September 2

What is a wombat crossing?

At the end of last term, Greg Miller called us in to his office and told us he was leaving the school to go to a school in Bowral. That night, as I was sobbing in the car park trying to control myself so I could safely drive home, my mum rang. When I told her what was wrong, her response was “Kelly, what are you going to do….you can’t afford to live in Bowral”

What was I going to do? I’ve always been lucky to have worked for bosses that were brilliant principals. What was going to happen now? 2 weeks later I booked a meeting with Greg and told him I was going to apply for his job. Awkward. In the mix of “I don’t think I’ll even get to interview” and “I’m not you…but I think I can be enough me” and the “by the way can you give me a reference” I was just glad the meeting ended up being a phone call so that he could pick himself up off the floor without me seeing.

Fast forward, I got to interview. I was shocked, then got the job. More shocked. In the days after the phone call, I checked my phone about 20 times to see the congratulations text message sent by a member of the panel….it must be true.

I been in the lucky position to have the outgoing and the incoming principals together for a term so that I can ask a tonne of questions before Greg leaves. And what I’ve discovered so far is that I really had no idea how much I didn’t know. I’ve always been super curious and asked lots of questions outside of the scope of my roles…for example, I could tell you a fair amount about finance and building as well as what people see as my strength which is learning. Mostly because I’m a learner (my number one gallop strength) and over the years I’ve just asked lots and lots of questions.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive reactions of people when they’ve heard that I’m going into this role. The reaction from staff, parents and students has been so lovely. So good for the self esteem, but I’ve also been so overwhelmed by what I need to know, and the ticking down days before I start the actual role. My curious questions have become wide and varied. Where exactly is our staffing dashboard to (after reading a -hopefully not frequent – 127 page building document) what is a wombat crossing?

I’ve been extremely careful the last 8 weeks not to overstep. I think I’ve said “I’m not the principal” more times than I wish to count over the last 8 weeks but I’ve been lucky enough to have been asked by Greg to do some of the work for prep for next year….hiring 9 middle leaders so far, and now teachers for next term. 36 conversations with staff who requested to see the principal with their intentions for next year. It’s been hard but fulfilling. The excitement of telling people they have the job…I can’t imagine anything nicer than that. But then on the flip side telling people they don’t. But the opportunity to do so in a way that ensures that they grow from that, that you are kind in the way that you do so, and the opportunity to hear from staff their high points and their concerns, and to have people trust you enough to be honest and raw and open. It’s the opportunity to impact people with what you say and what you don’t. What a gift of an opportunity to positively Impact peoples day.

There’s a saying “you don’t know what you don’t know” and I’m realising this more and more as the weeks go on. Well, I’ve figured out what a wombat crossing is. I know that it will get a lot more difficult than that, but I hope that I can keep in mind the opportunity for positive impact while I’m figuring that stuff out.

May 28

Beyond the ATAR

Beyond the ATAR
In September 2019, O’Connell, Milligan and Bently published a position paper called “Beyond the ATAR: A proposal for Change” that examined the transition between school to higher education, life and work and what this meant for our current generation of 15-19 year olds.

The paper argued that the challenges facing 15 to 19 year olds were that for over half of all young people, transition from school to full time work can take over 5 years. The pathway to full time work comes from part time, casual and piece work. This, along with other reports emphasise that better career planning is required to support young people’s transition to their future.

