Teaching & Learning

The Silver Bullet to Fix All of Education’s Problems

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Teaching & Learning

My Idea of What School Should Look Like

I’ve been thinking about educational structures for a while now, and my thoughts on them have been ever-changing due to the constant dialogue I enjoy with my Twitter PLN. I will admit, that sometimes, I do feel a little out of my depth compared to the amazing educators I interact with on Twitter, and feel as though I don’t have anything much to offer the education debate.

With this in mind, I’ve summoned up the courage to put my thoughts on what I think our education structure should look like. Now, I want to be clear, what I say here may change in a few weeks after giving it more deep thought, and I also don’t know if any of what I say is actually feasible, but here goes:

  • Removal of national, state, and school-based standardised tests: I feel they don’t do anything but add unnecessary stress to both students and teachers, and often don’t provide the necessary data needed to make a legitimate change to outcomes.
  • Students have a portfolio of competencies: Rather than a point-in-time end-of-school exam, why not have a portfolio of everything a student can do from the start of schooling to the end.
  • Financial literacy embedded from K-11: As a Business Studies/Commerce teacher, I teach students about the value of making sound financial decisions, however, in a culture of relying on credit to buy things and also living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, I believe we need to make financial literacy a whole-school priority.
  • Year 11 will have three streams: Once students enter Year 11, they can make a decision on if they want to enter a fully Vocational stream and then transition to the workforce (this means they don’t have to worry about doing a certain number of subjects to be enrolled at the school); study a Classics stream which includes Philosophy, History, Geography, and Literature; study a STEM stream which includes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
  • For those then choosing to attend university, Year 12 will be completed on-site there which will allow them to fully experience academia. For those not going on to university, they will transition out at the end of Year 11. Thus, this makes Year 11 the final year of schooling.
  • Decentralisation of decisions to local school boards: who else knows what the school needs than the people directly involved? Why should a centralised authority decide what is best for schools that may be in extremely diverse geographical, social, and economic locations?
Teaching & Learning

Is School Just an Unethical Experiment?

This post is meant to be a discussion-starter and not really meant to be taken too seriously.

One of my favourite novels of all time is Company by Max Barry, and I refer to it all the time when teaching Business Studies or just want to start a conversation about corporate life. I am also a massive fan of Dilbert.

SPOILERS: In the novel, which you can read about here, a man gets a job at a company which is a little obscure in what it does. No one really knows. The employees do odd tasks, get shamed for smoking, etc. In the end, it turns out that the executives are doing all of this so they can write books about management! The employees were guinea pigs in an unethical experiment.

So, what does this have to do with my blog title?

*puts on tinfoil hat*

We have countless policy decisions and changes (essentially, hypotheses by the government on education) that affect human lives: students face bullying, mental health issues, teachers face workload issues, etc. So, this had me thinking: is school just an unethical experiment to test out the hypotheses that the government throws around to do with education?


Author Profile – Marco Cimino

Name: Marco Cimino.

School/workplace: Magdalene Catholic High School.

Subjects: Geography, Commerce, Religious Education, Studies of Religion, Business Studies (and soon to be Business Services).

Year groups taught: 7-12

How can people get in touch with you? The best way to get in touch with me is via Twitter or through the blog.

How long have you been teaching for? I graduated with my teaching degree in 2010, and from the time I left university and worked casually (along with a break from teaching along the way), this would make it my seventh year.

Location: (South-West) Sydney, Australia.

Why did you decide to become a teacher? I’ve actually written at length about this topic. You can read the entire blog post here. But in brief, I had an epiphany that led me down the path of wanting to make sure that every student had the best chance to grow and develop.

Describe the worst or best lesson you have given. What would you do differently? Say why it was successful or unsuccessful. The best lesson I have ever delivered was one where I didn’t plan at all! I’ve already reflected on this in a series of earlier posts, but, during a Geography lesson learning about communities, I asked students to draw an underground Coober Pedy-style house. One student asked if they could build them on Minecraft. How could I say no? The endless possibilities were rushing through my mind. Never before have I seen students so engaged and self-motivated!

I guess my worst lesson was one where I placed all of my pedagogical eggs in one basket, so to speak. I relied too heavily on technology to run a lesson, and as Murphy’s Law shows us, something went wrong. The lesson was lost. Next time, I will definitely be building in a Plan B!

How do you handle stress and unwind? I love to read! I’m a huge fan of Matthew Reilly’s books. I can’t say no to a great action book. I also love historical books, particularly about exploration (mainly polar), and religion. I also love listening to music (rock, folk, blue, and Dixie jazz).

