Teaching – The Universal Language

As part of Microsoft’s E2 Conference MIE Experts have had to take part in a team challenge.  I have learnt so much from taking part in the challenge but the biggest lesson I have learnt is that teaching is a universal language.

My team consisted of teachers from China, Japan, Canada, Argentina and Thailand.  Although we spoke different languages and came from different cultural backgrounds, something we all shared in common was a passion for teaching and learning.

A passion that allowed us to overcome the evident language and cultural barriers to collaborate and skilfully communicate to complete the challenge.  A challenge that required us to embrace a Hack Persona and then use the mindset of that persona to come up with a new addition to a Microsoft product.

Through completing the challenge I got to participate in many substantive conversations with my teammates about what they enjoyed about teaching, the challenges they faced and their visions for the future.  Conversations that confirmed  that across the globe teachers are making a difference.

My professional learning network now stretches to corners of the World that I never before envisioned.  For that I say a BIG thank you Microsoft!

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Who needs a plan…

So saying my journey to Microsoft’s E2 Conference didn’t go to plan would be an understatement.  Here is a quick rundown:

  • Flight out of Brisbane delayed by over an hour;
  • Missed connecting flight to Toronto;
  • Got to do three laps of LAX due to a certain airline messing up my new connecting flight ticket;
  • Lost my coat somewhere in LAX;
  • Had the pleasure of a full pat down from a US customs officer due to forgetting to take gum out of my pocket when getting body scanned;
  • Arrived 8 hours after originally planned only to find that my new airline lost my luggage;
  • Oh and the next morning the hotel locked me out of my roomgiphy1

My luck turned around when I just so happened to meet fellow Australian MIE, Jess, in the elevator.  Like a guardian angel, Jess pointed me in the direction of a shopping mall where I could begin the mission to feel human again.

After already spending a day in Toronto, Jess played tour guide and we went exploring.  We just so happened to bump into a very “unique” St Patrick’s Day parade.  Let’s just say it’s not every day you see an Irish hill billy float that included a man with his pants down sitting on an open toilet and a Chinese drumming group.

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Later that evening, got to finally tick off something that has been on my bucket list for 25 years – attend a NBA game.  It was everything I expected and more!  Air Canada Centre is an amazing venue and to top it off the Raptors got the win and scored over 100 points – free pizza for everyone!

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After the rocky start, the first day in Toronto has been pretty awesome.  The locals have been really friendly including this lady we met walking her cat in the CBD as we were off to get dinner.

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The calm before the learning…

In less than 7 days I will be in Toronto ready to dive in the deep end at Microsoft’s E2 Conference.  Before I share what I am looking forward to let’s rewind to 2016.

An opportunity arose to apply to be one of four Australian MIE Experts that would represent Australia at E2 2017.  Having spoken to a number of MIE’s who have attended the conference in the past it was definitely a conference that was on my professional learning bucket list.

I submitted my application and had to put my feet up and wait.  Something I did literally after undergoing a knee reconstruction.

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Travis Smith, Microsoft Teacher Engagement Manager, decided he would test my knee out by calling and informing me that I had been selected to represent Australia at the E2 Conference and he topped it off by telling me it was now in Toronto!  If I could have jumped up and down in excitement I would have.

Let’s fast forward to now and I am super excited to be soon departing for E2.

I am excited about the whole conference and visiting a city I have never been to before.

I am excited to get the opportunity to learn from some of the leading educators in the World.

I am excited to network with developers of some of my favourite Microsoft tools.

I am excited about the team challenge – the opportunity to overcome potential cultural and language barriers in the quest to collaborate and work together to win the challenge!

I am excited to get the opportunity to showcase the wonderful teaching and learning that occurs at my school on the global stage.

In a nutshell – I’m excited!

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I look forward to sharing that E2 experience through the blog and Twitter handle @TravGoulter

PS: Did I mention I am also excited about going to my first NBA game!

"We The North" before the game between the Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets

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Switchboard Operator

Late last year, I conducted professional discussions with our teachers.  We reflected on the year, shared successes and discussed how we can continue to improve our school.  As part of these discussions I asked “How do you make your classroom a magnet?”  That is how do you make your classroom a place that students feel safe, supported and challenged in.  A space where they are willing to ask questions, take risks and collaborate with others.

It was during one of the conversations that a teacher referred to himself as a switchboard operator.  He said that to be able to create a classroom that was a magnet for learners he needed to be able to tap or tune into each student’s agenda.  He needed to know them each as an individual and know how to switch the learning on and make connections.

It was during one of the conversations that a teacher referred to himself as a switchboard operator

To put an educational spin on the notion of the “switchboard operator” – it is basically the need to differentiate.  As educators we are always considering the need to differentiate in the curriculum to meet the needs of our learners.  But how often do we plan how we will differentiate for the social and emotional needs of our learners?

Our students walk through the door with varying levels of confidence, resilience, and persistence and differing capabilities of getting along with staff and peers.   It is a challenge to meet the diverse range of social and emotional needs our students bring.

But we know that for children to be successful, to live positive lives then we need to tap into these needs and provide the environment, support, lessons and the role model that will allow them:

  • To develop positive friendship skills, social values and empathy;
  • To understand feelings, develop emotional awareness and coping skills.