The proposal for this paper was three fold:

1. A distinctive phase for young people aged 15-19 – That the age of 15-19 year olds is rescued as a development stage where students are “supported to develop knowledge skills and capabilities within various domains”, particularly with a growing awareness of their capabilities linked with their futures and exposing them to different options that build their unique “interests, capabilities and aspirations” At St Luke’s, students start as early as year 5 and 6 building an awareness of careers and in year 7 examine their strengths, interests and motivations with the help of our onsite Innerzone to understand themselves and the problems they want to solve early on. In years 9-12, this develops from an inside-out approach to bringing the outside in, with development in year 9 of an Odyssey Plan through to them proposing the future of their study in year 10. Working shoulder to shoulder, teachers support by helping students unpack the last two years of their life design journey and apply this to designing their future pathways – including multiple options. In year 11 this year, we have started offering students the opportunity to engage with external partners, private colleges, universities and TAFEs to expose students to greater opportunities. We are also very proud to have supported a number of students in obtaining traineeships and internships with employers and engaging in a number of VET Certificate qualifications from as early as year 9, which will see students with reduced workloads and more time in year 11 and 12.

2. Building of a learner profile – That a learner profile be built to provide a full range of attainment over a broad range of domains. St Luke’s develop this from kindergarten to year 10 with the use of Seesaw and then blogs as a portfolio of their work and reflection on what they do, to year 9 where students develop a website portfolio of the very best of what hey can do, and what problems they want to solve. This is supplemented by a reporting process that emphasises capabilities in addition to grades for each student. This is currently being developed further into a student dashboard which tracks student growth in their capabilities across time. It was interesting to note at a recent conference, Adobe spoke about how a student who was engaged in their own businesses, or had a portfolio of work were given greater value to their resume and were more likely to obtain jobs at Adobe.

3. Moving tertiary selection beyond the ATAR – That universities look at broader entry requirements that move beyond just the ATAR. We have seen this already with the introduction of portfolio based entries, diploma based entries and programs like early entry and adjustment factors. The Mitchell Institute in 2016 tracked data that said only 26% of students used their ATARS for direct entry into university. In fact, 12% of students received offers to university on the basis of doing a VET certification, which at St Luke’s can start as early as year 9. Here at St Luke’s, through our Life Design program we are also seeing that students are more aware of who they are and what they want to do, and are engaging in opportunities that will accelerate this prior to completing the HSC.



Finally, there was a recognition that most of the jobs to be created in the next five years will require some form of post school qualification, so all students need to be prepared to be lifelong learners.

March 13

Learning=Infinite Possibilities

I caught up with a friend on the weekend – one of the brightest men that I know. He’s a problem solver and I’ve never seen something that he’s come across that he was stuck by.  He would be, in my mind, one of the most employable people I know.  Unfortunately, he’s now in his 50’s and facing down a potential job change due to COVID – while the business that he works for is now 160% greater revenues than pre-COVID, they’ve realised that they don’t need quite so many staff now.

It was hard listening to this man that I really like and respect so much say “theres’ not much that I can do because I’ve never gotten a degree”. I reflected the difference in opportunity that he and I had – I was the first in my family to go to university, or even to (so far as I know) consider it.  My friend wasn’t in the position to go to uni. He got a trade straight from school and had to continue to work as he was not living with parents at home – and it was the 90’s, where university was seen as the direction for the few – at least those from the western suburbs.

Back then, the leaving age was 15- when my husband and my brother and sister left school. I can’t imagine the 15 year old that I have in my household going out and getting a job and a license, let alone having the maturity to go out and start a career. How much direction was given to students at that age? I know I was handed the UAC guide and the TAFE guide and told to enrol in one. I randomly picked teaching thinking “Eh…I could do that…and I get to wear jeans” against the clear advice of my parents, who wondered how I could ever get up in front of a classroom and speak.  It’s a sliding door moment….I remember flicking through the UAC guide and putting in different options that I thought “Wouldn’t be too bad”.  There wasn’t much advice coming from school. They were too busy managing fire bombing, drugs and smoking out the back of the library.

Since 2010, the school leaving age was lifted to 17. Two full years older. This of course, reduced unemployment numbers, but was also in recognition of research that says that the longer you are educated for, the more that you end up earning long term. Even a year makes a difference.  I would argue though, only if it’s the right year in the right place.

