2013: “Spreading My Wings”

CC BY-NC-ND by Michael Graffin

Summer’s Night on the Corniche. CC BY-NC-ND by Michael Graffin

It is hard to believe that a wonderful year has come to an end. My thinking, pedagogy, and attitude towards teaching has continued to evolve, and I suspect the full implications of the events and connections of 2013 will only become apparent in the years to come.

Looking Back

Its time to reflect on the defining moments of 2013, a year of exploration, learning, and new opportunities … a year where I “spread my wings”.

Five Years “On the Road” 

Much to the horror and disbelief of some, I’m a relief / casual teacher by choice … It has taken me nearly 5 years to feel like I’m starting to master this very challenging role, yet I’ve already outlasted many of my graduate teacher colleagues. I’ve learnt my lessons through the “school of hard knocks” (literally and physically), and I’m a better teacher, and a better person for it.

I’m so much more than “just a relief teacher” … I’m a presenter, writer, learner, and emerging global education leader … with the true privilege of growing together with an amazing group of online educators around the world.

Proving a Point (#WLPSict)

While I only worked in the #WLPSict role for a few weeks, the experience enabled me to prove to myself (my harshest critic) that I had what it took to be a competent, innovative ICT Integration teacher.

It was only a taste of a role I’d like to explore further, but it gave me the freedom to experiment and learn in a supportive collegial environment. Despite never returning (a painful story), this was a fantastic learning opportunity, one which I look forward to repeating elsewhere in future.

Becoming a Presenter & Keynote Speaker

Mrs Warner, my high school English teacher, once remarked that teaching was an unusual choice of profession for someone with terrible public speaking skills, but I suspect she’d be very proud of me now.

In 2013, I gave over 9 presentations, including my first keynotes (for the CONSTAWA Dinner & iEARN Social Media Panel), first international workshop, and first presentation at a local school development day. It was also the year where I returned to where it all began, at the Reform Symposium eConference, and the year I had the opportunity to co-present a workshop with Kerry Muste, one of our Global Classroom Lead Teachers.

Building on my work with The Global Classroom Project, I contributed my thoughts, stories, and expertise to a wide range of magazine articles and research publications this year, and with another article due for submission in early February, 2014 looks set to be a busy year.

Taking Flight … Literally

This was the year of my first international trip (and plane flight) in over 20 years. Landing in the dusty, hot Doha airport at 5AM local time was the culmination of much planning, and deeply appreciated encouragement from iEARN Australia, an organisation I am proud to be a part of.

As those who followed my #RoadtoDoha posts and photos at the time already know, Qatar was an ideal destination for a first time solo traveler, and a photographer’s dream. I still get slightly emotional thinking about my time in Doha, for it was a truly life changing experience – both for me as a person, and as an educator sharing my story on the world stage.

So, where to from here?

2014 promises to be an interesting year. The experiences, learning, and new friendships of 2013 have helped me glimpse a potential future beyond relief teaching, and I am starting to consider how to implement some exciting new ideas. I’m in no particular hurry, because 2014 marks my return to postgraduate study, as I begin my Post Graduate Certificate in Religious Education at a local university, with a view to starting my Masters in 2015.

In other news, I’m planning to travel to Sydney for the Flat Connections Conference in June 2014, and am looking forward to spending 2 weeks in what I have heard is an amazing city. I am also hoping to attend the ACEC Conference in Adelaide, but am still weighing up the details and costs of that one.

I don’t know what 2014 holds for me, but I’m looking forward to finding out … One step at a time.

 

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.

 

2012: A Year of Exploring Possibilities

“Bather’s Beach” – By Michael Graffin (2012)

My blog is very much a reflection of my teaching journey over the past few years …

2010 was very much a year of experimentation, of learning, and finding my feet – as a relief teacher & a connected on-line educator.

2011 was a “Year of Change“, but with the benefit of hindsight, the lessons & outcomes of that painful, tumultuous year have more than compensated for the agony I went through.

So, what were my experiences of 2012?

