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.

 

Why I started ‘The Teachers’ Coach’

Why did I start ‘The Teachers’ Coach?’

I often get asked why I started ‘The Teachers’ Coach’, and with new people on board, I thought I would share this with you…

There is nothing like the enthusiasm, excitement, and passion of a beginning teacher. They arrive early and leave late, they take work home and they are consumed with their class. You can see them a mile off with their wide smile, glowing skin and gentle way they interact with students. Beginning teachers bring a passion like no other, a passion that is deep, and a passion that has a significant impact on how and who they are as a teacher.

Fast forward around 5-7 (or more) years and something has happened. Our passionate, beginning teachers have been replaced by new beginning teachers, and their passion it seems has been handed down to the new teachers. The same passion a beginning teacher has is clearly not sustainable, it almost seems to have an expiry date and is replaced with a new set of traits. These traits resemble that of someone who is unhappy, someone who has lost their passion and someone who is distracted with the daily busyness, making it hard focus on why they became a teacher in the first place.

It seems once the beginning teacher passion has fled, teachers replace it with an uncanny skill to teach on auto-pilot (how can this happen if every class and every student is different?), they get distracted by the daily admin and compliance tasks, which can be done quickly if focused on instead of putting off, and they engage in endless hours of whining and complaining about things they have to do, things that are their job, things that used to be part of their passion.

So why does this happen? In my opinion, there are a few reasons. We know the curriculum is ever increasing, and becoming more crowded with things that once didn’t exist, or that once sat with parents. The needs of students are becoming more complex and diverse in a single class, making it difficult for teachers to teach the curriculum outcomes but also modify it for those who need to access learning below and above their year level curriculum targets. Finally, the paperwork and admin tasks teachers are required to complete, at times, have no impact on their day to day teaching tasks.

With all these things and more impacting on a teacher’s job, I am asking ‘What have we done for our teachers? All of the above are being demanded by people on the outside of the classroom, yet nothing is coming in the classroom. Where is the extra support, time or resources to help implement and deliver the new demands? It doesn’t exist.

We are losing up to 50% of our beginning teachers, not because of the above demands, but because of the lack of support. Because our teachers, who once parked their car each day and jumped out with excitement, planned with passion and taught with enthusiasm, are now so consumed with all the extras and feel so unsupported, they can’t handle it.

Is it any wonder our teachers are losing their passion, surviving the day on autopilot or getting caught up complaining about their job? I personally don’t think so.

We need to start asking ‘What about the teachers?’ Who is supporting them to be their best, so they in return, can support the students to be their best?

This is my mission. This is what I am giving to you. Let’s work together to get back your passion, motivation and love for teaching so again you can love your life!

 

 

You are what you say you are!

A few weeks back I did a FB live about language, about what we say to ourselves as we head back to school, what we tell ourselves– seems kind of funny to think that the language we use can impact our day, but truth is it does, in so many ways.
Language shapes how we see the world, how we feel and how we are able to deal with certain situations. I am sure you all know of a time where you have heard a student say things like ‘I’m dumb’ or ‘(Name) is stupid’, and our response was most likely ‘Don’t talk like that, it’s not nice’. Our response is true, it’s not nice, but what we need to understand is what they say is what they believe to be true. It is an insight into how they see the world.
The same applies for us. We are constantly telling ourselves things, practicing self-talk we don’t even realise we are doing and saying things out loud which again we don’t realise are doing us more harm than good.
It is our self-talk, the things we tell ourselves, out beliefs which make us who we are (If you aren’t sure what I mean, I cover this in my 10 week ‘Teacher get your life back ‘ program if you want to know more.) This means we need to start to pay attention to the things we say and think. For example, if we are constantly telling ourselves and saying to colleges ‘I’m soooo tired’, then guess what, you’ll be tired and if you continuously say ‘I just don’t have nay time’, then guess what, you will have no time.
So why does this happen?
Well it’s all ego. If this is what we tell ourselves then there is no way we can be wrong, so ego and our unconscious mind makes it happen (thanks ego). Even though you may be thinking you want more time, or you don’t want to be tried, the negative weighs out the positive. All our brain hears is the negative, so this is what we get.
Now don’t worry, it’s easier to change than you think. Instead of saying ‘I’m tired’ replace this with ‘I have plenty of energy’, instead of saying ‘I have no time’ replace this with ‘I have enough time to do what I need’. o
There are some key things to remember though. Your brain is like a muscle, so you will need to train it to think like this, which means catching it in the moment and replacing it with your new thought. This is hard, abs aren’t built overnight and neither are new neural pathways in your brain. It takes time for muscles to grow, and this is a new muscle so stick with it and keep building that muscle in your brain (I explain this in my 10 week program too).
Give it a go and let me know what happens for you.
Notice other thoughts which aren’t working for you eithers, easy, just change them to the thoughts you want to have and add them into your new way of thinking.

