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I have been doing workshops in different levels for a few years now. I started experimenting with a senior grade and have spent the last few years developing with a team in juniors. So what have I learnt? Stopping and reflecting is still one of the most powerful tools in an educator’s toolbox. If I am being honest, I still love so many elements of them but there is still a long way to go. I don’t think that anyone will ever get the perfect workshop system. There are some great systems that I have seem but I can still see pitfalls in many of them. So what are the current barriers that I experience in workshops.
“Wow it must be nice to have holidays and finish at 3:30”. There it is. That statement that we all hear from most people when you share that you are a teacher. There are so many common misconceptions about teaching and most people think that it is like every other industry, that it is just a job. It has benefits and most people seem to focus on those aspects of the job. We know teaching is not a normal job. It is a unique job, that is one of the most incredibly stressful jobs on the planet. Trying to explain to people how different teaching is, is one of the most challenging parts of any social conversation. People have all had an experience of school and like it or not, school is one life experience that defines people. So, they often feel very passionate about having their say. I can’t tell you the amount of times people share their own school experiences when you say that you are a teacher. Often or not, sadly they are not all positives. The negative teachers or experiences stick with people more vividly. So, what exactly is it that makes our job so different from a normal job? After all, plenty of other people deal with customers or have negative reviews or experiences but it doesn’t seem to have the same impact. Why? Here are a few reasons that I can think of:
1. Relationships: there are so many complex and deep relationships that develop on a daily basis. We are in a unique position where we don’t just know students but we often need to get to know their parents, grandparents, siblings and children in other grades and year levels. On top of that you need to know your own colleagues and people in the surrounding community. My husband often laughs when I say that I have had conversations or talked to over 100 people during my day. By 11:00 in the morning, I had often chatted to numerous colleagues, parents and then of course the kids in the class, workshops and then on yard duty.
2. Most precious cargo: what is the one thing that families and parents value most in the world? Their kids of course! So as teachers, we see some parents advocate loudly for their kids, nervous parents and parents who are simply trying their hardest. We experience the range of emotions that come with different stages of parenting. We deal with a range of parenting styles and because everyone has an experience of school, we also have many ideas being thrown our way. Our job is unique because we deal with the most precious resource of the future: kids.
3. Minimal protection: in most jobs, there are things like security, human resource managers and barriers that put space between people such as counters or desks. Teaching offers little of that. There is exposure to people all day and minimal space barriers. Kids can access your things, parents can line up at your desk as soon as you walk in the door, you can get on the spot bookings, be available by email at any time and of course often you are alone. I have seen and heard too many teachers in vulnerable positions. Teaching is a job that needs to look at better support structures and procedures for staff.
4. No overtime or late night double pay: people sadly assume that when teachers stay at late night events, parent nights, interviews, school events, meetings or sports functions that they are paid. They are not. This is one area that I feel really separates teachers from other industries. I don’t know many industries where people are not paid for their overtime. Teachers stay overnight at camps for free, stay back for parent meetings free and attend school events free. Yes we get holidays. Holidays are often the time when we catch up on things that we cannot do during a term such as attend appointments or book to see people during the day.
So before we put teachers in a bowl and mix them with other professions, remember that teaching is a unique role. A job that cannot really compare to other jobs. Our job is one of a kind and let’s not compare teaching to other jobs because in my eyes, it’s not like other jobs. Maybe you have some of your own reasons and viewpoints so feel free to share. #TwoCreativeTeachers #teachingisnotlikeotherjobs
Clarity and expectations in the classroom and all areas of learning are essential. As part of our enhancing your Catholic classroom advice, the third article today will be on using prayer goals. Like all learning areas, children respond better when it is clear what they are working towards. Religion is no different. Children do not automatically know how to prayer, to calm their body and be ready for prayer. They also need to be taught how to engage in a Christian meditation as part of prayer. The clearer the expectations, the more supported children will feel. Here are few things that I have recommend implementing at prayer or meditation time:
1. We enter and leave a space quietly: even if that space is in a hall, a classroom or even over the speaker, there must be an expectation that children treat the time respectfully. Often when students enter and leave calmly, it adds to the sense of ritual.
