Category Archives: Teaching

Introducing Yourself to Parents

As the school year begins it’s easy to think you’re working alone with your class with exclusive responsibility for what the children will learn this year. But their education is influenced by many parties.

Meeting with parents and guardians as a group early in the school year serves several purposes. You can introduce yourself to them, respond to questions parents and guardians have, find out about talents and skills they are willing to share with the class, and outline different ways parents and guardians can make contact during the year (via notes, e-mails, phone, text, or in person) with information or a concern about their child.

The meeting I’m describing differs from the parent-teacher meeting about individual children which is a feature in all schools. Some teachers and schools offer an additional introductory group meeting to parents at the start of the year.
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Keeping Some Kind of Record

A teacher’s work is to bring about change in others. It’s often invisible.

Wouldn’t it be good to keep in one volume a curated record of children’s creative work done in class over the course of a school year?

It could be held in digital or hard-copy form or a combination of both and could include samples of stories written, poems composed, problems solved, sketches drawn, photographs of models made, links to videos of performances, excerpts from projects completed and so on.

Any child’s work could be included in the class record on the recommendation of the teacher or the child’s classmates.

Imagine if a teacher compiled one such volume for each year of their teaching career.

Confirming or Challenging Children’s Expectations of Teaching?

In every setting and situation we have expectations about what is possible and what is not.

We expect a judge in a courtroom to be fair and impartial. We know that most clergy won’t tolerate people cursing in a church. We’re not surprised when a librarian asks us to be quiet in a library.

But sometimes we are surprised because our experience differs from what we expected.

A serious-looking London Bobby agrees to pose with us for a selfie. A flight attendant departs from the standard script for pointing out the safety features on a plane. A priest personalises and sings from the altar a song for a couple on their wedding day.

As children enter a new class, they have perceptions of their teacher and the teacher’s role in their learning. Their perceptions may be about teachers generally or they may be specific to the teacher they have this year. Continue reading

A New School Year, a Fresh Start for Children

One year ago few people thought Leicester City Football Club would become Premier League Champions.

This time last year who thought that Donald Trump would become the Republican Candidate for this year’s U.S. Presidential election?

But someone believed they could do what seemed impossible and both Leicester and Trump defied most people’s expectations.

How we perceive ourselves and how we are perceived by others influence what we believe we can do.

As the new school year begins, children enter classrooms with perceptions of themselves and perceptions of their classmates. They may perceive themselves and their classmates to be serious or mischievous, friendly or cheeky, helpful or shy in school.

They may perceive themselves and others to be clever or average, weak or stupid, capable or smart in some or all school subjects. Continue reading

Why all the Fuss about Commemorating 1916 in Schools?

“Wasn’t there a lot of fuss about remembering 1916 in schools for the last couple of months?” a friend, who is not a teacher, observed. Many of us have noticed that all over Ireland children have been coming home from school talking about the Easter Rising; schools organised concerts and other commemorative activities to mark the centenary. “How can schools justify spending so much time on one topic this year just because it’s 100 years since the Easter Rising?” the friend asked.

For someone who doesn’t know how teaching works, that might seem like a reasonable question, along the lines of why children spend so much time rehearsing for a school concert, training for a football league final, or preparing for sacraments in religious schools. Continue reading

What Schools can Learn from Coderdojo

It amazes me to observe how quickly coderdojos have become established all around the world. I can think of no other not-for-profit educational initiative that has caught on so globally so quickly. Since July 2011, dojos have appeared in places like Tokyo, Kilkenny and Rotterdam. But for educators coderdojos illustrate how features of constructivism can work in practice. Let’s look at some of their key elements. Continue reading

Changing Teaching, Changing Culture

How do teachers learn to teach? You might say by attending college, going on teaching practice, and from teaching experience. But according to Stigler and Hiebert, who wrote the book The Teaching Gap, teaching is a cultural activity. It is an activity that is absorbed from the culture through family conversations over meals, through watching television and listening to radio, and of course from spending 13 years as a student in various classrooms observing teachers teach. Learning about teaching in this way seems to be stronger than teacher education or continuing professional development. Continue reading

Changes in Irish Education – Opportunities and Risks

As we reach the end of the first month of 2012, the education landscape in Ireland looks more poised for change than it has for several years. Many fixtures of the system which have been in place for some time, or which have evolved relatively slowly, all now seem set for renewal. Just think about some of the changes that we know lie ahead: Continue reading

School League Tables and Improving Teaching

Teacher unions are critical of league tables. When tables of college entry linked to schools were published in national newspapers last week, the general secretary of the ASTI said that “It is important to recognise that these tables do not tell us about the real performance of schools. In fact they present a shallow, incomplete and distorted picture of the work of schools.” Although many educators might agree with this view, it can sometimes be helpful to look at the other side.

Let’s just suppose that league tables are useful. At their very best, what good are they? Here are some possible benefits that I can think of. Continue reading