Conversations with Colleagues, Issue 1

Welcome to a new ‘segment’ I am looking at starting on my blog. It is basically an interview-style post with fellow teachers answering questions. I thought I would kick it off by doing it myself! If you would like to be interviewed and feature in a future post, please click here.

Name: Marco Cimino.

School/workplace: Magdalene Catholic High School.

Subjects: Geography, Commerce, Religious Education, Studies of Religion (and History and Business Studies).

Year groups taught: 7-12

How can people get in touch with you? You can contact me on Twitter and Google+ (I’ve only just started this G+ account, so a few new/more friends would be nice). I also have a Facebook page that I use to bring different articles and ideas about education into one central place.

How long have you been teaching for? Well, from the time I left university and worked casually (along with a break from teaching along the way), this would be my sixth year (but only my fourth year full-time).

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.

How do you integrate parents and the community into your teaching? This is often an overlooked area within education, however, it is important to remember parents and the community. I will admit, I don’t often integrate them throughout my teaching, however, I do take a community-minded approach throughout a lot of my teaching due to the very nature of the subjects I teach. As yet, I am yet to fully integrate them as there are some constraints on what I can do, however, I am always on the lookout for new ways to engage my student’s with parents and the community.

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 use ICT in your teaching? I am slowly growing and developing my skills in ICT integration. I am trying to use as many digital tools as possible to help boost student engagement and learning. ICT does not replace anything, but rather augments it. I use the Google suite of tools (YouTube, Docs, Forms, Slides and Sheets), but am increasingly using iMovie, Minecraft, and some other tools which I’ll probably post about in the future. I’m also trying to find ways to utilise 3D printing and Virtual Reality.

How would you seek to promote the moral, social and cultural development of your students? As I mentioned earlier, due to the nature of the subject I teach, my students are asked to think critically and develop their moral compasses. When it comes to their social and cultural development, this comes with them interacting with other students throughout the day. Giving them as many opportunities to collaborate with each other is the key to this, along with offering them scenarios that require them to make moral decisions with justifications.

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.


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