Thursday, October 16, 2008

Reflective Journals, Circle Time and 8B

Recently, the VIT (Victorian Institute of Teaching) decided to show they were doing something other than taking our compulsorily paid money every year and providing us with glossy, self-congratulatory newsletters, so now we have to start, effectively, keeping records for tax and we have to prove that we're doing PD, keeping log books and noting how much time we spend on each PD activity. The fact that we just do it without thinking about it, read stuff for our work, in my case review lots of YA books, read papers for use in class, check out useful web sites, attend conferences and Booktalkers at the State Library and generally exchange information counts for nothing unless we have it written down. We have to prove all these things at our annual reviews anyway, but without all the record-keeping.

It's likely to lead to people counting their hours, saying, "Well, that's VIT satisfied" and not bothering with more, but there you are.

One of the things they suggested is to keep a "reflective journal". Until now, we've had that as an option for our annual reviews, but been assured we don't have to show it to anybody. Which, by the way, doesn't stop meeting leaders from inviting us all to "share" ("Hallelujah, brother! Today I did Circle Time with 8B and one of the students who's normally a pain really enjoyed it!")

At the last meeting we had, I told people I keep a reflective blog and they're welcome to go on-line and look any time they like. My diary I don't share with anyone. I more or less do what "reflective journals" do orally, as does every teacher I know. But now they want it in writing.

So here it is. I did try Circle Time with 8B. They had seemed to enjoy the previous one, which was done with the school nurse, so I decided to have a go at it myself. The theme was "self-esteem", which is this term's Pathways unit (Pathways being a fancy name for "homeroom")and I began by saying something nice about every student in the class.We passed around a "speaker's tool". After that, we had a ball that was thrown around and you had to say something nice about the person who threw it to you. I'd like to say it was a huge success, but while some of them did what they were asked, many couldn't think of anything (this was mostly the more peaceful students, who will write anything you want and do you fabulous posters, but are just too shy to speak up in class) and others simply didn't get the rules about one person speaking at a time and banishing from the Circle anyone who interrupted or put down anyone else. I finished up the period but told them that we wouldn't be doing it again until I was happy with them. Since then, they have asked me, "Can we do Circle Time?" and I've said, firmly.

I think I might try it again, for the last few minutes of a period when they've been good and see if it works better. Meanwhile, I know that at least one student was made happy by my compliments, because she positively beamed when I said how hard she worked and that she did terrific posters. That has to count for something.

And self-esteem is very important. This is not a school with kids who have everything in life. A lot of them have very low self-esteem, especially the worst-behanved, who feel they have something to prove. They need to understand that everyone does something well, even if it's just making other people happy, or being honest about having done the wrong thing. Hey, I discovered that one student, who was having a struggle in class, does tae kwondo! I made sure to let him know how impressed I was.

Circle Time #2 - perhaps even today? Or maybe next week...

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