Wow! Growth on the table.

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Fairy Kisses and well wishes to all!

It has been such a long time.
Experiencing how bad is stronger than good!
Yet good never gives up! I believe persistence pays off and here I stand today to reflect on bad within the system. For both education and work environments.

My bad experiences reveals just how many challenges there are in our education system today. I began to study as a secondary teacher in 2014 knowing full well that bullying is a predominate force. That is the systematic use of coercion to have ones needs meet. Unfortunately as a leveler recovering from PTSD I did not manage my attempts to work within a predominately coercive system that well.

Our education system is not great for mental health for anyone involved.

Please don’t get me wrong this is not about blame, it is an observation providing an opportunity for improvement. Do we want to improve our education system? Our work environment? If so we need to face the reality that it is a predominantly coercive system. True in many cases based in the idea of ‘I know better than you!’

My heart goes out to the numerous teachers that struggle to find a way to manage the systematic coercion within the system. Often leaving the system with stress or worse. I met teachers who left permanent positions to work part time or casually (CRTs) to make working as a teacher manageable.

While my congratulations and admiration goes to those who not only manage the system, but also shine in the system doing all they can to bring positive cooperative respect and kindness to the system. There are definitely teachers that fall into this category too.  Thank you for your courage!

And remember the power of Self-Determination. While I appreciated feedback designed to assist my professional development, I will also stay true to myself, use my own self evaluation and the feedback of those who are genuinely guiding my professional development.

Tell me who are you going to listen to more?   Those who are encouraging you, acknowledging your strengths and your objective self observation, or those who attempt to put their own stuff onto you and pull you down.   Think on this and consider the impact of your answer on your practice.

Photo by Janelle Sheen

 

Bad is Stronger Than Good

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Extending on my Positivity Ratio post (8th December 2015), today I will look at why considering the Positivity Ratio is so important for education. In essence the importance of the Positivity Ratio is two fold: we learn best when we are in a ‘good space’ yet ‘bad’ is stronger than ‘good’. So if we want to maximise learning it is necessary to focus on enhancing the positive.

As part of our survival mechanism, we are physiologically designed to notice the bad, ‘threats,’ long before the good, ‘pleasures’ we encounter.   Generally it is necessary for all our needs to be taken care of to fully engage in the pleasures of life. This is logical as it is important for us to detect and respond to ‘threats’ as a priority.  However if you are too concerned about handling the ‘monsters’ or obtaining ‘food’ or ‘shelter’ it is pretty hard to stop and savour the simple ‘pleasures’ of life.

This tendency is not restricted to physical threats. It is noted for psychological factors too. For example the effects of ‘bad’ feedback and interpersonal interactions are more powerful than good ones (Baumeister et al 2001).  Since ‘bad’ has a greater impact than ‘good’ it is important to aim for the Positivity Ratio, just to balance out the impact of ‘bad’.

At the same time ‘learning’ occurs best when we are comfortable and relaxed; in a ‘good space’.  Consequently to be effective teachers, creating a ‘good space’ is our first priority.   A ‘good space’ being where everyone feels safe, not under threat and their basic needs are satisfied. Basic human needs include the need to be engaged, acknowledged, have a sense of belonging and awareness we matter.

This environment is not going to happen naturally. Thus as leader teachers it is our responsibility to actively remove potential threats and create a safe learning environment. This is where principles of Positive Education are valuable.  Especially as noted by Green, Oades and Robinson (2011) where Positive Education relates to the ‘wellbeing’ of each student.  Focusing on meeting the students’ needs, empowering them to meet their own, while accomplishing our goals (covering the required curriculum and administrative duties) is part of teaching.  This means making a conscious effort to ensure positive communication, feedback and relationships are practiced and upheld.

As teacher leaders we have a responsibility to highlight the ‘good’, while managing the ‘bad’ and in this way strengthen the ‘safe’ environment required to maximise learning.

