I returned to Secondary school English teaching in 2009. For almost 25 years my career had taken me out of the secondary classroom. I’d last taught full-time at Preston East Technical School in 1984. I was an Acting Vice Principal for eight months in 1985, after which I had two stints as a school principal (at Broadmeadows Technical School [1985-88] and at Alphington Grammar [1992-94]). I had also spent three years as a Principal Consultant in a School Support Centre [1989-91].
From August 1994 – December 2008 I taught in the TAFE system, teaching certificate and diploma courses in Professional Writing and Editing. During those almost 15 years teaching Writing, I’d realised the importance of timely and detailed feedback. John Hattie’s analysis of research into teaching had identified feedback on one of the most significant factors affecting student learning. The years working with adults in the TAFE system had consolidated so other key ideas for me. In the early 1970s Jimmy Britton had talked about the importance of harnessing student intentions. It was an idea that shifted our thinking away from seeing the teacher’s task as motivating students. Students come with their own strong intentions; our task is to harness those existing intentions.
Garth Boomer had extended that notion in his influential book Negotiating the Curriculum. Negotiation was the means to create a bridge between the intentions of students and teachers. Boomer imagined classrooms in which what was taught and learned and how these things were assessed were matters for discussion, negotiation, give-and -take. Central to Boomer’s thinking was the importance of self-evaluation: students evaluating the quality of their own learning.
Asking students to write their own self evaluations became a strong feature of my teaching practice. Twice a year, every year, I ask my students to write their own evaluation of their learning and attitudes in our English classes. Some parents and teachers question just how accurate self evaluations will be. After several years of inviting kids to self evaluate, one thing has become very clear: in almost every case, student tend to be more self-critical and harsher in their judgements than I would be as their teacher. I am convinced that self evaluation is a powerful tool for learning. I often use the students’ self evaluations as the basis for my end-of-term and end-of-year reports.
I taught Grace in 2014, when she was in Year 7. Towards the end of the year, I worked with the class building a mind map of the key aspects of English – the elements that need to be considered. The map looked something like this:
Here is Grace’s self evaluation.
Self Evaluation: Year 7 English 2014
At the start of the year, I wrote a letter like this to you and I enjoyed making it. It was great, writing about what I have accomplished by the end of term 2. Now, I am lucky to have the opportunity to write about the whole year I have experienced at Warrandyte High School. This year has been one of the best school years I have ever experienced. A lot of fun, laughs and moments that I will always remember. When I was younger, I didn’t really like English as I had trouble understanding all the concepts to the subject. I never really enjoyed writing till grade 6. Until grade 4, I couldn’t entirely understand the material I was reading. Until grade 3, I always needed the teacher to edit my work as I wouldn’t understand where I went wrong. At the start of the year at Warrandyte High, I thought English was going to be a boring subject because of my experiences. Now, I look forward to English with you!
Skills: English has many aspects to it but the 4 main factors are • Writing • Reading • Speaking • Listening Writing: This year, Writing has been a strong point to my work. I feel that my detail has improved and I am expanding my knowledge with thinking out of the box. I try to make my work as interesting as possible. I also like to present my work in different ways and forms. After my first English lessons at Warrandyte, I realized that there are better ways to present work than a sheet of paper with writing. I try to use emotion to try and make my work come to life. I know that I can always improve in writing and I can’t wait for that to happen.
Spelling: I have always been great with my spelling and feel that sometimes, I am a human dictionary. But other times, I feel like I need a dictionary for every word. Every once in a while, I get a simple word wrong and it is even more frustrating when it is on a good copy. When this happens, I want to hit the wall but I know if I do, I would get in MASSIVE trouble. A couple of weeks back, I remember you teaching me about the differences between There, Their, and they’re. I would always use “there” and always get it wrong and I wouldn’t know why it was incorrect. Know, thanks to you, you have helped me see where I went wrong. By the way, thanks for that. Punctuation: Punctuation is easy through my eyes. I find little mistakes easy to spot. But sadly, I have a habit of putting to many capitals in a sentence. I have done this ever since grade 2. I know I am improved and that this class has helped me get out of the habit. I also remember a couple of weeks back, I wrote a book and it had an apostrophe error. I didn’t notice it but you did. You taught me about it and I still have the file in my documents on my computer. Ever since you have taught me about it, I have remembered that rule and I don’t recall making that mistake again ever since that day. Oh, and once again, thanks for that. Ideas: At the start of the year, I had a lot of trouble thinking of ideas for writing and was always stuck. Wasting heaps of my time in class thinking of ideas while the rest of the class has been through half the lesson writing about what they thought of. Now, I have so many ideas flowing through my head, I have trouble picking which idea to use. When I start writing about something, I find it hard to stop writing about it. But distractions can take me off track and I hate it when that happens. I forget where I left off and waste time trying to get back on track. I don’t intend on this to happen but I need to learn to stay 110% focus.
