Here it is….. my first post on my first professional blog. Yikes! Nerves are striking right now but I have been wanting to enter this world of education blogging for a little while now and I am jumping in with both feet.
Previously I had my first taste of blogging during my year on an International Teaching Fellowship during 2013. I was awarded this Fellowship by the DEECD Victoria and spent 12 months teaching and living in Grand Junction, Colorado. I wanted to share my experiences with my colleagues, family, friends and students at home so set up my own personal blog. I began wanting to share my educational and personal experiences, but quickly realised I enjoyed sharing all the personal experiences so much that the educational moments feel to the side!
However, there were a few things I took away from my year teaching in Colorado, and therefore the United States. Australia has a great education system. Victoria works hard for the whole student, not just the academics. We look to develop personal and social growth as well as “normal” school learning like Maths, Literacy and Science – and we do it well (through our curriculum no less!) Don’t get me wrong, American teachers do an amazing job with their students and the teachers I worked with in Colorado were some of the hardest working and most caring I have seen in action! But my overall feeling from the whole year was as much as I enjoyed my teaching over there, I am very glad to be a teacher in Australia right now…….. ask me again in another 5 years!
The particular school I worked at was a wonderful school situated in a low economic area of the school district. Most of the student body couldn’t afford the (roughly) $2 free/reduced lunch program. These students were often coming to school for security, stability and care. They ate breakfast at school, had their lunch provided for them and if needed were provided with winter coats, new shoes or school supplies. Yet the feeling within the walls was that of community. These students and teachers were a family – and you felt it when you walked through the doors.
From the start of the day, teachers were greeting students as they arrived at school with eye contact and conversations. Respect was expected by staff and students alike. Students eating breakfast in the cafeteria before school were expected to use their manners and clean up after themselves. Playing tetherball, football (NFL) or games outside meant students took turns, shared equipment, rotated in and out fairly, referred to the game rules posted nearby and solved any problems or disagreements with Rock, Paper, Scissors. Major discussions were taken to the teacher but most disagreements could be solved between the students respectfully. It allowed teachers to have conversations with the students and connect with their lives instead of spending all their duty time following up with disagreements.
Teachers also rewarded students who displayed BEAR behaviour. These behaviours were the school “rules” or values –
Students who were recognised as showing these values were given a BEAR Paw – which were a small photocopied award with their name and details recorded on it. These were taken down to the office and the student could call home to celebrate their success. Just this positive idea of allowing students to call home when they had been successful in a personal way meant something very big to a lot of them and their families.
Overall the development of the social community and values of the school impressed me. Teachers and administration went out of their way every day to connect with their students and their families, even inviting them into monthly progress meetings if the student was in an Intervention program or below grade expectations. And yes – the parents came! Every time! With this support of the students personally, socially, emotionally and academically every student had the opportunity to grow – which was shown with the school earning State and National recognition for excellence in student learning growth. It truly was a wonderful school community to be a part of for 12 months.
As part of my return at the start of 2014, the DEECD asked me to make a presentation to the ITF administration and my fellow ITF teachers who had returned. My PowerPoint presentation was around what I have talked about above and included a small ideas that the school had put into place to support the families if needed, including details of the Response to Intervention program that ALL teachers and interventionists were involved with. Included in the presentation are two videos of the school with the administration explaining how they came to make such wonderful growth with their students.
If you have any questions about anything, please feel free to leave a comment below or contact me. I am always happy to discuss (and relive) my amazing year in Colorado!
And that brings me to the end of my first post – which was easier than I thought! What have I learnt from this post? Blog about something you know or are passionate about and it will flow!
Until next time!