Get a cup of coffee.

This is even longer than the last post on the new Junior Cycle English specification!!!

Heaney conference

We began with Seamus. What better way to begin, with a room full of English teachers. Roy Foster (who did a beautiful job of remembering Seamus Heaney in the Guardian) inspired a recitation of “Clearances” by Declan O’Neill and for a moment we were all united by our love of language, of beauty, of genius.

Finian O’Shea, the keynote speaker, was wonderfully engaging, even when the questions he posed were challenging and sometimes downright scary. What do we do in an era when reading is in decline yet the literacy demands we face daily are ever on the increase? My mind immediately jumped to this article my husband John showed me recently (albeit UK based) stating that only 13% of parents read bedtime stories to their children every night. Only today our first year students completed a survey on their reading habits (we’re gathering baseline data for our Literacy and Numeracy Strategy) and a whooping 53% of them “rarely or never” read outside of school work. It’s enough to make a grown woman cry, particularly if that grown woman is an English teacher. However, it pays to remember that despite being beaten over the head repeatedly with Ireland’s poor showing in the most recent PISA rankings (as though we the English teachers were personally responsible for the ever diminishing prevalence of reading as a leisure activity in our society), not everyone agrees that PISA offers us anything useful at all, except a stick to beat teachers with.

Anyway, back to the conference. Finian offered the following list as the things we need to be thinking about as English teachers:

1. Literacy skills – explicitly teaching vocab. Understanding not just spellings. Checking for comprehension.

2. Texts – examine the meaning of the word ‘text’. Lots of information comes at us these days in a non-text based format. We NEED to engage with the digital space, to expose them and us to multimodal texts. To interrogate them.

3. Reading and writing skills – we’ve been fighting this battle for a long time fellow English teachers. Now is not the time to give up. Just gotta keep on keeping on.

4. Discussion and presentation skills – hence the new focus on oral skills in the specification for Junior Cycle.

5. Listening and viewing skills – this links in to the idea that “texts” now refers to more than just the printed word!

6. Critical thinking skills – it always comes back to learning to think and learning to learn.

He also spoke about the HOW of making this happen – the student as an active agent, learning as a developmental process, the importance of drawing on prior knowledge and experience, environmental based and local learning opportunities, guided activity, discovery and practice, gradually removing reliance upon the teacher, collaboration and cross-curricular links. This is a journey I’m on at the moment, day by day trying to be less the sage on the stage and more guide on the side for my pupils. I can tell you from experience, it’s a bloody steep learning curve, a kind of two steps forward, one step back marathon rather than an overnight transformation, but one which is bearing fruit, for the most part.

For further reading Finian suggested I read it but I don’t get it” by Chris Towani and “Babies Need Books” by Dorothy Butler (out of print). Given the stats above about how few parents read to their children every night, I think it might be the parents not the English teachers who need to read this latter gem!!!

The workshops part of the day included:

  • Planning for First Year English
  • Responding to poetry in the First Year Classroom
  • School Based Assessment and Moderation
  • Oral Language in the Classroom
  • Junior Cycle English in the Digital Age

Each of us signed up for two workshops and attended one before lunch and one after lunch. I enjoyed the “Oral Language in the Classroom” session but to be honest it felt more like in-service than consultation. Yes, we could all see the value of using multimodal texts in our classrooms, and the example of the “RTE Doc on One” series was welcomed by everyone in the room as a good starting point when seeking out texts.

JC conference

But we didn’t really get clarity around what the “oral presentation” might look like, nor did we get answers to what we felt were quite pressing questions:

  • can shy or weak students record their presentation or does it have to be delivered ‘live’ in front of peers?
  • can presentations be digital?
  • are group projects acceptable?
  • can oral interviews be used for assessment purposes?

For example, if students wanted to make their own collaborative radio documentary, could this be used for assessment purposes, even though each student must be assessed individually? The specification seems to contradict itself in that there is a focus on collaboration within the JC framework yet for assessment purposes each individual seems to have to offer work for assessment in a stand alone capacity.

Due to the phrasing of the specification, there is a danger that teachers will narrowly interpret the oral language presentation as only valuing students’ ability to stand in a room and speak. We wanted an answer to the question “is that all that counts?”. We wanted to know if pre-recorded (or re-recorded until they got it right) digital segments (podcasts and films and videos and poetry readings) would be acceptable but we got no definitive answers.

