Making Ripples in my World: Marking 5 years of blogging

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Aristocrats-hat via Compfight

When you start a blog, you never know where the journey may lead.

It is like throwing a stone into a pond, and watching the ripples racing off into the distance …

I’m a blogger. 

I blog to document my experiences, reflect on my teaching practice, and share my learning with others.

It has helped me grow as a person, and as an educator. I’d like to think it has helped others.

Through my blog, I found my voice.

My voice, my story is important to me – and I will not be silenced.

Thank you to everyone who has supported, contributed to, and guided me on this journey of mine.

Meeting My “First Year Self”

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working with a group of student teachers and a few new relief (substitute / casual) teachers, and been given ample opportunity to reflect on my early career experiences. I still have vivid (painful) memories of my student teaching practical experiences, and remember how I graduated from university in 2008 with high hopes and a completely unrealistic sense of my readiness to teach.

It is hard for my current colleagues to believe that the eccentric relief teacher that they see now was the epitome of the ‘angry young man’ just a few short years ago. Nevertheless, it’s true. It took me years to accept that my university had not properly prepared me for the profession, and that teaching was a much harder, more savage profession than I’d ever imagined.

This is my fifth year ‘on the road’, although I’m only just entering my fourth year of teaching (in terms of days worked). I’ve yet to have a class of my own, despite spending three months in a school (an unpleasant story with unexpectedly positive outcomes). It has been an interesting journey, but despite all the setbacks and disappointments, I’m actually a better person for it. And besides, with most graduates quitting within three years, I’m one of the survivors.

I’ve come a long way

I am a different person, a different teacher than I was just a few short years ago.

It has taken me over four years to feel competent, to feel like that I actually know what I’m doing. Yes, I make my mistakes, but I’m making fewer of them … Yes, I still struggle to manage some classes, but I have a better classroom management toolkit and approach to help me get through the difficult situations. And perhaps most importantly, with an extensive national and international education network, I no longer feel angry, isolated, and alone.

So, as I reflect on my pre-service and early career teaching experiences, I found myself mentally composing the advice I wish I’d been given all those years ago. For those of you about to graduate your teacher training, and those starting out in our profession, this is for you.

 

First Year Teaching is Hell Hard.

 
cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by wakingphotolife:

Please don’t enter this profession with rose coloured glasses. Please don’t expect to easily get a teaching position in a good school, in a good class. Don’t expect to be the perfect, well organised competent classroom teacher from Day One …

Teaching is not an easy profession, and your first year will be, to put it mildly, hard slog. It is a matter of survival, resilience, and perseverance. The meetings, the dealings with parents (who can be difficult), the planning, the extracurricular activities, the classroom management challenges … and the list goes on.

It is easy to be disillusioned, isolated, and alone as a new teacher, particularly when you’re a relief teacher or new graduate in a ‘horror’ class. Research shows that virtually all new teachers go through a process of survival, disillusionment, and rejuvenation, although some people take longer to go through a phase than others.

Image via http://www.weac.org/professional_resources/new_teacher_resources/beg_handbook/phases.aspx

(Image source:  http://www.weac.org/professional_resources/new_teacher_resources/beg_handbook/phases.aspx. BTW, I highly recommend the Survival Guide at this link)

As a relief teacher, I didn’t have the support network that most new teachers have when they’re posted to a school. I was lucky that I had a few schools which were willing to forgive my horrific management mistakes, and give me the teaching experience I so desperately needed.

I am indebted to those relief coordinators who gave me a chance to learn and improve, who didn’t ‘spit me out’ after one or two days in their school. I went through some very traumatic experiences, yet I was one of the luckier ones, as I wasn’t stuck in a horrible class or supportive school for my first year of teaching.

It isn’t really possible to adequately prepare for the challenges of first year teaching, but there are some strategies and resources you can access to help ease the transition.

 

Develop your PLN / support network BEFORE you graduate from your teacher training course!



cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Alec Couros

If I could go back in time and change one thing about my university teacher training, I would have started building my online support network as a first year teacher. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest teacher trainers should provide some information about online education networks and support communities as part of the first year teacher curriculum and graduate teacher programmes, as this would make a significant difference for many early career teachers.

