Monday, February 23, 2015

28 Days of Writing 20 and 21: The Sleepover

I'm running desperately behind on my daily posts now.

We had the twins for their first ever sleepover at the weekend. We had sooooo much fun but looking after 2 one year olds didn't leave any time for anything else- there simply was not an uninterrupted 28 minutes in the whole weekend.

In a desperate attempt to catch up I found 5 minutes today to try out the Storehouse app, a storytelling app where you can load pics, videos and text to create a mini story. I think it will be a great tool in the classroom and this first attempt of mine, telling the story of the twins' sleepover, literally took me 5 minutes to make.

Check it out

Sunday, February 22, 2015

28 Days of Writing 19 : Grammar Gripes

Given that I'm an English teacher I spend a fair amount of my day trying to convince my students of the worth of good spelling and grammar. The point of written language is to communicate meaning to others and while I accept that it is possible to glean some meaning from poorly spelt, randomly put together sentences, there is also a lot lost in the translation of twisted homophones, missing punctuation and lazy pronunciation.

The need for clarity in our writing has never been more important. Texting and social media posting makes up a huge amount of our communication these days and the opportunity for our mistakes to be seen and judged exists on a global scale.

I admit that I do judge people by their spelling and grammar. I can't help it. A poorly edited status update makes me shudder. Ill worded responses to controversial topics elicit a smirk. Lack of punctuation sets my teeth on edge. In my opinion, taking the time to edit your writing on social media is akin to dressing appropriately for different occasions or using good manners.

I understand that not everyone cares as much as I do. And I admit that I, too, occasionally make an error. In fact, sometimes I worry so much about whether or not a word is spelt correctly that I rearrange a whole sentence to avoid it. However, in the interests of grammar pedants everywhere, here's my top 10 list of "please don'ts".

Thanks to Grammarly for the accompanying images.

1. Write your when you mean you're - This is just bone laziness. It drives me NUTS. You're means you are. You can get this right people!
2. Put an apostrophe in a plural - There is NEVER an apostrophe in a plural. Just because you see an s doesn't mean you bung an apostrophe in there!

3. Use a lower case i for the pronoun I - Sometimes you must have to turn your auto spell off to get this wrong.
4. Say pacifically when you mean specific - I do try not to laugh.

5. Put a double m in tomorrow - Tom Morrow is someone's name, not the day after this.
6. Refer to my friends and me, (yes, that should be me, not I), as yous - This word is spelt ewes and they are sheep, not a group of people to whom I belong.
7. Say seen and done without their helpers, have or had.
8. Put an X in espresso or especially.
9. Use the wrong there/their/they're

10. Use 'of' instead of 'have'. Think it through. I'm pretty sure that's lazy articulation as well as poor grammar.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

28 days of Writing 18: Mystery Skype

My year 5-7 English class have embraced the idea of 'Mystery Skyping' this year.

For the uninitiated, Mystery Skype' simply entails linking up with another class via Skype. The 'mystery ' part is that neither class know exactly where the other one is situated and so they ask each other questions until they work out the location. It's like Celebrity Heads combined with 20 Questions, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego and Guess Who all rolled into one 30 - 60 minute exploration of how kids live and learn in different parts of the world.

First we talked to a Te Reo (Maori language) immersion class in Christchurch, NZ who sang us a beautiful waiata and performed a haka for us. This was an easy time zone match for us and we were able to compare lots of the things we have in common as neighbors in the Pacific.

Last week we skyped in to a graduate teacher inservice in New Jersey, USA. This was a harder time match but because the teachers were meeting after school we were able to find a window. Interestingly, the teachers asked pretty closed questions compared to the NZ kids.

Today we talked to a class in the Haryana region of India. This was a really fascinating experience for both groups because very few of them knew anything about the others' country. We did however discover common ground in the students love of cricket; there was a fair bit of good natured heckling about who might win the World Cup! My kids were fascinated by the turbans that the teacher and some of the boys were wearing. I was impressed with the beautiful manners of the Indian class, including the way they stood to attention when the principal entered the room! We were all in awe of their amazing English speaking skills. We finished today's session with a rendition of Waltzing Matilda from us and a Bollywood solo from one of the St Kabir students.

