Friday, 9 May 2014

Observations: ERO and Our Amazing Mentor

This week I've been lucky and fortunate enough to be observed twice - in quick succession. I say this because on the Wednesday I had ERO (Education Review Office) come see my teaching and my students' learning with my Year 9 class and on the Thursday I had my mentor come and observe my teaching and checking how I'm going with my Year 9 class.

I think my students were a bit over having other people in our class observing - but I actually really enjoy being observed. It reminds me to give my best - 100% of the time - and gives me seeds of reflection that at some point makes me sprout very long email posts to my mentor.

Since I figure you guys might get some value out of these reflections as well I'm writing here and then emailing the link for this post to my mentor.

ERO Visit

I didn't know I was going to be visited. Until Monday at Dept meeting. I was already worried about the fact that everyone else seemed to be freaking out... and was wondering whether I should be as well. I have a selection of docs on my harddrive, a miasma of visual evidence of student learning on my smartphone, a collection of resources I've been finding through my PLN and ideas for leadership and how to help my Dept and school. What I don't have is written evidence of their assessment.

That lesson was AMAZING. I had decided to carry on with our static images to get them finished before later on being able to move into experimenting with Project Based Learning (PBL) and integrating more SOLO taxonomy to my Year 9  English class. I'd explained the learning intentions and what was expected of them through the PPT slide and reiterated specific skills to the whole class when it became clear that quite a few were struggling with that step when they got there. As a result - the majority of the kids succeeded the criteria of drafting their image, identifying techniques and explaining their effect - and were able to get their drafts signed off by me and then began their good copies.

Working one on one with particular students and then with groups - I saw the success in action and watched my HoD observe how me and the students work together to produce learning magic! :) Before the ERO observer left she asked me whether I had any assessment data for that class and I'd told her that I gave more visual and verbal feedback/feedforward than we had done actual testing.

I'm still planning on using ASTTLE (reading comprehension testing) results to help group my students - particularly when we are in the reading room so that they can develop their reading levels at the right level - instead of allowing them all to read simplified - or difficult - books. I need to learn how to read the results though - and a colleague and I are going to buddy up to develop that as well as me helping her with Level 1 assessments for NCEA (National Certificate of Educational Achievement - Senior programme of learning in NZ).

At the meetup during interval break - the teachers who had been observed by ERO and our HoD - talked about the process and also what we needed to work on. She'd said she was focussing on assessment data, student/teacher relationships and whether students know WHAT they are learning. I was stoked because when I went around my class after the ERO observer had left, my students told me that she had asked them really specific questions - about the purpose of the lesson - and whether they knew what they were learning. I asked them if they knew what they were learning - and they said that they'd told her that they were learning about static image techniques and were putting them into use by creating their own. ... I was stoked. Total high five moment then with the boys. Stoked.

What's more is that the rest of the kids seemed to know too. So I must be doing something right!

The observer said that while focussing on what the kids were learning - and making sure they did know themselves - she had noticed we need to use more visual learning intentions. Which is one of the things I've been thinking about and integrating into my teaching more often since reading this in the holidays:

Y10 Learning Intentions today...

Differentiated learning is something else I've been focussing on more often. I know that I do it but I want to actually know I'm doing it... which I noticed today in my Year 10 class... which is why there is a range of LI's and two differing aims as well.. in fact there were three aims as another student walked in late having had done the poetry writing itself at home - so was ready to start drafting her poetry booklet cover for her static image assessment.

Anyway - back to the ERO visit - tried to show her examples on my phone of the evidence of student learning - and as a result the evidence I had assessed their understanding of the learning in class. But she said no - that she'd planted a seed... which she has. I need to be more onto it with writing down assessment data I do with the students - whether it's diagnostic or summative. And I need to keep integrating the LI's so that the kids CAN explain what they're learning... and know that there is a purpose to the lesson. Of course I know what the purpose is... and while that's great to be planned up and know what I'm doing and teaching - it's more important that the kids know what they're learning... and even more importantly - why. 

Observation from Mentor

We are lucky at our kura (school) to be able to have our mentor for not just the two year registration period of teaching but for three years. Now that I've finished my registration period - having him come and make sure I'm still on task is hugely beneficial because I'm able to double check myself and make sure I'm still pushing myself to be the best possible teacher I can be. Of course I can't be perfect. But I will damn well try to be as good as I can be. 

Being the second lesson consecutively for both me and my Y9 students being observed - the students were a little over it I think - but ultimately having an observation is awesome... so the kids tend to be a bit more onto it themselves and I feel like I'm being more clear and making sure I'm watching my students do the best they can and help the ones that need extra help... like I usually tend to do. :) 

Two of the questions he asked were  - how to engage the boys more AND what approach I use with this class.

At the moment I'm trying to plan out a unit using PBL and Magic. 

I've also made sure to use relevant spoken word poems for the poetry unit of which they most definitely related to Joshua Iosefa's poem Brown Brother.

I've also had the PB4L reinforced into our class early on which the boys bought into. They particularly like that I'm looking for postive behaviours in class in which I write positive behaviour 'pinkie' forms on them that then go to their heads of house to be read out at assembly. 

We've also decided to start nominating people to receive these positive pinkies at the end of the week for someone who has been working super hard to improve their learning and understanding. 

And somehow.. along this journey I've created  a class full of intrinsically motivated learners. 

Or at least in regards to their behaviours. 

I try to co construct much of my teaching and will be in particular with this class as experiments for PBL. 

Whats interesting is that yesterday I found out something about some kids from my class. They were doing something hugely against school rules and because I was so focussed after Ero had left I didnt see it. I asked kids today why they didnt tell me what was going on and they said thet didnt want to tell on their mate. Safety in class over loyalty though!