 

2012 was “A Year of Exploring Possibilities” 

Mr Davo Devil checking out the #globalclassroom scrapbook

This has been an interesting year. I’ve had my ups and downs, but overall it was a positive, meaningful year.

Some significant moments include:

This was a year where my skills and expertise were recognised and appreciated locally, as well as internationally. Working with Jenny on the TIPS2012 project was a rich learning experience, and my involvement with iEARN Australia has thrown up some wonderful opportunities for 2013.

A huge thank you also goes to Nigel Mitchell (my ACEC 2012 co-presenter), Kathryn Edwards of Peach MediaKesha Busing of RIC Publicationsand Mal Lee. You’ve helped shape an amazing year, and I hope we have the opportunity to work with each other in the years to come.

 

My favourite posts of 2012

This year, I haven’t blogged as often as I’d have liked; however, there are a few posts of which I’m particularly proud.

Thank You Mr P.

Perhaps my most heart-felt, emotional post of the year, which came as a bit of a shock for Mr P. 

Life, Language, Laughter, Skype

The Hello Little World Skypers and Global Classroom Skype groups have had a profound impact on my personal and professional life. I treasure the relationships and friendships I’ve formed through these groups, and hope to start meeting some of the members f2f over the years to come.  

Teacherpreneurs – Connect, Create & Collaborate

Part of my series of posts from the Flat Classroom Book Club earlier this year, this post was an ‘ah-ha’ moment. My engagement in the book club marked the start of an emerging, and extremely important relationship with Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay of The Flat Classroom Project.

 

Publications / Articles / Podcasts

2012 has been a busy year, marking the first time I’ve had my name in print.

Contributions 

Collaboration in learning: transcending the classroom walls by Mal Lee and Lorraine Ward

I was lucky enough to contribute to the research underpinning this book, and I look forward to its’ release in early 2013. For some detail on the research, and the findings, please have a read of Mal and Lorraine’s research paper.

The Global Classroom Project –  Classroom 2.0 Book Submission

Things have gone quiet about this project; however, the more reads we receive, the more likely we are to be published in the print edition of the Classroom 2.0 Book. Your assistance has been greatly appreciated!

Articles

Teacher Feature 

Education Matters – Primary & Secondary Magazine 2012/13

Education Matters Magazine      Teacher Feature (2012) (PDF)


 

Learning, sharing and collaborating globally in the early years: Stories from the Global Classroom Project

Class Ideas K-3 Magazine (Early 2013 Release)

With contributions from #globalclassroom teachers in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, United Kingdom, and Lebanon, this was the first magazine article I’ve ever written, and I can’t wait to see it in print next year. I’ll post a link to the online version when it becomes available.

 

Podcasts

A World of Difference -The Virtual Staffroom Podcast

This interview with Chris Betcher, Theresa Allen, and Lisa Parisi was a huge confidence booster, and a great way to start the year. I forgot to link to it from my blog at the time; however, I’d highly recommend having a listen. You can find it via the link above, or find it on iTunes. Thanks Chris 🙂

 

Looking Forward to 2013

2013 is going to be an exciting year!

Flickr CC-NC-SA by Lυвαιв

I’ll be presenting at the Science Teachers of Western Australia Conference in May, and travelling to Doha, Qatar for iEARN 2013.

I’m hoping the Qatar trip will be the first of many, as I’d like to do a little travelling & meet a few international friends over the next few years. If that means I relief teach for a few more years, then so be it. It will be worth it.

Let’s see how we go.

Happy New Year.

 

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.

Helping Build “The Global One-Room School House”

Logging into Twitter this evening, I came across a fascinating, thought-provoking video entitled “The Global One Room School House“.

Containing excerpts from John Seely Brown’s Keynote at the 2012 Digital Media and Learning conference in San Francisco, it explores the notion of teaching and learning within “a global one-room schoolhouse” based on networks of imagination. (Reference)

The Big Idea

Some of the key themes of this video include the idea that “Entrepreneurial Learners are fundamentally makers and tinkerers”, and that as networked learners, “we need to invent new institutions, new social practices, and new skills to enable us to use technology to enhance and inspire learning.

I believe that teaching and learning is not all about the technology.

As stated in the video, Learning the technology is the easy part. It is about building, and participating within the wider, networked community. The video describes this concept as “entrepreneurial learning”, and I’ve blogged about it before, under my musings on becoming a 21st Century “Teacherpreneur”.

In the video, Brown argues that “we are no longer isolated learners or creators … we are part of a networked community”. This means we are not creating (or teaching) skills and knowledge which are stable and unchanging, but knowledge and skills which are destined to evolve over time and across different social and learning contexts.

He concludes by arguing for the “need to build a global one-room school house”. A community where learners can connect, teach, and learn from each-other; and “play” with new tools and concepts in a supportive, safe learning environment.

Building Educational Change 

It is hard to believe that through my work in building and leading The Global Classroom Project, I am helping to make John Brown’s inspiring vision an educational reality.

We are, in effect, building educational change – by creating a network of interconnected learners, and endeavouring to engage and inspire them to participate in, and help us grow a community of 21st Century teaching and learning practice.

We live in exciting times. Who knows where they will take us in the years to come?

 

 

 

Engage, Connect, Inspire: My Teaching Philosophy

 

Whist preparing a recent job application, I took the opportunity to update my teaching philosophy statement, the ‘reflective ‘manifesto’ which defines my beliefs about 21st Century teaching and learning practices. I’ve posted it here.

What impressed me the most was not that my ideas and approach had necessarily changed over the past 3 years, but how I now have the practical experience and language to describe how I apply these ideas in my professional practice.

And then today, I found this video (via @HonorMoorman), and was lost for words … It seems I’m not the only one who believes in the power of technology to Engage, Connect, and Inspire …

I couldn’t explain why any better myself.

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.

Rock the World! (#flatclass Book Club Reflections – Part 9)

Several months after it began, my #flatclass reflections series has finally come to an end. I really enjoyed attending the official Book Club, and I hope my blogged reflections will help inspire and guide other teachers interested in exploring this amazing field.

Perhaps too, they will help provide some feedback to the book’s amazing authors, who inspired my first steps into the wonderful world of global collaboration.


Chapter 11: Challenge Based Professional Learning

If there is one thing the Flat Classroom community particularly excels, it is their model of challenge-based PD for teachers.

For now at least, my attendance at a Flat Classroom Conference remains a distant dream; however, this chapter provides an impressive overview of #flatclass PD. Frankly, most of the theory and PD framework in this chapter went over my head, but if this area interests you, I’m sure you’ll find it a fascinating read.

Chapter 12: Rock the World

This chapter was short and sweet, and can be simply summarized in a few lines

  • Make connections which count
  • Learn YOUR way
  • Be prepared to help and share
  • Set some goals – take that first step!
  • Share your story, and "Rock the World"

This chapter is a fitting conclusion to Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds; and it reflects my own learning journey over the past few years.

Every journey starts with a single step … and its time to "Rock the World". Care to join me?

Designing and Managing a Global Collaborative Project (#flatclass Book Club Reflections–Part 8)

For anyone new to planning and organizing a global project, this chapter is for you. Chapter 10 is an invaluable step-by-step guide to creating a global project; exploring many lessons we learnt the hard way,and providing some useful ideas which will be incorporated into Global Classroom 2012-13.

I was particularly interested in the social media / marketing strategy outlined in this chapter, as the public #globalclassroom project spaces were explicitly built on the Flat Classroom spaces. We just added a few of our own ideas – including our enormously successful Skype IM group, and the monthly #globalclassroom Twitter chats.

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As I commented in my (little publicized) Edublogs Fine Focus webinar last week, our project is not the first "global classroom" project in existence, and certainly won’t be the last.

Each project builds on and utilizes the people and technology available at the time. The ideas, dreams, and creative potential already exist – it is just a matter of making the connections and fostering the global conversations.

The Global Classroom Project came to be through our connections, which were made possible by the social media technologies available to us at the time. Our model is about providing the communication and collaboration spaces for interested teachers, and I have no doubt that it will continue to grow, evolve, and change over time.