How do you judge the achievement of students in your subject? In my eyes, a good heart is just as important as good grades. You may be a smart person, but not very nice, and to me, that is a wasted education. To me, education should involve both the head and the heart. Of course, I use things like grades to judge a student’s mastery of an outcome, and I use a variety of tools to come to that grade. For example, pre-testing and post-testing, creative elements, and the use of narrative. However, teaching in the areas of the humanities/social sciences/theology, it also allows me the opportunity to judge a student’s moral/ethical growth and community-mindedness.

What are your views on the value of homework? Homework definitely has a place in education, however, some people either give their student’s too much, or none at all. In my eyes, homework is not busy work! It has to enrich their learning experience. My philosophy is: if it’s something that I give them to do at home because I ran out of time to do in class, then I won’t. This is because if I can’t plan lessons that allow students to learn something within a set time frame, then they shouldn’t be penalised for my shortcoming. I will, however, give them something to do at home that either complements what they just did (reinforcing their classroom learning experience), or sets them up for the next lesson (flipped learning). My favourite type of homework to assign is for the students to enjoy the company of their family and friends, to read a book, or enjoy nature.

What are your views about discipline? Every action has some sort of trigger. It is no use punishing students without actually investigating why they are doing what they are doing. I like to use the preventative method of discipline: try to stop the negative behaviour from occurring in the first place. I also follow the mantra of punish privately, praise publicly.

How do you develop yourself as a professional teacher? I try to keep up-to-date with current events both within and outside of my teaching areas. This allows me to incorporate relevant materials into my lessons. I am also a member of professional associations that offer many professional development courses. Finally, I harness the power of social media to network with other great teachers. After all, no teacher is an island and we all need to work together to reach that common goal: student learning.

What issues do you feel the teaching profession is currently facing? At the moment, I would have to say it is the workload and the risk of burning out. We place a lot of stress on ourselves to ensure our student’s get the best education we can give them, however, we struggle to look after ourselves.


Batter up! It’s Marco Cimino (@MrMCimino)


Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?


I have been involved in education in a lot of different forms throughout my life. I went to a Catholic primary school, then a Catholic high school, then a Catholic university, then I worked at a University, and then gained employment at a Catholic high school. Whilst I have been heavily involved in Catholic education, I am committed to furthering the cause of education across all sectors and systems. I spoke about why I became a teacher on my blog, but, I will paraphrase it here. On the first block of my practical visits during my Graduate Diploma of Education, I sat in with my supervising teacher during parent-teacher interviews. About half-way through the interviews, a man…

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Book Review: Teacher as Activator of Learning

72725_9781483381855This post is a book review of Teacher as Activator of Learning by Gayle H. Gregory.

The short version of this review: disappointing.

The long version of this review: Whilst this book has some great ideas in it, there are a few issues within it that make me come to the conclusion above.

Firstly, the positives: this book is structured in a way that allows you to pick it up and start reading from any chapter, and not have to worry about missing anything. This makes it a good ‘quick guide’ for information and strategies. Another positive is that it is researched really well and much of what is said is research-based. A heavy influence is based on the work of John Hattie, and Gregory makes his research a bit easier to understand.

Now, unfortunately, the negatives: this book really let me down in a number of ways. Firstly, it was riddled with spelling errors. When a book that is written by a very experienced educator and claims to provide strategies on how to become a better educator has a lot (and I mean, a lot) of errors, it kind of loses its credibility in being able to do what it claims. I can forgive the missing pluralisation of words, and other missing words that stop the sentence from flowing well, but, I CANNOT forgive the incorrect use of affect and effect, especially if you’re an educator. The other let-down for me in this book was the simplicity of some of the strategies and illustrations offered by Gregory.

For example, Gregory mentions the use of having students sit opposite each other or in concentric circles in order for them to work collaboratively and talk about the content. These are fine strategies, but, did she really need to add the following illustrations? Sure, they’d be helpful for people who don’t know what two rows sitting opposite each other looks like, but, really?


Another example is a strategy that has students create a glossary of terms for a unit of work by finding as many words per letter of the alphabet. Again, a fine strategy, but was the whole page example of what the alphabet looks like necessary?


One other aspect that I felt let the book down was the offering of strategies with either an obvious, unnecessary, or brief description. For example, a strategy offered as a feedback technique is called talk a mile a minute. The description? Students talk to each other… quickly! Really? That’s the entire description. It didn’t say anything about what they talk about or any structures in place to make it worthwhile, which I found rich because the chapter it was in kept stressing the need to offer meaningful feedback!

I think this book would be great for an early career teacher who has yet to experience a range of teaching strategies (some great examples of tables, templates, and organisers), but, if you’ve been teaching even for the smallest amount of time, surely you’ve figured out how to sit two rows of students opposite each other without having the need for a diagram.

