‘Back To The Future’ Day 2015

Although this is not all related to education, it does relate to relationships, the arts and the elements that make us who we are. I thought I would share…

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I think it was sometime in early 1990 that I saw a poster for the release of Back To The Future III. I was nearly 11 years old. I don’t recall who told me to watch the original film, I’m guessing it was a fellow 10 year old friend. It was on TV and I recorded it on the family VCR. I couldn’t believe how good it was. I was 5 years late in watching it but I felt like I’d just discovered a film that would be mine forever. Mum took me down to the video rental store to hire Back To The Future II and so my preparation for the release of the final film in the trilogy was complete.

 

I remember some other things:

  • daydreaming about going back myself and becoming mates with my younger dad
  • having nightmares about going back myself and having mum hit on me
  • Going to see the third instalment 3 times at the cinema. I guess I was making up for missing the first 2. One of those times was with another school mate and two female classmates. I’d never been to the movies with a girl before!
  • Dressing up as Marty McFly for Book Day at primary school. Mum even found me a life preserver! The same school mate donned the garb and white hair (cotton balls in this case) of Doc Brown. I recall intense discussion in the lead up as to who would be who. Rock, Paper, Scissors was not utilised if I remember rightly. Only a time machine would solve that mystery. We knew the questions would come. ‘Back To The Future’ is not a book! Our respective parents helped us look everywhere for a book version of the first film or perhaps they just looked for us. Although I don’t recall how or where, one was found. I believe we had the book with us all that day just to provide legitimacy to our teachers and peers who quizzed us incessantly.
  • I loved the soundtrack. Marty smashing ‘Johnny B. Goode’ is still one of the greatest triumphs on screen, better than anything Batman or Gandalf accomplished. Huey Lewis became one of my favourite bands for a time (no shame). Although Mum might have felt some for she was angry when, some years later, I used some money I’d saved to buy their ‘Best of’.
  • The ‘Back To The Future’ theme is a classic. The first soundtrack had a mix of pop songs and orchestral pieces on it. The soundtrack to the second film was all orchestra. An Aunty bought me the second soundtrack as a birthday gift around 1990. She said to me, ‘I don’t think you’ll like it. It’s all classical music.’ But here was the soundtrack to my daydreams. I could have it in my headphones any time I wanted.
  • One night at Etihad Stadium, the lights went black and before Coldplay took to the stage, the ‘Back To The Future Main Theme’ blasted across the field and stands. I flew!

 

Above all, the story always came back to friendship and family for me. As a kid, it really annoyed me when Doc chose to stay ‘within time’ with Clara and not go back with Marty. But now I understand. Loyalty, love and care. Being good enough to hug your friends with feeling and cry with them if you needed. Telling your parents how important they are. That’s why today is much more than a bunch of nerds sucking on pop culture. Things like this are part of us.

 

Long live ‘Back To The Future’ Day!

Back to the Future DeLorean Time Machine

Getting Busy In Sick

I have been off work for the past five days on sick leave. “I have prescribed some antibiotics for you. Please keep taking the Panadol, drink plenty of fluids, eat some food and rest, rest, REST!” These were almost the exact words from the GP last Tuesday morning. I don’t know what the scientific name for the ugly ‘chest infection’ virus I’ve contracted is but I know how it feels. Many of my symptoms are probably listed on the first website that appears in a Google search when you type in words such as ‘flu’, ‘chest’ or ‘cough’. The way these symptoms make me feel and how my own mind and body deal with them are probably not on that list.

I had the last two days of last term off work for sick leave. I had much of the Queen’s Birthday week in June off due to sick leave. Add these to a few sick days taken in Term 1.  This evidence leads one to conclude that 2014 is a worse year than other years in general well being. Questions start to form, what has changed this year? What am I doing that I was not doing in 2013? Am I sleeping well? Am I exercising enough? Has my work/life balance regime changed? These questions spin involuntarily around one’s mind like a Gravitron and pick up speed more and more as the body sits or lies stationary on the couch.

My job exposes me to bugs and viruses. Some may say a teacher is more susceptible to illness due to the amount of human beings they interact with on a daily basis. Young children are still learning the ropes of how to be hygienic; covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, washing hands with soap after a toilet visit; therefore, perhaps a teacher has it tougher than other professionals to ward off the germs. But aren’t we all exposed to germs on a daily basis? Can we really say that my profession is worse off than others in this area? On a regular day, we all touch a myriad of objects and surfaces and most would admit that total vigilance is difficult to maintain when one is busy. A door knob here, a hand shake there, a table top, a coin, a bus railing…the list goes on. Either way, the truth is that we all catch germs and bugs. The further reality is that our minds and bodies all react differently to these germs. Some of us fight them off without knowing they were there. Others feel a little ‘off’ but get through after a good night’s sleep. Another group come crashing down in a messy heap (like me this week). Most of us encounter all these experiences many times over.

