Welcome to my blog! I'm Karen Belt, a teacher and leader of digital learning, working at Lynmore Primary School in Rotorua, New Zealand. I'm teaching in a Year 2 class using iPads to engage and motivate learners and improve student achievement. This blog documents my teaching journey and my learning processes with iPads in the classroom. I've proud of having been a member of the inaugural Manaiakalani Digital Teaching Academy(MDTA) program and last year a Spark Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher (MIT) and Manaiakalani Google Class OnAir teacher.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Three quarters of the hill climbed ....

I find term breaks an excellent time to reflect on my year to date, and in particular the term just gone.  The majority of this post was actually created last week - maybe not on paper, but in my mind!  I took some family time away from Auckland in the Waikato area, and while away decided to explore Wairere Falls (the tallest waterfall in the North Island).  This is relevant because my 'plan' was to walk to the viewing platform, a walk of around forty five minutes.  I 'prepared' for that but not to really go any further.  Over three hours later, I'd not only walked to the top of the waterfall (totally unprepared) but successfully made it back to the car!   So yes, I managed to push myself (and succeed) and felt really great about that, but I know I would have enjoyed the journey even more if I'd been prepared (water, a snack, a better camera ... ).  I can't help but see similarities in the classroom and to my learners - the more I'm prepared for, the better position I'm in to accelerate their learning!  The more I'm prepared, the better I'm able to turn each eventuality into a more robust, engaging learning experience for them.

As I reflect on Term 3 of my second year of teaching, I look back on the goals I had for this term and think about how far I've come with each of them:

  • Complete my research dissertation - so close - just some formatting and a little tweaking to go - this mountain has definitely been conquered and I can definitely say the effort has been worth it - its been inspiring to research the practice of other teachers and I know my own practice has improved as I embrace the ideas of others - #collaboration 
  • Transition to using Class Dojo for class management - I found this was not as effective with my learners this year as it was last year.  I feel the special needs learners I have in my class respond better to a more visual reward system of putting a sticker on their chart.  I think perhaps the ability for them to always see at any time their progress has more influence?  
  • Continue to innovate with the iPads - this term I've focused on the use of sound bites more than ever as a way of allowing my learners to repeat or re-listen to my instructions.  We still unpack the activity at the teaching table, but I find particularly on the bigger projects, learners will forget what an instruction is - the sound bites have definitely made a difference in the "what do I do on this slide Mrs Belt" visits to my teaching table!

  • My Inquiry Journey - as part of our ongoing school wide professional development I've really enjoyed continually exploring my practice and sharing this with a group of like-minded individuals from my school.  The end of term presentation feedback session was particularly inspiring and motivating and I found myself wanting to hear back from everyone (which of course time doesn't permit).  I'm looking forward to continuing this journey next term.
  • Sharing with others outside of Manaiakalani - I had two opportunities this term (the most recent being ULearn15) and I continue to be motivated by both blogging and these presentations - its great that others are interested in what I have to say and I hope what I share has value to other educators - I love my job and am so enthusiastic about working in a digital learning environment which embraces and allows innovation
  • Explain Everything reading projects - I have been particularly pleased with how engaged my learners have been with the additional reading Explain Everything activities this term and how they allow each learner to revisit their text on a second day.  I definitely feel this is more purposeful for learners on days when I'm unable to see them at the teaching table and plan to continue with this into Term 4
  • My research dissertation - this has been an inspiring journey and I've grown as a teacher as a result of observing and analysing the practice of others.  As I dot the final i's and cross the final t's before calling it complete I know at times completing it has been a hard road (particularly with balancing a family) but its definitely been a highlight of my year and I know its opened my eyes to even more possibilities.
  • My Manaiakalani Film Festival movie - I can't say any more, but watch this space in mid November!
  • The amazing team of teachers I work with - to be in such a collaborative, caring and sharing environment makes even the hardest challenges seem easier.  I feel extremely lucky to be surrounded by experienced teachers who are happy to share ideas and resources so willingly. Having this amazing resource to ask advice of has made my journey so much easier and I'm extremely thankful for their willingness and collaborative nature!

  • Behaviour management continues to be a challenge in the classroom, and just when I think I have made progress, more curve balls come along to tip the scales again.  Thanks to some great ideas from teachers in my team I have some great new ideas to implement in Term 4 (star of the day, whole class reward) as a way to motivate some special learners in my class and assist me in managing their special behaviours.
  • Time - it was interesting that during yesterday's ULearn Keynote "time" featured as the one thing most teachers wanted more of!  Without the additional pressure of my Research Dissertation next term I'm hoping to have a little more 'downtime' and more time to spend creating and innovating (and some exercise too!)

Term Four is a busy term (I remember that from last year) but I still have some goals which are amazingly close to completion:

  • Implement the ideas from colleagues for behaviour management with my learners to ensure a more settled learning environment and make the most of this term for accelerating learning
  • Complete the requirements to become a Fully Registered Teacher
  • Complete my Honours degree 

1 comment :

  1. Congratulations on this huge list of accomplishments Karen. You must feel very satisfied. I do hope that term 4 gives you that creative space with less competing deadlines.