5 things to implement on your first week back!

5 things to Implement on your first week back!

So you are back. Holiday mode is off and school mode is back on. You have swapped late nights for laminating, sleep ins for staff meetings and pool parties for planning. The summer holidays are officially over!

By now you have most likely started to get your school mode up and going, your students are either with you, or arriving in the next few days, you have your name labels printed, door display up and the pots ready to be filled with pencils. The new year buzz and excitement is around you, you can feel it, but so is something else…

It is this time of year we get confused about our emotions; excited for our new class, mew responsibilities and new things to teach but also scared, doubtful, worried, our head fills with thoughts we just can’t escape…

‘Will I be good enough for these students?’

‘ Will my students learn?’

‘Will the parents like me?’

‘Will I have enough time for each of them?’

‘Will I have enough time for myself and my family?’

‘How much work will I have to do on the weekend?’

All of these thoughts are normal, we all have them, but what you need to understand is that none of this needs to be true, these are just thoughts designed by your ego to keep you safe. Safe is good. But change means getting a little uncomfortable, going into the unknown, trying new things, and new things can be hard, which is why we like things to be the same and the ego is around to keep us safe.

However, if you want change, if you want things to be different or you want to just know you are improving, you have to try new things. And what better time is there than now?

The start of the year is perfect for starting new ways of doing things, that’s why so many people start the year with new years resolutions or goals; fresh year, fresh start.

So this year, I challenge you to implement some new things which I can honestly have honestly helped me to make better use of my time, get more done and reduce the stress I have felt.

5 things to Implement on your first week back!

  1. Routine

If you ever read, hear or listen to anything about successful people ad how they manage to achieve so much they always talk about establishing and sticking to a routine. Routine is great for so many reasons, it ensures you maximise time by having set things to do, you don’t waste time wondering what to do with the time you have, and your brain loves it. Routine means predictability, safety and no surprises, which means you brain is ready before you even start, and productivity is up.

  1. Establish a home time

Home time. The bell rings, all the students run out the door with their bags over their shoulders and you breathe a sigh of relief thinking: ‘Now I can get to work’. Your to-do list is long, you have parents to call and a meeting to go to. Home time for you is a long way off…

Home time though is really important, not just so you can go and be with your family, but so you can switch off, breathe easy and again, it’s routine. Before you eye roll and think it just isn’t possible, there is one more piece of advice I have. Before going home, make sure you have everything ready for tomorrow; resources made, photocopied and organised, day planned out and things ready to go. Everything else can wait, and you can go home.

  1. Make the most of the little bits of time you have – they add up

Time – the one thing we all want more of. Only, time really is plentiful, it is just how we use it that makes a difference. I often hear teachers say they don’t have enough time, that they haven’t had any time during the day to do anything. Yet, we always seem to have time for a coffee break, a chat in the playground or a visit to a colleague in the afternoon. Now I am not saying we shouldn’t do these things. All of these things are important, and you should do them every now and then, but do you need to do all 3 every day?

There are hidden bits of time here which you can use to the quick and easy jobs; have your coffee while marking homework, cut out resources over lunch with colleagues or use the afternoon conversation as a chance to get together and do some marking or change a display. All the little moments add up.

  1. Mindfulness and gratitude are a must

I work alot with teachers on mindfulness and gratitude. Whist they are common words at the moment and we talk about them to our students, pausing and applying them to ourselves isn’t as easy… But, both of these things are proven to help with stress, overwhelm and burnout; all things which teachers talk about.

I highly recommend using a gratitude journal or jar with your class and personally, writing 5 things a day you are grateful for, or adding notes to the jar as a class and reading them at the end of the year. Mindfulness is also a must to help with calming your mind, pausing and even getting to sleep; meditation apps (there are heaps), or videos on YouTube are great to use as a class or before bed. A great way to calm the mind and finally be at ease. Both of these things will have ripples into the following days and weeks (if done consistently) and make a huge benefit to how you and your students feel.