Love to hear your thoughts…

Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Finkenauer, C., Vohs, K. D., 2001 Bad is Stronger than Good Retrieved from http://assets.csom.umn.edu/assets/71516.pdf

Green, S., Oades, L, Robinson, P. 2011 Positive Education: Creating flourishing students, staff and schools. Retrieved from http://www.psychology.org.au/publications/inpsych/2011/april/green

Photo By Janelle Sheen

Creativity and Choice

Today’s blog is based around a recommendation, from my last post, to consider creativity.  Creativity is increasingly important with Pink (2005) indicating that it will be essential for success in the Conceptual Age.

A wonderful post on ‘Playful Learning’ mentions four practices that tend to have a negative impact on the development of creativity.  They are rewards, shadowing, limited choices and over scheduling.  The article is well worth a read (see below). Three of these I agree are very accurate, the other, limited choices, I would modify for increased accuracy or perhaps simply to avoid misunderstanding.

Limited choices are important.  They are important to assist with decision-making.  Research has shown adults, let alone children, have trouble with too many choices.  This is because we easily move into ‘overwhelm’ when given unlimited choice. We need limited choices to enable us to maintain our ability to make effective decisions.   As a consequence it is arguable that children gain from limited choice to support development of appropriate decision-making.   For example a young child who wants to play outside in the sunshine can be give a choice of which sun hat to wear, not whether they get to wear one or not.  The trick is providing choice within an appropriate (age related) range and knowing what your key intention is.  In this case to develop the healthy habit of wear a sun hat.

I suspect however it was not so much decision making that was in the authors thoughts but rather ‘rigorously preplanned activities’, including coloring in books, which prevent exploration and lateral thinking.  As exploration and lateral thinking are important for creativity I totally agree with the sentiment that with set ‘right’ outcomes and processes creativity tends to be damaged.   Thus it is important we balance the freedom that allows creativity to blossom with guidance that assists decision-making.

In the classroom being very clear about what is the session focus or intention is can allow this to be easily achieved.  What is it that needs to be covered?  Is it content, then allow freedom in the method students cover the set content, as well as the exploration of more depth or personalisation with the content.  If you are covering a process allow choice in what they cover when using the process.   For example if I want my students to learning how to research I allow them to look up a topic they are interested in.   Or if I want a presentation on the difference between mitosis and meiosis I allow them to decide how they want to present it.   This way we can provide both coverage of curriculum and development of creativity (which is naturally there).

Pink outlines other ideas for developing creativity.   He states, firstly teach ‘its ok to have fun’.  Promoting fun in class (in way that is productive) allow creativity to be develop by having general key outcome requirements and allow them to develop the product using their own strengths.*   Without a sense of safety it is a major challenge to have fun so it is important to establish a positive safe environments.  Creating the positive and safe learning environment underpins creativity as well as learning outcomes.

Wishing everyone a wonderful festive season

Thanks for this wonderful topic suggestion

I look forward to hear from more of you

Janelle

*still covering all skills naturally

Paredes, N P P ( 2014) How to kill your child’s creativity Retrieved from

http://playfullearning.net/2014/06/kill-childs-creativity/

Pink, Daniel (2005) A Whole New Mind Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin

Too many choices: for starting point check out:

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/05/29/too-many-choices-problems-with-searching-for-an-extraordinary-life/

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/27/your-money/27shortcuts.html?_r=0

Iyengar, S. S. & Kamenica, E. (2007) Choice Overload and Simplicity Seeking. Retrieved from http://www.cbdr.cmu.edu/seminar/Emir2.pdf

Positivity Ratio

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Would it surprise you that research has shown we commonly use negative words, our minds spend more time focused on negative incidences, importantly negative incidences and environments have a stronger impact (than positive ones) and many individuals have a ‘problem’ focused mindset enhancing negativity they experience (Heath & Heath, 2010). It appears our minds are wired for negative, or potential dangerous situations.   At the same time positive psychology asserts, for better health and wellbeing, a ratio of 3 positive to 1 negative is required (Fredickson, 2013).

Perhaps, this emphasis on negativity is another example of our biological tendency to watch out for potential threats and ‘ideally’ take appropriate action.   Yet many of us suffer stress and poor health as a result of not managing what we perceive as threats.  Consequently learning to handle negative events is important for our health.  Is this just a matter of learning ‘stress management’?   I don’t think so, learning to understand other perspectives, reframe our perceptions, enhancing communication and conflict management will also help.   Further by training our brains, effectively rewiring them, to observe and select positive aspects of life, negativity will need to be dealt with less often. In turn enhancing our health, wellbeing and life satisfaction.

Today’s suggestions are on how we can increase our leaning toward the 3 to 1 ratio.

First I ask you to create two lists of 20-30 words each.   One list is of positive words, for example peace, kind, appreciation, the other of negative words, such as war, trouble and punishment.   Next spend a few minutes reading and considering each list in turn.   Did you feel a difference?   Words always have an impact in this way; you are able to be more aware of the impact when you focus on them grouped this way.   Consider which impact you prefer, would prefer to promote.   Then create a matching word list; perhaps add to it each day.   Post it somewhere you see it regularly, this will allow you to build your positive word vocabulary and impact.   Intentionally countering the tendency for more negative than positive words.

Other powerful activities include practicing expressing gratitude for what you appreciate, giving compliments and looking for strengths (what is done well).  This assists developing a focus on positive incidences, activities and environments.  Keep a journal or record of things you appreciate and compliments you receive.  Doing these activities will train your brain to look for and use positive qualities and activities.  Further by keeping a record you will also enable you to remind your self of these positive things, if a low moment is encountered.

You may have noticed I have emphasised what ‘we’ can do, rather than what to do ‘with our students’.  This is simply because by practicing these skills not only do we role model them, they will also become automatic, thus easy for us to practice and, importantly, will enhance genuine authenticity in our practice if we choice to integrate them into to our classroom activities.  Doing so will enhance the value of the practices and go a long way to promoting a 3 to 1 ratio with its rippling effects.

Baumeister, Roy F.; Bratslavsky, Ellen; Finkenauer, Catrin; Vohs, Kathleen D. ‘ (2001) Bad is stronger than good.’ In Review of General Psychology, Vol 5(4), , 323-370.

Fredickson B. L. (2013) Updated Thinking on Positivity Ratios Retrieved from

http://www.unc.edu/peplab/publications/Fredrickson%202013%20Updated%20Thinking.pdf

Heath C & Heath D (2010) Switch: How to change things when change is hard. New York: Random House

Urban H (2004) Positive Words, Powerful Results: Simple ways to honor, affirm and celebrate life. Fireside Books: New York.

Support for Teachers in Practice

This blog is especially for new graduates, as they step out from being students to becoming teachers in practice.  As stepping from one phase of life to the next can feel daunting, especially if we are unaware of the support that is available for us.  Thus today’s topic is the ‘value of support and connection for teachers’.  However I would love it if experienced teachers also found value and or commented.

The rapidly changing nature of education means it is essential for teachers to keep up to date and progress our knowledge and skills.   Consequently as teachers in practice, professional development (PD) is part of life and provision of support. There is such a wide and diverse range of support resources for teachers today; the question is how do we select the supportive resources and PD we use.  Knowledge and skills are the focus of most PD programs for teachers.  Interestingly Henderson (2014) discusses the importance of relationships for effective PD or professional learning (as he refers to it). Indeed relationships are key to professional support and development.

Henderson notes, the long established view, that learning is a matter of enculturation.  That is we learn from those around us by exposure, modelling and adapting.  For enculturation ‘community cohesion’ develops a sense of mutuality that supports this process.  Henderson refers to ‘communities of practice’ that is ‘groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly’ (Wenger-Trayner, n.d.) as key to the process.

That you learn from and become more like those you are exposed to means it is critically important you are selective about the group(s) that you become a member of.  By selecting your ‘community of practice’ you select what practice method and styles you will develop.  If we do not consciously make a choice, we will simply go with the flow.  In theory this could be fine, however in practice it means forward movement, in the development of teachers for the future, maybe restricted to old established practices.

To select the resources that will suit you best begin by identifying what type of teacher you want to be and find a community that will challenge you and support you in becoming that, to your very best ability.  Your teaching philosophy will be a good place to start.  Next reach out to find resources that align.

