My Year Teaching Abroad

It has been almost 1 year since I left my job in Melbourne, Australia and made the move to the other side of the world to teach in London. My blog has been pretty quiet in that time. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I could contribute here whilst I took a little break from teaching and shifted my focus to travelling.

blog3When I arrived in February, I began supply teaching all over London with Vibe Teaching. Even with four years of teaching experience in Australia, this was one of the most challenging periods in my teaching career. These kids really pushed the limits of my behaviour management strategies and it wasn’t without a few tears. It can be frustrating at times to not know where you are teaching until you are about to walk out the door. Being at a different school everyday means that it is hard to make connections with students and feel part of any staff. But supply teaching has taught me so many things. I now have the confidence to teach in the primary classroom. I’ve realised I actually like it and am actually pretty good at it! Sure there was times, as a trained PE teacher I felt out of my depths, especially teaching British history or phonics with my Australian accent, but I always survived. Thanks to classroom teaching, I have rediscovered my love of early years education which were never my favourite year groups when teaching PE back home. I have become more adaptable moving from different schools with different routines. I have become more resourceful when arriving at a school when  there no planning left by the teacher. I have become more flexible, changing year levels half way through the day. I have become more resilient when being called some horrible names and more patient when being spoken back to. Supply teaching definitely isn’t an easy gig, but I was lucky to have a friendly and supportive team at Vibe to look after me.

For the summer term, I took on a part time teaching role in a Year 3/4 speech and language class. I had no experience teaching students with severe learning difficulties and although I only had 10 students in my class, the gap in their learning abilities was huge. I was fortunate to have had an amazing teacher assistant and quickly gained the confidence and the knowledge to be able to support these students. After only a few weeks, I could recognise their individual strengths and areas of need, different personality traits, how to engage them and manage their behaviour and the importance of routines and using technology.

For the first time since arriving in London I had consistency. I had a staff who I could begin to think of as colleagues and it almost felt like I had my own class. We celebrated birthdays (including mine), went on school trips and attended sports days. Each week, I got to mention two students at assembly who had displayed the schools values. I loved seeing the smiles on their faces when they were recognised for their efforts in and outside of the classroom at school. Saying goodbye to my class on the last day of school, I knew I would truly miss them.

In September, I started a new role at a new school and was excited by the idea that I would be staying in London, at least for another year. I was very fortunate to have been offered a PE teaching position at an all-girls independent preparatory school in central London. Half a term in and I am absolutely loving it! I am teaching PE and Games from Reception through to Form VI (4 to 11 years) and am enjoying a different role as a Form VI tutor and head of house. Although I will no longer be in a coordinator position, I am looking forward to having less responsibility. For the last four years, most of my time and focus was on administrative tasks but I know that my teaching will benefit from being able to dedicate much more time to planning the best lessons I can for my students. The school has just introduced iPads so I am keen to assist other teachers and start implementing their use within the PE curriculum. I am also really enjoying my role as a form tutor and being able to support our Form VI girls in other areas of their schooling, especially in preparation for the entrance exams in January. A huge part of the reason why I accepted the position was how strongly my values for girls education aligned with the aims and ethos of the school. I have a lot of confidence in the senior management team and am excited to be having an impact at the school.

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The hardest thing about teaching at a new school is not comparing it to your previous school. Although the two school contexts are very similar, it has taken me a while to get used to my new routines and surroundings. Our PE lessons are almost all off-site at nearby Regents Park which means we are on and off buses 3 or 4 times a day. From teaching in the hot Australian summers back home, I am finding it a little tricky to acclimatise to the cold London weather. And after 10 months in this country, I have finally got into the habit of calling soccer ‘football’.

It is bittersweet deciding to stay in London as it means I have had to leave a job and a school I love back home. Firbank took a chance on me as a young graduate teacher and gave me a better start to my teaching career than I ever would have imagined. I am so lucky to have been mentored and inspired by incredibly dedicated and talented teachers. I hope I can return to Firbank when I eventually come back home to Australia and be able to offer all that I have learnt through my teaching experiences abroad.

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London Calling

With two days left in 2014, I have finally sat down and begun to reflect on what a year it has been. My fourth year of teaching has been a huge year. Professionally, I think it has been my best year yet.

