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.

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.

How was your weekend? (Building Relationships at Work)

Recently I have been challenging myself to engage with my colleagues on a more personal level.

Why? Because to be honest this is something I am just not great at. I have one of those personality types that is all business and go go go!
Now when you want something done, this isn’t a bad thing, but when someone just wants to be heard, I have been known to overlook this. So I am working on it.

I am sharing this because as teachers we are surrounded by people every day and often we don’t realise how much our own personality may impact others, be received by others or even the messages we send out just from our facial expressions, tone or things we do and do not say.

Moving from the classroom into leadership this is something I have really had to reflect and take feedback on. Often in the classroom, we don’t really think how our own personality reflects on our students, because, for the most part, they are compliant, but working with adults can definitely bring this to the surface.

Ever wondered why we gravitate to some people and not others? Ever wondered your circle of friends are somewhat similar or have the same interests? Ever wondered why your students manage to make their own groups in your classroom when you try so hard to have them be friends with everyone? Well, it is because our personality type is attracted to other personality types, and when we find our click we stick to it, searching for other people with the same traits, and we don’t even realise we do it.

Now, this is fine where we can control the people we are with, but often in the workplace, we have to work with all sorts of people, and some who are just not our people.

There is beauty in this though. Working with others outside your normal click can be a challenge, but also an opportunity to learn about yourself, and others too. It is an opportunity to learn about who you are and how you connect with others, and in return how other people operate too.

The lessons here can be hard, uncomfortable and sometimes scary as well, but you have a real opportunity here t

o grow into an even better person, to develop better relationships, to be able to work with a wider range of people.

Now depending on who and how you are and who you are working with, this will look very different. It may mean saying less or saying more, asking more questions or answering them, giving a helping hand or pulling back, laughing more or laughing less, or it could be as simple as starting each Monday by asking your colleagues ‘How was your weekend?’.

If you are interested in learning more about your personality type, I recommend doing this online DICS self-assessment below to give you a little more information:
https://www.tonyrobbins.com/disc/

I’d love to know what you have connected with here or what surprised you?

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.

What I learnt from Brene’ Brown

This week I attended Brene Brown – Dare To Lead.
If you don’t know who Brene Brown is I suggest you look her up. She is someone who is changing how we see ourselves, each other and leadership. Her work is based on extensive hours of research, studies and training based around shame and vulnerability. Emotions we often try to avoid yet where so much growth and learning occurs.

I had so many takeaways during the day, but what I want to share with you is one which I think will really impact leaders in education and that is leadership is about self-awareness.

I chose this to share as I so easily relate to this, my own experiences on my journey with myself and how that has impacted me as a leader.

You see leadership to me has been a journey about understanding myself. Understanding the good and bad my strengths and weaknesses. My areas for development and straight-up owning and taking responsibility for and accepting some stuff I just didn’t want to own.

This is leadership.

Leaning into the uncomfortable. Being vulnerable. Embracing the suck. Choosing courage over comfort.

It’s not easy.

I don’t think. It’s supposed or be.

I think it’s supposed to be hard. To. Challenge us beyond comfort to allow ourselves to grow and change and evolve into who we know is inside but who we ignore because we want or be safe.

Safe isn’t leadership.

Safe is staying the same.

Leaders don’t live here.

Leaders live where it’s scary and unsafe. Where it’s unpredictable and painful. Where we can fall and not know how to get up. This is leadership.

Whether in work or life or relationships or family we can all find ourselves needing to lead. Lead with courage. Lead from heart. Lead not for now but for how you know it can be.

This is leadership.

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’

I have been slack with my blog, because, well, life happens… and it’s OK

Sometimes Life happens…

I have been a bit slack on the blog front lately, I am not sure why, I was in a really good routine with this, then life happened, and I lost it.

It can happen that easily. We are onto a good thing, weeks or even months can pass and we don’t skip a beat, then all of a sudden life happens, we lose our routine, pick up bad habits and are back right where we started. So what do you do?


Well, first of all, know life does happen, because you are, after all, only human, which means you never really know what may come your way. As fast as it took for Harry Potter to be scared with a lightning bolt for life, we can lose all routing and things we thought we had control over. Just like that.

Now don’t beat yourself up about it. I’m not. I mean the first step to getting back on track is having an awareness that things have gone sideways, and let’s be honest, my blog writing certainly has. But here I am, picking myself up, and getting back into it.

You see, when life does happen, we need to go with it. Ride the waves. But as soon as we are back with two feet on the ground it is time to reassess and get back into it, which means for me Thursday is Blog Day – No Matter What!!!

