The Inspiring Evolution of a Teacher

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Written by Cassie (Teach Starter)

Responsive. It’s a personal characteristic that I think most teachers would agree is one of the most necessary when working in education. We are responsive on a micro level, to the thoughts, feelings, actions and behaviors of our students each day. We are responsive on a macro level to changes in the directions, focuses and trends in education as a whole.

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Australian primary school teacher Chantelle, a.k.a. @teachingwithmissp, truly embodies this characteristic. In the seven years that Chantelle has been teaching she has not only mastered all of the day-to-day juggles of a classroom teacher but has also continued to extend herself professionally, ensuring that as contemporary education evolves, she does too!

It is our pleasure to bring you her ideas, opinions and experiences in this edition of the Teach Starter Teacher Spotlight series.

TS: Tell us a little about yourself and your current role…

Miss P: Hi! My name is Chantelle and I live and teach in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I’m 29 years old and have been teaching for 7 years. So far I have taught Grades 3 and 6 at the one school and this year am moving into Grade 2!

I work in a government primary school where I teach and am one of the Maths Coordinators! I am also one of the teachers in charge of the Junior School Council. I like to keep myself busy!

TS: Why did you become a teacher? 

Miss P: I initially wanted to be a German or Maths teacher in a secondary school setting! But being a netball umpire slowly changed my mind and I realised primary school would be the place for me. I loved umpiring the younger age groups because you were able to coach them a little bit and explain why the whistle was being blown etc. A parent actually came up to tell me that I was great with the little ones and would make a great teacher! And, as cliche as it is, the rest is history!

TS: Can you describe the journey that has led you to this point in your career?

Miss P: I actually almost didn’t become a teacher! After the first year of my teaching degree, I nearly switched to go into marketing because I felt quite disconnected from the course. We didn’t get to do any teaching rounds in our first year of the degree and had some subjects that I struggled with that weren’t directly related to education or teaching (media studies being one of them!).

The university talked me around and I’m so glad they did because the next 3 years were fantastic, with things really ‘clicking’ in fourth year. I had an amazing mentor during my final year and an absolute legend of a supervising teacher at my final placement school (which I have been at ever since!). My family have always been an unreal support and I’m the first teacher in the family!

TS: What is it about your job that makes your heart sing?

Miss P: Oh wow, where to begin?! Let me be a true teacher here and compile a list:

  • The people I work with.
  • When my students experience success in any shape or form.
  • Collaborating with others who are just as passionate about our awesome industry.
  • New stationery (flair pens and expo markers *swoon*).

TS: What do you find most challenging in your current role?

Miss P: Time management is the most challenging aspect of my current role. Not that I’m bad at it, just that I have a tough time prioritising some things because they are all super important!

We have 3 hours of APT (non-contact) per week and I barely scrape the surface of my ‘To Do List’ sometimes. It’s hard to know where to start! Do you plan lessons first? Mark assessment? Analyze the data? Email parents back? Do Math Coordinator tasks? Tidy my classroom? Put up displays?

Arrgghh!! Just typing this is stressing me out!

TS: Is working in education different to how you imagined it would be when you were a pre-service teacher?

Miss P: It is quite different and I think that is due to how rapid technology is developing. When I was a pre-service teacher iPads were just coming into the world, now, only 7 years later we have 1:1 iPads and the students are absolute wizards on them!

The iPad is such an effective tool in the classroom when used correctly so I’m loving where teaching and education are heading. Lots of open-ended tasks and pushing the boundaries! I wouldn’t have known that we’d be able to leverage technology as much as we are. In the beginning, it was all about having tonnes of apps on the iPad as a substitute for worksheets or whatever, whereas now we are looking to modify and redefine the way we use the technology. It’s awesome!

TS: Technology seems to be a big part of what inspires you as a teacher. Can you tell us a little more about how you use technology a tool for deep learning?

Miss P: In terms of “leveraging technology” I’ve actually written a paper about it with a couple of colleagues!

We are lucky enough to have 1:1 iPads from Grades 4-6 at our school and have employed the SAMR Model as a guide for planning and using technology meaningfully in the classroom. The SAMR Model has four levels; Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition.

Whilst apps like ‘Reading Eggs’ and ‘Mathletics’ still hold their place in our classrooms, there are tonnes of apps that promote and engage students in a more meaningful way. The SAMR Model has allowed teachers at my school, myself included, to further create, innovate, and personalise student learning. Apps like iBooks Author/Book Creator, the Adobe Spark suite, iTunes, Edmodo and SeeSaw are super effective ways to leverage the tech in the classroom because kids can access new levels of feedback from peers, teachers, the school community and even a global community!

