Education, Gym Life, Thoughts

Sometimes it just doesn’t work

I recently experienced failure at work for the first time ever. I had coordinated with a couple of my colleagues to run a Smashing Stereotypes event for the students at my school. Smashing Stereotypes events are what we run for our female members at VALHALLA Strength – South Brisbane. They are designed to educate and inspire our members by giving them access to women that have been in strength sports for a few years and have dealt with their fair share of stereotypes and prejudices. When I was approached by a colleague to speak to their Certificate in Fitness students about owning a gym, I offered a version of Smashing Stereotypes and my colleague was very excited by it. (If you haven’t worked it out by now, I can never do things without them getting bigger than Ben-Hur.) And so…

I lined up a couple of the ladies from my gym to come and do a panel alongside one of the students from school that also competes in strength sports. I organised for a female Personal Trainer (PT) to come and run a circuit session beforehand, in order to turn the evening into “more than just talking.” I made posters and was going to hand out certificates for industry experience to the Certificate in Fitness students. Unfortunately, it did not go to plan.

The first sign that something was amiss should have been when I sent out an email to those that had signed up and I received a number of email replies saying that “they never signed up in the first place and they were very sorry to miss out.” This meant that I had no way of knowing who was coming.

The second sign should have been when less than 24 hours prior to the event, my PT had to cancel. Thankfully my family and husband were able to swap things around so that my husband could come and run the circuit for me while my family opened the gym. I realise now that that should have been the point at which to pull the pin and postpone the event to another day, but I had faith that someone would want to learn from these amazing women so I stuck it out.

The third sign should have been the fact that my husband woke up on the morning of the big day not feeling well. However, stubborn me kept thinking it’d be ok.

**side note: how great is hindsight?!**

Well, it flopped. I had 2 students turn up, neither of whom were in the Certificate in Fitness class. Those students, unfortunately, were not able to reschedule work or training commitments. When I had to make the call to postpone the event and contact my panelists and colleagues that were coming to support the event, I was in shock. I was disappointed. I was embarrassed. I was angry.

Since then, I have calmed down and looking back I’ve learned some valuable lessons, which I thought I’d share:

  1. If you’re anything like me, when you set a date months in advance you need to ensure that the target audience (in this case, the students of the Certificate in Fitness class) are given a “save the date” as soon as you set it, so that even though you may not have all the details finalised you can at least lock in the date and they can make arrangements.
  2. Always have a Plan B, so that when life happens and people are unable to make it you have a back-up option and you’re not left scrambling.
  3. Check that the IT truly does work before using it and when in doubt, always resort to tried and trusted methods.

Overall, I’m still feeling a little deflated that it wasn’t the success that I had hoped, but that won’t stop me from trying again. I’ve learnt somethings and I know what to do for next time. The 2 girls that did turn up had a lot of fun trying out new ways of moving. They got a free PT session with my husband and learnt a bit about what their bodies are capable of along the way. One of the girls made a comment along the lines of: “Look! I’m stronger now just from doing one session!” I even joined in the circuit – there was something immensely enjoyable about training with my students.

I needed to remind myself that not all things work the first time around. This was my first true taste of failure at something like this, and although it wasn’t a pleasant experience, I’m thankful for the opportunity to reflect, learn, and to make it better. I took a risk, it didn’t work, but that won’t stop me from taking a risk again. After all, it’s not about me, it’s about the girls, and I want to give them every opportunity I can, no matter how many times it takes.

Smashing Stereotypes Event Banner

Education

Feeling pretty chuffed!

I recently inherited the job of setting up and maintaining the website for VALHALLA Strength – South Brisbane and right now, I’m feeling quite proud of myself!

We inherited the site earlier in the year. It was essentially a straight copy of the website for our sister gym on the north side of Brisbane: VALHALLA Strength – Brisbane. I had to change all the details, links, images, and much more to reflect the information required for our gym. Let’s just say, I had a lot of hidden links to uncover, image settings, and many other general settings to find and change. In fact, I’m feeling so proud of myself that I want to share a little list of all that I have achieved in the last week (yes, I’m even celebrating the tiny wins because they’re still wins!):

  • Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 6.24.36 pmSite icon! It’s such a small thing and hardly noticeable, and I may change it again, BUT I STILL DID IT!
  • Site logo! Again, such a simple thing but it was hidden somewhere in the back end of the theme design and it took me days to find it…
  • Different menu options
  • Resizing of featured images for the blog post – this was a massive win!

