Wordless Wednesday

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Two words that mean the most to a teacher… Thank You!

After all these posts about gratitude and writing about all the things I am grateful for I was delighted to receive this message from the mother of an ex student –

Just to let you know…my son got 99.90 ATAR score – thankyou for inspiring him to reach his potential! 

What is so special about this message is actually not the amazing score, although it is a phenomenally good score!

It’s not even the incredible talent of this young man, and he is incredible!

What is amazing to me is that I taught this boy SIX years ago! He was in Year Seven and wasn’t even in my class. I selected him for an extension group designed to challenge underachieving boys and worked with him for about two hours per week.

Now… six years later I receive this message as he graduates High School.

If ever a teacher had a doubt…

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

– Henry E Adams

Below you can see the article showing my old school and how well they done on the league tables this year. No wonder with the incredibly talented group of boys in that class!

I can’t wait to see what they bring to the world in the future… it promises to be mind blowing.

Back to School and HABA

Whilst enjoying the break over the summer holidays I am also busy preparing for the new school year. The website is nearly ready and the virtual shelves are being stocked with all manner of excellent and exciting handpicked resources.

The shop is coming together nicely and I am very pleased to have been approved as a distributor for HABA. They have an exquisite range of beautiful wooden toys and resources suitable for at home as well as for use in Child Care centres, pre schools and the early learning classroom.

My dear colleagues and critical readers have been busy checking over the lesson plans and units of work I am publishing and I have been delighted by their overwhelmingly positive feedback. The team of writers is growing and we are proud to be producing some innovative and differentiated units of work for 2012.

I’d love to send out some free samples of the units of work.

If you are teaching an Upper Primary class this year contact me for a great FREE unit on Antarctica. It ties in well with any study of Sustainability and is interdisciplinary as it brings together English, Science, History and Geography.

If you are teaching a Lower Primary class this year contact me for a great FREE unit on Procedure Writing using the fabulous book by Carol Goess and Tamsin Ainslie, ‘Can We Lick The Spoon Now?’.

Now, it’s off to the beach. Time to enjoy some more of the summer holidays while we can!

Inspired by Reggio Emilia

 

I am busy preparing to publish a series of lesson plans and units of work on my soon to launch website: www.linchpineducation.com.au

In preparing the work I was reflecting on the process a teacher goes through when designing a unit of study and I got to thinking about my experiences of Reggio Emilia.

A city called Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy has given rise to a whole movement in early childhood education known commonly as the “reggio approach”. Some years ago I was fortunate enough to visit that city and the centre which gave rise to this educational change in many Australian pre schools.

My visit to Reggio Emilia was one which has remained with me for many years and has certainly added a new dimension to the way I teach. At the very heart of Reggio Emilia and its approach to education is the absolute and profound belief in the potential of the child. The teacher and the parents become guides on the child’s journey and the environment is regarded as the third teacher. The interrelationship between child, parent, teacher and the environment is fundamental to the success of this approach.

The Child

The rights of the child are celebrated and appreciated. The child is viewed as being competent, capable and full of potential. In Reggio Emilia I saw children socialising, learning, growing, developing and constructing knowledge with the support of the adults in their lives. These children demonstrated creativity, sensitivity and awareness of the world around them.

The Parent

The presence of the parent in the child’s education is highly valued. Close collaboration between the parents and the school is believed to enable a broader and more complete picture of the child. Loris Malaguzzi of Reggio Emilia believes this is the best way to ensure a quality education.

The Teacher

The teacher in Reggio Emilia is a co-constructor of knowledge. Starting with the child’s own theories and questions it is the teacher’s task to challenge and provoke the child in order to facilitate new learning. The teacher at Reggio Emilia works alongside pedagogical coordinators and parent committees to ensure that educational content, standards and requirements are met. If the child shows an interest in a particular topic it is not simply the task of the teacher to assign it as a project for all students to complete. Rather, it is her/his job to discuss the topic with colleagues, explore its merits, map it against the educational outcomes and create a learning experience of value.

The Environment

In Reggio Emilia schools are viewed as living organisms. Their physical layout and structure is believed to have a great influence on the learning that takes place. Students need space to gather in small groups. They need space to move and be free. They require an array of materials with which to work. Reggio Emilia is a place where a feeling of belonging is essential for all – child, teacher and parent.

The Work

Schools adopting a reggio approach often engage in a lot of project work. Whilst projects are important they are part of a much greater and more complex system. It is actually documentation that is the key in Reggio Emilia. Teachers are looking for ‘moments of value’ and it explained as watching for “the ants instead of always waiting for the elephants” (Amelia Gambetti-Reggio Children).

