Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Leadership

One aspect of the Science Teaching Leadership Programme is Leadership (strangely enough!).

Leadership has never been one of my focuses. In fact it has usually been something that I have always said I will never do! That was, I guess, because of my definition of leadership and my experiences. My father has always been my teaching role model and he has always rejected leadership opportunities / offers - 30+ years of teaching and he always remained a classroom teacher, turning down HOD numerous times.

But the past few weeks of reading "The Leadership Challenge" by James Kouzes and Barry Posner(one of our required programme texts) has made me re-define what leadership is and acknowledge the fact that possibly I have already been demonstrating leadership qualities. And I know that my father was definitely a leader despite his vehement denial of it!

A leader doesn't have to have a title or be that head of department, lead teacher etc. A leader is someone who acts like a leader - out of the box thinking, willing to try new things, supporting colleagues, helping others to lead and share. I'm still working on the definition.

The point to this ramble is that I'm not feeling so apprehensive about going back to school in July and being thrust into the leadership role in science (well I am a bit still - it is a school of 600 students!). I'm starting to feel excited about all the opportunities for my school, excited to share my learning and vision, especially excited to see my thinking around science in primary schools is backed up by what I am reading and learning.

This programme is giving me the confidence and skills to be able to share my vision and stand up for what I believe is the best way for our school to create those scientifically literate citizens, those critical thinkers.

I'll blog my thoughts on the book over the next few days / blogposts.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The next adventure in learning!

This blog was rather neglected last year as I came to grips with moving schools after 6 years. They say changing schools is often like becoming a beginning teacher again and, whilst I don't think it is quite as hard, it certainly presents its challenging moments.

However I survived the year and more than that, loved the year. No school is ever perfect and there are always aspects of old schools that I miss but I'm very happy with the move and relishing the new challenges it has been throwing my way.

And that brings me to my newest adventure! A year in and I have been given the privilege of 6 months out of school and possibly a year out of class, working on just one thing - SCIENCE!
I have been awarded a position in the Royal Society's Science Teacher Leadership Programme and get to spend the next six months working alongside DoC scientists studying the Grand and Otago skinks as well as attending curriculum and leadership courses.

I'm sitting at the airport about to wing my way to Wellington for our introduction symposium, thinking about what is to come. The truth is I really only have an inkling of an idea. This is launching into the unknown! I'm excited about the new learning for me, the chance to refresh my (severely) rusty science skills, and the numerous opportunities and ideas I hope present themselves for my future teaching and leading of my school in science.

I look forward to sharing my learning adventure and hope that you will come along with me!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Developing a PLN on Twitter - random thoughts.

There seem to be a few blog posts popping up about the use of Twitter as a professional development tool so I thought I would join in on the trend.

In 2012 I was feeling unsatisfied with my teaching and frustrated with my lack of access to PD outside of what my school provided for me. I felt that there was more out there and that the way I was teaching wasn't keeping pace with the changes in the world and the future my students were going to have.

So I took a big step - broke out of the bubble I had been in for the last 5 years (my classroom) and self-funded myself to ULearn 2012  (which had an awesome themed dinner!)


That was the beginning of a complete change in my professional thinking. At Ulearn I was surrounded by a raft of teachers all with the same views as me - that getting out of your classroom bubble is important to a teachers learning. If we always do things the way we have done them - then what are we doing for our students? Are we thinking about our practise and if it is serving out students? What is challenging our thinking?

The biggest thing to happen at ULearn was that I was encouraged to sign up to Twitter. Why on earth would I do that? It's all celeb gossip and people making comments on their daily life. Wrong... well right.. up to a point.



Twitter is full of teachers, educational professionals, people from all sectors of education. In fact I read recently that educational professionals make up one of the biggest user groups on Twitter.

And all of these teachers are sharing, supporting, questioning, chatting. For free.

In the last year and a half Twitter has become my biggest source of PD and has made the biggest difference to my teaching practise.

It has connected me to other teachers and my PLN (personal learning network) has expanded greatly and includes a host of people that I respect and consider role models in education. Their willingness to share their practise and ideas has been inspirational and has lead me to so many other ideas.

My only difficulty now is saying no to some and yes to others - trying to work out which awesome idea or resource to use and which to file away for when I need it. Because like all teachers time is not my friend!

Twitter keeps me up-to-date with what is happening in education around the world, it connects me to other educators, gives me the opportunity to share my students work with a wider audience.

When we were working on a Kiwiana topic the children wanted to know what other cultures had to identify themselves - I tweeted out a blogpost from the class - and then watched the comments from around the country and the world rolled in.
My students have benefitted from comments on their work and we have also inspired other classes to write a similar piece of writing. Likewise I have found examples of writing from other classes that have inspired my class with their writing.

