Finally taking some time out to write what I have been up to for the last couple of weeks! This is the first time in ages that I have posted intermittently here but life is a little bit busy at the moment. I am nearly half way through my first teaching practicum in Australia and I am just loving it. It is exhausting but the kids are so engaged and enthusiastic about everything, whats not to love! For my lesson with the kids I created a table with books, insects and magnifying glasses for the 5 year old class I am working with. It is called Insect Detective and since introducing it to them on Monday they were engaged in finding insects in the yard. We watched a video (the technology requirement for the AITSL teaching standards) and we were off into the yard with our clipboard, identification sheet and pencil to go out and count the insects in the yard. I have to say it was an astounding success as all the kids participated one way or another and it will create a connection to the natural world that makes you appreciate it that little bit more.
The rest of the time in my prac I have been observing the children, recoding conversations and making christmas crafts. I especially like this craft my mento teacher found where the kids went outside to collect sticks from the playground and then had to sort them in order from smallest to biggest. I love how it has a maths element to it and the kids were really enjoying it too, especially the last part where they get to decorate the tree with sequins and glitter. I have been coming home covered in glue, glitter, paint and dye and I cannot believe that you can be paid to hang out with kids and create! The cool thing is that this experience in early childhood is showing me how important early childhood educators can be for a little human, they are little sponges and the good behaviour that you model as a good citizen these children can replicate and this is where the magic happens. Humanity needs more places that are welcoming and diverse like the kinder I am working at and I am realising the profound impact an educator can have on children in their early years.
I am supposed to be writing an essay at the moment but I wanted a break from the grind and the opportunity to look at my life. Sunday I went to the Cat Lovers Show with the family. I was so excited to see the cats from Catmantoo and there was so much stuff to buy for cats as well. We found a great cat cafe near us in Preston, where we will get out next fur baby. It was a super day out with lots of cats but no pats! Well we could go to the adoption centre and pat some cats but that was a bit dangerous as we would love to adopt more kitties!
This morning on the way to school I was chatting to my son about quitting my Education degree due to the frustration of the education system in place that is following the style of the United States. Australia looks up to Mother America and loves to follow in their footsteps and this included standardised testing and reporting to ACARA – based on NAPLAN (the literacy and numeracy multiple choice test). I read this book on the weekend about a teachers struggle with the changes in the education system and it left a horrible feeling in regards to motivating myself to finish this teaching degree. The book is directly from a teachers perspective, things I have also experienced in the classroom but on a grander scale – the kids behaviour and the lack of responsibility from the parents with regard to modelling good behaviour to their children. I aways like to weigh in the positive and negative, but this book really had an effect on me that had me reeling with disappointment with the Australian education system to a point where I felt it was pointless to complete my degree, as the changing tides point to standardised testing and more reporting where the time devoted to actually teaching is pretty minimal. Though this teacher put her heart and soul into the profession she was burnt out mentally and physically after 16 years. Within the book, her teaching experience spanned classrooms in the beginning with the UK, Canada and different schools in Australia.
My son said to me, “Mum why do you want to throw away all the hard work that you have done for the last 3 years?” I told him, “I read this book last week and I am very disappointed with the state of education in Australia, plus my friend shared with me an article about parents bullying teachers because their kid got in trouble.” He said to me, “You mean parents who are entitled?” To which I responded, “Yes, these parents who do not take responsibility to discipline/give consequences to their own children but who love to complain if their kid gets in strife.”
As a strange twist of fate there was an article in the Good Weekend last week that was given to me by a teacher friend of mine. After reading the article and examining it from an educators perspective who are trying their best to work with the class of around 24 children, where each child has their own needs as individual learners there needs to be consequences/firm discussions regarding behaviour. As a parent you just have to take the responsibility and act appropriately – I mean, the parents behaviour in this article is just ridiculous, what kind of modelling is that to their children? To me it screams I am a squeaky wheel and if I chuck a tantrum I can get what I want. Sure you can, fool, but not without the litigious consequences and these parents are getting sued for their bad behaviour and they deserve it. If you cannot raise your child to be a responsible human being in society than why bother having children, seriously!
After reading this I had to do research online to see what is in the media about teaching in Australia and it is so depressing, a few searches online just leads to negativity. There is a teacher shortage in Victoria and they are hoping to enhance the reputation of teaching through raising the ATAR (score required to enter the degree program) to entice school leavers. I have to agree with the article above that the approach to employ mature age students within teaching is the way to go as I think if I had attempted to teach when I was just out of school it would have knocked my socks off and I would have been in hospital.
