Tag Archives: Toorak College

School’s out Friday

Over the past few years our Toorak College School Prefects have been presenting at School Assembly about adherence to uniform requirements. This year’s presentation was a stand out. You’ve gotta love it when the Head Girl and Deputy Head Girl (Tilly and Sarah) take some creative licence to Iggy Azelea’s ‘Fancy’ and deliver a message about school uniform that had every students’ attention. It had mine too. I love it when I see these girls demonstrate their talent and creativity in such an entertaining fashion. I love it even more that the school has posted it on our YouTube channel and it’s had over 1400 views to date. Watch and share it around. :)

Highlight of my week: Having Rolfe Kolbe from Newington College visit me on Wednesday at school so we could finally meet face to face and chew the fat. You were a breath of fresh air Rolfe; talking to a like mind always injects me with the energy I need to forge on.

Second highlight of my week: A group of students from my class who performed their Spoken Word poem today.

Blew. my. mind.

Hoping to film these next week when all groups share them publicly at the Book Week Poetry Slam event we are holding at school and then share them here.  The commitment to the task the groups are demonstrating has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had this year.

Lowlight of the week: Being sick with a shocking head cold Monday and Tuesday.

Second lowlight of the week: Hearing news of the rumbling Bardarbunga volcano in Iceland that remains poised to erupt according to news sources. If it does, it’s likely that air travel to Europe will be off limits. Given that my family and I are due to board a plane to Europe a week or so from now, I’m feeling pretty edgy about this.

Ah well, you take life as it comes. What will be, will be. I do know that tomorrow will be 21 glorious degrees here in Melbourne. Blue skies and warm rays always make me smile. Have a great weekend. May the sun shine on you. :)

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Powerful Learning – Conference at Toorak College July 21st/22nd

On the 21st and 22nd of July, Toorak College will be hosting ‘Powerful Learning‘ a conference that promises to be an exciting two days packed with a plethora of speakers with great ideas to share. We love to see you check out the program and consider registering for what will be a terrific professional development opportunity.

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Professor Guy Claxton will be opening and closing the conference, talking about Building Learning Power: What it means to create powerful learners.

Dr. Gerry White (Principal Research Fellow,  Teaching Learning and Transitions at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) ) will be keynoting about ‘The future of digital technologies in teaching and learning’.

Dr. Suzy Green will be keynoting about ‘Positive Education in Australia: creating flourishing students, staff and schools.’

Sarah Martin, Principal of Stonefield’s School in New Zealand, will be keynoting about ‘Accelerating Learning: What are the keys to success?’

Professor Mark Rose will be keynoting about Indigenous perspectives in education today.

Fay Jackson will be providing a closing keynote on day one entitled ‘Laughter, Tears and Honesty: Dealing with Mental Health the Best Way We Can. Oh and More Laughter’.

I’m also delivering a keynote. Once again, I’ve set myself a hard task. Here’s the abstract:

A vision for the future…maybe?
What might the teaching profession look like 15 years from now? How will technological changes and new forms of communication shape our schools and the way we teach? What could our classrooms look like and what might we need to think about to prepare for such a future?

Wish me luck on that one!

The full program can be downloaded here. 

There are other wonderful presenters in the workshop sessions including my friends Britt Gow, Glenn McMahon, John Pearce, Helen Stower and Kathryn Schravemade.

Hope to see you there!!

 

 

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How do you react? Active Destructive, or Active Constructive?

Yesterday, Maria Roberto visited Toorak College to lead a day long session about Wellbeing and Positive Psychology. It was a great day – we were all immersed in the vast repertoire of knowledge Maria imparted, and from the feedback I was hearing, the majority of the staff who participated thought that it was time well spent. Spending a whole day focused on your Wellbeing seemed a bit of a luxury, but it was evident too that our Wellbeing as teachers reflects heavily on our ability to teach well. If you’re not in a good state, how can your teaching be at its prime?