How have schools adapted to increased students? Additional VET Courses, which sits on a higher level of the AQF than the HSC, and requires 1200 hours for a 2 unit course, in addition to the highly specialised equipment, materials and tooling specifications for each course (at the cost to the school/system)

So, as we come up to the time when students are making their life choices, how can we help them to have the most possible options open to them? How can we have them avoid the “I’ve been working 30 years and have no where to go” from my brilliant friend or the “Ive fallen into this pathway” of my own choices. Don’t get me wrong – I consider myself extremely blessed to have “fallen” the direction that I did and I love what I do – but it could have looked so much differently.

One of the things we are doing at St Luke’s is trying to bring prominence to different pathways. In a place where “Learning = Infinite possibilities” how do we ensure that every student is able to work towards a post school life of success and contentment?

This year, we have our first year 11 cohort and are working to ensure that each of

them have engaged in some element of their future prior to leaving year 12. Essentially, a HSC “And….”  Keeping this in the forefront of people’s minds and ensuring that our focus is on more than just the number of band 6’s and the great search in December of the schools’ success rate – we have developed a data wall around post school pathways.

Our first level is Post- School Pathways Engaged. These ares students who:

Students

  • have an understanding of themselves and their strengths, interests and motivations
  • are engaged in school and completing work
  • have an understanding of themselves and their pathway to future
  • know where their next step lies
  • have engaged in some activity/course that puts them on the pathway to this next step

At the moment, out of our (small) cohort of 35 students we have 8 students at this level.  We have:

  • 4 students engaging in diploma level work while at school getting a HSC
  • 1 student completing a TAFE course in Allied Health
  • A student who is obtaining a traineeship at our CELC, while obtaining a CERTIII in Early Childhood and a CERT iI in hospitality and a HSC through studying just these subjects, English and Religion
  • 2 Students who are doing a work placement with our IT department and Microsoft Industry Level micro credentials as part of this.

Our next level is Post School Pathways Prepared:

Students at this level:

  • have an understanding of themselves and their strengths, interests and motivations
  • are engaged in school and completing work
  • have an understanding of themselves and their pathway to future

Next, Students who are School Engaged:

  • have an understanding of themselves and their strengths, interests and motivations
  • are engaged in school and completing work

And finally, those students who are not meeting that level.  The intent is to move everyone up to a position where they are Post school pathways engaged – engaging in opportunities that will support them once they leave school. This will obviously look different for every student, and may be engagement in courses, portfolios of work, microcredentials, work experience, or professional practice.

Every day for the past four – five years I’ve walked past our “Learning = Infinite Possibilities” sign. First, behind the front desk of the demountable, to then across the concrete wall that every student walks past at least once a day. Wouldn’t it be good if this was true for every student? That there were infinite possibilities that came from knowing themselves deeply and in building their own opportunities and possibilities.

December 4

Entrepreneurship – A changing perspective

What exactly is an Entrepreneur?

As a design teacher, where Entrepreneurship is a part of our syllabus, the concept has always been taught to me as the capacity for a person to grow their own business, be financially independent, innovate, and create products that the person can sell and make money from. After all, the purpose of design is to sell things right?

The image of an entrepreneur in society is in line with this….who do we think of when we think of Entrepreneurs – the startups – the Mark Zuckerbergs, the Bill Gates, the Warren Buffets…mostly wearing polo shirts and jeans (and mostly men)….creating products that sell. Sometimes products we don’t even know that we need until they are there (hmmm….facebook?)

I now think about the concept of entrepreneurship as more personal and more purposefulgreat entrepreneurs create opportunities. They know themselves, their strengths and how they can use those to solve problems. At St Luke’s, Mr Greg Miller, our principal talks about the three HSC Questions…

  • Who am I?
  • What can I do?
  • What problems do I want to solve?

Then, of course, 3a – What problems would God want you to solve?  As humans, these solutions and opportunities should have an impact on others. The positive impact that we have on others is where we can truly flourish. This is the real purpose of design – to impact positively on humanity.