2014

I have loved workshop presenting this year and have been fortunate to have had opportunities to present at a number of conferences and teachmeets throughout the year. I challenged myself this year to present a number of inquiry in PE sessions and was excited to present at the first ever IB PYP TeachMeet.

The lead up to this year’s ACHPER conference was hectic. I co-presented four sessions in two days but enjoyed the experience of presenting with Ross Halliday and Andy Hair. I get a real buzz from workshop presenting and was pleased with the positive feedback from participants. It was amazing to think that Andy and I presented together and hadn’t ever met in person prior to the conference. I was honored to have been part of an expert panel in one of the feature presentations at the conference, discussing the use of social media for professional development. It was very rewarding to share my Twitter journey with others and inspire my peers to become ‘connected teachers’.

Team #PhysEd at the ACHPER Conference

Team #PhysEd at the ACHPER Conference

Feature presentation at ACHPER Conference

Feature presentation at ACHPER Conference

My role as SnowSports Coordinator is a big part of my job, and as a keen snowboarder, it’s a bonus getting to spend most of Term 3 at the snow. Although the days are long and I don’t get to do much snowboarding, I love being able to support the girls and see them doing what they love and achieving outstanding results. This year, I was able to take on more of a coaching role, supporting our younger snowboarders. We had our first snowboarders qualify for the Australian Championships and our skiers performed exceptionally well again, achieving a number of podium places.

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Team Firbank at Victorian Interschools SnowSports Championships

Cold day at the Australian Interschools SnowSports Championships

Cold day at the Australian Interschools SnowSports Championships

My highlight of 2014 has to have been the Year 9 Journey. I don’t teach in our Senior School so I was lucky to have been able to attend. The camp is a challenging 10 day trip, with 5 days of hiking and 4 days of rafting in the Victorian Alps. The camp was eventful to say the least. On Day 3, we ran 4.5km in under an hour with packs on, out running lightening strikes only 100 metres away. After our first day of rafting, it rained heavily overnight and we had to evacuate by hiking out with our rafts. The river rose from 0.65 to 2.25 metres overnight. I enjoyed connecting with the Year 9 girls and surprisingly didn’t mind being away from my phone for 10 days. More importantly, I rediscovered my love of Outdoor Education again.

Group photo on the Bogong High Plains during the Year 9 Journey

Group photo on the Bogong High Plains during the Year 9 Journey

2015 and beyond

Next year brings change and a new challenge. I am taking a years leave from my current role at Firbank to move to London to teach. I have dreamed of moving overseas to teach since my first year at uni and the timing just feels right. When staff or parents would asked me why I have decided to move overseas to teach, I would often struggle with my explanation. That was until one of my Year 3 students summed it up perfectly: I have been at school for 21 years and need to know what it’s like to be 26 years old.

There is no doubt that leaving my life here in Melbourne will be one of the hardest things I’ll ever do. But I think it will also be one of the bravest. I am leaving behind a job that has given me so many opportunities. I have thrived at Firbank and would not be the teacher I am today without the passionate and dedicated staff that I have been so lucky to work with. Firbank has become a big part of my life and whether I return to Firbank or not, the girls and the staff will always have a special place with me.

My Firbank family

My Firbank family

There is one person who has been a huge part of my time at Firbank and that is my mentor Shaz Bailey. I could not have had a better start to my teaching career and have been so lucky to have had Shaz at my first school. There is no doubt she is my biggest fan and advocate and no matter how busy she is, if I pop my head into her office, she always makes time for a chat. She keeps me grounded, helps me put things into perspective and encourages me to follow my dreams. I can’t tell her how much I appreciate her guidance and unwavering support. Shaz and I have a special relationship and it won’t feel right being in a school without her next year.

Although travel will be my priority next year, that doesn’t mean teaching won’t still be a major focus of my year. I want to use this time to progress my teaching, to gain qualifications or experience, which will help me to get to where I want to be in my career. I have set myself three goals for the year: to finish my Google Educators courses, complete my Outdoor Education qualifications and gain more experience teaching PE and Health in secondary schools.

