Renewed Hope

Writing in my blog again, is exciting. Coming back from a holiday overseas gives a renewed hope. Renewed anticipation and renewed commitments. Well, I have been lucky in terms of love and family, my husband and children have been a great source of inspiration. They are my world and I’m blessed to have such a lovely family. My teaching journey had been a great adventure so far. This is not possible without my family member’s support, I believe this is a crucial factor in achieving a rewarding and satisfying career.

I was able to clock in many teaching days at all schools; both primary and secondary. Also, it is fulfilling to go into different schools and practice my teachings skills with lots of passion and enthusiasm. Thanks to the lovely teachers that I knew in these schools, and again without them, it would have been so much harder to get into teaching in Sydney. Overall, a great satisfaction, knowingly, my passion for teaching had been fulfilled, slowly and steadily.

Needless to say that casual teaching involves numerous challenges, charm and contest as I experienced teaching and learning in varied school environment, whilst managing my role as a mum and wife effectively. Apart from these reasons, casual teaching relinquishes different skills; skills that are needed to teach in both types of primary and secondary school. For example, in Primary teaching I tend to focus more on students’ ethics,values and behavior, ensuring they are cared for as respected individuals. Teaching students about the importance of mannerism and discipline are infused together with the content itself.

No one day is a boring day! My nurturing and compassionate skills manifest as a result of teaching in these schools. Well, isn’t it true that they say ‘in primary school you’re teaching the child, whereas, in secondary school you’re teaching the subject’. Having said this, I really appreciate and value my teaching days at at Darcy Road Public Parramatta Public and lately, Jasper Road Public. In Jasper Road, I had experienced the true meaning of “making a difference”, while teaching in the support unit. Teaching students with austism and mild disability are another rewarding experience.

Though, I’m a high school trained teacher, as a casual teacher I’m allowed to teach in primary schools here in Sydney. I did a Montessori early childhood qualification long ago and it proved to be handy now when I needed the most at this stage of teaching. Definitely a bonus, I guess. Students are amazing in all these schools, they simply enjoy my teaching and would love to have me again in their class. I really love to teach and this is what I wanted to do all along. Finally, my passion is being fully utilized, adding on to another milestone of achievement.

On contrast in high school teaching, I had experienced a different teaching environment. Last year, especially in Bonnyrigg High School, I was asked to teach Indonesian language. Wow…!, I thought. Since, I came from Malaysia I was able to teach Indonesian as both languages have similar features, except in Indonesian language, we tend to stress the words more when we are pronouncing a particular word. So, it was good to teach a new subject and to gain a different kind of knowledge. It was a block teaching and basically it improved my level of confidence in teaching a new subject.

Similar situation happened in Ashfield Boys High, I taught different subjects such as Business Studies, Legal Studies and Commerce. My love for English is so profound that I had a few chances of teaching this subject to some senior students, explaining about the language techniques used in poems and novels. Further explaining how to analyse the text using language as a tool to create meaning. Admittedly, I truly enjoyed teaching this subject too, eventhough this is not my specialization.

I found teaching these subjects were easy due to the fact that I had done all these subjects while at High School. Not only that, in my Business Studies qualification I took the subjects as well. I can utilise my knowledge from my previous accounting and management careers, too. Moreover, I have had some exposure teaching Economic and Business Studies back home in Malaysia, while working in a College. Therefore, I’m fully prepared to teach a variety of different subjects with high level of confidence. Of course, my master’s of teaching from University of New South Wales gets a special mention as this is where I learned how to teach using differentiation and practice them in real time teaching. Of a particular benefit was having to study two units of gifted and talented courses, which proved to be useful as it gives knowledge and understanding to plan my lesson. In retrospect, I believe with experience comes confidence.

The opportunity to teach in Ashfield Boys High was quite meaningful to me because this is the very first suburb that I lived in when I newly migrated to Australia. My children studied in the nearby Ashfield Public School. The Primary and High School is located in the same area and I am proud to say that I have had a great time teaching in this wonderful school. Walking along the path to this school brought back a lot of memories as I used to walk to the Public School to send my children there, many years ago. I believe it has some element of historical significance to me.