The suggested rules of Mystery Skype are that you just ask 'yes', 'no' questions but we've found that we learn more if we start with these and then let the discussion take whatever turn interests the children. With the Christchurch class we were keen to find out what it was like to live in earthquake territory and the Indian students were fascinated to learn about our native wildlife. Because of the video capability we can hold up artifacts like money and lunch boxes to show how our countries differ. Even our class turtle has made an appearance on Skype.

Often the teacher's profile gives us a big clue as to what part of the world our Skype partners are in and, of course, accents are a big giveaway too. Nevertheless, even once you have the country right, it's hard to narrow right down to the town or city. The kids are learning to be discerning with their questions, zeroing in by using Google Maps and atlases, asking about famous landmarks and using directional words to identify the specific school. There's always a lot of laughter at mispronunciations and a great cheer from both sides when we get it right.

We're learning a bit of geography and extending our speaking and listening and thinking skills through Mystery Skype but best of all, we're learning that the world is much bigger than the boundaries of Mortlake, Victoria and Australia. We're broadening our horizons and learning to see the world through a bigger lens.

If you'd like to Skype with us , please send me a Twitter message @Aaannne or join up to the Mystery Skype web page and find us on there.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

28 Days of Writing 17 : Rules for using your electronic device

We've just moved into pre teen territory with Mr Miracle and for Christmas, Santa, (Come on Mum, I've heard your opinion on organized religion- do you really expect me to believe in Santa? - Do you believe in happiness and magic Taine? Do you believe in GETTING PRESENTS?), bought him his first phone. The rationale behind this was twofold:

1. He's in year 6 and the ability to communicate independently of us is an important skill to develop, under our guidance and while he still has some semblance of common sense, before he becomes a teenager.
2. I'm a helicopter mother and I like to know where my kid is all the time......

He also has an iPad Air for school (Santa bought this last year before the Christmas cynicism kicked in).

These devices come with rules and I think these rules work well no matter what internet connected device your child has. Feel free to copy or amend them for use in your home.

1.When I text or call you, you will respond ASAP. This is a rule for everyone in our family, no matter their age. Acknowledging contact is good manners and good manners are just as important in the digital space as they are in the face to face world.

2. Charging the device is your responsibility and no, you may not unplug my phone from the charger  to put your device on it!

3. All devices stay in the kitchen after bed time. The greatest risk to kids from their devices comes at night when they are alone. These risks include:

  • They will not get enough sleep because they get involved in whatever's on the screen, ((just one more level!)
  • They will not get enough sleep because other kids (whose parents haven't enforced this rule) will text them at 3am in the morning.
  • Cyber bullying is at it's peak when kids are left alone with the internet. Bullies get really brave behind the keyboard when no one else is watching and their hurtful words seem much crueler when you're alone in your room in the dark.
  • Grooming is rare but it happens. It will happen more easily if your child is alone with a device during the time when their family is asleep but the rest of the world's stalkers are awake.

4. If you abuse the privilege of having a device, I will take it away from you. While you live under my roof, this is my right.

5. The dinner table is a device free zone.

6. I have set an R18 restriction on the iPad. When I'm comfortable with your ability to analyze the worth of media on your own, I will give you the password for it. In the meantime I don't want you frightened by some of the images that may inadvertently appear when you search for fluffy cats or when you misspell words like can't.

7. I am in control of the wifi password in our house. If you abuse the privilege of accessing it, I will change the password. ( This also works well if you haven't done your homework, cleaned your room, etc).

8. I am also in charge of the iTunes password. Since it is connected to my credit card this makes good financial sense but it also allows me to control the content downloaded.

9. We will be open and frank about the conversations you have electronically. If you join a social media site, you will add me as a contact. I promise not to post (too many) embarrassing photos of you so long as I am able to observe your emerging digital footprint. Let me be the conscience on your shoulder until you are mature enough to let your own conscience be your guide.

10.Your father and I promise to enforce all of the above rules because we love you and it's our responsibility to mentor and guide you and keep you safe as you venture into the online world.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

#28 Days of Writing 15 : Parenting for school success 101.

I've had a little bit of positive feedback from a few parents who are reading my posts and finding them thought provoking, so at the risk of blowing my own trumpet and/or offending a few I'm going to forge ahead with some advice for parents on how to set your kids up to succeed at school.