I received this book for free in exchange for reviewing an education book proposal, and this made it great value. But, if I had to pay the roughly $30-$40, I would be disappointed.

Rating: 2 stars out of 5. Put off by the many errors, but impressed by the wealth of research.


Teacher Voice: When The Tool Goes Blunt

When I say teacher voice, I am not referring to the concept of teachers having their voices heard within organisations to ensure that their needs and wants are being met. I am literally talking about voice! Not the teacher voice that brings fear into a student’s heart, but literally the sounds a teacher makes.

What happens when the greatest tool (after intelligence and compassion) goes blunt?

Just over a month ago, I had a cold. Nothing amazing there. But, the strange thing was that after my cold passed, I still had a niggle in my throat. Whenever I spoke, I noticed my voice was not as it once was. Whenever I speak now, it doesn’t have the same strength, to the point where on a bad day, I can barely get it passed a whisper.

Yesterday, I received confirmation that I have a throat nodule developing, which will require some speech therapy to remedy (surgery is a last resort).

This then got me thinking: how much am I speaking in my class? How can I shift from me doing all the talking, to my student’s doing all the talking?

Teaching & Learning

Teach Like A Pirate? Give Me A Break…

I’m really trying not to be cynical here, however, it’s going to come across like I am.

I just don’t get the hype surrounding Teach Like a Pirate. I just don’t.

Let me preface this by saying that I have not read it, however, I have read many excerpts and reviews on it. I have also watched the following two videos:

And… I just don’t get it. I don’t know about you, but, I already have passion for my job. Believe me, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be a teacher. If I ran into the room and starting flopping around on the floor, not only would the students mock me unceasingly, my Principal would also probably have stern words with me.

OK, I will admit: fun is important in a classroom, but when you’ve got a lot of different stakeholders breathing down your neck for results, you need to have a long, hard think. Yes, I can be one of those teachers that says ‘you can’t silence me and I will NOT bow down to the man,’ but, I’ve also got a mortgage to pay and a family to support. I’ve come to like having a job that pays me money to then be used for things like shelter and food. I once asked my boss if I could flip my classroom and was told ‘no,’ because it may affect the ability of students to ‘tick off the syllabus dot-points.’ Thankfully, my current boss is more forward thinking, however, I think they’ll draw the line at flopping around on the floor.

Flipping = yes.

Flopping = no.

I mean, just look at the guy at the front of the video on his phone while his teacher came running in. I don’t know about you, but:

  1. that doesn’t look like it’s as engaging as they claim it is, and
  2. surely there are so many different ways you can hook your students without the theatrics.

This would definitely work in, say Drama class, but what can I do in Geography? Explode like a volcano and spit food everywhere out of my mouth? Shoot coffee everywhere to show the water cycle in action?

I just don’t get it. Dave Burgess has made (I’m assuming, a lot of money) off of the idea that teachers need to show passion for their craft and build a rapport with their students.

Do you want to know rule number 1 of successful teaching? Know your students.

I didn’t even charge you for that! You’re welcome.

Teaching & Learning

The Problem with PD

Now, don’t get me wrong… Professional Development is perhaps the most important thing a teacher and a school as a whole can undertake to benefit their student’s. However, I have noticed a problem throughout the years: once a teacher undertakes some form of PD, they immediately implement it and then after a short period, quickly stop. Is it out of excitement to try something new? Is it just the rush of energy?

I will admit, I’ve been guilty of this too. I go to a PD session, rush to implement something new, and then a few weeks or months later, have it slide out of my teaching repertoire. Why do I let this happen? It definitely comes down to time availability, and also the lack of momentum after the PD. No matter how much I try, it always happens. Has anyone else experienced this peak and crash?


The Thirst for Knowledge

I’ve finally decided that next year, I want to go back to University.

Since finishing my last degree (a Graduate Certificate in Theological Studies in 2013 from the Australian Catholic University), I’ve been itching to do some more study. I’ve been tossing up what I wanted to do: do I do Theology? Education? Research? Coursework? After much research, I think I’ve finally settled on a plan.

Next year, I’ll be enrolling in a Master of Educational Studies at the University of Newcastle with a double specialisation in eLearning and educational research. I don’t foresee this impacting on my current full-time teaching workload (and, I’m happy to announce, my new role as an assistant year 11 and 12 coordinator) as it is both part-time and online. The aim is to complete the degree in (hopefully) two years (three, if needed).

The goal from there is to then undertake a Doctorate of Education within at least two to three years of finishing the Master degree. I’ve already started brainstorming some research ideas for both the Master and Doctorate degrees.

I also do eventually want to pursue some more study in Theology, but not until well after the Master of Educational Studies and the Doctorate of Education. So, that’s my plan. Please try and keep me on track.