A kind interpretation says that’s because the consultation process was still open. A kind interpretation says they don’t want to be too prescriptive because that goes against the very spirit of the new Junior Cycle.

A more cynical view is that we got no answers because they simply don’t know – or worse still, they’ll leave it up to individual schools to decide for themselves! Then watch as schools end up competing with each other! Not good. Yet I want to have the freedom to make decisions locally based on what’s happening in my school and in my locality. I guess I can’t have it both ways!

So my final thoughts on the oral dimension of the new Junior Cycle spec are as follows: if I can do it my way, this part of the new spec really excites me but if the spec is left as it’s written, I have visions of classes up and down the country sitting listening to presentations for weeks on end as each one is delivered in real time to a restless, bored audience by disgruntled surly teens. God spare us this hell I say!

Lunch was a delightful encounter with familiar faces from INOTE – Fiona Kirwan and Mary Farrell and Roisin Moran and a lively chat with a few teachers and Junior Cycle Support Service peeps I hadn’t met before. As usual I talked way too much and I’m sure at least a few of them left the table thinking ‘thank God I don’t work with her, she never shuts up!’ but I’ve long since made peace with my verbal diarrhoea so what harm!

Also, if my comment about familiar faces above seems really cliquish, let me assure you I didn’t even join INOTE until 2011, it’s just once you chat to a fellow English teacher at a few events, most of the time it very rapidly feels like you’ve known them your entire life. We’re cut out of the same cloth us lot! To join the conversation (it’s not a clique, seriously. I’d never have gotten in if it was!) just sign up here: http://www.inote.ie/?page_id=371 and you’re in. The conference is coming up on the 19th October and as far as I know there are still a couple of places still available (schedule of events and bookings are available here:  http://www.eckilkenny.ie/inote/). Better still, join the closed facebook group for brilliant exchanges of ideas and resources. It’s got 226 members and is growing all the time!

After that I met up with some of my twitterati buddies @fboss and @levdavidovic and poor Fintan couldn’t get rid of me for the rest of the day!

Twitterati

We headed off to the workshop on Junior Cycle English in the Digital Age and I was delighted to meet more of my virtual twitter friends Kevin Cahill (who was giving the workshop) and Eoghan Evesson. Kevin gave an engaging, passionate and robust overview of where we’re at with tech and asked us to consider this in groups and suggest where we might go next. He’s a great public speaker, a fired-up educator and if I was back in school, I’d want to be in his class.

Again, if this sounds like a cult, I apologise, but twitter has offered me accessible and invaluable CPD from the comfort of my own couch for the past two years and I would truly be lost without it. If you want to lurk but not contribute, just go to www.twitter.com/search and type in #edchatie (it stands for ‘education chat in Ireland’) to see why I’m raving about it so much. I also got to sit with Patricia Maguire, who I’ve never met before, but she’s active on the INOTE facebook page and blew us all away last year when she described a project her students did to recreate Romeo & Juliet in real time on facebook. I was impressed with her virtual self already, and her real self is even more impressive, in a very modest, self-effacing way. She seems to do amazing things with tech in her classroom. To be honest, I just really wanted more time with these people to see what they’re doing in their classrooms and how they’re doing it. Teachers teaching teachers offers amazing scope for professional development and the teachers I met were the best part of my day.

Nonetheless, there are still massive problems to be overcome with integrating digital skills and using digital media in our classrooms. Our schools are under resourced when it comes to tech so parents are being asked to step into the breach, again; our teachers are crying out for more training; our equipment is in many cases falling apart and, almost comically in this day and age, we do not have IT technicians in our schools. We have a secretary and a caretaker but we do not have an IT technician in every secondary school in the country. Think about this for a second. What other organisation with in excess of 400 individuals in situ – in some cases 600, 800, 1000, 1,200 – is expected to just muddle through when the tech breaks down. It’s not comical, it’s tragic and insulting to our profession. Only the day after the conference my projector threw a wobbly and suddenly I was facing the prospect of teaching without my extra limb for who knows how long before the damn thing would be fixed again. We have a guy who comes in once a week. Praise be to Jesus he was in today and managed to fix it but if he had needed parts I’d have been at least another week teaching back in the stone age. I know this sounds like whinging; that’s because it is whinging. But it is legitimate whinging! Don’t ask me to integrate tech in my classroom and yet leave me wallowing in conditions that militate against my every effort. I need more devices, I need wifi in my classroom… I could go on but I won’t. Because I know what you’ll say – there is no money. Sigh!