Looking Through Green Coloured Glasses

Each Friday I take a group of Year 4 students and we focus on developing our persistence, resilience and confidence.  I thoroughly enjoy teaching the group as I have watched them develop a mindset that has more green thoughts than those that red.  Green thoughts mean we find the positives in the variety of situations we face and focus on them.

As an adult we can take it for granted that we can just do that – find and focus on the positives.  Two examples over the last few days have demonstrated to me that a positive mindset is something we continually have to work on.

“A positive mindset is something we continually have to work on.”

 

I was talking to one of our wonderful cleaners and during our conversation she mentioned how she couldn’t stop thinking about the Dream World tragedy and the unfortunate drowning of two children in a pool.  I agreed they were tragic accidents but we can’t allow our red thoughts to dominate.  I asked her what are some of the positives from the week, the green thoughts?  After a little deliberation she explained her son just got a job, her children were healthy and happy and to top it off she was getting her hair done tomorrow.  As I left for the night she exclaimed “Hey I really like the idea of green thoughts!”

We can have permission to have red thoughts but I think the issue is how long we let them dominate our thinking and ultimately our behaviour.  Recently an issue got brought to my attention and I went into full red thought mode!

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My initial reaction was one of frustration and disappointment with a good dose of anger thrown in.  With the red thoughts dominating I was thinking irrationally – I’m going to send an email to address this right now (10pm at night) or pick up the phone and unload.  Actions that would probably have made me feel good in the interim but would have left me regretting my decisions in the long run.

“With the red thoughts dominating I was thinking irrationally.”

On the advice of my life coach aka wife, I decided to sleep on it.  With as good a sleep as you can have with a five month old baby, I reflected over a morning coffee on the issue and the red thoughts that were dominating my mindset.  I had taken the easy route by allowing negative thoughts to outnumber green.  When in fact, yes the issue was disappointing, but there had been many positives to come out of it.  I then realised if I continue to focus on feeding the positives and the people who have a positive impact then ultimately we will all be better off.

Looking at our world through green coloured glasses is something we continually have to work at.  Just like we work on our fitness, practice an instrument to get better, we must work on the skill of turning red thoughts into green ones.

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FOMO in Teaching

Each fortnight, we have a “New Teachers Lunch”.  The group doesn’t just consist of beginning teachers but is rather made up of new teachers to our Junior School so there is a range of experience and views.  We often have a theme or topic for the lunch and the latest was teacher well-being.

We discussed the all illusive work-life balance which led us to debating the benefits of social media and teaching.  There are many benefits to utilising social media to enhance teaching e.g. sharing ideas, resources and exemplars, but I believe there can be a negative that I haven’t really seen discussed: FOMO in teaching.

Definition of FOMO courtesy of Google:

1. anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.
“I realized I was a lifelong sufferer of FOMO”

So how does this relate to teaching?  Teachers are more connected than ever to teachers not only in their own school and professional learning communities but across the globe.  As mentioned this means they have  access to an endless stream of resources, ideas etc.  As a result this means we are comparing and evaluating our pedagogical practice, ideas and resources against this endless stream.

This can lead us to that feeling of “FOMO”

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We fear we are missing out on a great resource, our students are missing out on an excellent lesson idea or our school is missing out on an innovative program.  Leading us to make unreasonable comparisons and chase that perfect lesson – there goes that “work-life balance”, not consolidate resources and ideas we have been incorporating as we replace them with the latest one we found on Pintrest and overload our pedagogical toolkit with new ideas and strategies.

So how do we deal with FOMO in teaching?  I found a blog listing 10 ways to overcome FOMO – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stronger-the-broken-places/201501/10-ways-overcome-fear-missing-out

Could these be applied to teaching?  Just looking at the first two strategies , I can definitely see how they apply to teaching – slow down and practice discernment.

Have you experienced FOMO in your teaching practice?  Can we come up with a better acronym than FOMO?

 

 

 

It Starts With Us

I have been reading an interesting text, Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom by Kristin Souers with Pete Hall.  I opened the book expecting to discover strategies and insights into supporting students who have experienced trauma not to be challenged to develop a greater self-awareness.

What does my own self-awareness have to do with creating a stable, consistent and safe environment for our students?  I want to help students not myself.  As I read on it started to become clearer the important, if not vital, role self-awareness plays in helping our students to be more successful in school.

How often do we become so focused on our students’ needs that we neglect our own?  I see it on a daily basis – teachers being selfless.  Giving up breaks to help students, devoting energy and time to develop resources and focusing thoughts and emotions on their students.  As teachers, our main driver is to help others, so we believe if we invest time in our own self-awareness we will be unsuccessful in achieving this primary goal.

As Souers highlights:

“Self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-love seem to distract us from our calling to help others.  Yet this is actually a short-sighted view that, in the end, will hamper us in our efforts to help our students.”

If we invest in our own physical, emotional and spiritual health not only are we looking after ourselves but our students also.  This investment will ensure we are physically, emotionally and spiritually prepared to invest energy, time and emotion into creating a learning environment that is positive, stable, consistent and safe.

How do you promote self-awareness in your school or workplace?