For me, undoubtedly, it’s a great journey in my teaching career. I truly treasure my teaching days in all these schools, irrespective of which school I have taught or going to teach. At the end of the day, I am delighted to achieve my aim. My aim of becoming a teacher and helping young people to achieve success in their lives. With this aim, I’m hoping to get a school, a school that can be proud to have me as a passionate and enthusiastic teacher. Till then, my hope never fades.

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A student named Honey from Darcy Road Public wrote about me when I was teaching in her class last year. Ms Murphy was a talented and passionate teacher whom I always adore. It’s nice to get recognition from students comparing me to her classroom teacher. (PS-she wrote it herself without me asking. )

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Good things come to those who wait.

At last, I have done it. No amount of words can describe my feeling of elation upon completing my final teaching practicum. This was a huge relief as I have been postponing this for some time now. Teaching practicum, as we all know is quite stressful and challenging. Having to experience both good and bad teaching experiences in the past, I prepared well this time around to face this final practicum with confidence. I forego all other activities during the six weeks of practicum and fully concentrated on this task with one mindset, that is, to ace this final practicum superbly well. Fortunately, my school’s teaching staff and the supervising teacher were very supportive. A lot of encouragement and assistance were given to me during my time here. Without these elements of positivity, there is no way; I could have done it so well. Most importantly, I was prepared to take on board all the criticism that was given to me by my supervising teaching (SP). Written feedback or comments were given for each and every lesson that I taught. This is really important. As I said in my previous blog, I believe in the power of feedbacks and it really allows me to modify my teaching practice more effectively. I took these comments or criticisms seriously and made the necessary amendments for my own teaching improvements as well as to increase students’ engagement in the classroom. After all, isn’t education all about increasing the quality of our teaching for the benefits of our young people?
Upon reflection, I realized there were a few incidences that I can treasure and others that can be rectified in order to achieve a better outcome in delivering my teaching practice. While doing my teaching practicum, I was given a lot of help and support this XXX School, which I thought was excellent. The SP had established a classroom management plan so effectively. I simply had to follow on as what was expected. I didn’t want to try out any new classroom management plans, just so I can concentrate on preparing my lesson plans and teaching practice. I found this very comforting because as a new teacher, it is simply daunting to face so many students from different academic levels and different year groups-Yr 7, 8 and 9. Not to mention about remembering their names! Well, I did pretty well in this part, though at times I did mix up some student names and this caused a little embarrassment for some. Anyhow, overall I had a good rapport with students. I treated all the students with equal respect. I had a hard time comprehending that even at Year 9, some students from Non- English speaking and Aboriginal background need a lot of help in their literacy and numeracy skills. With these types of challenges, especially in a mixed ability class, using differentiation while preparing my lesson plan came in handy. Again, preparing lesson plans according to these requirements was done with the help of my SP. She gave a lot of resources for me to adapt and modify as per the students’ academic abilities. This was awesome and I truly felt so grateful to her. Besides this, I also tried out some of my own teaching resources as to experiment with my own teaching practice and to see how effective this could be.  