One really positive aspect of the afternoon session (and there were loads – this was my favourite part of the day!) was that Kevin was able to give us more clarity around the oral presentation aspect of the new JC spec – basically, he asked if digital formats would be accepted and the answer, my friends, is YES!!!! Whoop, whoop! I almost hollered with relief at this news!!! Assessments can be digital – well hallelujah and amen to that 😉

The plenary session provided an overview of the consultation process thus far. I was going to offer a link so you could read the short and succinct interim report, but it’s disappeared off the juniorcycle.ie website, so, oh well! Never mind!

Basically Hal O’Neill said the draft specification wanted to assist teachers in making decisions about students’ progress which is why they had included annotated examples in the draft specification. I personally find the annotated examples a bit irritating and patronising. English teachers don’t have a major issue distinguishing between grades when assessing students work. We do it all the time. We know what an A looks like, and a B, and a C and a D. Our issue is not professional incompetence. Our issue is with extremely large class sizes and lack of time to offer the kind of individualised and focused feedback that everyone who knows anything about learning knows makes all the difference.

If you’ll humour me for a moment let me quote from my original response to the draft specification:

“to give each pupil I teach 10 minutes individualised feedback a week:

200 x 10 = 2000 mins or 33hrs 20 mins

Experienced teachers know that you can’t really offer this during class time – once the roll is done and an activity started (and this is assuming you don’t do any whole class teaching) you’d get around to 3 pupils maximum. That means neglecting 90% of the class while giving your attention to 10%. To assess and offer feedback on one piece of work would then take up ten class periods but to cover the curriculum you’d need to have long moved on from whatever that exercise was before ten classes had passed.

So my job starts to look like this:

22 hrs class teaching,
33 hrs corrections (but in reality, senior cycle essays take about 25mins to correct not 10 mins)
12 hrs class preparation (many weeks this is a vast underestimation)
5 hrs subject department/croke park/school self evaluation/literacy and numeracy/ICT
3 hrs extra-curricular
= 75 hour working week
= hospitalisation.

Anyone who knows anything about me at all knows that I am a complete workaholic, but even I know this isn’t healthy”.

I get really fed up when people suggest, either directly or indirectly, that it’s some kind of laziness on my part when I raise this issue or that my reluctance to assess my own pupils is somehow evidence that I’m not really ‘professional’ at what I do. That my concerns about paperwork are unfounded; that my anxiety over assessing neighbours kids and colleagues kids and maybe even some day my own kid is evidence that I’m some kind of luddite.

They do this in other countries you know, I keep being told.

I’m sure they do.

But this isn’t other countries.

This is Ireland.

We are very insular and very local and have a long history of bribery and corruption and brown envelopes and a pushy middle class who don’t care what they have to do to get ahead…

I’m not unprofessional.

I’ll tell you what I am.

I’m scared.

I’m scared my job will start to look like this: http://theuphillstruggle.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/an-open-letter-to-michael-gove/

I’m scared I’ll get so fed up I’ll want to leave teaching, the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do. And I know change is hard and I know change is inevitable and some of the change I really really see the value of and  I want to be at the centre of making the learning experience better for my students. But I wish we had more teachers, smaller classes, more resources, more training, more time. That’s not the fault of the NCCA. I like a lot of their vision for the future and I really like the trouble they’ve taken to offer real and meaningful consultation. Just this evening I was online for the webinar they organised to – yet again – hear the thoughts of English teachers on what we like and what we want clarified and what our concerns are.

It’s fair to say at this point if you’re an English teacher and you haven’t had any input into the draft specification for English, it’s your own bloody fault because you’ve had more than enough opportunities over the last few months. Maybe not in person – I know lots and lots of teachers who were irate not to get a place at the conference – but certainly online.

Speaking of which, when I arrived at the conference I had a few minutes of thinking I’d have to turn on my tail and leave, as I was a last minute addition to the list of attendees. They had no record of me at the desk and I had to pull out my email and prove that I wasn’t just a total chancer looking for a day off work. Instead of a printed name tag I had this little number but I was just grateful they let me in:

Badge

 

As I was taking my leave of Fred and Fintan, I got to speak briefly to Anne Looney. She’d read my feedback (I felt reassured that they’re listening!) and I joked about sneaking in, with my fake looking badge on show for all the world to see. Anyway, she didn’t kick me out or anything, she said she’d reserved a few places all along for teachers who had offered particularly detailed feedback on the draft specification. I guess mine was just so late arriving I only got in by the skin of my teeth.

