#Nurture1617

​I enjoyed writing my #nurture1516 reflection, reminding me of the benefits, challenges and surprises of moving abroad to teach. So I thought I’d jump on this year’s #nurture1617 bandwagon again and share my reflection of 2016 with you all. A word of caution, it isn’t all about teaching! There’s more to life, right?!

Professionally, it was mostly a year of consolidation, keeping the momentum up of running the Religion department, in which I was helped by some wonderful colleagues who were committed to putting in the hard yards. 

A last minute decision of a colleague to leave at the end of 2015 left me with both Y11 and Y12 Study of Religion classes – a steep learning curve for me as well as the students! With both year groups also for Religion and Ethics, this meant I mostly taught seniors – and one Y10 class – the first time in my career I haven’t taught the junior years.

I flipped all of my senior classes – which also had the benefit of allowing colleagues to improve their subject knowledge. Students enjoyed the flipped learning on the whole, though it wasn’t everyone’s favourite way of learning – some didn’t want the responsibility to learn given to them and some wanted to be spoon fed, but it seemed to work much better than the previous  (dare I say haphazard) approach they had experienced. I spent lots of my own time recording the videos but feel the reward was worth it. I now have the basic videos ready to go and can focus on making improvements and additional videos as I teach the course again this year.

I’m proud of myself that I managed to sustain the #REchatOz monthly chats during the busy school year, with the support of some excellent teachers around Australia and the world.

A colleague I have worked closely with over the last 18 months made the decision to step down from the role of Director of Mission, an assistant principal role in our school. It seemed a natural progression from my role as Head of Religion, so I applied for the job – and got it. It’s a big change of focus from the academic side of teaching, but I am looking forward to this change for 2017.

I was formally inducted (? – for want of a better word) into the Marist Association, becoming officially a part of the Marist family. 

I spent most of the holidays this year in Australia, often catching up with family and friends. We did manage to fit a sneaky 2 weeks in Japan at Easter, and I am glad we did because I was able to experience a very different culture. In the long summer holiday we went on a crazy road trip from Cairns to Melbourne and back! We really have seen some of Australia! Highlights of the experience include bodyboarding on the beaches of NSW, eating oysters and drinking stars (read: champagne) all down the coast, and of course NYE in Sydney. 

So what about 2017? My #oneword2017 is going to be “peace”. I chose this because I feel a lot of teachers are troubled professionally (and personally where the two clash) so I want to be at peace with myself in my new role. I also want to be at peace with others – F2F and virtual, continuing to stay out of conflict and work hard to express disagreement in productive and constructive ways. Being at peace with myself also involves looking after myself physically and mentally – so I am hoping to continue running on Fridays with colleagues, doing the parkrun most weeks, swimming a few times each week, which I managed consistently in term 4. I will also be signing on for my second season of football (that’s soccer to you Aussies). Another means by which I will be bringing about peace is continuing to read. I had a target of 100 books to read in 2016 – I didn’t make it but I got to 62! Perhaps I can get nearer the 100 mark in 2017. I will also hopefully publish my own book, my thesis, which will make me content. My academic pursuits are currently in limbo, so I’m happy to wait and see what the year brings on that front. And I will be going home when the bell rings (disclaimer: whenever possible).

Advertisements

Conference Time

This school holiday, I took the opportunity to get a feel for the academic world of theology in Australia. After a break of six months (or just a bit over) from thinking theologically at that level since my graduation, it felt like the right time to get the brain going again. The coincidence (plan?) of the ANZATS and ACTA conferences happening in the same week in the same city (Melbourne) was helpful. I thought it would be worthwhile, at least for myself, to collect together a few thoughts and anecdotes from each conference.

ANZATS

I was expecting something similar to the SST conferences in the UK, with a variety of theologians from different contexts, and I wasn’t disappointed. The opportunity for ecumenical dialogue was immense. First up, starting with the keynote on Monday morning, was ANZATS, or The Australian and New Zealand Association of Theological Schools, with the theme of Atonement. I should probably say from the outset, that the atonement is not a concept that I’ve felt the need to read about or spill any ink over personally, so I was looking forward to being enlightened on the subject.

