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.

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.

Only You Decide Your Self Care and Well-being

There is so much talk about self-care at the moment.

Self-care Sunday is booming, mindful Monday and soul Saturday are close behind; but really, what all this boils down to, is taking care of yourself, putting yourself first and honouring yourself enough to know that you need to put you first, pressing pause on life when you feel you can’t go on, and actually making time to look after you just as much as you do others.

Yoga, walks on the beach, meditation, massage, drinking herbal tea and self-help books, these seem to be what is most recommended as a means of self-care, but actually, for what it is worth, I don’t agree that this is for everyone.

Self-care isn’t just yoga and deep breathing while you watch the sunset, it is so much more, actually, it is whatever you want it to be. 

No one can decide your self-care, it is simply doing whatever it is for you, whatever helps you relax, tune out, feel less stressed, enjoy life and have fun. This can actually be done in so many ways. For some people, it is yoga (me included), for my partner it is 3-hour cycle  (I couldn’t think of anything worse and he hates yoga). For my brother, it is playing Dungeons and Dragons (OK this might be worse than a 3hr cycle), my other brother is learning bass guitar and my BFF is all about a whole day of binging on Netflix. All of these things, as different as they are, and as unique to the person they might be, are all self-care. My point is, self-care is actually whatever you want it to be.

Reading, craft, hiking, reading a book, mani-pedis, playing a team sport; just about anything at all, as long as it is good for your soul, clams you down, relaxes you, helps you with overwhelm and stress and just makes you feel better, is self-care.

As long as what you do doesn’t hurt or harm others in any way, what you choose to do is up to you. BUT… if you are shopping to make yourself feel better and have money issues this is not self-care, if you are continually eating high-sugar processed foods to comfort you, this is not self-care, if you are watching hours of TV each night because you are tired or stressed, this is also not self-care. Your self-care has to be GOOD for you, good for your soul and good for those around you. Spending money you should be saving is not good, eating rubbish food is not good, lazing on the couch for hours is not good. You must choose your self-care with this is mind.

Once you know what self-care is for you, don’t wait for your day to be rubbish to try it, or for you to feel super stressed or overwhelmed before you do anything, the trick is to build self-care into your day and weekly plan. Schedule it in just like you schedule in time for coffee with friends and family dinner on Sunday night; you are important too, so schedule you in.

Once you have scheduled in regular time for your self-care, you will find that you are reaping the benefits more than you thought you would and that your days may not be as stressful as they used to be. Self-care is about filling your cup first, and when you do this, you will have much more to give to others.