  1. Build relationships with EVERYONE

Schools are busy people; colleagues, staff, office people, parents, students… There are so many small communities in one. Building relationships with each group is key, that doesn’t mean everyone, but I would work on developing relationships with those who you are going to be connected to a lot throughout the year. Smile, ask questions, be polite, all these things are free but go along way. Before asking the office staff to do something for you, say hello and ask how they are, contact all your parents telling them something good about their child by the end of week 3, take time out of the first week to just chat to your students and really take an interest in them – all of these things are simple yet very affective and will set you up for the year ahead.

These 5 things are from my own personal first week back to school check list, I trust that by implementing these you will set yourself up for a successful 2019!

Get your classroom organised in 2019

For those who know me well, you would know I am a fan of being organised. In fact, it is also something I teach and work with many teachers on.

If you don’t have an organised classroom, or office, or desk, you can constantly feel in a mess! And when you are in a mess at school your whole life suffers.

One of this biggest thing that can get in your way of your day going smoothly is being organised. Bits of paper spread across your desk, piles of student books on the floor, documents saved on your computer but you never know where to find them – this is all adding to the chaos of your day, and can so easily be fixed!

So, with 2018 coming to an end, yes you can pretty much forget it existed, those papers, books and files are done with, but let’s not repeat that same thing for 2019, it’s time to get organised. Here a my top 5 tips for organising your classroom so you can then organise you!

 

  1. Organising student work and assessment:  

Purchase an expandable file, label each tab with a students name and filing is now made easy.

Kmart has these beauties in a range of lovely colours and for only $6.00

https://www.kmart.com.au/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/SearchDisplay?searchTerm=expandable+file&categoryId=&storeId=10701&catalogId=10102&langId=-1&pageSize=30&beginIndex=0&sType=SimpleSearch&resultCatEntryType=2&showResultsPage=true&searchSource=Q&pageView=

  1. A space for rubbers, paper lips and those small bits and pieces

Next time you are in Woolworths, grab yourself one or two of their ice cube trays. They are great for storing the small items you and your students can never seem to find; paper clips, erasers, your marking stamp…

Keep this on your desk and you and your students know where to find things and where to return them.

https://www.woolworths.com.au/shop/productdetails/521895/?istCompanyId=909b5da6-e33c-4de8-a6e2-0861c4cbcd86&istItemId=-xtaimrimar&istBid=t&&cmpid=smsm:ds:GOOGLE:Woolies_SmartShopping_Home+%26+Outdoor:PRODUCT_GROUP&gclid=CjwKCAiAl7PgBRBWEiwAzFhmmsR_PFwgSQ3gBzVx64uaDBtUF6Grr_le65Cud13XUocgK1v9XPLa2RoCJsEQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

 

  1. Desktop clutter

Nothing drives me more insane than messy desks. Pencil pots, rulers and scrap bits of paper can often be seen covering classroom tables at the end of the day, but not any more. This great item from Ikea can serve as a place for all your desktop needs to be stored while you sleep soundly. At then end of each day have students remove all desk items and neatly arrange here and no longer will you have to spend time after school picking  up  the stary pencils, paper or tiny pieces of eraser.

 

https://www.ikea.com/au/en/catalog/products/70333977/

 

4.       Students Mailbox

Student items, messages and notes can be second behind the desk clutter. Try using one of these show racks as individual pouches for student belongings. You can use them for notes to go home, homework or even a place to encourage students to write kind messages to each other. It’s also a great way to keep track of who did and didn’t take their homework home!

 

https://www.amazon.com.au/MISSLO-Pockets-Organizer-Hanging-Storage/dp/B00N2G2UOI

 

2.       Get a good diary

Of course, a good teacher diary is essential to be able to plan your days, lessons and self. The Teachers’ Coach Diary for 2019 is a must have. You can plan lessons and your day, but also plan for you by setting goals, practicing gratitude and recording your top must do’s and like to do’s for the day.

Download your free sample or purchase here:2019-teacher-diary

http://www.theteacherscoach.com.au/organisation  

  

YOU DON’T HAVE TO PLAY SAFE – LESSONS SOMETIMES FAIL….

Not all lessons go to plan.

I know – you spend hours  trying to plan that perfect lesson, getting the right resources, making sure students will learn but have fun too, making it accessible for all students – and then, it just doesn’t work. The plan fails. The students don’t like it, it wasn’t as fun as you had hoped, not all students could access the learning. Well…. this happens. To all teachers. And it is totally OK.

