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.

Wellbeing Month – Work/life Balance

This month I started the very first Teacher Wellbeing Week in my FB group ‘The Teachers’ Tribe’ (join here if you haven’t already https://mailchi.mp/76e1652adad4/wellbeingweek).

Each month I am going to bring you a week of information, videos and fun things on a topic to do with wellbeing, and then for the rest of the month, we will continue the journey together.

Why? Because teacher wellbeing matters, and it is more than just yoga and herbal tea.

This month we are focusing on work/life balance, with the first 7 days of the month being a work/life balance intensive. Here is part of what I have shared so far…

Work/life balance in the teacher space is often a dream, a utopia, an untouchable space. We dream of never taking work home, of having work-free weekends and time to ourselves, oh we dream! But here’s this thing… this doesn’t have to be a dream, it can be real.

Work/life balance is sold to us in a way which makes us think work is for work and home is for home, and if we don’t have this than we don’t have work/life balance. Now, what I am about to say may shock you, but this just isn’t the case. Work/life balance doesn’t have to look like this at all. It is absolutely not the only version of what work/life balance looks like, and if it isn’t possible for you, then stop chasing it. That’s right, STOP!

So what can you do instead?

Well instead, you need to write your journey of work/life balance. You need to decide what it looks like to you, what you can achieve and what fits in with your already crazy life.

So, what does work/life balance look like to you?

Only you can decide this, and there is certainly not a right or wrong answer, only one that works for you. All that matters is that you are happy with it.

Something to keep in mind is that work/life balance will look different each day. No day is the same which means you need to be prepared for each day to be a little different. Maybe one day you achieve balance by getting to the gym, maybe one day it’s not taking work home, and on the weekend it’s a sleep in and work-free day.

Keep this in mind when thinking about how you want work/life balance to be. Make sure you set goals in this space that are achievable. No point trying to achieve balance by planning to get to the gym by 5pm when you have a staff meeting that day, or working on nutrition and healthy eating but no time to cook or plan healthy meals.

Make sure you choose things which are easy and something you can do now. This doesn’t have to be every day, sometimes we just can’t do that, but do try put time aside for the balance part a few times a week, the life bit will just happen on its own.

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!!!

Make time for you – 5 easy ways to start now!

Time for you is just as important as the time you give anyone else.

NEVER FORGET THIS.

Just 20 – 30 minutes a day of self-care a day is enough to allow you to press pause on the outside world, connect in and re-energise in order to keep going.

I reluctantly use the phrase ‘keep going’, but it is what so many of us tell ourselves; ‘just keep going’. So we do. We just keep going, and before we know it, we are more tired than normal, unable to cope with even the most basic tasks, making little errors that we normally wouldn’t, snapping at family and friends, becoming emotional and eventually not coping at all. We have all been here.

Spending time taking care of you is what allows you to move beyond this, and rather than keep going, you keep living.

Not sure how to spend those 30 minutes? Here are 5 things to do now that are about taking care of you, help connect with your soul and allow you to live in a positive and flourishing way.

 

  1. Spend time in nature

The outdoors, fresh air, sunshine and living things are known to boost the happy chemicals in your brain, as well as give you a sense of calm. Go for a walk, find a nice park and sit on a bench and breathe in the fresh air, watch the sunrise or set. Take yourself outside and let nature do its work, it is a natural and free resource waiting for you.

  1. Journal

Our brain can be one big complicated mess sometimes. It can have us thinking, saying and doing things that we don’t even realise or that later we may not be so happy with. Journaling is a great tool to get deep into the layers of our brain and thinking space to discover what is really going on. Take a pen and write. Ask yourself these questions:

What is going on for me right now?

What is bothering me the most?

How would I like it to be?

What changes can I make right now?

How will this make me feel?

  1. Smile

Smile. Laugh. Share a joke. The simple act of smiling is infectious and known to boost your mood, reduce stress and can very quickly change your start. The beauty of this is that it also has ripple effects which last long after the initial smile.

  1. Have a hobby

A hobby. Something you do just for you, that bring you joy, is not connected to work, and something that you 100% choose and enjoy. Painting, getting lost in a great novel, gardening, hiking, knitting, anything that is just for you. Hobbies are ways to reduce stress, improve mood and allow you to get out of your comfort zone by doing something you enjoy and taking you away from the business if the day.

  1. Do nothing

Yes, nothing. No playing on social media, no TV, no book. NOTHING. A cup of tea or your favourite drink and do nothing. Why? Because at times our body needs space to heal, to escape the chaos of life, to just be. Use this time to sit and be. If you find your mind wanders too much, use some calming music to help you, some meditation music, or try a guided meditation to assist in calming your mind and to get in the space of nothing.

 

There you have it. My 5 tips for taking care of you for 20-30 minutes a day. Start with one of these, and if every day is too much right now, try every other day, and build up from there. You deserve it.

I’d love to know what other self-care tips you have too. Let me know via my FB page https://www.facebook.com/amygreentheteacherscoach/ 

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.

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.