Sunday, September 18, 2011

Middle Earth

If there is one major upside to seniors being out for mock exams its that you get to spend a lot more time with junior classes and you get time to spend on more creative and exciting lessons with them. I have just finished reading "The Hobbit" with one of my Year 7 classes so today was the day we started working on studying the content. I had a bag of molding clay in my room from an idea I had last term and we were finally able to use it. I started off by randomly giving them all one of the characters from the book to craft. They were then each given a lump of clay and some tools.
An amazing lesson of awesomeness ensued. A lot of them finished their character really quickly so went on to create a setting from the novel. They simply wanted to play with the clay so when I told them they had to make something novel related in order to get more clay to work with the entire Middle Earth appeared on our front table. It was amazing and I was blown away with most (if not all) of the work they produced.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Perfectly poetic

Wow, I had the most amazing poetry lesson with my Year 9's today. I started off by gathering 12 photos of just random things from the net. I then printed those off, laminated them and then sellotaped them to the top of a piece of white A3 paper. I wrote the following instructions on the board:

Steps 1-3 Step 4 and poem

They created the most awesome poems and were so on task and focused the whole lesson. Half of them even stayed late into lunchtime to share what they had made. Here are a few pics of them in action:

Troy and Geoff


Wave of sound

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Monday, June 6, 2011

The Act of teaching

Sometimes I feel like a full-time actor rather than a teacher. It can be something as simple as hiding my laughter when someone answers a question in an obviously wrong manner. Or more serious like on Friday when I was in absolute agony with chest pains but pretend like I was alright. In the end I could act no more and broke down and told the kids I had to leave because of the pain.
Why do we feel like we have to be superhuman in front of our classes. I share way more with my kids than I probably should. Most of them know about my battle with depression, they know where I last worked and that I went to the rival high school when I was a student. Yet despite this I felt I couldn't let them see me vulnerable.
I wonder if it would have been different if I had been at an all girls school, am I become staunch because I am surrounded by boys all the time? The teachers I remember most were ones I had a personal relationship with and knew as more than just a teacher. It's that fine line we seem to dance around a lot as teachers.

On an unrelated note my doctor wrote "tonite" on my medical notes. I just lost all faith in him.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Proud teacher moment

Well, we did it! I am using a very loose version of 'we' as I actually did very little. But as a school we have just finished our production run of High School Musical. It was phenomenal. Absolutely legend - wait for it - ary.

I had my absolutely proud teacher face on for most of the last two weeks. They have just been so focused, determined and dedicated. Unfortunatly this has resulted in a lot of time out of class, but our cricket/rugby/football/tiddlywinks/any sports team have far more lessons off so I can absolutely let them have 2 lesson off out of the year for a production of such epic magnitude.

There were over 300 people involved in making the production such a success, and all 5 shows were sold out. Man, the buzz was just unbelievable. It's shows like this, when everyone comes together for a common epic goal, that make being a teacher so totally worth it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

After the break

I always thought that an 11 week term wasn't really that bad, it was only one week longer than usual, but of course I was mistaken. By the end of last term I was so exhausted that nothing but an epic 15hour sleep could renew me. So when I found myself on a plane flying to Auckland on Sunday afternoon after only one day of rest, I was wondering why the hell I had actually thought that going to a 4 day conference in the middle of my much needed holiday was a good idea.

It turned out it was much more than a good idea, it was an amazing experience. I was able to meet all these people that I had only been communicating with in the virtual world up until now. I mingled with some of the best in the country at what we do. I attended lectures with fantastic keynote speakers from around the world. I came back buzzing with new ideas and inspiration.

The only downside was that it was in e first week of the holidays, which meant that when I came back buzzing with ideas and inspiration I still had a week and a half of my holidays before I could really put my ideas into action.

I have still managed to set up quite a few things though. I have set up my own Weebly account so I can share photos, videos and students work with our wider school community. I have set up a google doc. that my Year 9's are using to collaboratively write their own novels. I have been using emails and their own private facebook pages for alerts on homework and assessments that are due (without them being able to actually access my personal page). There were so many ideas that were shared that I haven't found a use for yet but I am constantly looking.