Now with some experience in the classroom (albeit within a class where the students want to be there working as an art teacher) and my full time job in 2017-2018 as a Teacher Assistant has helped me analyse where I wanted to be. Ideally, I would love to be in an environment very similar to our school in California within a child led environment with a focus on project based learning and inquiry. I am trying to find these places in Melbourne but they are few and far between. I have to say we are lucky my daughters inner city primary school embraces the model of creativity, collaboration and communication within their projects and I was happy to see this when the students shared their work 😀
When studying at Uni, it seems you are looking through the profession with rose coloured glasses and the focus is on the learner. Whereas in reality the teaching environment is a tough one with issues of bullying from both parents and students. This is something that our society needs to get over and we need more shining examples in society like Jacinta Arden. We need parents to have the guts to be responsible for their kids behaviour and model good behaviour. Before researching behaviour and psychology, I would look at kids at the park and wonder why the behaviour was so off, then I would meet the parents think to myself, “I get it now, you are a bit off yourself.” This translates to the classroom and the behaviour resonates from parent to child and from child to child, and I have seen some interactions that have me wondering, “Where on earth made you so entitled to behave like this?” And then I meet their parents! This ongoing feedback loop and the expectations from teachers is just so unreasonable. In a professional environment, would parents behave this way? Maybe?
Writing this has helped me gather my thoughts and think about my future with 12 subjects and 4 practicums to go which means I am less than half way through my degree program, so maybe I can continue and work as a social experiment? Though really there needs to be a heart in teaching and you need to love it – and yes I do love being with the children and seeing them learn, it makes me happy to see them smile and share their learning with enthusiasm. In amongst all this stuff in the media there is no real mention of the most important factor – the learners in a classroom. Which at the end of the day is what matters the most about teaching, the children. As a takeaway at the end the book Teacher by Gabbie Stroud, it says:
The best answer I can give when I’m asked to suggest solution is that Australia needs a dramatic re-imagining of what education could be in this great country. Fundamental to that re-imagining is time spent dreaming and considering what is possible. We need to contemplate not only what we should teach our children, but also how we should teach them. And we must start valuing our teachers.
I have decided I will carry on and get through it – if only to encourage students to be lifelong learners and appreciate that learning is a process which can be fun. To Australia, let’s break out of the mould and the failed education systems around the world (who focus on data and test scores) and innovate learning in the classrooms using school models such as High Tech High, take notes from real life education visionaries such as Ted Dintersmith and watch his film Most Likely to Succeed and follow exemplary education examples such as Finland and New Zealand. Oh and I found a secret to the optimal learning environment is where the teachers, parents and the students stand together as as a community of learners, at our last school in California – where everyone is involved and respected. These are the exemplars I will call upon to propel me forward and complete this degree program to eventually exercise these approaches with students in 21st century learning environments.
Well what can I say about last week is that all I got to do was get into my little routine of going to the gym every day except Saturday and study every day! That was the plan but as it turned out the weekend was no study time as we had to run errands on Sunday to get stuff for Missy’s camp at the Yarra Valley and eat ramen in the city. Saturday I had to talk to a builder and get a couch delivered, so good to have a couch that I have borrowed from my friend.
Life has been very boring of late as I have two very heavy subjects and lots of reading. I have assignments due – one this week and one next week and I am trying to get it all done so I can go away for our little Easter break at the Dandenong Ranges to see Rone and play in the forest for a while! I really have to have some goals at the moment as the solo parenting is taking its toll on my mind and time. Lucky for the gym as that really helps with getting out and doing something otherwise the week flies by with study and if I am lucky a bit of crafting at night as it is hard to focus on reading, let along writing something sensible. I went to the craft store on the weekend to get some yarn and supplies so I can craft on a whim.
The kids are doing well at school though they say they are bored so I feel that it could have been better for them if we stayed over in the States, especially at our wonderful elementary school. Thing is if you are used to a progressive approach to education it is a hard to compare it to anything else. As the kids are at public schools here which look good to me but I am not at school everyday so maybe they just need more challenge? It could be that one is a tween and the other is a teen and all they want to do is be on the screen – aaargh my greatest enemy/friend. I use my machine to study each day so it hard for me to model good screen time behaviours but these two are on them as soon as they come home from school and until I turn the wi-fi off at 8pm. I have had to unplug the wi-fi but I need more strategies to get these kids to do something else! They get their chores done but then what? We had a great time when we first moved in to our house and we played Exploding Kittens everyday after dinner until they got sick of it but I think we will have to start again just to have some quality family time.
I still am looking for my peeps and I feel like a stranger in a strange land. Repatriating is tough and I had read about how it feels in books but it is not until you are in the situation you realise that you have to start all over again from scratch. Well at least I have some family and friends here I can call upon, but now that school is happening again the weekends for a lot of them are playing sports. It has been 3 months since I left California and I would like to get out more but I really don’t have time to spare with having to study at every moment I can find. I need to make more goals of hanging with friends for study break times and just get out an about. The kids don’t help as everything I suggest to day trip to they say, “oh that’s boring!” Maybe I was like that when I was young and just wanted to play Nintendo all the time?
At least this weekend we have a plan to go to Fitzroy for Mexican food at Hotel Jesus for Missy’s 11th birthday and go out for some ice cream at Gelato Messina and then to the music shop to get the birthday prezzie of a bass guitar case – good times here we come, now that is a great goal to work towards!
