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?

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.

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.

Love at First Flip

The freedom, the fun, the flipping!

I had my first flipped classroom experience yesterday and it’s safe to say that it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done.

The subject: Year 12 Studies of Religion 1 Unit

The topic: St Paul of Tarsus

I must admit, I was a little worried at first about the lack of pick-up by the students on flipping the classroom, but only about 20% didn’t watch the video beforehand. So, the few that didn’t were moved to a corner of the room to watch it then and there.

For those that did, we moved on some higher order thinking work:

  1. Imagine St Paul and St Peter were on a see-saw, doing some research, identify which of the two would be more weighed down by their influence on the early Christian Church. This then led to free discussion about what should be classified as significant. Obviously, in the end we all came to the same conclusion: St Paul wins by a landslide (although, there were some good arguments that showed that it might be closer than we first thought – something that we definitely would not have had time to explore had it been a ‘regular’ classroom).
  2. We also managed to answer a big question: “What if… St Paul never existed. What would Christianity look like?” Again, I was amazed by the level of discussion that was going on in the room due to the pre-lesson video and the ability to have time to discuss and research.
  3. At the end, for a bit of fun, we completed a Fakebook profile for St Paul, where the students used their knowledge of Paul and his works to talk about him.

Would I do this again? Definitely. Best decision I’ve made.

W10 T3 2016 Reflection

It’s Saturday, and another school week is in the books. Time to reflect on the week that was, and recharge for the next challenge.

This week was the last of Term 3, and I cannot wait to spend my holiday time doing something relaxing. Just joking: I’ll be marking assessment tasks and possibly making flipped videos. Of course, I’ll find some time to relax as well, however, the holidays often end up as a time to catch-up on all of the school work you couldn’t do in the past 10 weeks!

This was a good week, with the farewell to the Year 12 cohort. Such a great experience for them and the world is not their’s for the taking!

There will be a change to my reflections from next term onwards: I will only be writing on weeks where either something positive or negative happened, rather than forcing myself to write “it was a quiet week” just so I post.

W9 T3 2016 Reflection

It’s Saturday, and another school week is in the books. Time to reflect on the week that was, and recharge for the next challenge.

This week has been a relatively quiet week for me, as it is getting close to the end of the term. All energy is now on marking the Year 11 end of Preliminary course exams. Here’s hoping it’s a smooth and painless process!

W8 T3 2016 Reflection

It’s Saturday, and another school week is in the books. Time to reflect on the week that was, and recharge for the next challenge.

This week has been great with some exciting events! On Tuesday, I both attended and presented at my first ever TeachMeet! I was presenting on leadership and how to bring out those qualities in both teachers and students. The presentation can be found here. I was extremely nervous: for some reason, talking in front of 30 students is fine, but 30 of your peers is nerve-wracking!

On Thursday, I took part in day 2 of 3 for the Behaviour Management professional development course I am undertaking. Again, it’s great to do a PD course with practical applications: this session, we wrote SMART goals for some of our students who have behavioural issues.

Friday was the Year 9 Geography field trip to Cronulla Beach. The student’s loved the day, and really got a lot out of it. They were able to put into practice all of the theory that they had gathered up to then.