Apart from my formal teacher training, I'm backing this with 35 years of classroom experience and 30 years of parenting experience; for 25 and half continuous years of which I have been a parent of school aged children. I'm sure there's an algebraic equation that will tell you that's a whole truck load of recorded, anecdotal and observed information!

YOU, the parents, are the people with the greatest influence on your child's learning. You provide all the early learning that happens before a child enters formal schooling and YOU are the most important role models for everything that your child does. Monkey see, monkey do.

WE, the teachers, are the adults next in line as far as your child's education is concerned. Once your child starts school they often spend more waking time with us than they do with you. The same rules for role modelling prevail.

Here's my 28 minute guide on the simplest ways to work together to raise a successful learner.

  • Immerse your child in a language rich home environment- read to them from birth, talk to them, sing to them, provide varied sources of literature. The difference in attainment of preps who start with a language rich base compared to those who don't is staggering and the gap they start with often continues and widens as they grow. No amount of intervention by the school will make up for missing out on language learning at home.
  • Identify learning in life and how learning at school is applicable to life outside school. Make lists, read recipes, tally kilometres in the car, add up the footy scores, make connections between real life scenarios and fictional ones. 
  • Be media literate. Your child lives in a new world of digital communication. You MUST understand and guide them with this (a post for another day).
  • Teach them good manners. Please and thank you, respect for authority, good sportspersonship - these things will open doors and invite opportunities.
  • Eat dinner at the table on as many nights as you can. There's a whole lot of research out there that shows family dinner time = increased student achievement. Use it as a chance for more talking, encouraging positivity (what went well for you today?), learning manners and electronic device free time.
  • Identify what your child does well because even if you do all of the above, and we do everything we can to differentiate, some kids won't thrive in school. Unfortunately it's hard for us to formally recognize all your child's strengths and if those strengths don't lie in the academic subjects then it can be tough. Praise effort and persistence. 

And, since I have a few minutes left, here's a handful of things that a parent should NEVER say in front of their child.

1. 'I never read books either'. You may not enjoy reading novels but I can guarantee that what ever your line of work is, you must be able to read to do it effectively. You learnt to read well from reading books. If you don't read well (because you haven't had the practice that comes from reading books!) then be honest with your child and point out some of the draw backs to being a non reader.

2. 'I was never any good at Maths either'. This is a genetic invitation for your child to give up. It's OK to say, 'I found Maths difficult' but don't dismiss your child's success in numeracy as something they can do without. Numeracy and problem solving are vital skills for 21st C graduates.

3. 'I was always in trouble at school'. See the previous genetic invitation. We all love to tell stories of how 'bad' we were at school but we don't like it when our kids are in trouble. It's OK to talk about your own mistakes and what you learnt from them but glorifying disrespect is asking for trouble.

4. 'Your teacher is an idiot'. We accept that at times we might say, do, forget something that may lead you to believe we are less than perfect. There will be times when you disagree with a decision we make. Occasionally we question your IQ too but we NEVER say that in front of your child. Children need confidence in the people who teach them. Maintain that magic triangle whenever you can.

5. 'You're not as good as your brother/sister/next door/neighbor/I was at your age'. Comparison is the root of all unhappiness. Compare your child only with your child. Look for and reward personal growth.

Friday, February 13, 2015

#28 days of Writing Day 13: Friday night homework

It's Friday night here in Australia and I have two jobs to do before I can open a bottle of wine. I need to get some of my correction out of the way and I have 28 minutes of writing to complete. In order to expedite the wine opening, I'm combining the two.

This week's writing topic was 'What does it mean to be Australian?' We're just starting a middle school theme on this topic so the prompt was designed to get a base line on the kids' thinking. We'll revisit the question at the end of the unit.

This blog is as good a place as any to record some of those ideas and it may (or may not) be of interest to overseas readers to see what Aussie kids think about their own citizenship. Here's a range of random sentences from my 11 and 12 yr olds.

