Gotta Go Stand Up and Be A Teacher: 50 Things Pre-Service Teachers Should Know

Masks of colour (N.Lemon, 2012)

Recently in a discussion with first year undergraduate Pre-Service Teachers’ (PSTs) the situation of placement came up. In particular we discussed the things they wished they had known prior to going on placement in a school or educational setting. In retrospect reflecting on these things was easier now, as at the beginning of the year the nerves and excitement mixed with not knowing what they didn’t now came into play.

One student, let’s call her Kimberly shared her list of 50 Things a PST should know:

  1. children learn in different ways
  2. children don’t all mature at the same time
  3. children don’t always get it the first time
  4. sometimes less is more
  5. students need time to think/sort through information
  6. being liked doesn’t make one effective
  7. students learn from example
  8. let students have a voice
  9. know your content
  10. don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know
  11. follow through
  12. follow up
  13. be consistent
  14. take an interest in your students beyond the classroom
  15. learn to use ones voice effectively
  16. don’t complain – act
  17. find a mentor
  18. be prepared to take a risk/move out of ones comfort zone
  19. when preparing lessons go for quality over quantity – keep in simple
  20. be creative in your approach
  21. keep calm
  22. embrace parents/carers in the classroom
  23. learn to work as a team
  24. practise mindfulness
  25. incorporate some relaxation into each day
  26. be broad in your approach
  27. be organised
  28. talk to all staff members
  29. ask for advice/direction/help
  30. be prepared to sing regardless of ones voice
  31. be reflective
  32. stay positive
  33. frame requests positively
  34. trust your gut
  35. don’t try to reinvent the wheel….every lesson
  36. be respectful toward students
  37. continue to learn-PD/colleagues/external experts
  38. embrace ICT
  39. remember to ask who, what, why, where, when questions, not questions that require yes or no answers
  40. don’t take ‘failures’ to heart
  41. expect the unexpected
  42. smile with the students
  43. laugh with the students
  44. remember that they’re children and not small adults
  45. make the room exciting/interesting/inspiring
  46. remember that one can’t fix everything/everyone
  47. get involved
  48. ‘think’ about teaching
  49. be proud of your chosen profession and acknowledge its value to society
  50. engage wholeheartedly with the ‘job’

What would you add to this list?

What do you now know that you didn’t prior to becoming a teacher and wished you had been told? 

What would your list be? 


Making your move in a Collaboration: Tips to enhance your team to gel

Collaborations in learning and teaching are very common. We can consider them to be a part of the learning environment from the perspective of both being a teacher and a learner. Common scenarios include:


a. Planning for curriculum in teams

b. Collaborating to seek funding

c. Collaborations on a project that is design dot benefit learning experiences


a. Collaborating on a group assignment or task

b. Cooperative learning opportunity or activity

c. Team activities that are driven by a learning focus

BUT from either perspective, learner or teacher, we often find that these collaborations are hindered by circumstances that don’t always mean the groups experience is positive.  In any of these scenarios it has not been uncommon to hear some common complaints about “I hate working in teams as I always end up doing all the work” or “collaborations never work, they are just a waste of time”.

Making your move in a collaboration ("Community Chess Players" N.Lemon, San Fran, 2012)

Making your move in a collaboration (“Community Chess Players” N.Lemon, San Fran, 2012)

What do we have to consider when collaborating with others in the teaching and learning environment? Here are my top tips to enhance your team to gel:

1. Establish common agreements for participation.

2. Encourage open communication that is not centered on pointing out what someone is not doing but rather focuses on the needs/wants of you as a learner and group member.

3. Establish specific roles for all group members and make sure the responsibilities associated to those roles are understood.

4. Highlight mutual respect for differing opinions and approaches and appreciate what each individual can bring to the group.

5. Appreciate differing opinions and highlight the strength of difference skills, ways of seeing and perspectives as a way to enhance the group dynamics and collaboration rather than focusing on negative enablers or judgmental putdowns.

6. Value your team members and collaborators and make sure they know how and why you appreciate working with them.

Do you have any other tips you could recommend? What do you find assist you as a learner? How do you focus working in a team as a teacher?  

You may also be interested in these related posts:

Making personal connections to help with content exploration and working together

Hottest 5: What are your Top Five learning and teaching strategies?

Can you fail your friends?