There were many takeaways, but one segment of the day that really resounded with me was the discussion surrounding how we react to others. We participated in a role play and had to respond with either ‘active destructive’ or ‘active constructive’ statements to our partner who was effusively describing something that had inspired them from the day. When taking on the ‘active destructive’ role, your statements began with ‘yes, but…’ and when taking on the ‘active constructive’ role, your statements began with ‘yes, and…’.

active constructive responding   Google SearchSource: http://www.gostrengths.com/what-is-active-and-constructive-responding/

This exercise really got me thinking. Working in the area of Educational Technology, I’ve found myself in many discussions where the ‘yeah buts…’ dominate. When people are confronted with change, it’s sometimes easy to nullify the new idea with a series of ‘yeah buts…’ that reinforce the status quo. As many of you would know, it’s quite deflating when you’ve discovered something that you think has the potential to invigorate curriculum or change our workflows and all you meet is resistance. I’ve had to retreat at times and build my strength again in order to keep ploughing on at what I know can make a difference for the learning environments of the students we teach. It’s really helped that this year I’m now working as Director of ICT and eLearning at my school. I’ve been given ‘wings’, so to speak, and it makes an enormous difference to be able to present ideas that can gain some traction because you have some degree of positional power.

Over the last few years I’ve realised that I counter the ‘yeah buts…’ by immersing myself in teacher networks. When the doubters have been in the majority, it’s been to the networks where I have retreated to find the ideas and energy to continue. I’ve read numerous books that have helped me to retain a positive mindset, and one that had a lasting effect was Brene Brown’s ‘Daring Greatly’. Her Leadership Manifesto is pinned on my wall at work, and I read it when I feel the need to gain strength to continue.

DaringGreatly LeadershipManifesto 8x10

 

You can download this from Brene’s website. Click here for the direct link, but do read Brene’s work and watch her TED talk for further inspiration.

Here’s another picture that hangs on my wall at work, a quote from David Jakes, turned into a pretty effective picture by my good friend Bill Ferriter. It rings true with the ‘active destructive’ and ‘active constructive’ discussions we had yesterday.

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Being conscious of our reactions matters, in all facets of our lives. Thinking positively, using optimistic language, smiling the Duchenne smile and using humour are all important if we are to remain healthy in both our working and home environments. My task – employ these daily. Maybe you should too.

 

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School’s out Friday

OK, there are so many levels I like this video on. First up, it’s an incredible effort by the staff of Penketh High School to recreate as close as possible Psy’s original Gangnam Style video. Secondly, I tip my hat to you, Head Teacher Mr. Jeff Hughes, for staying true to your word and following through with a promise. Thirdly, this is a brilliant way to form and unite community, especially when up to 50 of the staff dedicated four weeks after school hours to get this video created. Furthermore, this is a brilliant piece of marketing for a school that specialises in media and visual arts.

Schools often shy away from use of social media, but Penketh’s efforts here have been viewed close to 290,000 times on YouTube and the video has received media coverage in Liverpool newspapers and even the Huffington Post. They toned down some of the video segments to make it more family friendly and wisely so. Head Teacher Jeff Hughes doesn’t come across as creepy, he comes across as someone getting into the spirit of  things. The decision to add the prefacing comments explaining what motivated the creation of the video was, once again, a stroke of marketing brilliance and will no doubt attract prospective students to a school that embraces a sense of fun amongst their staff and students. Looking at the range of comments on YouTube (which are no doubt being carefully monitored) it has been well received. Take a look at this sample.

  • TheJackofrost 4 weeks ago

    That’s how a principal should work. Not because he did a stupid thing like this, but because he tried to make his student better at every cost. Respect.

     Mitsuki 

  • Mitsuki4 weeks ago

    Fantastic! I would like to have a principal like you!

    mixer19492 weeks ago

    Huge congratulations to everybody at Penketh – to the staff for having the guts to make the video and particularly to the students for their improved studies. I’m just thinking back to my secondary school days and our 1960′s staff. They still wore black gowns! What I would have given to be educated in today’s schools. We didn’t have slates to write on but it feels like it when I see this! Very well done. Sudents – make the most of these opportunities. You are lucky. How did you keep the secret?

