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.

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’

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Getting things done on time – why deadlines actually help to give you more time!

Deadlines can sometimes be scary. Deadlines put pressure on people. Maybe they make you feel anxious or overwhelmed, maybe a deadline even makes you doubt yourself, and whether or not you can actually do the job.

Not all deadlines, however, are the same.

Deadlines are also a way of making sure something happens.

By putting a deadline in place, it can increase our productivity, it can make us more focused and it can ensure that we use our time more wisely.

By having a deadline our thought patterns can shift. A deadline can create urgency around something, it can make it more important, it can become a ‘must do’.

Our life actually has deadlines in it all the time.

A birthday is a deadline. A birthday is a point in time which you must meet if you want to wish that person happy birthday, if you want to give them a gift, make them feel special and show that you care. A birthday is a deadline you can’t miss. You can’t put someone else’s birthday off you, can’t change the date and you can’t get to it later, it is a deadline that you have to meet. Paying off a holiday is also a deadline. If you don’t make the payment, you don’t go on holiday. Now we all love holidays, so the urgency around making sure that we pay for the holiday is a very important deadline.

Why is it that we can adhere to some deadlines in our life but not others? And why is it that some things have deadlines and others don’t?

Deadlines have actually changed how I see the simple tasks in my life. Planning, report writing, writing my logs, scheduling my FB posts; I give each of these things a deadline. By putting in my own deadline, I am saying to myself, that I commit to getting this done by a certain point in time.

This is important. It shows I value my work, it shows I value my own time and it shows I value the tasks I need to complete.

Now some people find this really hard to deal with, I even get questions about why I structure my day in such a tight, routine way. But this all comes down to one thing, productivity. By having deadlines in place, I allow myself to be productive, and when I’m productive it means that I get things done, and when I get things done it means I have more time to do the things I love.

Deadlines and productivity for me at all about freedom. Essentially we are all aiming for some sort of freedom, whether we realise it or not. Freedom means we have time to do what we love, we have time to spend with our loved ones, time to read, time to go on more holidays and have more adventures, time for more variety in our life and time to be more relaxed and happy. Ultimately this is what we are all aiming for. It is part of achieving work-life balance.

Deadlines are a reflection of excellence. By meeting deadlines it shows that you have a high standard around yourself, who you are, how you carry yourself and how you act. It’s not about saying that you value necessarily the task or the work at hand, it says that you value your time, you value yourself and you value what you give.
So if you struggle with time, if you struggle with deadlines, if you struggle with productivity or if you struggle with getting things done, I suggest you start introducing deadlines along the way, even for the small tasks. Try introducing deadlines for marking, try introducing deadlines for putting up a display, try introducing deadlines for when you want to have all your lunches made for the week, when you want the washing to be done, or deadlines for when you finish working each night or being on social media.

If this sounds like something you would like to implement, take advantage of my 20-minute FREE strategy session and we can talk about how to improve the deadlines and productivity in your life. PM or email me to book in your time now.