I have been to my fair share of boring, mundane and irrelevant PD days, but this was something more. This was relevant, exciting and forward focused. I have been scouring the NZ teaching pages to look for new PD sessions I can attend now. It has made me fall back in love with learning, which I have always been but my passion has now been fully reignited. After suffering such crippling depression last year it was just what I needed at the right time to really lift me up.

So thank you so much to everyone who helped organise it, or presented or even attended. It was a fantastic way to spend some time in the holidays am I am very appreciative of all of you.

Cheers :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Google docs

So this week I got asked to present at staff meeting. It's always nice to know that even as a so called "baby teacher" my colleagues still recognise my strengths and want to learn from them. So I did up this presentation which is the absolute basics about using googles docs to share work with your students. I have set them up for 2 others in my department and am starting to use them a lot more myself as well. I also use Moodle, and as much as I love it, there are just some things that are easier to use google docs for.

About an hour ago the staff meeting was called off because the IT guy is away sick and the other person they were meant to be meeting to continue on from my discussion had his car break down on the way in. So seeing as I had spent so long setting up this presentation I had to share it somehow, so I thought I would upload it here for anyone who is unfamiliar with google docs and how they can help:

(Hopefully that worked!)

Hope you like it. If anyone has some stunning ideas as to how else they can be used in an English classroom then let me know! I am always looking for good IT relevant as well as classroom ideas :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Making it fun

This week has been a hard one to get through. I have caught one of the inevitable bugs that float around a school, and on top of that I worked at my parents business over the weekend so they could have some time off. That meant of course that I got no time off of my own to rest and get rid of that cold. My HOD is one of those people who will always encourage you to take time off and look after yourself rather than coming in and struggling through the day, yet still I feel guilty for every sick day I take. Especially when you set the reliever instructions and they fail to follow them through.

Being sick makes everything I do doubly hard. I have been realising that over the past week that most of the work I have been doing has been boring me. If it is boring me then how must the students been feeling? So this week I have made it my aim to make every class as fun as I can. I admit that there are times when you must do the hard yards of things that aren't exactly fun, but that doesn't have to be all the time.

So this week I have been playing games, which has made this cold bearable to teach through. With my Year 10's we designed and played our own Hunger Games. Now those people who have read The Hunger Games may have reacted in shock at that statement, but we made it like ripper rugby or flag football, they had ripper tags on their hips and when that was ripped off they were effectively dead. It was a lot of fun. We set up the gym into our own arena, put out hoops for their starting positions and changed the rules as we went like in the real Hunger Games. Half the class were eliminated in the first minute and when they died they were allowed to come back as Muttations and so everyone had a second life. We got through 3 rounds, and then we finished early and they all put a hand in to helping clean up and put the gym back into shape.

My Yr 11 class have just started working on short stories/ creative writing. They are a limited class so I am having to take everything very slowly and repeat a lot of stuff. So this past week has been about writing fun stories. I have put editing and crafting details on the backburner as something we will focus on next week, but for now it is all about ideas. coming up with characters, mixing and matching plots. But I have also found I have had to introduce a veto person, making sure all their ideas have some kind of filter put on them.

I have put into effect my skills at photoshop and have had some fun with my tutor group too. I have photoshopped their heads onto famous people or characters bodies. This has resulted in much hilarity and entertainment. I made sure they were all okay with their photos before I put them up, but even my most serious students loves the photo of him as Michael Jackson.

I need more fun ideas so if you have any then comment below :)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Emotionally draining

As the effects of last weeks Earthquake are truly starting to be felt around the country I have found my goal to create more empathetic students has actually been working very well.

I tried the writing activity I detailed in my last post with my Year 11's, and Wow! This is a small class of only 14, but low ability boys who are very easily distracted. I introduced it by explaining how so many of our reactions have the word 'I' in it which doesn't recognise the horror and tragedy that is really going on. The responses and stories I got from them were amazing. One of the boys has an Aunt that is still missing in Christchurch so I gave him an out from having to deal with the tragedy head on and said they could choose anyone from anywhere around the world.

