Monday, June 12, 2017

No longer teaching, what am I not missing? Abuse.

Was thinking I'd give writing about teaching a rest, seeing as I'm no longer teaching. In fact, apart from the normal life and death vicissitudes which continue to assail me, I'm finding my stride as a non-tax paying person who exists in the twilight demographic. That is, the advertising directed my way is no longer suggesting I can lose belly fat if I stay away from 'these' foods. Now it's about selling me a cruise on a European river, retirement accommodation or funeral insurance,

I've always loved teaching. Or so I thought. Trawl back through this blog and you'll get a sense of it. If you're a passionate sort of person who likes other people's kids and wants to see them learn and develop, teaching is a good job. So why was I so relieved that my own kids didn't become teachers? I was relieved in the same way as when I found out that neither of them was likely to develop Type 1 diabetes, which I have. I could handle it but I didn't want them to have to suffer. (Suffer. What is with that word? I've done a quick definition check and the word fits, for both teaching and having diabetes.)

Not having taught for six months now, a weight has lifted. Basically, I feel like I've left an abusive relationship. You know how people get caught in a cycle of abuse? Battered women return to their abusers. They go back because that abuse feels normal. Well, don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that was me and teaching. I never developed the thick hide you need in that job. I took things personally: a strength and a weakness.

I found a notebook from twenty years ago. I'd been teaching part-time on a contract at a private college. Parent-teacher interviews were happening. This is what I wrote:

I'm at the back of an empty class room waiting for two parents to arrive in twenty-five minutes. The grey carpet has ground-in mud stains. The clock ticks, the desks are grey. So much energy was released into the room during the last two lessons. I found myself getting personally distressed. Fuck, I kept saying in my head. I wanted to call the kids names; to vent my spleen. How remarkably controlled my own children seem because they are trained the way I like them. [Why lie? They were nine and ten. I didn't know the half of it.] Turd, I wanted to say to a boy in the front who seems spoilt; a polished good looking boy; so capable of both work and rudeness. As I try to settle the class some students call out into the quiet I'd created for an instant. It's as if silence is not allowed; silence must be filled; every bit of air space must be utilised. They look like young adults yet they behave like two year olds, out of control, throwing tantrums, unable to sort out their ideas. So many demands.

Was quite earnest back then, at least in my notebook. Utilised! Like to think I've lightened up over the years. That was a year 8 class and if memory serves we'd just had a double period of geography. The fact that I wasn't a geography teacher could go some way to explaining why that particular lesson was going badly.

I've taught masses of wonderful students over the years. But when I think of potentially returning to teaching next year, it's the oppositional defiant disrupters who come to mind. Don't think I want to go there.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Essential reading when missing school

Mixed emotions about my decision to leave teaching, Anxiety levels high. Like a balloon spluttering around the room cos some idiot didn't tie a knot in it. The balloon, not the room. Have had flashes of panic, heart pounding, wondering whether giving up the security of fortnightly pay, routine, students and teachers who've become friends is a huge mistake.

I'm Red in Shawshank Penitentiary. (I've written about The Shawshank Redemption here.) There's a telling shot of Red amongst the gravestones. Andy's already made his great escape. Red's 'an institutional man' at that stage. Thinks he's never going to leave the walls and routine of Shawshank. He's been inside for so long he's perhaps afraid he might fare no better than Brooks Hadlen on the outside. And we all know - if we've seen the film - what happens to Brooks. Red, after the cynical speech that saw him paroled, needs to 'get busy living.'

So do I. Doesn't matter that I could keep teaching; that kids still enjoy being in my classes - well, most of them do. I need to go.

Before I get even more mawkish, this is what I've been doing to hold back the tears as I've packed up my desk and office and done all the final things that you do when you're leaving. As you know, if you're a teacher who's not just paying off a mortgage and actually likes teaching, along with the good there's plenty of bad and loads of hard work.

I've been listing things I won't miss in no particular order.