To be Australian means:

  • You have to love a sporting team. You can choose from AFL, Rugby League or Cricket. Netball is for girls but soccer doesn't count.
  • Going to the beach.
  • Valuing hard work.
  • You have to have a sense of humor.
  • The underdog will always pull through.
  • True Australians have a BBQ every now and then.
  • Putting vegemite on everything that doesn't have tomato sauce on it.
  • To not hate someone that has done something bad in the past.
  • Australians are allowed to believe in all different religions. You can go to church or be a bogan but you should believe in Santa.
  • It doesn't matter if you were born and bred here or came on a boat, so long as you show aussie spirit you can be an Australian.
  • Having lots of different food, activities, languages and dances from all the people who have come from other parts of the world.
  • Being able to explore beautiful wildlife, sandy deserts, vine forests and skyscrapers cities and always being kind to each other.
  • You always have to annoy your siblings!
  • You can walk down the street or play sport without feeling scared.
  • Being humble and taking everything in your stride.
  • Keep going when the going gets tough.
  • Always waiting for rain.
I think they've got it pretty well covered.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

#28 days of Writing Day 11: 28 words.

Teaching is a juggling act.

Today was too long and I dropped some of the balls. I promise I'll try to pick them up again tomorrow.

28 words.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

#28 Days of Writing : Day 10- The Faculty Kids

Today I'd like you to spare a thought for the progeny of teachers, especially those bound by location or circumstance to attend the same school at which their parent(s) teach. I call them the 'faculty kids'.

I've taught all of my children and feel blessed to have done so, not only because I know they've had first class teaching but because it's given me a privileged insight into their development. I've never had to miss a sporting event or a performance and (most of the time) I know what's going on at school without depending on my kids to tell me. However, it's not always great fun for the kids.

These kids get to school early and leave late. They never have an excuse for getting their homework in late or being out of uniform. There are no parent approved 'sickies'.When opportunities are on offer they often miss out because their parents don't want them to be seen as being favored so they have to work much harder than anyone else for recognition. Parent teacher interviews are a bit of a nightmare for everyone concerned, especially when the teacher is having the interview with their own spouse! And then there's the 'cone of silence' where kids have to pretend they never overhear a conversation about school. Faculty kids are taught to wipe their own memories from an early age!

There are no staff discounts on school fees and woe betide all involved if one teacher has to tell another teacher about their child's poor behaviour. If another student calls you Mum by mistake in the classroom, it's funny. When your own child does it, they are mortified. The playground taunts of 'Your mum's a #@*%',  take on a whole new meaning when your mum's the teacher.

When Jaime was in Yr 9 I had two periods a week providing extra assistance in her maths classroom. I had to obey her 'code'. If it was a really simple question she and her friends would raise their right hand and I was allowed to offer help. If they raised their left hand it was because Jaime had deemed the question too hard for me and I was to ignore them so that I didn't embarrass her by not knowing the answer.

When Soph started school she suddenly developed an attachment issue with me and screamed every single morning when I tried to leave her at the Prep door. If she saw me during the day the screaming would start all over again so I had to develop a circuitous route to my classroom that avoided being in the same space as her. Not easy when the rooms are in the same corridor!

Poor Taine has pretty much been raised in the school. I was teaching a health class the day before he was born and I was back with the pusher the following week to teach Kapahaka. When other kids have pupil free days, he's stuck in my office. During the holidays, he's often stuck in my office. Last year he had not only his mum and dad teaching him but also his sister. A bit like the child raised by wolves, it's a good thing he's a hardy soul.

Monday, February 9, 2015

#28 Days of Writing- Day 9- Digital relationships

#AussieED Twitter chat is one of my favourite ways to end the weekend. Lots of passionate educators discussing interesting educational topics. It's a great way to wind down from the weekend and start re focusing on the teaching week ahead.

Last night's chat was about relationships and their importance to student learning. Nothing new there. What really interested me were the number of Tweeters who were opposed to interacting in any way with students on social media. I'm used to that sort of resistance from teachers who don't understand social media but I thought theTwitter savvy would hold a more similar opinion to mine.

I have many levels of relationships with my students in the face to face world. Some I only see at school, some I coach in netball, some are children of my friends or friends of my children. If I go to the local supermarket or the park, I'm bound to run into a few. They might even see me having fun at a social event, playing sport or having a drink in the pub.

Likewise, I have many levels of relationship with my students on social media. Some are my 'friends' on Facebook, almost all are connected to school via specific Facebook or Edmodo groups. Some follow me on Instagram or Twitter or Pinterest. A few (bless them) read my blog.