A school claiming to be adopting a reggio approach will provide endless samples of conversations, interactions between teacher and student, notes, recordings, work samples, photographs, drawings and illustrations. But far more important than that is the expert insight into those records offered by the teachers. Reggio teachers are skilled at observing children and use those observations to analyse understanding.

Documentation is the primary research tool for examining the child’s learning processes. In Reggio Emilia documentation takes place daily and it gives meaning to the children’s work. It also determines future projects, creates a log of work done and generates momentum to get the project done.

The walls of the classrooms that I visited in Reggio Emilia were covered with documentation of the current work. The interactions, recordings, images and objects were present and served as a daily reminder of the learning goals and processes in the school. The learning was alive and dynamic. There weren’t pristine posters and instructional texts adorning the walls. Rather there were plans for a bird house scribbled on the back of an envelope with a long transcript pasted next to it outlining the conversation between the teacher and the child about the need for a bird house and his ideas for the design. Below were a collection of photographs and pictures ripped from magazines showing birds and their homes across the world. Seated on the floor in front of the wall was a group of small boys busily trying to reconstruct a nest using drinking straws and twine. The teacher was recording them on the video camera in order to capture their conversation and plan accordingly for tomorrow.

What does it mean for me?

I was completely inspired by my visit to Reggio Emilia and excited by the decision of many schools to adopt this approach for the early learning centres. I believe that it celebrates children and empowers them without removing responsibility for their education from their teachers and parents. I still refer back to my experiences in Reggio Emilia when planning units of work to ensure I remain focused on who my work is for. The interest of the child and their wonder about the world is always a driving force. So too is my innate awareness of the individual needs of students and the opportunity all children need to show what they can do in their own way.

A little note for parents:

In exploring options for my daughter and faced with the task of choosing a school I would welcome a school that was empathetic with the reggio approach and inspired by it. After all, the heart of this approach is to encourage educators to question the very purpose of education and the way they do it. However, I don’t believe there can be a reggio school anywhere but in Northern Italy in a little city called Reggio Emilia and I would question any school claiming to be a “Reggio School”.

Educate Empower Change

Educate. Empower. Change. Could there be three more powerful
words in the development of a new country? South Sudan became the world’s
newest nation on the 9th July 2011 and last night I was inspired by
the work of two young women, Liz Noonan and Lara Warren, at the Baobab Dinner
for Educate Empower Change Australia. These two young women are working to
empower the people of South Sudan and Tanzania through education and training.

The Baobab Dinner was held at the NSW Parliament House and
guests included Former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, the current Treasurer
of NSW Mike Baird MP as well as many other significant members of the NSW
cabinet.

Long after the evening was over I can’t help but think about
the dedication and commitment of two young women who appear to be capable of
anything. The words of Lara and Liz resonated through my mind throughout the
day today and I was reminded once again of the power of a teacher to make a
difference in the world.

The keynote speaker was the Former Foreign Minister,
Alexander Downer, and he reminded us all that, “the most important way forward
for developing countries is through Education”. I was impressed by his honest
recollections of time spent visiting developing countries, handing out cheques
on behalf of the Australian people. He reflected upon a variety of projects but
reminded us that the work of people like Liz and Lara is critical in the
development of nations such as South Sudan. Education is the way forward.

I’d highly recommend a visit to the website so you can learn
more about EEC Australia. I didn’t know anything about them before being
invited to attend last night and after their presentation I feel compelled to
spread the word. There is nothing more inspiring than two highly intelligent, well
educated, beautiful and eloquent young women who have been given every
opportunity and have made the choice to dedicate their lives to making a
difference in the world.

As educators we have the opportunity to change the world
every day. In every lesson we teach and in every word we speak we have the
chance to influence the future through the education and empowerment of our
students. It is a major responsibility and one we shouldn’t take lightly.

Find out more at http://educateempowerchange.org/

Welcome to Linchpin Education!

So what is a linchpin?

A linchpin is defined as “a fastener used to prevent a wheel or other rotating part from sliding off the axle its riding on.” It’s also commonly referred to as “a person or thing vital to an enterprise or organisation”.

When deciding upon a name for our new company we wanted a name that would encapsulate our desire to bring together quality teachers and quality schools in the pursuit of quality learning. We want to be vital to the organisations we serve. We want to provide the solutions needed in times of change to help stop the wheels falling off. We want to be the linchpin.

Linchpin Education is working to design and develop innovative approaches to educational issues. Whether it be managing teacher absences, planning for quality learning and assessment or assisting parents to support their children with the latest research and resources. We look forward to sharing our discoveries with you.