Entrepreneurship involves a skillset and conceptual understanding that we can teach students that they might own their own learning and therefore fulfil their potential, create their own opportunities and have an impact outside of just themselves.

I have been so impressed this year with the start of my HSC Design class – a small accelerated class of our first year 10 students starting HSC Design and Technology this year. I’m overawed by what they have identified as their needs – all have an impact, but theres some that really fit in with question 3b…back problems for the homeless, mental health, refugee camps, grief, lockdown returns and student anxiety, even a student doing game coaching. These are kids that get that design is about what problems God would want you to solve.

As we start to develop the School of Entrepreneurs at St Luke’s – I hope that we can focus on the 3(4) questions as the core of what it is to be an Entrepreneur – to make opportunities, not money.

August 15

New beginnings

For the past 15 years or so, I’ve been involved at some level in subject selections.  This started at my first school, where a leader was kind enough to see a young teacher who was interested enough to annoy her with questions and show me her giant folder with 210 individual slips of paper with student preferences and to talk to me about the process. Thus began my interest in timetabling that would see me up late at night, seeing coloured squares dancing around in front of my closed eyelids until I would just get up at 2am in the morning, solve the puzzle I was thinking of, and then go back to bed.

Why bother?

I loved the puzzle – and the infinite number of combinations that are possible while still trying to manage the constraints of funding. A subject on a line approximately equals $20,000 of funding – a skill drummed into me at my second school… A good teacher in front of a class means more than student choice. Not sure I agree with that one.  Maximise student choice, minimise cost. A problem of seven bridges if ever I saw one.

When arriving at this school I was suddenly responsible for the process, and had students in tears every year, most often because they put Mathematics last (“But we thought we would get Maths no matter what”) in a school that had an extremely strong maths culture.  Where you ask a student what they are interested in doing when they leave school, and they say “Engineering” but can’t explain what branch of engineering, why they want to do it, or why they haven’t picked any maths and science subjects. Well….shrug….what 15 year old knows themselves and what they want to do?

Fast forward to my first go at subject selections after four years of having no year 10s- and the comparison blows my mind. Students at St Luke’s know themselves – their strengths, interests and motivations and what they want to do to impact the world. Why? Because they’ve been discussing them since they’ve been in year 7. For our next few years, since year 5.  At St Luke’s, the first student I met with wants to become an engineer….here we go again…..why? Because he has an interest in problem-solving, and loses himself in flow when he is solving problems. He loves maths and Science, not because of the content, which he’s not really strong at, but because of how he engages in the problem-solving process. And that’s what engineers do. Not because Mum and Dad told him that he needs to be an engineer because they make lots of money, but because his Dad works with him on the weekend to make stuff – like different mechanics that go on his trailer to perform different functions.

Another student wants to be a podiatrist. Okay, what 15 year old wants to work with feet? Actually, she tells me later, she really wants to go into business, but her parents have been telling her that she’s going into podiatry since she was in Kindergarten. But she’s able to have the conversation with her parents now because all those small conversations about her strengths, interests and motivations that she’s had over the past few years have put a small drop in the ocean of the ideas of her parents. And meeting with them, we slowly work together to expand her opportunities by picking a mix of subjects that potentially leads her to both, or to any other career that she chooses.

Another student manages to obtain a traineeship then one an apprenticeship that allows her to leave school at the end of year 10. I’m so incredibly proud of this young lady, who has gone into businesses one by one to ask them if they were interested in an apprentice and has the strength to leave her friends because she is confident in the direction of her future.

In the meantime, a selection of our students will graduate with a HSC, and a Diploma of Commerce by using some of their HSC subjects as recognised prior learning for some elements of a diploma course, allowing them dual (and possibly triple) certifications on leaving St Luke’s.