By hook or by crook, I was glad I got to go even though it meant an insane week: Croke Park hours Monday evening; work then Dublin Weds/Thurs; work and funeral in Ennis Friday; and back to the big smoke on Saturday for TEDxDublin. No wonder it’s taken me this long to process the day…

POSTSCRIPT:

I’m putting this here because the comments section won’t allow me to embed photos:

To clarify: I taught for eight years without using any edtech. I like to think I did a pretty decent job. I would never in a million years judge another teacher’s methods, nor consider them a luddite or a dinosaur for not using tech.
However, if I’ve moved on and now prefer a blended approach, the system should keep up with me, not hold me back. If other teachers want to learn more, the system should support that, not hold them back.
Also, before some bizarre misconception around my relationship with books somehow becomes fact, I worked in The Best Bookshop in Ireland whilst in university and learned as much if not more about books in the shop as I did in college:
http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/best-shop-2013/best-bookshop-charlie-byrne-s-1.1518556
This is my study:

Syudy

And yesterday these arrived for our book club:

Book club

Love of tech and love of books compliment each other beautifully. They are not mutually exclusive.

 

 

23 Responses to J.C. Consultation Conference

  1. marc362 says:

    Detailed and thoughtful as always Evelyn: your energy overwhelms me! Thanks for the account of the day and discussions. Two points I’d like to make – or maybe three! Firstly, as I said on the INOTE page, there always has been an oral component to Junior Cert English, and the INTENTION was to have it as part of the exam but it never materialised. So forgive me if I’m a little cynical about your excitement in relation to this, particularly when there are as yet no defined or definitive answers regarding its assessment – you had to push for a response and it appears as though they gave you one “off the cuff”. Let’s see what really happens.

    Secondly, your points about smaller class sizes, the impossibility of giving individual feedback in any meaningful way, lack of resources etc are extremely valid and bang on the mark, so to speak. We have classes of 26 -30 mixed ability (and they are VERY mixed!) in Junior Cycle, 4 classes a week in 1st Year and (for the last 2 years) in 3rd Year: now we are being asked to introduce a new syllabus and approach at a time when we are facing further increased hours, more paperwork, and a mixed bag approach to the biggest overhaul of junior cycle education in 20+ years. How realistic is this? How far can you stretch the band before it snaps? (In LC we now have 5 large mixed level classes of 27-30 as well as one OL class. It doesn’t work well…).

    Thirdly, I am deeply deeply concerned that here we are, less than 12 months before this massive change is to be introduced, and we are still at the consultation stage! How ridiculous is this?! When and how is the In-service to be delivered? How on earth can every English teacher in the country be fully and adequately prepared to deliver this ground-breaking and comprehensive reform in LESS than 12 months? As well as prepare our current JC and LC students for their exams? I find it appalling that not only are we still waiting for In-service details, but that they are, realistically, nowhere near that stage – you were clearly guinea-pigs for the proposed methods and techniques, rather than just there to consult!

    Finally, (and you thought you were long-winded!), I too have grave concerns about the idea of teacher assessment and certification. The disadvantages are clear and obvious: the sole advantage that I can see – from the DES point of view, because I cannot see any advantage from ours – is the amount of money it will save. Of course, the SEC will surely suffer redundancies and cutbacks as a result. We already know the level of effort and time that goes into RE and CSPE projects – and how open to abuse the process can be – all I see in the new proposals is that magnified 10 times over. Students have to be pursued to complete them, it takes massive effort on the teacher’s part, and they are not valued. Students miss deadlines and are still permitted to submit work: what does this teach them? Imagine this a few times a year across multiple subjects. And when the student doesn’t get the grade their parent believes they should? I know that teachers lliving near to school are already susceptible to parents knocking on the door at night, or mysterious damage done to cars outside because someone’s unhappy about whatever has happened in school. Imagine when we are solely responsible for determining their final grade! Mind you, it probably won’t matter because the School Cert will have little value or merit beyond school anyway…

    Oh dear. I really don’t mean to sound so negative but I am very very worried about where we are going with this, particularly as it is being introduced in such a haphazard manner. That’s what really concerns me. I feel as though our young people are suffering the consequences of our economic difficulties, with this reform being rushed through without adequate preparation and provision. I loved the “new” LC course when it was introduced. Yes it was a challenge, but it was fresh and new and relevant. Although we inevitably had some queries during its introduction, the In-service had been great, the resources and guidelines were supportive, and of course it changed and developed – grew! – along the way but I felt there was a proper “shape” and form to it: this is different. I do think updating of the JC is necessary – but properly prepared, considered and thought through reform, not this rush to the finish!

