Saturday, April 18, 2009

How do you know who's got talent?

I've spoken and blogged about Britain's Got Talent before. In 2008 Andrew Johnston caused a sensation with his incredible singing. Here's the clip again for those who missed it.

It brings tears to my eyes everytime I watch it - both as a mother and a teacher. Listening to his story about bullying and then hearing his amazing voice is inspiring for all of us. Andrew didn't win the competition but looking at the clips from his subsequent performances you can see his confidence and self esteem increasing seemingly before our eyes.

Susan Boyle is the latest sensation on Britain's Got Talent 2009. She is 47, single and not what you would expect in anyway!


I've watched this a few times now and still get goosebumps. The look on the faces of the judges and audience is priceless. Like me, they had put her in a pigeon hole before she even started singing and wow were we wrong!

I can't help but think about what this means for those of us who are teachers. We are so busy trying to fit in the basic curriculum and all that entails - how on earth do we find the time to let our students show us what they are capable of when given the opportunity? I don't think either of these two BGT contestants were given that chance at school and I think that's possibly the norm for those students who aren't confident and don't like to stand out from the crowd.

I wonder how many potential NZGT contestants I have taught without realising?

Cluster Shares

Our cluster recently held three cluster share afternoons. One each for Year 0-2 teachers, Year 3-4 teachers and Year 5-6 teachers. The aim was all to do with sharing good teaching practice ideas and motivating each other to try new things. The format was similar for all three afternoons - a visiting speaker presentation (Botany Downs Kindergarten, Juanita Garden from Pt England School and Lenva Shearing from Bucklands Beach Intermediate) followed by 15 minutes sharing from each school. Much needed refreshments were provided and each afternoon was hosted by a different school (Botany Downs Kindergarten, Shelly Park School and Botany Downs School).

The lead up to the cluster share afternoons was fraught with stress and anxiety unfortunately. Many teachers had never shared their classroom practice in front of other (unknown) teachers before. The cluser share group sizes ranged from 30-40 which was also scary for some.

From the facilitator's point of view these afternoons were enormously valuable and successful. The visiting speakers were all, without exception, passionate and inspirational role models. The presentations from each school gave teachers the opportunity to share their successes, receive loads of positive feedback and validation as well as using it as a possible lead up to presenting at a national conference such as ULearn. I also gained more insight to what is happening at each school and how I could use my facilitation to support the teachers and their classroom programmes.

In contrast, the feedback I received from teachers was a little more variable! While still overwhelmingly positive overall, the comments received showed that some felt daunted by what was going on at other cluster schools and would have preferred more simple ideas suitable for beginners. Yet some others thought the ideas shared were mostly aimed at beginners and would have preferred more challenging ideas. Unfortunately only one of the five cluster principals attended one of the sessions so they were not able to give feedback on this.

I had thought by organising the cluster shares into year levels would keep it relevant for all participants. Now I'm wondering if next time we wouldn't be better having mixed levels but group into beginner, intermediate and advanced sessions? Given the time restraints (3:30-5:30pm) there wasn't time to break into smaller groups. We still have the Cluster Expo and one final whole cluster share coming up this year so I have a lot of thinking to do about meeting all needs ....