Specialist Teachers Unite!

For the very first week of the year, the 5 specialist teachers at my school collaborated to present a united program to students. The 5 specialist are

  1. Performing Arts
  2. Digital Technology
  3. PE
  4. Geography
  5. Indonesian

We first discussed the idea during a No Tosh workshop last year with the idea being that instead of students coming to each one of our classes in the first week of school and hearing the same message over and over again from each one of us, we would collaborate and clarify our expectations together. Here are our initial notes:

 We met during the holidays and excitedly agreed to trial the program. The idea was that we all came to our timetabled lessons in the gym with a short activity prepared for a large group of combined class levels. The activities had to provide us all with the springboard to discuss group skills & minor problem solving through our school values of community, confidence & respect.

As none of us work full time and our days are spread evenly over the week, it meant that each day we either had 2, 3 or 4 teachers on deck at any one time working with 2, 3 or 4 classes respectively. Two junior primary classes received our combined spiel 5 times and the remainder received it 4 times yet because the teachers each day were never exactly the same and the classes who came were also never exactly the same, the dynamics changed significantly each lesson.

We began each lesson with our shared expectations and communicated to students clearly that this year there will be significantly more communication between class teachers, leadership and specialist teachers  through a new monitoring system we will hope staff will support to ensure that behaviours in our classes are followed up on.  Other issues we talked about included the fact that our lessons are only 50 minutes and thus all students to repsect the learning of others so that time isn’t wasted.

We then shared the microphone around and led an activity each. It was brilliant being able to focus on group skills and problem solving repeatedly with mixed group levels. We would ask students to get into groups and then after a few minutes, ask everyone to stop. This gave us the opportunity to talk about the confidence needed to be proactive and approach a group and ask to join their group, how the request needs to be answered respectfully and diplomatically, to be resilient and persist till you join a group, make strong choices about who you group up with etc. We did this over and over again in various ways all from our own specialist subject viewpoint and students definitely improved over the week.

My activities included Bu Cathy Berkata (simon says), kancil, buaya, mangga (get into groups of 3 and decide who will be kancil, who will be buaya and who will be the mangga. Berjalan kaki around the gym in your group and each time I say ‘buaya/ mangga/kancil’ the kancil stands with their hands cupped on their head for ears, the buaya lies on the ground and the mangga curls into a ball) and on the last day I extended the language by asking students to ‘cari satu teman – satu perempuan dengan satu laki laki’ and it was fantastic that students used the stop gesture (tidak paham) and others could translate for them.

The geography teacher came up with her own activity which involved rings of students representing different aspects of the globe and then the finale was asking them each to turn either clockwise or anticlockwise. The final movement was amazing and I filmed it which should be good for a future brain break! It truly demonstrates why the weather is never  predictable.

Natalie, our performing arts teacher did one activity where she divided the students by gender. Each group had to put themselves into a line in order of birthdate and then she turned on some very loud music. Each group did well with only a couple of errors (not bad for 2 groups about 40 students) and afterwards she sat them down and discussed with them the impact of noise, congratulated the studetns who had shown leadership & asked the groups to explain the methods used. It was a brilliant activity for upper primary.

Evan brought ipads to the gym and asked the students to get into teams of 10. Each team had to take one continous video on an ipad which was passed respectfully clockwise around the circle and each person had to film the person on their left saying one positive thing about the who was person filming them. The groups that worked collaboratively and respectfully completed the task had time to watch their film yet the groups that did not collaborate well had many disappointed team members who didn’t get a chance to use the ipad. IMG_1615

We met on Thursday afternoon to review the program and we all agreed the week had been a huge success and one we’d be keen to repeat in 2017.  The comments from staff were also incredibly positive noting that the sense of community created in the gym felt very real. We found it a great way to start the year because it gave us a chance to meet the new students and learn their names as well as the names of a few of our many new reception students. It gave Evan and Les some breathing space in which they could learn about our school and students in a collaborative atmosphere before we all go it alone next week . All up the sense of community was strong not just for students but also for the 5 specialist teachers!

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