Go Be Happy!

Go be happy!

These were parting words to me from a colleague as I left work today. It was at the end of a conversation about how in teaching there is so much to do and that it is ok that it’s not all for you. Some of it is and some of it isn’t.; whatever you do though, just go be happy!

For some of us teaching kindergarten is our thing and for others it makes us squirm, others love Year 6 while some of us would never go there, some teachers teach PE while others teach art, some love science, while others would rather teach poetry, for some of us teaching in public education is important while some prefer private, some of us have themed classrooms while others leave it to their students, some of us play the piano and have sing-a-longs while other are great storytellers.

I could keep going…

In this industry, we bring so much and have so much to offer, but what we need to remember is we don’t have to be great at everything. It is important to know your thing, to do your thing and do it well. We can’t all be masseters at math or artists in the classroom, excellent at running assemblies or the master of writing newsletter articles but we can each have our own piece to contribute, and ways to contribute to each other.

If each of us works together, imagine the range of skills we could bring, and time and energy we could use to support each other.

You teach mine science while I do the math lesson for your class, I will write the newsletter article if you organise assembly, I am happy to read the story if you do the music for the afternoon sing-a-long.

So how does this relate to ‘Go be happy?’, well, if you do your thing you will have time to go be happy too.

Sometimes we teachers stress the small stuff, we worry and fumble and struggle, we complain and get stuck, we get frustrated yet persist, when maybe what we should have done from the start was ask for help, find the person who’s thing it is, offer a trade-off or just for support, and from this you will have more time to go be happy!

So teacher, go find your thing, work with others and GO BE HAPPY!!!

Teach Less, Ask More

So here’s the thing. It is not your job to do all the talking… An odd idea for a teacher, I know.

But too often, classrooms are filled with teachers who talk and students to listen. Gone are the days where this is our job.

If you are doing more talking then your students, you are working too hard. Our job as teachers is to make our students think, which means less talking and more asking. Yes, asking questions. How many things do you say in a lesson, which could actually be turned into a question instead?
Just because your students are listening does not mean they are learning. We need to ensure our students are actually thinking to be learning, and the best way to do this is through asking questions.

Now, this does mean you have to think of other creative ways to teach in order to get students thinking, but it also means the learning will be far more engaging than you just sharing a bunch of facts and showing them what it is they are doing (let’s be real here, your students don’t need to listen to you talk all the time).

When I teach, I have a few go-to questions I use over and over again:
What are we learning?
How do you know?
Explain that in more detail?
Can you add to that?

These questions can be applied in any subject, and mean our students have to actually think about their learning, not about the activity.

Why else are using questions a great idea?

Because it means your students are talking, listening, connecting and challenging each other. A great bonus about teaching through questions is it means our students have something to do other than listen. Think/pair/share, talking partners, clock partners, see/think/wonder; these are examples of different ways we can have our students think and talk about learning, not just listen to us talk about learning.

So how does this look in a classroom?the teachers coach

1. Ask more questions than you do share facts and content.
2. Think of and plan creative ways to get your students thinking.
3. Create key questions which match the essential learning.
4. Include an opportunity for students to talk to each other every 5 minutes or so (they get bored of hearing you talk for longer than that – sorry)
5. Always ask a follow-up question; Tell me more… Why do you think that? Can anyone add to that? What makes you say that? How do you know?

Remember, questions mean the students do all the hard work in the lesson, your hard work comes in thinking about how to put a great lesson together and working with your students on their learning.

*Not sure how many questions you ask or if your students are really listening? A great way to see is to record yourself and do a question audit recording how many questions you ask and noticing where you could have asked a question instead of giving a fact.

Don’t wait until you retire to start that hobby you have always wanted to take up…

Whenever older staff are retiring, or the conversation of not working comes up, I am instantly one to put my hand up to say I 100% would be OK with doing this now. Don’t get me wrong, I love my work, but the idea of not working and being able to take up all of the hobbies I dream of doing sounds great to me!

But here’s the thing, why wait until I retire to do the things I want to do?The Teachers' Coach

I have been a bit up and down lately (let’s just blame this on normal work and life stress) and when working with my coach (because we should all have one), she asked me what I do for creativity, as an expression of me, where my juices flow… well, nothing really, I thought.

To be honest this shocked me. I am someone who loves being creative and crafty, I always took an art class at school and I love to doodle and draw my way through meetings and PL. What I realised though, is that I have absolutely let this part of me go, or rather, put on hold.

It wasn’t a conscious decision, just something that has happened over time, as life got busy, routine took over, along with longer work hours and trying to balance everything out, my creative outlets have completely disappeared.

Growing up you would find me in my room after school dabbling in all kinds of things; jewellery making, drawing, sewing, baking, knitting, painting… I even painted a giant sun mural on my wall when I was about 15.

Now though, I just don’t do anything. I have tried a few times to get back into it, but this more often than not results in me taking some kind of class, buying all the resources to do this at home, where unfortunately the items just become dust collectors and never reach their full potential.

I have a cupboard full of silicone bakeware from the time I was going to take up vegan baking, a selection of rope from the time I did a macramé class and was going to make something extravagant for my wall, and a bag of stones I collected from the beach from the time I was going to make some stone art for family, and this is all in the last 18 months.

I think I need a hobby!

I mean, I actually need to take up and do one of the hobbies I have started…
I don’t need to wait until I retire to take these things up, what I need to do is make them part of my weekly routine NOW!

I am aware of all the great things having a hobby can do for you, yet for some reason, I think these don’t apply to me. I am wrong though. I need a creative outlet just as much as you do.

So here I am committing to taking up macramé and stone art (I’ll leave the baking this time). Watch this space, there are some cool things coming your way soon!!!

Why asking for help is the best teaching strategy you will ever use!

I was recently asked how I got so good at teaching, how I know so much and why I have a large suite of skills in the teaching and learning space.

Apart from this being a massive compliment, it was also a bit of stump for me. How? I don’t really know… I have over 12 years experience, surely that’s why?

I sat with this for a while, playing the questions over and over in my head, when I finally realised how…

In my first years of teaching, there was no denying I was eager to please and ready to do my best. I certainly didn’t know what I know now, and there was so much I had to learn as a new teacher, and that’s exactly why I did. I learnt.

At every moment possible I asked for help. I was constantly in my mentor’s office asking for help on this and that, having her in my classroom model lessons for me and help me, set up groups. I was like a sponge, and probably like that annoying student who never stops asking questions too.

Asking for help was the best thing I could have done as a new teacher. I learnt so much, was keen and eager and certainly was not afraid to fail.

Asking for help can sometimes make you think people will judge you, making you wonder if you are good enough, or that you don’t know what you are doing when you’re should or that you’re failing at teaching.

This isn’t the case.

Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness. It sees you improve and be even better. It shows other you too are here to learn, grow and improve. Not because you aren’t good enough, but because learning never ends, for our students and us.

Be brave. Ask for help.

Lean on those around you. Ask your colleagues and teacher friends, or the teacher you don’t really know but who everyone says is amazing, ask your school leader or principal, ask in your network or neighbouring school. The great thing about teachers is that they are always willing to help.

What do you need help in?
Who can help you?
Can I help you?

Asking for help is the best thing you can do, no matter where it is you are needing help, or where you want to improve.

How was your weekend? (Building Relationships at Work)

Recently I have been challenging myself to engage with my colleagues on a more personal level.

Why? Because to be honest this is something I am just not great at. I have one of those personality types that is all business and go go go!
Now when you want something done, this isn’t a bad thing, but when someone just wants to be heard, I have been known to overlook this. So I am working on it.

I am sharing this because as teachers we are surrounded by people every day and often we don’t realise how much our own personality may impact others, be received by others or even the messages we send out just from our facial expressions, tone or things we do and do not say.

Moving from the classroom into leadership this is something I have really had to reflect and take feedback on. Often in the classroom, we don’t really think how our own personality reflects on our students, because, for the most part, they are compliant, but working with adults can definitely bring this to the surface.

Ever wondered why we gravitate to some people and not others? Ever wondered your circle of friends are somewhat similar or have the same interests? Ever wondered why your students manage to make their own groups in your classroom when you try so hard to have them be friends with everyone? Well, it is because our personality type is attracted to other personality types, and when we find our click we stick to it, searching for other people with the same traits, and we don’t even realise we do it.

Now, this is fine where we can control the people we are with, but often in the workplace, we have to work with all sorts of people, and some who are just not our people.

There is beauty in this though. Working with others outside your normal click can be a challenge, but also an opportunity to learn about yourself, and others too. It is an opportunity to learn about who you are and how you connect with others, and in return how other people operate too.

The lessons here can be hard, uncomfortable and sometimes scary as well, but you have a real opportunity here t

o grow into an even better person, to develop better relationships, to be able to work with a wider range of people.

Now depending on who and how you are and who you are working with, this will look very different. It may mean saying less or saying more, asking more questions or answering them, giving a helping hand or pulling back, laughing more or laughing less, or it could be as simple as starting each Monday by asking your colleagues ‘How was your weekend?’.

If you are interested in learning more about your personality type, I recommend doing this online DICS self-assessment below to give you a little more information:
https://www.tonyrobbins.com/disc/

I’d love to know what you have connected with here or what surprised you?

What I learnt from Brene’ Brown

This week I attended Brene Brown – Dare To Lead.
If you don’t know who Brene Brown is I suggest you look her up. She is someone who is changing how we see ourselves, each other and leadership. Her work is based on extensive hours of research, studies and training based around shame and vulnerability. Emotions we often try to avoid yet where so much growth and learning occurs.

I had so many takeaways during the day, but what I want to share with you is one which I think will really impact leaders in education and that is leadership is about self-awareness.

I chose this to share as I so easily relate to this, my own experiences on my journey with myself and how that has impacted me as a leader.

You see leadership to me has been a journey about understanding myself. Understanding the good and bad my strengths and weaknesses. My areas for development and straight-up owning and taking responsibility for and accepting some stuff I just didn’t want to own.

This is leadership.

Leaning into the uncomfortable. Being vulnerable. Embracing the suck. Choosing courage over comfort.

It’s not easy.

I don’t think. It’s supposed or be.

I think it’s supposed to be hard. To. Challenge us beyond comfort to allow ourselves to grow and change and evolve into who we know is inside but who we ignore because we want or be safe.

Safe isn’t leadership.

Safe is staying the same.

Leaders don’t live here.

Leaders live where it’s scary and unsafe. Where it’s unpredictable and painful. Where we can fall and not know how to get up. This is leadership.

Whether in work or life or relationships or family we can all find ourselves needing to lead. Lead with courage. Lead from heart. Lead not for now but for how you know it can be.

This is leadership.

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’

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.