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!!!

I’m exhausted… and I am not sure how I will survive the week.

There are moments where I feel absolutely exhausted… this week is one of them

I started the week thinking Monday was Friday, so I knew it was going to be a long one..

I feel like I could sleep for days, if left alone for too long I will sleep, if my warm, cosy, puffy winter jacket is in just the right spot it’s like a pillow making it very easy to sleep standing up, I am in trouble. This isn’t tired. It’s exhausted.

I haven’t run a marathon and no, I didn’t compete in CrossFit games recently, I am worn down, overwhelmed and in need of a time out.

You would think as an experienced teacher (who now works in leadership), a trained life coach and a coach for teachers I would have it all sorted… but I don’t. Not even close.

I am still human under all this, and sometimes the human in me is loud and clear.

It doesn’t matter how much self-development I do, how many books I read or even the content I write and share with you, sometimes everything I know just doesn’t stop from the human part of me taking over. And why would it? Sometimes overwhelm is just that, total overwhelm, and tired is tired, and too many things on your list is a reality, combine all this together though, and you very quickly get exhaustion.

But here’s the thing, what I have right now is key to making a change, making it more manageable and allowing it to pass without pushing me into the ground and stomping all over me, and that is awareness. Awareness is the first step to being able to manage any sort of overwhelm or exhaustion.

Now, this goes beyond just saying I am exhausted, it actually means doing something about it.

Saying I am exhausted but keeping the same level of intensity going is just not good for my health, I know that, so I have to use this awareness to make some small changes to get through this totally human moment.

What does this look like?

  1. Nutrition right now is key. It is so easy to fall into a trap of eating rubbish because you feel like rubbish. Don’t do this, it only fuels the fire. (OK – complete honesty here, there has been some chocolate eaten, emotions eaten, and more chocolate, but I am working on it).
  2. Stay hydrated. Water isn’t just for those who sweat, it is for all of us, especially those of us who are facing a tough time mentally. Water is just as important for the mental sweats as it is for the physical sweats.
  3. Move. I know you are tired, I am too, but the importance of moving to keep blood flowing, oxygen circulating and energy up is a must. I am aiming for 8000-10,000 steps daily at the moment. It is hard, but it makes such a difference in how I feel mentally.
  4. Sleep. No matter how much you have on your plate you must sleep. I aim for around 8hrs a night no matter what. Yes I could keep working and sleep less, but I know in the long run this doesn’t work, it only makes things seem harder, take longer and makes me way more emotional than I need to be.
  5. Let go of some things. You can’t do it all. What can you put off, say no to, or let go of just a little while you get through this time ( and no it can’t be any of the above)? For me, I look at all the tasks I have to do and make an agreement with myself to put some on hold and come back to them later, I say no to last-minute meetings and make it clear that I am working on other tasks at the moment. Be transparent. People understand.

It is these 5 things that I implement as soon as I notice my body starting to feel exhausted and overwhelmed. You will notice these are mostly related to myself and my own self-care. Why? Because what I know is, is if I don’t look after me, I can’t look after anyone else. I am my first priority and you should be yours too.

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.

What I learnt from Google about teachers on ‘Smunday’.

teaching

So this morning I was looking for a ‘Sunday’ picture to post. I trawled memes and quotes, scrolled through images, but nothing was right. It seems when you google ‘Teacher on Sunday’ you get a very limited option of material. Images are either linked to Sunday School (which isn’t what I was after), how much teachers dislike Sundays, or how we certainly don’t have Sunday as a day of rest.

After scrolling past a few images I quickly learnt teachers are not a fan of Sundays, especially Sunday night. In fact, there is a even a word created especially for us – ‘Smunday’. Apparently, it is when Sunday starts to turn into Monday, and teachers get anxiety about all the things they haven’t done and what they should be doing instead of watching Netflix.

Really, a whole word dedicated to our anxiety? Well I don’t know about you, but this is something I don’t experience. Sure, I might spend some time thinking about tomorrow or getting ready for work, but it does not cause me anxiety.