The school enlisted the help of the local community to assist with the production. Here’s a portion of the Liverpool Echo’s article explaining how things were done.

The filming was done before and after school and to ensure the budget was practically zero kind-hearted businesses and community figures did their bit to help when it came to providing props and locations for shooting.

This included the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Warrington putting the school in touch with a customer who loaned the use of her red SLK class car.

The garage even supplied personalised Penketh High School number plates.

It is the same model of car which features in  Psy’s original offering which, in December last year, became the first video to clock up more than one billion views on YouTube and has a Guinness World record for the most ‘liked’ song ever .

The clip reminds me of the excellent effort from Yr 12 students at my school in 2009 that they left as their parting gift on their last day. While not an exact recreation of The Black-Eyed Peas, ‘I Gotta Feeling’, it showcased nearly every student from that year level and utilised much of the school grounds.

And if you haven’t seen Psy’s original Gangnam Style video, here it is so can compare it with Penketh’s effort.

Have a great weekend everyone. If you work in a school, think about what you could be doing to engender community utilising the tools of social media. My mind is racing… :)

 

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School’s out Friday

A Life Well Lived | Jim Whittaker & 50 Years of Everest from eric becker on Vimeo.

This is worth watching, and not just for the stunning visuals, but for the truly important message shared by Jim Whittaker. While I’ve never scaled Everest, there are many moments over the last seven years that have made me feel like I am conquering something bigger than myself, taking risks and learning how to appreciate what the world has to offer.

I’m forever grateful that I found myself in a school that has allowed me to see more of the world than I had ever imagined possible for myself. Those of you who have read this blog faithfully will have experienced my travels in China, Italy, Laos and the United States. Each experience has provided growth opportunities, and none moreso than my time in Laos last year when I travelled with a group of girls to spend time in a village working on a community project with Antipodeans. To live amongst village people who value community and are happy with what we Westerners would consider a meagre existence, was a truly humbling experience. I came back with a deeper appreciation of family, friends and the almost obscene luxury of living in a modern society with clean water, plumbing and food aplenty.

This time next week, I will be in another village working on a community project with students from my school. This time we will be in a remote community in Borneo. I know it will be another life changing experience for myself, and most importantly, for the students who are taking part in this journey. Jim says in the video above that nature is the best teacher in the world and that risk is an important part of a person’s development. Going on service learning trips like this are prime examples of exactly this for the students we teach, and for me too.

So, I’m off to learn by doing! When possible, I’ll try and post about my experiences here. We’re visiting the Semengoh Orangutang Sanctuary twice, on our way to the village and on our way back. Hopefully I’ll be able to share a few pics with you along the way.

Have a great weekend. I’ll be busy getting organised for our departure on Sunday night. :)

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How an internal Teachmeet can help forge a professional learning community

One of the things I set out to do when I took on the role of Director of ICT and eLearning at my school, was to find ways for our staff to share what’s happening in their classrooms. Despite the fact that we often are working in environments with large numbers of staff working within very close proximity of one another, teaching can be an isolated and sometimes lonely profession. Very often, we’re unaware of what is happening in peoples’ classrooms and it’s difficult to find moments where we can get together en masse to share.

In our meeting schedule, we scheduled a Teachmeet as our last staff meeting for the term. I love the idea of Teachmeets, but I’ve yet to attend one. They are informal gatherings of teachers where strategies, new approaches etc are shared and most of them take place on weekends in locations close to the city. I find it really difficult to get to them given the demands of family life and the sheer fact that I’m pretty tired from the working week and need the weekend to recuperate (and do the washing, vacuum the floors etc etc). Last year, when I attended ISTE in San Diego, one of my Australian friends shared how they have Teachmeets with their staff so I thought this would be something we could replicate to bring people together and help to build our professional learning community.