Serene Jones gave the keynote, weaving her personal context into her thoughts and reflections on Anselm’s atonement theory. She spoke from her experience, giving insights also into the context of her work in America. This was an extremely accessible presentation, and it was unfortunate that I was not able to meet Serene during the conference.

As with any conference, I had a series of tricky decisions to make about which of the short papers I attended, but it was made a little easier by the fact that I didn’t have any academic investment in any of the papers – they were all, equally, outside of my academic comfort zone! They were all interesting for one reason or another, with something new to discover, something challenging, or something provocative eliciting a thought process.

The best part about the conference, ironically the bit I wasn’t a fan of in the first few conferences I attended, was the networking. I was surprised at how few of the high-profile Australian and New Zealand theologians I was aware of in the UK. I would have thought that I would have known more of them, given increasing globalisation. I met two people who are interested in completing PhDs in the area of theology and music, potentially doubling the number of people with PhDs in the area in Australia (as far as I know, there are only 2 people, and one of them is me)!

I was pleased that some of the academics I have had the pleasure of getting to know on twitter sought me out to say hello face-to-face in REAL LIFE. I met Steve Taylor – @emergentkiwi on twitter – with whom I was incredibly slow in making the virtual-real life connection! I also met Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Waikato, NZ, and discovered common ground in the North East of England. Not only are we from the same area (within about 10 miles) but she went to school at the school I taught in before moving to Australia. So we knew some of the same people, and were able to share a few stories. It’s great to cross paths with someone and discover your journeys have already overlapped in some way.

 

ACTA

From the broad to the narrow, though of course each theologian at ACTA – that is the Australian Catholic Theological Association – represents a different perspective in their own context and experience. However, almost all fall under the broad category of ‘Catholic’ (I don’t like boxes, me). There were around 50 theologians, joined by about 20 biblical scholars (ACBA – replace the Theological with Biblical). The theme of this conference was Gender Justice, which I had not really looked up before attending because I was more keen to network with more theologians and hear some thoughts from the Catholic perspective. So I arrived with a fairly open mind about what I would hear.

The keynote was given by Sr Mary John Mananzan from the Philippines. She was sharing a snapshot of the progress of EATWOT – the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians. It seems like this has given these women a floor to speak about their experiences, particularly of oppression. However, I began to worry that there was a binary male-female conceptualisation being set up, and hoped this wouldn’t be brought over into the rest of the conference. This was followed by a general serving of wine and cheese, in the process of consuming which I was able to meet a few new faces.

Without giving a blow-by-blow account of the papers, I will briefly summarise the best and worst bits. The two papers that were the most relevant to my academic work were on  Hildegard of Bingen and Beauty. I also enjoyed hearing a variety of opinions in the combined ACTA and ACBA session on Gender Justice, which allowed space for conversation following three papers. It was interesting to hear different perspectives in an receptive ecumenism ‘fishbowl’, though again I worried that there was the possibility of a binary being set up. Fortunately one of the key themes that came out of the discussion was inclusivity.

On the negative side, one paper on sexuality presented two different theological accounts (and the presenter sat on the fence asking for respectful dialogue between the two). The first account was that homosexuality is a sin which came into existence as a result of the fall. The proponent of this view was a Melbourne parish which had released a leaflet which was titled something hopeful (indeed, I think had the word Hope in it) but proceeded to propagate bad science, bad theology and even worse understanding of sexuality. The part that stands out in my memory is one of the twelve ‘causes’ of homosexuality being ‘selfishness’. I’m afraid I couldn’t be silent on this offensive codswallop. I also worry that some of the frameworks being used were taken straight out of first century patriarchal Israel – one paper proposed that women could lead special commissions on parenthood, hospitality, and communication, amongst others. I certainly don’t identify as that sort of stereotypical woman.

