"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.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Cross-Curricular Collaboration and Cleaning...

Well, the second week of the holidays is gone. Time flies when you are... working.

I marked my Year 11 Creative Writing, Formal Writing, and Personal Reading Responses. I checkmarked a few Level 2 and Level 1 assessments for some of my colleagues. I marked Year 10 Film essays from so long ago that they will be surprised to see them. I did not manage to mark the Year 10 exercise books. Again. But I'll get there eventually.

I sorted, filed and biffed out a lot of the mound of paper on my desk. I cleaned all the desks, the computer tables, some of the shelves and sort of cleaned the whiteboard. When I say 'sort of', this is a precise description. There is something terribly wrong with my whiteboard and it needs serious surgery. I have only applied first aid.

I have seen many other teachers here during the holidays, all doing the same things. Marking, cleaning, planning, catching up on the mountain of paperwork. Fixing their wall displays. (That is still on my 'to do' list).

In amongst all this not terribly exciting part of being a teacher, there was actually a highlight to the week: planning a joint Health & PE and English unit with some of my colleagues from the PE department. This is a Year 10 unit where students investigate concepts and styles of leadership and the ways leaders influence others. They will be able to apply these understandings not only in the practical side of PE but also in their wider school and community life. The main focus of the unit is a research inquiry into a leader of the student's choice. They will work on the research in both Health and English. In English we will teach research skills and also oral language skills and speech writing. The students then present their research as a formal speech to the class. 

We planned the unit jointly with both HPE and English Achievement Objectives. Staff from both departments will teach the unit, and we will assess it jointly: HPE focussing on the understandings of leadership, English focussing on the research skills and oral language skills. For the icing on the cake we are assessing the speeches against the NCEA Level 1 Speech standard as well as the Year 10 criteria, so students can get a head start on next year's literacy credits.

Although we trialled this unit last year it was a bit 'seat of the pants' as it was organised at the last minute when we became aware through conversations with the students that there was the possibility for collaboration. This year we have sat down and planned it jointly, and we are considering teaching the unit earlier in the school year in 2014 so that the leadership concepts can then be built on in other PE units.

The English Department has collaborated a lot in the past with Social Sciences: we have a combined English and Social Studies programme at Year 9 which we call Integrated Studies, and at Year 10 and to a lesser extent at senior level we try to draw links between the English texts and Social Studies and History topics. It is nice though to be extending joint planning and cross-curricular links into other areas. 

As well as the Leadership unit with the PE department, we are also collaborating with the Science department at Year 13 level where students' L3 Biology research on 1080 Poison is being presented as a speech and assessed against the L3 English Oral Presentation standard. Although this only involves a few students it is still a useful way of enabling students to make links between their subject areas.

Students are also using formal essays written in other subjects as part of their portfolio of evidence for the English writing standards. Over the last two weeks I have marked several History and Geography essays and a PE essay on Obesity as part of students' English writing assessments. It is good to see students realising that their writing skills are transferable.

When I started this week's blog I couldn't think of a single positive thing to say! Yet again, the process of reflection has cheered me up: I have been saved by the reminder of the great things we are doing in the way of cross-curricular collaboration. Phew!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Having a holiday (not)... or: how Twitter saved my week!

It's the end of the first week of the school holidays. I admit, I did have the first weekend off. I spent most of it asleep or reading, though dragged myself out of bed to go for a run on the Sunday. 

Since then, I have been at school every day, most days doing 5 - 7 hours. I have marked all my Year 13 Connections assessments and their writing portfolios, I've finally done the same tonight for the Year 12s.

I still have all the Year 11 creative and formal writing to mark, some level 1 personal reading responses, a set of essays for my Year 10s (I'm too ashamed to say how long they've been sitting there), and the Year 10 exercise books.

Aside from the fact that I've been sleeping in later than normal, wearing casual clothes and the small matter of there being no students around or classes to teach, it has been hard to tell the difference between term time and holiday time.

At the end of the middle weekend of my two week holiday, I just feel depressed because I haven't finished my marking yet, let alone got to the rest of my 'to do' list. And every moment I have spent reading a novel in the evening or sleeping late instead of being at school early marking, I have felt guilty, guilty, guilty. 

Ooooh, yes! I have remembered a happy thing! On Monday I was able to participate in the twitter #Engchat. Normally it's hard to do this as it happens around lunchtime on Monday NZ time and I am usually teaching. It was a really interesting chat as it was a combined English and Social Studies discussion on integrated programmes. As I was involved in helping design the integrated Eng/SS programme for our Year 9s at Otaki College I found this discussion very stimulating. It was fascinating to hear about teachers in US schools running similar programmes and/or collaborating with their colleagues to run parallel teaching between English and History or other disciplines. Click here to go to the archive for the combined EngSSchat if you would like to see what was discussed.

Wow, just like that I have gone from depressed about my week to remembering a glorious hour of exciting collaborative teaching discussion with my professional learning network around the world, which has reminded me that I love my job! Thank goodness for twitter!!

Follow me on twitter @shakespearenut