1

  • Integrating a social stream plugin! So proud of this one as it took LOTS of trial and error (and lots of frustration and head scratching and even consultation with colleagues that are very clued in about this stuff)

Of course, there were numerous other things I had to do and it’s certainly not perfect at the moment but it’s done, and I’m very proud of myself. During all my fumbling around I learned quite a few things about myself and thought I would share some of my learnings…

Here’s what I discovered:

  1. You can figure it out if you don’t give up
  2. Google is your best friend when problem solving the unknown
  3. You don’t have to be an expert but you have to be willing to learn
  4. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s very rare that you’ll do something so horrible that it can’t be undone!
  5. Always ask for help
  6. If you’re starting to get frustrated, WALK AWAY! It’s amazing what a little bit of distance can do for your frustration levels…
  7. And most importantly… PUBLISH FIRST, PERFECT LATER!

While fiddling with the website I couldn’t help thinking about how my students would tackle the problems I encountered. In my classroom, when a student comes up against an issue their first instinct is to ask me, their teacher, for help… They tend to be unwilling to trial things, make mistakes, search for the answer and then give it a go. It’s like they want to be shown exactly how to do it and to know that they won’t fail! Well, this is not what happens in the real world, as I have just proved, and somehow we need to teach them that they are more than capable of discovering the answer to their problem themselves.

I’ve been tossing up with the idea of writing down my thoughts about digital natives and the like, which after this experience I think I’m going to have to, if only to get it straight in my own head! So… stay tuned for that.

Education, Gym Life, Thoughts

The truth about our “why”

Have you ever told yourself that your goal was simply to “have fun?” Well, over the weekend we hosted a Smashing Stereotypes event at the gym and the presenter said something that really struck me. The presenter was Raeanne Pemberton, and she is a Strongwoman Competitor in the USA. She has a lot to say about the mindset of women for strength training, and in general, and I always find her inspiring. This time around, the thing she said that struck me was: “If you’re telling yourself that you’re there to have fun, you’re lying to yourself.” That hit hard.

Some context:

We were talking about competing in strength sports and how a lot of women seem to tell themselves before a competition that they “don’t really care how well I do, I just want to have fun.” I myself have said this. Raeanne says that this is a lie, and I now agree. We absolutely, 100% do care how well we do! You may not realise it, but every time you sign up to compete you have certain numbers in the back of your mind that you want to hit, and you’ll either be disappointed when you miss them, or elated when you smash them. I realised that we don’t publicly acknowledge these numbers as our official competition goals because we likely don’t want to risk failing. We don’t want to put ourselves out there, and then not achieve. We want to protect ourselves from feeling failure by setting our goals low. It’s easy to turn around and say, “I may not have gotten any PRs today, but I had fun and that was my goal.”

Maybe I’m being a little too doom-and-gloom about it all, but let me try explaining it like this. We are predisposed towards being hard on ourselves, we are conditioned to have low expectations of our abilities, and we are raised to fear failing. To protect ourselves from all of this, we set the bar low in terms of our achievements. There is a difference between “I just want to have fun today” and “I want to hit certain numbers or reps today, but I also want to have fun.” Every time we sign up to compete, we have certain expectations and hopes for what we will achieve. After hearing Raeanne speak, I have made a conscious decision to really acknowledge what I want to achieve from the competition, and to not settle for “I just want to have fun.” Remember, it’s ok to have fun while competing, but you will achieve and progress so much more if you truly acknowledge why you’re doing what you’re doing, and you’ll probably have more fun along the way as well.

Educating Young Women:

Earlier in the week, I had an opportunity to discuss this phenomenon of “just having fun” with the students in my home room. We were asked to watch the following video and then discuss:

We talked about goal setting and some examples:

  • Running – why do you run? Do you always want to run faster or further?
  • Music – why do you play? Do you want to share your music, play harder pieces, or sound better each time?
  • Writing – why do you write? Do you want to get better, share your work, or learn new styles?

As you can see, we talked a lot about our “calling” or our “why,” and I raised the question of whether a goal of “just having fun” is enough? It was interesting to hear these young women echo the same concerns about setting low goals that Raeanne raised. It gave me hope. Does this mean that this generation of young women are being empowered to think they can do more, be more, and therefore set themselves more challenging goals? I really hope so.