A few Tweets away – connecting, listening, sharing, participating and creating

A PLN: Friends…with Benefits

Mountain bike riding and online learning communities: Parallels of skills and participation

Digital Education Revolution: What does this vision look like?

In Australia, there is the Digital Education Revolution (DER) Strategy introduced in July 2009 paralleled with The Statements of Learning for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) from 2006. One is a national approach to implement systemic change to increase the level of ICT proficiency for teachers and school leaders across Australia, while the later provides a description of knowledge, skills, understandings and capacities essential for all Australian students to learn. The learning of both the teacher and the leaner are situated together, each having similar but also different needs in understanding, integrating, and embedding ICT in the teaching and learning process.

The DER is a $2.4 billion project over seven years, including $200 million allocated in May 2010 for 2013-2014, that supports teachers and school leaders require access to rich online learning resources, world class technology curriculum and ICT professional development to allow schools to engage with opportunities created under this strategy to improve their understanding and proficiency in the use of ICT in the teaching and learning process.

Ensuring strong and ongoing communication between the Commonwealth, state and territory governments, the Catholic and independent schools sectors, school communities and their representative bodies, the VET and higher education sectors of education and training, bodies charged with responsibility for implementing other elements of the wider Education Revolution agenda and the wider community has been set as a priority. To achieve this, the commitment to national ICT infrastructure has been made. This includes access to broadband bandwidth, digital learning resources and activities, national curriculum, and continuing professional development for teaching staff in best practice utilisation of technologies to improve learning and teaching outcomes.
The Agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and all states and territories in May 2009, supports the implementation of the DER Strategic Plan and Implementation Roadmap to achieve technology enriched learning environments to assist students to achieve high quality learning outcomes and productively contribute to our society and economy. Through this Agreement, a commitment to addressing the four strands of change identified in the Strategic Plan to guide the implementation of the DER initiative and related initiatives for joint national action include:

a) Leadership – that ensures schools have a coordinated plan for the provision of infrastructure, learning resources and teacher capability to address the educational challenges of the 21st Century;

b) Infrastructure – access to digital teaching and learning resources and tools for processing information, building knowledge and for communication and collaboration;

c) Learning Resources – that stimulate, challenge and assist students in achieving desired learning outcomes. These include collaborative and interactive activities as well as instructional and reference materials; and

d) Teacher Capability – teachers have the skills and tools to design and deliver programs that meet students’ needs and harness the benefits and resources of the digital revolution.

According to the DER, 21st century schools require 21st century programs and educators capable of using 21st century resources and strategies for learning, and the vision of the Digital Education Revolution (EDR) is to empower teachers and school leaders to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) in education. This empowerment is to improve school effectiveness and provide students with the skills required for further education, training and to live and work in a digital world. The Australian Governments share the objective of raising overall attainment is so that all Australian school students acquire the knowledge and skills to participate effectively in society.

While many teachers make use of online curriculum resources, there are a number who resist the use of digital technologies or view them as ‘add‐ons’ rather than as an integral part of curriculum delivery.(Commonwealth of Australia, 2010a, p.4)

 Through this Strategy, the Australian Government will commit $40 million over the next two years (2010-2012) for the professional development (PD) of teachers and school leaders in the use of ICT. Through this commitment the Strategy will support the implementation of the DER and assist in meeting the Australian Government’s commitment to contribute to sustainable and meaningful change in teaching and learning. It is proposed that by the beginning of 2012, significant opportunities for all schools will be created:

• Embed the use of ICT as a key component in teaching and learning in pre‐service teacher education courses;

• Support pre‐service teachers to achieve competence in the effective and creative/innovative inclusion of technologies in teaching and learning and they are familiar with and can utilize emerging technologies;

• Develop digital pedagogy skills in teachers through the completion of a self assessment tool that directs them to a pathway for further ICT learning and development;

• Engage teachers with professional development to enhance and strengthen their ability to integrate the use of ICT into the classroom and support the rollout of the Australian Curriculum; and

• Build leadership capacity in school leaders to model and implement digital pedagogy and ICT literacy in schools, to support transformational practice.