Having gone with no expectations of the theme, I found myself increasingly frustrated at the need to have conversations around issues that I thought were self-evident. Of course women should be afforded the same opportunities as men. Of course women have as many gifts to offer as men. Of course ‘female’ experience is as diverse as ‘human’ experience. I was particularly pleased to hear Maeve Louise Heaney affirm the importance of acknowledge the particular as a means of knowing the universal. As she said (I can’t remember if she was quoting someone or not, and I am probably paraphrasing), she can only speak as a woman, not for women.

With that in mind, as a female theologian who has never encountered direct discrimination based on gender or sexuality, I appreciated hearing the experiences of others. However, given the entrenched stance of the Catholic Church, I am not prepared to expend academic energy in fighting for a cause that is not even an issue in today’s Western secular society.

Mercy Goes Hand-in-Hand With Justice

This year the Catholic Church has declared a holy year: the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. In the document setting this out, Pope Francis describes how he understands mercy. It is not an abstract concept, in his view, but a face-to-face meeting with another human being. Before arriving in Australia, I taught in a Sisters of Mercy school in England, where our three chaplains were sisters who lived out mercy day-to-day.

Pope Francis closely links mercy with forgiveness. And who is it that needs mercy the most? The innocent and those who suffer injustices, such as being deprived of their homes, their dignity, even their lives, are the ones who need mercy the most.

Where do we find those people who need mercy the most? Are they the people persecuted because of their sexuality? Consider the clubbers killed last week in America at a gay nightclub – not to mention the fact that many were black or latino. Are they the people attacked by fear-mongering fascists for working hard for unity between countries? Consider Jo Cox, the politician killed in England this week because she supported remaining in the EU to break down barriers and borders between countries. We would not have to look too far to find examples closer to home. Or are the people who need mercy the most even closer to us? Perhaps it’s the bloke sitting next to you. Maybe someone is giving him a hard time in Maths, or on the soccer field, or at home. Who could you offer the hand of friendship or forgiveness to this week? Mercy is looking them in the eye, face-to-face, recognising them for who they are, and walking with them.

It is not just the persecuted that need mercy, though, but the persecutors. We must also recognise the humanity of the bullies, the tormentors, the trolls, even the killers. Those people are often the ones who feel insecure, unhappy with their lives, and rejected. Think of the difference that offering a hand of friendship could make to these people. How much suffering might you prevent because they feel valued by another human being? In the Gospels, forgiveness is a key teaching of Jesus: Peter asks Jesus “How many times should I forgive my brother, seven times?” Jesus replies “not seven times but seventy-seven times.” We acknowledge each other’s wrong-doing. We don’t accept it, but we can forgive it.

That is why mercy does not stand alone. It goes hand in hand with justice. If there is not a balance between mercy and justice, wrongdoing would either go unpunished, or would be punished excessively. The Gospel reading today tells us not to judge others, or else we will be judged. Think about someone you have judged harshly, perhaps for their appearance, their behaviour, their interests. Would you want to be measured by the same measuring stick? Is it fair if we judge someone more harshly than we would want to be judged? That would be hypocritical. How would you rather be treated instead? According to the thirteenth century Doctor of the Church, St Thomas Aquinas, mercy is the fullness of justice. Aquinas writes “Mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution; justice without mercy is cruelty.” If we did nothing but show mercy, our relationships would break down; we would be unable to sustain them. We cannot repeatedly give and forgive without others taking responsibility for their actions. On a global scale, with only mercy as a guide, countries and unions would dissolve. But if we did nothing but enact justice, we would cause physical or mental harm to others.

According to Greek philosopher Aristotle, justice has to work for the common good. But what does that mean? It means it has to be in the best interests of the community. In very few cases would harsh judgement be in the best interests of the community. Someone who does wrong has more chance of changing their behaviour if they are offered opportunity rather than punishment.