Naturally our place of practice (school) will be our primary community of practice.   This may seem to you that it means little or no choice in your community of practice. However we can be selective of whom, within our school, we choose as our primary source to learn from.  Consciously ask yourself, who among your colleagues do you wish to become the most like?   Deliberately spend time with them, asks them the questions you have.  Consciously observe, reflect on and implement their practices. Doing so means you have taken the first step in your conscious enculturation.

At the same time going beyond our place of practice provides more options. Look for other communities of practice can be as simple as Facebook groups or other online communities.  Once you start exploring the options they can become overwhelming. Again use your identified intentional practice to guide your choice of community to participate in.  To support you I have collected a small number of potential resources.  I encourage you to check the different resources out and use them as best serves you on your endeavour to be a ‘teacher for the future’.

The value in support for teachers in practice is principle the ability to support you become the teacher that you want to.  To maximise this it is important you select resources and communities that will do so.   If you have resources for teachers that you recommend for teachers ‘teaching for the future’ please post in the comments below. Naturally all comments are welcome.   Make a request of a topic or even develop a guest post….

All the best

TeachMeet: A gathering of teachers where ideas for practice are shared.   I find it a wonderful and supporting environment.

TLN: (Teaching and Learning Network) a teacher association that publishes a wonderful journal and provides PD classes, primarily online but also face to face.

Digital learning:   http://dern.org/

edutopia: I like this one on flipped classroom  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwvXFlLQClU&list=UUdksaQxXH13BMeHo09MorBg

Ted-ed: Even has communities https://community.ed.ted.com/teded

 YouTube:  Who can forget Ken Robinson’s Paradigm shift. Check out more of his work and thoughts by others.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huYxrSR4sW8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qC_T9ePzANg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0u0EUFUL9ZA

Henderson, M. (2014) In professional learning the relationships are more important than the content. Retrieved from https://dltv.vic.edu.au/sites/dltv.vic.edu.au/files/documents/in_professional_learning_the_relationships_are_more_important_than_the_content_-_dr_michael_henderson.pdf

Wenger-Trayner, E. (n.d.) Intro to communities of practice retrieved from http://wenger-trayner.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/06-Brief-introduction-to-communities-of-practice.pdf

Education for the Future

Welcome,

As the first post I thought it best to introduce the intention of this series of blogs.  It is my intent to share thoughts on education today, what education will serve our children best for their future, consider how to go about that and to support teachers in providing a strong education for the future.

Today education is going through a major transition.  It is becoming increasingly clear that an education based purely on knowledge is of limited value.  Research is showing the importance of social and emotional intelligence, indeed values and meaning are increasingly part of the business world.  Thinking skills, along with numeracy and literacy are still key, yet in the real world they are being expanded.  Increasingly the domain of literacy includes the digital world and creativity is an important thinking skill, as is the ability to be self-directed.  Unfortunately, despite some great progress in some spaces, overall the education system is lagging far behind.   Further whilst education has, predominately, been about gaining ‘knowledge’ for the ‘knowledge age’ to ensure great employment opportunities, this approach is no longer suitable.  Today we are rapidly moving away from the ‘knowledge age’ to the ‘conceptual age’ (Pink, 2005) and it is critical we, as teachers, adapt.

In the ‘conceptual age’ different skills are required to the ‘knowledge age’.  Pink indicates six key senses that will be essential in this new era and they are well worth covering.  However I will, for now, focus on more familiar skills that are mentioned above. In addition I will highlight an overviewing concept that is foundational to this transition.  In the past, being able to store and access a lot of information in ones memory has been critical to success.  While this is still important, increasingly we are forced to acknowledge that there is an excess amount of knowledge available, easily available, via the Internet.   As a consequence of this the ability to access, evaluate, select and effectively apply knowledge is even more important that having it stored in ones memory.  Information literacy has become an essential skill.

As a consequence of this change in required skills, today’s education needs to adapt in order to provide the skills necessary to succeed.   Thus, this site and blog are to consider how we can go about providing these skills, supporting this change and support those enacting the change, today’s teachers who teach with tomorrow in mind.

Pink, Daniel (2005) A Whole New Mind Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin