Primary Teaching here I come

I have made a decision to go back to do some primary teaching. In the process of making contact with the small local schools. When I did some work for Undera Primary School a few months back I had a yearning for the work again in a rural school and its community.

It hasn’t been an easy decision but financial necessity has brought it on and the realisation I am a teacher (albeit much more progressive than I was years back). I also realise now the great value of learning being more personalised and kids doing authentic work both in and outside of the school.
iLearn will continue for the few students I still have and if I get some work on the days the students are here then Judy will fill in for me.

This was the Facebook response from my friends and ex students. Very encouraging indeed.

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TGIF – Thank Goodness It’s Friday 1

TGIF – Thank Goodness It’s Friday (weekly newsletter)

Friday March 2nd 2012

Well, two Fridays have passed but I would like to make this a tradition for BP:UL (Big Picture: UnReal! Learning.

TGIF is a tradition in most BP schools and was introduced by one of it’s founders, Denis Littky, who wanted a way to share all the good things that were happening with students, parents and staff.

This video has Dennis Littky talking about how Big Picture started:

These are MY thoughts and as time goes on I would like the students to develop a TGIF newsletter each week which could include my thoughts.

Our first two weeks have been great, interesting, frustrating, disappointing at times, but oh so encouraging with so many opportunities to come.

We are all looking forward to moving into the BP:UL House in Maude St and looks like we will do this on Friday 9th March.

Highlights for the past 2 weeks

  • Students have completed all sorts or challenges such as scavenger – learning to solve problems and work together
  • Trivia Competitions between advisories
  • Trip to KidsTown and Pool Party at Allison Darlow’s House (thanks Leeanne)
  • Swim and games at the Goulburn River
  • Students learning about Advisory and how important it is for there to be trust and respect
  • Planning for camp at Gilwell Park in Gembrook
  • Students helping UCCE staff – setting up BP:UL house, Britnee C with Ronni  and Bonnie with Bron
  • Brad and Aaron S helping JR with the new fence, tables, sandpit and much more
  • Save a Mate program – run by Purple
  • Happy Hour (last hour on Fridays) – learning how to congratulate and appreciate each other
  • Happy Hour speaker – Alex Bruinier from The Bridge
  • A number of students have already secured Shadow Days (1 day work experience)
  • Sean T has been offered an apprenticeship in building with his mentor
  • Many students are show initiative and confidence visiting businesses and asking for Shadow Days

A  big thank you to all students and parents for their trust in us as a team and we look forward to sharing more great stories and achievements.

Happy Hour in the Hall with Alex Bruinier (The Bridge) our first guest speaker

Geoff Allemand

(And our team, Jen, JR Ange and Monty)

I’m bored!

“I’m bored.”

It amazes and shocks me how often I read or hear this comment from young people today.

It is all over Facebook.
I often read, “I’m bored”…. “Inbox me.”


I have heard it once said that if you are bored you must be boring.

I have been musing the reason for so much boredom with young people.
Especially when I also read or hear of it in my own class…where students get to find, explore and follow their interests/passion.
The world is their oyster. There is so much they can be doing. How could they possibly be bored?

What I am finding is that they often don’t know how to take the first step. To get started takes risk. With risk there can be failure…or success.

But with many of my students they have been conditioned by a school system and society that does not reward or encourage initiative or risk, rather it rewards and expects compliance to do what you are told. Or sit in front of a television and be entertained.

So, is it any wonder they get bored when there is no one around them to tell them what to do or think about. Even when they are on the computer or using a device that gives them access to world of information and entertainment.

How do we as facilitators of learning get students fired up to start doing things and making stuff? Is there are better way than teaching them? Which is having the content (curriculum) and getting them to do it….

I read a book (Free at Last – The Sudbury Valley School) about the Sudbury schools which are free and democratic schools where students do what they like and learn what they want. One of the teachers commented about her greatest challenge in working there…
The Art of Doing Nothing
“Doing nothing at Sudbury Valley requires a great deal of energy and discipline, and many years of experience. I get better at it every year, and it amuses me to see how I and others struggle with the inner conflict that arises in us inevitably. The conflict is between wanting to do things for people, to impart your knowledge and to pass on your hard earned wisdom, and the realisation that the children have to do their learning under their own steam and at their own pace.” 

It seems that our young people are not used to doing, working, learning under their own steam. The y need/want to be led and told what to do because that is how things are in society…wait to be told what to do.

What a dreadful shame.

Especially in the 21st century which requires self-initiative, self-motivation and creative types to be the starters of things. Gone are the factories and vast warehouses of people being told what to do.

So, my challenge is to find ways and means to encourage my students to take initiative and take responsibility for their own learning.

Do I take them by the hand or do nothing?

Will learning happen naturally?

Student self motivation – needs time to awaken

Our place of learning is a bus

I arrived at class the other day and I had four students waiting for me. The other 4 students (there are only 8 in the class) were out in the community doing their thing – paid work, pre-apprenticeship course, shifting house and an internship.

One of the students piped up and said, “So, what are we doing today?”

I was disappointed. The students are being encouraged and taught to take ownership of their own learning and to show initiative.

I read in a blog post today: “It’s so sad that so many students sit and wait to be taught.”

It’s no wonder then that my students have not ‘fully’ unlearnt the attitude instilled in them for around 10 years…wait until you are told what to do!!

But there is hope as all it took for me to say was…”What do you want to do?” And they all had something to DO.

Brad: I want to go and buy a book to list all the jobs I am doing for the ICT work at Cutting Edge (his LTI – Learning Through Internship).
Ben: We need to visit Computer Tech Support and see if they will have me for an Internship).
Haydn: I need to do the paperwork required to set up my internship doing concreting.
Sean: I want to explore the possibilities of setting up a student exchange so Big Picture students can come and spend a week with us so we can learn from them.

I was pleased that this attitude to learning is being developed and just under the surface, waiting for a crack to let the light in.

My students are thinking about things to do and starting to take ownership and show initiative.

The Big Picture approach of students following their interests, working in the community and a teacher/advisor to guide them in their learning does work: It is one student at a time in a community of learners.

Know How

I went to a VCAL (Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning) workshop/meeting today run by the guru (of VCAL), David Gallagher.

“The VCAL gives you practical work-related experience, as well as literacy and numeracy skills and the opportunity to build personal skills that are important for life and work.” (VCAL quote)

It was fantastic as it really helped me to see how flexible VCAL was and the importance of students getting outside the classroom doing real work. All of what he was saying I have been trying to employ with my class using the Big Picture principles.

David also talked about Know How, which is the learning gained from doing compared to Know What (content).

Here is some yabby day Know How (left)


Funny thing was that this was the basis of an email I sent to Big Picture staff last week as a reflection of how my work is going so far this year.

Here is part of my email…

I need a healthy dose of a Big Picture transfusion (or top up).

This work is hard yakka (plenty of good things happening) and even though I am working with others this year, which has been a great help, the work is still messy and difficult at times to hold firm on the BP principles:

  • One student at a time
  • Personalisation
  • Importance of interests and passion
  • Real world learning

I have been reading a bit about tacit knowledge and “know-how and now looking at it from a personal perspective.
Know-how is practical knowledge of how to get something done, as opposed to “know-what” (facts), “know-why” (science), or “know-who” (networking).
Know-how is often tacit knowledge
,which means that it is difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalising it.
Understood or implied without being stated.

Effective transfer of Know-How generally requires extensive personal contact and trust.
Examples of Know-How:
·     Learning a language
·     Riding a bike
Know-How is not easily shared. It involves learning and skill, but not in a way that can be written down or taught as facts.
Know-How can be learned by artisans or skilled craftsmen who learn the craft of their masters through observation, imitation, and practice.

How this relates to me personally.
I have done BP training, I have read the books and the materials, I have related to and with BP people, I went to the USA to see it in action and I still find myself struggling many times to know what to do when the pressure is on or things get messy.
It is in times like these I think about what would Viv (Big Picture mentor) do in this situation?
I think because she has been the skilled craftsman (woman), mentor, that I have observed in action the most and seek to imitate.
This is where I have received my “know-how” in relation to the BP way.
I have glimpses of know-how with John H and a couple of teachers in the States and at Yulebrook.
It is this know-how I think we as BP teachers need to draw on.
I read very widely to learn as much as I can but I find this does not stick…the head knowledge (the know what)  does not translate as well as the know-how derived from a mentor, apprenticeship like approach in the real world situation of daily face to face with students. (read John Abbott’s work).

Born to Learn

I have stumbled upon some fascinating writings by a British educator named John Abbott. He is an active writer for The 21st Century Learning Initiative.

He writes a great deal about reforming education and in particular how adolescents learn.

“(Apprenticeship) was a system of education and job training by which important practical information was passed from one generation to the next; it was a mechanism by which youths could model themselves on socially approved adults… it provided safe passage from childhood to adulthood in psychological, social and economic ways.”

“Adolescence, is that deep-seated biological adaptation that makes it essential for the young to go off, either to war, to hunt, to explore, to colonize, – in other words to prove themselves – so as to start a life of their own.”

Why should we think the youth of today aren’t wired the same way? We need to provide a context for this need to take risks, face danger and be challenged…to grow up.