My online support network has helped make me the teacher I am today. From providing emotional support behind the scenes through some of the most traumatic episodes of my career, to giving me the empowering chance to present at my first online conference, and to the ongoing collaboration that I contribute to, my online network has stood by me, and helped me grow over the past few years.

And remember, if you’re employed in a school community, don’t forget to develop your local support network as well. You’re not expected to know everything (although we often think we should), and don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues (teacher next door) for help and advice. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, as you can’t survive in this profession if you try to go it alone. You’re working to create a learning community in your classroom and school, so don’t be afraid to practice what you preach!

 

Engage in State/Union Graduate Teacher Professional Development opportunities. 

In Western Australia, I was lucky enough to be one of the few relief teachers to progress through the Education Department’s teacher induction programme. It is called different things in different states (see here for details) and different countries, but early career mentoring and professional development programmes are truly invaluable. You’d be truly mad not to participate if you’re eligible, and I was certainly glad I did so.

 

Try and maintain your health

This is vitally important, and something that I probably should have paid more attention to in my first few years. Eating healthily, aiming for regular exercise, and maintaining an outdoor hobby are critical to surviving first year teaching.

I must confess that while I became a skilled ballroom dancer during this time (it was my only social outlet), ignoring chronic stress-related health problems saw me end up in hospital. I know for a fact that I wasn’t the only first year teacher who went through this experience, and I can only stress that setting some time aside to look after yourself, however hard, is critical when you’re starting out in this very stressful, and time-consuming profession.

 

Document the Journey

As you progress in your career, there will be times where you will want to look back, and see how you thought and acted in your early years. In fact, I’m doing that now …

A private journal or blog is an essential medium for first year teachers. Believe it or not, it really, really helps to just take a moment to write down what you are doing, how you are feeling, and what you’re planning to work on. In my first year, I took a few hours each school holidays to sit and write, and what I wrote makes for interesting, if admittedly painful, reading.

In more recent years, this blog has replaced my journal, although I have always maintained a separation between the raw emotion of the journals & the more professional tone I use here. I’m not sure I could have publicly blogged my first year experiences, although I do know, and greatly respect those teachers who do so.

Keep hold of your dreams, passions, and reasons for entering teaching.

Each person comes into teaching for different reasons, and there will be times in your early career where you’d will be wondering if it is all worth it, whether you’re actually achieving anything, or making a difference.

Don’t let go of your dreams, find something to cling on to – through the good and the bad. If you’re lucky enough to discover a passion for something, hold on to it with both hands. Having a sense of purpose and direction makes a huge difference when you’re going through the rough times, and will help you stay in what is, at the end of the day, a wonderful profession.

Remember, you’re never alone. And you ARE making a difference.

 

Enjoy the ride

First year teaching will be a challenge, but it is just the beginning of what we hope will turn out to be an amazing journey. As I enter my fourth year of teaching, the painful memories and traumatic experiences have faded, replaced by the triumphs, successes, and positive learning experiences of the past two years.

They say “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”, and that seems to have defined my teaching journey. For all the highs and lows, I’m a better person, and a better teacher. I’m looking forward to an exciting future in my chosen profession, and can’t wait to discover where it will take me.

Yes, I may not have (yet) had my own class, or a school to truly call home. Yet, I’m a teacher, and I’m proud of it.

All that remains is to wish my student-teacher and first year colleagues ‘good luck’ for your future. You have the potential to become great teachers, and I look forward to working with you in the years to come. Welcome to teaching.

 

Three Years. A Relief Teacher’s Blogging Journey

Well, what can I say?

Three years ago today, I was a recovering first year teacher struggling to find my voice and calling in my profession. Today, I’m in Doha, Qatar, on the eve of the 20th iEARN International Conference.

For me, blogging has been an outlet, a way to share my experiences, thoughts, and learning with others. I used to feel isolated and alone, but no more.

I used to be obsessed with statistics … could anyone actually be interested in reading about my experiences? Now, the statistics don’t matter so much … because I know.

The past three years have been a roller-coaster journey. There have been stories of heartbreak, triumph, elation, and heartfelt thanks … but I stand here today with no regrets, secure in the knowledge that I have a voice on the world stage, secure in the knowledge that I’ve giving back to this wonderful global community which has given me so much, and more.