So what about resting on Sunday’s? Well apparently, we don’t get that either – we just get the rest of the housework, the rest of the cooking and the rest of the marking.

So no matter how you look at it, Sunday’s just aren’t great for use teachers.

Now neither of these themes worked for me, and it certainly isn’t how I want teachers to be viewing Sunday, so I just settled for a cute picture of a dog chilling a bath (it was the best I could find and everyone loves cute dogs).

But what is the real problem here?

Well it is that teachers (we) are being led to believe we actually don’t like Sundays. Now if this is true for you, or if you have seen a few of these images and agree with them, you are missing out om one of the best days of the week.

Sundays are a great day!

It’s when you can sleep in, have a late breakfast (if at all), and finish the day with some kind of reality TV program – The Voice, The Block, My Kitchen Rules… they are all prime time Sunday viewing.

Sunday is also great because you can plan for the week, get organized, set some goals and do something which will make the rest of the week easier (for me this always involves meal prep so my breakfasts and lunches are done, redoing my to-do list and looking at my goals, and sometimes choosing my outfits for the week).

So don’t make Sundays a day where you wait for the stress to arrive, or a day where you are doing ‘the rest’ of stuff, make Sundays the day where you say yes to what you want to do and how you feel and use it to make sure you continue feeling that way all week.

Now this may mean a little bit more organisation on a Sunday night, writing down some goals and tidying your ‘to-do’ list, spending a few hours in the kitchen or only one reality TV show on Sunday night so you can turn the lights off a little earlier and get a good night sleep.

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Whatever it is, it will make Sundays a great day and Monday even better!

Amy xx

Teachers on holiday – out of the School, thinking still like you’re in the classroom.

Too most people, teachers ‘are always on holidays’, but to teachers, sometimes holidays never even happen.

Well it’s that time again… Where teachers are on holidays and they have to listen to the rest of the employed population comment on how they never work… If only they knew.

Whilst this is the perception by many, it is certainly not the case for teachers. It’s no secret that without holidays we may not survive the year – not a joke.

So why is it though, that we go from holidays to school in the blink of an eye, and feel like we never left?

Now for those non-teachers reading this, no we aren’t complaining, it’s just that whole holidays ‘all the time’ sound great, truth is, it’s actually really hard to get into holiday mode, in fact, when we do, it’s not uncommon to be riddled with guilt, still browsing on Pinterest or doing the odd bit of laminating because ‘it’s not really work’.

You see, we might have left the building, but we haven’t left the job. Holidays are that in between time where we reflect on last term/year and set, yet again, big goals and promises to ourselves, about how we are going to do something new this year, try a new approach this term, or go in with a different mindset.

So with these new goals in mind, from reading group restructuring to a new classroom theme, Pinterest is our first go-to app when we are bored, we visit Kmart unnecessarily and we become familiar with all the different fonts on available as we busily make pretty activities for our students.

So how it THIS holidays???

It’s not.

It’s a refresh, a time to remind yourself what really excites you in the classroom and a time to get back on track. (I know week 10 was about of caffeine and sugar highs).

But here’s the catch, if this is all we do, than we are bound to be burnt out before we get back to school. This is why the first day back comment of ‘I feel like I didn’t even have a holiday’, fills the staff room as teachers return.
So tis is what we need to try to avoid. How do we do this? Well we actually need to take a holiday (yes just like everyone else thinks you already do).

Now I know we have to do some work, but taking care of ourselves is just as important, if not more important.

So how do you get around it? How do you actually have a holiday?
Just like the most successful will tell you, you have to schedule your time, and here’s how to do it.

1. Make a list of everything you have to do.
2. Put a rough time next to each item and figure out how much time you need.
3. Decide if you want to get it done first, leave it until the end, or do little bits here and there (personally I like to get everything done early on and them have the rest of time enjoying my holiday without distraction)
4. Schedule it in. Look at your calendar, use a diary, make a work date with colleagues.
5. Actually stick to the schedule and get things done.
6. Enjoy your holidays.