I’ve been very fortunate to have fifteen teachers from across the school volunteer (with a bit of coaxing!) to be eLearning coaches, and seven of them, along with myself, agreed to run a 7 minute information sharing session about something they’re doing. We ended up with a line up that included the following:

Infographics and how to use and create them

iPad/iPhone apps and their use in a Maths classroom

Using Edmodo as a virtual learning platform for your class

Backing up data – what are the options

Flipping your classroom and using a blog to share information (two teachers demonstrated what they’re doing using these methods)

Using Skype to connect with other classrooms and Ning as a platform for teacher resource sharing

Scootle and how to use it to support Australian Curriculum implementation

In my email to staff about the event, I said the following:

There’s a requirement that this will be a fun event, so bring along your good humour, great catching skills and supportive smiles as your peers share their practice with you.

The great catching skills were needed for the lolly throws that took place between presentations, and the supportive smiles were absolutely necessary to help staff present in front of their peers. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather address an audience of 200 strangers than I would the people I work with on a daily basis. I think we were all feeling a degree of stress about the afternoon, but it was unfounded. Our peers were very supportive and got into the spirit of the afternoon. Lollies were caught, laughter was shared, music was played in between presentations and sessions provoked discourse between participants.

The feedback from the Teachmeet has been fabulous. In the hours after I received emails from staff saying how much they’d enjoyed the meeting and that it was fun and engaging. This continued throughout the week when people approached me saying how much they’d taken from it and how the format was perfect for a positive end of term meeting celebrating what’s happening in the school. Our eLeaning coaches who presented have been approached by staff who want to know more about what they’re doing and want opportunities to learn from them.

Sometimes we neglect to explore the expertise that exists within our own staff. We send people out to expensive external professional development where they hear from others when it’s quite possible similar expertise is being played out in classrooms next door to them. Becoming a professional learning community within the walls of your school means finding opportunities like internal Teachmeets where people can discover the experts among them, and build the rapport and professional dialogue with peers that can become a model for others to follow.

Schedule an internal Teachmeet with your staff next term – I don’t think you’ll regret it.  They’re becoming a permanent fixture in our school calendar!

 

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The little things…

Neglected.

I believe that’s the word you’d use to describe this blog of late. Aside from the regular School’s out Friday posts (my saving grace, really), it’s been a barren wasteland for the last month or so. I shouldn’t beat myself up, because starting in a new position, even when it’s at the school you’ve taught at for years, is fraught with finding your feet and trying to establish credibility for yourself amongst your peers.

Me, I’m my own greatest critic. If I’m not moving mountains then I think I’m falling short. I’d love to say I’ve single handedly transformed peoples’ approaches to using technology in their classrooms within weeks, but you’d know I was lying. I’m trying hard not to beat myself up or place undue pressure on myself, but it’s proving difficult. What I have to do is tackle things in a systemised way, make some things a priority, and take heart from the fact that I’m doing what I can with the hours there are in a day.

A little thing I’ve done that I think might be a good start to building a learning community is to create a hashtag for our school and start curating Tweets in a Paper.li (it’s like a online newspaper). The hashtag is #tcplc (Toorak College Professional Learning Community) and the Paper.li created I send out in an email daily to staff. To help them determine if there’s anything there of import, I provide a brief summary of some of the posts/articles that have been curated. I’m very lucky to have a couple of other teachers at my school who are Twitter users, and they are helping with the curation. Hopefully we’ll start to see more teachers become aware of the wonderful professional learning opportunities available from the Twitter community and maybe, just maybe, some will sign up and become part of the curation process to benefit all of us.

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It’s a little thing, but it does take time and effort to curate those links. I’m an avid Twitter user (all my best learning happens or begins from there)  so it’s a great way to make that learning transfer to others who aren’t Twitter users.

Little things go on to become big things. I’ll try and keep this Chinese proverb in mind as the year unfolds,

“It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.”

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