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What you need to know before we begin semester 2!

With the first half of the year over, it is a great time to reflect on the year so far, as well as begin to think about the next half.

At this time if the year though, it is common to hear teachers comment thing like: 
‘OMG, the year is half over!”
‘Where did that half of the year go?’
‘I feel like we have hardly achieved anything!’
‘I have so much to do in the next 2 terms!’

And yes, this is all true. The year goes quick, it can feel like we haven’t done much at all and like there is way more to do than we can fit into the rest of the year. In fact, if you are new to teaching, you need to know this is how you will feel every year, and if you are an experienced teacher, well, here we are again.
At this time of year though, I like to take some time to acknowledge what has been done, and also set some new goals for the rest of the year.

So, as you read this, I want you to pause, grab a pen and paper and write 5 things you have achieved so far this year already…. DO IT NOW!

There is always something to celebrate; the new reading approach you started, having all your books marked on time for student feedback, getting reports in on time (finally), actually committing to your wellbeing and not doing work on weekends…

I promise you, you can find 5 things, and if you haven’t done it, do it NOW!

Next step, let’s think about the second half of the year.
What are your new goals?
What do you want to learn about?
What do you want to try next?

The best way to decide on your new goal is to ask yourself these two questions:

  1. What challenges have you had that you want to improve?
  2. What area do you want to stretch yourself in?

Now, as most teachers do, there will be a list with, let’s be honest, more on it than you can do, so here is my advice. Pick 2 goals for the remainder of the year. 1 for school, and one for home.
Focus on these, do these well, and commit to having these embedded by the end of the year.

It is having goals that keep us focused and moving forward, it can also help with the overwhelm we all face. We can’t avoid the pressures from outside, which come from whole school or government initiatives, but we can give ourselves something to focus on which we have chosen too. This will give you joy in moments of frustration, something to always come back to and a real sense of accomplishment once you tick these goals off.

 

I’d love to know what your goals are, let me know by commenting on this blog or sharing in our FB Group ‘The Teachers’ Tribe’

Holiday Reading – My top 5 non-fiction book must reads!

For those of you who don’t know, I am an avid reader. I love to read and try to do this daily. From fiction to non-fiction, a good novel or the latest self-help book, reading is a must. I am also known to have more than one book on the go at a time too, which means reading a book the whole way through can take a bit of time… but I am totally OK with that!
Reading should not be one of those laborious tasks where you feel compelled to read every word front to back, even though you are not enjoying it. I was once told books are great tools if you take from them what you need, and stop when you have exactly that. Sometimes this is a whole book, especially a great novel, with non-fiction that might be is a few chapters at the start and then whatever else is of interest to me as I flick through the chapters.
With this approach, I can read more than 1 book at a time, and read quite a few books each year. It also means I have books for entertainment and enjoyment and books for learning. The key is to know what you like to read and when you like to read it. For me, non-fiction is great in the morning or throughout the day and novels are a leisure activity I enjoy in the evening and before bed.
For now, though, I am recommending my top 5 non-fiction books. Why? Because non-fiction books, I believe, are an overlooked way of supporting each other. These books have done wonders for me, and I think they will for you too.
If you are looking for a book, here a 5 I have enjoyed lately which may also be enjoyed by you too.

1.    The One Thing – Gary Keller with Jay Papasan
This book is a great quick read for those of you who need help defining what to focus on and which tasks need competing. It looks at goal setting and how to use this to help you with what you need to do now. I also found this same method can be broken down and applied to yearly and weekly tasks.
 
2.    Atomic Habits – James Clear
As humans, we so often do things without even knowing. In this Book, James Clear looks at habits and how as humans we are constantly acting out our habits with little to no awareness of how they are impacting our life, creating a barrier for us or how one small change of habit can have a big impact with ongoing ripples.
If you are stuck moving forward or have a goal you haven’t been able to achieve, this book will help you to identify and make changes to those pesky habits you didn’t even know where there.
 
3.    The Subtle Art of Not Giving a… – OK. So the title may be a little off-putting, but the book its self has some hidden gold. If you are someone who finds it hard to let go of things, constantly worries about what others may say, do or think or spend most of your time making decisions and doing things so others will be happy while you suffer, get your hand on this book and start reading now!

