“Do not train children to learning by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each” (Plato)
Week 6 of 2018 and finally we have found the time to do an activity that supports all kinds of valuable key competency learning. (my favourite kind)
Week 6 also means that we are needing to keep promoting our school values and culture to ensure routines stay strong and everyone is happy. As part of our school wide culture, we make sure to highlight the positive aspects of behaviour. This week, we, as a class, needed to focus on - Do The Right Thing.
The task was set up to encourage working together, problem solving, happiness and the promotion of "Do The Right Thing"
We started by talking about what the right things are to ensure a happy day for all. There were loads more ideas than the photo might indicate - all the usual answers were shared.
The children chose their own groups and for the most part no one was left out. But two boys opted to wander around watching rather than take part. They were most definitely engaged with the idea but lacked the key competencies to involve themselves.
The kids downloaded a short 20 second snippet of Redhead Kingpin's - Do The Right Thing, from our shared Google Drive folder. The next step was to open the song in Video Star (a fun, simple to use music video app). Each group filmed themselves doing lots of different things in and around our classroom to encourage positivity.
The filming did not take long and each group shared their work with a teacher. Before starting we had not discussed shots or any sort of movie making skills, simply, the learning was not about that. So a few groups needed to re shoot as there were a few shots of the ground or fingers in the way.
ALL groups worked together and all bar two groups completed the task.
During our group reflection I asked which groups had had issues and then which of those groups had had a friendly korero and sorted out the problem - every group said yes. Key competencies in action in a powerful way.
The movies are cute but certainly lacking in production value - however I couldn't be prouder of the way the kids worked together, solved problems, shared their understanding and had fun doing so. Even our friendly reliever is excited to come back and try movie making again.
Post data has now been gathered on DaBoyz using the Boxall Profile. The above slides show the movement of each student and the class average for each of the 10 areas.
Student 3 is not present in Term 4 and so data was not gathered on him - therefore he is missing from the term 4 graphs.
The y-axis scale differs for each graph and between tests. I could have created the term 1 graphs again, but at this time of year I have nor the time nor energy.
The results show improvements in every area in terms of the class average. Some individuals have gone backwards and others have made significant gain. Some boys still continue to have problems in certain areas, despite significant gain.
As much as I have spent the year focusing on teaching Key Competencies and social skills, there's still that monkey on your back to have each and every child make accelerated progress. For Manaiakalani that means 1.5x the expected.
This year I had no expectation that academic gain would be substantial, I was looking at gains in Key Competencies and emotional security. The way that I taught these skills didn't follow the usual pattern of a classroom, in fact very little academic expectation was placed upon the boys. We worked on routines, discussion, cultural identity and regulating emotional responses to varied experiences.
The graphs below show just one snapshot from PAT tests. As much as I am extremely proud of some of the test results produced by the boys, these graphs are a tiny piece of a much much larger puzzle.
While most of the boys have made the expected academic gains or even 2-3x the expected gain in one year, I don't believe that this has anything to do with quality academic teaching.
The reason for the academic gains made by the boys come from a feeling of belonging and the comfort to take risks and feel confident about their abilities. In reducing the anxious responses and ramping up the positive, the boys have had the opportunity to learn from everyday simple activities.
Suddenly, sitting down to lunch, waiting your turn, using your manners or following the rules of a game, become massive learning opportunities.
By being who they are, acknowledging where they come from and feeling secure and safe, the boys have achieved as themselves and are growing into confident, connected, lifelong learners.
But in reality, the learner who has actually learnt most in the room has been the teacher.
Anxiety is a huge problem for many of our traumatised kids
Each kid has different triggers that set off their anxiety
It is important that the trusted adults in a child's life are aware of the triggers and help the child identify them.
Once identified, it is vital to offer the reassurance required to help the child feel safe and supported.
Anxious behaviour is not disrespectful or naughty.
It's been well known that the boys all suffer from varying degrees of anxiety. How that has affected them, their learning and their relationships is something I've had to get in touch with. As I now know these boys so well, I can pinpoint those moments when behaviour is anxious and not simply "naughty". As I've become more aware of the boys' responses, I've been able to give the boys the words and tools they need to be able to talk about and cope with their anxiety.
I've tried very hard to empathise with the boys and be patient with behaviour that in a traditional setting may have earned the offender a detention. But as a fairly confident and self assured grown up, it is a struggle to try and work out how an insecure 8 yr old might be feeling. I myself couldn't quite identify with the overwhelming sense of anxiety.
At a recent PLG session for Manaiakalani we began a new block with an "ice breaker". Ice breakers are not my cup of tea, but this one seemed even worse. In our table groups we were to sing odd sounding words to a tune I didn't know and keep a rhythm. A task like this sounds fun to many, but sounds awful to me. I started to get a feeling of tightness in my stomach, my palms were sweating and I was frozen to my seat imaging that everyone was looking at me. My worst nightmare was that our lovely leader would ask me to join in or tell me I could do it. I wanted to hide. Which was the best way to exit the building? Everyone else was having a fabulous time, why wasn't I?
