No Progress Without Struggle


I was reading this great quote on Twitter recently @Primary_ed posted and it got me thinking about the expectations we have in schools about the academic standards we set for our students. How much do we expect of our students? How far do we extend the students in our care? Do we set high enough standards? What are the base line indicators for the work that we accept in the form of homework, assignments and in class? How do we know when the work presented is acceptable? Teachers who have been teaching long enough know the answers to most of these questions but I doubt if they would all have the same responses.

One of the common denominators on this topic is the fact that learning requires effort and that nothing worthwhile comes easy – this is the ‘No Progress Without Struggle’ part of the equation. Students who are successful at school work hard at it; some might be smart but there is a lot of time and perspiration put into it as well and I’m starting to think we need to be very clear with the high expectations we set for our students in our schools.

What can schools do?

1. All teachers set HIGH and very clear expectations about the standard of work to be submitted. When work is not of sufficiently high standard students need to be told, the feedback part,and given the chance to resubmit or not progress to the next level of proficiency.

2. Strong pattern of study and home learning schedule is crucial. Patterns need to be established especially in the early too middle years of schooling so students are giving time too learning outside of school hours. Just like music practice or swimming or tennis training commitment to preparation and building a solid skill set is crucial for student success.

3. Build Strong Parent Partnerships. Parents are crucial to ensuring their children succeed. Parents provide the support at home that students need especially as the academic and time demands increase in high school. Parents can also support their children as they provide the role models their child needs in their struggle with learning. Do they regularly see their parents read at home? Have their parents studied or are currently studying? Do they see their parents needing to make sacrifices to get work done at home?

4. Present real world examples to current students of those who have gone before them and are succeeding in their chosen fields whatever they may be. Present Old Boy or Old Girls at Academic or Cultural Assemblies and let students hear them talk about what it took for them to achieve their dreams. The more authentic the better!!

The Bottom Line

You need to build a culture of excellence if you want a GREAT school. Great schools are all about excellence and excelling everyday in every way. Students need to hear and see this as they walk the grounds of their school. Teachers also need to believe they are also working in a great school. Teachers are crucial and also a big part of the solution in this equation!

Literacy Matters

The importance of stressing Literacy Matters everyday in everyway

Class Teaching

The 15 Minute Forum was led by English teacher and whole school Literacy Leader, Lucy Darling.  Lucy started the session by stressing that literacy is not an add on to our teaching, nor is it just the responsibility of English teachers.  We are all teachers of literacy – in terms of supporting students with reading, writing and speaking & listening, within the context of our own subject.

Some food for thought:






So, it’s an important issue for all of us to consider.  An issue which is of course amplified, when we consider students that come from a disadvantaged background.  If they are not supported at home to develop their literacy skills, for example by not being given access to books, they will struggle to articulate their ideas, get frustrated and switch off – and so become disenfranchised.


Practical Approaches

Spoken language – reinforce importance of accuracy at verbal and written…

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Homework – to be or not to be?? Good read. Food for thought here.

Class Teaching

The 15 minute forum tonight was led by Chris Runeckles.  Chris teaches history and has been experimenting with Ross McGill’s idea of ‘Takeaway Homework’.  Ross talks about the rationale behind the idea here:


The history and geography departments have been trialling takeaway homework with Year 8.  This came about because there was a feeling that homework in KS4 was highly structured and purposeful, based around providing opportunities for students to practise key exam skills.  In KS3 however, it was more ad-hoc and so less purposeful.  In fact, teachers would often just set something, because they felt they had to.  This seemed like a missed opportunity – especially as Hattie suggests that homework seems to have a significantly high effect size (0.64) in secondary schools.  Tom Sherrington summarises this nicely:

“So, what Hattie actually says about homework is complex.  There is no meaningful sense in which it could be stated that “the…

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In Plain Sight: Pervasive Inequalities

Wow what a read! Some issues here in American education! Thanks Larry be interested to hear if you keep an eye on Australian education developments and have any thoughts on our system progress.

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

This post will not be filled with statistics about the worst gap ever–yes, ever–in income between rich and poor in the United States or how badly the U.S  fares  among developed nations in the world on inequality measures.

This post will not rail at the moral unfairness or growth of mistrust among Americans as a result of such economic, social, and political disparities.

Now will this post recommend ways for reducing the growth of a two-tiered society.

What this post will do is look at effects of inequality and how they are pervasive, taken-for-granted, and even encouraged in everyday transactions.

There are many obvious examples of inequalities such as the current protests across the nation’s cities over white police officers shooting black men and disproportionate percentages of minority and poor arrested and convicted for “broken window” crimes. Current protests against the police’s lethal mistreatment of African Americans…

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Great Schools

Into planning mode for another school year.

Reflect – evaluate – reflect – plan – reflect – develop action plan!!

Like many schools we are constantly engaged with whole school planning and improvement focus on improving student learning.