Sometimes our lessons don’t go to plan, but it doesn’t mean it is a total disaster, or that you failed or that nothing was learnt.

When this happens, it is up to you to make it meaningful, to ask what you can learn from it, to ask the students what they learnt, and this might not be just academic.

When this happens, the best thing to do is stop. Actually stop the lesson. Tell the students you can see this isn’t working and stop. Talk to them. Make a plan together, try again together.

There is always an opportunity to learn from the fail.

Somewhere along the way, we lose our desire to innovate, take risks and possibly fail. As teachers we want our students to succeed, which means we too want to succeed. This often looks like predictable lessons, safe lessons and lessons we know the ending to.

There is no dreaming here.

So next time you plan a lesson – DREAM BIG.
What’s the worst that can happen? ….you will only fail.

TEACHERS – It’s OK…

For some reason there is this belief that teachers should be happy, upbeat and positive all the time. If you’re a teacher, everyone else thinks it is part of your job to wear a smile 24/7, to break into song without notice and to enthusiastically engage in conversations with every 5-year old you meet.

However, this isn’t always the case.

Yes, we love our job, it has some great perks, and we certainly have reason to be happy and smiling – but sometimes it is just hard.

Why? Because we are real people.

We are people with feelings and emotions, we have a life beyond the classroom full of its own drama and challenges, and we all come with our own bucket full of stuff already.

So, some days – being happy and smiley is just too hard.

And that’s OK.

It’s OK to feel like you want to go home.

It’s OK to feel like you want to cry.

It’s OK to feel like if you have to sing one more song you will scream.

It’s OK to want to sleep in the reading corner while a student reads you a story instead.

It’s OK to want to hand homework back not marked because you just don’t have time.

It’s OK to want to leave early so you can pick your own child up from school.

It’s OK to want to wear a face mask to keep out the germs when that is all you can see when you look around your class.

It’s OK to want to call in sick on athletics carnival day, market day or an excursion – because you know you would get more done if you stayed at home.

It’s OK to make your mum a Mother’s Day card too.

It’s OK to take books home to mark only to never get them out of your car.

It’s OK to spend your lunch duty soaking up the sun you rarely get to see.

It’s OK too close your eyes for a second during that lunch duty in the sun.

It’s OK to be a few minutes late from lunch because you had to do some photocopying, ring a parent, run to the toilet and eat lunch.

It’s OK to eat in class.

It’s OK to mentally write your shopping list in the staff meeting.

It’s OK to play the maths game that was only supposed to go for 5 minutes the whole lesson because everyone is having fun.

It’s OK to not teach capacity until summer because no teacher wants to get water out in winter.

It’s OK to have chocolate for breakfast when everything else is just too hard.

It’s OK to have a tantrum when the photocopier breaks and then sneak out like it wasn’t you.

It’s OK to have multiple tabs open on your computer; some for resources, some for online shopping, because teachers need brain breaks too.

All of this is OK

It’s OK because you aren’t just a teacher, you are a person too, and this is what people do, this is what teachers do, this is what we all do.

Teachers are people too.

Amy – The Teachers’ Coach

 

The curriculum isn’t the enemy…

Last week I was working with a teacher who was having trouble planning for her class and using the curriculum. This teacher was quite stressed and was having a battle between teaching what the curriculum says and what her students need.

I told her in my school there would be no curriculum, and no tests, because teachers know their students and what they need, and most often it is not what is in the curriculum.

So why is it we feel so bound to the curriculum? Yes, we do have some legal ties with it, but mostly, what is in the curriculum, can be achieved through good teaching and teaching which interests the students.

When you look at the curriculum, what do you see? Most teachers see outcomes, things they have to teach and content in black and white.

When you look at you students though, you see a suite of skills the can and can’t do yet, thei likes and dislikes and preference for learning and their individual interests.

But why is it that we see our students and the curriculum as two separate things?

We need to realise they can go together quite easily; if we are creative in how we plan and teach.

The trick is to marry all these things together.

Start with your students, end with the curriculum – this is the opposite of what most school and teachers do.

Start with your students and their needs, use this to decide what to teach, map this backwards against the curriculum.

Very soon you will see how by teaching what your students need, you are covering the curriculum anyway; just in a time, manner and way which suits them.

Trust yourself, trust your students, trust the process.