Originally posted on VALHALLA Strength – South Brisbane

Education, Thoughts

Templates on Instagram – Innocent or something more?

I came across a great teachable moment last night on Instagram, but this moment I woke up and felt that I needed to share it a little more widely…  Templates on Instagram – are the innocent, or something more?

Firstly, here’s the post:

krystalgagen Can we talk about these templates for a minute? I’ve been noticing an increase in templates that you screen shot, fill in, and then post on your Instagram story. While most of them are harmless, there are some that ask for a LOT of personal information. For example, this one is asking for your age, your birth day and month – put those together and you’ve got your full birth date. Add in your height, birthplace, and descriptive features, like eye and hair colour, and all of a sudden that’s everything that you’d put on a driver’s licence/form of ID!

I’m not saying that everyone that creates one of these templates is out to collect your information, but in today’s world of selling information and identify theft, we need to be super careful! There are some of these templates that are harmless fun, and while the creator of this one probably didn’t mean any harm, the minute you put this amount of information into the world, you put yourself at risk.

Don’t let this stop you from engaging in the Instagram or general online community! Just be careful about what and how much you share. Be smart, stay safe 💪

#adventuresoftheliftinglibrarian

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 8.44.24 am

When I first saw this template I thought, “aww, that’s a bit cute.” And then I read it through properly and my heart stopped. I’m not exaggerating. I actually felt that thrill of fear, and experienced a spike of adrenaline as I saw what this template was asking me for. As I said in my Instagram post, the creator of this template might have created this with innocent intentions – you know, maybe they hadn’t fully thought through the types of questions that they were asking? But the cynical side of me, the part of my brain that assesses risks, couldn’t help but think: “this is the type of information you’d put on a drivers licence, a form of ID, a missing person’s report!” Put together the birth date and birth place, and if your profile has your first (or even in my case, first and last) name in it, then BAM! They know enough about you to start stealing your identity. Call me paranoid, but in this day and age, with companies selling and buying your information daily, we need to be super careful.

You might be thinking: “but Facebook asks me where I lived and for my birth date, how is that any different?” Well, yeah, sometimes we do give out that information willingly, I myself have done this. The difference being, Facebook is a company that I know the terms and conditions of. I’ve read their fine print (I know, nerd!) and I’ve made an informed decision. I am prepared to take that risk. The difference between that and these templates floating around on Instagram, and probably other platforms that I don’t use, is that there are no safe guards in place for my information. I don’t know who is on the receiving end of it and what they plan to do with it. That scares me.

All I ask is that you think before you post! That you open discussions with people you might think are at risk of answering these types of questions without fully thinking through the consequences. (By the way, I don’t just mean teenagers… I know plenty of adults, of any age, that don’t think things through before posting!) The more we talk about this type of thing in our families, or communities, the less likely we will be at risk of something horrible happening online. As I signed off last night: Be smart, stay safe.

Education

Self-reflection is a powerful tool

All throughout university I found myself having to do reflective writing as part of my assessment. When doing my Bachelor of Music Studies at the Queensland Conservatorium I was expected to reflect on my voice lessons and progress. When doing my Post Graduate Diploma in Education at Griffith University, I had to reflect on group work. It was during my Master of Education at Queensland University of Technology though, that I finally understand the true power of reflection, and how much it can help us grow. I’m not saying that my previous two degrees did something wrong when it came to teaching reflective writing – I’m suggesting that I was incapable of fully understanding its power at that time of my life and that’s what stopped me from doing it properly. Since finishing my Masters in 2015 I have found myself turning to self-reflection almost daily. I don’t always record my thoughts, but even the act of looking back and asking myself “how can I do better next time” has become something of a habit at the end of every day.

In education:

One of the best examples I can think of at the moment is my experience as a year 9 geography teacher. I have now taught the year 9 geography units for four semesters in a row. It’s the first time that I have consistently taught a subject in my career. Some might see having to teach the same thing each year as boring, but for me, I see it as a challenge – I want, no, I NEED to get better at it each time. I have changed one of the two assessment items each time I’ve taught a new group of year 9s. I use the feedback from the previous class to make the delivery and the assessment more authentic, provide extension opportunities, and incorporate technology to teach students skills in GIS and special purpose mapping. I’ve even tweaked the way in which I deliver the content, such as creating a Google Site that has:

  • Information from ACARA and QCAA (no sense in not using some of the terminology now)
  • The resources we’ll be using in class
  • Tips and tricks for some of the technology we’ll be using, as well as some information on effective researching
  • A section devoted to “Lesson Plans” that has my planning for each class – this allows them to see what we’re covering which is particularly useful if they are away
  • And so much more!

