Play In a Minecraft world and in the classroom in general, give students the space to play and explore.

The currency of teaching

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Last year, I moved to countries from Malaysia back to my tūrangawaewae, New Zealand. I started teaching halfway through the academic year, which meant the students I was now teaching had already been taught  by other teachers over the 6 months previously. In fact, one class had already had 5 teachers that year! Being a boys school, this added an extra challenge as boys tend to learn through relational learning.  At its core, relational learning relies on strong relationships between teachers and their students. This is in contrast to setting up a classroom environment based on power. While teachers in more traditional settings, like the school I had just arrived from, can certainly act in this way and can absolutely form deep connections with students, truly relational learning makes mutual respect between the teacher and student central to the classroom. In a relational learning environment, a teacher needs to simultaneously assist in a student’s personal growth and also maintain the

Burn the Teacher's Desk

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As we end the school year here in New Zealand, the speeches from leaving staff are one of the traditions that schools have. Usually, such speeches are related to thanking the school or witty anecdotes of the past, but in my most recent experience, one teacher decided to provide insights on what he thought were the keys to making an effective teacher and one was simply to burn the teacher's desk.  The traditional classroom usually has the teacher at his or her desk at the front, where content is taught from, instructions given, and more often than not emails are read and replied to. However, is this the most effective way to interact with our students? The key to good classrooms is the relationships in them. One of the easiest to develop these relationships is to simply walk around the classroom or even to sit in different locations within the classroom, which is something I often do. When a teacher mostly stays at the front of the classroom, students tend to become disinterested an