4.    Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway – Susan Jeffers
Fear holds us back from doing so many things. It hides in ways we don’t even know and is so sneaky it will surprise you when you realise it is there. This book is great if you have a sneaking suspicion fear is stopping you from doing something in your life; the classroom, your health, confidence, anything. With an insight into the science of fear and also how to overcome it, this is a must read for everyone.
5.    Dare to Lead – Brene’ Brown
In her newest title, Brene’ talks about leadership, and how this links to us as leaders. As teachers, we all play a leadership role in one capacity or another. The leader of our students, leading a team, taking the lead of planning, leading a staff meeting or leading other teachers. Everyone can learn something from this book (actually any Brene’ Brown book is a must read).
 
Read one, read all or read none. Great books aren’t; going anywhere so make the time to read what you can when you can. Reading is self-care, self-love and showing self-worth. Make this a part of your holiday, you are worth it.

Happy Reading!

Work/Life balance means sometimes doing more work

So here’s the thing. We all want work/life balance, but work/life balance comes in two parts; work and life.

This means that whether we like it or not, as much as we have life, there is also work, and sometimes this means rolling your sleeves up, putting in the hours and getting the job done!

There are times as a teacher where our workload can be a little, or even a lot higher. For me, I find this occurs around 2 key points. Reports and end of the term.

Reports are probably the most time-consuming part of our job. The hours spent analysing student work and assessment, moderating with colleagues, compiling and writing comments and ticking boxes, it’s a big task. End of term for me is similar because I am a believer that if you do the work at the end of the term for the next term then you really can go off and enjoy your holidays.

This is all part of work/life balance.

If you want to enjoy holidays or weekends, than at these crucial points in time the workload during the day simply must increase. Otherwise, the choice you are making is to take work home and complete it on weekends and holidays, now if this works for you then that’s great, but for me, I like my life part of work/life balance to be exactly that – life!

Now because this is my choice, around report writing time and end of term I simply work harder, more hours and stay later to get the job done. I choose two nights a week to stay until between 6 and 7 pm to do reports, and at end of term another late night or to make sure the next term is organised to where I know I won’t have to do work in the holidays and can start week 1 day 1 as if it was tomorrow.

What does this mean? Well, by doing a few late nights, putting in the time, and getting organised I am now free to enjoy weekends and holidays, rest and relax without the doom and gloom work cloud looming over my head and can switch my brain off completely knowing everything I need for when school goes back is taken care of.

For me, this is self-care, this is work/life balance, this is what allows me to not have to work at home – EVER! This means I can do all the things I love; travel, spend time with family, read, play, be outside, rest, relax, laugh, sleep in and try every new coffee shop in town, EVERY weekend and EVERY holiday!

 

Now I understand this option isn’t available for everyone, but you do have the choice to decide when you can work hard and when you need time for other things. You have a choice around how you use your time. The thing here is to use it so that it serves you, whatever that may be for you. For me, it is a no-work holiday and no work on the weekend. If you feel most of your holidays or weekends are spent working, especially at these points of time through the year, ask yourself where you can make some small changes to allow you to have better work/life balance?

Stuck? contact me and mention his blog and we can work it out together.

I have been slack with my blog, because, well, life happens… and it’s OK

Sometimes Life happens…

I have been a bit slack on the blog front lately, I am not sure why, I was in a really good routine with this, then life happened, and I lost it.

It can happen that easily. We are onto a good thing, weeks or even months can pass and we don’t skip a beat, then all of a sudden life happens, we lose our routine, pick up bad habits and are back right where we started. So what do you do?


Well, first of all, know life does happen, because you are, after all, only human, which means you never really know what may come your way. As fast as it took for Harry Potter to be scared with a lightning bolt for life, we can lose all routing and things we thought we had control over. Just like that.

Now don’t beat yourself up about it. I’m not. I mean the first step to getting back on track is having an awareness that things have gone sideways, and let’s be honest, my blog writing certainly has. But here I am, picking myself up, and getting back into it.

You see, when life does happen, we need to go with it. Ride the waves. But as soon as we are back with two feet on the ground it is time to reassess and get back into it, which means for me Thursday is Blog Day – No Matter What!!!

We have all had good intentions before, mine with a blog every Thursday, which did last a good few months, to be more active, lose weight, read for 20 minutes a day (another one I am working on), give more time to family, be a better listener, stay calm when life doesn’t go according to plan, but we also all know that it just doesn’t happen like this, and that is OK!