2. Focus on an object: it is very hard for children to close their eyes during prayer. It feels like a long time frame for some little people and it is important that we help them out. Lighting a candle and reminding them that Jesus is here is a great focus point. It also begins to support children in calming their bodies ready for prayer.
3. Expect participation: participation in a prayer service can vary. It could be singing, listening or completing jobs. This is an important goal as children learn that it is not just entering a space and sitting quietly. Part of prayer is being present and engaged.
4. Expect responses in an appropriate clear voice: This is one of my favourite goals that I like to push. Often in prayer, responses can be mumbled or quiet. Students need to be taught that this doesn't enhance the prayer experience. When children are expected to respond in a firm voice at an appropriate volume, the tone of the prayer session often changes.
5. Students are responsible for the prayer space: this is a shared community space. It is beneficial to guide the children towards taking responsibility for the space.
6. Stay in one spot and keep your hands and feet to yourself: an obvious one but there is nothing worse than a beautiful prayer session changed because children are getting up or touching things around them. This is one of the goals that I think is non negotiable.
7. Think about what is being said: in order to do this, students often need prompting questions or instructions during a prayer service. I like this goal because it moves children towards engaging in prayer. A quick way to check if children are thinking during a prayer session is simply to pose questions after and check to see what they have understood. Over the years, I have been surprised by the deep insight or lack of insight.
Prayer is an important time. Children don't just know how to pray. They need to be shown, motivated and taught. I find that setting observable and measurable goals is one way to depth a prayer session. To help, I will attach a link to the ones of the posters that we use in the classroom. #prayergoals #religion #catholicschool #twocreativeteachers
Prayer teams are one of the best things that my community teaching partner and I have introduced and developed. The concept isn't new at all. We have adapted a few things as teachers do and cannot believe how amazing these little kids do with the prayer space. They have created some truly beautiful prayer space and have the setting up and packing up down to an art. I could not be prouder of them. You may have some great tips and strategies to share with us as well. Here are a few things that I think strengthened our teams:
1. Have clear expectations of how the space needs to be treated: my team teacher and I have been crystal clear from the start that this is a ritual act that needs to be treated seriously. It is an important job and that means it needs to be treated with respect. W spent a lot of time modelling how to set up the space.
2. The materials need to be treated with the utmost care and respect: we focussed on how each item that they prayer team has access to needs to be treated and handled with care. This included even how the cloths need to be treated. It is amazing to see 6-8 years old fold silk cloths like a seasoned expert. We haven't had any broken objects in the two years since we started this.
3. Make them the experts: it has become a job of tradition in the community. Each new prayer team sets that standard and the one after follows. The children become the teachers and they show others what needs to be done and how. Some days when I sit back and watch the handover between these teams, I am amazed at the level of expertise. The kid talk about church seasons, folding cloths, placing appropriate items. When you have a few of the same children the next year, the tradition is continued. Even getting kids who have changed grades to come back and share knowledge helps.
4. Encourage creativity: some of the ideas that kids have blows me away. There placement of items, selection of objects and visually design on the floor is stunning some days. As soon as kids have the freedom to create, each group seems to bring something new and it keeps the space inviting and exciting.
5. Get all the kids to watch how the prayer team packs up and where they place items: after we do our gratitudes, we always get the community to watch as the prayer team packs up. It creates a sense of ritual and shows how items are treated with respect. It also seems to create a sense of togetherness and that we are all responsible for our prayer space.
Prayer teams are a wonderful way to help develop a sense of faith responsibility among students. It gives them a sense of pride in their faith and encouraged participation in prayer. I hope that these few tips help people to strengthen their prayer teams. The thing that gives me the most joy is watching the sense of teamwork and pride that kids show in their faith.