For schools and teachers, the DER is challenging pedagogy and use of ICT to contribute sustainable and meaningful change to teaching and learning in Australian schools to prepare students for the future.  As Kraidy (2002) reiterates:

Digital technologies, however, are initiating a revolution at least of the magnitude of the one spawned by Gutenberg’s press. The challenge faced by education, however, is to develop leadership both in shaping the future of technological innovations as well as in adapting to the implications of those developments. (pp.104-105)

The affects in education of this digital revolution are generating interest amongst educators about and are beginning to be researched about in regards to impact, possibilities and new ideas. But in regards to application in the  classroom what does this actually mean? Where is the revolution? What does it look like? 

Mobile Digital Technology in learning: Enhancing mobile learning for anywhere anytime engagement

Mobile technology in the learning environment (N.Lemon, 2012)In a blog post, Chris Dede, a professor in learning technologies at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, advocates the use of mobile devices in education. The devices, which allow students to learn any time and anywhere, expand instructional time beyond the classroom and the teacher and help increase students’ motivation to learn, Dede writes:

1. Knowing where you are

2. Interacting with networks

3. Sensing local content and services

4. Discovering relevant things

5. Enhancing your surroundings with information and simulation

6. Learning your interests, as well as how and with whom you like to learn

This new capacity for learning, which is infused with global information, is a powerful way of complementing the traditional model of learning, which is isolated from the world in classroom settings. The anywhere and anytime come into play.

Mobile phones, tablets and other mobile devices now provide access to a much broader and more flexible set of learning resources than is available in classrooms. The mobile access and options of these types of technologies offer alternatives wash of working and create connections to a wider and more flexible network of individuals, groups and organizations. Another great aspect is the ease to modifying learning experiences for individual learners to connect further with content and instructional styles designed to fit the interests and experience of each person and exploration of meaning making.

But questions around limitations exist, they can be problem solved and developed according to needs, wants, and possibilities, however these areas must be resolved to realize the power of mobile digital technologies for learning:

 How can we access mobile devices and infrastructure for learning? How can we best balance educational investments between wired computers and the emerging infrastructure of wireless mobile devices?

 How can we use internet access and digital student data to enhance education, while preventing various forms of abuse? How do we work with and around safety and privacy with care and compassion?

 Digital assets and assessments: How can we drive innovation in digital learning materials and services when the education market is notoriously fragmented and slow to adapt, and when the strengths and limits of mobile devices for learning are not well understood?

 How can we empower educators and other stakeholders to realize the potential of anytime and anywhere learning?

 Which of these barriers affects progress in the other areas?

 I’m interested in your thoughts. What ideas have you explored?

Hottest 5: What are your Top Five learning and teaching strategies?

At this time of the year the Australian radio station TripleJ have just run a competition to nominate your hottest ten soundtracks of the previous year in order to compile the Hottest 100 songs of the year. The countdown features for Australia Day airplay and reconnections and highlights are shared in the months proceeding. This got me thinking, what are your top five hottest learning and teaching strategies?

Grant Wiggins recently blogged about John Hattie’s work on visible learning that triggered some parallels for me. The identification in the research into the meta-analysis of learning and teaching reported some interesting data. I’ve short listed accordingly from this post but you get checkout the full list on Grant’s blog and also in Hattie’s publications. So the top learning and teaching strategies and pedagogical approaches were:

  • Meta-cognitive strategies taught and used
  • Classroom behavioral techniques
  • Creativity programs
  • Student prior achievement
  • Self-questioning by students
  • Study skills
  • Problem-solving teaching
  • Not labeling students
  • Concept mapping
  • Cooperative vs individualistic learning
  • Direct instruction
  • Tactile stimulation programs
  • Mastery learning
  • Worked examples
  • Visual-perception programs
  • Peer tutoring
  • Cooperative vs competitive learning
  • Student-centered teaching
  • Classroom cohesion
  • Peer influences
  • Classroom management techniques

But what does this actually look like? How can we support these areas in learning and teaching? This got me thinking about what strategies I use in my classroom and how they relate to promoting these areas. Hence the connection to Hottest 5 in being able to identify and label approaches.

