Why teach?…

Often I think as educators we get so caught up in the chaos of every day – marking, meetings, lesson plans, reports, taking the roll, uniform checks, etc etc. – that it’s so easy to loose sight of why we are here in the first place. People come to teaching for a whole range of reasons, from all walks of life. I think it’s truly a catch-all profession and I love this because I think it adds to the diversity of perspectives that students can be exposed to in schools.

So today, as the school year in Taiwan is drawing to close and I am facing exam marking, grades to enter, and reports to write, I am reminding myself why I teach. And it’s not because I’m a sucker like this guy…


1. To give back.
I benefitted from some truly incredible teachers who had a huge impact on my life. These role-models showed me the potential for education – and great educators – to impact people’s lives in a significant way. I believe that education has the power to change the world & make it an even better place by empowering young people to do great things. If I can pass on even a shred of the positivity and inspiration some of my teachers showed me, I’ll be happy.

2. Love of learning.
One of my very favourite parts of teaching is the fact that I am continually learning! I love expanding my knowledge and learning knew skills and nuggets of information. One of the things I hope to express in my classes, and foster in my students, is this passion for being a life-long learner.

3. Young people are awesome!
Every day I am impressed by the young people I get to work with. They are so interesting and full of so much potential, it’s exciting to be a part of their journey.

So for those of you finishing up the semester, term, or year, I encourage you to take some time to remind yourself; why teach?…


Soldier on educators!

What brought you to teaching? And more importantly, what keeps you going?


Last week I didn’t quite get around to posting a piece of weekly inspiration, but luckily for me Shauna Mae posted an excellent TedTalk from the impressive Sarah Kay.

This week’s post will hopefully make you laugh. It’s a wikiHow guide to “How to be an Inspirational Teacher”. Unfortunately I’m not sure it’s quite as simple as wikiHow would have us believe…


Click to find out How to be an Inspirational Teacher!

Professional development resource – @IRIS_Connect by @TeacherToolkit

WOW! I came across this technology via TeacherToolkit – UK based edublogger. This looks so awesome as a tool for improving teaching and learning and building a growth mindset/learning community within a school. Scary at first but I think it really could be transformational.

He also finds it transformational and talks more about it here.

When I was at university we had to record ourselves teaching and then watch and reflect on the lesson, with our peers. It certainly helped me to see lots of things I was doing from a very different perspective. It was also amazing to reflect after a period of time, but while still being able to have the reality of the lesson fresh in memory – right in front of you!

I don’t know of anything like this in Australia but surely something exits… Does anyone have experience using video as a method of professional development in schools? Or know of similar programs?

Public vs Private & ‘value-adding’


Yesterday (June 2nd 2015) ‘Private, Catholic schools do add value to student results’ was published on The Conversation by Gary Marks, a professor at the University of Melbourne. It outlines his recent research which has found that so-called ‘private’ schools* do ‘add-value’ to students’ education, particularly when looking at ATAR scores for university entrance. The article is brief, and I found some of the more technical aspects of the discussion a bit confusing, but it is an interesting contribution to a debate that has been building momentum over the past two or three years. Namely, what are the educational benefits that come with paying large amounts of money to educate your child in a non-public school? The article is followed by lots of interesting comments that build in a great deal of complexity to the discussion.

It seems interesting to me that this research has come to a very different conclusion to other recent studies into this same issue. Personally, I am interested to know to what extent Marks’ study accounted for the fact that public schools tend to cater for a much broader range of students – from different backgrounds, with different educational ambitions – and the fact that it is fairly common practice for private schools to encourage lower-performing students to find somewhere else to complete their schooling. Both of these factors are likely to result in a higher average score in private school ATAR results. And if students are shifting from private to public schools before their final years of schooling at year 10, after the year 9 NAPLAN results, surely this will skew comparisons of how students progress from year 9 to year 12. Perhaps a longitudinal study of individual high-performing and ambitious students attending a range of different schools would provide a clearer comparison? I don’t know if this already exists… or perhaps I have misinterpreted aspects of Marks’ argument. It is interesting that in some of the later comments Marks responds that “my general conclusion is that the whole system is mainly driven by student ability with SES having a much less important role”– a very different emphasis to that suggested in the article and certainly in the title.

Also published yesterday in The Age was an article by David Zyngier, from Monash University; ‘Public schools’ good report card on value for money’. Zyngier suggests the reverse of Marks’ argument – that private schools do not significantly value-add. While Marks focused on ATAR scores, the research Zyngier discusses is focused on NAPLAN results.

Obviously this is a vexed issue with all schools invested in showing their families and the public that they are a good choice for students’ education. Increasing numbers of parents are sending their children to private schools, but with more and more research coming out that says public schools are offering an equal, if not better, education, is this trend likely to reverse? Or are the main reasons for choosing a private education less to do with educational benefits, and more to do with social benefits? What do you think about the ‘value-adding’ of private schools compared to private? Is any possible advantage worth the cost of a private education?

*I say ‘so-called’ because of the significant amount of public funding they receive


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

Classroom Displays


My current classroom in Taiwan.

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!

Making Time for Great Teaching

Click to access 808-making-time-for-great-teaching.pdf

Screenshot 2015-05-29 14.18.59

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?”

For more information about Grattan Institute visit http://grattan.edu.au.

This is not your practice life…

Singapore street art – inspiration is everywhere!

This is the only life you get!

This is the only life you get!

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.