Bullying sucks

I heard a story of a child who has been feeling unwell as an avoidance tactic for school. This child was being bullied. On the grand scale of bullying it would count as on the minor side, but it was significant to the child concerned which makes it significant.

This yet again reiterated my frustrations as a teacher when bullying occurs. I can address the bullying with the child (and sometimes that is enough – by exposing it to the light or separating a couple of individuals who just get nasty together – those are the easy ones), but often this is not enough to address the issue. That is the issue with bullying – it is generally not a one off thing, but an ongoing pattern. Patterns can be hard to change. And just leaving it for the teacher to fix does not work because the teacher is not always there. Oh, the teacher definately needs to know it is going on and needs to take steps to support students, but this isn’t always effective. Yes there are strategies that can be employed

  • Restorative justice
  • Teaching skills to deal with it
  • Removal of the bully from the playground
  • Peer support
  • Teaching people to recognise unhealthy situations – or friends who aren’t friends
  • Home-school connections
  • Addressing it in the wider school context
  • Developing student relationships and expectations to stand up for one another
  • Helping kids learn to stand up for themselves and react less

But ultimately how do we stop it? A determined bully will find ways to continue. They themselves have learning they need to do. But how do we protect those who are being hurt in the process to stop it? How do we empower the victim?

In some ways physical violence is easier to deal with because there are marks. But what about words? What about those complex situations where the bully is subtle and jabs, jabs, jabs then gets upset when there is a response? What about when the bully knows how to play the game and hide the bullying?

Is there really anything that we can do or is it an uphill battle? In saying that it is not a battle that we can afford to stop fighting. It is a battle that we see played out not just in school, but continued through into adult life. New Zealand (in 2016) holds the silver medal for the highest statistics (worldwide) of workplace bullying. Click the link below to see an article on it. Therefore, simply dismissing bullying as ‘a part of life’, or as someone needing to ‘harden up’ because ‘life isn’t fair so you might as well get used to it now’ doesn’t work.

Despite a plethora of literature on bullying, it seems to be an ongoing problem (and not just over here in NZ either) and not one that is easily addressed. If you have some more ideas to add regarding this issue, please do.

 

workplace bullying

100+ Tools for Differentiating Instruction Through Social Media | Edutopia

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/differentiated-instruction-social-media-tools-john-mccarthy?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

 

Here’s a useful post I stumbled across – it focuses on purposeful use of tech tools rather than replacing doc…

A real bugbear of mine is having these wonderful tools available and then just using them to replace pen and paper activities (assuming you have been able to get past issues such as equity of access/ physical access/ internet speed/training/ policy matters etc). It’s chocolate covered broccoli and kids know it.

The trouble is there are so many barriers preventing genuine integration – some of these are genuine, some are excuses. But this ties into the touted learning revolution with the ‘game changers’ that are computers. As I have studied this topic it strikes me that this cry goes back to the eighties and even well before that.

Ultimately I have come to the conclusion that all the tech in the world will make minimal difference without substantial changes to pedagogical and assessment practices. So big ups to all you people out there doing your darndest! Remember, one step at a time on your tech journey. Just don’t stop for too long in one place.

Interaction is key to good pedagogy

How much do you interact with your students?

It seems a bit of a redundant question when interaction is key to teaching. Perhaps though, it is worth reflecting on what that interaction actually looks like and whether it is interaction at all.

One thing I have found (and it may just be me although I doubt it) is that I often end up spending the wrong proportion of time instructing or talking rather than interacting. This happens particularly when I feel under pressure and is something I have actively been trying to address. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines interaction as:  “mutual or reciprocal action or influence”. This indicates a two way street rather than passive agreement or compliance. How could I increase the proportion of time spent interacting with students and decrease the time spent talking at them? Why does this even matter?

“One of the key components of good pedagogy, regardless of whether technology is involved, is interaction. Interaction is an essential ingredient of any learning environment (face-to-face classroom-based, synchronous/asynchronous online education, or blended models). Interaction in learning is a necessary and  fundamental process for knowledge acquisition and the development of both cognitive and physical skills (Barker, 1994 ),” (Woo & Reeves, 2007 p.15).

One could argue that the goal of instructions is not knowledge acquisition, that it is just not manageable to make instruction giving wildly interactive and that there are times it is appropriate to speak to learners and they actually just need to listen. To this I would say giving instructions is a degree of short term knowledge acquisition: the knowledge is what to do. I also thoroughly agree with the manageability issue however I would argue that it is the proportion of time spent on talking at or to that minimises interaction opportunities. And if interaction is so essential, shouldn’t this be what is maximised.