Now you know that, you can let it be. Now that doesn’t mean stop forever, it just means let go of the guilt of letting it go in the first place, and when you are ready, get back to it. Or maybe not even when you are ready, but when you can.

If we always wait until we are ‘ready’ then it may never some, ‘ready’ leaves too much time and space for ‘I’m not ready’. This is just your ego keeping you safe. Instead, ask yourself ‘Can I now….’. If the answer is yes, do it. No but’s, maybes or when I am ready. Just do it.


Life happens. We fall off the track sometimes. It is getting back on though that we must commit to.
So here I am, committing to a blog every Thursday, just for you, so keep an eye out and make sure you keep reading them.

5 Tips to Starting the Day Right!

Where are my shoes?
I don’t have anything for lunch?
What was it I needed to remember to bring in today?
Sound familiar?

Too many of us are starting our day like this.
Rushed. Frazzled. Overwhelmed before the day even starts.
Have you ever stopped to consider how this may be affecting the rest of your day?
If you are starting your day rushed and frantic, it’s more than likely how you will continue your day as well.
Getting to this point happens pretty quickly and pretty easily.
Standing in the kitchen sipping your cup of coffee when all of a sudden you glance at the clock and panic hits. Instantly your emotion changes from calm to manic. Just like that. Once we are in this state it’s hard to come back down, and this really can change your day.

Here are my 5 tips for ensuring you have a calm start to the day and make it to school without feeling stressed, frazzled or overwhelmed.

1. Give everything a home.
Frazzled mornings can very much be a result of spending valuable time looking for things. Instead, ensure everything you own has a home and put it back there as soon as you finish using it. Your keys, TV remote, diary – everything.

2. Organise yourself the night before
Just like you did when you were a kid, pack your bag, make your lunch and lay your clothes out. It will save you so much time. Take it one step further and make all your lunches and choose all your outfits on the weekend. Imagine the time you will have each week if you do this!

 

3. Keep a list
Don’t rely on your brain. It’s already too busy. Need to remember something? Write a list and check it before you head out the door each day.

4. Keep it real
Don’t over commit. There are only so many things you can do of a morning. Usually, that is getting ready and making it to school. Don’t plan on getting heaps done before the school day starts, this can very quickly lead to a rushed and frantic state as you try and get things done before the bell rings. Instead, make sure everything is in order before you leave the day before.

5. Develop a routine
Your brain loves routine. The predictability and sense of knowing what to expect helps with being calm and organised. Develop a routine and stick to it. This way you know what to expect, what to do and that everything is taken care of.

Try one thing today and make tomorrow morning even better 🙂

Amy x

5 Tips to Getting Organised and Improving Your Well-Being

‘I can’t find my folder’
‘Where are those worksheets’
‘I totally forgot about this meeting’
‘I just don’t have time to write my reports…’
Sound like you?
Being organised is not just something you should try and get on top of, it is actually a skill to master.
Being organised is totally underrated, and something teachers would benefit from being taught at university. The more organised you are, the better your wellbeing is. Wellbeing is actually linked to how you live your life, and part of that is being organised. You see, being unorganised can put you in a constant state of panic and stress, it can make you feel rushed and overwhelmed and you can often feel like you are behind in your work.
Why?
Because being unorganised means you can’t find things, you waste time looking for things and then don’t have time for other tasks, you don’t have systems to help store things like your assessment and worksheets and your desktop is messy.
How is this linked to wellbeing? Well, if you are constantly looking for things, feeling rushed or overwhelmed and in a state of chaos, so is your mind. Your mind reflects your environment and your behaviour.
Feeling stressed? Your mind takes this on. Feeling rushed? Your mind takes this on. Feeling unorganised?
Your mind takes this on. You can’t improve your wellbeing if you mind is messy, chaotic and unorganised. So if you are looking to improve your wellbeing, get organised.

5 Tips to Getting Organised and Improving Your Well-Being

1. Tidy up your desktop and ‘My Documents’ folder. If you open your laptop and look at chaos, you are telling your mind to get in chaos, and also wasting time looking for that document you can never find.