Editing: When I was younger, as I said before, in primary school, from prep to grade 3, my teacher would edit my work for me. But ever since the end of grade 3, I edit my work myself. But after I have edited, to this day, I usually ask you, assistant teachers or my family to check over my work. When I was young, I would edit with colour to help me understand. I would see spelling mistakes and I would draw a red line. With punctuation mistakes, a green line. Grammar mistakes, a blue line. I can single out mistakes really easily but, when I’m tired, I miss out on heaps of mistakes. Honestly, I don’t like reading over my work because the work I edit is in size 12 writing and more than 1 page. Plus, I think it’s boring. Imagine how it will take me to edit this report. No matter how much I hate it, I know that if I do it, it will be over and done with. Plus, it needs to be done anyway. Reading: When I was younger, I didn’t read by myself until about grade 4. I found it hard. The teacher gave the children a book from the library she thought we liked and I hated every book she gave me, they were so boring, I might as well be reading the labels on bottles, because they would be more interesting in the books I were given. Because of this experience, I wasn’t really into reading until my grade 5 NAPLAN results came and my reading score was below average. My mum then took me to the store, bought me books I thought were interesting. How do I pay her off? I read every morning. I start reading at about 6am and go downstairs for breakie at 6:30am-7am. To this day, I read books every morning and I love it. I love how a story is turned into words and you can use your imagination to picture it however you want. I have a draw full of books and I can say what each book I have read is about to nearly every book in my draw. I am still paying off my mum. I didn’t know how much I was missing out on until my mum helped me read. I have read so many books, I have lost track but my favourite books would be Holes Small steps (sequel to Holes) reading at the moment Diary of a Wimpy kid series. (there funny) Wide Reading: Wide reading is what I do every morning. I am happy to just sit and read. Especially on cold days with a hot chocolate! I love to read and I always will. I read different genres of books but usually action themed books. I find them most interesting and really intriguing. My mum encouraged me to read and I am grateful for that. Reading has definitely helped me with my education and helped me understand words I don’t know. My whole family reads books and we all love it. We have heaps of books to choose from at home. When I start reading, I find it hard to stop. Words on paper say more than we think.
Close Reading: [Close reading is reading, usually with a group where you read a sentence and discuss it. If you don’t understand something, you can talk about it and your peers can help you out]. This year, we have done close reading for our term 2 assignment, Holes. We read the book and discuss what we got from the material we just read. I enjoyed it very much and the fact that my peers were willing to help me means a lot and says a lot too. We did a close reading assignment in term 2 with the book, Holes by Louis Sachar. I help correct my peer’s mistakes and my peers like to correct my mistakes. We have a bond where we don’t want anyone in the class to fail. – Vocabulary A big aspect to close reading is vocabulary. When we read Holes, if we didn’t understand a word, we would put it into our vocabulary list. With the words we wrote down in the list, we had to write the sentence it was in, use a dictionary to find the meaning and use it in a sentence we make up. I wrote down a fair bit of words from the book Holes and to this day, I know what the words on that list means. I look back and think, “How couldn’t I have known that, it is simple”. I wrote about 20 words on my list that I wasn’t sure about. Speaking: When I was young, I was the shiest person you could ever meet. I had Separation Anxiety to my mum when I was young. I was afraid that when she would drop me off, she wouldn’t come back. I would worry and that was why I was shy, because I was so focused on mum coming back. By grade 2, I started to open up a bit and every year since, I have gotten more confident in talking