Category: Uncategorized

Lost it

shouting

Catharsis-alert!

Today, I yelled at the top of my voice. In Advisory class. That place where we really know and care for students, individualise things, feel like a family. Place of relationships, understanding, respect.

I lost it after an obnoxious period with *Steve in the main role. Swearing, shouting, disrupting, not even attempting to do anything remotely associated with what they are supposed to do, or at least not disrupt others. He was  accompanied by *Peter and *Ben. Never their fault, always blame other, never take responsibility … teflon – nothing sticks! I give these boys extra time and space in our class. I know they are friends and that’s fantastic. They talk – so what, we are social beings and they are a bunch of hormonally raging boys. I often ‘shield’ these boys before, during and after they get in trouble at school – not a shield to escape consequences, but a shield to give them a voice, hear their side of the story and then judge. I make them food when they are hungry, talk to them when upset, lose my precious free period and instead of preparing for next class or eating my food, I spend it with them. I text and text and talk and remind and email and cajole and check and thank and consult with their parents to what often amounts to a couple of hours or more a week. A simple form may need five or six texts and to and fros to be signed. I do it because I chose to, I do it because that is how things are done at our school.

At the end of last period today, these guys simply walked out after asking them to pick up a bit of rubbish they left behind and which I asked them several times (like pretty much MOST of the requests I make with them). Walked out with a glint in their eyes, hearing me well, asking them to return and pick up the rubbish. Nicely the first five or six times until there and then … I lost it. If you ever heard me yell at the top of my voice you’d see all of 6ft6in and 105kg ex water polo goalkeeper with a booming voice. Something broke in me. I damaged myself and I possibly damaged how these kids and others who were around see me. But it was the last straw of a tired teacher, with, I acknowledge, tired kids. It was the reptilian brain talking.

I enjoy being around, working with teenagers. I love my job, no matter how hard it can be. But if you really want to annoy me – just be selfish. Just do all the taking but none or little of the giving. And that is how I felt today about these boys. It’s all pretty much give on my side and take on their side. To add to the selfish streak, they often brag about being mean to their teacher last year, how they “made her quit” and took fun of her when she was diagnosed with a serious illness. Teenage bravado you say (and yes, some of it of course) but sometimes there is a real mean, anti-social streak to all this. They are not cheeky – they are nasty. Sometimes, not all the times.

I am sure I am not always fun to be around. I am sure I am annoying, boring, unfair, stupid sometimes. But you can’t accuse me of being selfish or lazy or not caring about these guys. I can’t accuse them of being all these bad things all the time either. They are kids (!) and I have many times laughed at and with them at their remarks, silly banter or witty one liners. I enjoy their company (no, I really do). But they are also intelligent enough to recognise they have gone too far with the person that does a thing or two for them.

At the same time I think – are they to blame entirely? What have we done (and ‘we’ I mean parents, schools, teachers, myself, society…) done for them to be like this? It reminds me of the well-known John Taylor Gatto’s award acknowledgement speech where he explains why he not surprised for children in his care to be this way.

NOT all children I teach are like this. There are NO perfect children either (and no such teachers or parents for that matter). But there are boundaries, as cultural, contextual and malleable as they may be.

I look forward to a cool-headed conversation with these boys and mending of what was broken. Every good relationship has those moments too.

Today – I lost it. Tomorrow – I will be back.

PS Please don’t talk to me about “classroom management” strategies. Step into my shoes before you do.

PPS No, I won’t be back tomorrow. I am taking a day off. Full time work, full time study, the workshop project, reports and trying to be a Dad and husband have taken their toll. But I’ll be back, with a smile, after that.

Looking for work

job-hunt

Due to lack of funding, my short-term teaching contract at a local high school runs out in early April 2014 and I am looking for work.

Below is the required self-promotion in an abbreviated resume format. I hope you get a sense of the person behind these words. 

Formal education

Bachelor of Education (Secondary – Society & Environment major/English minor), Master of Education (Research – Thesis on cultural identity of refugee students and social equity), PhD candidature (Parental views of NAPLAN).

Work history

Secondary school teacher (10 years) – Humanities (S&E, English, Geography, History, Philosophy & Ethics, Economics, Career & Enterprise), specialty – work with disengaged youth.

ICT integrator, e-learning designer, presenter, trainer, administrator in school, university, corporate and government sector.

Tertiary sector educator, publisher, researcher – work with pre-service teachers, active research, journal publishing at Murdoch University School of Education.

Professional sports – played and coached water polo, male and female, junior to international level, over 100 caps for Australia, Sydney 2000 Olympic squad member.

Experience

Beneath and beyond my work history lie years of experience in a number of fields.

I have had a significant online presence as a commentator, blogger, tweeter, participant in a number of communities since 2004 (well before Twitter and Facebook). In these spaces I mostly discuss creative use of technology in education,  educational equity and sociology of schooling.

Years of reading, writing, research and participation in education in a number of settings have given me deep understanding of education, learning theories, and edu-policy initiatives. SAMR, BYOD, AITSL, PISA, ACARA, NAPLAN, ERG … throw an edu-acronym at me and there is a very good chance I will know what it means and does.

I have travelled extensively, particularly in my elite sports playing and coaching years, and speak several languages. I value family as a husband, a father of two primary school boys. I espouse healthy, active lifestyle and community participation as a long standing member of a local primary P&C council.

Passion

Working WITH people and building relationships. As frustrating as it may be at times, I am at my very best with people – colleagues, clients, students, juniors to adults, beginners to elite. I uphold high ethical standards whoever I work with. Unless being insincere, many who have worked with me say that I am ‘creative’, ‘innovative’, that I ‘inspire’ and ‘lead’ well.

From early April 2014, possibly earlier if needed, someone can have this person on their staff.

I would greatly appreciate if you could consider, pass on, link to or otherwise let people know about my availability.

But wait … there’s more. If you would care to contribute to my profile, please write something appropriate about me in either the comments below or add a recommendation on my profile at LinkedIn. Every little bit helps, all truly appreciated!

Thank you. Genuinely.

Tomaz

Image credit: http://blogs-images.forbes.com/work-in-progress/files/2011/05/job-hunt.jpg

Sanity kit

Medical kit
In all the talk of (the need for) systemic change, I often remind myself about things I can control and make happen at the micro-level as a teacher. This is my sanity kit on how to do things, a “letter to self” I have decided to share:

  • Walk the talk of collaboration

Teaching is a pretty lonely business. We close that classroom door and it’s just “us and the kids”. We teach kids to share, collaborate and so on (multiplied greatly of course by technology) but we so rarely get to do these things ourselves, among colleagues. If we do, it’s an exception rather than the norm. We ‘talk’ about it but we don’t exactly ‘walk’ and model collaboration with our students.

How about (more) team teaching? Across the school, state or the world? Asking colleagues in a different learning area, school or country what they are doing or at least having a rough outline of it in a shared space? Sharing resources by creating and/or using the same Moodle course among several classes? Creating a network of fellow educators? Learning and getting others to start using collaborative tools like wikis, Google docs, social bookmarking as a norm and not some esoteric, new-fangled way of doing things?

Isolation is the enemy of innovation and helpful human relationships.

  • Use your freedom

I often hear fellow teachers saying how we have no power to do and change things, how we need to follow a million rules and so on. I don’t exactly agree with all of that.

Down on the ground we are the most free of the lot! If you have ever worked in bureaucracy, particularly at some sort of management position, you would probably know how difficult it is to comply with a mountain of things, regulations, budgets, personality types, lobbies, cliques and other (quasi)politicians.

We and the kids in the class are indeed quite free to be creative, tailor things to individuals (us and students) and give things a go. Sure we may fail sometimes a bit, a lesson will fall apart sometimes but by trying to be innovative, flexible and, very importantly, in tune with the context of the group and individual we teach, we are sending a powerful message – it is OK to try and learn. So … use your freedom, experiment and live a little!

  • Plant a seed

I often admire the tenacity and zeal of religious door knockers but I have to say I have always politely closed the door: “No thanks, no salvation here!” They do however remind me of my job sometimes trying to tell people how to use technology and extol its usefulness at work.

I follow my passion(s) but don’t expect others to openly and immediately share in it. I know I had fallen in the trap of “how can’t they see it, I wonder if I am making ANY difference at all…” Now I’d plant a seed instead, give it some ‘fertiliser’ and observe.

As teachers and mentors, we are in a privileged position to ‘plant many seeds’. The flipside of that is that we (may) never see those seeds grow. If you want instant and constant gratification – teaching probably isn’t for you. We may occasionally get a thank you or notice someone using something we had shared with and/or passed on. But that’s about it, wouldn’t expect big bells and whistles about it.

Until you meet a former student or colleague in town one day and they proceed to tell you how valuable your lessons or materials were, how they changed the way they work because of your ideas and so on … that stuff is like a drug!

  • Feed back

Lots of educational research tells us about the importance of feedback as the number one factor determining student success.

What about teacher success? What feedback do we get? How often do you get a colleague, an administrator, or a student say “this is really good”? Give you a constructive critique of your work?

Notice the work of your colleagues, praise, help and critique them whenever you can (without being too nosey or cheesy, of course). It rubs off and very easily too. Ours is a business of relationships – feed some back.

  • Speak out!

Speak out. Don’t be a sheep. But when you do, have something constructive to say. Isn’t that what we are trying to teach the kids?

I love it when students tell me I am starting to lose them, when I start repeating myself, not making sense. I encourage them to do that because it saves us all time and effort by not doing what is clearly not working well. Ego aside, it is a very responsible way of doing things.

Don’t just tell me that it’s boring, tell me why is it boring.

  • Remember the important things

I had a very wise mentor when starting out as a water polo coach many years ago. One of his thoughts has continued to guide what I do as a father and education professional.

When I got the first coaching assignment coaching the youngest of juniors, he asked me if I know what my job is and how important it is. “Of course, I have to teach them how to position their legs properly, swim with and control the ball, basics of throwing, then…” He cut me off and said “No, no, no. Your job is to make them fall in love with the game. If they do that, everything else will follow.”

My job as a teacher is for students to fall in love with learning, thinking and acting as capable, confident and responsible members of the society.

What a job it is indeed!

About

profile pic

Hi!

My name is Tomaz Lasic, the author of “Human”.

I’m a father of two, a husband to one and only, a friend to many, high school teacher, blogger, tweeter, water polo player and coach, runner … with an endless ‘to do’ list, (un)helpfully tall, fascinated by and bad at many things.

Over the years, and in no particular order, I have completed a Masters Degree (Research) in Education, taught in secondary schools (with mostly at-risk youth), played and coached water polo from junior to elite levels, worked at Moodle HQ and so on.

I have been a teacher since 2000. I have taught humanities from lower to upper school and have recently expanded into design and technology. I currently work in a government school in a low socio-economic area of Perth as  Design & Technology teacher and Makerspace Manager.

I am eternally interested in in “why things happen (in education) the way they do?”

I live with family near Fremantle in Western Australia.

Want to get in touch?

email: moodlefan at gmail dot com

on Twitter (@lasic)

on LinkedIn

on Dailymile

or comment below…

Cheers!

I used to have my own domain & blog at tomazlasic.net  Let’s just say I don’t need it anymore – anything that was there is (back) here now. Apologies for any broken links.