2. Implement a filing system for your worksheets; completed, to be used and to be finished. Take it one step further and order your ‘to be used’ worksheets in order of use. Sounds simple I know, but imagine how much time it will save if you know exactly where that worksheet is.

3. Keep all your assessment in one place and record your data as it happens. Sick of looking for your assessment, or adding in data in one big bulk at the end of the term? Well, record it and file it as soon as you can. That way you have the information you need in a timely manner and can respond it straight away, and you know where to find the data when you need it.

4. Set a regular time aside to tidy your classroom and desk. I know this may sound silly, but your classroom and desk can quickly resemble a kids playpen if you don’t stay on top of it. Tidy your desk each day before you leave so you are coming in each morning to a tidy, organised desk, and make sure to regularly clean your classroom.

5. Write down everything and keep a list.
In a busy day, which is every teaching day, we have so much to do, remember, and well, do. It is easy to get in the car at the end of the day only to realise you didn’t do that 1 essential thing and have to go back into your classroom and do the forgotten task. Avoid this at all costs by keeping a list of to do’s (I personally have one for school and one for home), carry it with you, write EVERYTHING on it, when you have time to get things done look at the list and do the next most essential thing, not the easiest, then cross I off and keep going.

These things will not only make your day easier but also ripple into improving your well-being. Why? Because you won’t feel as stressed, and chaotic, as overwhelmed or as unorganised, which means your mind will be calmer, more settled and you should feel happier, meaning your wellbeing has improved. Yay!

With NAPLAN upon us, let’s talk Data.

With NAPLAN upon us, let’s talk Data.

For teachers, it comes in many forms, from NAPLAN to taking notes, running records to observations, from tests to talking – it is all some form of data. But what’s the big deal with data anyway? And why do some teachers find it so hard to see it for what it is?

It is not uncommon to sit in meetings with teachers where a conversation about the data in front of us quickly turns to, ‘yeah but that’s a low cohort’ or ‘that class had 3 different teachers in 1 year’ or ‘they aren’t getting the support at home’. This is something I am sure we have all experienced, have heard of or are even guilty of ourselves. However, whilst all of these things may be true, we still need to acknowledge and respond to the data in front of us.

I know it easy to want to attach a story to data, and yes we can always argue that perhaps a student wasn’t having a great day, they were unwell, or that the unit we planned wasn’t great. Whatever the story though, the data is still the data.

Now there is no denying these reasons do come from good places, we want the best for our students and we want to be able to defend them, but that actually isn’t our job.

Part of looking at data is to do so without judgement, the need to justify or the need to blame. It’s just to look, to note what is there, and to see the data as just that – data. No story needed.

One of the best ways to discuss data is to use what is known as Discipline Dialogue Questions, from the work of Neil Dempster at Griffith University.

  1. What do we see in these data?
  2. Why are we seeing what we are?
  3. What, if anything, should we be doing about it?

So why is this important? Well once you start to see it as just data, you can begin to use it for it’s intended purpose – to inform your teaching. This might be teaching as an individual, a team, looking at teaching across a whole school.  Look at the teaching, improve the learning. This is the reason we have data.

The data isn’t about you, it’s not about your story, your justification, your excuse – it’s about the data. Once you have established this, then data really can achieve it’s intended purpose – to help you be a better teacher, so students can learn what they need next.

 

I didn’t open my laptop for 2 weeks. Here’s what I learnt…

Recently I went to NYC on a holiday. Now, this was lifetime dream, dream come true, once in a lifetime kind of thing. I’m not new to travelling. I have lived overseas, London specifically, spent weekends in Paris and weeks relaxing in Thailand and backpacking Egypt. What I have found though, as I get older, travelling is still easy, but switching off is not.

I have become accustomed to packing for all kinds of ‘what if I feel like doing work’ moods I may encounter while on holiday, which is by far very different from my minimal, throw it in the bag, backpacking days. This means I take with me my laptop, tablet, kindle, phone with all the apps, notepads, journal, coloured pens, a few highlighters, even post-it notes!

This is great right? It means I am prepared to read, write, study, make notes, plan, brainstorm, send an email, all of it, whenever I like. Actually, it is not so great. This also means I am continually staring at reminders of the work ‘I should be doing’. You see, whilst I think I am prepared for the opportunity to do work if it arises, what I realised I was unconsciously doing was putting pressure on myself to do work when I really should be on holiday. See, not so great.