Now before you do this there are some things you need to know.
– teachers over commit to things they want to achieve. You will most likely find yourself returning to school with a few things on your list.
– there is always something else to do; let some things go
– google is BIG, the options are endless, just pick something

With this in mind, it’s now up to you. You have to do the list, the schedule and the tasks – sorry I can’t be more help. If you do get stuck though, let me know and I’ll help you out by getting you back on track.
Most importantly, have a great holiday – you deserve it.

End of term 2 – when your hand is in the lolly jar while your breakfast is in the microwave.

teacher-stress

Term 2 is coming to an end, which means more than a few crazy things happening in and out of the classroom.

Finalising assessment, writing reports and setting grades, parent/teacher intervies, late nights catching up on marking, and somehow starting to plan for next term, when this one seems so far from wrapping up.

You see term 2 is craaaazy! And being the committed, hard working and over caring teachers that we are means we just don’t know when to stop, or even when to pause for a minute.

So instead we look for other vices, other ways to pull through and other ways to keep us going.

Coffee, sugar and uniting in winge fests become more regular than usual. Staff rooms are all of a sudden filled with extra morning teas than, the emergency chocolate stash has 2 settings: overflowing or missing and the usual coffee orders are doubled.

It’s that time of year where your hand is in the lolly jar while your breakfast is is the microwave.

We are all trying to survive. You and me and every other teacher. Trying to make it to holidays with our list ticked off, with our heads above water and with our sanity in tact.

So how do we do this.

First, take your hand out of the lolly jar. The things which are getting you through now are only going to become bad habits and make it harder in the long run.

Instead, limit coffee, drink more water, add in some herbal tea, get fresh air, walk outside and exercise, sleep and go to bed early. It’s all one step at a time, one foot in front of the other, one task at a time.

It’s about talking about what really needs to be done and helping each other.

It’s about remembering you are human first, than a teacher. So breathe human. You are an amazing teacher. But teachers need a break too.

I took a mental health day, and I talked about it.

teacher-health

A few weeks ago I wasn’t coping. I was tired. I was drowning in my ‘to-do’ list. I was at breaking point.

So I took a day off… A mental health day. A well-being day. A day for me.

And I talked about it. (see my last blog)

When I returned back to school the next day, and took my morning position on playground duty, I was greeted with; ‘Are you feeling better?’, ‘Are you OK’, ‘Have you got the flu already?’.

You see, just because I had a day off, everyone assumed I was sick, like need to go to the Dr. sick, I wasn’t. I just needed to stop.

So my reply ‘Oh no, I wasn’t sick, I just needed a day’…

Now here comes the mixed reactions, confused faces, uneasy comments, awkward silence. Why? Because we just don’t talk about this enough, and unfortunately there is some sort of negative vibe that is still attached with this. Really? Still?

So if well-being is a priority, if we are putting teacher health first, then saying ‘I just needed a day’, needs to be met with a ‘Cool. Are you OK now? Anything else you need?’. This is the response that says it’s OK to put you first, to put teachers first, to be OK with not being OK. This is one step closer to actually putting teachers first.

This is why I talk about it.

Why I took a step back… and what I learnt.

stress-teacher

Over the past few months things have been pretty full on for me, and as a result I found myself tired, more so than usual, low on energy and lacking motivation to do other things (such as this).

At the start of the year I started a new job; this followed a year which was possibly one of my most challenging work wise. I was propelled into a new role, new expectations, new opportunity. There is no denying I absolutely love my new role; however, it didn’t come without a cost.

Starting a new job is never easy; new people, new hours, new systems to learn, lots of things you used to know but now don’t – it all adds up to long days and working harder than your used too. Add on top of this trying to live up to the high expectations you have put on yourself (because that’s why they employed you right?), and soon you will find yourself in an unusual state.

After a few weeks of this, I was wrecked. Welcome tired and overwhelmed Amy – something I actually preach we teachers should try to avoid, and yet here I was, living as my exact target audience. I was tired. I was overwhelmed. I was trying to meet crazy high expectations. And truth be told, I still am.

My days quickly turned into predictable routines – wake at 5am, gym, work, home around 6pm, dinner, TV, bed. That was my day. I soon began to feel the impact of starting a new job and not allowing myself the time to just be. It was go, go, go, and crash.