So what does that mean for healthybodies-happy minds.com? To be honest, I am not sure which direction this site will go over the next year. I usually blog a lot about current units, providing activity ideas or tools for technology integration but next year I will be relief teaching in a number of different schools. I have a few projects I am currently working on which I plan to share and I envision that my posts will be more reflective, sharing my experience teaching abroad.

For now, I am going to take a break from the blog whilst I travel in the US and get myself set up in London. Thanks for a great year in 2014 and I look forward to connecting with you all in 2015.

– Ash

Professional Learning Adventure: Moonshot Thinking

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This year, our staff have been challenged to choose our own professional learning adventures. We have had dedicated time during our normal Wednesday after school meetings to pursue an area of interest to improve our teaching. This term, staff will take turns to present their professional learning adventure to the whole staff. I believe that this is a great opportunity for us to access professional development without even leaving our campus, to learn from each other and to collaborate as a team. I work with an amazing group of passionate and dedicated teachers so I am looking forward to listening to and learning from each staff member during our sharing sessions.

My professional learning adventure started at a GEG Melbourne session, where I listened to a number of Google Certified Teachers who were sharing their experiences from the Google Teacher Academy (something I am also aiming to do).  Anthony Speranza (@anthsperanza) was sharing his moonshot based around the idea of ‘disruptive thinking’. Anthony shared his idea of ‘hack schooling’ and identified opportunities for hacking within our current school system. The concept of change was addressed and the need to feel uncomfortable for positive change to occur.

I was instantly captivated by the idea of moonshot thinking and immediately started to question how I could use moonshot thinking to make a difference in education. The essence of a moonshot is the combination of a huge problem, a radical solution to that problem and the breakthrough technology that just might make that solution possible. It is said that it is often easier to make something 10 time better than it is to make it 10% better.

After plenty of thought and consideration, I started to piece together my professional learning adventure.

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With rapid changes in technology, schools are seeking to stay current with these advances to implement technology to improve teaching and learning. I am one of the first teachers to advocate for the implementation of technology in schools, although I also realise that it is not always effective or relevant to use technology in our classrooms. It is important to remember that technology is a tool that we must use effectively to aid learning in our schools. With more and more schools introducing 1-1 devices, there is an expectation for teachers to adapt to these changes in order to ‘keep up’ in today’s education system. Sometimes we are so focused on using technology, that we lose focus of why we are using it and simply use it for the wrong reasons such as satisying principals instructions or justifying the purchase of an iPad for parents. Through workshop presenting, I have come across teachers who are either resistant to change or totally overwhelmed by the idea of getting their head around new technologies. Technology is constantly changing and it is important for teachers to change and adapt with it. One thing for sure is that technology has found its place in our schools and isn’t likely to go anywhere in the near future.

My concern is that teachers are expected to use these devices but are not receiving adequate professional development to do so effectively. This thought has lead me to my moonshot.

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My radical solution to this problem: Everyday I connect with a vast number of innovative PE teachers on Twitter who are doing truly incredible things in their schools in regards to technology . My vision is to use these educators to offer free and easily-accessible professional development to Health and Physical Education teachers all over the world. How do I plan to do this? Well that’s where you come in. Most of the teachers who will read this (likely to be those of which are on Twitter) are possibly the 1, 2 or 5% of PE teachers who are implementing technology effectively. By sharing this blog with your collagues and connections in education, I am hoping I can gain enough feedback to develop an innovative way to deliver relevant and engaging professional development.

If you would take a few minutes to complete this form, and pass it on, that would be greatly appreciated. You can access the form here.

I look forward to updating you with the process of my moonshot in the near future.

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ACHPER Health and Physical Education TeachMeet

Last night I presented at the first ACHPER Health and Physical Education TeachMeet. As well as having the opportunity to engage in some amazing PE professional development, it was great to catch up with some of my Phys Ed friends and finally meet other PE teachers I have been connecting with on Twitter. Well done to Hilary and the ACHPER Victoria team for putting on such a successful teachmeet event.

There was a number of presenters at the teachmeet from a variety of school contexts, teaching experience and education backgrounds. It was inspiring to see a number of first time presenters, taking on the challenge of presenting in front of a room of 40 teachers from all over Melbourne.

