Another exciting term launched straight into new initiatives, strategic & future planning, iPad rollouts, staff training, parent workshops, social media and the start of my next research. By the end of week 4 it had already been a full week and a full term so far.
One day that week, 3 events on the same day made me stop and take note of why we must continue to remember what the core of our business, as educators, is all about.
- A Helping Hand: Knowing Our Learners
The morning began with a call for help for one of our new students who wasn’t feeling too great about starting their day and needed encouragement to cross the threshold. This symbolised a blip in personal confidence and a colleague brought him along to see me. Last week, we’d arranged that I’d meet him from the school bus every morning with an agreement on various projects to share to start the day. Favourite pets turned out to be a fascinating choice (and continues to be a core theme)!
Moving on: once inside we went on a walk to find my office, sat down, had a look through his diary for the day and made sure he knew how to ask for help. Once he knew what was happening next, he was ready to go off, with his class teacher and start the day in class. Result ✓.
Getting used to a new location, new peers, new adults, new routines is a BIG deal. As international educators, we understand what that is like, and do everything we can to help with transition. It’s so important for our students to learn to feel safe in their new community, and this needs to happen gradually, before we can expect new learning to take place.
The extra #connection, for this student came in the form of supporting him in Dutch. Allowing him to communicate in mother tongue while adjusting into an intralingual environment, and experiencing school life in English.
Through Dutch, I was able to get to the heart of what was troubling him. In this case, tiredness & a forgotten PE kit. Not knowing how to express this or how it would be received in a new setting, created insecurity which led to a shift in behaviour.
- A Listening Ear: Understanding Our Learners
In a Computing lesson, Year 1 students were learning to navigate and select design tools for drawing. If you’ve ever worked with groups of 22 six year olds, entering a new space for the first time after negotiating stairs, a floor & room change, you will be able to guess what happens next …
Before anyone could be learning ready on first trip to the lab this term, they needed to explore the space. Our swivel chairs are a delight to young children, and I encourage ‘organising our bodies’ before we start work. Today – this meant giving them a few minutes to swing AND rotate to expend energy before they or their bodies could get focused!
I noticed this student was engrossed in fine motor detail on touch screen (see image), carefully adjusting point size and brush colour – using design tools to create ‘sunshine’. To the outside world, this may look like a simple circle and squiggles.
When asked to tell me about the design, words tumbled over each other in excitement to tell me WHY they drew what they drew.
Some students are naturally more vocal than others, this six year old needed a kinaesthetic means to show how the sun can “stretch right down onto us”. The image was clearly depicted visually on screen. Excited about his works, what he needed was a personal audience, a connection with a teacher to be able to express the full meaning of his design.
Hands wiggling he showed me how the sun in the sky and then flowed down onto his head and along his arms. Much more than a picture or words could show. Magical.
This demonstrates how crucial it is we create a learning environment where student voice is valued, and articulating ideas encouraged. It also carries a time implication, creating lessons that factor in a balance of exploration, feedback and work sharing.
I believe our students look to their teachers as advisors who share in the learning, encouraging them to express their thought processes.
I’m proud to say we are invested in being aware of individual learning preferences, and are skilled at knowing what is needed to get students ready for learning. Once energy is calm and the body ‘organised’ (different learning preferences will need different approaches), then the brain is able to work it’s magic.
- Encouraging Student Leadership – Celebrating Accomplishment
At lunchtime, a Digital Leader applicant came to show me her application film. The message went out earlier in the term, and students who’d like to apply were asked to create an application that showed us their digital skills, why they feel they’d be great at teaching or coaching others and collaborating.
This particular application raised the bar this year! How?
The ‘tell us why’ message included animated letters and coded in Scratch, with 3 sprite costume switches, decoration colour changes AND a video of her giving her pitch – Wow!
What a joy to tell her she was absolutely on the new Digital Leader team. With an impressive growth mindset and an absolute out of the box thinker, she will be a great role model for her fellow students.
Creating opportunities for student leadership provides avenues for them to show us who they are and what they know, in a context that is different from their learning in class. In my experience, it’s occasions like applications, projects and special events [e.g. our DLers have taken part in our TeachMeet], when we get to learn even more about individual hidden talents, practical skills and strengths.
This DL also said “It’s also about sharing skills. Even if you ARE a Digital Leader, you can still learn a lot from other people.” I joined the 3D gaming Club because I didn’t know anything about coding, and then I decided to try and learn more by myself. Now I am able to teach other people what I know.”
The team’s first job this year will be to redesign the student office, and coach younger students on digital design.
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