The first week back got off to a good start with a package arriving from Australia from my sister with some super cool prezzos for the kids and the best surprise of all a pair of shoes from when I was in Grade 9! These shoes are vintage, they were from my mums family – either my nan or aunt which makes them even more special. They are just beautiful and are such a work of art in shoe design, I tried them on, and they were just like a Cinderella slipper way too small and too tight for my now flatter sole feet compared to when I was a youngin! So, for now, I will keep these shoes on show in my house as a piece of art from back in the day to remind me my love of shoes began a very long time ago 😀
Last week I also began my 2nd half of the school year at my work as a Teacher Assistant at Ventana School covering for a maternity position until the end of the school year. I will be working with two amazing teachers in the Kindergarten and 1st-grade classrooms and I am so happy to be working with the kids too, they are just so sweet. I have forgotten how kids at these ages enjoy hugs and spending time with their teacher and in the classroom. In the Kinder class, one of my favourite things is the light table, and the kids were making up all sorts of wonderful stories with these little glass pebbles. I have to say a Reggio Emilia classroom is certainly a direction I would love to work in for the future.
For the 1st grade classroom, there are rocks to explore and a glass container of mosses and lichen with lots of twigs and sticks, stones and many natural materials to use for when the children are creating stories. It is amazing what they come up with when you talk to them about what is happening in their creations.
The beautiful bead mobile on the left was created by the parents and the students with their intentions for the school year as a Back to School night activity. In the centre of the class the children created this branch, wire and bead mobile, I just cannot believe that I am working in a place with such an appreciation for nature and exploring – sometimes the serendipity of life takes you in the direction where you are meant to be!
Going back to work full time for the next few months has also got me thinking about food planning a bit more and tonight I made a broccoli soup from Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Soup book, the base for Vegan Ramen from Minimalist Baker and tonight’s dinner a rice and vegetable casserole. Plus my neighbour who is moving back to her amazing remodelled house has cleared out some jars from IKEA, and they are perfect for stashing a kale, mustard green and watermelon radish salad for the week and these jars fit perfectly in the fridge.
Last week I made this incredible Japanese Pizza Okonomiyaki from 101 Cookbooks as we scored a massive cabbage in our Imperfect Produce box and this is a perfect way to use up all that cabbage (I also have a small experiment of Sauerkraut happening in the dungeon).
So between organising some delicious meals for this week and food prep over the weekend, I wrote my second assignment for this teaching period creating a folio of resources for children with certain behaviours in the classroom. It feels good to have written my draft, and it is due next week, so I had better get into gear and start proofing this before I lose another weekend studying away! Not long now until I start the 3rd assignment which will be a case study in support children’s behaviour – whew, take a breath or two. In another 5 weeks and this subject will be over and I have a break for a couple of weeks. I have to say I am thankful for the Nintendo Switch and Just Dance to get me out of my study room and dancing in the lounge room with my family, it is such a great relase and excellent exercise!
Inside a Reggio Inspired Classroom, it is organised and arranged in such a way that the children instinctively know where to locate what they need and where to put them when they are done. Last week I helped with setting up the classroom with little things like laminating and helping out with the class library as my co-teacher is such a professional and has the experience on the look and feel of the classroom. It was exciting as she has moved to a new classroom, so it was setting up the class from scratch! To experience this magic and how much work is involved behind the scenes was so insightful.
I really love the natural materials area where there are magnifying glasses to explore nature close up, something close to my heart where even at my house I have a nature bowl where we collect pinecones, moss and other nature finds.
The class is so full of natural light with plants in the classroom, and eventually, there will be a classroom job of watering the plants by one of the children. The furniture is beautiful and even quite comfortable to sit upon.
The maths area is full of games and manipulatives for the kids to explore math and today as it was my first day in the classroom with children their enthusiasm with the math games was contagious. I was watching the kids play War with the playing cards, and it is all about counting the cards, and we even had a deep conversation about poker!
Beauty and colour are in the classroom with these bead and crystal rainbow window decorations made by the students of the previous year as a gift.
The books are organised in a way that can be categorised easily by the kids, and the books upon the shelf are from the school library focussing on this year’s question of identity. Each year in the classroom the whole school looks at a theme, and each class explores their big question posed by the teacher.
This lovely area offers a place to relax and read a book, and the kids absolutely love it, and next door is the quiet nook where if you need some alone time you can go there behind the curtain and be in peace. Being in the classroom today with 15 excited and social kids was so enjoyable, and I left the work today feeling happy that I get to be with these kids for the rest of the week. I thought I would feel quite exhausted sometimes after I do a volunteer class shift but today I felt happy to have this opportunity to be part of another beautiful community in the Valley.
Our first day back was exciting but to top it off we enjoyed some time outside with the kids watching a total solar eclipse through pin hole cameras either made by the children and parents or our science and math specialist at our school. Even watching the eclipse through a colander was super cool as you could see many crescents on the paper where the kids had interpreted what was happening in a drawing. We are located south of Salem in Oregon was in the path of totality so we saw about 75% of the total eclipse so it did not get dark, though the light did dim a little and the air was cooler. I really enjoyed this experience and it was so good to be outside with the kids, checking out the eclipse using various pinhole cameras made from cereal boxes and the like.
I have read on astrology blogs that it is time to do what you have wanting to be doing for a while – looks like over the last couple of months my path has been slowly carved out to somewhere I am going with my future Education degree! Whether you like frou frou magik or not there’s some good stuff happening here on earth right here, right now 😀