Moving away from my usual technology presentations, I decided upon sharing my thoughts of an inquiry-based approach to teaching Physical Education. The idea was to use this presentation as an introduction to the practical workshop Ross Halliday and I will be presenting at the ACHPER Conference in November.

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Photo credit: Jane McPherson

 

I was wowed and inspired by the ideas that were offered from the presenters at the TeachMeet. It is amazing to see a group of passionate educators flying the flag for Health and Physical Education in Australia.

 

Christina Polatajko @cpola17

Theme: PE Word Wall – why does this benefit student learning in PE

First time presenter Christina showed us how she uses the Word Wall in PE. This is a great way to link with literacy in the classroom and to keep students engaged in Physical Education.

 

Bernie Holland @achpervicpl

Theme: FMS – content or method?

A guru when it comes to FMS, Bernie got us pondering the question ‘are the kick, catch, overhand throw and bounce all equally important in the development of FMS?  Bernie talked us through a variety of approaches to teach FMS, whether teaching skills in isolation or as a concept.

 

Jane McPherson @janemc26

Theme: Twitter & Evernote

Jane wowed the room by showcasing how she links Twitter with Evernote to sort her favourited tweets using folders. This is a clever idea I had never thought of when using Evernote so I am looking forward to trying it out.

 

Carly Randle @CarlyRandle

Theme: Team Shake app

Another first time presenter, Carly showed us the Team Shake app which she uses to group students in PE classes. Having the ability to categorise students by their strengths and weaknesses in a particular unit to create even ability groups was a feature of the app I found most useful.

 

Airlie Swallow @PEMadeEasy

Theme: Developing a Growth Mindset in Phys Ed

Airlie shared with us a topic that she has spent alot of time researching in helping students develop a growth mindset. I enjoyed the practical section of the presentation where Airlie had us trying to catch table tennis balls with a plastic cup straped to our foot. One of the key messages: when a student says ‘I can’t’, the teacher adds ‘yet!’.

 

Corey Aylen @mr_aylen

Theme: #pechat

Filling in at last minute for Ross Halliday, Corey did a great job at encouraging the room to get onto Twitter and get involved in #pechat. When it works around my Monday night netball, I enjoy the opportunity to join in for #pechat each fortnight. Not only do I take away plenty of great ideas from the chat, it also forces me to reflect on my own teaching. Thanks to Corey, I have finally got around to setting up my own tweetdeck too.

 

Michael Ha @nerdyphyseder

Theme: App-verloaded

Michael gave us an important and timely reminder in today’s world of technology to not be app-verloaded. The best tip I pulled out of Michael’s presentation was to focus on one app at a time and master it. Using technology purposely and not for the sake of using it is the key to effective integration of technology in education.

 

Andy Hair @mrhairphysed

Theme: Google Hangouts

Considering Andy was presenting on Google Hangout when Google had crashed, Andy did a great job at proving what a powerful tool it is. I use Google Hangout often but was amazed at the possibility of peer teaching across the world and streaming live from sport carnivals.

 

You can check out my presentation below or download a PDF version of the Prezi here.

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TeachTechPlay Episode 4.5 PE Edition

Last night, I was honoured to be part of the PE edition of TeachTechPlay. TeachTechPlay is a monthly web-show where different educators share a range of tools, ideas and lessons with the time limit of 4 minutes. The idea of presenting with what I consider the best of the best in PE was daunting to say the least. Needless to say, it was some of the best PE PD I have had this year.

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When I was asked to present at very late notice (2 days earlier!), I immediately thought of Webscorer. Webscorer is a mobile timing app which has blown my mind and totally transformed the way I run my school cross country carnivals. I rave about this app and have pushed my sport district into trusting me to run it at our inter-school cross country carnival. Luckily for me it worked seamlessly. I won’t give away too much about Webscorer (I don’t want to spoil the episode for you) but I thought I would share my favourite features of the app:

Upload start lists

The team that has created Webscorer have gone above and beyond with creating an amazing resource section on the website (check out the great YouTube videos). Here you can download a template for creating your own start lists. All you need to do is add your student data, convert to a TXT file and upload to webscorer.com. It is so easy!