So how can we employ this in our everyday actions? First, we take responsibility for our own actions, and the impact they have on the community. We acknowledge when we don’t get it right, and accept the consequences. Second, we acknowledge the wrongdoings of our mates and peers. We hold them to account, and then we forgive them. We treat them with humanity, looking them in the eye and reminding them they are our brothers, when they make mistakes and when they make up for them. I would like to remind you of a line from the book of Micah: “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Pen, Leave, Sorry, Excuse Me, I Beg Your Pardon

(Image: pixabay)

Viva Diva* #PhDchat (not how NOT to do a PhD)

*apologies for the lack of rhyme, it looks better than it sounds.

A couple of people have asked me to describe my viva experience – either out of curiosity because they are doing doctorates in different parts of the world and therefore don’t have a viva, or because they know they will have to face the viva at some point.

I’m going to rewind a year before I submitted my PhD to tell you about the most reassuring advice I had about my viva. I was at the yearly Society for the Study of Theology (hereafter SST) conference in Nottingham. I hadn’t submitted a paper, like I had at the previous conference the year before in Durham, because I expected to be in Australia by then. So I was determined to make the most out of the conference experience, networking, attending papers, meeting my supervisor, and – for the purposes of the viva – attending the postgraduate meeting chaired by SST president Prof David Brown, coincidentally also my external examiner. His key message was that the examiners are not employed to catch you out. In other words, *you* the student are the expert in the field – your examiners have similar but not exact knowledge. He commented that every possible opportunity is given to students to explain their research and correct their mistakes, and only in the very rarest of cases are students not recommended to pass (with corrections or not). Or, if your supervisor is up to much, you will never submit a PhD that will be failed outright. Following this session, I was much more confident about the viva.

Fortunately, I was confident in my supervisor, knowing that the two previous supervisees (is that even a word?) I knew both passed without corrections. My last year of supervisions had been much more relaxed, happening in coffee shops all over the country, wherever we could catch up at a conference or university, and had been very positive. I’d given three papers on my research during the year and talked to lots of fellow academics about it.

So I definitely went into the viva after a successful and positive academic year. As you may have gathered, I didn’t teach from January to May in 2015, so I was totally focused on the PhD. I was living and breathing it. I submitted in mid-May, and began my new job (in Australia) on 1 June. Nearly 4 months went by before I could have my viva (the first feasible holiday in which the viva could occur). I had to travel back to the UK, as the university rules state that for the viva you must be in the same room as one of your examiners.

I didn’t even begin to revise my work for the viva until the flight home, on which I had the good luck to sit next to a one of these (“Hey, since I have to spend the next 14 hours with you, I’m Leo. Where are you flying? Why are you flying? What are you studying? Wow, are you planning to work all the way back? Etc.”) Cue headphones. In the 33 hours it took to get back to England, I managed to read the whole thing, make a few notes on the standard questions (there are several websites which I collated these from), and generally remember what on earth I was talking about! My viva happened within a few days of arriving. I reread some bits of the PhD again the night before and the morning of the viva (I was struggling with jetlag so was awake at 5am).

As it turned out, most of this ‘preparation’ was unnecessary because I could have answers the questions without the extra work. Of course, it was good to refresh my memory of what I had written, and if made me feel more confident. I took the advice to dress in something smart-casual, jeans, a blouse and a smart jacket, not to mention my favourite Italian suede shoes which students find amusing, to feel comfortable but confident. My examiners were similarly in shirts and jackets. Some of the viva blogs I read before made a big deal out of attire, but I think anything professional and comfortable goes.

My viva was in the morning, so I met my supervisor at her office beforehand, and she walked to the venue with me, organising a return in an hour or so. Throughout, I was feeling the viva was going well, although there were a few tricky questions, due to my lack of clarity in setting out the parameters of the research. The viva lasted for around an hour, and felt mostly like a pleasant conversation between fellow academics.

