Monday, April 12, 2004

easter reflections

I have just spent a couple of hours marking some Y11 writing. Generally it is pretty average stuff. A couple of stand out pieces and even these didn't really stand out in any 'standout' way - only that they were better than the average stuff.

Teaching writing is a funny game. I don't want to rehearse all the ins and outs now - but it is a funny game. I feel like I'm having some success with my Y8 students (13-14 yr olds) as we have spent most of term 1 (10 weeks) working on a range of different text types (a genre approach I guess). This has worked for most of the kids and most a creating some very good writing in a variety of modes. Y7s are coming on slowly - I guess I have not pushed as hard here. Y11 and 12 is the conundrum. These are the kids who you expect to have most of the skills, but the reality is that most cannot even spell and punctuate to a basic level - or they choose not to believing it's not that important. KB will tell you I have fairly lax view on the teaching of 'mechanics', and of course I would disagree with her, and I'm not trying to raise issues about the 'failing litercy skills of young people', but I would really like to read some interesting writing. I should be fair - I don't feel I can complain about uninteresting writing, because generally I enjoy reading my students' work. It's just something missing ... I'm not sure what it is. I could probably do much better at teaching and modelling writing and using good examples. Finding time to find good examples is frustrating. Anyway ...

A young Japanese student in my Y10 English class has another interesting story. She is on exchange for a year and speaks a little English, but her comprehension causes challenges for her and I in the classroom. This Y10 class is my 'blog class' and so there are other issues for ESL speakers too. Initially I struggled to understand how to help her and often did not do a very good job. In slight frustration (at myself) I asked her to post a message about something (anything, culture, difference, experience, etc) in her blog once per day during the holidays. She has been doing this and her posts are quite interesting, showing her conflicts with her host family and reflections about home etc. I hope this is more meaningful to her than what we have been doing in class.

A couple of other developments.

Terry Hayes wants me to write an article about the IFTE conference for IDIOM the VATE journal. Problem. There has been some discussion in the PIC group (our teacher collaborative group arising from the planning and aftermath of the IFTE strand 'professional identity and change') about the usefullness of continuing any conversations about IFTE that are purely nostalgic and uncritical. undoubtedly the issues live on and continue to have plenty of life, but IFTE perhaps not. There have been a number of publications arising from IFTE anyway and probably others planned too. So the question is, do I (or we as a PIC group) take the opportunity to write something or do we leave it, or do we subvert the opportunity and use it as a way to write about what has happened since? I feel much more confortable writing about how the PIC group has functioned and continued to operate as a working party to do a number of other things - like organise and run the recent VATE review day - and publish a number of journal articles (most recent English In Australia - AATE), and in doing so to illustrate how professional learning can happen in a dialogic, collaborative and intergenerational space! This approach seems to suggest our experiences together as a PIC team can function as an alterative type of professional learning - legitimate and powerful - to other modes advocated by the VIT and the like - PD that is psychologistic and individual, as if the individual learns and acts outside of the workplace and it's conditions, or the innoculation type of PD - one size fits all, 'once off all fixed' type of thing.

I think an article looking at the contribution that IFTE made to us in this regard would be worthwhile. I could also use this to straighten out some thoughts for my other article for EIA (the one I'm supposed to be working on for Brenton!)

Some other developments. I have had some interest in the blogging stuff I'm doing with my Y10s. The Highvale Cluster (two Highschools and 6 or so primary schools) have been given a grant (200,000 I think) to conduct a project based around 'innovation and excellence' (that's the department's catch cry at present). The cluster has chosen 'student engagement and learning' - an equally vague notion - as the focus. The lion's share of the money goes to pay the coordinator (called an 'educator') of the project for the cluster - apparently we teachers could never do such a job. Anyway, this person came to Highvale in the last wek of term 1 (first time at Highvale! - a little concerning)to speak to HN (a wonderful older colleague of mine who runs the literacy program). ED (the educator) also wanted to speak to me about this blogging stuff - in terms of engagement. I was immeadiatly concerned of course - ICTs as student engagers is always a dodgy line. But ED seemed genuinely interested in my perspective. That was encouraging - she also wants me to present at a combined curriculum day (across the cluster schools) sometime in June.

There you go anyway - a little update.


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