Team scoring

When setting up your race in the Webscorer Pro app, there is an option for team scoring. You can select how many competitors will contribute to your team score. After the race is complete, you can view the results and the teams will be automatically ranked. Genius!

Post results live to the web

This is quite possibly my favourite feature! As competitors are crossing the finish line, the results of the race are published live to the web. This is fantastic for parents who are unable to attend carnivals, who can follow the race live from work or home.

Two device finish line

Although I am yet to try this feature, I am excited by the possibilities. Using two devices at the finish line, the 1st device records time stamps as competitors cross the finish line and the 2nd device records the racers names in order of their finish. Alternatively, racers could be handed a finish place card and can report in at the results table with their name and number using the 2nd device.

Layout options

There is a layout option to suit every race. Normal view allows for a one tap entry of race finishes. Bib numbers are shown in numerical order and names in alphabetical order. Great for smaller races, no tight group finishes and easily identifiable racers. Fast tap view allows for the timestamp to be entered following by the racer. Multiple racers can be entered at the same time. This is handy for large races where there are group finishes or racers are not easily identifiable. Keypad view allows for the timestamp to be entered, followed by a manual entry of bib number with the keypad. Used for larger races or races timed with an small screen such as an iPhone.

I still have plenty of experimenting to do with Webscorer and I know there are many more features I am yet to unlock. That’s what makes this app so exciting!

 

Being involved in this episode reminded me of why I love connecting on Twitter. There really are some amazing educators out there who are so willing to share their best teaching practice with others. Last night, I found four new ways of creating better learning opportunities for my students and was so excited to get to school today to start implementing these amazing ideas!

fafc7ca156f96e27c969a7cae88bcaa3Jo Bailey (@LovePhysEd)

I absolutely loved Jo’s idea of using classbadges.com and forallrubrics.com. I am a big believer that students do not always need ribbons and certificates to validate learning but rewarding students for setting and reaching goals is so important. This is such a great way to motivate students for learning. I can’t wait to kickstart this with my primary classes. To see Jo’s other amazing work in PE, check out her blog lovephyed.blogspot.com.

2v4YqMjJJarrod Robinson (@mrrobbo)

There is not much this guy couldn’t build. What I love about the idea of Vidalyze is that it came about as a need that Jarrod had for his classes. I like that this website caters for schools and students who may not be fortunate to have 1-1 devices for easy video analysis. I can see this being an amazing tool for student portfolios. To see the extent of Jarrod’s work, stop by his site thepegeek.com.

Kf4uRKmLRoss Halliday (@FizzicalEd)

One minute into Ross’ presentation and I was hooked by the idea of Remind. What an easy way to send your students and teachers reminders and messages. I love how Ross combines the use of Remind with Today’s Meet to allow parents to generate discussions. It is well worth visiting Ross’ blog to read many of his thought-provoking articles makingpefizz.com.

Tz86nYmbMel Hamada (@mjhamada)

Mel shared with us a program called QuickCast which she has used to create screencasts for student assessment and feedback. I instantly made the connection with a dance assessment my student have just completed. If I had discovered screencasts earlier, this would have been such a powerful way to deliver feedback to my students. To stay up to date with Mel’s teaching and learning in PE, follow her blog www.melhamada.com.

Credit must go to Michael Ha (@Nerdyphyseder) and Eleni Kyritsis (@misskyritsis) for creating the TeachTechPlay web-show. This is an incredible opportunity for professional development for educators all over the globe. I have no doubt that both Michael and Eleni put a huge amount of time and effort into the episodes and it is inspiring to interact with two passionate and motivated teachers. Thanks also to Corey Aylen (@mr_aylen) who is always busy behind the scenes, tweeting away during the episodes.

Without further a do, here’s TeachTechPlay Episode 4.5 PE Edition. Enjoy!

Vote for your Play King/Queen here.

The Key to Running Successful Sport Carnivals

The key to a successful sport carnival is preparation and an eye for detail. I am involved in coordinating around 10 sport carnivals each year, both house and interschool sport carnivals and it is a constant learning process. I am always able to identify something I can change or modify to improve.

House Swimming

Share ideas and resources with other Physical Education teachers- I often find myself talking to and sharing ideas for sport carnivals with the PE staff at our Senior School campus. Through these conversations, I have been able to pick up a few tips to use when running my own carnivals. I have passed on maps for cross country courses whilst the Senior School have provided me with access to computer programs for swimming and athletics.

Start planning well in advance- I start planning most of my carnivals a month ahead, even earlier if I need to trial students. I book my venues year to year as it is always difficult to find a date where the venue is available that also fits in with the school calendar. You will need to give your parents plenty of notice, book buses in advance and allow time for delivery of medals and ribbons. Give yourself a couple of hours to set up before the carnival. Its surprising how quickly the time goes and there is nothing worse than feeling rushed and unprepared.

House Cross Country

Make checklists– I can not stress how important this is. There are so many things to consider when organising a carnival. Ribbons, clipboards, laptop, cones, stopwatches, sound system, pens, sticky tape, pins, banners, tents (you get the idea!). Plus, creating a checklist will give you a starting point when it comes to planning next years carnival.

Train your students- The core units of my curriculum (Swimming, Athletics and Diving) take up a large part of the whole year programme and are designed so that I can use PE lessons to train my students for carnivals. It is important that the students have practiced the relevant skills before they are expected to compete in a house carnival or interschool competition. Dedicate time in a PE lesson to discuss the carnival with your students as it will help the day run smoothly if the students understand what to do on the day. This will help your younger students in particular as they may be anxious if it is their first carnival. For example, my students recieve a map of the cross country course that they can familarise themselves with.

House Athletics

Provide your staff with information- I will generally give each staff member a booklet for each carnival outlining the time and date of the carnival, the schedule for the day, travel arrangements and staff roles. The staff are more willing to help if they are clear on what they are expected to do and are confident in performing their role. For jobs that need further clarification and can not be easily explained in writing, I will make time to speak to the particular teacher, For example, demonstrating how the scoring system works. Any information that you can give staff in advance will take the pressure of you on the day.

Ask parents and students to help- My house captains are given a role of responsibility at each carnival and they thrive on it. Some of my Year 6 students are given the opportunity to run an activity at the Junior Sports Day. I often use Senior School students, ex students or parents to act as course officials at cross country carnivals or to run field events at athletics carnivals. My general rule for parent helpers as timers is that I will not assign them to the lane in which they child will compete in.

House Diving

Give every student an opportunity to participate- Whilst not every student is an outstanding swimmer or the fastest runner, make sure that you can include every student in the carnival. Every student in Year 3 to 6 participates in the House Cross Country carnival. At House Swimming, every student swims in a freestyle race and a relay. At House Athletics, every student competes in a 100m event and a relay. At my swimming and athletics carnivals, I also run novelty events including three legged races and ball relays, to give students who do not participate in many other swimming or athletics events an opportunity to compete for their house.

It’s the little things that make a big difference!

– Type and print out each students events on paper so that the students can have their own slip, listing their events. It might take you a few hours to do, but it will save you from losing your patience and answering the same questions all day.

– If your budget allows, provide food and drink for your staff. I will get sandwiches and fruit platters catered and provide bottled water or tea and coffee for the staff and parent helpers. It will be very much appreciated and will go a long way to keeping your staff happy.

– Have two staff or helpers that you have not allocated to a role that can release staff and parents. My swimming and athletics carnivals run for most of the day so it’s important to give the staff and parents a break during the day. Make sure you have a break at some stage too!

– Put together a playlist of up beat, current pop songs. Music can change the atmosphere of a carnival and the students will love listening and dancing to the beats between their events.

– Make sure you follow up after the carnival by thanking your staff and helpers, even if it’s a simple as an email. I usually write letters to the parents who assisted. Your parents will appreciate the thought are will be more willing to help again at future carnivals.

