I believe that the SHIFT ELearning blog might just be finding inspiration from me!  Here is a recent post from SHIFT which explains some brilliant statistics about the wonders of micro learning  which is taking the corporate world of staff development by storm.  Enjoy reading more reasons why I’m right!

 

 

6 Signs Your Teacher Friend is Back to School

Considering all the teachers in Australia are heading back to school this week we probably all need a bit of a giggle.  Check out this blog post at A Great Title to see the 6 Signs your Teacher Friend is Back to School.  There are some free printable labels, recipes and posters linked to this post as well, so besides the humour you could find a helpful resource too.

All the best if you are starting a new school year this week.  If you are dealing with the mid-winter wriggles that students seem to get this time of year, good luck with that too.

See you next week with more about literacy and differentiation.

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HAPPY WORLD TEACHERS DAY

Teachers are a great bunch of people who work hard in difficult circumstances.  Teachers certainly don’t do it for the money or the holidays.  Teachers do their job because they love helping their students learn.  Simple.

Here is a video about teachers.  It was created quite a number of years ago and it speaks of the unchanging truths of the teaching profession.

If you read this, thank a teacher!

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Being Busy or Being Productive

checklist funny

We all know there are times when we feel very busy and don’t seem to stop moving, but we don’t feel at all productive.  Usually, this is because we are not productive.  Sometimes, we just don’t realise all that we have actually done and we need to remember that.

Teachers often feel overwhelmed by “busy” work.  I’m sure there are other professions that are involved in busy work but I am not a member of those professions so I can’t speak for them. Some teachers are great at creating busy work for themselves.  A good example: I have to mark my students’ homework, copy the cut and paste worksheets, laminate all the word work cards and I absolutely must make all my folders colour coded with matching decorations.  It is work that might make things look good and certainly makes  you look busy but doesn’t always have substance.  It shouldn’t always have top priority.

Many teachers say that the organisation tasks and ensuring their classroom décor is pretty makes everything more efficient and helps them to stay on track when things get hectic.  Please understand that hectic is not the same as busy.  I quite agree.  There are times when we should put in the extra hours to get things looking good.  A small amount of time well spent in organising our work space is often the best way to save time and energy later.  Both of these goals are admirable and reaching them often allows us to keep our sanity at times when it would be easily lost.

My point here, is that lately I have been BUSY.  Some days I have flopped into bed and known that while I may be exhausted I didn’t achieve much.  On those days, I had spent far too much time and energy ticking boxes that others had decided were a priority for me to tick.  Let me try that again.  I was busy, yes, I was moving faster than I should and becoming very tense.  I was working hard to complete tasks that were important to my colleagues or school leaders.  I was doing these things even though I knew they were only important on paper.  I did them because it’s apparently my job.  However, I was not feeling at all fulfilled and it was truly frustrating.

I decided, I no longer wanted to go to bed so frustrated and tired and dreading the work ahead of me.  I decided to prioritise.  I decided to change the criteria that I had been using for assigning priority to activities in my work day.  This isn’t anything all that new.  It isn’t difficult to find advice on how people choose their priorities and then set about getting things done.  It’s called productivity, efficiency, life coaching.  Just Google it, you will see.  After making such decisions, I needed a plan of action.  You can see what others have done in all the corners of the internet and I’m sure you can see productivity hacks from every profession too.  Although, I’m not other people.  This is what I did and it seemed to work for me.

  1. I decided that the most important tasks in my work day were the ones that prepared me to teach my class/es in the best way possible.
  2. I then worked out that communicating with colleagues about my students was the next most important thing for me to do.
  3. I began to prioritise and I stopped punishing myself when I didn’t tick everything off my impossible list.

I love making lists, I’ve always made lists and I still do.  The difference between my old lists and my new lists is that I have both prioritised them and changed how I look at them.

  1. I list everything that is supposed to be done.
  2. I work out what is “urgent” (i.e.  there is a deadline and if it doesn’t have a deadline or a clear reason for doing it then it is probably busy work, in case you were wondering) and what must be done by me.
  3. If it has a deadline and doesn’t need to be done by me (e.g. photocopying or laminating) I delegate it to someone else.
  4. I then work out if it is related to the two vital categories I mentioned above, preparing my lessons or communicating with my colleagues about students.
  5. If it doesn’t fall definitively into those two categories it goes straight to the bottom of the list.  It’s no longer a priority.  Simple as that.

