Please email if you'd like to join the network. Once we've established a sizeable group of relief teachers, we'll be organising workshops for those who are interested.
"The best educators are the best learners. They can adapt to tomorrow's contexts, technologies, languages" (AITSL)

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Wodonga CRT Support Network: The CRT Resource Challenge!

Thanks Mel for the opportunity to brainstorm!

The Wodonga CRT Support Network: The CRT Resource Challenge!: Heather over at the Rowville CRT Network blog occasionally throws up a thinking challenge for her members and I think challenges like that a...


Here's a chance to refresh you memory on the most infamous uprising of Australia's history, and the legacy it has left. It's also an oppportunity to familiarise yourself with what will be a fantastic learning resource for children and adults alike, both onsite and online:

Remember all learning is good learning, as well as professional development!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Welcome to your year of learning!

Greetings and Happy New Year to new and old members alike! 2013 has already seen a massive boom in the Clifton Hill Network, primarily due to the acquisition of the no-longer Richmond CRT Network. To all of you, welcome! I'm thrilled to have so many eager learners on the roster and look forward to the year to come. As many of you know, funding has always been an issue for the CRT networks, and the lack of funds inhibits the amount of times the network leaders can actually pay for presenters to come in and speak to our members. In spite of this, we will all continue to find creative ways to learn together and improve our practice on the cheap. Let's start by reflecting back on some of the best learning accomplished in 2012, as well as setting learning goals for 2013. What are you going to learn in the new year? How is this going to make you a better teacher? What do you need to get there? Let me know so I can help you get there!

In the meantime, Coursera (the world's best courses, online, for free) has created a fun way to plan what you'd like to learn via shopping their spectacular course offers:

Complete the course for a certificate, or just study a relevant subject for a few hours and count what you've learned towards your PD. Share your course choices on Facebook or Twitter and see if any of your friends want to learn with you!

Let's make this our best year of learning yet; I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

"The inquiring mind is never satisfied with things as they are. It is always seeking ways to make things better and do things better. It assumes that everything and anything can be improved."

Monday, 26 November 2012

New CRT Survey

Greetings 'new to the profession' CRTs! Your insight is being requested for a research project being conducted by the University of New England in NSW regarding 'CRTs and the support needed particularly by new members of the profession who enter the workforce working on a casual basis'. Remember, any effort such as this which requires you to intensively reflect on the profession can be recorded as PD hours on MyVIT. See letter of request below (apologies, image quality is poor after conversion from PDF to JPEG):

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Teaching Standards: A Nationally Consistent Approach

As you may or may not know, the Victorian Institute of Teaching conducted informational sessions in October throughout the state for principals and school leaders. These sessions were in general a brief on the changes happening to registration as Australia moves towards National Standards for teachers. I was invited by Dawn Colcott of the VIT to attend the Melbourne session at Ethiad Stadium last week. It was an extremely informative session, and for only an hour it was filled with a great deal of details of which I was unaware. Here's a bit of what affects you the most as CRTs:

In Victoria, there are approx 118,765 registered teachers
Of these, 102,645 are fully registered, which means 1/10 teachers are provisionally registered.
Of the new registrants this year, 1,000 teachers have overseas qualifications, 756 have interstate qualifications and 4300 Victorian qualifications.

In order to register with the VIT, you must have an approved qualification or equivalent and proof of at least 80 days teaching practice. A principal or similar will confirm that you've conducted this teaching practice and that you're competent enough to be registered. A major change effecting overseas-trained teachers is that your 80 days teaching practice obtained overseas will no longer qualify you for full registration. This does not mean you won't be registered, but instead that you will be provisionally registered for 2 years, during which time you need to prove yourself a competent teacher by conducting at least 80 days of teaching practice within Australia/NZ and gain a recommendation from a local principal/school leader who's observed your professional teaching manner. This will make it that bit more difficult for overseas-trained CRTs to obtain full-time teaching work, however I was assured that CRTs would not have to conduct the 80 days all within the one school, and that a principal from any school which you've worked even a few days can submit a recommendation. Australian or New Zealand trained teachers with evidence of achieving the standards will receive immediate full registration. Click here for a detailed graph of the new registration process for provisionally registered teachers, and here for a support website geared towards provisionally registered teachers in Victoria.