We all know there is reason for actually having a holiday, you get to relax, see new things, be with people you love, sleep in, go on adventures, eat great food and sometimes do nothing, but if your laptop is always there in the corner, looking at you and giving you gentle reminders that work still exists, your ability to be fully on holiday may be interrupted more than you think. The glance out of the corner of your eye, seeing it as you walk past, opening it only to tap on a few keys, all this does is increase the pressure you are putting on yourself to do work, and this is not a holiday at all! This was me, every holiday for the last few years.

You see, there is a difference between being on a holiday physically, and being on a holiday mentally. All teachers need a mental holiday as much as they need a physical holiday, you and I included.

The week before I went to NYC I got sick, incredibly virus-like, couldn’t get off the couch, open my laptop or even speak sick. It was awful. But it was also a sign, I needed a mental holiday as much as I needed a physical holiday. Even though I was physically sick, I knew this was my body’s way of telling me to stop. I was mentally exhausted, I had been working too much, too hard. I knew this because my last few weeks of self-talk had been something like ‘only 2 more weeks to go, you can do it’, ‘hang in there, 8 days left’. Only I couldn’t hang in there. I was done, and my body made sure of it.

During this week I knew I needed to make some changes. The first step was to ensure I would go on my holiday and actually have a holiday, mentally and physically, no laptop. This was actually suggested to me a few days before by my coach, but I just wasn’t ready to hear it. Now though, I was listening.

So, I made the decision. I was going on holiday, no laptop, no work, no email. Only books and a journal. That’s it. That’s all I took.

Now, this was hard for me. Really hard. At the start of my trip, I felt like something was missing, I even panicked a little going through airport security because I couldn’t find it in my bag, only to remember it was safe and sound at home. I felt a little sense of excitement at this moment, I was actually going on a real holiday, no laptop, no work, no email.

Boarding the plane was also a reminder of the lack of laptop, it wasn’t there to protect or lift out as I put my luggage overhead. It was at this moment something strange happened. Sitting down for taking off, I felt my body fill with some sort of sense of sensation, relief, calm, my body was releasing all the tension and stress I had been carrying with me about the fear of not taking my laptop. For the first time in quite a few years, I was going on holiday just for me, to be with my partner, to have fun, laugh, sleep, live, love, no laptop, work or email, and I knew everything was going to be OK.

It was in this moment I realised I had been missing out on so much. The rush, the pressure, the ‘what’s next?’, this is what I had been focusing on. Not the now, the present, the moment. I had been completely missing the now.

It was here I made a decision, a commitment to myself, give myself more time and space, to be me, to laugh and have fun, to read, to love, to be, to be present. I am not saying this is easy, it surely is a skill, and something I am working on, but without this thought, you are just going through life, and not actually being in it. Awareness is the first step.

Be in your life.

So, did I survive? Yes, I did. Everything was just as I left it when I returned, apart from a few more emails, nothing drastic though, nothing I couldn’t handle, the only thing difference was me. Me. Committing to change my life to be in it, not rushing through it. Being present in the now, knowing what each moment is for, living, loving and being in my life.

I know for some of you this may seem hard, and as I shared, it was for me too, but the thought of missing out on your life is harder. Put your laptop away, make time for you, set time aside to really be present at the moment, build the skill until it is a habit, until it is you.

Need help, I’m here with you. Reach out. Let’s get your life back.

Mention this blog for your free strategy session NOW!  

Person First, Teacher Second.

To our little student we are like celebrities, to our big celebrities we are simply there to serve them, the idea of having a life outside the classroom is simply impossible.

I recall a time early in my teaching career when I was teaching a 1/2 class. It was a Monday Morning, and usual for them to be happy and smiling when they saw me, but on this day one student was beyond the normal level of excitement, He was beaming. He saw form the distance across the playground ad came running over, grinning ear to ear. “Miss Green, Miss Green, Guess What? Guess What?” he shouted. “What is it?” I replied thinking he had some big exciting news, “I saw you at the shops on the weekend”, ‘You did?” I asked, “what was I doing?”, “You were buying your groceries” he shared with everyone around him. “Well I do get hungry” I replied.

