Writing a letter to myself 12 months down the road is an idea from SMOL. It is like a self-check that whatever new found vision or purpose in education I found during the last few months will not be like sun-tan
I had wanted to write this letter at the end of the course, which is 4 weeks down the road. But decided to start writing to get my initial purist ideas as intact as possible. It is getting more hectic now, running back to school to settle work more often. Also, talking about PSLE results with another HOD also kind of shaken my belief and vision.
Ok lets get started:
How have you been? You are back in the system for a year or more now, are you struggling to just clear things off your table. Is efficiency your only or main consideration when you do things? How have your plans worked out?
You have wanted to
1) Shift your department teachers' mindset away from teaching to the test and examination. Deep learning or meta-cognitive learning have higher retention rate, it should not affect the results adversely too much. How many teachers have you convinced with your words, deeds and values? Or have you yourself thrown in the towel?
2) With the focus away from examinations and KPIs, you hope to see education as pupils actively pursuing knowledge and in whatever capacity, applying that knowledge. You have said that the following words stick in your head, let me remind you in case you forgotten. "The world economy no longer pays you for what you knows; Google knows everything...The world economy pays you for what you do with what you know." With the zero-sum pursuit of mindless competition of who produces more A pupils a National Trend, have you hold steadfast to your belief? Do you remember going to your MLS friend's school to teach for a trial lesson? They wear different uniforms from your pupils. With the bell curve effect, they doing well in PSLE mean the bell curve work against your own pupils. (Don't give me the shit that the new PSLE is standard referenced. It is just a static preset bell curve.) But you love them nonetheless, you think they are cute. You felt proud that Singapore provide good and decent education to pupils in the neighborhood. You suddenly felt that it is really meaningless and perhaps shallow to be upset about being "below National Average". Why should I be happy? The "national average" does not fluctuate that greatly, why should I derives so much happiness or sadness in beating fellow Singapore's Children?
3) You wanted to prepare the pupils not just for the examinations, but also the future. You believe that joy in learning, is perhaps one of the ingredient for effective learning, and that pupils must be self-regulated learners. You realize that preparing pupils for examinations and the future in that sense, need not really be a zero-sum game, as the two are not mutually exclusive.
4) Joy of learning is not about having fun doing activities, it is about making sure every pupils can progress and achieve. You seek to do this with Differentiation Instructions (DI). You have in the past, pursuit only the form and not the substance of DI. You have a better understanding of the whole DI approach by Tomlinson , you understand what it means and possibly how to differentiate the process/ content or product according to pupils readiness or if possible, also take into considerations pupils' interest and profile. You are no expert in this, but with Formative Assessment (FA) and DI in your mind when you did the 2 trial lessons in 2 different schools the last 2 days (6-7th April ), you genuinely felt different. I think I will cut you some slack for not able to prepare lessons as thoroughly as when you are on course. But, did you stop observing pupils' readiness? Have you stop asking yourself how to present your information more clearly and preparing for multiple content sources and process to cater for pupils who cannot follow your intended lesson? If you have been doing this at least once a week, I think you are already doing well. You also want to present your true self to your pupils, you realize you are generally a fun-loving person, so the humor in class should let pupils feel more at ease. But have you become so tired or pressured about the academic performance of your pupils that you have start reverting to becoming a team commander of soldiers in a war zone?
5) Self-regulated learners are learners acutely aware of their own learning. During MLS, you have been reading a lot about how the brain works, about metacognitive strategies, and the easy essence of it are having
1) Compare and Contrast
3) Meaningful Transfer
5) Mindful selection process
6) Gap filling either individual or in group
You have worked hard to try to figure out how everything can be applied from reading comprehension stage to speaking and writing. Did you continue to use these? Have you extend the activities and strategies? How many teachers beside your soulmate/ friend in your department have you gotten excited about all these teaching methods. I can't write the teachers' names here, but MS, SC, JAN, NF, YZ and SY are potential champions you have considered, are they really champions now? Have you not even started? Did you keep their interest burning, did you make them turn around and help you keep your own passion alive?
6) You want to streamline working processes such that you can reduce at least 5% of teachers' workload. You had wanted more flexibility in weekly PDT, you wanted technology to help in discussion and some marking. You wanted to scale down some programmes. You understand a burnt-out teachers cannot really inspire pupils. This is one area that you felt is toughest to do, if you have actually found a path, you do yourself proud. One area you are looking at is purposeful reflections, as diagnostic data collection means and stimulus for discussion. Have you done anything about it. How did it fare?
7) You have wanted a more systematic approach to integration of various learning objectives across levels with strong build-up of differentiated resources. One key success factor shared selflessly by your HOD friend about active selection of topic to drill in the final year is not a short cut, but a meticulous and calculated move(3 years prior to ensure maximum exposure and repetition), much like company prospecting in investing. Have you embarked on this journey?
8) You have wanted the professional learning project to be of more rigor. You have bought books for teachers to engage in literature review, and the use of lesson study lesson plan template for discussion and planning. You wanted more informed and well-planned initiatives. How has those plans work out for you?
9) You wanted to continue with the NIE library membership and spend at least 2 days in a year visiting the NIE to borrow some books to read.
10) Finally, something less tangible. You said "Human First, then teacher, then a HOD to bring everyone along" How does this sound to you now?
Are you smiling now, or are you crying inside? Or you didn't have time to read this letter because you didn't even dare look at the checklist?
The sun-tanned Mike
7th April 2017