So how can this actually be achieved in the context of instructions?

  • Remember that you have a whole classroom of potential teachers: your students. Give your instruction briefly. Take a ‘think-pair-share’ moment (when one turns to a partner and talk with them) and get students to explain the instruction in their own words. They could also ask their partner any questions they have about the instruction. Be actively listening for questions and watching for pairs who are sitting there in silence. Address any major themes, grab hold of any students who are confused and send the others to get started.
  • Another way I do it (especially at pack up time when there is a long list of jobs for my young students) is to give the instruction then summarise it in four key words – one prompt for each instruction. Get students using fingers or tapping body parts to serve as reminders. I wouldn’t rate this one particularly high on the interaction scale but it does work.

What about content delivery?

  • Rather than just giving a talk, get students to take notes. If they are not fluent writers get them to draw a quick picture. Post it notes work really well for this – but you could use some other method.
  • Have an easel/whiteboard on hand which spellings of asked for words can be jotted down on.
  • Pause at times and get students to pair-share their learning.
  • If you are working digitally, have students contribute to an online set of notes – perhaps one between two or three could work. Each child in a group could have a different focus they are listening for.

To be fair I am sure there are many of you out there who have a much wider range of ideas than these. Feel free to share them!

A final point I would like to make is that teaching can be really hard work and I am sure that you are doing the best you can (and that includes maintaining your sanity as well as the students’ academic learning). So take heart and know that there are plenty of us out there who say you are amazing!

Perhaps the question to ask is not how much you interact, but how do you interact with your students?

References

Interaction. (n.d.). Retrieved June 15, 2017, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/interaction

Woo, Y., & Reeves, T. C. (2007). Meaningful interaction in web-based learning: A social constructivist interpretation. The Internet and Higher Education, 10(1), 15–25. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2006.10.005

Learning Centred Classroom

As a part of my lecture this week, I encountered the notion of a learning-centred classroom. This differs from current educational language which talks about shifting from a teacher -centred classroom to a student/learner-centred classroom. Well what about changing the language to a learning centred classroom?

It is a subtle shift in language, yet quite powerful.

A learning-centred classroom seems like a ‘well, isn’t that what the point of education is?’ kind of thought. Yet in a time of cramped curricula, ‘good’ educational opportunities and high accountability, it is all too easy for learning to take a back bench to curricula coverage, getting through the list, achieving results and ‘teaching’.

Well as we all know, teaching does not necessarily equal learning (nor does it necessarily preclude it). Results can be achieved, but that doesn’t necessarily mean learning has occurred. Students can look engaged but again, this doesn’t mean learning has happened.

So what prompted this thinking? I know you have been dying to ask. As usual, this does not come from me. I have included below an extract from a useful website which addresses this topic. The site can be accessed via this link: Link Alert!

“Many of the ways we have of talking about learning and education are based on the assumption that learning is something that individuals do. Furthermore, we often assume that learning ‘has a beginning and an end; that it is best separated from the rest of our activities; and that it is the result of teaching’ (Wenger 1998: 3). But how would things look if we took a different track? Supposing learning is social and comes largely from of our experience of participating in daily life? It was this thought that formed the basis of a significant rethinking of learning theory in the late 1980s and early 1990s by two researchers from very different disciplines – Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger. Their model of situated learning proposed that learning involved a process of engagement in a ‘community of practice’.”

As I look back I can see myself as a practitioner who has had both a teacher-centred and then learner-centred classroom. I have certainly tried to promote learning (achieving both success and failure). But, can I definitively say I have had a ‘learning’ centred classroom? Can you?

I’m signing off now to do some more reading. Enjoy!

“I’ve got nothing to write about!” Turning thoughts into text

Over the years I have repeated met the ‘I’ve got nothing to write about’ kid, the ‘stare at your page for the whole writing session’ and the ‘start crying because my page is still blank and it’s nearly playtime’ kid. It has been with some frustration that I have carefully scaffolded the child’s writing, provided a variety of prompts, guided the child through a plan and conversation only to leave their side and come back to find a page that has nothing more on it than when I left. I have also tried taking away part of their playtime where I thought it was mucking about (often with the same result) and even once having a student record their ideas using an iPad then transcribing it.

The children in this scenario are not necessarily mucking about, developmentally delayed in an way shape or form and sometimes are fluent writers of dictated text. They have ranged in age from five to 14 years of age. So I am seeking to understand why this is happening.

I am still working my way through a variety of articles for my assignment on this topic, and will provide more detail at a later point in time. So far I have found four common themes in my reading which impact on these; Continue reading