I remembered back to Standard 3 and Room 9 with Mrs Brown. I'm sure she was a lovely woman but for me I have no happy memories. She used to make us sing the roll call in the morning and singing and music was a standard part of everyday. "Naughty children" were forced to sing solos as punishment. I spent many a mat time hiding under the nearest table - stubbornness is one of my many strengths. My resistance to Mrs Brown's methods became such a problem that I recall a meeting with my mother where I was told I was to participate or there'd be more trouble. I'm not sure why I was/am so resistant to the idea of singing in a group, but the anxiety is real and I'm sure my behaviour comes across as defiance.
As the PLG singing session came to a conclusion and the stomach volcano subsided, I realised that my anxiety around music - especially singing - must be somewhat similar to how the boys feel daily. That sense of a volcano in ones stomach, unsure of why you're responding in a particular way and the absolute need to hide.
How often do we see children turning away, dropping their head, covering their ears, lashing out or needing space and time away from others? How often do we scold such behaviour as not joining in or being disrespectful?
In many cases we can attribute the behaviours to anxiety. Anxiety about the others in the room. Anxiety about being unsure of a task. Anxiety about what comes next? Anxiety about lunchtime. Anxiety about what waits at home. There are so many things that can upset the delicate equilibrium of a traumatised child.
Now that I am far more aware of the trigger points for the boys, we are able to talk about our angry tummies, talk about what we are unsure of, talk about what makes us happy and in most cases, very quickly have the wee lad back in action being a contented member of our classroom. More and more the boys are identifying their angry tummies themselves and coming to a trusted adult for reassurance and love. Ultimately, it would be great to see the boys eventually being able to self regulate their responses, but they are still only small and put up with a great deal.
I can only hope that the notes that accompany the boys into 2018 are carefully read by their teacher who will take the time to identify the anxiety triggers in their room and allow the boys the chance to talk about their angry tummies and receive the reassurance they require.
Tomorrow marks day one of term 4 and to be perfectly honest I'm not ready. Lessons are prepared and there's plenty to get done, but my brain is absolutely still buzzing from one of the best ULearn conferences I've attended.
I'm very lucky in that I have had the opportunity to present and attend ULearn on most occasions over the last 10 years. Not every year has provided mind bending and challenging content - but 2017 did not disappoint.
Eric Mazur reminded us of the power of peer discussion and peer teaching.
Abdul Cohen inspired us all to make a difference.
Sally Peters had me reevaluating the importance of teacher research and TAI.
Glen Storey gave me more ideas around introducing the concept of coding with junior kids.
Bec and Jamie Power shared many lovely ideas of collaboration and community. - always a pleasure to listen to these two.
Megan Gallagher offered some concrete ideas around how to teach kids about the importance of brain anatomy to address resilience and mindfulness. A couple of ideas I plan to implement as soon as possible with #DaBoyz
But most importantly I was challenged by Ann Milne as she spoke about Colouring in the White Spaces. White privilege in NZ education and assessment.
Ann Milne closed the conference on such a provocative note. She challenged us all on our culturally responsive pedagogy. If Maori students have been failing for such a long time, why do we continue to think the children are the broken ones - shouldn't we need to change our pedagogy to suit the child? What are we doing to promote the achievement of Maori AS Maori? - which is surely more important than expecting achievement on a eurocentric scale. I am very keen to see what I can do in my classroom to make sure that I am allowing students to show who they are and what they value.
To continue with our learning around perseverance and overcoming anxieties, we have spent week 9 creating some fairly impressive artworks. Following on from movie making, it was apparent that The Boys needed more scaffolding around conquering their fears and anxieties during challenging tasks.
The artwork was presented to The Boys as a complex task that would take time and effort. They would make mistakes and all would be fine. They would be asked to try again and to make improvements. We role played scenarios and appropriate responses. We discussed how different challenging moments made us feel and how we could help each other to do our best.
We began by pencil sketching the planets and rockets. We discussed how paint works and that detail was not necessary in our pictures - this didn't stop the boys drawing all sorts of intricate pieces.
Colours were added step by step allowing decent drying time.
Mistakes were covered with white paint, allowed to dry and redone. On two occasions the boys chose to paint out complete objects and did so happily, knowing that they were improving on their work, not making their task more difficult.
In contrast to movie making, no one gave up and no one struggled with the challenges they faced.
I think that this was due to 3 things.
A more stepped out process
Each kid had their own work to do and were not sharing
The strongly scaffolded behaviour aspect prior to beginning each session of painting.
We finished by sharing our work on our blogs and the hard copy will be mounted on the corridor wall outside our class.
To share on our blogs we attempted another challenging creative task - rather than simply posting a photo of our painting I took a photo of each boy with his artwork against a blue background. We then learnt how to use the Alpha key in Keynote to remove the background. The boys were then able to insert a larger version of their own picture as the background.
Because we had to use the classroom iMacs to utilise Keynote, the use of our class shared Google Drive folder was needed so that the boys could access their photos and re-share their completed work to access on their Chromebook to blog.
So, overall a HUGE improvement in emotional responses to complex challenges and as a result, some awesome pieces of art that we are all proud of.