On Twitter, when I posed this question with a request (and hope for some strategies). @MarkRussell engaged in a conversation about guiding principles for learning and teaching. For me I’m guided by the following that in turn influence my pedagogical approach and application of strategies. So if I begin with my underpinning guiding principles…

  • Creating a community for and of mutual respect
  • Balance individual, group (with focus on variations of size and members) & whole class activities
  • Providing a variety of opportunities for cooperative teaching and learning (highlighting that this  is different to Group Work)
  • Celebrating and valuing individual successes and strengths
  • Reflection on and for learning
  • Peer teaching
  • Making clear what we are going to learn and why

These then inform the strategies I use and apply in my teaching. My Hottest 5 list of learning and teaching strategies and the why includes:
1. Jigsaw – finding out information and sharing this further back to others provides opportunities for self directed learning, peer teaching and application of ideas. The movement and opportunity to work with others in the classroom also provides a chance to communicate, think and problem solve how to work with others.
2. Think-pair-share – individual thinking time then paired with peer ideas is fabulous for making connections, sharing perspectives and seeing other options.
3. Snowball – quick fun way to share feedback anonymously that gives permission for the learner to share an idea or question on a piece of paper, scrunch this up into a paper ball to form a snowball, and when all learners have formed a circle to then throw this in the middle where each learner then picks up a new piece of paper (a snowball) and then share this information as a class. The throwing of the scrunched up paper gives the effect that it is snowing, hence the name of the strategy.
4. Learning circle – where everyone stands or sits  in a circle and are included, can see each other, and have the opportunity to be involved. Much better than lines or a mix match of learners facing different ways who  can’t hear each other.
5. Energizers – balancing different learning styles and approaches with active time to reflect and take a break to refocus for meaningful leaning.  So many different ideas are available for using energizers in the learning environment with many only taking a few minutes from the focus learning activities but they add so much to the flow of ideas, conversation, sharing and productivity.

What are your top learning and teaching strategies? Do you have other learning principles that underpin your approach to learning and teaching? What do you find works in your classroom?

Mountain bike riding and online learning communities: Parallels of skills and participation

Mountain bike riding at Mt Buller, Victoria, Australia: Focus of technique required when participating (N.Lemon, 2011)

It has what? [insert raised eye brows]
What on earth are you thinking Narelle? [insert shaking of head]
How can an active sport have parallels to something we do mostly sitting down?
Really? [insert high pitch voice]

I can hear you saying these things (and well a few people already have when I ran the idea past them). So hear me out, and see what you think about why I think mountain bike riding has parallels to our online community participation.

I’m a keen mountain bike rider and have been for a few years now. It’s my relaxation (hmmm but its classified as an extreme sport!) and it is time for me to be active, go outside, enjoy myself, and spend time on tracks that run alongside the side of and in amongst mountains that provide an opportunity to witness gorgeous views. The adrenalin associated to a great fast flowing ride or nailing a jump over a tree log is contagious. It is also a fine line between success and well crash (literally as the scars on my legs would tell you).

The flow of line through the trees of Mt Buller, Victoria, Australia (N.Lemon, 2011)

So recently I had a skills lesson with three other riders. I hadn’t done this before, and now wish  I hadn’t put it off for so long. Many of the hints and wise words of advice that were given by Trainer Tim were delivered in a way that allowed me to up skill my bike handling and even get some air! (Whoa hoo! I had much delight in sharing that with Mr Rellypops on my return home!). Trainer Tim’s pedagogical approach was clear and effective. He was an action man, loved to demonstrate and model the do’s and don’ts. His student centered approach to learning and teaching was underpinned by doing. He modeled, I did, he gave feedback, and then I did again. Every student in the class did this repeatedly; we watched each other to further build our skills and knowledge and applied different skills to different sections of the track. We made mistakes, but we learnt from these quickly and efficiently.

Now this post is not about mountain bike riding. Rather what it ignited in my thinking. In the car drive back home I began to think about the tips Trainer Tim gave and how these could be transferred to the online community and participating according to our skills, knowledge, and needs.  Some wise words were shared during my mountain bike lesson and I think they translate across with some interesting parallels:

  • Skills can’t be taught but techniques can.
  • Slow, steady and practice.
  • Watch others.
  • Learn by doing.
  • Learn by making mistakes.
  • A community of participants helps you – have conversations, ask questions and observe what others do who are more experienced – the key is that these are supportive co-participants who at one stage were also beginners.
  • Goal set – what do you actually want to do and achieve?
  • Look ahead – particiaption is not about looking in one spot, it happens at multiple rates, multiples times, with multiple correlations all around you.
  • Pick your line – and you don’t have to respond to or read everything just go with the flow but pick the line you are going to follow and be aware on this.
  • Maintain your equipment.
  • Etiquette – gentle, focus, mutual respect and non judgments, and attentive listening are all valued in the community for active participation.

