Some teachers are pricks, and then some

12 09 2010

A simple investigation experiment looking at the pH of blood at a Tasmanian high school has turned into a biohazard scare after teacher somehow thought sharing needles would be totally fine for adolescent boys. In some muddled form of defence the teacher did “attempt to sterilise the needle with methylated spirits between tests.” (Methylated spirits its not really suitable for sterilizing).

Pretty much any official is saying that this was a major balls up by the teacher, and I’m finding hard to believe that with all the red tape (in the for of occupational health and safety) present in Australian workplaces these days, that this investigation was ever approved. I have no problem with hands on experiments. In fact, I think these should be encouraged. On top of that, if we expect to have smart and scientifically literate graduates from high school, experiments involving potential biohazards should be allowed. However (or even because of that) it still very important to recognise that risks are involved and the appropriate precautions be taken.

Do read the comments on The Mercury article too.

There seems to be some sections of the world who are somehow thinking that the teacher has not done anything wrong, because there are no schoolboys in Tasmania with bloodborne infectious disease. Perhaps they could do well to investigate the Health and Ageing website which show that historically (prior to vaccinations) they have been one of the highest risk groups for Hepatitis (which is probably the largest worry in this instance, rather than HIV). Blood-borne transmission is probably the number one risk that health organisations try to minimize to prevent the spread of disease.


Drama, drama, drama

17 05 2010

Some classroom dramas I can do without. But classroom drama is another thing entirely.

I’ve been slowly trying out a few theatre-games I’ve found on this website. Some with after-school care and some in the classroom.

I’m finding theatre games can be tricky with younger kids. For one, even the most attention-seeking children can become shy when put on the spot, and secondly, they often have trouble expressing more complex ideas.

I really enjoy the Name Game #2 – very useful in learning students names. I also tried Emotion Party, The Park Bench and You (the last is a little crazy).

I think next I might like to have a go with Open Scenes, which could solve the problem of not being able to come up with dialogue.

It’s the set up (You need this)

5 11 2009

The major lesson learned over the last month is that no matter how awesome I am, I am not a magician.

Teacher’s cannot expect to walk into their classrooms, open their box of tricks, and have children play along gleefully (not even with music and white powdery ingestables).

What is really important for setting up a classroom for a smooth and successful learning journey^ is just that – the set up. It is so easy to gloss over this, and I certainly have been a lot. I mean these kids have been in school for eight years already, they know how a classroom learning environment works by now*. Reminding them of that is not my job as a middle school teacher, right? I should be able to just dive right into my lesson, yeah? These guys should know how to work in groups already, surely?

Wrong. Wrong. And more wrong. And apparently “group work” needs to be replaced with “co-operative learning”. Read the rest of this entry »

Out on Prac: Is this really how you want to spend your time?

11 10 2009

I am fresh off my first week as a pre-service practice teacher. Three more to go.

I have been assigned to a rather large state high school (no names please). I am workingwith one of their many (I think there are at least seven!?) year 8 classes (that’s 12-14 years old). I am working with two overseeing teachers on the student’s “core” classes – Maths, Science, English and SOSE (“Studies of Society and the Environment – a humanities amalgam). I have also snuck in a double period of Japanese with the same class into my schedule. This will give me a chance to see how second-language eduaction works in Queensland.

Pracs are important for pre-service teachers. There are some skills you cannot learn without opportunity to test them in the field. Teaching groups of your peers is not quite the same as teaching actual rambunctious twelve year olds (though some may have the same maturity and social skills). Getting things to work just right is as much trial and error, building relationships, and luck, as much as it is having the knowledge.

I had my own trial and error, building relationships, and luck, rollercoaster ride at the end of this week. My overseeing teachers were away for several lessons on Thursday and Friday – so I was working with substitutes. Unsurprisingly the first one was a bit chaotic, but then Friday’s lessons went quite well (not perfectly, but well). I was impressed that most of the students who misbehaved on Thursday recognised their behaviour was inappropriate and took steps to improve themselves.

The main thing that I learned did not work was contributing to classroom noise – funny that.

  • Raising your voice – negative and antagonistic
  • Talking over children – how can children obey instructions if they don’t hear them
  • Using vocal calls for silence – I was trying countdowns from five – too long, too noisy.

Things that do work are usually silent and get children to reflect on their behaviour. This way things are not inappropriate because you say so, but because they know so.

  • Stay calm – don’t let external sources (like an ICT failure) affect your attitude to the students
  • Waiting for silence – instead of talking over them
  • Silent cues for silence – hands on heads is working great for me, even it might seem a little primary school.

And there are some things I’m not sure of yet.

  • Asking inattentive students to repeat instructions – is it embarrassing?
  • Reminding students of school’s core values – potentially nagging?

Another good technique was to write the time we would start a video at on the board, and delay it as children misbehaved; although, in the end, one student messing around with some magnetic props erased it altogether. Not perfect yet.

Image credit: 我要生氣! by sizumaru from flickr (CC by A.ND)

New tech = New lit: Deconstructing the sms-ay

27 07 2009

First week of university down. It looks like they might actually try to teach me something.

One of the units I’m taking is Multiliteracy in Middle Years. It involves identify and using different text types (in the classroom), and identify and also teaching your students which grammar is suited to the textual style. To explain the latter, the lecturer gave us this example – it’s the first few lines of what a 13 year old UK student submitted when asked to write an essay about what they did last holidays:

My smmr hols wr CWOT B4, we usd 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :- kds FTF. ILNY. it’s a gr8 plc.

Anyone … ? I think she* visited Kuwait or something.

Some of you are probably smacking your heads in disbelief at that little effort. Grammar Nazis are possibly having fits. It is not even consistent, the writer ignored quite a few punctuation points and vowels, but then decides that an apostrophe for “it’s a gr8 place” is deserved (correctly).

What should a teacher do when confronted with this?

Read the rest of this entry »