Here’s to another three years … God knows where I’ll be, but I’m looking forward to finding out 🙂

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The Story of an Image

In preparing for my Science, ICT, and the Global Classroom presentation at the Science Teachers’ of Western Australia Conference this weekend, I’ve learnt some valuable lessons about global connections, crafting powerful presentations, and about connecting science to the real world.

But perhaps the greatest lesson has arisen from my endeavours to model the appropriate (legal) use of images in educational presentations …

This is the story of an image, and there’s quite a story to tell ..

Image:  Jordi Rios. Reproduced with permission

I first came across this image through Twitter, where it appeared on the Facebook page of a prominent Science communicator in the USA. With the intention of using this quote and image in my presentation, I contacted the owner of the site – only to discover that he didn’t own the image!

With his kind assistance, I traced the imaged to the 500px site, where you can view the original version.

What followed was fascinating …

After leaving a comment on the site, I received an email from the artist in Spain, who was quite surprised to hear from me – for several reasons!

Firstly, he had no idea his image was being used in the above form, and secondly he wasn’t particularly happy that the image didn’t (and still doesn’t) attribute him as the artist!

With the help of Google Translate, and several emails later, Jordi kindly gave me permission to reproduce the image (and quote) for educational use.

But, this whole experience has left me with an important lesson about images on the Internet  Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean you have a right to take it and use it. I’ve also learnt that that asking for permission can have some unintended, unexpected consequences. But I’m glad I did.

The Power of Connections & Conversation

It is hard to believe that #ACEC2012 has been and gone. Yet, I will carry its legacy for many years to come.

For me the conference was not about the presentations or the keynotes, although they had their place. It was about the connections, the conversations, … and the food … (only partly kidding!)

Photo by @anouk_ratna, Student Photographer @ #ACEC2012

During the conference, I had the opportunity to meet many wonderful, inspiring educators – some of whom I have known and worked with online for years. Some highlights included meeting @rgesthuizen, @ackygirl, @brettelockyer, @HenriettaMi, @losiath, @murcha, @tasteach, @alupton, @smadsenau, @melcashen, and frankly, the list goes on …

 

I took a great deal of confidence and affirmation away from #ACEC2012. 

Making my presentation debut at Australia’s national ICT conference was a personal milestone, one which I will remember for many years to come. The fact that I had a full house, and received such wonderful feedback on the ‘passion’ of my presentation, was a welcome recognition that my work is valued beyond the emotional roller-coaster of my day-to-day teaching practice.

I knew that my work in global education was respected by educators around the world, but I really appreciated the opportunity to sit down and talk to people whose teaching practice and educational outlook are being transformed through their engagement in the #globalclassroom community.

I’m a teacher. I may not have my own class, but I’m making an impact.

And I’m already looking forward to attending #ACEC2014 in Adelaide!

 

Skyping with @SAVSchool at #ACEC2012

Presenting at #ACEC2012

Cross Posted at The Global Classroom Project

On Wednesday October 1, 2012, I had the wonderful opportunity to present with Nigel Mitchell (@1nbm) on the topic: “Working in the Global Classroom” at theAustralian Computers in Education Conference

 

 

Despite some initial technical hurdles, including the fact that Skype was blocked at the school, the presentation was a great success.

We managed to Skype with Julie Lindsay, the co-founder of Flat Classroom Projects; and shared our global collaboration stories with a large local audience, and a small group of teachers in Taiwan, India, and the United States via UStream,

I hope you will take some time to explore our slides, and watch our UStream recording.

You can access, and contribute to our presentation notes here.

2 Years As A Blogger

Well, it appears that I managed to miss an important anniversary. (Thankfully I’m not married!). I must confess I had other things on my mind at the time …

June 28, 2012 was a special day.

It marked my 2nd blogging anniversary.

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by davidyuweb

 

Changing with the Times

This all started as a personal project; yet the connections, the learning, and the sharing that has gone on here, in this public archive of my thoughts, trials, and tribulations, have changed the direction of my teaching career.

I am no longer “voiceless”. I am no longer unknown. My thoughts, experience, and expertise have value; they mean something to other people. People I’ve generally never met.

Through this blog, I have made friends all over the world.

Through this blog, I have helped new, and experienced, teachers understand and confront the very real challenges faced by those entering this wonderful profession.

Through this blog, I have helped, in a very small way, make the world a better place.