So what changed? Well lucky I am a pretty aware person, and the signs were becoming stronger, so I had no choice but to listen. I knew where I was heading, and I didn’t want to end up there. I’d been there before… crying in my Dr’s office, asking for time off, explaining how I just couldn’t do it anymore. I wasn’t going to do that again.

So I stopped. Not from overwhelm. Not because I was tired. Not because I was doing too much. But by choice. I made a conscious choice to stop. To press pause. To just do what I could without feeling like I had made it to tipping point. I gave myself permission to take it slow.

For a whole week, I pressed pause. I took it slow. Did what I could. If that meant bed at 8pm I went to bed. If it meant no gym (this is a pretty high non-negotiable of mine) I didn’t go to the gym, if it meant soup for dinner and a night in front of the TV that’s what I did. And to add to that, I even took a day off work. To rest. To pause. To put me first. 100% guilt-free.

It was here, a day at home, pondering my thoughts where I realised through all of this I actually learnt something… The overwhelm, the being tired, the high expectations and pressure, it was my fault. All me. I owned it all. I still do. No one was expecting me to know everything. No one was expecting me to be amazing from day 1. No one was expecting me to go above and beyond. Only I was. I set the high expectations, I set the high standards, I set the multitude of tasks I wanted to achieve immediately. This means I too created the pressure. I created the overwhelm. I created being tired. And I too can change it. So I am.

I know realise it’s not about lowering expectations or expecting less, it’s about expecting what you can right now, expecting what is really achievable, expecting no more than you need to. No pressure required.

Somewhere along the way I lost what really makes me happy, what makes my days amazing, what makes my everyday amazing. I lost the being real, the giving value and the structure that helps me do so.

So that is what I am now working on again. The structure, the focus the giving.

Data – it’s not about what you didn’t do, it’s about what you need to do.

Data.

data

For teachers, it comes in many forms, from NAPLAN to taking notes, running records to recording 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?

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.

It’s more common than not for teachers default reaction when looking at data to be to justify. I know we all know teachers, have been in a conversation, or perhaps we are guilty of it, where the first response is something like…’Yeah but that was a really low cohort’, ‘Those kids never do well’, ‘It doesn’t matter how I teach it they just don’t retain anything’ or ‘They were very unsettled that day’. All of these are ways we justify 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.

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 or even 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.

Differentiation – Meeting student needs, not teacher needs.

Differentiation is a bit of a buzz word at the moment, but the more it is talked about, the more we are expected to do it, and why shouldn’t we?

Differentiation really is key to ensuring your students are getting the learning your students need, at their level and with the support or extension they need.

So what exactly is differentiation?

Differentiation means tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. Whether teachers differentiate content, process, products, or the learning environment, the use of ongoing assessment and flexible grouping makes this a successful approach to instruction. – Carol Ann Tomlinson (http://www.readingrockets.org/article/what-differentiated-instruction).

Differentiation is all about making sure we are continually teaching students at their point of need. Yet for some reason, there are still many of us who just don’t get this.

When working with teachers on differentiation, I often find myself having to explain that differentiation does not mean just doing a different activity. Differentiation is not just having the more able students work by themselves or having the struggling students taken out for support.

Differentiation is something we consciously plan for by making informed decisions using summative data. Not something we do ad-hoc because a student can’t complete what we have planned or because a child finished early. It is something we plan for.

This means, as teachers, we need to be considering in advance what our students can currently do, what we want our students to know, what we want them to be learning and what we need to teach to make that happen.

Now not every student will be at the same place, with the same interests, or learn in the same way. This is where differentiation comes in.

So how do we do this? Well it is all linked to the learning.

Take 2 digit addition in year 3 for example, some students will know this already, some will still be using concrete materials and some are working on using a written method – so this is how you differentiate. You give the students what they need. Teach the addition lesson, but differentiate. Those who want or need counters can use them, those who are using a number line can do that, and maybe some are ready to move onto more efficient mental strategies.

Give students what they need – not what you want them to need.