So it is the end of the teaching year here in New Zealand. At my school we officially wrapped up last Friday for Christmas and the summer holidays! I thought it was a good time to reflect on the last teaching year and make some goals for 2020.
This was my first year teaching in NZ, and boy was it a huuuge learning curve! New school, new curriculum, new team, new students, new country! As a 3rd year teacher who had only worked in the same school for the last 3 years, this was scary. But it has also been incredibly valuable and has taught me a lot.
Reflections from 2019:
First of all: You can do this! Somehow I managed to drag my senior students through a totally alien assessment process, and achieve decent results, I’m taking that as a huge win. NCEA level 1-3 is a largely internally assessed system, something I am not used to being trained in the UK (the land where exams rule). It did mean more marking on my part, but it was pretty spread out over the year. It was also nice to know that most students had gained enough internal credits to pass level 1 before sitting their external exams. A bit less pressure for them.
Second: Kids will mock your weird accent. There was an amusing comment made during a period 5 year 10 lesson which always makes me laugh, ‘it’s kinda like being taught by Mary Poppins Miss!’
I will also continually be mocked for calling chips ‘crisps’, referring to ‘bank holidays’ instead of public holidays, and the way I pronounce data and vitamins is always chuckled at… If you can handle the constant banter, it is a great way to form relationships in the classroom, and I have to say, I have met some fantastic kids this year!
Third: The NZ curriculum is super vague, but you can make this work to your advantage, with a bit of creativity. If you like to teach content, then NZ is not for you. Here they are all about teaching skills, if you can get your students communicating, investigating, participating and understanding scientific principles, this is better than how well they can recite facts. This was a struggle for me at first. So used to churning out lessons based on all the content needed for exams. Here you can take a step back, look at what skills the students need, and pretty much cherry pick the content you want to use to teach that skill. (Note: This is true of junior science, senior science is a bit more structured around content, but not as much as the UK).
Goals for 2020:
Now that I understand more about how the curriculum works and the various processes associated with NCEA, I am looking forward to continuing to develop my teaching practice. I must admit, I think my practice has taken a hit due to dealing with so many new ideas and concepts. In particular I would like to focus on the following three areas:
- Behaviour management
- Improving literacy in Science
- Increasing use of peer and self assessment
My behaviour management has definitely dipped this year, I am frustrated that my lack of confidence in a new school allowed my standards to slip. I would say that having a fairly loose whole school policy has not helped. (My previous school had an iron clad behaviour policy!).
I think this is probably a trend that goes beyond my classroom, and the country, but students do not expect to do writing in science… They will happily write an essay in English, but will they write me a decent conclusion and evaluation?! Improving my strategies for teaching literacy in science is one area I would like to develop more. Helping students to feel confident in their report writing and increasing their own expectations of what scientific writing looks like.
Marking… Am I right?? I hate marking, and I understand how valuable it can be, however I can spend hours marking for students to barely even look at it… Enter peer and self assessment. I spent a good week doing some peer assessment with my year 9 science class towards the end of this term (see exemplar below). The response was so much better than when I had marked their work. So, I plan on increasing the time spent doing this in my class. Developing more ways for students to peer and self assess, and really embed it into the classroom culture of my classes.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog! Are you a teacher? How has your year been? Or how is it going so far? Leave a comment below 🙂