Who would have thought?

Thank you.

“What the heck is a PLN?” @ #RSCON3 (Video)

This Weekend, we kick off the third Reform Symposium eConference (#RSCON3)!


What the heck is a PLN?: Personal Learning Networks for Educators

When?

8.30AM Australian Western Standard Time
(Please check the schedule for your timezone – this is just before the Closing Keynote on Day 1)

 

Where?

Please click on this link to access my Elluminate room – up to 30 minutes before the scheduled start.

(https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?sid=2008350&password=M.25F4EE183D04E394FA038CA714AA9D)

This will be my FIRST-EVER professional presentation, so I’m hoping and praying things go well!

I’m really excited, and I hope to see you there!

It’s Something Special – My Blog Turns 1

A Relief Teacher’s Journey was established a year ago today.

It grew out of a desire to share my experiences and learning as a new teacher. I wasn’t sure if blogging was for me, but 66 posts, and nearly 4 800 hits (from 108 countries) later, I’ve found my voice … and an audience.

It’s time to celebrate a very special blogging birthday.

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Flickr CC Image: Ѕolo http://www.flickr.com/photos/60648084@N00/2234406328


A Relief Teacher’s Journey is a reflection of my skills, interests and growing expertise as a new teacher. It has become an empowering medium for me to reflect on, and share my personal and professional journey with my colleagues and new friends around the world.

I’m not an expert teacher, but I’m proud to say that I’m an teacher blogger. I no longer feel alone as I start out in my chosen profession, for this blog has opened up a whole new world of opportunities, learning, and global friendships.

Blogging has made me a better writer and a better teacher. It has given me a voice … on a global stage.

So now, as I look forward to another blogging year, I wonder where it will take me?

Looking Forward to #RSCON3

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Six months ago, I’d never heard of the Reform Symposium Virtual Conference; the fantastic, FREE, online global education conference presented by teachers for teachers.

That all changed when I attended #RSCON11 in January this year; an event which attracted 4 100 global participants, and marked the birth of my Twitter PLN.

And, now to my amazement, I find myself presenting alongside some world-leading global educators at the next Reform Symposium (#RSCON3) in late July 2011.


So, what’s it all about?

The Reform Symposium e-Conference is about sharing, learning, and connecting with inspiring educators around the world. You don’t need to pack a bag, catch a plane, or pay a cent. You can even attend in your pyjamas! All you need is an Internet connection.

To find out more, visit the Reform Symposium website; where you can:

  • Find the official #RSCON3 schedule for your time-zone
  • Meet the presenters, and
  • Download the flyer to share with your colleagues and staff.


My #RSCON3 Presentation:

“What the heck is a PLN?” – Personal Learning Networks for Educators

  • Are you a new teacher, feeling isolated and alone?
  • Are you an experienced teacher looking for new ideas and inspiration?
  • Are you interested in sharing ideas and collaborating with other teachers on global projects?
  • Are you tired of falling asleep in boring professional learning seminars?
  • Have you heard about Personal Learning Networks or PLNs? Feeling lost, confused, wondering where to start?

Then please, join me at #RSCON3, as I

  • Share my ‘new teacher’ PLN story, and explain “What the heck is a PLN?”
  • Explore the technologies which underpin my global connections
  • Explore some of the global projects and learning made possible by my PLN; and
  • Facilitate a global discussion about how PLNs have influenced teachers’ professional practice around the world.

This is an opportunity for new and experienced teachers alike to learn, share, and connect.

I’d love to see you there!


When?

For Australian teachers, Reform Symposium 3 runs from July 30 – August 1, 2011.

I will be presenting on Day 1 (just before the closing Keynote) at 8.30AM – Saturday, July 30 (GMT/UTC+8). 

This time and date will VARY depending on your time-zone. Please click here to find out what time this is for you.

Where?

I will be presenting virtually in an Elluminate Conference Room. To participate, you’ll need to click on the (soon-to-be-published) “Webinar Links” in the RSCON Schedule.

In the meantime, I urge you to check out the Reform Symposium website, follow the #rscon3 hashtag on Twitter, and share the official Conference flyer with your Principal and colleagues.


Please, spread the word!
This is the only serious professional learning which you attend in bed! And it’s worth it!

I’ll be attending #RSCON3. Will you?