To renew registration you must have 10 days teaching practice and 20 hours professional development. Teaching practice can be anything from tutoring to a full-time teaching position, so long as you prove that you've acquired the standards. The new National Professional Standards for Teachers have been developed by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) to "reflect and build on national and international evidence that a teacher's effectiveness has a powerful impact on students, with a broad consensus that teacher quality is the single-most important in school factor influencing student achievement. Effective teachers can be a source of inspiration and, equally importantly, provide a dependable and consistent influence on young people as they make choices about further education, work and life". These standards are split into three domains: Professional knowledge, Professional Practice and Professional Engagement, and for the large part stay fairly consistent to the VIT teaching standards they replace despite moving from 8 standards to 7. AITSL is a national body established to promote excellence in teaching and school leadership. They are committed to the key principles of equity and excellence in the education of all young Australians, in order to cultivate successful learners, creative and confident individuals and informed citizens.

The renewal process is currently transitioning from every 5 years to annually, due September 30th every year. The VIT has extended the deadline this year as they were a bit late getting the renewal forms out to everyone, deadline for fees was yesterday, so from today teachers must pay a $30 late fee in addition to their renewal fee unless they are able to communicate extenuating circumstances that have caused their delay. Teachers must provide suitability to be a teacher (current and satisfactory National Criminal History Record Check, declarations related to suitability) and Professional Practice (at least 10 days teachings in the past year, at least 20 hours professional development activities). When declaring your Professional Development, you must now reference the National Standards rather than the Victorian.

All the new nationally consistent elements of teacher registration will go into effect December 31, 2012 for new teachers, but the new renewal process won't affect those teachers already in the system until October 1, 2013 (to avoid any issues with provisionally registered teachers).

Overall, the main thing I gained from the briefing session is that the VIT is a reasonable authority, judging every case-by-case and accepting legitimate explanations from eager teachers who just miss deadlines, fall slightly short of requirements, etc. So don't hesitate to plead your case (if you've a valid one) or provide suggestions! There will be someone to listen and, at the very least, provide a great deal of advice and guidance. Furthermore, I think it's extremely important as teachers that we never lose site of the necessity to be judged at the highest of standards. AITSL's new national consistency is a good way to ensure teachers throughout Australia aren't coasting into and throughout the profession, but they alone are not enough. The standards we hold ourselves to should be far greater than the bare minimum of the national or state regulations, and they should require a daily effort and unrelenting strive for greatness.

To see a copy of the briefing session PowerPoint, click here.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The opportunity to be a perpetual university student!

It took me seven years to graduate from university. This is something that used to embarrass me, and is often used as a form of mild harrassment from my family ("You know, a lot of people go to college for seven years" "I know, they're called doctors".) My prolongated stay can be attributed to a number of factors, including a degree swap and year abroad, but primarily to that of an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. I transitioned to an Education degree as I became to realise that the best way to never stop learning is to teach. Every course I took increased my desire for another, which explains why I'm probably the only Elementary Education graduate of Montana State University who studied Sociology and has a minor in International Business. I loved being in the environment of minds expanding, intently listening to the viewpoints from multiple perspectives with facination. If university had been free, I may have stayed forever. Well now it is! Sort of...

I stumbled across the concept of Coursera on TED about a month back and was intrigued. Coursera partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free! Students are required to view the pre-recorded lectures, even completing assignments and receive a certificate at the end from the university of choice. Although for me, a digital environment will never quite live up to the unparalled experience and memories of university, this is a great segueway to a life of learning. Coursera is a fantastic development; the democratisation of education as we know it.

"We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students. Through this, we hope to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few. We want to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in".

University of Melbourne has recently joined Coursera, alongside such notable institutions as Princeton, Brown and Stanford. If you loved university as much as I did, sign up for a course! There are 13 starting on Monday alone! Although specific education focussed courses are at a minimum now, there are still multiple relevant History, Maths, English and Science courses that can complement any teaching career. Give it a look!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Study of history and racism in the new curriculum

With the new Australian curriculum comes a focus on areas for which some teachers do not feel adequately prepared. One such area is that of the cross-curriculum priority 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures'.  The priority will provide "opportunities for all learners to deepen their knowledge of Australia by engaging with the world's oldest continuous living cultures. This knowledge and understanding will enrich their ability to participate positively in the ongoing development of Australia"(ACARA). Although recognised as a 'cross-curricular perspective' in the Victorian Essential Learning Standard, Indigenous perspectives has a tendency to get marginalised within the efforts to cover the curriculum's demands. A recent article in Education Review titled "US guide on history and racism" addresses the challenges of this new priority and discusses in particular the way Montana has approached the study of Native American history and culture. Growing up in Montana myself, I experienced the transition of Indian Education for All Act, and through my degree in Education, I was required to take a Native American studies course in addition to Multicultural Education. The courses allowed opportunities for engagement with the various cultures through local Powwows, literature and guest speakers. These experiences opened a new world to me, providing me with a passion for a culture I had never known.