It’s such a time of open and expanding potential – such a big decision in student’s lives – my own son and my niece going through the same process at the same time.  My poor son who has two TAS teachers in the house, both discussing what are the better options for him (I, or should I say, my son…won). My niece, who misses out on her choice of CAFS and has to do Business Studies – which I know many people find interesting – she will not.

And as we roll through the 800th different model of what those subject lines will look like – the admin co-ordinator and I texting each other at 9 at night comparing success rates for lines (who can do it better)….I think how lucky the 57 students of our first cohort through in year 10 are. For the opportunities that they have to engage in so many different patterns of study. For their awareness of what they want to do, what their strengths are and what problems they want to solve. For the Life Design team led by the wonderful Chloe Viney and our partners from Innerzone– and how they’ve worked with students over the past four years to encourage them to own their strengths and passions- an understanding of themselves that leaves me not tired from the fight over subjects that happens every year, but invigorated by the ever expanding opportunities that are afforded to these students and the opportunity that knowing yourself brings.

June 21

Leadership

This term at St Luke’s, our professional learning was choice based-work through an inquiry in an area of interest or attend a series of workshops. I chose to attend, with a number of teachers in our school, and some middle leaders, the series on Leadership. We had three guest speakers who were all brilliant and went through their journey of leadership and some of the theories of leadership approaches.

While I loved hearing from each person and their journey and ideas, I was again inspired by Peter Hutton, who I have been lucky enough to spend some time with over the years. One of the things that I love about talking to Peter is that you always leave feeling a little uncomfortable and a little challenged to do better, while still being up and jumping in a “yes we can” Judd Nelson style fist pump.

IMG_0373.jpeg

One of the things that struck me was when he said something along the lines of “we don’t do that here” as being language that we want to develop in a school. Yes, the culture of the school is such an important thing and the development of the school “way of doing” and “way of being” is important. Developing that cohesive collective efficacy is important- consistency for students and for teachers is an essential thing to develop and align with your ideals. But, I’ve seen this pendulum swing to far in schools where “this is the way we do things here” are used aligned with a culture of fear to become “we just need to keep doing the same thing here” and “we can’t do anything else here”. The balance of running on this tightrope is difficult and good leadership balances the “this is our way of doing” with a “yes is the default” and “why don’t you try that here” approach.

These things can be difficult for new staff particularly who want flowcharts and timelines. But there’s also a great freedom, learning and fun within how far you can stretch the tightrope

March 6

The impact of a teacher

I was very sorry to hear this week of the passing of a colleague of  of mine

I was lucky enough to know Marshall McMahon outside of school and have fond memories of talking education with him longer after he had retired and really, should no longer care. He had lots to offer about what the future of education look like and how we could shape schools to places of real learning and how kids could be involved in the process and even how technology could be used to accelerate this.

It got me thinking about what’s the impact of an educator. If you think about Marshal he had been teaching for about 50 years. If an average teacher teaches about 350 students a year, that’s a lot of kids to have an impact on. Then, think he was a Principal who inspired teachers to have an impact on their students.  And we’ll known to have been an exceptional one. I’ve spoke to a few people that knew him, and Marshall tells the story himself about how he jumped into a car to drive to a young mans home, sometimes 4 or 5 hours away, to be present for a student where there was a family death, or some other issue of high enough concern to know that he was needed. I’ve heard this story a number of times from different people. The story always changed slightly, until one day I realised it was because it was a number of different stories. I know men who have said that Marshall had impacted their lives so greatly that they would not have been alive if not for him.

I know he was present once at a pivotal moment for me and I don’t think that I would still be teaching today if not for some kind words he said to me once.

It makes me think about the significant impact that we have on children in schools. Where a passing comment that you, as a teacher, don’t realise can have such a great consequence…the ability to lift someone and make their day, or equally to crush them. What unintentional, mostly unknown and unintended impact we have on young people.