Some interesting parallels? What do you think? Different applications but the essential messages for particpation have some strong parallels. Do you participate in a sport or another type of activity that has provided parallel frameworks, language or ways of thinking? What learning experiecnes have you had in learning that could be transferred to a different field or area?

A PLN: Friends…with Benefits

PLN visual by Joyce Seitzinger (2008 via Flickr)

Making the decision to defect from a career in law and join the ranks of one of the noblest professions was the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my short time on this earth-but also the most rewarding.

From experience in three other fields of work, I can honestly say that no profession is as encouraging, committed to professional development, and devoted to self improvement as the teaching profession. This has been my discovery from building my PLN (Personal Learning Network) over the last year using technological tools such as Twitter, blogging and Edmodo, and also taking time out of the hectic schedule of a uni student to attend and present at conferences, unconferences, and TeachMeets. Building PLNs and supporting pre-service teachers (from both within universities and mentoring from experienced teachers themselves) has now become somewhat of a crusade of mine, with two projects currently under way to ensure these lost little lambs find their way home (read more about PSTN and e is for english).

But what is this elusive PLN? And HOW do I elbow my way in?

Because PLN has become somewhat of a buzzword in the education industry, I prefer to think of the people in my PLN as my friends with whom who share goals, ideas, and often jokes. These are the people I turn to when I have had a terrible day in the classroom, when I have struggled with an assignment, or when I felt frustrated by “the system”. These are the people who have helped and coached me through interviews, who have organised me a job, and who constantly share their time and resources with me without expecting the earth in return. And if that isn’t a friend, I don’t know what is.

Upfront, it isn’t easy to ‘find’ a PLN, and it takes some work to find the right fit. You do have to dust off your networking skills, and venture outside that comfort zone in order to establish connections. My favourite networking tool has been Twitter, which I would recommend to ANY teacher, but this won’t work for everyone. If I am honest, Twitter sucks up a lot of time and energy (my partner banned me using it in his house for a while….), and if you are the type to easily procrastinate, steer clear! Tools like Edmodo and Google + can be just as effective for forming groups and sharing resources, without causing you to feel so overwhelmed.

But you have to go beyond the technology. You have to attend the meet and greets (something which it took me a while to feel comfortable doing), you have to make the time to call or Skype those people you collaborate with. Most of all though, you have to participate. Like any relationship, a PLN is not a one-way street; you must make the time to share your own resources, ideas, and opinions with others. This might put you in a difficult position; what if you don’t have these ‘others’ to share with?

To quote the age old adage: Rome wasn’t built in a day. So don’t try and build your PLN in a day either! My advice is to latch onto one or two people who you make the effort to know well and show them that you are a committed professional. Make sure these people are at least mildly influential in whichever sphere you choose to inhabit, and they will gradually introduce you to others you can follow/connect with. I was lucky-the influence of my practical placement mentor provided me with a certain ‘in’ to the Twittersphere, but I know others who have followed the (informal) guidelines Dean Groom has blogged about, and had success building a sturdy PLN that way. And if you are still really struggling, feel free to join the PSTN project which will be happening all around the country (and with a bit of luck-the world!).

But it isn’t all hard slog!

I find that my workload is reduced by half after people have shared their resources with me, and that much of my professional development and my knowledge of the issues in education have come from my PLN without me having to source it myself. I have said it so many times this year that it has become like a mantra, but some days I honestly thought that without Twitter I would have either failed, or dropped out of university. Not because it was particularly difficult, but because I couldn’t stand the lack of guidance from many of the academics who were teaching us. Not only did the teachers in my PLN chip in, but also other academics, to ensure me that the university bubble was just that.

So now, with my one year of experience in the field of education (laughable isn’t it?), off I trot to my first job as a graduate teacher in a rural school (you guessed it-as a result of my PLN!). I feel confident, prepared, and supported, and ready take risks and push boundaries for these kids; something I owe to the years and years of experience which have been shared so kindly with me.

Lauren is Chat with Rellypop’sfirst guest contributor and we hope to hear more from her as she moves from being a preservice teacher to a graduate teacher. Her interests in community, student centred learning and technology drive much of her passion for education and interactions with fellow learners. Lauren is a part of Rellypop’s PLN and has been blogging about her thoughts a reflections about being a preservice teacher at Lauren also tweets @LaurenForner.