Inspiration at WellyED EduIgnite

Earlier this term I attended my very first EduIgnite.  I had looked in to attending them previously but never quite made it a priority.  The timing of this event coincided with some work I was doing to prepare an article for the NZCER Set Journal; so I decided to throw myself in the deep end and present the content of my journal article at the EduIgnite event.  How naive was I?!  It turns out that a 3000 word journal article does not easily transfer into a 5 minute EduIgnite talk, but with a bit of adjusting I was happy with the shape that my talk took.

My experience rings very similar to what Leanne Stubbing talks about in her blog.  Any nerves about presenting were quickly dispelled when it became apparent that the audience were a fabulous bunch of like-minded educators, all eager to learn from each other, and be inspired by the stories being presented.  I too took along a ‘support crew’ – two of my amazing colleagues and my sister, who is a primary school teacher.  They all thoroughly enjoyed the evening and were inspired by the presentations they heard to become more connected, and all of them had a ‘takeaway’ from the evening that they were going to implement in their teaching practice.

One of my learning goals this year is to sharpen my presentation skills and so this format was a brilliant opportunity to do this.  I have a tendency when I present to stand up and talk about what I know and to ad lib quite a bit, but with slides on a 15 second auto-advance it was evident I was going to have to be more disciplined than usual.  To keep myself ‘on time’ I ended up writing down exactly what I wanted to say, which is not my preferred style of presenting, I don’t normally like ‘reading from a script’.  What I really enjoyed was the Q&A session after my talk – I felt that this allowed me to talk more freely, and engage more with the audience.

The following is my presentation:

“Kia ora e te whanau, Talofa lava, my name is Celia Fleck, I am HOD Health and Physical Education at Aotea College, a secondary school I have had the privilege of teaching at for many years, and a place that has provided me with many opportunities for personal and professional growth.

This is why I am here… because the New Zealand Curriculum has a vision for us (yes us, not just our students) to be actively involved, connected, confident, life long learners… and one of the key competencies is to participate and contribute…

This is another reason I am here… because twitter has opened up my world and allowed me to be connected on a far greater level than I could otherwise.  It allows me to learn and collaborate with others, and it allows me to contribute to our wonderful community of educators.

One of the things that I am passionate about is continually looking for ways to improve outcomes for my students.  And two and a half years ago I was presented with an opportunity that not only fit with my teaching philosophy but also met the needs of learners at Aotea College.

Sport NZ decided to fund a Sport in Education project, the three aims of which are all about improving outcomes for students.  Aotea College was chosen as one of eight schools nationally to pilot this project.

Our main Sport in Education priorities at Aotea were building a strong sense of community, a focus on raising achievement for target students, and provision of a responsive curriculum.

Kiwi kids love sport and the students at Aotea are no exception.  We have large numbers of students playing and officiating in a variety of sports, and many at a very high level.  So it made sense to take a context that is meaningful and relevant to them and use it to enhance their learning experiences.

So we set about thinking ‘How might we design a programme to improve outcomes for our Maori and Pasifika students?’… students who like sport, achieve well in Physical Education, but some of whom are at risk of not achieving NCEA Level 1.

We came up with this concept of a Sports Studies class, where students worked together for 12 hours each week, studying English, Maths and Physical Education.  Another Health and Physical Education teacher and I taught them for six hours each, myself with a focus on the maths and PE, my colleague with a focus on the English and PE.

We used sport as a context for our teaching and learning programmes and our assessments; we made explicit cross curricular links; and we also made explicit links to our school expectations.

We used sporting analogies to reinforce class culture and expectations.  We likened the structure of a lesson to a training session – warm up, skills practice, modified game.  Assessments were referred to as ‘game day’ with several pre-season games leading up to it.

One student did suggest that I could just give them the answers to an assessment, I suggested that this wasn’t entirely ethical and in sport we call it match fixing. We encouraged the promotion of rep players, or students who were aiming for merit and excellence endorsements.

We kept up a strong focus on being a team, although as the year went on students began to refer to themselves as whanau.  We found that the whanau environment which evolved was hugely valuable to some students in providing stability, and we incorporated a strong element of pastoral care into our interactions with the students.

Throughout the year we collected student voice, often in the form of pieces of writing for English, and early on we discovered that we had ‘created a myth’ whereby students believed that it was going to be easier to learn and achieve in Sports Studies, and therefore it was.

However it will probably not surprise you that the word that came through most strongly in feedback from students was this…

Relationships…. Quotes such as “Positive relationships mean people are not afraid to ask for clarification”

Another student said

“A positive aspect of this class was having two teachers who actually cared about our learning and achievements we did in and outside of the classroom.”

And one student we believe we made a real difference for said this… “The positives I have experienced in this course is that you get to build a relationship with the teachers, because honestly, if I don’t know the teacher or do not work well with them then I will not try my best for them.”

The Sports Studies class was a way of building stronger learning relationships for Year 11 students, and creating a more coherent learning programme for them.

The key thing that I would like to leave you with is this idea of making connections… If we want to improve outcomes for our students we need to connect with them and with what is meaningful to them, we need to show them the connections between their learning in different curriculum areas, and in order to do that we ourselves need to strengthen connections with each other; with our colleagues in other curriculum areas, and in other schools.”

Many thanks to #WellyED for hosting a wonderful evening, and to all the fabulous connected educators who came out that evening to support and collaborate, inspire and be inspired.

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