I have, so far, found that this Site I created has been a useful tool in providing the students with the above, as well as keeping track of where each class is up to, after all, I’m currently teaching 3 year 9 geography classes!

Anyway, the way I currently approach year 9 geography has evolved from reflecting on my previous experiences, finding what’s worked, and ditching what hasn’t. It means that every time I teach it it’s new and exciting. I’m getting better and better at it and, because of my reflective nature, I don’t think I’ll ever be fully satisfied and will always want to change something.

Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 10.24.42 am
A screenshot of the Home page for the Google Site I created for Year 9 Geography at Mt Alvernia

So, if I claim to use self-reflection as a tool to improve my teaching, when I get to the end of a term or semester, what do I do?

  1. I collect feedback from my students via:
    • Emails
    • Google Forms
    • Discussions
  2. I look back at what worked and what didn’t
  3. I compare the skills my students learned to previous groups of year 9 students and see whether there is improvement or an increase in competency
  4. I work out if the assessment truly fit what is required of ACARA (thankfully, it has so far!)
  5. I then reflect on the sequencing of learning activities and reflect on whether it worked or not
  6. I make adjustments for the next time!

It seems simple, but it works. It helps that at the end of lessons I’ll make a quick note somewhere as to whether I felt the lesson was successful or not. That way, when I look back I can remember more easily!

General thoughts:

I use self-reflection in a lot of different things in my life. I use it when making big decisions, improving the way I interact with people at the gym, improving my relationship with my family and friends, and of course, in my teaching life. It can be scary at first; no one likes looking at themselves honestly. When reflecting on your actions, there’s one piece of advice that I can offer: be kind to yourself! No one is perfect and we all make mistakes, but if we can look back at those mistakes with kind eyes then we can learn and move forward. I hope that the way I self-reflect is something that I model for my students. I hope that they can figure it out much earlier than I did, as I really believe that the ability to self-reflect, share our findings, and move forward is a powerful tool.

Ps. I chose the image of the beach as the feature image because when I was getting into the habit of self-reflection and things got a little confronting, I actually found walking on the beach to be quite calming.

Education, Gym Life, Thoughts

Role Models: Part Two

In Role Models: Part One I wrote about the importance of Fictional Role Models. In Role Models: Part Two, I will discuss the importance of Real-Life Role Models and how everyone is a role model to someone in some way.

You may not realise it, but someone in your life might be looking to you for inspiration, advice, and direction. You might think that you are simply going through the motions to achieve your goals, but others might be marvelling at your ability to get the job done. I have recently become aware of how much power my actions have when it comes to interacting with people, and I wanted to share my experiences.

Education example:

As a teacher, I have always known that what I do directly impacts how my students see me, how they interact with me, and how they might expect other adults in their lives to treat them, both now and into the future. Therefore, I try to always be a positive role model, and it’s not always easy, but I also know that by sharing some of my frustrations and difficulties (within reason of course) can also be a powerful learning tool for them. By seeing how I cope with stress, hearing me talk about my struggles, and celebrating the wins that I have, my students can constantly adjust their perception of what being an adult and or a well rounded person is like. I don’t get it right all the time, after all, I am human, but we all know that students learn certain skills from watching and observing the adults in their lives.

Gym example:

I was having a conversation with one of the women I know through the gym the other day, and I realised how much power a Personal Trainer or “coach” has over a client. I often wonder if these professionals realise just how much trust their clients put in them, and how much their actions and words impact their clients. I have learned from my own brief experience as a gym owner, that the women I interact with look to me and observe how I interact with our members, how I go about my training, and how I compose myself both in person and online. It’s a lot of responsibility, and it scared me at first, until I realised that my position as a role model in the gym was simply an extension of my position as a role model in the classroom.

And so, if what I’ve claimed is true and everyone is a role model to someone, I wonder if everyone realises this? I hope that by the end of reading my thoughts on Role Models, that you’ve had some time to think about who you might be a role model to, and who your role models are. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

 

Bookish Things, Education, Thoughts

Role Models: Part One

Over the past two weeks I have spent some time at home recovering from an ankle reconstruction and I often found myself thinking about roles models. This came about because of the type of books I’ve been reading, the TV shows I’ve been watching, some of my interactions with our gym members, and what I wanted to say for International Women’s Day this year. In this blog post “Role Models: Part One” I want to talk about Fictional Role Models, and in “Role Models: Part Two” I’ll discuss Real-Life Role Models.

On International Women’s Day (IWD) this year I took my time thinking about the message that I wanted to share within my spheres of influence. I ended up sharing about the importance of role models for women. To that end, my Instagram post ended up being this:

krystalgagen: I’ve been thinking long and hard about what I wanted to post for International Women’s Day this year, and then it hit me: books by women, for women. I started going through my personal library for my favourite books and I realised just how many I had (this is not all of them…)

It’s so important to have great role models. Women NEED to see other women succeeding in a wide variety of positions so that they have the confidence to know they can do it too. Books are a great way to give girls confidence.

So, happy International Women’s Day. Celebrate the women in your life, recognise their achievements, and empower them to give anything they want a go.

Here’s to strong women.
May we know them. ❤️
May we raise them. ❤️
May we be them. ❤️

PS. Although Grant is not a female author, his characters were too good to leave out… Amazing role models regardless.

Screen Shot 2018-03-12 at 2.26.57 pm

As I pointed out, fictional role models can often take the place of real-life role models, and I think they are equally as important. Here’s why…

I never had a lot of female role models during my teens and early twenties. My mum was my main role model, and my grandmas, but other than that I was limited to teachers. Our family is close and I didn’t get to watch my parents interact with many adult women who weren’t related to me and I certainly never got the opportunity to find a female mentor during my years of development. My favourite teachers in high school were often males and although they were awesome (so knowledgeable and passionate about their subjects), they were still men. I’m in my late 20s now and I’d say that I still don’t have a definitive role model – some of my friends are fantastic influences on me, but I often find myself searching for guidance. When I was growing up, books taught me all I needed to become the person I am today, and I still find inspiration in characters for self growth. Without these books, I would not have had the opportunity to develop my sense of self, and discover who I am today.

There were two series in particular that I feel really shaped who I am today: Harry Potter by JK Rowling, and Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce. Both written by women with strong female characters. Here’s what I learned from these two series:

Hermione in Harry Potter
Hermione taught me that it was ok to be smart. I didn’t need to pretend I wasn’t just to have friends in my corner. Her brains and her kindness are just two of the things I love about Hermione. I know that I personally, as 7 year old girl that was told she was “bossy,” needed Hermione to show me that I wasn’t bossy, but rather I was smart, had great leadership skills, and could still have friends.

Alanna in Song of the Lioness
Alana taught me that girls didn’t have to do “girly” things. Alana wanted to be a knight and she worked hard to get there. She taught me that if I truly wanted something, I would need resilience, courage, and to know that even though some people might disagree with me, if I wanted something badly enough I could make it happen.

I don’t remember there being an abundance of novels available to me that had strong female characters as I grew up. These two series are the only two that really stand out in my mind. And so, this got me thinking about how amazing it is that these days there are a number of books with strong female characters, and what that means for the current generation and future generations.

The books pictured in my Instagram post for IWD 2018 have female characters that:

  • Specialise in technology and are often even better at it than the boys
  • Fight wars for their countries because they love their country
  • Make decisions about their futures based on what they want to do, not on what they are told to do – in fact, often these two things are opposites.
  • Show compassion and kindness, and have it seen as a strength, not a weakness

By reading books with strong female characters that exhibit these characteristics and more, girls, teens, young women, and women are exposed to a range of characters that show them what women are capable of. By having these fictional role models, we can see what women can do if given the chance.

I will continue to read books that have strong female characters, and I will continue to recommend these books to my students, both male and female! However, I will also continue to find and read books with strong male characters as well, because it’s a two way street. Overall, the power of fictional role models is something that I truly believe in. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Education

My version of flipped learning

I recently discovered Flipped Learning. I know that a lot of you are probably all over this already, but it was new to me and I fell in love with the idea of saving time in the classroom. At the moment, I teach three year 9 geography classes. I see them all twice a week for about 2 hours in total per class. As you can imagine, I spend a lot of time repeating information. Sometimes I catch myself giving one class a really in depth lesson on a concept, and another a very quick snapshot. I realised that this wasn’t fair.

I turned towards the idea of flipped learning because I found it to be a really great way to give my students information, and allow them to work at their own pace.

Here’s how I do it

  1. I record myself going through a particular resource or skill, such as a:
    • PowerPoint where I want to add commentary
    • Piece of assessment that requires a deeper explanation
    • Researching or referencing
    • Using Google Earth Pro
  2. I upload these videos to my Google Drive and ensure that Link Sharing is turned on
  3. I add these videos to the Google Site that I have made for my class
  4. I direct my students to these videos as needed.

Here are some screenshots of what it looks like

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Here’s what I’ve discovered

At first I was a little hesitant about this idea as I felt that perhaps I wasn’t doing my job properly. We get trained to think that good teaching is us standing in front of the class and giving instructions (or at least, that’s what my experience was during my study) so having a video replace me in many ways was a little confronting at first BUT what I gained from doing this has been amazing.

I have more time! I now spend less time going through certain skills repeatedly AND I and I can direct students to these videos if they either need a refresher or missed the class altogether. The feedback I’ve received for this has been great.

It’s been better for students that require different paces! I’ve been able to differentiate better in my classes simply by using these videos and then adding in activities to complement them. For example, in one class I did an “Interconnection” activity that had 3 levels. The students all watched a video (I cheated a little with this one, I found a perfect video on YouTube), then I had 3 different options for activities. I directed the students towards choosing their own activity depending on their learning. I made it clear to them that they needed to pick the activity that would challenge them in the 15 minutes that we had. At first I found that some students needed some guidance with this, but after a little while they all managed to settle on the activity that I would have allocated them anyway. Overall, the learning that happened here was far more authentic than I had experienced in the past with my “Interconnection” activities, simply because the students had more ownership over their learning and I was able to spend more time broadening opinions and exploring ideas, rather than explaining things over and over again.

I’ve also used these videos in my research and referencing lessons. Usually I will be asked to visit a class and help them find resources and books on the topic they are studying. We in the iCentre, have found that the engagement with our resources has skyrocketed after doing these lessons and even though students grumble about having done this before, they do like walking away from a lesson with some good research to use for their assignment. Even though I will always go to classes for this type of thing first, I found a need for the videos AFTER I visited. And so, I created quick 2-4 minute instructional videos that went through exactly what I did during the lesson, and shared them with the teachers and students. I find that often, students just need a quick reminder on how to do something rather than a complete repeat lesson. So far, the feedback for these videos has also been very positive.

Final thoughts

With the feedback that I have received and the amount of time that I have saved so far, I’m going to continue using my version of Flipped Learning. I’d love to hear if you’re using Flipped Learning in your classrooms and how it’s going. I’m also curious to know how you host your videos as I am currently tossing up using YouTube as my hosting site – any advice would be greatly appreciated in the comments!

Education

The power of language

It’s no secret that words have power. My good friend Lynette Noni has based a whole series on not only the power of words, but the power of our intention behind the words. (First in the series is called Whisper and it is set to be released on May 1st 2018, get excited!) However, as much as I would love to discuss the power of words when we use them to talk to or about people or places, today I am more interested in a slightly more education based discussion. I want to talk about the power of the language we use when teaching, and how we can either promote or demote certain subjects just by saying an off-hand comment!

I am a geography teacher. I love what I do and I love what I teach. I try to make my lessons as authentic, engaging, and filled with opportunities as much as possible. I know I still have a fair way to go but I am getting better every single lesson.

When I started teaching at Mount Alvernia College I was thrown into the world of girl’s education. I never had any aspirations to teach in a girls school and when I stood in front of my first class, I really struggled – despite being a young woman myself! I quickly discovered that I needed to change my language.

Girls are predisposed to thinking “I can’t do that.” There’s no point arguing about it, it’s ingrained in us from the very beginning of our existence. In my first couple of weeks I would often hear myself saying to the girls “I could never do maths, I just didn’t get it.” I’d say the same sort of things about science too, and I quickly realised that not only was I undermining the girls’ confidence, but also the subjects that my colleagues had been working so hard to encourage girls to engage with. It hit me then, I NEEDED to change my language. Not only to make sure I wasn’t undermining my colleagues or my girls, but also to change my own ideas about what I thought I was capable of achieving. In short, since I changed the way I talked to myself about the possibility of me learning some scientific facts, or relearning some maths skills, I have become more open to these subjects AND I have found that I have a much better capacity to understand them – JUST FROM CHANGING THE LANGUAGE I USED!

