Every year, at the beginning of the summer break, I like to take the opportunity to reflect and outline my goals for the next academic year. I can’t say that I achieve all of them every year, but the goal-setting, accountability and intentionality have led to some of my proudest achievements. I have just finished my favourite year of my career so far, and many of the highlights are a result of last year’s targets. I’m committed to these goals and excited to imagine where I’ll be at this time next year having (hopefully) achieved some of them. In no particular order, here are my goals for 2019-20:
- Launch my Google Certified Innovator project
The Google Certified Innovator Academy was just the beginning. It launched a project that I’ll be working on throughout the year (and beyond). I aim to stick to the targets and milestones that are outlined in my Roadmap. The project aims to address the issue of social media misuse in teenage years by promoting modelling and scaffolding throughout primary and the early years. My website will support teachers as they embrace their role as digital role models. It will provide inspiring case studies, lesson plans, resources and ideas for classroom integration. Once the website has been established, I would like to develop an online certification course for teachers and possibly in-person workshops. Excitingly, I am in talks with Jennifer Casa-Todd (one of my heroes in education) regarding a possible collaboration. I’ll be working on this during the summer so keep an eye out!
- Establish grade-wide iTime (AKA Genius Hour)
After a few years of implementing iTime in class, exploring its benefits and advocating for it, I am proud to announce that it will be timetabled for all Year Four classes next year as part of our ongoing Who We Are unit. This will involve more structure, more mentors and more opportunities for students to explore their passions, curiosities and new challenges. I am currently working alongside some other iTime enthusiasts in my school to support teachers in its implementation. My goal is to ensure that iTime is enjoyable, manageable and meaningful across the grade.
“So, while this type of inquiry is “free”, I firmly believe the increased level of voice and choice students are given requires a greater amount of structure and support.”
Trevor MacKenzie, Dive into Inquiry
- Fully establish TCRWP and reading/writing workshops
At VSA, we have been gradually implementing the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, starting from Year One and working its way up the school year by year. It is now Year Four’s turn to fully implement it. In preparation, we have been learning about this approach and familiarising ourselves with some of the writing units. We had extensive, useful training on TCRWP for writing. However, I am less familiar with TCRWP for reading. I will need to research over the summer, read through the units and seek coaching when I get back to school. Our Chinese teachers will also try a workshop approach to lessons. I will support them as best I can.
- Say no occasionally
This year has been a crazy ride; amazing but exhausting. Almost too busy. And next year, I have even more on my plate. I take great pride in being an active member of my school community and going the “extra mile”, but I can’t do everything. This target is to make sure that I look after my wellbeing and balance my priorities. I have recently discovered the benefits of occasionally saying no. As George Couros says, when we say no to others, we say yes to ourselves. Don’t get me wrong; I wholeheartedly encourage teachers to attend PTA events, concerts, plays, etc. I also think that we should be open to new challenges and opportunities. Teaching is a vocation that requires commitment. These additions to our workload help us to grow and build relationships. However, even if agreeing to everything is possible, it certainly isn’t sustainable. I know that now. The only person who has these unrealistic expectations of me… is me. I’ll be giving myself a break next year because:
“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
- Extend the trial of our immersion bilingual model
My school is considering a change in its approach to bilingual education. Developing our students’ English AND Chinese is a key part of our school’s mission and we take it very seriously. Our current approach uses a convergence model, whereby an English-speaking teacher co-teaches alongside a Chinese-speaking teacher. Lessons are bilingual with the languages side by side. In a nutshell, an alternative that we are exploring is an immersion model, allowing students to be fully immersed in one language at a time. I will go into more detail in another blog post about the logistics and how we aim to bridge the languages. Our unique context needs to be considered as well as other factors, but we believe that an immersion model has the potential to be more effective. We are still in the early stages of the trial but the findings have been very encouraging. So encouraging, in fact, that we would like to extend it in order to gather more experience and data. So far, the trial has only included two classes (mine and one more) but it will include all six of the Year Four classes next year. I will need to support my team with this significant change and continue to analyse its effectiveness. I will write a more detailed blog post on this later.
- Implement the learning from Thinking and Learning in the Maker-Centered Classroom (TLMCC)
I have just signed up to this Harvard course along with some colleagues and we aim to work through it together. This target is not just about completing the course but actually implementing the ideas. I want to enrich my units with opportunities for making so that my students can experience the benefits. I have made progress in this area but I believe that this course will take me to the next level. Click here for more information.
As an exclusive offer to Google Certified Innovators, I am currently working through the TED Masterclass online course alongside some fellow Innovators. We will work through the units collaboratively according to our agreed deadlines. Throughout the course, I will develop my ideas and work towards the final task of presenting. My TED Talk won’t necessarily be used outside of the course but TED might invite me to one of their events if the content is of value.
- Embrace difficult conversations
As Head of Year, the hardest part of my job is having difficult conversations with the people in my team. By difficult conversations, I mean addressing unsatisfactory behaviour, underperformance, etc. They are an important part of every leader’s role. I step in when necessary, of course, but there are times when I shied away from difficult conversations for minor issues. There were no major consequences, but it was still weak leadership on my part and something that I’m aware of and working on. It’s hard because the people in my team are my friends and highly respected colleagues. I realise that hard conversations, done well, build these relationships rather than hurt them. I have a few examples of when they have gone well but I can also think of times that were less successful. I need to learn from negative experiences and build on the positive ones. Books by Jennifer Abrams have been very helpful.
“Never grow a wishbone where your backbone ought to be.”
- Write a book
This one sounds ambitious because it is, but what’s the worst that could happen? Winning the UK Blog Award for Education boosted my confidence and, soon after that, I attended an authoring workshop at the Google Certified Innovator Academy. I have continued to develop my proposal and I now have a clear outline and sample chapters ready to share with publishers. I thoroughly enjoyed writing those samples and gained a lot from consolidating my ideas. Even if the publishers show no interest, I would like to pursue it anyway. I’ll get my message out one way or another, perhaps as an online download or ebook. Watch this space!
- Prioritise my master’s degree
With all of these exciting projects and goals, my university course has taken a backseat because, to be honest, it’s less exciting to me. It’s tempting to blame a lack of time here, but that’s just an excuse. We make time for whatever we prioritise. I need to start prioritising my studies and start giving it my best effort. My grades so far have been decent enough and I have realised that I can do reasonably well even at last minute and with minimal effort. But I need to shift my thinking. Instead of using this as a reason to continue with little effort, I need to start thinking about how highly I could be achieving if I was more dedicated. My grades are fine, but I can do better. I’ll be more committed from now on.
I’m writing this blog post on a flight. I’m on my way to Seoul, South Korea with our PTA and school families. After this, I’ll be travelling around Russia, Mexico and Malaysia. I look forward to recharging in preparation for the new academic year. What are your summer plans and what targets do you have for the new year? Leave a comment below and let me know if you need an accountability buddy.
Thank you for supporting my blog throughout this year. It is massively appreciated. Have an amazing break! We earned it!
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