A leader at my school recommended a book recently. The recommendation came not because of my recent run of bad health, but because of their desire to find some answers to their own issues of ‘too much’. My copy of Tony Crabbe’s book is on its way as I write. I have little to go on at this stage save for a few extracts and reflections taken from the author’s website. But Crabbe’s writings analyse the concept of a busy society and how the regular professional has become a slave to the notion of being busy at everything. Crabbe states, “It is difficult to ask anyone ‘How are you doing?’ without hearing the word ‘busy’ at some point in the answer. All around the world I meet people who are over-whelmed; who are exhausted; who feel helpless in the face of the machine.” He goes on to state that these people are not the perennial ‘whiners’. They are the successful workers, the ones that are committed and try their best to further themselves and their organisations. I think this is me and it is most likely you.

world-busyness-256x396

Image from: www.howtoacademy.com

 

I don’t intend to distil the information put down by Crabbe. But I could not help but equate my thinking of being busy with being sick and unwell. Some common threads of thought have recurred to me over the past 24 hours that have kept coming back during each bout of illness this year.

Why is being busy and ‘pushing through’ seen as a badge of honour these days? I can’t speak for all professions but in education, I believe it’s rife. Over the past two years, I have tried really hard to commit to always taking the appropriate amount of time to recover from an illness. Before then, I wouldn’t always do this. The ‘unspoken’ reality around me in the workplace was to push through the illness, keep on working, stick at it and only take a day if you physically could not stand. Don’t get me wrong, I was never pushed to work when unwell by my employer. Never. But I could just feel that underlying sense of ‘stiff upper lip’ from the colleagues around me. A sense that a first or second year graduate picks up very quickly when they hit the frontline.

I overheard a colleague say once, “I’ve had this terrible cold for over two months.” Really? Is this really a plausible scenario? I don’t doubt that this person had been feeling rotten for the best part of 60 days. But why do educators keep working when they are sick? It makes people miserable, unhappy and frustrated. Not to mention, the sniffles and sneezes during staff meetings whilst sitting with colleagues.

Here is another phrase I hear often, “I can’t afford to take a day off at the moment.” Certainly not because of financial concerns. Most of the time it is because the individual making the statement knows that the never ending ‘to do’ list will just get longer if they stop for a day. What kind of nasty consequence hangs over their head if they take a day to rest? I also hear some educators say that they WILL take a day to rest when sick, but will continue to work from home and get lots of those ‘other jobs’ done whilst on the couch. Again, instead of thinking about getting better, why do we believe that we can be just as productive from the couch and/or sick bed?

So within all these scenarios, I believe an underlying culture begins to build that instils ‘survival of the fittest’ mentalities in lots of schools. The one that takes on the most extra curricular jobs whilst still teaching without using much sick leave, is the winner. Consequently, there is an element of guilt or fear for those that do take sick leave for ailments such as flu, gastro etc. I have seen teachers still on contract, push themselves to the limit, seemingly walking around 24/7 with a sniffle. Regaining or retaining one’s position and contract has another criteria to meet, the ‘being on deck no matter the consequences to my well being’ section.

I’ve sat in front of nearly 30 primary students the morning after being awake all night with a raging fever. Not as a graduate but as a classroom teacher with nearly 9 years experience. I couldn’t focus properly. My hands shook a little. I was honest with the students. I told them how I felt and the symptom I had experienced the night before. They were polite and listened. But nothing changed. They were still ready for learning and intent on having their day at school just like any other. For me, the ability to instruct them to move from one section of the room to another became a task of monumental mental proportions. So who was short changed that day? Not me that’s for sure.

As the PDP process in Victorian schools evolves and more schools buy into the collegiate process of teaching and learning, will we see more educators continue to push through because they don’t want to be the one seen to be not pulling their weight because they have missed days? We encourage parents to keep students home if they are clearly unwell, no matter what they might miss in terms of learning. How often do you hear educators encourage one another to take care of themselves? Quite often, we are all in it together. But how often do we project these questions on to ourselves?

I look forward to reading Tony Crabbe’s book in depth. I no longer buy into the notion of teachers working every day, any hour during a term because, ultimately, they get their holiday reward at the end of a term. I spent the last holiday period sick. I didn’t see it as a reward but I was thankful for the opportunity to recover. But is that what those 2 weeks are really for?

Why do we keep pushing through when we are unwell? Why is being busy a badge? Why do some of us feel guilt when we take sick leave for common ailments? Why should my recovery from common illnesses be the same process as the workaholic? Most importantly, will I find myself walking into a busy environment on Monday morning apologising for the past 5 days? ‘No’, you might say. But I bet someone in this profession will be.

The View Of The Sick

The View Of The Sick

 

2 Regular Teachers Podcast Launch & Further Discussion

Last week Adam Lavars (another primary teacher and great friend) and I embarked on a podcasting project. Our aim is to share experiences from the frontline of primary teaching. Sure, we have a passion for ICT in the classroom but we still work in the public system like so many others, and consequently have to complete the myriad of other jobs and roles that come with being a classroom teacher these days. Our weekly podcast will aim to tell how it is through success and failure and everything in between.

We would love you to visit the blog and listen to Episode 1. There are a few ways to follow us on our journey:

Our Global2 Blog 

Subscribe to our Podomatic Feed

Subscribe via iTunes

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During our first episode we discussed the topic of homework. An often polarising topic. We were trying to work towards an understanding that homework should be something that is relevant, creative and an extension of the students’ learning for life. We are frustrated by the process of handing it out, checking when it is returned and the conversations that arise with students; not about their learning but more the admin side of “where is it?”, “why didn’t you complete it?”

Aaron Davis commented and pointed us to this article by Jason Borton in February this year. A great article and it has helped articulate my thoughts a little more. As well as what I have outlined above, below are my responses to Aaron’s comment and my reflections after reading Jason’s article.

 
I think we do mean the ‘flipped classroom’ to some degree. I hear what Sam Irwin was talking about too. Indeed, I’ve given much thought to the fact of students taking in information at home, becoming familiar with a concept, doing a tiny bit of immersion before they attend class the next day. But now I throw back to Jason Borton’s post that you mentioned in the comment. What about equity? Lots of kids have access to digital technology at home but not all. And we still have loads of parents that either don’t care about the continuation of homework each week or want traditional sheets each week.
At my school we send home sheets for maths frequently at this stage. This was a regular practice when I started there last year. I feel a little guilty about this as whilst at school we strive to not have a curriculum that is reliant on sheets and piles of photocopying.
Like Jason stated, we are the professionals and should be setting the standard.
One aspect of Jason’s article I wanted to comment on was the statement that “The last thing kids want to do when they get home from a long day at school is sit down for another dose of school and do homework.” My argument would be that if the school’s policy is to send homework home each week, then let’s make it a type of learning that is engaging and motivating for the students. If we could reach that ideal, then we wouldn’t need to even consider kids being stressed about getting ‘another dose of school’ at home because school is just part of their learning for life. And that is what we were trying to get at it in the discussion during Episode 1.

The IWB Slow Death

Ongoing saga at work for my colleagues (and me to a degree…but I know better) is the trials and tribulations of a rickety old IWB in each learning space. Dirty screens, poor light bulbs, ‘touch’ feature not working, inconsistent sound (if any) and…well..not much else. And two technicians that tend to avoid them at all costs.
I can’t recall the brand of IWB so perhaps I’ll check that tomorrow and add to this post.I think the reason I don’t recall the type and brand is that it doesn’t matter. A piece of technology that is fast becoming unnecessary.

Today I was reminded of  ‘s post last year about IWBs. I’ve posted the link HERE (hope that’s OK Rich!)

It’s worth a read. Not only have I never seen an IWB that is hooked up to a PC work perfectly in any of the classrooms I’ve worked in over 8 years, but I concur with Richard that it encourages old fashioned ‘stand and deliver’ teaching. Through my best intentions in trying to engage students with audio visual delights and a chance to manipulate an object, I’ve been guilty of standing up there on many occasions. But I refuse to say that it hasn’t been on my mind to adapt and find another way to create a lesson.

We have 1:1 Netbooks in the 5/6 unit. Until my arrival at the beginning of the year, they were used sparingly. That’s increased and I think we’ve made inroads.
To  break the consistent routine of waiting for the IWB to turn on, load, sort itself out, I’ve begun to ask the students to make their way through the necessary content and resources for a lesson through their own devices.
This week I’ve tried to move away from the front of the class. Instead of displaying content or working through instructions on a dying IWB, the students have been directed to immediately log in to our Edmodo space (some are still learning to bring their Netbook to every workshop!), access the content needed for the lesson in our Edmodo group; a YouTube clip, a document, a series of questions or a quiz. Students read and digest at their own pace whilst I can begin roving conversations as part of my introduction instead of standing and lecturing.
Alternatively, if I really need that larger display I have the option of wheeling over the Polycom for a sharp, crisp display that will never fade. (Got to get on to that…I can see it gathering dust!)
It may not sound new, but I bet many teachers are still standing, waiting and hoping for that old IWB to be repaired and ‘unleash’ its magic. I think we’ve all been a little fooled.

People have a range of opinions on the use and reliability of IWBs in schools. I’d love to hear yours…