Setting up a morning prayer routine
Part One: the prayer table or space
Setting up a prayer space in a Catholic or Christian school is important. It is a visible sign of faith and it shows that faith is valued. It is often challenging to know what to put in a prayer space. When I started teaching, this wasn't something that was explicitly taught. I made many mistakes over the years and I am hoping to give you some simple things that you can do to enhance your prayer table or space in your classroom.
Don't use it as another table to place things on: I must admit over the years, kids books, water bottles, sheets of paper and all other bits and bobs have been placed on my prayer table. This shows that the space wasn't valued. That it was just another table. If you want to create a sense of the sacred then the space and yes the table, need to be treated with respect.
Find one to two appropriate icons: some of the icons around are very doom and gloom or too intense for young children. Icons depicting Jesus as a shepherd, a guide or light make the space vibrant, inviting and positive for children to look at. I know this sounds obvious, but children will be much more inclined to use and look at the prayer table if it is inviting.
Have a battery operated candle in the centre of the space: the candle will give children a point to focus on during prayer times and will also remind them that Jesus is with them when they pray. The matches and lighting of candles can often be time consuming and draw away from the actual prayer. After all, who wants to sit there and watch a teacher trying to light a candle for 5 minutes?
Try and place a cloth that matches the church season on the table: our Religious Education leader taught me this and I love the idea. Having the matching cloth with the Church season invites awareness and discussion among the children.
Make the children responsible for the table: my community teaching partner and I find the children more inclined to engage with the space when they are responsible for it. We have a prayer team and in the next article, I will share what the prayer team do and how we developed one.
Display the prayers: the most obvious one as children, especially young children or new children still need help learning the prayers.
Having a central prayer table or space set aside for display is a beautiful, visible way to engage children in prayer as well as remind them that their faith is important and valued.
It’s hard to believe. Your sleeping in, relaxing, reading and then BAM. Those dreaded words start to appear on TV. Ads scream “Back to school”. It is a rude awakening. Your mind starts to race and fills with all of those things that you need to and haven’t done. The guilt over leaving things too late sets in. Trust me, after 16 years, I know these feelings well. It does get a tiny bit easier with experience (not too much). Some teachers like this time, some don’t. I am firmly in the I don’t camp. However, I do survive. I will survive. Here a few things that I find helps at this time of year:
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If only we could all turn back time. There are so many things that I wish that I could tell my first year self. Being a graduate is stressful and confronting. The reality is that university doesn’t always properly prepare you for the harsh yet rewarding truth. It is not the university systems fault. They try and give graduates in Australia many real life experiences. In Australia, graduates are also supported in their first year out. I, like many of you, work with graduates. People who want to make a difference and are excited to start their teaching journey. I hope that by sharing some of these tips, I can provide some simple ways that can keep you motivated and positive. These tips can also be used for other first year jobs.
No matter what, you will always remember your first grade. Doesn’t matter if it is mostly positive or the opposite, you will still remember it. There are definitely things that you could always do differently or try. Hopefully, some of the above tips have something that you could try and remember. After all, the first year is still one of the most memorable. The last thing that anyone wants, is to remember someone who doesn’t step up and complete their fair share of the work. Or a person who walks in and complains. Graduates, what would you like to really know? Teachers, think about what tips you wish that you could share with graduate teachers. (Besides get out while you can!) #twocreativeteachers #graduate #teacher #education #firstyeartips
Parent teacher conferences are a necessary requirement of the job. Many parents do not see the anxiety, stress and headaches that come with meeting new families. Equally, the worry that comes with the dreaded call or email that says “Can I catch up with you?”. Hopefully today I can give you some sure fire tips to improve your chances of having a successful parent teacher conference, meeting or interview.
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Annette Palma and Carley Rogozik/ Dawson