There are days when I struggle in my job feeling like I'm not being innovative or creative. There are times when I know there is paperwork to be done but I would rather be doing other things and procrastinate. But then there are days where inspiration hits you out of the blue, rerouting your day with time passing faster than you realise.
Most of the time I get my inspiration from our students when they say to me "Can we do_____?" I always agree with whatever it is if they have a good explanation and a plan of how to do it. Then we somehow make it work no matter how big or small it is because when students are invested in a project, they show higher levels of engagement and often create better quality products.
I also get inspiration from things people say. Sometimes it's a few kind words that make me realise that what I am doing is contributing to others learning and it is appreciated. Often those who share their words don't even realise the action that they've inspired. With a clear, purposeful work, the inspiration can push the boundaries of what has begun to further support those it has impacted.
Sometimes I have other teachers say to me, like today, "You should..." and if it's something I value I will likely work towards implementing it. But when I have no idea how to do it, those are the times I enjoy most. The times when uncertainty exists means a challenge to problem solve. Trying to find solutions to problems in an educational setting expands how I think about problems as I look to solve them through the various lens.
Then there are those who tell me I can't do something. Nothing motivates me more than a brick wall that others don't think I can overcome. Tell me I can't do something and I'll do anything in my power to find a way to make it work... and do it to my best ability.
With our students and teachers, it's important to understand what motivates and inspires them to raise their own expectations and go beyond. If you can figure that out, you will be able to foster the positive change that has an impact on its surroundings.
Feeling The Spark
We’ve all felt it at some point or another - that feeling of excitement when a new project is starting, feeling inspired to try something new and that passion for teaching just can’t quite be contained.
As we begin a new semester, it’s hard not to feel such things. You come back from the holiday break re-energized and ready to go and you jump right back into things with extra gusto. Personally, jump feels like too light of a term here as I have fully submerged myself.
Currently, I am working on a full write up with two colleagues on our Battle 4 Chatz project we did the first semester where we created a game with 7 levels plus a boss level for our space and shape mathematics unit. Using the idea of gamification, we increased student engagement and productivity in a fun way for our Year 5 students. It's sometimes really rewarding to look back on what you've accomplished as a team and then be able to set new targets moving forward. We look forward to sharing our findings and resources once we finish in the coming weeks!
My students are currently driving the inquiry in the classroom with their personal projects and summative marketplace with a recipe book. In just two weeks, I can't wait to see how it all comes together.
In my next unit of inquiry just 2 weeks away, I plan on having my students lead the learning completely by creating their own online courses in groups. This will involve creating all the content in their course through research and then writing or finding creative ways of displaying their findings, creating the assessment tools and developing the layout of their online course. After they have created a course, they will switch courses with another group and beta test the online course while reflecting and providing feedback throughout the entire process. It is amazing me that when the plan is for the students to develop the unit, assessments and fully execute their plan, that it is actually making me plan more than I have for any other unit. I am nervous and eager to see how this goes and look forward to sharing our progress along the way.
I’ve got a few different things I would like to ‘apply’ to in the next month or so as well. With conferences, programmes and even considering masters in about a year’s time, there are lots of different options to consider. Sometimes it is hard to find the balance between all of these things and be patient knowing not all of them to have to happen in the next few months. Each application deserves the attention to detail and time and hopefully, something comes about from some of them. Unknowing the outcome makes the process nerve-wracking but always worth it. Even when you don’t get accepted to something, there’s usually something you can take away from the process.
This year has the potential to be great. It’s just getting started and these are just a few things that have me buzzing right now. I can’t wait to look back this time next year and be in awe of it all.
Choosing How You Grow
This year started off quite rocky for me with many personal and professional challenges. I found myself not being at my best and not feeling inspired in the way I normally am and found things that never before bogged me down doing just that.
I was doing what I had to do each day and doing my best to make the students my focus. Feeling a little lost, I was trudging on hoping to find the internal spark that had dimmed a bit.
On a whim, I decided I needed to get away from Singapore and the life it encompasses and travels on mid-break somewhere different than I was experiencing. I booked a ticket to Vietnam to visit some past colleagues and dear friends and wasn't really sure what I was in for. I had no plans, barely had a Visa in time and had thrown a few things in a backpack on the morning of my flight. Little did I know, what an eye-opening and inspiring trip it would be for me personally, and professionally.
Ho Chi Minh City itself was such an adventure and reminded me so much of my experience in China where culture swirled around you and everything became a challenge. I began to realise how much I crave and thrive in situations where I am challenged. It became very apparent to myself that if I am not being challenged, I am not learning to my fullest potential. An interesting thought as a teacher, where my job is to challenge and support students in these challenges every day. It made me reflect in thinking - who is doing this for me? Am I doing this for myself? Am I waiting for others to challenge me? Do I need others to be the one challenging me? I'd say I'm often pretty self-motivated but at times I need someone there as well. As I'm still new to teaching, often I'm just doing what I 'think' is right and not necessarily the best way of doing it. I need others to challenge my thinking.
I visited the International School of Ho Chi Minh City where some of my friends worked and was truly inspired by the teachers and the work environment. In addition, they also had a visiting math consultant which I was able to learn from for the day and a half I was there. It was such an eye-opener to see how other educators do things in other schools. I spent most of my time just watching, trying to take it all in and learn from others. I furiously would scribble down notes as I went and just tried to soak up the experience for what it was. I came away with so many ideas that I instantly wanted to implement in my own classrooms such as the bubblecatchers and the way they view home learning. I know that when I take my learning into my own hands, I get a much richer learning experience. Interesting enough - isn't that what we want our kids to do too?
One of the biggest things I took away was the power of observation. So much of our time we spend worrying about getting paperwork done, marking or a variety of other things that have to get done that we don't make time for the things we should be doing. This year alone, I know I have not been into enough other classrooms to see what they are doing. Yet, I went to another school and that's all I wanted to do. We all have so many amazing things that we are doing but unfortunately, they don't always get shared. I went to Vietnam and was so inspired by the way others looked and acted towards education in a way that was similar to how I feel about my job.
I also recently found out I was accepted into the Google Teacher Academy (GTA)- another professional development opportunity I have taken into my own hands. Last year I was introduced to Google Apps for Education and the GTA and instantly thought it was something I would like to work towards. My first year was all about developing the skills to use them and then I felt this year should really be able using them more effectively before I apply for the GTA the following year. However, something in the summer kickstarted my want to learn more and try for this year. So this past summer, I did all of the online courses that I could with Google and became a Google Educator by doing 5 Google Apps courses and exams and also did the Youtube Digital Citizenship course. From there, I decided I needed to develop my professional learning network through Twitter and began connecting with other educators and sharing what I do in my class. And then tried for Google Teacher Academy. I didn't get in the first time.... or the second time... but with perseverance, the third time did the trick. This is something I wanted to do, learn about and be able to apply to my teaching - not something someone is telling me I have to do.
There is something about having agency over your own professional development that truly adds to the learning itself. When you are choosing to learn, the learning seems to be richer and the excitement and inspiration seems to flow. The question then becomes, how do we best transfer this knowledge into the classes we teach?