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!

 

 

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Reflecting on Grand Plans

I am about to enter into the final term of the 2015 school year and I can see quite a lot of work ahead of me.  Everything I can do (from home) to prepare for the coming week is already done so I’m feeling really pleased with myself.  I decided this was a good opportunity to take a look at my goals for this year (which I shared with you in this post).  Here is the excerpt that we really need to focus on.

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.

How’s That Working For Me?

I would say that I have made some progress towards reaching all of the goals above, however I think it would be a good idea to go a little further into it and work out how I’m going to further develop these by the end of the year (which is approaching faster than a two year old child on a sugar high).

Using the word AND instead of BUT

I am getting better at this one but I need to work on it more.  Does that give you an idea of how it’s really going.  On the bright side, many of my colleagues have been attempting to replace BUT with AND so at least I have had support on this one.  The question here is if there is a better way (an action perhaps) that would help me do this better.  Some sort of gadget that buzzes or lights up every time I use the word “but” would certainly draw my attention to it more consistently.  Does that exist?

Talk LESS

I am doing better at this in the classroom.  I have used more planning tools and visual aids in my lessons this year so I am naturally speaking less.  I am also tapping into non-verbal forms of feedback with my students e.g. thumbs up/ down, smile/ frown, a hand on the desk rather than a verbal reminder.  I noticed that the best of my colleagues use non-verbal communication almost without thinking.  I am simply becoming more conscious of the non-verbal communication I am using.

This has proven challenging at times because my students often feign ignorance and I have found that after repeating myself once, I have had to use different words (more words) to try and get the message across.  This is more of an issue when I am working with other teachers in their classrooms than when I am in my own classroom.

I am also finding that on occasion I get a case of verbal explosion when I have to just talk about everything and I can’t stop.  Fortunately, these little outbursts have happened in the staffroom or even at home.  While it might annoy some of my colleagues and my family, this outpouring of my surplus words is not interfering with my succinct teaching.  That’s Good.

Allow Time to Breathe

Allowing myself and my team members time to breathe has worked wonders.  Not only has the process of doing this has been easier than I thought, it has had an almost magical impact on my performance as a leader, as a team member and a teacher.  I’m a better teacher because I am well rested and have a balanced life.  Good for me!  My team is working brilliantly together too.  The members of my team are prepared to go above and beyond because I make it clear that I value their time and their energy.  I value them as people.  I know the people in my team have partners, families, community groups and lives outside of school and they know I have those things too.  We are human together which makes us better professionals together too.

A Final Thought and Questions for you!

It is good to have goals.  We set goals for our students all the time then we help them find their way.  Just as important as setting goals is having actions for working towards them and reflecting on the journey along the way and when you finally get there.  It feels good to see progress.  If you are just starting out in a new school year, what goals do you have for your teaching?  If, like me, the end is in sight, did you have goals for the year and how are you progressing?

Next time – no promises about when it will be-

I will share the performance development process that we have at our school.  Then: a series about my performance development goals and how I have worked towards them this year.

School this week will be great!  Believe it!

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Be in the Know: Tip #4 (Tips for Support Teachers)

It has been a while since my last post as I have been working hard in the classroom lately.  The importance of Tip # has been at the forefront of my mind in the past week. You see, it is especially during this busy time of the semester (towards the end of it), communication can easily break down.  It is important to take responsibility for knowing due dates, times for staff functions and planned changes to routine.  There were at least two occasions when I didn’t know what was happening in the classroom because I hadn’t made the effort to stay informed – I completely lost one class that I was supposed to be supporting!  On another occasion, I was able to support a teacher (who had just returned from leave) to get his class back on track because I was well informed about upcoming assessment tasks.

Tip # 4 Stay Informed

  • Access unit plans and resources from the School Curriculum Files (website, shared drive or other central location) and ask the classroom teacher how they are progressing through this or if they have made modifications.
  • Search for resources that could be used by your students such as posters/ charts, drill worksheets, truncated definitions of technical language, glossaries etc.  Pinterest is a great place to find helpful resources and ideas for activities.
  • Email with the teacher and discuss how the class is progressing often.
  • Find out when assessment is due so you can remind students, assist with marking and/or provide scaffolded materials in plenty of time.

There are a few more tips to come, so stay tuned.

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Tip #1 Getting Started: Support Teacher Tips Series

Tip #1

Cultivate a Positive Relationship with the Classroom Teacher from the Beginning

It all comes down to the golden rule: Treat others how you want to be treated. If you want to be a respected colleague in the classroom you need to respect the teacher/s with whom you are working.

When establishing a support program my first steps are focused on cultivating positive relationships with the participating teachers.  I begin as a guest in their classroom and work towards becoming an integral part of the classroom landscape. Here is the process I follow.

STEP ONE Introduce yourself and your program

Approach the teacher outside of the classroom to inform them that you have been assigned to support their class and initiate a conversation.

Explain why you have been assigned and the goals of your program or expectations that have been placed on you.  Example: I am assigned to your class because 11 of your 28 students have learning difficulties and 3 of these students have a disability which impacts on their ability to access the curriculum.  My goal is to ensure that these targeted students will improve their results by one level (ie D to C) by the end of the year.

Ask the teacher how they would like to proceed.  If they have worked with support teachers before they might like to use the same process or they may be open to trying something different. Discuss ways that you would like to support them and how you would like to move forward.

STEP TWO Come to an agreement

Decide how you will enter the room and function as a member of the class community (sitting with a specific small group of students, moving among students throughout the lesson, sitting in the corner during direct teaching time and then moving around the room while students work independently).

Discuss and Decide how students will address you and how you (as teachers) will address each other in front of students.  Example: I always refer to male teachers as Mr … (e.g. Smith) or Sir, and female teachers as Ms … (e.g.  Smith). I ask that they refer to me as Ms … (e.g. Jones) in class too.  This shows that we respect each other as teachers and expect students to show us the same respect.

STEP THREE Review

Repeat this conversation after being in the classroom a few times.  Check that what you have planned is working for both of you.

NEXT TIME

Further steps for keeping the professional relationship positive and functional.

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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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