These types of apps or programs help promote collaboration and reach higher order thinking by giving students the opportunity to reflect on the entire process, which is so important. Ultimately, the effect this approach has had on our students is that they are more reflective, engaged, and are able to take more responsibility for their learning because it means something. They don’t see the iPad as a ‘toy’ when they are at school but more as a tool they can use to help them get the best out of their learning experiences.

TS: Tell us about the best lesson, or best teaching experience, you’ve ever had.

Miss P: I think the best teaching experience I’ve had is when the students come back to say hello once they have gone off to high school. Teaching Grade 6 has allowed me to share in some pretty emotional and scary times for the students and it’s so nice that they want to come back and keep you updated on what’s happening in their lives. You build a special bond with them by the end of their final year of primary school and it’s very unique to being a Grade 6 teacher.

TS: Name three characteristics or skills that you hope every one of your students will have when they walk out of your classroom for the last time.

Miss P:

(1) Resilience

Aside from the obvious academic skills, I believe it’s super important for my students to walk out of my classroom with an understanding of resilience. It’s a quality that I think a lot of students, whether they’re 6 or 16, need to work on and seems to be a life skill too many students are lacking these days for whatever reason.

(2) Empathy

Empathy is a big thing for me, especially in the upper year levels where kids can sometimes give one another a bit of a tough time as they’re trying to work out who their true friends are, where they fit in and who they are themselves. I would love to think that my students are accepting of all walks of life, and are able to see situations from another point of view to resolve conflict and just be kind humans. The world needs kindness.

(3) Initiative

I’d like my students to walk out of my classroom with initiative too. Self-belief, confidence and determination but not arrogance. Knowing that they can achieve what they put their mind and heart into, but that things aren’t just handed to you on a silver platter is important. Patience, perseverance and a truckload of hard work are going to help them to succeed in whatever it is they choose to do in 5, 10, even 20 years time! I hope they welcome challenges!

TS: If you could change three things about the expectations that are placed on teachers, carers and students in the current climate of education, what would they be?

Miss P: I will start off saying that I believe people should have high expectations of teachers, I mean, we’re educating the future of our country and our world! Let’s not forget that. But I think in the current climate of education, the tables have turned. It’s like that visual that has made the rounds on the Internet that showed a teacher and parents at parent/teacher interviews back in the day. If the teacher said that the student wasn’t focused or talking too much in the classroom, the accountability was on the student. Nowadays, the finger is pointed at the teacher and where we have sat the students, or how engaging our lessons are. Sometimes you can feel like the bad guy and that’s not a nice feeling when you work so hard to make each and every lesson engaging, challenging and supportive all in one go.

I think as well, depending on your school’s culture and expectations, teachers take on A LOT. We’re not just classroom teachers anymore. We’re eLearning leaders, Literacy Coaches, project managers, Head of Junior School, transition coordinators, data analysts … even social media managers! I think teachers naturally like to lead and continue to grow and learn new things, but it can become quite overwhelming. I would change the idea of us always needing to do more to achieve more. It’s more important to sometimes do less, but do it well!

If I could change another thing, it would be work/life balance. So many of us get to the end of term and are completely and utterly burnt out. That is so counterproductive and is what drives some educators out of the industry. I would change our way of thinking. I would love for teachers to know that it’s ok to not work on weekends and spend time with friends or go for a long walk with your dog. I would change how a teacher’s guilty conscience works, in that you should feel guilty for doing the work on your weekend! Not the other way around!

TS: Where do you hope your career in education will take you?

Miss P: My aspirations have changed over time! At the beginning of my career, my goal was to be a year level coordinator. Now I would love to go back to uni and teaching and working with our future teachers. I would need to do my masters, which intimidates me a little, but you never know! I also wouldn’t mind going down the Assistant Principal path, but not for a long time!

Chantelle’s Top 3 Teach Starter Resources

I asked Chantelle what her current three favorites are (because there are so many resources to explore!):

1. Super Six Comprehension Resources

I LOVE all of the ‘Super Six’ comprehension resources! They are so easy to use and I love that the guys at Teach Starter are constantly adding items to support the strategies.

Super Six Comprehension Strategy Resources

2. Unit Plans

I also love that Teach Starter has units of work ready and raring to go. I became the Grade 6 Science teacher last year and felt so out of my depth. I jumped on to Teach Starter and there was a WHOLE unit on Adaptations. Such a lifesaver!

Unit plan on Adaptations

3. Polygon Puzzles

My kiddos really enjoy the Maths polygon puzzles too. They are great for fine motor skills with the cutting out and also help them to practice their quick maths facts in a fun way!

Huge thanks to Chantelle for sharing her thoughts and experiences with us for this Teach Starter Spotlight. You can connect with Chantelle via her Instagram account @teachingwithmissp

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