Some of our main goals around the next cycle of strategic planning involve:

1. Developing the MISSION of our school. We are a Catholic school so this has a particular religious dimension for our organisation that places Jesus, the Gospels and how the message of the Church is expressed to the young people who enter our classrooms each day.

2. LIBERATE – this has been our slowly evolving, constantly developing model of pedagogy for our school over the past few years. LIBERATE represents how we teach to our students. It involves research, competency based progression, both direct and independent learning, whilst also encompasssing collaborative and project based cross curriculum components.

3. WELLBEING – this represents placing the student at the centre of everything we do and restructuring our school to accommodate new models and ways of operating where WELLBEING is connected to LEARNING and LIBERATE, our expression or model of learning at our school is also a model of student WELLBEING. Very exciting but also very challenging as our whole school community grapples with new ways of being in 2015 and beyond.

4. RESOURCING – a vital but often overlooked part of any school plan. Without resourcing it and planning to resourcing it the Plan will struggle to be implemented. This also involves another section of the non-teaching side of the school that exists to support the MISSION, LIBERATE and WELLBEING goals coming to fruition.

It’s been a busy, demanding, taxing year, but also a very exciting one grappling with the educational changes facing all schools and teachers everywhere in the world to maintain relevance for their students.

Embedding authentic learning

A few years back our school spent a fair bit of time planning and developing our learning mission statement. We had staff days devoted to building what was to become our learning statement. It was a great collaborative whole school process with staff working together through plenty of research, white boarding, small group sessions all focused on getting to the essence of what our school saw as the core beliefs of our position on learning.


One very obvious contender we kept coming back to was linking students learning to the real world. We viewed and processed plenty of research with practical classroom wisdom that said students learnt best when they can connect a classroom concept or question like “How do we develop and show values that will allow us to make our world a better place for the next generation”?

A few years on we are still examining our position on learning and our beliefs and trying to continue to stand by or behind them everyday in our school. Sometimes we look for easy boxes to tick that demonstrate the principles of authentic learning and sometimes it’s harder as we will start examining our teaching program’s with a more critical lens and explore if these assessments we are developing actually match our beliefs in our learning statement.

This translates as a need to spend time as teachers exploring how we assess our students learning. In 2015 we are examining greater collaboration and meeting time at our school to enable these conversations to occur amongst staff. Increasingly we spend time now in departments or one out staff put in charge of developing a task but are finding as we build our school wide pedagogy, what we call LIBERATE at our school, that we need to redefine and constantly review what we are doing. This is a good thing and is now a big part of the AITSL teacher performance framework.

I’m reading a lot on my twitter #PLN about teacher mind sets and ideas put forward from Carol Dweck. Ultimately she is saying that teacher mind sets need to be about being open to change rather than a static mindset that sees change as a conflict or tension. Keeping assessment real for our students demands that we as teachers embed review processes into our professional work that sees us constantly changing building, modifying the learning experiences for our students to make them as authentic as possible we cause then we know we link the learning to the students world and build connections that better engage them.

Our students demand nothing less than this.

It’s All About The Learning: Building Your PLN

Tonight I spent over an hour connecting with like minded educators from all over the world building my professional learning network via twitter. I joined a weekly Sunday chat #AussieEd at 8.30pm which brings Aussie educators together but there were also many signing in from other places like the States.

The theme tonight was focused on key questions around who and how we first connected on twitter and what hashtags we commonly use. Most teachers are very familiar with Professional development attending one off master classes or travelling to conferences. These are great opportunities to connect as well but increasingly educators are building their networks online the way I did tonight.

What did I learn?

Wow what an amazing trip! Felt like a days leaning compacted into an hour. Moved so fast. So many comments so many people connecting. Sharing. Collaborating. Inspiring. Thinking. Learning. And also very timely as I started thinking about to best innovate in my own school environment with my team so learning leaders.

It was an awesome learning experience and I hope to get back there in future weeks. PD on a Sunday night for a bunch of teachers who would have thought?!?! Great stuff. Don’t give up teachers join twitter and start reading, sharing, collaborating and building your Professional Learning Network (PLN).


Exams – do we need them?

An interesting one this week at leadership with discussion around Year 12 exams. Like many schools we are planning for 2015 calendar dates and reviewing our trials this year. This year we picked up our Yr 12 half yearly exam block and moved it forward a month. Some departments liked it some did not for various and also similar reasons.

Talking about this with the leadership team one of the team asked: ” do we need a 2 week exam block”? During this time we stop classes mainly to give students time to revise and teachers time to mark exams and then complete reports which normally follow shortly after.

Anyway back to the discussion board. We need the exams because we are preparing our students for 3 hr end of year exams but we are looking to provide some flexibility to different subjects who don’t want to test at the same time. No decisions yet but it certainly showed me the concept of keeping your mind open and looking at all possibilities whilst having a good chat with teachers along the way.

Sometimes it’s freeing letting go and not being quite sure of the outcome!! Interesting times for us as a learning community. It shows we are being open to all possibilities and and at the end of the day we will go with a schedule that we think is best for our students.