Marking. I've had a long standing arrangement with Mr Incredible, the work husband, that should I die on the job, he will throw a pile of marking on top of my coffin as I'm descending towards my imminent vaporisatiion. He won't have to do that now.
The letter H pronounced as 'haitch'. Yeah, I know. Common usage. But it's something that makes me cringe. (Me to class: 'Are you 8 aitch?' Them to me: 'It's 8 'haitch'! Oh my god! She said aitch. It's not aitch it's haitch.' Did I mention that year 8s are often sure of their own rightness about everything?)
Incursion used to denote a visitor, or visitors, to the school. Announcement at briefing: 'It's the Medieval Day incursion on Thursday.' What? The Visigoths are attacking? My principal told me to get used to it because everyone in the education department uses it. In my book an incursion will always be  a hostile attack. And yes, I know. English is a changing language or we'd all be speaking Chaucerian. Or grunting.
'Pronounciation'. A colleague - teaches English - argued that this was now acceptable English usage. I think not, sir. I put a sign on my wall for the benefit of language teaching colleagues who had classes in my room. To pronounce is the verb but the noun is pronunciation, not 'pronounciation'. Who knew? Doubt whether anyone read it, given the regular mispronunciation of the word.
'Compliance': Scope and Sequence; Victorian Curriculum (until the powers that be decide to change it again. The one thing you can be sure of: change.) "Visible learning"..."darda" - not data. Guaranteed Viable Curriculum. Documenting 'units' of work that no one ever reads for accountability's sake.
NAPLAN. Oh-oh. Just vomited in my mouth.
'Reading is shit. I don't do reading. Why do I have to read? Reading's boring.' And so on.
'I'm not racist but...' Won't have to facilitate those necessary but ugly class discussions where I'm fighting all the hate fomented in students' homes and by tabloid media.
Morning briefing. An email would suffice.
Sports reports at morning briefings, after which we all dutifully applaud, cos we're 'strayan'. (That's Australian. We apparently love sport.) I've often wanted to say, 'Costa wrote a really good essay on the class text. It wasn't an HD - a haitch D - but he really made an effort. If you see him around the yard give him a pat on the back.' Enthusiastic applause follows.
Meetings. Because meetings. God forbid that anyone should have a spare hour after teaching all day to do some preparation and marking.
'Can I go toilet?' (Only if you say Can I go to the toilet.) And why do they have to say, and act out, 'I'm busting'?
Can I have a tissue? Don't get me started on the snotting and hawking.
Can I get a drink?
You didn't tell me I had to do it. The passive aggressive whine of the kid who hasn't done its assessment task.
You said it was due tomorrow. 'Didn't she?' 'Yeah, she did.' Strength in numbers. All agree that it was due tomorrow, except for the eight kids who did it by its due date.
You failed me. It's all my fault.
I'm telling my mother/father. Ooh, I'm scared.
PDPs. Professional development plans.
Pending Ns, for kids who haven't completed work requirements and therefore risk being Not Satisfactory.
Phone calls to parents of kids receiving Pending Ns
Parent teacher interviews. Hoo-freaking-ray.
Professional Learning Teams.
Daily form assembly. Unnecessary.
Weekly Whole School Assembly. Power trip. And get a new version of the national anthem.
Delinquent disruptive kids from damaging families.
Whole school approach to discipline. The 'token economy' where you have to pay kids for doing the right thing. Documenting how many tokens you've issued so middle management can gather 'darda' to prove - pretend - it's working.
Uniform checking.
Kids barging through me. In the yard. In doorways.

I could go on but that will do. If I get depressed next year, missing teaching, I'll read the list.






Monday, November 21, 2016

Trial separation.

Notice how I haven't been blogging much about school lately? It's because I'm caught in a loop. Same shit, different day. So after 37 years, I've decided I need a trial separation. 

I've been agonising over this for months. In fact, it's the hardest decision I've ever made in my life. Getting evicted from 'our place' at school probably gave me the shove I needed.  So too did turning sixty. When you get there, dear reader, remember this: you still feel the same inside but everything around you makes you conscious of your age and time running out. Especially having a couple of dads die – mine and my husband's -  and a couple of eighty-something demented mums in aged care.  

Ah, normal vicissitudes notwithstanding I've had everything I've wanted in my teaching career. But it's really hard to give up something for which you intuitively prepared throughout your childhood. I liked the whole idea of teaching from the minute I became a student. Not a student teacher, a kid at school. School felt comfortable. I must have had some good teachers. Some weren't, but that's another story. 

A week ago, after much deliberation and an emotional pain in the core of my being - drama queen? - I called my principal and asked whether I could see him the next day regarding taking twelve months leave. After I made that call, I stood outside the green grocers in the local shopping centre hyperventilating. Because until I suddenly made the decision to make that call I had no idea I was going to leave.  

Despite having largely relished my teaching career, I'm generally under-stimulated by teaching year 8 and 9 students. Careful what you wish for. Back in 2011, I wanted an easier life – less responsibility and less marking. Thus I went part-time, relinquished English coordination – a role I was enjoying 'at the governor's pleasure' - and gave up teaching my regular allotment of two year 12 VCE classes. It was a great relief to reduce my full-time load to three days.  

Back to those year 8 and 9 students. I'm assuming you're all teachers reading this so you know how challenging class management can be at this level. Yes, I really like most of the students I teach but I teach about ten students over my three classes who are very difficult to manage. Of course they all have their own back story and we work with that as we try to educate. But really. Sheesh.  

Many middle school kids, even those without difficult home lives, are hard work. They are wrestling with hormones and drives they've never experienced before. They're emotionally charged, histrionic and will argue that black is white. (If they read that last line I'd be accused of being racist. I kid you not.) They argue and bicker amongst themselves and their allegiances are constantly shifting. Suddenly, almost overnight, they are sure they know everything, much more than any adult, particularly one of my gender and age. It is incredibly difficult  to educate these kids. But we do it, year after year. And when it's working – as it has been every day with one of my year 8 groups this year, it's magic. 

Then there are those adversarial -'oppositional defiant' - students. Usually it's girls in my classes. They're always there waiting to pounce on any perceived transgression. They can be downright rude, and when they gang up, holy mama, it takes all my wiles to ameliorate the situation. (I'm not bad at this. I can make them feel like I'm issuing a detention because I love them so much! You know the line: I care about you too much to let you think that your behaviour is in any way acceptable, and words to that effect.) One rude, bold student who's 'not afraid to express her opinion because she's going to be a lawyer and earn lots of money', can instantly destroy the learning of an entire class – sometimes for the rest of the year if it's not skilfully managed. (Ah, memories.) If one loses patience with this type of student, one is fucked. They can, and will do or say anything but one must keep calm and follow one's management plan, but by god they push the buttons. Some of them will grow out of this behaviour but some of these students will just grow into older ignoramuses, constantly convinced of their entitlement to their own opinion, loudly voiced, no matter how self-absorbed and ill-informed they are. You know the type. 

There's a lot of anxiety in a teacher's life, isn't there? You're constantly on stage and expected to perform. You're judged to within an inch of your existence. Anyone else have anxiety dreams at the start of a new term? You know the one. You're totally unprepared and you get caught out. Or is that just me? One of my recurring dreams involved variations on a scenario where Mr Incredible and I have been evicted from our classrooms and office. I've dreamt that our area has been trashed, bulldozed and reconfigured in some unsuitable way. Meanwhile I'm floundering around the campus facing the impossible goblin's riddle of trying to find my way home to my class, but my home is gone. 

Well, in real life on the last day of last term, my nightmare having eventuated, I'd packed my car with my swivel chair and boxes of stuff I thought I couldn't manage without. It was pouring rain and I was alone unpacking my car at 5pm, trying to make my new office – no heating or cooling but more space – look less bleak. There was something premonitory about it.  