    One last thing Evelyn – I take issue with your comment about being thrown back to the “Stone Age” when your projector broke down!! Hmmmm might need to consider your dependancy issues there…. 😉

    • Hey Mar,

      Here was my take on the day

      http://newenglishirl.blogspot.ie/2013/09/ncca-consultation-conference-for-jc.html

      I think if you didn’t like Evelyn’s take on the day you might not like my take on it much either! Just to, briefly!, address a few worries you outlined in your response to Evelyn’s post:

      1) ‘Mixed bag approach’ – I suggest you click the link below and have a look through the pictures. There are a lot of experienced educators working this course out. You might not agree with the Draft Specification but it is certainly coherently put together.

      https://twitter.com/JCforTeachers

      2) Time – The possibilities that the use of ICT in the classroom open up doesn’t take time, it should give you more time! If you’re worried you’ll be chasing kids for projects, ICT use has you covered…

      http://newenglishirl.blogspot.ie/2013/09/e-portfolios-on-kidblog-developing-21st.html

      3) 12 Months to lift off!- Yeah I’m scared too! But what would have been a realistic time-frame? This began 18 months ago. Would starting the course in September 2015 really help? Is there ever a point of total ‘readiness’ with something like this?

      4) Complete overhaul? – Yes the new course has many changes but you’ll still be able to Dulce Et Decorum Est. You’ll still be able to teach it the same way you always have. Use the same resources. The shape of your curriculum content plan and assessment methods will change but the baby isn’t getting thrown out with the bath water here. We’ll still be English teachers!

      You raise some important points in your reply Mar. If you have time to read my blog post you’ll see that we agree on some of them. I just hope we can have a balanced conversation as the new course is being introduced.

      • marc362 says:

        Thanks for the response:. Just to clarify:
        1. My concern lies in the fact – reinforced by both yourself and Evelyn – that the In-service still isn’t ready to be delivered and there is a lot to take onboard. Less than 12 months for development of and delivery of In-service and to allow us to effectively prepare individually and collectively for quite a different approach to the delivery and assessment of English is worryingly short timeframe.

        2. I have no problem taking on new texts etc – I enjoy it, do it all the time at LC! – and don’t just deliver Dulce et Decorum Est… The new assessment methods and the statements of learning etc need time to assimilate and put into practice: I want to feel some certainty in myself when I welcome the 1st Years next year and feel that I am giving them the best I can..

        3. It’s not the ICT that takes time in the classroom, that wasn’t my point at all, I mustn’t have been very clear there. (As I said, I am inspired by teachers like Evelyn who can do some much more than I’ve managed – and she’s always honest about the challenges mastering ICT poses.) We all know, from other subjects, that class-based assessments are not well valued or supported by many students or parents. It’s the teacher assessment of their pupils and the impact it has on that relationship and beyond that really concerns me, as you state in your blog. This concern applies to the JC itself, not just English.

        4. Re ICT, as you point out in your own blog, standards and competency vary widely: my point was that more needs to be invested in adequate training to support teachers who need it, particularly when it is becoming a core element across the curriculum. Money is invested in equipment but not in whole staff training. I enjoy using ICT – I’m not the most skilled or proficient but I’m willing to learn, especially from my students!

        5. I gave my take on things at the moment, as part of the discussion. I don’t intend to appear unbalanced on the topic but I am genuinely concerned: I’m not the only one. And it’s not about just resisting change – as I said I loved and embraced the new LC English course, still do, including its challenges – and I agree with you about the mismatch between JC and LC, which also needs to be addressed – it’s worry that significant changes are being introduced and we’re not really being adequately prepared for them. Where will that lead us. and our students?

        (Sorry Evelyn for comandeering your blog – but thanks for the opportunity to discuss all this!)

  2. Conor Murphy says:

    I agree with everything said in the above reply.
    The main problem with this whole endeavour is that it is being instigated on the need to save money, and not on the needs of our student’s education. Teacher assessment is at the core of the proposals and seems to be the only definite aspect of the new JC. That says it all.
    The consultation process wasn’t as inclusive as you seem to think. Maybe I missed all the meetings in my local Education Centre and all the visits to my school, but the only contribution I had was through a controlled on-line survey, which I only heard of through the INOTE Facebook page. Not every teacher is online and those that are don’t go searching for the opportunity to asses the work of the NCCA.
    It is nice to hear that the NCCA are taking their job seriously, but then again they really should be, it would be nicer to hear that they had a definite plan and knew what they were doing. Actually it would be nicer to hear that they knew what they wanted me to do!
    This was a great opportunity to revamp the old JC for the modern age, both in terms of the Digital world and in terms of attempting to up the standard of ‘traditional’ literacy. It appears that that opportunity is disappearing rapidly.
    Finally, I also agree with the above comment about your dependency on IT. Really? ‘Stone Age’? Please rethink that statement. Think about what is in your hand for most of the English class (I’m hoping its a book!).

    • Books are absolutely forbidden in my classroom. If I see one I bless myself, grab my crucifix and some garlic and prepare to stake em through the heart!

      Seriously though I’m a big believer in visual aids “students appear to benefit most from mixed modality presentations, for instance using both auditory and visual techniques for all students” cf Coffield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E., Ecclestone, K. (2004). Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning. A systematic and critical review. London: Learning and Skills Research Centre.

      • Conor Murphy says:

        Hahaha. Or is that supposed to be lol? Can never get it right.
        Visual aids are all very nice and I use them, with audio aids, as well, but ultimately I’m teaching a lot of book based texts and I want my students to engage with them, not with an image next to the text or up on an advanced over head projector. Studies are great, experts are interesting, but I would like to think that text is king in my English class. I realise this makes me old fashioned, out of touch, behind the times, uncool(saying uncool in intrinsically uncool) etc etc etc.
        I want my students to read. Most of my classes take the form of reading followed by discussion where everyone talks, debates and disagrees with me, and each other. (I also do all the group work, pair work, role play etc etc but the core is the above)
        This sounds over aggressive, and I don’t mean to be. I suppose my point is that we shouldn’t all of a sudden turn our back on traditional forms of teaching, of personal interaction with the students. We should use IT, but also use ourselves, our knowledge, passion and our ability to engage the student with the words on the page.
        Having said all that I have a fundamental belief in the autonomy of the teacher in choosing the pedagogy that best suits them, it’s not for me to tell you how to teach your class, nor you me. That is what makes teaching in this country great. The differences. How two teachers can take the same poem and approach it in two completely different ways. I hope that that never changes.
        And I hope your magic machine never breaks down.

  3. Very well put Evelyn, I’m also scared, as are most of my colleagues. We’re trying to stay positive but yes, this is another case of “more for less” and all the spin in the world won’t change my mind. And totally agree that it’s nuts they haven’t made their minds up yet and we’ll be teaching this in less than a year. You’d also wonder what quality the inservice coming up could possibly be, since they’re still deciding what it’ll be on.
    My own thoughts are here: http://stepstowardsthemountain.blogspot.ie/

  4. Orla drumgoole says:

    What an informative and interesting thread Evelyn – thank you. I agree with you that technology is a wonderful addition to our bag of tricks as teachers while Conor I also agree with your comment regarding text – it is king for me. However we need to capture the minds of all of our students in mixed ability teaching especially and technology helps in that respect – with the ultimate aim of engaging all the class in textual intimacy as it were!!!
    It would indeed be wonderful if we could all go to each other’s classes to be the students again and learn from each other. I guess that is why I love technology – my students get to hear many opinions regarding a text, see many different visions of a poem for example – case in point when we watched YouTube clips of Robert Friday’s poems before we opened the poetry book – my students were intrigued by the interpretations found there and ate now working through their personal reflections on each.
    This is refreshing – oh to have time to just engage in this more often but corrections call, class notes for music, pr work for school open afternoon, class teacher admin etc and so on and so forth………
    Oh yes! Individual teachers assessing their own students in a town with nine schools all vying for the same cache of pupils – should make for interesting times ahead!!!!!

  5. Orla drumgoole says:

    Frost – hate predictive text!

  6. marc362 says:

    I was wondering about the new addition to the LC course Orla! LOL (as Conor would say…). Conor, I agree with your comments about the text being central – and before Evelyn has a heart attack because of all the dinosaurs stomping around her blog! Actually, Evelyn’s presentation at last year’s INOTE conference was inspiring as well as enjoyable and I did venture further as a result – though I’m still experimenting with blogs and I must have the fewest Tweets ever on an account! – but I LOVE being encouraged and inspired by other teachers who are innovative and experimental.

    I also LOVE picking up a textbook and thumbing through it with my students. Don’t get me wrong, I use my digital projector and find YouTube and other sites an absolute boon in the classroom – and beyond – but I realised at some point last year that my classroom, with the emphasis on books, has become the more novel experience as the students are exposed to so much IT in other classrooms. So I don’t apologise for it. As Conor says, it’s the combination that counts, and we need to embrace all techniques, not throw away the old simply because it IS old! And I still use paper, scissors and magazines with the students to create posters and display work.

    I have an interactive whiteboard but absolutely no idea how to use it effectively – the “training” consisted of a brief talk and demonstration at a full staff meeting when they were fitted in every classroom (because the grant had to be used). What a waste of money. Not the boards, they’re brilliant when you can use them, but the lack of any genuine training so that they can be used effectively. Even a manual would do – I;m quite good at working my way through them – but no.

    Which brings me back to the JC… without full and effective In-service BEFORE the reforms are introduced, it will end up being more of the same: good teachers frustrated because they have to muddle through. Not. Good. Enough.

    • Please see my postscript above. No heart attacks but I love books and I love teachers and I’d hate anyone to think otherwise simply because I also love edtech…

      • marc362 says:

        Didn’t mean to imply that Evelyn by any means! Dinosaur ref was joke only. Love your study…

        • thanks mar x think a long long week has just finally caught up with me! ah well, thank crunchie it’s Friday tomorrow 😉

          • Conor Murphy says:

            I kinda presumed you read books as well as e-stuff. Just do me two favours please,
            1. No more phrases like ‘stone age’ when referring to non-edtech teaching. It sounds condescending (which I know you don’t mean) but worse than that is that you come across as one of those born-again-runners/cyclists. God those guys tick me off. Mid life crisis in their mid thirties!
            2. Your study. How do I put this…. It’s a health and safety disaster. All those board games and those boxes teetering on the edges of the top shelves. As for the ladder…Sort it out.
            What is worse though is that the books are clearly not in alphabetical order, never mind by genre. I can’t even look at the picture anymore. My left foot keeps twitching and I’m getting a pain behind my right eye. Please, please tidy it up. Put some order into it. I have a picture on my twitter account (@conorsmurf) of my study. Look at it. Look at the order of it. Feel shame!

          • Now I am more convinced than ever that we could achieve greatness if we got to team teach. The calm and the storm as it were!
            Also, there are advantages to messiness!
            http://www.forbes.com/sites/dalebuss/2013/09/19/messy-deskers-unite-new-study-hints-that-were-more-creative/

  7. Sinead says:

    Just a quick reply to say I enjoyed reading your post, Evelyn. It is food for thought. I feel like an old fogey at times in the classroom, it can get confusing where we are all going and sometimes it’s difficult to gain insight into your own teaching. All I know is I want my baby daughter to have a chance to love English like I do but I don’t know if that’s possible when you read that almost 50% of children never read outside the classroom. Sometimes it can feel like banging your head against a brick wall.

    I also don’t know where you get your energy from! Well done! As an English teacher I know how rubbishly put together this is but hey!

  8. Sinead says:

    “Oh yes! Individual teachers assessing their own students in a town with nine schools all vying for the same cache of pupils – should make for interesting times ahead!!!!!”

    Am I total numpty that I don’t get this? How will this competitive streak arise? Do you mean that when a school achieves great J.C results parents will want to send their children there?

    • Orla drumgoole says:

      Exactly Sinead!! There is always a perception of “the” school to go to – in my opinion this will only exacerbate this issue!! Lucky you if you are not in such a competitive town!! Will al schools be noble and honest? Will all teachers be able to give little Peter an NG which he deserves with Dad and his cronies reminding you that they know where you live!!
      Obviously. I am an English teacher who borders on the more imaginative notions of what this could mean for us – but that is a very real possibility for teachers in tough schools all around the country. ………..

  9. thedj4461 says:

    re : “can shy or weak students record their presentation or does it have to be delivered ‘live’ in front of peers?” It would be up to your discretion I’d say. I am interested in ” last year when she described a project her students did to recreate Romeo & Juliet in real time on facebook” could you give a link please 🙂

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