"It is a good divine that follows his own instructions; I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done than to be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching."
Portia, The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene II.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Not waving but drowning

I just edited last week's post to embed the video in it, which I didn't have the patience to figure out how to do at the time. Now last week's post has today's date on it, rats. This week's post is 24 hours late but it's been that kind of a week.

Year 10 marking done; English and form class reports gone. I would have liked to get students to write their own suggested report comments, as one of my colleagues did, but there just wasn't time. This wasn't only because my reports were up against the deadline, but also because the Year 10s were finishing their NCEA static images assessment last week, and I really needed them to concentrate on that. Well - that was what should have been happening - as it was they seemed to be more focussed on the lunchtime touch tournament, could we have secret Santa, could we have a Christmas tree in the classroom and could they make decorations please? (yes, yes, and only if the assessment was finished).

I've had a few senior assessments handed in over the last few days, and am frenetically trying to mark these before the 1 December data export. Very few of the Year 10 extension class look like finishing their wide reading in time (they've had 3 terms to do it....).

On the personal front I went down to Wellington at the weekend. Amongst other things I collected some boxes of books I bought from another school, shopped, had a haircut, and stayed overnight with my mum. We watched the election coverage on TV on Saturday night - extremely depressing. Even the fact that the referendum supported retaining MMP didn't cheer me up given how low the support was compared to when MMP was first voted in, and the hugh informal vote on the second question, which seemed to indicate widespread apathy and ignorance, guaranteed to make any political animal depressed.

On the positive side, I have next year's Year 11 programme all typed up and finalised, and the Year 12 programmed finalised - I only need to finish typing it up. Yeeha! We had some great discussions in the department last week about possible themes and texts for the year 11 and 12 classes next year. We are all reading various books at the moment so that we can discuss possible purchases further, although with the Y12 classes so dependent on option lines and option changes after the results come out in January, it is hard to plan ahead - things may change when we see the actual make up of the individual classes, so I probably won't be ordering new books until early next year.

This week: finishing off final marking and getting results tidy for export; senior sign out on Wednesday (pray for optimal text book return), Y9/10 Prizegiving on Thursday afternoon, Y13 Leavers' Dinner on Thursday night, marking AsTTle writing on Friday. Not to mention the M word - magazine proofing. Thank goodness I am not marking NCEA this year. Breathe... 10 days to go. :-)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chasing my tail: occupational hazard

It's been one of those weeks where I felt like I was running to catch up the entire time. I was only off sick for 2 and a half days last week (four and a half if you count the fact that I did no work in the weekend), but it has meant that so many things were slipping.

The highlight of the week was definitely the film making day I ran with a colleague for our international students who are not sitting external exams.  We gave them the challenge of creating a short video to go on the school website giving a student point of view about coming from overseas to study at our college. They divided into three groups: all managed to complete filming and download their footage to Macbooks kindly loaned by other staff (thank you!), but only one of the groups succeeding in editing their video and completing it in time for us to copy it to flashdrives or burn it to disks for them to take home.  The completed video is up on Youtube and you can see it by clicking on this YouTube link or click below:

Year 10 reports are nearing completion; my class is still working on a static image task that will be assessed against the NCEA Level 1 criteria. Their progress is glacially slow compared to the time it usually takes the Year 11s, but there is some good work coming.  It hasn't helped that those in the extension group have been on exam leave for part of the week. I was hoping this would mean that the others would be more focussed but sadly, not!

There have been a few seniors in every day, seeking revision advice and copies of past unfamiliar text papers, or completing assessments or re-submissions. I have chased a few whom I know are close to passing Level 1 Literacy and just needed some encouragement to come in and do it.  I even 'friended' a student on Facebook out of desperation for a method of contacting her when the phone numbers we had were not getting results (this broke my usual policy of not sending friend requests to students - I will confirm requests from students but don't initiate them as a rule). As an experiment it was successful: the student eventually responded to my direct Facebook message and came in to school several times, completing six credits.