to others and making new friends. Even though I wasn’t confident as I am today, I would be great at show and tell because I like telling people about what I do. It stopped me thinking about mum for a bit. I had trouble making new friends because I thought they would judge but when I talked to the class, I felt safe as the teacher would tell people off if they judged. Now, I feel safe talking to peers and being myself. If they’re going to judge, that’s their problem. Why should I let it affect me? I loved talking to the class about projects, about me, all types of topics. It was a way of expressing my feelings and every time I get up on stage to talk, I feel more confident by the end of every talk/ performance.. Even in primary school, I participated in productions and said my lines and played a character. Speaking has really been a strong point for me. Listening: Listening is one of my favourite parts of English. I love listening to what people have to say and the stories they tell. Listening to peers experiences and advice helps me become a better learner. I take into account constructive criticism about my work and I improve it. I like peers giving me their advice as it helps me to reach my goals and to challenge myself. I listen to others to become a strong learner, to hear what they have to say, but so peers listen to what I have to say. It is one of the best feelings when you are being heard and I am sure you love it too! Tasks/ Assignments: This year, we have done many tasks but each term, there has been big assignment including (1 big assignment= 1 term) • Term 1= Autobiography • Term 2= Holes • Term 3= Myths/ Legends and Ancient stories • Term 4= CREATIVITY (CREATIVITIVITY) Term 1= Autobiography I love making Autobiographies about my life. Last year, in grade 6, only the year 6’s were to make an Autobiography as an end of primary school task. I completed mine and I was thrilled. It was exhausting but fun. It was based on years. From 2001- 2013. With a couple of themes in it as well. When I was told that our assignment was to make ANOTHER book, I was seriously considering handing in my old book but then I realized that it will be fun. Instead of making another autobiography about my years, I made it about themes. Like my family, hobbies, pets, etc. I did a fair bit of writing for each page and I am very proud of the end product. Recently, when we had the “Parent, Teacher interviews” you brought it out and I forgot about it and I was glad to see it again. I bought my own materials from different stores and made it into more of a scrap book. Every night, after homework for other subjects, I would get out the book and do a double page, no matter how long it took. I think that book shows my determination, creativity, work ethic and, well of course, me. That book is all about me and I am glad that I was able to think of so many events in my life and putting it all into a scrap book. Before I started creating the autobiography, the class had to go to the library and for inspiration, we had to borrow an autobiography and read it. I picked an autobiography about Karrie Webb. A great golfer and an inspirational story/ autobiography. Term 2= Holes At the start of the year, we were all given a book called Holes, by Louis Sachar. (A great author by the way). It was a close reading assignment as I mentioned before. Last year, in grade 6, my teacher read the class the Holes book but I didn’t get to listen to the whole book so I kind of had a feel for what the book was about but I was still excited to read it and wanted to read to see what happened next. At the start of term 2, I read that book every morning and at school. It was great as I would read ahead and then read it again at the classroom and really examine it. I made up my own vocabulary list and I had about 15-20 words that I didn’t know. I did most of the tasks and I remember making the Holes cake for the whole class to enjoy. That was the 2nd favourite thing about the Holes assignment. My first favourite was actually reading the book. I did half of the work at school and the other half for homework. I had heaps of fun in term 2 in English trying to complete this task. I loved the book Holes so much, I got the sequel to it called Small Steps. I am reading it at the moment. So far, a brilliant book.