Post-viva, I was asked to wait outside whilst the examiners discussed the outcome. When I went back to the waiting area, my supervisor was there. I had just began telling her about the questions I was asked when my internal examiner invited me back into the room to congratulate me on passing the PhD without corrections. This was a relief as I wanted to graduate on my return to England in September and there would have been some pressure with any corrections (not that I didn’t get a couple of recommendations for when I publish my thesis).

The next most important question was where to go for lunch to celebrate!! My external examiner, supervisor, and lecturers from the department joined us. Overall, it wasn’t half as gruelling as expected.

IMG_2951.JPG

Biggest Teaching Challenge of 2016: #FlippedLearning

As it’s the first day of January (it still is in Northern Ireland, where I am currently enjoying the holiday), I thought I’d tell you a bit about the biggest challenge I’ve taken on in my teaching (and role as Head of Religion) is to make all senior programs #flippedlearning with YouTube videos. That is, both the Study of Religion (option) and Religion & Ethics (general) courses for both year 11 and year 12 (the last two years of schooling in Queensland, Australia) will watch a 5-7 minute video with the content of the course and then apply it in class.

Let me give you a bit of context for this. I teach in a Catholic private school. I lead a department of 17 teachers, most of whom are specialists in other areas. All of the Religion specialists apart from me will not be returning for the new school year in January. Therefore I have to teach Study of Religion to both year 11 and 12. All heads of year teach Religion to their year group, regardless of their qualifications and knowledge. The other teachers of the senior classes may be excellent teachers, but have little investment in the department, teaching two lessons per week of Religion. So I figured that the most effective way to give students in any one year a consistent (and valuable) experience of learning about Religion was to go flipped.

Here’s how I did it. Following invaluable advice from fellow RE teachers @Ben_Wood_RE @kchalls other teachers like @JoelBSperanza and others, I downloaded and paid for the rewindable screencast-o-matic. I very quickly realised that I couldn’t record my face in the corner as I needed to read notes and look at the screen to click to the next slide (I was also recording at moments in which I may not have looked as professional as I would have liked). I then made a PowerPoint for each lesson and in the notes wrote the script. I put the PowerPoint of presenter mode, read my notes, and made the videos. I put my posh voice on and spoke as slowly as humanly possibly for a Geordie!

Anyway, I have spent a fair proportion of my holiday making these videos – I aimed at one per day but I’m more than half way through the holiday with least fan half the videos made so I’m going to have to pick up the pace – and have therefore made a significant investment in them. I don’t mind that at all. My husband says I’m ‘playing’ when I do the research and make the videos because I love the subject do much. It doesn’t feel at all like work, and I really do need to do the research as it’s the first time I’ve taught the course (and I’d never learnt a thing about aboriginal spirituality until 6 months ago). If I was teaching old school (or non-flipped, whatever you call that) I would still have to do the research and lesson preparation, so it only takes an extra five minutes to record the video.

However, if I was only doing it for myself and not for every teacher of senior classes, I would do it as I go. For my entire career this far, I have planned lessons the morning I was teaching them (being an early bird and always being first one in, first one out) so it has been enlightening planning the curriculum and then planing every lesson in advance. I’m hoping it will give me more time during term to address the other issues that go along with being Head of Department.

Beyond the making of the videos, I have no idea how it will go. I should mention at this point that I have asked for the only non-conventional classroom in school next year (it has round tables and – shock – sofas) and all of year 11 have one-to-one laptops. However, I foresee the lack of devices for year 12 to be an issue. I have also had very little time to spend explaining this to my department (thanks largely to union action in term 4). So fingers crossed they can pick it up in the one hour I have before term starts (I’m going to make them do a bit of it as students).

You can watch the videos I’ve uploaded already on my YouTube channel. I’ll tell you more along the way…

IMG_2987.JPG
A random pic I took of Durham Cathedral in Lego over the holiday.