If teachers knew the consequence that they had on young people, I wonder how their language would change? Would “this isn’t good enough” become “I know you can do better”? Would the “it’s not worth having the argument” become “why haven’t you don’t your homework”? Would your perspective change if you knew what the student woke up to? That a cheery good morning as they come through the front gate might be the best part of their day?

Think about the 17,500 students that Marshall would have taught as an average teacher in his life….and what impact you might have on each one.

November 10

Late night questions

Late night can’t sleep…..not unusual for me.

 

I just receieved an email from an old uni student asking for advice about implementing transdisciplinary learning in her school (not in NSW) and how she might cope with 1. A leadership team who’s not eager, 2. Teachers who are frazzled and worried about meeting the curriculum and 3. making change…what’s the process and how to do it.  While I couldn’t answer all her questions, there might be some pearls here for people looking to do things differently.

 

My first (late night) response

Hi Mary (name changed to protect the school)…Will put together some thoughts for you tomorrow. Just quick question- primary I’m assuming?
My quick thoughts are no matter what subject you are, you can know learning and good learning practices are common across subjects.
In terms of “meeting the content” I talk to my teachers about something I call the floppy disk rule. Basically, in year 11 and 12, in the syllabus they still have floppy disks in the computing courses. It’s a dot point. I have to teach it. However as the professional, I’m allowed to make decisions about the weight of time I spend on this. So it gets a mention…when we talk about cloud storage, I talk about when I was first teaching (or younger) storage was on floppy disks which were really small and you had to post to people as opposed to email. Nothing more. A teacher decides the relevance and weight. What’s essential (your rationale) and what’s important ( your outcomes) and what is dispensable (let’s be honest some of your dot points).
If you are primary, your dot points are actually able to be shaped by student interest. Ring NESA. Check. I did. It surprised me too.
Primary teachers can sometimes be anti PBL particularly around English. My argument would be that good literacy practice is that reading and writing is in context. PBL provides the context. Reading and writing is done to inquire and publish work…or to research and document.
Hope this helps.
Let me know if you need anything. Happy to help.
Kelly
Mary obviously works odd hours too….another question: How do you plan for whole year in mapping curriculum that is led by student voice and here’s the big one – how do I convince teachers to jump in and hand it to the students?
People are difficult. My advice would be to find someone who is on board and work with them. A small team that is willing to make change are worth your time….people who you have to drag along may not yet be. Focus on small change, and then let the kids speak for you.
My theory is that most teachers are in it for kids, and when you have kids saying that they are liking what you do, or when they see students work, then teachers move.
This might help you. I’ve also attached a protocol for looking at student work that has helped me before. So, as you mentioned teachers that are “worried about meeting the syllabus” sometimes don’t look at depth….and you can see this in the student’s work. It may help “convince” teachers or alternatively “proove” that it works.
In terms of mapping curriculum, what I normally do is get teachers to unpack the rationale behind the syllabus. Do you have stage statements too in Victoria? These help also. With the rationale, I get teachers to take the rationale, and split it into four words total. What are the four most important concepts that this syllabus meets? So, for something like science, problem solving is essential. Every time you build a project, what are those four words? Have you met them?
The next thing I’ve done in the past is physically print the components of the syllabus (all of them) and get teachers to cut them up and put them back together. But don’t label them with the specific subjects. You start to see then, that some concepts are covered across multiple syllabus docs. For example, water….in HSIE and Science. Can be easily fit into different texts in English. Australian writers write about water a lot. Can you do art around water? Importance of water in Health. Once you’ve found these natural connections…connect them. Don’t teach the water cycle in every subject separately over two years in a stage….teach it once and teach it properly, apply it to real life so that students remember it, and then you’ve found some “time” to convince those teachers that think their syllabus is too packed to be able to use it to apply to real life somehow. The syllabus documents are littered with these elements. The cross curricular priorities like sustainability are a good place to start.
Finally, in terms of mapping a whole curriculum that has student voice in the centre….cut yourself some slack. Kids take time to get used to change (and teachers longer). Don’t try and do it all at once. Block out your scope and sequence into relevant ideas, and don’t try to fill them with projects from the beginning. You will learn lots the first time you try it. You’ll make lots of mistakes and your next projects will be better. Design them from the start of the year and teachers will stick with them, even though they could make better more impressive projects because of their later learning. And filling a whole scope and sequence with brilliant ideas is massive. Fill them with good ideas and make them better over time.
Don’t give up! Know that you are making massive change though it might be small and progressive over time. Make sure you have some way to measure success. To prove to people that you are making change, but also for yourself. Small progressive change is hard to see. And it can be debilitating when you’re putting so much work into it, and you don’t see the change for yourself. Figure out a way to see it. Maybe record student thoughts at one point and then go back at the end and record again? See the difference.
Thanks for the provocation. At St Luke’s, we have to blog every term….think I just found my next blog.
Now, to sleep.
September 20

Be the Marigold

A few years ago, I read a great blog by Jennifer Gonzalez about Companion planting. Around this time of year, when people are starting to get to the end of their tether, I normally send it to someone to remind them to check in with their marigolds. At the moment, as we round down to our last week of the first full term of school this year, you can see the marigolds bringing up their peers.  You can see them working in their teams, supporting each other, and at, blogging time, thanking them in their blogs.

In the article, Jennifer Gonzalez speaks about the power of companion planting and how each teacher needs to find their marigold, which is the plant that lifts up everything around them, and avoid the walnuts, which let off toxic substances and bring everybody down.

What we sometimes forget though is that we need to be that marigold for others. Anthony Mohammed writes about staffroom culture and says that there are four types of teachers in a staff room: fundamentalists, believers, survivors and tweeners.   We need to ensure that the voices and presence of the believers are around our tweeners.

I know that I have had my marigolds. It’s hard to survive in a school without them. If I’m honest each school that I’ve left it’s because the walnut (or the fundamentalist) side of me had gotten too big, and probably hadn’t noted it at the time. If you can’t be positive where you are in life any more, it’s time to make some decisions.

It’s also important to recognise the need to BE the marigold for others. The most annoying statement that I hear is “I know you’re busy but can I….”

Yes, you can. Because if we’re not making time for people, why are we in schools? Paperwork can wait. People are the important, non delegable, non postponable part of your job. And we all have so much effect on each other. In a regular school, teaching is a team sport.  In a new school, even more so.

I know my marigolds in the past have contributed so much to myself as a teacher, and as a person. They are not only the encouraging but also challenging.  Challenging me to be a better person and a better teacher, and I’m grateful for it. All in all it comes down to time though. They made time for me….and have been a mix of experienced and beginner, primary and secondary, teachers and non-teachers.  An old AP used to say to students all the time…show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are. I prefer to think….you become the people that you hang around.

Make sure you pick people you admire and that lift you up. And make time to lift up others.

August 13

Dancing ’round the Makerspace

At St Luke’s, I’ve now taught every subject except Music and PDHPE. I’ve taught Science, Maths, English, Languages (I don’t even speak English that well), HSIE, Art….out of all of my teaching time at St Luke’s, I’ve not taught much Technology. For the past ten years or so most of my teaching load has been in teaching Industrial Tech Multimedia, and it’s been many a year since I’ve spent a significant load of teaching a year 7 or 8 class.

The last few weeks have found me in the lucky position of coaching our TAS teachers (including a brilliant HSIE teacher teaching technology who also happens to be my coach)  at the school to focus on different methods of ensuring student quality work. We’ve redesigned our scope and sequence to be ensure more skill progression, and to ensure that every student leaves with a quality piece of work at the end of the project.