Exam feedback from the Year 11s and 13s was largely positive: those who had done the preparation thought the papers fair and had found questions they could attempt with some confidence. It was disappointing again to find that many of the Y13s, in particular, only attempted some of the standards; some are very strategic about it, only having prepared for one or two, others fail to manage their time effectively and decide to do two standards thoroughly rather than three superficially.  I still find this hard to understand, having successfully faced a lot of university exams where I had to write four essays in the three hours.  I do think today's students have a lot less practice at exams than we did, and they actually are less habituated to writing by hand.  Many of them complain of sore hands after a three hour exam. I have a feeling not many take my advice to do timed practice essays.

Looking forward to this week: tomorrow is our Ministry-funded teacher only day for preparation for the realigned NCEA Level 2 standards.  We have a full day planned in the department: reviewing how the Year 11 implementation went this year, deciding if we want to make any changes for next year in the Level 1 programme, and then moving on into reviewing our plans for Level 2 next year and seeing if we want to revise the plan we came up with earlier this year. I hope to come out of the day with confirmed course outlines for all the senior programmes for 2012.  We also need to consider our external moderation report which came back this week.

I still have a pile of Year 10 marking that must be done urgently for their reports and haven't revised the stationery list for next year let alone finished proofing the magazine. AsTTle writing tests need to be photocopied and the testing and marking dates confirmed.  And a lot of this was on the to do list a week ago when I wrote...

Wait, I see a tail...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Writer's Blo(g)ck

There has been a long hiatus on this blog.  I think I have been suffering from the "I have nothing valuable to say" syndrome.  While I'm sure this prevents many a boring blog from seeing the light of day, it has also had its paralysing effect on what is supposed to be a personal reflection on professional practice. So I am resolved to make a fresh start at my teaching blog, remembering that its main audience is me, first and foremost, then hoping that my personal reflections may be helpful to others.

This week has been mainly noteworthy as the farewell of the seniors off onto exam leave.  We had them at school on Monday and Tuesday, and the level of engagement was varied.  A number didn't bother to show up to classes: clearly they had given up already.  My non-exam class was split between those frantically finishing the internal assessment and those who had, again, given up hope. Of those in the exam classes who attended, most were attentive and on task, a few seemed to be oblivious of any sense of time pressure or need to focus. Like most of my colleagues, I focussed my help and advice on the former, and tried to minimise the disruption caused by the latter.  This included those who felt their last days of high school might be best spent running around out of class involved in "egging" and waterfights.  In these moments I feel a deep nostalgia for the days of 100% external examinations, where students actually took the externals seriously, rather than wandering around muttering: "I don't need to pass this, Miss, I've already got my Level 1 [or 2, 3, or UE as the case may be]."

The rigours of Monday and Tuesday were followed by senior prizegiving on Tuesday night. Just before 7pm while the staff were lining up to process in, I got a text from one of my Year 11s, one who had been doing his best for the two weeks and two days of this term to do no work, talk through everything I said, and stare out the window and giggle a lot... His text: "Hey ms wot r same key points i should foces on to study" [sic]  I laughed, because this had to be better than crying.  I also turned off my phone without answering as I thought this was one of those situations where a response in the heat of the moment could be... unwise.

Prizegiving proved to be a wonderful evening of celebrating the successes of those who had actually made the best of their time at school. (Probably those same students who were aware that I had spent the last two weeks and two days giving them advice on what they should focus on to study for exams!) There were great speakers, great entertainers, and I felt a real sense of pride in those I have seen grow from Year 7s through to confident young men and women about to leave after a successful Year 13.  The speech from the outgoing heads of school made me choke up, and the haka to tautoko the new Head Boy sent shivers down my spine. By the end of the evening I went home with a real sense of affirmation that I love my job, and that I do something worthwhile.

By midday Wednesday I had succumbed to the sinus and throat infection I'd been fighting and went home to bed for the rest of the week.  While work followed me, in the form of texts and calls from students and parents, I have mostly spent the last few days asleep or reading trashy novels.  By Saturday I had enough voice back to go to the dress rehearsal for my choir concert, and today I was able to sing in the performance.  Throat still a bit sore, but the antibiotics are kicking in and I'm feeling a lot better.

The week ahead: exams for my Year 11s and 13s, finishing off the last of marking internal NCEA assessments, organising AsTTle writing tests for the Year 9 and 10s, proof-reading the magazine, junior reports... olay!


Go wayward students, hopeful sent
to your exams, with best intent;
May commonsense serve
Where memory wavers,
And learning preserve
Whom the question favours.