A special treat and rare insight from one of our most beloved and experienced teachers in the business.
Monday, the 12th October. The first-time we teachers would be actually operating in a classroom since Term 2. Twelve weeks of zero face to face interaction with our students. Teaching online had become the new norm during Term 3 and for me, born at the tail end of the Boomer generation – a generation that grew up in a world with no internet, no mobile phones, two TV channels and four radio stations – this was indeed a challenging but fascinating new reality. I am indebted to several younger colleagues who coached me through some of the intricacies of 21st century learning technology.
So, Monday morning, Period 1. My first class that day was my Year 11 English class. Our online interaction had been frequent – I taught them three times per week for an hour each session – and many of these students had sent me messages on Teams asking questions or requesting feedback, sometimes well after the school day had ended. Most of them had made the best of the situation they found themselves in and some actually flourished because it is easy to copy and paste a document into a chat feed and get one on one feedback on it almost immediately. They’d also become used to typing their answers and thoughts into the chat feed in online lessons and we could all give our immediate emoji reactions to their posts. English classes had evolved using a Facebook style culture – an interesting hybrid.
I looked around the classroom and it was great to see actual people in a room together again! There is an energy in a real classroom situation which cannot be duplicated online. But there would be things I’d miss about the IT journey we’d just been on. I noticed about twelve students had their laptops with them and suggested an idea: Why not run the online setup that we’d grown accustomed to at the same time as the face to face experience? The class was enthusiastic to try it so I set up my computer with a data projector and the laptop students could dial in their comments as we worked and everyone could see these. The learning experience digitalised and live in the real world working concurrently! At the end of the lesson we had a record of what had taken place and the interaction within the classroom was fantastic.
It seems to me that we’ve all been on a steep learning curve over the last few months and it would be a shame to abandon some of the valuable things we’ve discovered during that time. 2020 will go down in history as a dark time for all of us but human beings are resilient and inventive and when we eventually move out of this ordeal, it is important to take stock of the few positives and new growth that have taken place.
Some other exciting things happening in year 8:
In Year 8, we have put ‘Holes’ behind us and we now have our creative juices flowing as we dive into a poetry unit. Through collaboration, discussion, and practice, by comparing our family members to fruit and sharing our favourite tongue twisters, we have been learning why poems are so aesthetically pleasing. We have constructed and created our own haikus, limericks, acrostic poems and begun considering the form of spoken word poetry by merely thinking of things we know to be true. Each week, I am excited to see what the students have to share. What they have been able to produce thus far has been AWESOME:
Some are silly
I cannot wait to see what they produce at the end of this unit.
Film: Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Incredibly lovable director Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarök, JoJo Rabbit) takes audiences on a journey through the eyes of misfit Ricky Baker. A heart-warming tale of growth and loss, this hilarious film stars Sam Neill and NZ export Julian Dennison.
Documentary: The Social Dilemma (Netflix)
Explores the dangers of social media in today’s world and the immense impact it could have on societal change and behaviour. A must see for all teenagers and parents with insights that may cause you to question your own activity online.
Novel: The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
Beautifully written and interspersed with kernels of truth fitting snug into the historical fiction category. Our library staff highly recommend this book and ask that you have tissues at the ready if you choose to read it. It will leave a lasting impression.
We felt it necessary, particularly as it is almost time for VCE students to undergo the infamous English exams to offer some tips and tricks in preparation. We hope they are of great benefit! Good luck!