In this moment it occurred to me, that for this student it hadn’t occurred to him that I might be doing something like buying groceries, that I might have to do other things or that I even leave the school grounds. Our little students especially have a perception that we live and breathe school to the point where I have even been asked where I sleep at night while a student looks around the classroom for my bed.

So how is that we are supposed to reduce the pressure on our selves when even our little people think we only ever exist at school?

Teachers are people too. In fact teachers are people first.

You are a person, before you are a teacher.

This is why you need to put you first, why you must take care of you, make time for you and  schedule you into your day along with your students, family and everything else.

The issue lies when we are faced with so many external pressures which expect us to simply be teachers only. To live and breathe teaching, to be on email 24/7, to have parent meeting at 7am or 7pm because they work during the day, to pack a lunch each day as there is no way you can leave school to pop out and get something, to make appointments and deal with things like the bank and doctors after school and weekends because making appointments during the day is just not an option. Every decision is made with you the teacher in mind.

But what about you the person?

This is where you need to do some work. You need to know you as a person; who you are, what your values and beliefs are, what you like to do when you are not wearing your teacher hat. Teaching is a big part of your life, but there are other big parts of you too that also deserve your time and energy.

Time to shine not just as a teacher, but as a person too.

The art and science of decision making every teacher needs to know!

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

What theme will my classroom be?

What order will I teach my lessons?

How will I organise my day?

What will I do with my release time off class?

As teachers we make decisions all day long, some we know are coming, some surprise us. Some of us are good at decision making, quick and confident, while other slow, second guess and unsure. However you make a decision in your teaching life, I would assume you make decisions in your life the same way.

Some teachers choose resources quickly, other spend hours scrolling through interest, some take less time to reports while others spend hours pondering over semantic, some are quick to know what display to put up and how to arrange it while others are all over Instagram looking for ideas, and still, they can’t decide.

So why does this happened?

There is science behind decision making that is a must know.

Ever wondered why deciding what to have for dinner is so guard?

The brain can only make so many decisions in a day, and the best time to make a decision is in the morning, however, once we have made a certain number of decisions, every decision after that gets a little bit harder.

Think about how many decisions you make before you even leave the house:

What do I wear?

What top goes with this skirt?

What tie will match best?

What shoes will I wear?

How will I do my hair?

What will I have for breakfast?

And if you have kids you are repeating this so many times over.

These decisions are not that big to make, yet they easily decrease our decision-making quota for the day. Now add in decisions you don’t even know you are making because you are continually on autopilot, think driving, conversation and where to park.

Once we have used up our decision making space, the bigger tasks we normally face at the end of the day are that little bit harder; making decisions in a meeting, planning in teams and having to make decisions about what to teach, how to teach, what activities to use, writing reports and making decisions about what  to say for each child, it’s hard, these are big decisions.

But imagine if you could make these decisions just a little bit easier for you, quicker even, allowing you to get more done, be more productive and even save time. Well, you can.

There are some decisions you can make ahead of time which will ensure the decisions you have to make throughout the day are easier and in return, you can reap the benefits of more brain power to use around decisions which are just that little bit harder. I mean deciding where to park and deciding what to write on a report are two very different decisions to make.

So how do you reduce decision-making time on a daily basis? Simple. Make some decisions ahead of time.

Here are some simple decisions making changes you make now:

  • Decide what to wear the night before, organise all your outfits on the weekend or even wear the same thing every day like Steve Jobs.
  • Plan your meals in advance. You could try writing a meal plan and shopping for it so you know what dinner is each night, you can make you lunch for a week and have it ready each day or even perp all our meals on a weekend so the decision of what to eat at each meal is gone completely. (this is what I do and not only does it help with not having to make a decision, it saves me so much time!)
  • Plan your day and week. At the start of each week develop a rough plan for what you will do each day, then each morning or the night before break your day into 30min increments and plan exactly what you will do. This help so much with procrastination, you know the feeling ’Oh I am off class after lunch, what will I do?’, a decision to make which can easily be avoided. By doing this you will not only be more productive but also save even more time.

So there you have, 3 things you can start doing now which will ultimately reduce the decisions you make during the day, and in return allow you to make other decisions more quickly, easily and with less effort, meaning those big decisions like teaching and writing reports are taken care of.

I’d love to know how you go one you try this, please let me know and if you have more ideas on how to make decisions ahead of time I’d love to hear them.