Moving home…

Surprising my friends six weeks ago, I made a whirlwind decision to leave Parra Marist after 8 and a half years. I’ve been very lucky in my career to have worked with brilliant principals in great schools. When I left my previous school to go to PMHS, I was bored by traditional teaching and concerned about the integration of technology, which was out of my sphere of influence, that was brought about by the Digital Education Revolution. My husband had heard Brother Patrick, then principal of PMH, talk about what they were doing at the school, and the two of us had decided that one of us would work there….whichever job came up first.

So, in the second year of their PBL implementation, I went across to teach in what I explained to my friends was “kind of like a performing arts school for technology”. I have been so lucky in that time to have worked with some brilliant teachers, leaders and mentors, and have participated in  an amazing amount of professional development. I am a big believer in never being the smartest person in the room, and I certainly had this opportunity at PMH, the highlight of my career spending time with Br Patrick, Gavin Hays, Alfred Solis, Sam Seidel, Larry Rosenstock, Glenn O’Grady, Yong Zhao, Lydia Dobbins, Tim Presiado and Ron Berger. #namedrop

When the opportunity came up six weeks ago to work at St Lukes Marsden Park, I jumped at it. Again, attracted by an innovative principal with different ideas about how curriculum could be set up, and the opportunity to engage in K-12 education was a big drawing card. After two days, I am so impressed with the cutting edge ideas that St Luke’s are engaging in, and the level of unpacking of the different learning ideals that has occurred across K-6 within just three terms.  Some of the things that we’ve discussed in the past two days includes their sense of community in the staff spirituality day, the 6 pillars that underpin instruction and the work that teachers have been put in to encourage students to present their successes at their student led conferences. While some schools have implemented some form of “soft skills” and have then made the move to increase their relevance and importance to parents by reporting on these, St Lukes’ has taken this to the next level with their reports that flipped this focus and prioritised those skills that they see as essential to future success of students. They have also done a lot of hard work in educating parents in how to interpret the reports and as a parent of a primary aged student, and having done some work around primary STEM and Technology education, their reports make visible  the “below, at and above stage level” reporting process.

Part of the process of PD within the school is blogging, and I am looking forward to spending some time on my blog, finally finding an excuse to keep this updated more often as a reflection process.  I’ve edited the name of this blog post about three times now though, and have finally settled on its current title.  Speaking to one of the teachers today, about the plan for St Luke’s Pathways program, where each student analyses their strengths to determine where they need to direct their efforts for future success, I reflected on the fact that we are very lucky to be in a position where we love what we do. Not everyone is so lucky, or even consider it a possibility that they might enjoy work.  So, I have officially now mentally packed up my home at Parra Marist and moved house today. Thanks to the St Luke’s staff for the warm welcome.

 

 

Literacy Continuum

As the first focus of our professional learning teams at Parramatta Marist, we are looking at how we can use the literacy continuum within the classroom. The literacy continuum published by the DET indicates the characteristics of students’ literacy at different levels. This continuum allows us to have a better understanding of where our students’ abilities are, and to therefore target specific skills and set goals for specific students.  The system that Sentral has set up seems to make this an easy process of entering this data, and then performing analysis of the data.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 10.29.22 AMFor this particular PLT focus, we will be focusing on the aspects of writing, with all classes across the school. My allocated class is year 7 STEM, which is a new program that PMH has introduced this year. A challenge for this focus will be creating authentic tasks that fit within the scope of our projects, where students see the value of the tasks and are not just “filler” literacy tasks.

 

 

For our year 7 STEM program, we are going to start the course with a writing prompt: Will we ever have flying cars? (Think about it from a technological, social and legal perspective).Thanks to http://visualprompts.weebly.com/stem.html for the image. The first unit of work for year 7 STEM is bottle rockets, so the concepts of flight are embedded across the program. Regarding the list of continuum items, these can obviously not be assessed in every sample of student writing, so at this time, I would like to focus on the following points:

  • Uses a legible, fluent handwriting style.
  • Uses a range of editing strategies to improve clarity and consistency of style.
  • Uses correct and appropriate punctuation to support meaning.
  • Self regulates spelling and applies spelling knowledge and strategies to spell complex and subject specific vocabulary.

__4696554_origThis activity will not only allow us to assess which markers are evident on the literacy continuum, but should also give us an understanding of how interested and engaged students are in science, and a glimmer into what level of understanding that they have about scientific concepts. Since these students all come from a different backgrounds, it will be interesting to gain a picture at the onset of the STEM program, and then compare this over time with similar activities later on in the year, and then further in coming years.