First day of the new term, I didn't know where my period 1 class would meet. My nightmare again. Turns out my new classroom for six periods a week would be a windowless converted former locker bay. My challenging year 8s, in a classroom situated in what we call Siberia, went ape-shit in their new room with its different seating arrangement. One day I puzzled over the unusual absenteeism, marked the roll, wrote my goal – don't get me started – on the board, got twenty minutes into the lesson before about ten kids emerged bright eyed with hilarity from a back office where they'd secreted themselves.  (Everyone's a winner: I enjoyed the twenty minutes without them.)

But we all got used to it and life went on. On the up side, I probably walk an extra k a day getting around the campus. On top of my cycling commute to and from school that's a good work out. 

Now when I'm up at briefing in the main staffroom, I look out through the windows at my fenced off, former haven standing forlornly amidst the rubble incurred during a major school renovation. My nightmare realised. Having coped with that change I'm hoping I'll cope even more easily with a trial separation from teaching. 

I'm interested to find out who I will be if I'm not a teacher.  





Saturday, August 13, 2016

Curriculum day. Another day in paradise. First world problems.

Warning: there are no educational tips on classroom teaching to follow. This is just a bit about my life at school and probably gives some insight into how I'm dealing with being the fourth eldest person on staff. (I was the youngest once when I began teaching aged 21. Let's have a cheer for me. I'm still teaching after 37 years. Raise your glasses and throw me another pile of marking.)

So, Mr Incredible and I have 'lived' in these two portable classrooms for nigh on 15 years. They are basically two grotty classrooms, a couple of storerooms and an office that we call home when we're working. This space is very important to both of us. While we're close to the admin block and the main staffroom, we're also in the corner of the school campus, not adjoined to any other building. Neither are we on a walkway. People don't interfere with us out in our space. We teach out there and can do our own thing without being in the fishbowl that comprises lots of the rest of the school. It's good. It's also our safe space where we say what we want to each other in confidence and let off steam if necessary. I admit to doing more of this than Mr Incredible. He's calmer than I. He's also a huge part of me staying sane in the workplace. We get each other and are good friends. Hence, he's my work husband and I, I suppose, am his somewhat old work wife.  

Imagine our chagrin, then, to have it announced by the acting principal, at the plenary at the beginning of a curriculum day, that when a new admin block is constructed, we will lose our rooms. There was no consultation about this. Nor any 'heads up'. We, and the rest of the staff, who, incidentally, couldn't care less, were simply told. It was just the acting principal taking the podium and unnecessarily sharing some 'important' news the purpose of which was to remind us that he is acting principal. Possibly. 

I was devastated. Mr Incredible was upset. 
"Pull yourself together, idiot," I rebuked myself. "It's a room. It's not that important. You can cope with this." (And you know, it is just a room, a person and a place and I can and will cope.) I was giving myself this little pep talk as I headed towards an English meeting at which my presence was required, it being curriculum day and all. On the way, one of the young male staff, who'd noticed my reaction to the news, decided it would be fun to tease me about the impending move. I'm normally a jocular sort of person, so I get it. However, I told him, very clearly, that I was upset and asked him to stop.  

"Can you not?" I pleaded. "I'm really cut about this."  

Somehow, this was red rag to a bull and he upped the ante.  

"We can have farewell drinks in your room when you retire," he joshed. Oh, he's hilarious. Not. "Invite your family and friends. It'll really be fun." Ah, he's a riot. 

At that stage, tears spilling from my eyes, I raised a hand in his face and withdrew, again trying to compose myself to tackle the sodding Victorian curriculum and year 9 language analysis.  

Well, I nearly coped. Sat up the back of the English meeting. Breathed deeply. Distracted myself by turning on my computer and finding the requisite documents so I could start my work. Then, unfortunately, the coordinator asked me what I'd be working on for the day. (Don't know why. She'd emailed me to tell me what I'd be working on. Suppose she was checking to see that I'd received my instructions.) Suddenly, I was tongue-tied and every bit my pathetic almost 60 year old self. (Fuck, yeah.) I started crying. At a meeting. In public. Grrr! 

Let's put it down to the emotional lability of the 'elderly'. 

And then I got over it. I mean it's not all doom and gloom on the week where you are given a brand new note book computer, courtesy of the education department.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Teaching now. And then.