I have found the boys a lot more open to deeper thinking and more philosophical discussion than usual. After discussing the issue of desensitisation as shown in The Hunger Games with my Year 9 class, we proceeded to have a 30min long class discussion about war, reality TV, the earthquake, individual stories and reactions. A usually very chatty class was silent and respectful of everyone speaking one at a time and I was simply able to act as a facilitator. The depth of emotion these kids have and their ability to really care and empathise was all the reminder I needed about why I love my job. The last year has been incredibly hard, but through it all I still really love what I do and the kids I get to work with every day.

Before all of this happened my next post was going to be about my classroom environment and the couple of things I have done to make it a bit more interactive. I've put some pictures on here to show the couple of things that I am really proud of. One is my author timeline which has pictures, dates and works of famous authors throughout time on it. The other is my reading tree, which is very bare at the moment but hopefully by the end of the year it will be leafy green, with each leaf being a student written review of a book they liked and want to recommend.
I think that is about all for today. I hope you and all your loved ones are safe and well.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Natural Disasters

The news yesterday of Christchurch's earthquake was devastating. That it happened in the middle of the day when most people were in the city, working or at lunch, has just added to the heartache.

As we tend to do when big things happen, I will always remember where I was. As I was thinking about how I feel about it and where I was I realised exactly how selfish I was. I guess it is in our nature to relate others experiences to our own, but my task for today has been to get my students to think outside themselves.

I think English is great for a task like this. Teens are really at the most selfish age, so getting them to think from other peoples points of view is actually a tough task sometimes. The only idea I have come up with so far is a writing activity where they have to write from the point of view of someone completely different from them. What challenges might they face, what values and beliefs they hold, what type of experiences they would have been through.

I am welcoming any other ideas that people might have about how to tackle this. My aim is to create greater empathy amongst my students.

This blog has been a bit all over the place, but hopefully you get my drift :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Profile

So, now I guess is the time to introduce myself. I am in my late twenties and have been teaching for 5 years. 3 of those were spent at a low decile rural school in the country (which I absolutely loved). Last year I moved back to the Wellington area and started working at a top decile boys school. Wow, what a massive change that was to get used to. The one conclusion I came to after my first couple of months here; teenagers are teenagers no matter where you go.

This year I am teaching 5 english classes. 2 Year 7 classes, a Year 9, 10 and 11 class. After the stress of last year I asked for my NCEA workload to be decreased because I needed to get a better handle on myself, which is why I have ended up with a mostly junior load, and I love it.

I have spent a lot of time at the start of this year working on my classroom environment, and when I get that completely finished I will post some photos. I have been busy making charts and timelines, book trees and author bookmarks. I forgot how time consuming all the start of the year admin can be. I spent 5hours simply designing and putting together my timeline of famous authors, but if I do not start the project while I am feeling motivated it will never get done.

Keeping my motivation up is a huge thing for me, so I am hoping this new year enthusiasm will last until about September! Lets see how it goes.

Monday, February 14, 2011

English 101

So today is my first blog in this project. I am going to blog anonymously as I tend to give too much away sometimes and this way I protect my school and students (and myself).

The reason I decided to start this blog is because last year was the worst year of my life. Although I have been teaching for a few years now, last year I moved to a new school with higher standards and a larger workload. Due to pressure and my own general strive to be perfect I ended up at the lowest point I have ever been and was ultimately diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety.

I am now on medication and having councilling, and I think this forum of sharing ideas and support between English teachers will be very helpful in gaining my confidence back. Already I am feeling a lot more comfortable and at ease this year, but I know it will be later in the year when the NCEA pressure mounts, the marking piles up and reports are due when I will really be tested.

So that is a bit of info behind my reason for blogging and being a part of this project. I hope you will stay with me on this journey and share your own views as well as gaining something (hopefully) from my experiences.

Ms M.