The Force Awakens: Use It

I have to confess that I went to see the new Star Wars film without having seen any film previously except for the first part of the Episode 4 to look out for the caves which we visited in Matmata, Tunisia – a trip we certainly won’t be repeating any time soon! So when Brother 1 suggested a pre-Christmas sibling trip to the cinema, I was flying blind (Brother 2 was a bit of a Star Wars newbie too, so thankfully I was not alone). I figured that if the film was any good, I could get by without having seen any of the previous films, so off we went!

As we sat down, the hubby says to me “all you have to remember is that the goodies are white.” A statement which he promptly retracted during the opening scenes as the storm troopers, er, trooped in. Yes, we know the cliché white = pure, black = evil, but it was slightly(!) more complicated than that. Obviously (if you’ve seen the film) I didn’t need any further assistance in working out who was good and who was not. @debsnet has a more detailed analysis of the light and dark here: Light in the darkness & darkness in the light: Yin & yang in The Force Awakens. As the astute @debsnet highlights, it is in the individualisation of the Storm Trooper (with the mark of blood on the helmet of one) that its capacity for good is revealed, and it is no longer an automaton of ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ or whatever you want to call it. In fact, it is in its human face that good comes to fruition.

What I want to focus on here, however, rather than the dark and light, is the force itself. The idea of an invisible force in the world is, of course, not a new one. In fact, I think the idea of some sort of spiritual presence, without the dogma of specific religions, is a common belief today. It follows the oft-reported ‘spirituality’ over ‘religion’ phenomenon, particularly amongst younger members of society. I’m thinking, for example, of the reporting of spirituality of Australian youth, as in Dr Andrew Singleton’s video here.

In Star Wars, The Force is a form of energy that some are honoured to be able to tap into. The funny thing is, some have it and some don’t. So one’s ability to use The Force is controlled by external forces (if you will pardon the pun). And it seems to be hereditary (well, we can probably work out where the next film is going…): “The Force is strong with this one.” I wonder whether this was intentional, though, as there are moments of hope even for the ‘baddies’! Though, they always seem to revert to type (in my short experience).

I’ve read that George Lucas did not intend for The Force to represent God, but in an interview (which I’ve not actually seen, so I’m believing the internet, which I know is very dodgy at the best of times) sought to awaken some sort of spirituality in those who watched the film. In other words, Lucas aimed to make people ask ultimate questions. The inclusion of “Jedi” as a religion in the 2001 UK census – a (tongue-in-cheek?) ‘religion’ with almost 400,000 followers, suggests he has achieved his aim.

Ultimately, for me, the idea of The Force awakens a sense of mystery in the unknown. It enables physical and mental development, and is a source of strength for those who use it. So is the force some sort of mamby-pamby spirituality? No, I think it goes beyond that. It is the deep striving we have towards the ultimate when we strive for ultimate good. It is the energy that enables to overcome great evil. It is the ability to do the right thing in the midst of darkness. In short, it reflects that fact that, whatever our religious beliefs, we are a species who has the ability to reflect consciously ethically upon our behaviour.

The Force is with you. Use it.

Embed from Getty Images

#Nurture1516

I’m jumping on the #Nurture1516 bandwagon and reflecting on what I think has been a very successful 2015. I like round numbers, so I’ve come up with 10 things that have made this year a happy one! The first 3 are my big three of the year!