It's been an easy term of teaching, freed as I am from the massive workload of senior English.
 
Oh, there’s lots of burgeoning bum-fluff on the downy faces of my year 8 boys. There’s a bit of swagger; a mini-potentially-swarthy character in the back row. Watch him. Quick to take umbrage; hyper-aware of his power as a student with all the rights. Printed dark tee-shirt visible and hanging down a couple of inches beneath his white uniform shirt. In a couple of years time, gypsy-boy could be brutish and challenging but for now, for this old campaigner, he’s too easy.

Same with mischievous Martina. She stirs the nearby boys; a surreptitious swipe and their books and pencils fly off the table. She’s out of her seat again. Quickly kicks the shin of the same boy. ‘Miss, did you see that?’ He pretends outrage but can’t wait to retaliate. She rocks back on her chair, swings her legs coquettishly. The seating plan nips that one in the clich├ęd bud.

Kids are kids this year in my year 8 and 9 classes. It seems to me I don’t have any severely damaged students.

Touch wood.

I’m following the school GANAG protocol and writing the goal of the lesson on the white-board at the start of each period. I’m encouraging students to assess their own efforts and achievement at the end. Well, generally.

But basically, I’m largely doing the same thing with my middle school kids as I was back in 1979. We called them juniors in those days. Reading, writing, speaking and listening. They were more inclined to read given they weren’t BYOD-ing. That’s ‘bringing your own device’. Or devices, given the ubiquitous mobile phones. The government has stopped giving out free computers. Final drafts of their work will generally be word-processed and printed out. There will be the inevitable submissions on USBs because printers will have run out of ink or won’t be working. I’ll be incurring extra work marking on line, or, to expedite the marking process, printing them out at the school’s expense.

Am I really doing the same thing as I was in 1979, aged 22? At its fundament, yes. I'm the teacher working with a number of students; reading, writing, speaking and listening. However, the previous paragraph reveals that things have indeed changed. Being able to draft on a computer is a huge difference in itself. And what's more, I'm a vastly improved teacher.

In 1979, I taught an all girls class. Thirty-two students. The commercial stream. That is, they learned typing - on mechanical typewriters - and shorthand instead of some more academic pursuit like another language. They sat in four long horizontal rows facing me. I would usually stand on the dais, given there wasn't much room to move among the students. If they needed my assistance, they came to me. My wooden desk was in the corner in front of what had been a fireplace, now sealed up.

In the middle of about the second row sat Vicky, an unruly, threatening fifteen year old. It was early in the year. Arms crossed defiantly, Vicky was sprawled back in her chair, sneering at me. She scared me. Think I'd already told her to remove her feet from the desk. She was wearing mirrored aviator sunglasses which she refused to remove claiming they were prescription.

'What are you staring at?' She snarled, because I'd dared to look in her direction.

'Don't know,' I quipped. ' I haven't got my animal book with me.'

This was one of the lines I'd throw at my sister, or vice versa, when we were fighting. At the time, in that class, it was hilarious and even Vicky joined in the laughter. The class dynamic improved immediately because I'd somehow got Vicky, the disruptive girl, on side.

At 22, I was still a kid myself, seven years older than these year 10 girls. I was teaching instinctively. I'd been raised on sarcasm. My teachers training hadn't taught me how to build students' self-esteem, rather than insulting them, nor how to manage a class without somehow subduing the students, which I found I could do through humour rather than terror.

I certainly wouldn't make a comment like that in 2016. I don't think a graduate teacher would either. 
I know better now. (Thank you, years of experience, professional development, self-education and parenting.) You need more in your teaching repertoire than a good sense of humour, but it certainly helps.

However, one thing remains the same: if your students don't respect you, you can't really teach, no matter how qualified you are. And if you don't really like kids, please leave the profession. (Educator Rita Pierson, says it far more eloquently than I.)




Thursday, October 29, 2015

Teaching 'The Shawshank Redemption'. Again. And again...

I was slumped at my front desk during period 4, the last period of the day. My laptop was plugged into the data projector, blinds were drawn, the room was dark; a tad warm. My year 10s were watching – their third viewing – The Shawshank Redemption, the story of a banker, Andy DuFresne, wrongly accused of murdering his wife and her lover and sentenced to serve two life terms in the fictitious Shawshank Prison. During the students' first viewing they just watch; the second is stop/start and includes commentary from me and discussion. They concurrently complete written tasks to develop their understanding of plot, characters, themes and cinematography. The usual. You know the drill if you’re an English teacher teaching a film text
It was about 2.50 pm; 25 minutes until the final bell. I closed my eyes briefly and did that slight drift into sleep from which I awoke with a start. Don't think anyone saw, given the dark. (Have never actually fallen asleep in class but I need to watch myself.) To engage my mind and see if I could prevent the barely stifled yawning, I started writing. (Think I've already mentioned elsewhere that this is a great tip for staying awake during a boring meeting.)
I calculated that given I’ve taught year 10 for at least ten years at my current school, that’s at least thirty viewings of Shawshank. Add to that an extra fifteen viewings for the years I’ve taught two year 10 classes. Forty-five viewings. Plus the initial couple of viewings when I prepared my lessons. Consequently, I can just about recite every line.
We don’t mix it up much in English in these days of the ‘guaranteed viable curriculum’. No variety permitted. Seems there’s too much team planning incurred if we choose another film.
But never mind that. I love Shawshank. It’s an engaging, uplifting story with plausible characters and a terrific plot. It was written by Stephen King and effectively rendered for the screen by Frank Darabont. With its important themes of justice and the prison system and whether it rehabilitates it is perfect for our year 10s. It also addresses the idea of hope, of having an inner life and the importance of education and a sense of purpose.
But what really gets to me is that notion of people becoming institutionalised, being so enmeshed within a system that they can't function beyond it. Red, the narrator of the film, in a dialogue with Andy DuFresne, the main character, wonders where the last thirty years of his life has gone while he’s served time in Shawshank Prison. I watch the film, with this current generation of students, and wonder the same thing about the years - 35 - I've served in education.
Brooks Hadley, another significant character, paroled after 50 or so years in Shawshank, can't cope with the outside world. "He's an institutional man," says Red, explaining how the walls of Shawshank have a curious effect. At first you hate them and then you get used to them. On the inside Brooks is an important man, an educated man, the custodian of the library. On the outside, as an ex-con, he probably can't even get a library card. ( I said I could recite it but I paraphrased because I'm not quite sure.)
A student stayed back at the end of that class where I nearly fell asleep. He asked me to explain again what it meant to be institutionalised. While I was explaining about Brooks, again it struck me how I am also institutionalised. I've always been either a student or a teacher. At 59 - yeah, I know - I'm struggling to imagine myself retired. Sad, perhaps, but I feel I am very little without my profession. I'm totally used to running to bells and whistles.
The irony of teaching Shawshank again and again is that it has become part of the institution of our school. While our school is devoutly embracing the latest educational research it seems some of us are making safe reliable choices for which there is already a scheme of work and resources.
Another irony. when we first taught Shawshank we were concerned about its profane language, its brutality and its references to male rape. Today's kids seem almost inured to that kind of thing. They know it all. They've seen all the horrors of the real world on the internet. To think that fifteen years back we were so concerned about MSN messenger and kids creating MySpace profiles..
Final irony. Teaching Shawshank has become part of my own institutionalisation.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

GANAG

So hard to sum up the experience of being GANAG-ed. Let's say, initially, after the two day professional development with GANAG guru, Jane Pollock and her incredible below bum length blonde hair, I barely had time to reflect on what I'd been teaching. The hair comment suggests I'm taking the piss. I'm not, but her hair was a presence at the PD. In a fascinating way. (Sorry, Jane, if you ever read this, but you must know everyone was thinking it, if not chatting about it.)

I'd been quite cynical about my school's approach to GANAG. It's non-negotiable; part of our professional review. We are required to implement this teaching and learning methodology. You can read my previous whining here, if you haven't already. But given that I'm a cynic/zealot special combo, I put my hand up for the Jane Pollock PD, about which admin and several subject coordinators were singing the praises. Happily, I got to go.

There's almost too much irrefutable research informing GANAG. As I've written before, the research based text, Classroom Instruction That Works (CITW) 2nd edition, seemed to me to be a bit of a tedious read. How good it was, therefore, to have the information presented in a compelling, highly engaging way by the charming and unwreckable Pollock. I haven't read the first edition of the text yet, but I'm hoping it will be more readable because Pollock was a co-author. And here's a link to the PDF. Read the introduction to that first edition and it will sum up what GANAG is about.

Meanwhile, Pollock's PD training excited me. After the PD I couldn't wait to type up the notes I'd furiously made during each session. Couldn't wait to return to school and deliver lessons that were going to engage and inspire even the most reluctant kids.

That was eight weeks ago. GANAG initially made me work mind-blowingly harder as I tried to implement new systems, some of which have worked. So what's changed?

1.  I rearranged the desks in my room into rows of pairs to facilitate 'pair/share' - see CITW - because it's a 'high yield teaching strategy' which enhances students' learning. Students protested loudly. One year 10 boy almost cried and refused to come out of the corner. The year 11s got into one lesson ahead of me and returned the desks to their previous formation. I re-rearranged them and encouraged the pair/sharing so students, through discussion, could clarify and reinforce their learning.

I persisted for about two weeks before the resulting chaos started to seriously interfere with my chi - the energy force that runs through all living things. Call me anally retentive but I reverted to the previous 'horse-shoe' desk arrangement. Apart from my chi hurting, I was sick of looking at students' backs; found that students' talk was unrelated to my teaching goals; that I'd actually facilitated little gossip hubs and reduced the learning in the classroom. Was wasting time getting students to stop chatting and turn around so they could actually read the learning goal on the board.

Pair/share worked so well during Pollock's PD with a group of enthusiastic teachers. My kids thought it was party time; that their teacher had 'lost it'.

2.  The goal - the initial G of GANAG. At the start of each lesson, the learning goal, derived from the appropriate curriculum standard, is displayed on the white board . Students have been issued goal sheets and have immediately copied the goal and given their initial self-assessment of their effort and understanding.

No, I'm kidding. I write the goal on the board, then I have to distribute the goal sheets so students can copy out the goal. I collect the goal sheets at the end of each lesson because if the sheets leave the class room with the students several students won't bring them back next lesson. (Funny. They never forget their mobile phones.)

At first, when I distributed the sheets many students moaned. But I've persisted with this one and the students did indeed get used to it, as Pollock assured us would be the case. It's been a worthwhile process. Students know what they are supposed to be learning; they make honest judgments about their effort and understanding. Collecting the goal sheets each lesson allows me to quickly gauge students' learning. Yes, there are other ways of assessing this but the goal sheet provides an efficient record for me and the kids.

3. A is for accessing prior knowledge. This is the part where I begin the lesson by projecting a visual onto the front screen and writing a question next to it. For example, we'd been studying the text Chew On This. It's about the fast food industry. Prior to the lesson I Googled 'fast food images' and found a photo of an infant facing a huge plate of french fries. How does this relate to what we've been reading? I wrote on the white board.

Students instantly start talking about the image. They connect with their prior learning. Their neurons start making connections. They drop their gossip and tune in.

Have to say, this unfailingly works. Meanwhile, I mark the roll and after a few minutes we're into the lesson.

I thought this 'accessing prior knowledge' would be the most challenging aspect of GANAG for me; that it would increase my already heavy workload. In fact it's easy to find relevant images while I'm reading various media and social media on-line. I use Evernote and Everclip to save articles and images. It only takes a few minutes at the start of the day to set up my 'APKs' -  GANAG-speak - as open tabs on my computer,

As for the final NAG, I may or may not write about that later.

There is heaps more to being an effective teacher than GANAG, of course. However, I'm grateful for having participated in Pollock's GANAG in-service and love it when I learn something new that actually improves my teaching effectiveness.