Junior Sports Day

Risk-Takers in Bike Education

My goal for my teaching in 2014 is to be a risk-taker. This year I have introduced a bike education program for the first time in Year 6. Students have participated in a bike education unit in Year 4, focussed on building skills and confidence for riding on paths. The Year 6 program is a progression from Year 4 in that it prepares students for riding on roads. Having run the Year 4 unit for the last 3 years, I was feeling confident in implementing a new unit in Year 6. In Australia, once a child turns 12 years old, they are no longer allowed to ride on foot paths. I think it is extremely important for schools to help prepare students for this change, whilst continuing to promote an active lifestyle amongst our students.

The risks of this unit is greater than any other unit I have ran. 40 students out on the road, navigating traffic in a busy Melbourne suburb. Therefore we have used PE lessons and After School Sport sessions, excursions, theory components and a variety of assessment methods to ensure the girls have competency in basic bike skills, a thorough understanding of the road rules and the awareness to react and respond to situations out on the roads.

Our Bike Ed unit started with a revision of basic bike skills such as braking, scanning, riding in a straight line and communication with other riders. In the first few weeks of the unit, the theory component was also very important. The girls looked at different scenarios to help identify possible hazards on the road. We worked through a range of different intersections and learnt how to make left and right turns. There was also a mass of road rules the girls needed to learn, which was definetely overwhelming for them at times. At times I felt this difficult to relate to as I have been driving and riding my bike on road for a long time now and for me these rules are common sense.

Revising the key points of three different intersections on the whiteboard

Revising the key points of three different intersections on the whiteboard

I wanted my students to be able to see intersections in action so we went for a walk in our local area and observed 3 different intersections: traffic lights, a roundabout and an intersection with a stop sign. The students focused on the behaviours of drivers, recording whether drivers gave way to other vehicles and pedestrians, scanned traffic or followed road the road rules. An important lesson was learnt by the girls that we can’t assume that all driver will follow road rules and we as cyclist must be extra cautious and aware when riding in traffic.

Observing road conditions at traffic lights

Observing road conditions at traffic lights

Observing traffic at a stop sign

Observing traffic at a stop sign

Whilst we were building the confidence to ride on road, the students practiced riding in different intersections in the school grounds. We practice riding through an intersection, left turns, right turns, hook turns and navigating roundabouts. In our second last session, the girls were assessed in two scenarios: making a turn at a stop sign and making a turn in a roundabout. Assessors looked at the riders ability to use their brakes correctly, signalling turns, scanning for traffic and following road rules and signs. Each student was given an assessment card, which gave them feedback as to how they can improve leading up to the on-road ride. The students were encouraged to practice with their parents during the week and were retested again the following week.

Practicing left and right turns at a stop sign

Practicing left and right turns at a stop sign

Practicing avigating roundabouts in the school grounds

Practicing navigating roundabouts in the school grounds

Students also completed a written test which challenged the girls with different scenarios and rules for riding on roads. After the students had completed the test, we went through the answers as a class which allowed me to clarify any questions that the girls found difficult. The written test gave me an indication of any gaps in the students learning or areas that needed further clarification or practice.

After 16 hours of practice at school, the girls were finally ready to head out onto the roads. Even after all this time I still had some nerves about taking fourty 12 years old girls out in busy local traffic so I decided to split the girls into 4 groups and take 10 students out at a time, with their classroom teacher for a 30 minute ride. The ride involved two difficult right hand turns and 3 roundabouts. The first half of the ride would be challenging, then the group could enjoy an easier ride to finish. We would ride in signal file and I planned to ride at the front of the groups with the classroom teacher at the back of the group. Communication between riders in our group during this ride would be very important.

Our Bike Ed on-road course

Our Bike Ed on-road course

As I reflect back on the Year 6 Bike Education unit, I believe that this is one of the most successful units I have ever run.  I have seen the confidence in my students develop over the 8 week unit and have seen girls take on the challenge of riding on road, no matter how nervous they were before the ride. The girls have learnt new knowledge and skills that I am confident has helped to prepare them for riding on roads when the time comes. As happy as I was to get every student back to school safely, I was also so proud of each of my Year 6 girls for completing the ride. The best part about this unit is seeing more students riding to school, either with their parents, sibling or friends. There is not a day at school now that the bike rack is empty.

I mounted a GoPro to my bike handlebar and recorded the ride of the first group. Take a look at the video of the ride below.