Apart from this, as we all know not all students learn in the same way, altering and modifying our teaching styles make a lot of difference for students, especially to infuse curiosity, clarify certain concepts or simply to create empathy. For this purpose, I tried a role-play activity in my Year 9 class, the lesson on Henry Parkes (Father of Federation in Australia) in the topic of Making of a Nation. Believe me; I will forever remember this lesson as it taught me two elements to truly consider prior to teaching. One, being fully prepared by  knowing exactly what is the composition of students in the class. The other, by using different teaching strategies, definitely, it enhances students’ creativity and acting talent. Obviously, more student involvement benefits the whole class, not choosing one or two students. To elaborate further, this class is of a selective stream and consists of students from multicultural background. There was a student with a hearing aid problem and I need to insert a little device on my dress so that she can hear me talking. I had to repeat some instructions for her while teaching. I am fully aware of this, whenever I’m teaching this particular class. 
 I understood this well, but what happened was, during the role-play session there were two students performing an act by acting out the role of Henry Parkes and the governor of New South Wales at that time, Robert Brand. I volunteered to read out the prologue section and the boys were reading their dialogue. The conversation was lively and witty and from students’ reaction, all of them truly enjoyed the play. Their laughter can be regarded as a testimony for a good performance by the boys. It really went on well. However, something went wrong! Yes, a silly mistake on my behalf. Actually, I have forgotten about the girl with the hearing aid problem. I should have given her a copy of the dialogue, so she too can enjoy the dialogue being acted/read out by the boys. Although, she did get some of my explanation on the prologue, but would not have any clue what the boys were saying. Well, I really felt awfully bad  when the SP told me this and I reminded myself that this type of silly mistake should never occur again.  
On the other hand, an interesting outcome was achieved while teaching the Year 7 class. I used a lesson plan that was suggested by my SP which really turns out fabulously well. Although, it was a simple lesson plan, but the engagement and participation amongst students in this class was immensely great. As a matter of fact, I was quite astonished to see how well students got involved. In Year 7, while teaching the topic of Ancient Greece I used the lesson on writing the Greek alphabet and using these Greek letters to write a few sentences, then rewriting them in English. Students were chosen to write these sentences in Greek letters on the white board and other students had to explain what these Greek sentences means. I saw a sense of eagerness and willingness to participate. As a starter lesson I decided to engage students by discussing about their own language or any second language that they knew. Since, this class consists of high level of multicultural students; it was easy to get students to say a few words that they can think of and at the same time explaining the importance of understanding another language. I also used my own knowledge of using different language while living in Malaysia. I tried asking students what the word means in Japanese, Mandarin and Bahasa Indonesia. It was a lively teaching session with students answering enthusiastically and responding to my questions eagerly. My SP too, contributed by saying some of the Japanese words that she  had learned previously. Sometimes, lessons that I thought was so simple ended up as the most engaging activity in the classroom. Overall, it was very meaningful for students and this was the desired outcomes for classroom engagement as per our quality teaching practices.    
 My final teaching practicum was the highlight of all my other teaching practice. I am able to feel a sense of relief upon completing this final task well with the help of so many people, including my SP. I would like to thank all of you who have supported me. Those who know me will know how hard it was for me to fulfil this final task. Having to care for my family members and performing other essential everyday task as a care provider was not easy.  I guess success is nothing without failures. With lots of will power and self-determination I was able to fulfil my aim of becoming a teacher. I know there is more challenges ahead, but with a positive attitude and willingness to help others will guide me for a better future. Obviously, with the support from others in the teaching industry. 
 
 
 

The Power of Feedback.

Starting to write again in my blog is exciting after a brief absence. I would like to share a positive experience. One of my written tasks which I contributed in a History Teacher’s Association’s Workshop under the guidance of  Matt Easterman proved  powerful.  This little task seems to fit in well with my  final teaching practice. Is it a coincidence, not sure! As always the importance of feedback can never be underestimated as it helps us on how to improve on our teaching practices. Upon completing my final teaching practicum, I was so amazed to reflect on this particular assignment. The topic of ‘feedback’ that I chose clearly shows how vital it can be for beginning teachers. Reflecting on it now, I applaud my supervising teacher because she never fails to give a feedback. She always gave written feedback on each and every lesson that I taught and I took all her comments on board simply because I want to improve. Above all I love teaching and I aim for the best result,  this clearly reflected in my final practicum report. My supervising teacher had received her proficiency level and she works towards upholding the importance of feedback.

I found one relevant TED talk that might inspire some teachers out there to take ‘feedbacks’ as a holy grail. Bill Gates is not a teacher, but his suggestions can be taken into consideration for better improvements in our teaching commitments.

Teachers need real feedback-Bill Gates (http://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates_teachers_need_real_feedback).
I am choosing this TED talk by Bill Gates due to the relevance it can provide for all teachers. Bill Gates is suggesting a few useful strategies for some effective outcomes by improving teaching practices for many of us. Bill Gates argues that in the effort to improve quality teaching, giving real feedback to teachers about their teaching strategy is essential not only to improve educational outcomes but also maintaining the teaching standards in this great profession. Two essential elements that Bill Gates focuses are on the importance of feedback and providing useful coaching techniques for ongoing professional teacher development. These two core elements are essential in our current digital era for delivering effective and meaningful teaching outcomes. Furthermore, by following his suggestions, teachers can either maintain or modify their teaching practices which realistically fit in with the requirement of the AITSL for better educational outcomes.

Feedback, no matter how small or large, is essential in order for teachers to do their job effectively. Bill Gates talks about the vital aspect of feedback and he stresses the importance of ‘real feedback’. Having said that, he also suggests that having a trainer or mentor is equally important because they are the experts who can provide all the necessary knowledge and skills for new teachers to excel. For teachers, knowing how to improve on students’ academic progresses and achievements enables them to focus on gaining new teaching techniques for improving further on their professional teaching practices. Bill Gates’ suggestions are timely as teachers need to work collaboratively with many other teaching staffs in the school to produce better results in students’ overall academic achievements. As a beginning teacher, I would like to comment on the merits of getting a feedback from expert teachers in order to increase and improve my professional knowledge and eventually becoming a proficient teacher.

The teaching standard that I am focusing is on AITSL’s Standard 6, subsection 6.3, which requires teachers to contribute to collegial discussions and apply some constructive feedback from colleagues to improve their professional knowledge and practice. In particular, I am keen to talk about the importance of other teacher’s feedback while I am teaching in the classroom. By allowing our teaching staffs observing us teaching and giving feedback will actually improve on individual teaching practices. Teaching practices are deemed to be effective when a professional teacher allows his/her colleague to evaluate their teaching and provide constructive feedback. Constructive feedback, in return, is necessary for improvement in teaching and to make changes whenever necessary. For example, when a comment is made by the observing teacher for improvement in the questioning techniques while teaching, the new teacher who needs to improve in this area, has to take the comment as a positive criticism and work on to improve his/her teaching practices that requires effective questioning techniques. In subjects like History, this becomes quite relevant as directing the right questions as to allow students to connect with the topic in a deeper sense. Also, framing the right questions provides a relevant starting point for a bubble of discussion to continue among students, as well as setting the stage for a lively discussion. In a way it also increases their critical thinking skills.

Evidently, new or beginning teacher hugely benefits if they are given the chance to observe any expert teachers or even being observed by other senior teachers in the school. The flip side of observing new teachers is that some new teachers might feel uncomfortable having someone else observing them while teaching in the classroom and end up not being able to continue with his or her teaching practices. However, for those who feel uncomfortable involving in this type of teacher observation sessions, they can record their own teaching practices and review them at a later stage so that they can improve their teaching by some self diagnostic tools. They can also write their reflection on how to improve and learn to become better teachers. No matter what, the advantage of having a mentoring/expert teacher far outweighs the negativity that is portrayed. Whether it is positive or negative comment, teachers should regard this as part of their learning process and work as a team effectively for the betterment of all, students and teachers alike.

To sum up, collegial discussion among teachers, in the form of observing other teachers and giving feedback creates a culture of acceptance and engagement in a professional manner. To work in collaboration with other teachers will definitely improve and maintain the essential aspects of providing teaching with a focus on the AITSLs standard 6, subsection 6.3. Likewise, greater professional engagement with teaching staffs will heighten teachers’ motivation and determination in varied aspects of their professional teaching practices. Teachers need to have a positive attitude in order to give and receive feedbacks about their teaching practices. Thus, Bill Gates’ suggestion about giving feedbacks and having a trainer/mentor in the teaching profession is laudable.

Though, I’m not in the proficient level yet, the standards that I am focusing will assist me in the future and hopefully all other teachers can seriously use these powerful ‘feedbacks’ widely to create greater engagement amongst colleagues.

Standard 6-AITSL- Engage in professional learning
Focus Area 6.3- Engage with colleagues and improve practice
Career stage- Proficient
Descriptor- Contribute to collegial discussions and apply constructive feedback from colleagues to improve professional knowledge and practice.

An Inspirational Mantra that Connects Me to Teaching.

Mata, Pita, Guru, Deva”– this is a spiritual Sanskrit mantra from the Hindu scripture. Basically, it emphasises the importance of having some influential individuals in one’s lives. The connection of this mantra to our existence provides a meaningful explanation. To elaborate further, Mata means mother, Pita is father, Guru is a spiritual teacher (monk, priests, and pastors) and finally Deva is god. This mantra can be interpreted in many different ways, according to people’s own understanding, but for me, I perceive that teachers are regarded higher than god. Thus, respecting them is essentially vital because they are our role model and guide. For this reason, teaching is regarded as a noble career. Well, all teachers should feel proud about it and continue to perform well. Matt Esterman in his blog was referring to the verse that connects to teaching and learning and how at times it affects his inspirational skill to deliver his service as a passionate teacher. This triggers me to write about a mantra that personally empowers me to become a teacher. By sharing my views, I expect other teachers to pause for a while and be grateful for choosing teaching as a career.

As a child, I was introduced to many different aspects of life while living in a diverse country like Malaysia. One of the essential elements that I can resonate now is accepting tolerance and assimilating within the society we lived in. This was possible because my parents treated all people equally irrespective of their cultural and religious background. They value harmony for peace and prosperity in the community. For them, good deeds, respecting others, showing empathy and embracing numerous positive attitudes are a way of life. Similar thoughts were shared by Robin Julian during a tutorial session at UNSW. He is one of the authors of the Society and Culture Textbook (Heinemann). He strongly felt his ideology was shaped by his upbringing. According to him, his parents had always treated others with respect, especially migrants and this generated a chain effect on how he too believed in the ideology of acceptance and respecting others as who they are.

Referring back to the mantra, very early in my life, I was taught that teachers are to be respected. I believe this mantra gives a hierarchical level for respecting everyone in an orderly way. This is my own interpretation and others can interpret as to their liking. Since, a mother is the first person who brought us into this world; she gets the highest respect, followed by father, then guru (teacher-as per my understanding) and finally god. So, it makes sense that teachers are positioned higher than the god. For all teachers out there, you’re not only the knowledge provider, guidance, mentor, facilitator, motivator and confidant, but a person who can make a difference in each and every student you teach. Even if you are an atheist , you are a winner because teachers are the ultimate guide for one’s success and progress.

Most Asian cultures value this slogan or anything similar to this, in their educational system whilst teaching their students. Perhaps, due to this reason, teachers are highly respected in these communities. In contrast, teachers are viewed differently in western culture and I was taken aback to see some students showing a lack of respect to teachers while teaching in Sydney. These are quite evident in some of the low socio economic schools and teachers in these schools are doing their level best in ensuring classroom lessons are being delivered effectively and students being treated as a respected person. Schools have their own policy in the classroom management and often, it greatly affects on how I have to change my personality just to cater for the teaching requirements of these schools. I have to admit, not easy though.

Teaching in Sydney and from my observation of other teachers, I found teachers have to earn their respect by understanding that students are to be taken care, no matter how misbehaving the students are at times. This is especially true, if you’re teaching senior students; the style of teaching also differs. In some schools the formal way of teaching is not applicable as students want to connect with teachers. This is a typical scenario in government schools. Whereas, in some of the denominational schools, teaching practices differ. Teachers tend to use different teaching styles which I believe manifest from the British Colonial System. Surprisingly, this style of teaching still persists. For example, teachers generally demand respect from students. Students have to stand up as and when they enter into the classroom, prior to getting the nod from the teacher allowing them to sit down. The atmosphere in the classroom was very rigid and students are strictly following teacher’s direction. The teacher student relationship is forged on the basis that “I am in control of this class and you’re merely listening to me”.  Even, one teacher wanted her students to greet her before they can leave the classroom and accordingly, standing up in front of their desks to wish farewell. The teacher has to say, “Ok, you all can leave now”. Her concept is ‘I am your teacher, not your friend’. The assertiveness in this type of teaching style is needed due to the school policy or depends on the personality of  the teacher. I am still very convinced that I can use my own teaching style when I am permanently based in a school.

No matter what, when, where, and how we are teaching, one message that I would like to depart with is that “give respect and take respect”. The ways we teach and communicate have greater impact on our teaching and the way students learn. Living and teaching in this era of information technology, giving a personal human touch by using the digital touch can also inspire others to excel and perform well in teaching. This can be done by spreading good thoughts and deeds of fellow teachers as well as to encourage them in their way to teaching perfection and satisfaction. Above all, teachers should feel grateful for choosing a professional that puts them in one of the highest order, needless to say the effect of your teaching can be felt instantly and be reminded of Mata, Pita, Guru and Deva.

 

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My journey into teaching in Sydney

I emigrated to Sydney in 2005 from Malaysia. To be honest, I found myself in a completely new environment and went through a tough time getting adjusted to everything- be it living in a Unit/apartment, seasonal change, interacting with people from a diverse range of different cultural and religious background and many more hurdles that I had to go through while starting a new life here. I guess, this is the typical scenarios or experiences   of all migrants. I am not exceptional.

To make it short, I embraced these changes in a positive way and fulfilled my aim of getting a teaching qualification. At the same time, reminds me of the saying “when there is a will, there is a way”. My journey to achieve this dream was not easy, with many ups and downs, I obtained my first degree from Macquarie University and followed my dreams of entering into teaching. Obviously,at the beginning all seem to be too easy, but when I entered High School for my first teaching practicum, I realized, there are more intense challenges awaiting. My first practicum was such a disaster as I was given a school whereby, the teachers were unsupportive.  With too many commitments this practicum ended in disarray and I withdrew from it, citing family reasons and inability to cope with the demands of the lesson plans, classroom management, etc. On a second thought, perhaps, I should have been more prepared.

Luckily though, my second practicum was not too bad, indeed, I have to admit the teachers in this school were very supportive and I had a wonderful time teaching and communicating with the students and staffs there. Well, I wish I had spent more time teaching in this school to gain better strategies, overall. My suggestion for future practicum teachers is that it is essential to completely be free of all other commitments while doing your teaching practicum. This is  because the amount of time teachers spent on lesson planning  and doing other tasks related to teaching requires maximum time management with ‘stress free’ situation. I wasn’t so lucky in this as I experienced a lot of stressful moments with family commitments, etc. I was unable to juggle too many commitments at one time. A lesson to be learned.

In my journey towards obtaining the tertiary qualification, I met many individuals, both interesting and awful. I only want to mention about the good hearted individuals who understood what it means to be human. Bernie Howit was the first lecturer at UNSW who I regard as my mentor due to his deep concern for humanity and helping others. Above than this he was the one who took time to listen to me when I had problems with my teaching practicum. He taught me the importance of ‘reflection’. Trust me -No other lecturers will be painstakingly ringing me over the phone while attending a conference.  Bernie is also well liked by all other students at the Uni.  I can never forget Bernie’s phrase, which he emailed me when I was feeling down, just to keep me motivated and stay focused, he wrote- “every situation is one we can learn from, it’s just that some come with more pain than others”. This phrase always reminds me of being strong and not to give up.

As a matured student, I believe that I did a fantastic job by taking the challenges of tertiary studies. To encourage and motivate my effort, individuals like Bernie, makes a huge difference in my life. Without doubt, a little bit of support goes a long way. I am glad to start my blog by mentioning a person who had made me feel better in my  journey towards becoming a teacher.