The best part is finding a group of people that I have now met face to face - I have increased the number of teachers I know outside of the school I am working in more in the last year than I have in the previous 8 years. I have been into their classrooms both virtually and physically and now I feel less isolated in my teaching - no longer stuck in my little classroom bubble.

So how would I suggest someone starts? Twitter can be quite intimidating with the speed that tweets go and trying to make connections - in my first few months I barely looked at it and it took over 6 months to get to my first 100 tweets. Now another year later I have reached 2000 tweets and follow nearly 400 educators. In return I am followed by another nearly 400 educators - not necessarily the same as the previous group. I have an audience for my ideas and a place to find ideas.

To start - sign up, check out the #edchatnz tag, read this e-book, and follow a few key people - for suggestions start with me - @jackbillie35 and look at who I follow. Then download Tweetdeck - will blog about that later.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Reading... A post in 2 parts.

I love to read. As a child I would hide under the covers with my torch reading, I would stand in the shower with my arm out to one side so I could continue reading and not get my book wet. My favourite childhood memory is of my father reading to my sister and me - every night with out fail. I credit him with my reading skills. That early exposure to books and the simple act of curling up beside him every night to listen to another tale made reading important to me.

As a teacher I have numerous ways of teaching a child to read but as a reader I can not ever recall being TAUGHT to read. When I think about it the only memories I have of learning to read, are being read to and reading to myself.

It occurred to me that I don't actually know how hard it is to learn to read because it is something I have always been able to do, it was something that (from my point of view) seemed to come naturally to me. I don't understand the struggle that students have with reading and I believe I need that understanding to help some students - it is my job to figure out what they are seeing and thinking and to use that knowledge to help them figure it out.

As a teacher I hope that I transmit that same love of books, that my father shared with me, to my students. I hope that the skills I teach them will help them to become stronger readers.

What is important when teaching reading? What is it that struggling readers struggle with the most? What have you done that has worked well for a reluctant or struggling reader?


Post Part II
This post originally wasn't going to be a teaching post but has changed in to something else...

My original idea was to mention that I love reading - but these days I never seem to do enough!! Outside of kids books and professional texts my reading is limited.

So I'm taking one suggestion Donalyn Miller made in "Reading in the Wild" - making lists of books I want to read, and pinching a list from the internet - all the books mentioned in the Gilmore Girls - to make a start on getting back in to personal reading. It's just a starting point - a list of books that look like they might be interesting to read - there are hundreds of book lists out there - this just happens to be the one I chose. I am open to book suggestions!

I'm anticipating that I won't get through more than 1 or 2 books a month during the term but hopefully the holidays will allow me a touch more reading time. After all - in the last 3 days I have re-read (for the 1000th time) "The Hobbit" and finished book 3 and all of book 4 in "A Song of Ice and Fire" (The Game of Thrones books). Sometimes you just get sucked in to a book and can't put it down... then you wonder where the day went...

Anyway - here is the list - I will update it as I go. The books in blue are the ones I have previously read at some point in my life. Red will equal books I have read since I started this and Green will be books that I have read that were not originally on this list.


