Friday, 6 May 2016


Anyone who's known me over the last couple of year has probably noticed my habit of spending at least a couple of days of each school holidays in professional development sessions. So, whilst I'm not actually in a classroom this year I still found myself booking in a couple of days' training in the recent holidays. (Because studying for a M.Ed full time isn't professional development? Yeah, I noticed that bit of flawed logic too.)

The first PD session of the holidays was entitled "More than Just Cyber Safety: Tackling the Social and Ethical Protocols of the ICT General Capability". Great day, and I will blog about it (update: you can read about it here). First, I want to talk about the other one, which was a Reflect Growth session focussed on planning, because I am a self-confessed planning nerd! I'm sure I've said it before but I'll say it again: I love planning!

We started the day building with Selena Woodward very ably helping us to build a shared understanding of the need for long (year), medium (unit) and short (lesson) term plans. We pulled apart a battery of questions we can - and probably should - be asking ourselves during our planning processes and tried to work out where in the process they fit. It was fascinating to hear different educators describe how they use the questions at different stages of planning.

Of course, it wasn't long before -  as things do in Australia whenever a group of educators converges - the discussion moved to how the Australian Curriculum (AC) has had an impact.   My opinion (and take this with a pinch of salt because whilst I trained with the former curriculum, I've only ever taught with the AC) is that without the need to think about content our attention can be where it needs to be: on pedagogy. (Which means I like the AC.)  The Twitter back channel was alive at this point talking about the need for planning to be responsive to our students' needs. Oh boy, was I excited to hear someone say that! I worry sometimes when I hear educators talk about their plans as though they are set in stone... What if the kiddos have different needs than the plans cover?

The rest of the day was divided into long, medium and short term planning discussions. (And a few mini learning activities designed to jog some thinking about new teaching strategies - thank you Selena!) Each discussion started with a speaker from a 'different walk of life' (me for medium term!) to encourage divergent thinking.

Our first speaker was Rebecca Wells who startled me into thinking about the role leadership can, and should, play in my long term planning. She suggested that a leadership team has a responsibility to support innovative planning and teaching with appropriate resources, and with connections to community. I LOVE this idea.  My mind went off on a little tangent here thinking about different ways of having ongoing meaningful community engagement in classroom. (Stay tuned because I feel a post about that bubbling away beneath the surface.)

My talk started... No... I'm not going to describe it all. You can watch the video if you are particularly keen, but suffice to say that I described planning in terms of maps and positioned medium term planning that way.  I didn't share anything that was likely to start off any educational revolutions but rather that medium term planning is where the magic happens (for me). It's where I get to build a structure into which I can ensure I meet all of the (sometimes conflicting) needs of my individual students, the curriculum and whoever is pulling on my at that point.

Markeeta Roe Phillips on Planning - Like a Map :) from Selena Woodward on Vimeo.

Our last, but by no means least, speaker was Lynda Rivett who shared a plethora of personal experience using TfEL tools in creative ways. It was a good prompt to me: I know that TfEL has a mountain of resources sitting there waiting to be used but I tend to stick to the ones I'm most familiar with and have on hand. I need to block out a few hours in my calendar and really delve into what's available.  Why reinvent the wheel when TfEL already has a whole tyre yard full of them waiting to be used?

I have so many powerful 'takeaways' from this day:
  •  I'm reminded of the power in good planning:
    • Power to effect strong learning; 
    • Power for cross-curricular syntegration; 
    • Power for collegiate sharing; 
    • Power in achieving balance; 
    • Power because I love the art/science of it!  
  • I sound like a small child when I speak; I think I need to work on my vocal patterns.
  • There is no right way to plan, but there are lots of dodgy ways. I'm comfortable with elements of my planning tools, but think I should use this time out of the classroom to hone and tighten them.
All of this discussion culminated in Selena throwing down Reflect Growth's next Metateacher Challenge which is, this term, a question: Which part of the planning process has the greatest impact on a student's growth?  I already have a fairly strong opinion but am keen to hear other views. Please share yours in the comments. 

On a side note: if you're on Twitter, I highly recommend you check out #reflectgrowth for an interesting stream of thoughts, ideas and sharing from educators interested in developing and improving their practice.  I'm a bit of a mad tweeter on days like this one, so have created a Storify of just some of the tweets from our session. 

This relates to the following Australian Professional Standards for Teachers...
Standard 1 Know the students and how they learn
Standard 2 Know the content and how to teach it
Standard 3 Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning
Standard 6 Engage in professional learning
Standard 7 Engage professionally with colleagues, parents/carers and the community

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