I have to remind you that this may not sit well with your colleagues.  For example, the teacher librarian might think it’s more important for you to return the library books that you borrowed last month, but if you are short on time and long on jobs, it will be okay if those books sit on your desk another day – and it’s okay for you to send a few students to return them on your behalf  Your team leader or line manager might think you should have submitted the certificates for your last 5 years of professional development and your planning documents should be saved into the central file.  But at the end of the day, those jobs can wait.

When I do flop into bed, I think about what I have done instead of what I haven’t.  I smile at the funny thing a student said when they finally understood a new concept.  I remember how a teacher thanked me for the resources I shared with them.  I close my eyes and breathe a sigh of relief that my lessons went well and my students learned something that day.  Of course there will still be the days when someone throws a chair or rips up their homework.  There will be days when a fellow staff member frustrates you because they haven’t checked their emails or printed a student form that you need.  Perhaps we have to remember that our colleagues have different priorities to us.

Sometimes, I would love to post on my blog, but it just isn’t the most important item on my to do list.  Sometimes, it is all I can do to revise the lesson plan and print out the newest exit slips.  Sometimes, it’s more important for my health that I play with my cat.  Sometimes, family comes first.  Sometimes, my top priority is me.  No matter what I choose to put first, I need to accept my choice and relax.

That’s that then.  I shall put away my soapbox and consider what I can tell you that will actually help.

Less is More

Mel

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The 2015 School Year Begins

School begins this week for many young Australian students while their Teachers are launching into their second official week of “SCHOOL”.  This year the staff at my school opted to attend four (4) Student Free Days prior to the commencement of the first school term and participate in another 8 hours of Professional Development activities during the school term.  All of this minute counting is a choice we make so that our mid-semester break will last for a full two weeks instead of a mere 7 days.  So, while the students are skipping along the path, enthusiastically unpacking their bags full of stationery and waving good bye to their parents, their teachers are frantically trying to find the lesson plan they scratched out somewhere between the morning briefing and the 1 toilet break.

Saying that our four days of Adult Learning was busy, frustrating, exhausting, disappointing and (frankly) unproductive, would be an understatement.  I can’t speak for all teachers in Australia.  In fact, I have heard from some of my teacher friends that many teachers were provided with time to work and learn collaboratively, discuss student support strategies and even create new resources for their classrooms.  However, my colleagues and I were subjected to operational lecture after operational lecture, general and very basic information sessions about teaching strategies (already to familiar to many of us) and a mildly entertaining presentation about the importance of providing appropriate feedback.  All of this could have easily been fitted into 5 hours after which we all could have applied our ‘new’ knowledge in a meaningful engagement with the real world situation we are all facing now – planning lessons and actually teaching students!!

I started this post with the intention of telling you all about what I had learned during the past week.  I did learn a few things. Unfortunately, I think it is more important for my students to learn quite a lot this semester and I fear that I’m not prepared to facilitate their coming journey!

If you stuck with me this far, you deserve to know what I really learned last week, so here it is in a nutshell.

  1. The word “but” is the great eraser.  Example: “Darling, you are beautiful… but… perhaps you should wear some more flattering clothes.”  A much better word… “AND”.  Example: “Darling, you are beautiful… and... I would love to give you the money to buy some new clothes.”
  2. Teachers talk too much! Including me!  If I can say it in 5 words, then I should.  Using 20 words when 5 will do only wastes everyone’s time and my energy.  This is especially true when I am speaking to a group of teenagers who will switch off by the time I get to the sixth word.
  3. Having high expectations of adults is just as important as having high expectations of children.  
  4. My new classroom is very hot.  If you open the windows before 8 am and turn all the fans on, it is bearable.
  5. People need time to breathe and process what they have heard, learned or experienced.  They need opportunities to connect their past experiences and knowledge with new information and experiences.  This is true of children, teenagers and adults.

Admittedly, I may have already known some of the above points before last week.  My experience last week and the time I have taken to reflect upon it, has highlighted a few things that I need to work on this year.  Things I need to do when I’m planning, when I’m teaching and when I’m interacting with my colleagues.

3 habits I’m going to try and develop as a teacher in 2015.

  • Use the word “AND” instead of “BUT”… I know this will require some thought which might be difficult AND I will get used to it eventually.
  • Talk LESS in my classroom.  I will need to think about this too (when I plan, give instructions and reflect on my lessons).
  • Allow the people around me (and myself) time to breathe- to connect, process, think – AND relax.

We have a plan for the year… let’s see how that goes.

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