1984 by George Orwell
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Archidamian War by Donald Kagan
The Art of Fiction by Henry James
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Babe by Dick King-Smith
Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – read – June 2010
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney
The Bhagava Gita
The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews by Peter Duffy
Bitch in Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel
A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays by Mary McCarthy
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Brick Lane by Monica Ali
Bridgadoon by Alan Jay Lerner
Candide by Voltaire 
The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger 
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
The Children’s Hour by Lillian Hellman
Christine by Stephen King
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
The Collected Short Stories by Eudora Welty
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty
A Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
Complete Novels by Dawn Powell
The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton
Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas père
Cousin Bette by Honor’e de Balzac
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Cujo by Stephen King
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Daisy Miller by Henry James
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
David and Lisa by Dr Theodore Issac Rubin M.D
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Da Vinci -Code by Dan Brown
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Deenie by Judy Blume
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx
The Divine Comedy by Dante
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
Don Quijote by Cervantes
Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhrv
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson 
Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn
Eloise by Kay Thompson
Emily the Strange by Roger Reger
Emma by Jane Austen 
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Ethics by Spinoza
Europe through the Back Door, 2003 by Rick Steves
Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Extravagance by Gary Krist
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore
The Fall of the Athenian Empire by Donald Kagan
Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
The Fellowship of the Ring: Book 1 of The Lord of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien 
Fiddler on the Roof by Joseph Stein
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom – read
Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce
Fletch by Gregory McDonald
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger
Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers
Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
George W. Bushism: The Slate Book of the Accidental Wit and Wisdom of our 43rd President by Jacob Weisberg
Gidget by Fredrick Kohner
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
The Godfather: Book 1 by Mario Puzo
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy 
Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Alvin Granowsky
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell 
The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
The Gospel According to Judy Bloom
The Graduate by Charles Webb
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Group by Mary McCarthy
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (TBR)
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry 
Henry IV, part I by William Shakespeare
Henry IV, part II by William Shakespeare
Henry V by William Shakespeare
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
Holidays on Ice: Stories by David Sedaris
The Holy Barbarians by Lawrence Lipton
House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III 
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
How the Light Gets in by M. J. Hyland
Howl by Allen Gingsburg
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
The Iliad by Homer
I’m with the Band by Pamela des Barres
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
Iron Weed by William J. Kennedy
It Takes a Village by Hillary Clinton
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
The Jumping Frog by Mark Twain
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito
The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini 
Lady Chatterleys’ Lover by D. H. Lawrence
The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000 by Gore Vidal
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
The Legend of Bagger Vance by Steven Pressfield
Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
The Little Locksmith by Katharine Butler Hathaway
The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott 
Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Lottery: And Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold 
The Love Story by Erich Segal
Macbeth by William Shakespeare 
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
The Manticore by Robertson Davies
Marathon Man by William Goldman
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir
Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman by William Tecumseh Sherman
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer
Mencken’s Chrestomathy by H. R. Mencken
The Merry Wives of Windsro by William Shakespeare
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Miracle Worker by William Gibson
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The Mojo Collection: The Ultimate Music Companion by Jim Irvin
Moliere: A Biography by Hobart Chatfield Taylor
A Monetary History of the United States by Milton Friedman
Monsieur Proust by Celeste Albaret
A Month Of Sundays: Searching For The Spirit And My Sister by Julie Mars
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and It’s Aftermath by Seymour M. Hersh
My Life as Author and Editor by H. R. Mencken
My Life in Orange: Growing Up with the Guru by Tim Guest
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult 
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin
Nervous System: Or, Losing My Mind in Literature by Jan Lars Jensen
New Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson
The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Night by Elie Wiesel
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism by William E. Cain, Laurie A. Finke, Barbara E. Johnson, John P. McGowan
Novels 1930-1942: Dance Night/Come Back to Sorrento, Turn, Magic Wheel/Angels on Toast/A Time to be Born by Dawn Powell
Notes of a Dirty Old Man by Charles Bukowski
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Old School by Tobias Wolff
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life by Amy Tan
Oracle Night by Paul Auster
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Othello by Shakespeare 
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan
Out of Africa by Isac Dineson
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition by Donald Kagan
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Pigs at the Trough by Arianna Huffington
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby – read
The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
The Portable Nietzche by Fredrich Nietzche
The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill by Ron Suskind
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Property by Valerie Martin
Pushkin: A Biography by T. J. Binyon
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Quattrocento by James Mckean
A Quiet Storm by Rachel Howzell Hall
Rapunzel by Grimm Brothers 
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – read
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Rescuing Patty Hearst: Memories From a Decade Gone Mad by Virginia Holman
The Return of the King: The Lord of the Rings Book 3 by J. R. R. Tolkien 
R Is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton
Rita Hayworth by Stephen King
Robert’s Rules of Order by Henry Robert
Roman Fever by Edith Wharton
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
Sacred Time by Ursula Hegi
Sanctuary by William Faulkner
Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
The Scarecrow of Oz by Frank L. Baum
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd 
Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman
Selected Letters of Dawn Powell: 1913-1965 by Dawn Powell
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Several Biographies of Winston Churchill
Sexus by Henry Miller
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Shane by Jack Shaefer
The Shining by Stephen King
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
S Is for Silence by Sue Grafton
Slaughter-house Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Small Island by Andrea Levy – on my book pile
Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway
Snow White and Rose Red by Grimm Brothers 
Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World by Barrington Moore
The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht
Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos by Julia de Burgos
The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker
Songbook by Nick Hornby
The Sonnets by William Shakespeare
Sonnets from the Portuegese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
A Streetcar Named Desiree by Tennessee Williams
Stuart Little by E. B. White
Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
Swimming with Giants: My Encounters with Whales, Dolphins and Seals by Anne Collett
Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Term of Endearment by Larry McMurtry
Time and Again by Jack Finney
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 
The Tragedy of Richard III by William Shakespeare
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The Trial by Franz Kafka
The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson
Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962 by Sylvia Plath
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Unless by Carol Shields
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
The Vanishing Newspaper by Philip Meyers
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground and Nico (Thirty Three and a Third series) by Joe Harvard
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Walt Disney’s Bambi by Felix Salten
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
We Owe You Nothing – Punk Planet: The Collected Interviews edited by Daniel Sinker
What Colour is Your Parachute? 2005 by Richard Nelson Bolles
What Happened to Baby Jane by Henry Farrell
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee – read
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire 
The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole