Saturday, December 07, 2013

Watching students grow: A week in the life of this teacher

In this, my 100th post, I want to reflect on some of the things that make me grateful to teach at Avila College. The last week was exhausting and energising at the same time. I believe a summary of that week will suffice in explaining why I love working at Avila. Here is a snapshot:

World Integrated Unit
For three days, groups of Year 7 students formed their own countries. They learnt about preferential voting, designed a national flag, dance, anthem, sandwich and animal! Each country had to conduct a campaign to host the Olympic games and use social media to their advantage.
Treasurer, financial adviser and head of state deciding their country's investment priorities
My role was to look after the treasury and guide and the individual country treasurers through foreign exchanges and a financial report.

Those poor souls had to learn, in half a day, to use a spreadsheet and to carry out buys and sells in the 12 virtual currencies we gave them. All trades had to be evaluated in Australian Dollars but all amounts had to be "parked" in the 12 currencies. For every trade, made-up financial information was released to help them decide on what currencies to buy and what currencies to sell. The aim was to make a profit.
The unit was prepared by my colleagues, Catherine Spurritt, head of the Languages faculty and Emilio Bernardo, head of Humanities. I am grateful for both them and to both of them for giving a role in which I observed students grow and learn very fast.
Example of the financial information on which the treasurers based their trading decisions

Year 8 Maths Day
Although I wasn't directly involved in the running of this day, I had had a preview of some of the activities due to being a member of the Maths faculty and to the fact that my friend, Steven Francis, was the main organiser of these activities.
When I wasn't required at the World Integrated Unit, I went to take a peek at what the Year 8s were doing. They were running from building to building, chasing clues and solving problems. Along the way, they collected vouchers for chocolate! The students were having a great time and I overheard comments such as "I haven't had this much fun in ages!"
Some of the activities were run through a dynamic website which Steven had developed just for that day. There were Maths problems, the odd bonus question such as "Name the country whose flag this is" and, you guessed it, surprise chocolate to be collected.
I will not go on about his day but the buzz around the school was just amazing. We saw students engaged and working harder than could be expected on their last week of classes.

A small honour
On Thursday morning, Steven and I went to La Trobe University to attend the opening ceremony of the Mathematical Association of Victoria's annual conference. At that ceremony, we received an award for an article we wrote earlier in the year. The article was on the use of BYOB, now called Snap!, in the Maths classroom.

Helping students achieve independence
Finally, on Friday, a student in my homeroom gave me a Christmas gift with a card in which she wrote the point behind the activities described above:

Avila helped me become independent.

I cannot think of a better note to end the week on (Was that a preposition I ended the sentence with?)




Great stuff Ziad,
It is interesting to me to note that some of the times we find most motivational as a teacher are the times when we provide an environment/challenge and then step back and let students go. Cath spoke about AvilaWorld at Teachmeet last week and it was very inspirational. Glad it went well.

Congrats on the 'award' from your student too - messages like that make it all worthwhile !