Every Sunday I will try to put up something to inspire educators as they are preparing to begin their week. Today I will begin with a slam poetry performance that I feel articulates much of what makes me proud to be a teacher, not to mention the struggle to establish the legitimacy of our profession with people so ready to dismiss us.
Slam poetry from Taylor Mali- “What Teachers Make”
Taylor Mali is a slam poet, ex-teacher and passionate advocate of educators and education from the United States.
Find out more at http://www.taylormali.com
This is definitely not something I would say is my forte`, but I have been trying to get better at making the look and feel of my classrooms more interesting and engaging. The thing I find difficult is achieving visible learning versus simply decorating – although there is also value in displaying student work. This year I have tried to use student work in a way that doubles as visible learning, and inspiration by displaying work that students have created, which can help them throughout their units of study.
Text types and textual elements
For example, while looking at media and language in Grade 11, students delivered a presentation on the features of different text types – the slides of this presentation have been put on the walls and whenever students are unsure about aspects of a letter to the editor, editorial or any other sort of text, I direct them to the display to see if they can find the answer there. I have also put up other key words and pieces of information.
Shakespearean insults & word wall.
I have taken a similar approach to displays with my Grade 10 Shakespeare unit, where we spent quite a lot of time looking at the language of Shakespeare. We started with everyone’s favourite, Shakespearean insults, and also looked at a range of other words, finding definitions and creating a ‘word wall’. When students came across words they were unsure about while reading, I encouraged them to check the word wall. I also encouraged them to use some of the Shakespearean language regularly in our classes, and often greeted students with some of the insults that they had created – a silly welcome to English classes. How do you create displays in your classroom? In particular, how do you ensure displays are engaging and support the learning process for students? Secondary or primary teachers, I’d love any tips!
A report from by Dr Ben Jensen from the Grattan Institute, an “independent think tank dedicated to developing high quality public policy for Australia’s future”. This report looks into how schools can provide teachers with more time, so that they are more able to develop skills and improve their teaching practice. The report makes the case that loading teachers with additional duties or expectations not directly related to teaching, such as yard duty supervision, extra-curricular activities, ineffective professional development and staff meetings results in less time available to teachers to improve their practice and provide the best educational opportunities for students. The report states that “we must be explicit that every time we ask teachers to perform extra activities we are decreasing the quality of teaching and learning in schools”.
I think this is an interesting premise, and it is true that teachers are given a number of extra responsibilities that are not necessarily related to improving teaching and learning in schools. However, I do believe strongly in the value of extra-curricular activities (one example of extra expectations of teachers addressed in the report) as part of a balanced educational experience, and also as an opportunity to develop relationships, two things which I think do contribute to improved educational outcomes.
With all aspects of what we do in schools it is important to stop and ask “how is this improving outcomes for the students?”
I saw this painted on the wall of a little laneway while I was visiting Singapore recently, and it really rang true to me. I think that when we consider the quote in the context of education it helps to really highlight how important it is that every child has access to the highest quality teaching, and inspiring learning environments. If we let any young person ‘slip through the cracks’ the impacts can be significant for the rest of their life. As educators we are extremely priveledged to help shape future generations, but with that comes great responsibility not to let these generations down. That said, I also think that it’s important that we inspire and empower young people themselves to take control of their own lives and pursue what fulfils them.