Oh the joy to combine my love of tech mandatory with my love of improving processes around learning. There were many a time over the last few weeks where I was dancing around the makerspace, balancing the work of an AP with constructing sample projects for “the competition”. There were a lot of Saturday afternoons where I would end up going to the Faith Community Vigil Mass in the Hub covered in sawdust. The challenge existed between the two TAS teachers, our HSIE teacher coach, and the AP who happens to be a TAS teacher.

Firstly, we looked at: What are those things that we want students to come out of Technology with? What are the requirements of the syllabus that we have to meet?

We then looked at what the projects that we have currently done, what could be thrown and what could be improved. Everything links back to this whiteboard. One of the very strong elements that we have had throughout our design of year 7 and 8 has been the development of a prototyping approach to design, building students ability to work on 2D and then 3D graphics, visualise, design, package and market a product for production.

The focus, post COVID, was providing students with quality practical experiences and seeing a progression of skills across year 7 and 8. We also had the challenge of working in (albeit beautiful) temporary shared workshops. Our makerspace (yes, the one I was dancing around) is shared with Science, and although we are lucky enough to have some great technical equipment, the challenge of the new and discovering that you don’t have anything to cut down materials for the equipment, rulers to measure, or things like sanding blocks.

We also were eager, based on student and parent feedback, to ensure that we included a materials project that included timber.  Discussions ensued as the types of projects that we could do.  With a focus on student choice, we decided that any project would be suitable. After much discussion, the challenge was set as each teacher was to create a project that could be a student project. We knew that we needed some tangible examples of projects for students to understand the expectations of the work and to see different possibilities of projects that they could do.  If you present students with a pencil box, all students will design a pencil box as that is their reference point.

And so, the challenge started.  The two TAS teachers worked independently, and I decided to “help out” our HSIE teacher coach. It’s the coach coaching the coach….didn’t I feel important? I then realised how many skills you lose when you don’t do something for a long time and in the two hour block that I’d set aside to help Sally, I drove the laser cutter head into the honeycomb table (needed a new part to fix) and destroyed three 3D printers and a hot glue gun. After this I had to put up with two weeks of suggestions of sabotage.  Well….I am well known to be quite competitive. I pretended for a while that this might have been the case so that people didn’t think that I’d accidentally broken 6 pieces of equipment in the space of two hours.

Across the four of us, we developed a range of samples of work, that ranged from very basic to very advanced. In my fun of finally working back in the makerspace (and with the help of the Technology Teacher Educator Husband), I completed 6 projects across a range of rubric points. The idea was to create a range of work to create discussion about what quality work with in depth skills looks like. I intentionally constructed projects that were downloaded from Thingiverse, and projects (like the pen) which look amazing but that don’t have great skills and one that took 20 minutes from start to finish (not including CNC milling time).

We then decided to involve the whole school staff, due to my “sabotage” reputation, and asked teachers to give us some feedback on the project designs.

We then used this feedback to sort the projects in a rank order and teachers had to justify where each project sat in the ranking. After this we looked at where the “lines” were to seperate the projects, and then look at commonalities between why those projects fit into those sections. From here we discussed what those characteristics were, and how we would fit these into a rubric for those students.  Based on all of this, through the discussion, we then had a rubric which was based around the work and what we authentically saw as measurable quality features, with physical concrete samples for students to examine.

The question was then asked…how do we get students to know what quality work looks like….by doing the same thing. As an entry doc, students will be assessing and ranking our work against the rubric.

The entry document then is also the sample work, which will go up against the wall as a sample reference. Finally, a driving question for the assessment documentation….if every student has a different piece of work, can we not have every student have a different driving question, based on their need? Is this too hard for students? Is it something that we want to spend the time doing? How does it look on the assessment notification if it says: Driving Question: Do it yourself.  Yeah…maybe not so good. A scaffold? How can we create a beautiful ________ so that we can ___________?

Now that I have found my joy in technology over the last few weeks, I guess I am leaving them here.  On to another subject.  But I still have keys to the makerspace.