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My favourite teacher #YourEduStory

This week’s topic for the #YourEdustory challenge: How are you, or is your approach, different than your favorite teacher? got me thinking about who my favourite teacher was and there was one clear winner.

Yes that's me with my eyes closed (back row, left)

Yes that’s me with my eyes closed (back row, left)

Peter Clutterbuck was my grade 5 teacher. I thought he was awesome (although that word wasn’t commonly used back then) and very nearly as silly as his name sounded. My memories of grade 5 are of a slightly anarchic classroom where anything could and did happen. I remember having lots of laughs but I’m pretty sure we worked hard too. School was never dull that year. Mr Clutterbuck was the acting headmaster at the time and was frequently called away, often leaving me, or one of my similarly “girly-swot” friends “in charge”. The trustworthy amongst us also took turns at sitting in the office to answer the phone. Our country school of about 200 students seemingly didn’t have any clerical support and, although every other year there had been a headmaster without any teaching duties, in this particular year we were making do. I really don’t know what the background to the circumstances were but I have to say I loved the feeling of importance, sitting in the office and begging the phone to ring! We got to do many things that would be unthinkable these days. I remember being sent to the shops quite often to buy supplies for science experiments and art projects and also being sent home (almost daily for a while) with my new puppy who didn’t follow me but would arrive sometime after school started and sit whining outside the classroom door.

Mum, Mr Clutterbuck says “If that dog comes to school again…#$%$^&*”

class rules

I remember Mr Clutterbuck as a teacher who inspired and provoked curiosity. He made everything seem exciting although being in his class could be dangerous at times. Mr Clutterbuck was a smoker and, as bizarre as it seems today, he smoked in the classroom, often perching a lit cigarette on the chalk ledge. Occasionally he would pick up a piece of chalk and attempt to puff on it, then, as he realised what it was, he would throw it (quite hard) at a random student. Hanging on a cupboard door was a sign reading “Rule 1 – the teacher is always right. Rule 2 –  if the teacher is wrong, rule number 1 applies.” I know variations of that can be found all over the place but it was the first time I’d seen it and never has it been more true!

It was in grade 5 that I really firmed up on the idea of becoming a teacher, quite possibly because Mr Clutterbuck told my mum I’d be good at it! Many years later, when I first worked in a P-12 school, I found myself cataloguing teaching resources written by Peter Clutterbuck and I’ve often wondered since if it was the same Mr Clutterbuck. Today I did some searching but it seems Peter Clutterbuck the author has successfully avoided having his photo online.

For the purpose of this topic I think it’s just as interesting to reflect on how I am similar, as well as different, to Mr Clutterbuck. One thing I do love to do is give kids some responsibility. The library monitor program which I started last year has been very successful with a long list of kids wanting to have a go. One thing I ask them to do is to answer the phone if it rings when they’re on the circulation desk. This has caused great excitement and led to scripts being written on sticky notes so they know what to say. I like the surprise the caller gets.

I’m not sure that I’ll ever be as successful as Mr Clutterbuck, but I like to make things exciting and fun, to mix things up and try new ways.

How am I different? Well, I’ve never smoked in class, or thrown anything at a student. I certainly can’t draw on the blackboard like he could so I never tried to. I’ve never been confident enough to bend the rules as much as he did (and there’s so many more rules these days) and I know I’m not always right.

 

 

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I’m an entrepreneurial learner

Part of my Masters studies is writing a reflective blog. For this first subject Concepts and practices for a digital age we are required to publish four official posts over the course of the semester but are free to post other reflections as and when we wish. This is my first official post, cross-posted from Learn, do, teach… The directions were:

Using your readings and interaction with the subject to date, develop a statement about your current knowledge and understanding of concepts and practices in a digital age within the context of your work or professional circumstances. What is the context of your learning? What are your personal aims in this subject? What challenges are you hoping to meet for yourself?

As you might imagine I’m a little nervous about my first assessable writing in a long time – what do you think?

The Global One Room Schoolhouse: John Seely Brown (Highlights from JSB’s Keynote at DML2012). Retrieved from http://youtu.be/fiGabUBQEnM

I didn’t know it till this week but it seems I’m an entrepreneurial learner. I look for new ways to do things, seek new resources, re-evaluate, re-assess, tweak, try, and reflect. I’m not happy doing the same thing in the same way unless I know there isn’t a better way (and that’s rare). So John Seely Brown’s words right at the start of the video struck me straightaway. That’s it! That’s my passion! I want other teachers to be entrepreneurial learners too.

I want to find new and better ways to inspire and motivate teachers to have a go in the networked learning environment, to become “connected educators” – what Tom Whitby defines as “teachers who are comfortable with collaborative learning, social media, and sharing their ideas online.” I share his concern of a “huge gulf now developing between connected and unconnected educators.” (Digital trends shifting the role of teachers)

I want to be able to use the right language to convey my passion, to be able to articulate in pedagogical terms why it is important to keep up and to back up what I say with compelling examples from research. I read widely and find myself nodding my head in agreement or protesting “no” at an outrageous assertion but lack the skills to articulate why I respond that way. I need to “level up” my academic prowess. This is key in my motivation for study and I’m already being rewarded by the range of information being shared formally through the module and the new eye with which I’m viewing information shared informally.

Teachers I work with get bogged down in real and imagined barriers relating to workload, red tape and previous bad experiences, using them as excuses not to try. I love seeing the lightbulb go on when someone realises that a particular tool can actually make them more efficient (seen recently with a new Evernote convert) but often teachers lack motivation or are scared of breaking something or admitting they don’t know. I want teachers to find the same joy I do in play. As Seely Brown says “a key aspect of play is…permission to fail. Fail, fail, fail, then get it right”.

I want teachers to see that the technology itself is irrelevant. Just yesterday a primary teacher bemoaned the fact that her students struggled with using a mouse because they were so used to touch devices. Does it really matter? I can see a day in the not too distant future when the computer mouse will be viewed like the fountain pen, a quaint relic. We already have voice and gesture recognition and eye control is being developed. The mouse should be seen for what it is – an input device, nothing more, nothing less. This tweet from Marc Prensky sums it up beautifully:

 

I want teachers to see the need to transform learning tasks, that simply digitising an existing task and teaching it in the same old way will not develop 21st century skills.  Future work skills 2020 articulates skills that will be required in the workplace of the future but traditional teaching methods will not serve these needs. Consider Ruben R. Puentedura‘s SAMR model:

Image the creation of Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D. http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/
Retrieved from http://jennyluca.wikispaces.com/TPACK+and+SAMR 13 March, 2014

SAMR can be applied equally by teachers thinking about how they teach and how they themselves learn. I want to be an agent of redefinition.

Finally, I need to become a better teacher-librarian by sharpening up my own search and research skills. Already I am enjoying the challenges this poses.