Despite being enlightening and relevant, these courses alone were not enough. One cannot grasp within a 4-credit course the necessity of culture to a group of people who have endured such a painful history. Nor does it adequately explain that teachers aren't to encourage guilt or pity, but rather acceptance and understanding. Although different in many ways, marginalised groups of many countries are facing similar challenges. The Essential Understanding Regarding Montana Indians states:
"Identity is an issue with which human beings struggle throughout their lifetime. Questions of "Who am I?" and "How do I fit in?" are universal questions of the human condition. Historically, schools have been places for students to explore their identities. However, when the culture of students' homes and communities is not evident in school, finding a way to belong within that system is more difficult and can lead to frustration. Educators need to ensure that each student has an opportunity to feel included in the classroom either through materials or pedagogical practices."
Empathy for our students' respective identities and strife cannot be achieved through simply a college course or two, by committing to a lifestyle geared towards continual learning.

Australia is progressing leaps and bounds with the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures in the curriculum, as well as the movement for Constitutional recognition for the nation's first people (see YouMeUnity), but there is much to be done on the ground level. As CRTs, we teach the greatest variety of students. It is up to each of us as educators to display the enthusiasm necessary to educate ourselves about the heritage of our potential students. To grow up having teachers that understood us and that we could relate to is something many of us took for granted. Yet even more valuable than the necessity for white Americans/Australians to gain an appreciation of the local native's culture is the necessity for native students to see their lifestyle recognised within mainstream education. Every student deserves the opportunity to study something that they excel in, and for many students this passionate subject area is their culture.

Whilst recognition and education of these cultures begins in the school, CRTs must educate themselves. Mel from the Wodonga CRT Network recently posted about the Professional Development requirements for VIT registration (What do YOU want from Professional Development). Although some CRTs are (and have always been) excelling well beyond these minimal requirements, many are skidding by with the bare minimum hours for registration, failing to see the benefits of which a lifestyle of continual Professional Development allows. It's concerning to hear teachers are participating in Professional Development opportunities simply to tick off hours or to enhance their CV. Even worse is the thought that if it were not a requirement, some teachers would never participate in PDs. As educators, we must also be lifelong learners. We must be continually educating ourselves about our students and their world if we are to continue teaching effectively. As the quote at the top of this page from the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership states, “The best educators are the best learners. They can adapt to tomorrow’s contexts, technologies, languages.” With time and money constraints the drive for learning can be diminished, but be assured any effort to improve teaching practice can, in fact, be Professional Development. Attending seminars and workshops can provide a unique experience, expert advice, collegial atmosphere or simply the certificate. Seeking the advice of a colleague with multicultural expertise or observing others teach the subject can prove equally useful. Aside from the benefit to your students, Professional Development will allow for an acquisition of further self-awareness and a greater understanding of your skills and weaknesses as an educator. Oh what an infinite amount there is to learn.

More specifically, self-guided multicultural education gives teachers the skills to identify biases in past curriculum materials, as James W. Loewen outlines in Lies My Teacher Told Me:
"Children's history books use terms such as 'westward expansion' and 'Manifest Destiny' to describe what would be more accurately called ethnic genocide. These books alternately portray Indians as 'noble savages', 'faithful Indian guides', or 'sneaky savages' who lead 'ambushes' and 'massacres', while in contrast, cavalrymen fight 'brave battles'. These books propagandize the 'glory and honor' of taking land and oppressing native people for European purposes that are portrayed as holy and valid (Skinner)".
Part of this cross-curriculum priority will inevitably be uncovering the skewed histories and the racist ideologies that are still prevalent today. "Unless teachers are properly prepared, they are not likely to have the necessary skills to discuss racism in anything other than a perfunctory way"(Education Review). School should be an environment in which students feel ok to confront their own stereotypes and racist ideas by dissecting what influences led to those viewpoints. Lessons also need to provide and contextualise multiple perspectives and experiences to allow students to formulate their own unbiased interpretation of history, which will ensure their ability to translate their knowledge into modern-day relevance. Gone are the days of learning history by memorising content from a textbook written from a single perspective of events. Instead teachers should use that textbook as a guide for biases and an interpretation of one form of history, asking "Whose viewpoint is presented, whose omitted and whose interests are served? (Michael H. Romanowski)"

Despite our initial ignorance and hesitations to a new subject area, we must take the challenges of the new curriculum head-on. Professional Development will help to provide insight, and give you the means to approach the topic. You don't need to have all the answers to teach something, and in my experience it’s actually better if you don't. An air of curiosity in the classroom is much better than that of denial and avoidance. Open the floor up to discussion and yourself up to what your students have to say; show them you're never too educated to learn.