Just as in the face to face world, sometimes this gives them a glimpse of me as 'a person'. I'm totally ok with that. Living in a small country town, my life is already an open book and if knowing that the kids can read what I write makes me pause occasionally before I post, that's a good thing.

If you prefer to maintain more privacy than me, it's still possible to share the social media space with students and their parents. All social media sites have ways of allowing followers different levels of access and being tech savvy enough to set those properly should be part of every teacher's kit.

From my own research, I know that kids feel safer when they have trusted adults in their digital space. Social media has given me just one more way to build strong relationships with all the stake holders in my school community

If building relationships is at the heart of student learning, why do we panic when those relationships are nurtured online?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

#28 Days of Writing 8: Conversation etiquette in the 21C

We ate out for breakfast this morning and I was trying to give Taine (11) a quick lesson in phone etiquette. Since Christmas, he's the proud owner of his very first mobile phone - a $29 Telstra Turbo. The phone is a trial for him to see if he can manage the responsibility of mobile technology with the suggestion that if he can go a whole year without

  • losing it
  • keeping to his credit limit
  • following 'the rules' (which I'll save for a later post!)
then he might be lucky enough to take over my iPhone when its contract runs out at the end of the year.

As we sat down, he whipped out his phone and started playing games. He was still playing when the waitress came to take our order. We explained to him that it was rude to be looking at his phone while someone was talking to him and, in a pious attempt to be good role models, piled our phones in the middle of the table with the threat that whoever picked theirs up first would pay (a hollow threat since only Geoff was holding a credit card). Anyway, looking at someone when they are taking your breakfast order just makes good manners-sense. But from this directive arose a question that is far more complicated in this new age of 24 hr connection to the entire world.

If we accept that it's rude to look at/text on or answer your phone when you're talking to someone face to face, what is the rule when you are already in a digital conversation and someone wants to talk to you face to face? For instance, if I'm having a text conversation with my friend, is it ok for my husband to expect that I stop doing that to speak in person with him, or should he wait until I've finished the text or is it perfectly acceptable for me to do both at the same time? Because we can, we are now adept at having more than one conversation at the same time. If I'm in the middle of an important email, is it ok for someone to interrupt that communication with a verbal conversation? Is it fair that face to face space takes precedence over digital space? How about when I'm Skyping? Is that face to face or digital? Is it ok for me to text on another device at the same time or answer the door or speak to someone else in the room about a different topic?

If I'm talking to Pascale in Switzerland, is it ok to talk to Taine in the kitchen at the same time?
As you would expect on a Sunday morning, there was a pile of Sunday papers on the restaurant counter available for diners to peruse. If I pick up the paper and start flicking through it while we're having our coffee chat, that's normal, right? In fact it might even add to our conversation as I share bits and pieces of the day's news. So, how is it different if I'm checking the news feed on my phone? What if I do the crossword in the paper? How is that different to Taine playing Sudoku on his phone?

In our house it's not uncommon for us to have a whole family conversation via text or Messenger, even when some of us are in the same room. When I mention this to people of my own age group it's often met with raised eyebrows. 'Why don't you just talk to them or pick up the phone?' Well, because a group text conversation is better, that's why. It's inclusive of everyone in our family whether they are in our house or in Warrnambool or Geelong or New Zealand. 

New conversational spaces need new rules. Over ridingly I think the important thing is to 'be present' in the conversation, whether you're having those conversations one at a time or in tandem, real time or virtual.

What do you think?

Friday, February 6, 2015

One week down

Congratulations to all my fellow #vicpln teachers who have survived the first full week of teaching for 2015.

This was my 33rd first week but let me tell you, it never gets any easier. The first couple of days are fine but by Wednesday 'the list' has started to mushroom out of control and you know you that there's a fair chance that on the very last day of the year there will be a lot of 'to do' items still waiting.

After a smooth orientation day for teachers and a terrific 'meet and greet' of students and parents last week, we were all fired up for a smooth start to the new school year. Goals were set, units planned, classes allocated , all systems go!

Every one is shiny and sparkling at the beginning of the year . There's only a handful of kids not in uniform ( "what do you mean, you'll get school shoes at the weekend? You've had 6 weeks to get new shoes!"). The latest intake of preppies are so cute I just want to sit and cuddle them all day. So do their parents. There are a few tears - not from the kids-with one family sending us the youngest of their six to complete a family set spanning the whole breadth of P-12. The new VCE students are resplendent in their blue jumpers and yet it seems only yesterday they were the preps. They're full of enthusiasm for the year ahead; full of promises and study timetables and potential. The VCE room is tidy (for probably the only time this year), there's a roster on the wall and a calendar that's already counting down to exams.

We have one new grad on staff and she's excited too. I'm envious of her. She has decades of these new beginnings to look forward to and mine are numbered. I feel grateful for my envy because it tells me I'm not ready to retire yet. I recognize the hint of fear gleaming in her eyes and I don't envy that. No one ever forgets their first few days in the classroom. Even Amelia's M Ed hasn't prepared her for the shock of 20 teenage faces looking at you expectantly and somewhat cynically while your brain is screaming 'What is it that I'm supposed to do now?' She's a good teacher and I know she'll be a survivor but this first term will be a very fast learning curve and she'll have to keep paddling to keep her head above water.

I've picked up a bigger teaching load this year. A bit of a drop in numbers and less government support has seen us drop two full time staff since last year and in order to maintain our extensive subject choice and small class sizes, everyone has to step up. I'm not unhappy about this because I love working in the classroom, but it does mean I have to be super organized if I'm going to manage the workload (not to mention joining crazy writing challenges at the same time). My first few lessons went just as I'd hoped but by mid week I was already battling the inevitable interruptions of sport and music lessons and kids away (umm, didn't we just finish the holidays?) and my well laid plans for the first unit started to move to Plan B, C and D mode.

On Thursday we had our first chorus rehearsal for this year's production of 'Cats'. A cast of 70, including 15 newbie year 5s, 6 major dances to choreograph, countless harmonies to learn, rehearsal schedules and publicity and communication with parents. Where to find the money for the new microphones we need and does the Chinese 'adult shop' on eBay still sell lycra body suits in child sizes? Who will organize the cast shirts and does anyone know where Old Deuteronomy's cape went last time we did this show? 'Jellicle Cats' has become an ear worm already.

By Friday the handful of new kids in the middle and senior school look like they've been with us forever. They all seem settled in their new home and the preps are already handling the playground like veterans.

One of the best things about being a teacher is that every year is a new year; new kids, new classes, different challenges. It's a clean slate and the opportunities are endless. I've been at work before 8 and after 5 every day this week but tonight I was gone by 4. Time for a cold drink and a day off before looking at the pile of 40 writer's notebooks waiting for correction so that can we start all over again on Monday.

Cheers to all my fellow educators. May the force be with you in 2015.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Just Tweet it

There's millions of posts on the internet about why teachers should use Twitter and I doubt this one will add anything new to the conversation but next week I am going to try to convince our staff to 'get their tweet on' and sign up to the micro blogging site so I'm using today's #28daysofwriting to clarify my argument.

I first signed up for Twitter in 2009. I created my Twitter handle @Aaannne to reflect the personalized number plates my husband had bought me for my 50th birthday. Unfortunately I spelt my own nickname incorrectly and so spent the next 12 months trying to work out what my username was! As a result Twitter became the least used of my social media accounts and even when MySpace pegged out, leaving a bit of a space in my screen time, I still couldn't really embrace the idea of a 140 character conversation.

It wasn't until I started my Masters in 2010 and began a research project on the use of social media in schools that I returned to Twitter. I retrieved my handle ( still spelt with one too many n's) and immersed myself in Twitterdom for a few weeks to get the gist of it. And what a wonderland of educational information and connection I found there! In the beginning I found people to follow by searching the names of the authors of the articles I was referencing. This proved to be an excellent strategy because immediately I was connected to some of the great educational thinkers of our time; @gcouros,@E_Sheninger, @courosa, @willrich45, @ijukes, @danamhuff, just to mention a few. I was truly inspired by these people. I followed the links they tweeted, read their blogs and, initially, lurked around the Twitter chats they had, like #edchat.

After awhile I got game enough to add some tweets of my own and discovered a whole community of innovators in my own country who are only too glad to compare ideas and offer advice. My latest favourite haunt is #AussieED chat on Sunday nights. Thanks to @MRsalakas I can tune into this after dinner question time and add my opinion to the melting pot of ideas from passionate educators around the world. What better way to invigorate your teaching and keep on top of the latest in everything! I can gamble hundreds of dollars and travel many kms to professional development days in hope of satisfying my quest for learning, or I can sit in my recliner with a glass of wine and mix intellectual conversation with the best. Tough choice!

It takes some time to get the hang of the concise language needed for Twitter. I still refuse to compromise spelling or grammar in my tweets so that increases the need for succinctness. It makes you think carefully about what you really want to say and I've grown to enjoy the challenge of rephrasing to fit the whole idea in.

To get the most out of Twitter I do believe you have to immerse yourself for a bit but once you've built up a good list of people to follow and you've downloaded Tweetdeck to keep your hashtags under control you can back off and just check in when you feel like it. I've found some of my best 'leads' at 3am in the morning when I can't sleep and the Northern Hemisphere is buzzing. Chat threads are easy to follow after the event and if you want to you can get lots of great information without ever making a tweet of your own.

There's something for every teacher on Twitter, you just have to know what you're looking for or be prepared to take on some of the new challenges you find there. It's thanks to @tombarrett for instance that I'm working on my blogging skills this month and writing this post.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Day 4 : Uniform

Some sort of gremlin in my home blog looked like derailing my 28 day blogging challenge in its infancy so I've created a new space for my challenge posts.

If you're a random reader and desperately want to see the first 3 days, or if you're one of my students checking for proof of my diligence and persistence in sticking to this challenge, the earlier posts are here .

I was hoping for a positive post today but I have a teacher grumble bubbling so I may as well spend my 28 minutes getting it out on the table.

My personal opinion on school uniform is irrelevant because I'm the Assistant Principal in a school that has a uniform policy and so part of my job is to ensure that the policy is adhered to. Sometimes I think kids think teachers make up uniform rules just to annoy them and dampen their sense (or lack) of style but in fact, school uniform is set by the School Council, a guiding, governing body to which all parents are entitled and welcome to join. These (voluntary) parents work very hard on behalf of all the parents in the school and one of their tasks is to set the uniform policy.

As a parent I know how hard it can be to get your kids to wear the correct uniform. For awhile my eldest child refused to wear the regulation black, leather lace ups when she was at school and every morning was a battlefield. I can remember feeling a fair bit of angst toward the VCE Coordinator at the time but now that I'm the one who has to be the mean guy at school, I've changed my tune. Thankfully child 2 and 3 were much more compliant in the uniform stakes and so since I've been the AP I've never had to have an argument with myself about what they're wearing!

It's my fervent hope that if kids and their parents understand that uniform is actually their decision, voted on by their own representatives for the common good and not a power play vendetta from teachers (who, for the record, would rather spend their time in the dentist chair than arguing about uniform) then everyone might just take the time to get the right kit and wear it to school, every day.

The upside to this angst is the occasional giggle I get from some of the excuses on the notes we get about why kids are out of uniform. Confidentiality and professionalism restrict me from revealing them on this blog, but suffice to say risking skin cancer by not wearing a hat because it could exacerbate your dandruff may or may not be an example of one of the sillier ones.

Once upon a time cost was a factor in providing uniform but, having just bought Taine 5 new white shirts for $3 each in K Mart, I know this is not the case. His leather Grosby shoes from Payless were $39, less than half the price of his runners. It would cost me a whole lot more to deck him out in a Nike hoodie and canvas shoes! Granted, he has lost his expensive school jumper a few times but the colder it gets the better he becomes at finding it because otherwise we let him shiver.

Whether you agree with the principle of uniforms or not, abiding by school policy is real life practice for the workplace. There's not many employers who would welcome a scruffily dressed, out of uniform, argumentative employee. Just as a specific register of language is appropriate for the work/school place, so is a dress code and respect for authority.

As for the hat wearing, well I've talked about that plenty of times before. Not providing your child with a hat is irresponsible and I will never apologize for enforcing our Sunsmart policy. If they lose their hat, buy them another one. Write their names on them. Buy two! We have kids in year 12 who are still wearing the hats I wrote their names on with puffy paint in yr 5. It's possible.

In an attempt to help kids out and save some angst I personally bought 7 pairs of school shoes, 20 pairs of socks and 2 jumpers out of my own pocket last year. I'm over it.

And that is my 28 minutes for today.