Term 3= Myths/ Legends and Ancient stories In term 3, we moved on to a topic which was very different to our other topics we have done in the past. We studied myths, legends and ancient stories. I learnt so many stories I have never heard before like Achilles heel We got our information about these stories by books, websites and of course, you. The class was grouped into 5 groups and I was in group 4. Group 4 consisted of 4 people including Reilly, Sarah and Kyle. And of course, me. But this wasn’t my favourite topic as I felt that I was doing most of the work with Reilly. Sarah was away so often and Kyle would be at literacy support. But my group often got distracted leaving me to do the heavy lifting. No matter how many times I tried to get them back on track, I felt like a busted record on mute. They got on track in the end but at the start, it felt like I was pulling a bus with my group on it. I enjoyed learning the stories but unfortunately, my group and I weren’t in the same head space. That was the down side to this topic but I enjoyed doing the Aboriginal task where I made up a poem for Stephany. Term 4= CREATIVITY (CREATIVITIVITY) This term, the topic is creativity and I am loving it. I feel that I can be myself and be creative. I can have fun with it. I have always loved art and being creative so when I heard this is our new topic, I had so many ideas running through my head. The class was given a sheet which is double sided with heaps of tasks. I have completed about 15 tasks or more and I am still doing different tasks. I am trying to complete them all. I know it will be tricky but it will all be worth it. When Max was teaching, we did 4 fun tasks and I tried to make the pieces I created presented in different but creative ways. Horrible recipe- normal recipe set out. Newspaper article- front page of a newspaper. Comic- poster with the slides. WW diary entries- journal. Favourite topics Out of the 4 terms, my favourite topic is out of the Autobiography and Creativity as they were most to do with Art and English. Least favourite topic Unfortunately, the topic I least enjoyed was the Myths/ Legends and Ancient stories Film study= coming soon Soon, in our English class, I can’t wait to watch and do work on the movie, Tangled. It was out of Toy story, Shrek and Tangled and the majority of the class picked Tangled. I wanted either Toy story of Shrek but I am happy with Tangled. This will be a fun topic that I can’t wait to start. Presentation of my work This term, I have done many tasks and presented them in different ways but the ones I am most proud of are How did the earth begin?- Book The 3 little pigs, ACTION- Book WW diary entries- Journal- Book Autobiography Hi New Neighbors- Comic strip- Poster Thailand journal UNIQUE-itosity & / LITTLE WEIRDO Everyone in this world is an individual and we do our work in different ways. We all may have a different work ethic. My work ethic is “If I am doing something, do it the best I can possibly do it”. My dad has always told my sisters and I that “Years of hell will equal to a life full of pleasure”. When I am older, I want to become a vet and I am trying to do everything in my power to get there. I have been told it won’t be easy but I am determined. I know I am only in year 7 but better start now than later. I have been told that I should relax with my work and that I don’t need to do extra, But I STILL do the extra, I want to challenge myself to the capacity so I can one day, reach my goal. My peers Over the last 4 terms, I have made new friends, new people, assistant teachers (Stephany, Laura and Max) and a really good friendship with my English teacher. I have shared laughs and funny moments with the class and you and I still find them funny. I am so lucky to be a part of the class 7.1 as we all respect each other and we are all very inclusive. Over the year, many new people have joined our class and I enjoy their company. I have had arguments with my peers but we pass it and it makes our friendship stronger. Sometimes, they are very distracting and I get a bit annoyed but we are all close friends. I don’t want to be a part of any other class but my class 7.1. Teachers
– Assistant teachers Stephany Stephany was a great teacher and I feel that I could talk to her about nearly anything. She is kind and makes really good muffins. She wants to be a teacher and I can guarantee that she will make it. Whatever year level she teaches, whatever school she is going to work for, she will do a great job. She came to Warrandyte in term 2 and when she left, everyone notice her absents. When she appeared on your couch in the middle of term 3, and said that she was teaching for the rest of the term, I saw that everyone’s faces lit up. Including mine. When she was going for good, everyone wanted her to stay. We miss her smile and I hope she achieves her goals of becoming a teacher. I hope she will come back to Warrandyte for work. Laura Laura came at the start of term 3 and helped with the topic, Myths/ Legends and Ancient stories. She was great at teaching and I enjoyed having her around. She gave me really good advice about my work and I improved with it. She made up interesting stories and I enjoyed her company. I was sad when she had to leave but she is doing what she loves and that is the main thing.
Max Max came in term 4 and helped out with the creativity topic. I enjoyed all the tasks he CREATED for us to complete including the horrible recipe, Homework article, Comic strip and the WW diary entries. I think he was impressed with my work and the standards I am at. I am happy he came and he helped me see that there are heaps and heaps of techniques I can use for presenting my work. He had to leave recently and I hope he becomes what he wants to be. My teacher I have saved the best till last. I have never had a teacher like you EVER in my life and I wouldn’t want any other English teacher. When you are away, everyone notices. You bring happiness and joy when you walk through the door. You give me ideas and advice to help me challenge myself to my capacity. I want you as my year 8 English teacher but we have to just wait and see. You and your ukulele make you unique and that is the best part about having you as a teacher. You’re not like the other teachers that are glued to their computer, you and your ukulele put on a show during class. You have been a teacher I will find hard to forget. This year in English has been a wild ride and I have enjoyed every minute of it. I can’t wait to go to my English classes. (I think you can recall this line from my other self-report) I hope you enjoyed this letter as much I enjoy my English class (a lot)