  1. Australia – In May we moved from the North East of England to the North East of Australia. We should have made the move in January, but the less said about the Australian visa processing system, the better. Regardless, we made the move, and are very happy we did. We have a relaxing lifestyle in the sun and are enjoying the opportunities opened up by the move, both professionally and personally. We love travelling, so we’ve enjoyed exploring the area around Cairns. We are looking forward to having some visitors next year! Read about why I moved to Australia here.
  2. Head of Religion – One of the motivating factors for the move was the promotion to head of department. As with any department, there are challenges. It’s been a culture shock moving from a department of 8 or 9 specialists to one of 15 with specialisms in other subject areas. But if that’s the biggest challenge, I think I’m lucky! I say this with the knowledge of what ex-colleagues are going through back in England!
  3. PhD – The visa delay was good for one reason, at least. That is, I had time to complete my PhD and submit it. In fact, I submitted in May a week before our visa was granted. Without this delay, I think it would have  been nearer the end of 2016 before I submitted it. I had to travel back to the UK in the September holiday for my viva, but it was a good opportunity to catch up with friends and family (and to realise that there wasn’t much else I missed about North East England). I was delighted to have it passed without corrections, and I graduated in December (another return trip to the UK). I wrote a series of posts about How NOT to do a PhD, the last of which you can read here.
  4. Blogging – I have had many different things to blog about this year. I enjoyed the start of @staffrm which encouraged me to think more about blogging about my teaching. I was also inspired by #PhDchat to blog about my PhD experience. I was also  lucky enough to review @mustranscend’s Music and Transcendence for Ashgate, and publish it on my blog, here. Also, having lots of time between leaving one job in January and starting the next in May, I got to read lots of books and see lots of films at the cinema, and did a bit of blogging about these too! I’m currently cogitating on a post about the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which we had a sibling outing to see this holiday. I’m happy that I’ve had many more views in this one year than in the previous four put together.
  5. Innovate My School – PhD and blogging wasn’t the only writing I did this year. I also contributed to @InnovateMySchl 2015/16 Guide, which you can read here. I also wrote about the differences I had encountered between Australia and the UK in my first month of teaching, which you can find here.
  6. #REchatOz – Following the move to Australia, I continued using twitter to network with colleagues. To this end, I began #REchatOz, a monthly chat for RE teachers in Australia and beyond, to discuss the teaching of Religion in Australia.
  7. #EduTweetOz – In November, right in the middle of assessment week, I hosted the education twitter handle @EduTweetOz – an enlightening experience. It was a real mixed bag of a week, with some bits I loved, and some bits I, well, didn’t. You can read my reflections here, if you’re interested.
  8. 1k Followers – In December this year, I hit 1000 twitter followers. I was particularly excited by this, because my husband had promised to buy me a bottle of champagne when I did (I think, in the expectation that it might not actually happen). This is great, because most of these followers are educators from all around the world, and I love chatting to them!
  9. Flipped Learning – I feel very lucky at all of the opportunities I’ve had for professional development this year. I was particularly pleased to have made it to the RE: Reviving and Thriving – or #NATREnorth – conference in May in Bolton. This was when I heard from @Ben_Wood_RE about flipped learning, and for the first time, it really made sense to me! (My reflections on the conference here). I also had the opportunity to hear about flipped learning from @chrisburcin who teaches at our sister-school in Cairns. Supported on twitter by @kchalls and @joelBsperanza I have decided to make all our senior (year 11 and 12) lessons flipped learning in 2016. So I have spent the last month of 2015 planning this and making the videos (the ones published so far you can find here).
  10. 100 Book Challenge – At the start of the year, I signed up for the @goodreads challenge to read 100 books in a year. I have to confess that I have only reached 75 with 2 days to go, so it looks like I’m not going to make it, but I have enjoyed the challenge all the same. It will continue to be the challenge for next year, and if nothing else, I hope I can beat 75!

So that’s all well and good for 2015, but what’s next? I’m going to try to take the next year mostly as it comes, but I have got a few targets. Other than the time I spend sitting down reading books, I hope to be active in 2016! I picked up a running injury towards the end of this year, but over the holidays I have been climbing with middle-sibling, so I want to continue doing that next year. This means sussing out the climbing in Cairns! I hope to get back into running, but also to get the bikes out for their first outing in their new home. In my professional life, keeping up with those things I’ve been involved in this year, as well as teaching most (if not all) of my classes flipped-learning-style, I have been given the opportunity to go the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in February. I will also have lots of other opportunities to network, both in Cairns and beyond! Oh, and I might publish my PhD as a book, if I can face looking at it again…

Wishing you all the very best for a successful 2016!

2016 Celebrations At Large Concert With Crowd And Band Playing

image courtesy of stokpic