My next realisation came when I was teaching a year 9 geography class just yesterday. We were looking at a choropleth map of Australia that showed the average rainfall in January across the country. We ended up having a discussion about North Queensland and why it would have more rainfall than South Australia. One of the girls ended up asking if it had something to do with the humidity and I was a little shocked to realised that they were struggling to make the connections between humidity and precipitation – the water cycle that they spent so much time learning in year 7 and then touched on again in year 8 – and it got me thinking. Do they truly not remember this important piece of information OR is it because we weren’t in a science classroom that they weren’t able to make the connection?

Again, I realised that I would need to change my language. I started to wonder if I needed to use terminology from their science classes in my geography classes so that they could connect the dots themselves? I got really excited by the possibilities this would open up – I have never been more excited about broadening my scientific knowledge than I have in the past 24 hours! I’ve spoken to the Learning Area Advisor for Science and a couple of the science teachers to see if there was potential for cross curriculum collaboration (I know, it’s an old concept but for the first time I’ve actually thought it to be possible) and I was even more excited to learn that they were VERY interested in working with me on getting this up and running! I’ve even had an invitation to attend a year 9 science excursion on Monday next week and I’m going to do all I can to be involved.

I’ve gone from someone that thought “science wasn’t my thing” to “science is something that I want to learn so much more about!” I know that I have a long way to go and that I will be limited by time when it comes to just how much I’ll be able to achieve. However, if I can get this excited over the possibility of learning more about science and implementing it in my geography classes, I hope that my passion will inspire the girls too. I hope that they will be able to make the connections between what we’re doing and what they’ve learned in other classes themselves. The ultimate goal in teaching (in my humble opinion) is to create authentic learning experiences, and the research shows that clear connections between subjects helps with that, so that’s what I’m hoping to work towards. Who knows, perhaps I’ll be able to turn maths into something that is “definitely my thing” and feel more confident in including that terminology in my classes too!

One final little mention about the Science Department at my school. THEY ARE AWESOME. In a girls school it’s really important to have strong female role models, and our science department is majority female; we even have a female physics teacher! (I’ve been told that this is an amazing thing as there aren’t many.) Not only are they awesome teachers with a great range of knowledge, but they are passionate about what they teach and are willing to include me in their teaching and learning, me who is someone that quite possibly would have been their idea of a nightmare student – you know the type, lots of potential but just lazy because “science wasn’t their thing.” Not only have they been welcoming, but they have also been enthusiastic and full of great ideas. I can’t wait to see where this goes!

Education

Feedback: How “wearing hats” can teach us to be more helpful in our feedback.

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about my Learning and Teaching Goals for 2017, but I found this really interesting article and thought I’d share!

On Monday this week I received a weekly newsletter email from MindShift, and one of the articles was called “Developing Students’ Ability to Give and Take Effective Feedback.” At first, I was sceptical because how often have we received articles from subscription services and discovered that they are fairly useless, but this one turned out to be pretty helpful. I was intrigued by how the teacher featured in this article, Emerie Lukas, has developed a culture of student to student feedback in her class based on the “Six Thinking Hats” by Edward De Bono.

The basis of De Bono’s approach to feedback, is that participants are required to give feedback while wearing different hats, and then giving feedback that is appropriate to that type of hat. Lukas has recently begun training her colleagues in using the hat system, and suggests using the first three regularly, and the remaining three only when applicable. The hats are broken it down to:

  1. Yellow hat = positive feedback
  2. Black hat = specific feedback that points out not reaching a goal
  3. Green hat = suggestions for improvement
  4. Red hat = “a breath of fresh air” or a new perspective
  5. Blue hat = ability to identify the skill that is being developed
  6. White hat = taking a look at the bigger picture, something that’s been noticed but is neither positive or negative, only interesting.

I found the idea of getting students to try and give specific feedback an interesting concept, and I think the idea of “putting on a hat” will help them step into that role. I’m not sure when I will get the chance to trial this strategy this year, but I am definitely putting it in bank for next year!