We have all had good intentions before, mine with a blog every Thursday, which did last a good few months, to be more active, lose weight, read for 20 minutes a day (another one I am working on), give more time to family, be a better listener, stay calm when life doesn’t go according to plan, but we also all know that it just doesn’t happen like this, and that is OK!

Now you know that, you can let it be. Now that doesn’t mean stop forever, it just means let go of the guilt of letting it go in the first place, and when you are ready, get back to it. Or maybe not even when you are ready, but when you can.

If we always wait until we are ‘ready’ then it may never some, ‘ready’ leaves too much time and space for ‘I’m not ready’. This is just your ego keeping you safe. Instead, ask yourself ‘Can I now….’. If the answer is yes, do it. No but’s, maybes or when I am ready. Just do it.


Life happens. We fall off the track sometimes. It is getting back on though that we must commit to.
So here I am, committing to a blog every Thursday, just for you, so keep an eye out and make sure you keep reading them.

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!

I didn’t open my laptop for 2 weeks. Here’s what I learnt…

Recently I went to NYC on a holiday. Now, this was lifetime dream, dream come true, once in a lifetime kind of thing. I’m not new to travelling. I have lived overseas, London specifically, spent weekends in Paris and weeks relaxing in Thailand and backpacking Egypt. What I have found though, as I get older, travelling is still easy, but switching off is not.

I have become accustomed to packing for all kinds of ‘what if I feel like doing work’ moods I may encounter while on holiday, which is by far very different from my minimal, throw it in the bag, backpacking days. This means I take with me my laptop, tablet, kindle, phone with all the apps, notepads, journal, coloured pens, a few highlighters, even post-it notes!

This is great right? It means I am prepared to read, write, study, make notes, plan, brainstorm, send an email, all of it, whenever I like. Actually, it is not so great. This also means I am continually staring at reminders of the work ‘I should be doing’. You see, whilst I think I am prepared for the opportunity to do work if it arises, what I realised I was unconsciously doing was putting pressure on myself to do work when I really should be on holiday. See, not so great.

We all know there is reason for actually having a holiday, you get to relax, see new things, be with people you love, sleep in, go on adventures, eat great food and sometimes do nothing, but if your laptop is always there in the corner, looking at you and giving you gentle reminders that work still exists, your ability to be fully on holiday may be interrupted more than you think. The glance out of the corner of your eye, seeing it as you walk past, opening it only to tap on a few keys, all this does is increase the pressure you are putting on yourself to do work, and this is not a holiday at all! This was me, every holiday for the last few years.

You see, there is a difference between being on a holiday physically, and being on a holiday mentally. All teachers need a mental holiday as much as they need a physical holiday, you and I included.

The week before I went to NYC I got sick, incredibly virus-like, couldn’t get off the couch, open my laptop or even speak sick. It was awful. But it was also a sign, I needed a mental holiday as much as I needed a physical holiday. Even though I was physically sick, I knew this was my body’s way of telling me to stop. I was mentally exhausted, I had been working too much, too hard. I knew this because my last few weeks of self-talk had been something like ‘only 2 more weeks to go, you can do it’, ‘hang in there, 8 days left’. Only I couldn’t hang in there. I was done, and my body made sure of it.

During this week I knew I needed to make some changes. The first step was to ensure I would go on my holiday and actually have a holiday, mentally and physically, no laptop. This was actually suggested to me a few days before by my coach, but I just wasn’t ready to hear it. Now though, I was listening.

So, I made the decision. I was going on holiday, no laptop, no work, no email. Only books and a journal. That’s it. That’s all I took.

Now, this was hard for me. Really hard. At the start of my trip, I felt like something was missing, I even panicked a little going through airport security because I couldn’t find it in my bag, only to remember it was safe and sound at home. I felt a little sense of excitement at this moment, I was actually going on a real holiday, no laptop, no work, no email.

Boarding the plane was also a reminder of the lack of laptop, it wasn’t there to protect or lift out as I put my luggage overhead. It was at this moment something strange happened. Sitting down for taking off, I felt my body fill with some sort of sense of sensation, relief, calm, my body was releasing all the tension and stress I had been carrying with me about the fear of not taking my laptop. For the first time in quite a few years, I was going on holiday just for me, to be with my partner, to have fun, laugh, sleep, live, love, no laptop, work or email, and I knew everything was going to be OK.

It was in this moment I realised I had been missing out on so much. The rush, the pressure, the ‘what’s next?’, this is what I had been focusing on. Not the now, the present, the moment. I had been completely missing the now.

It was here I made a decision, a commitment to myself, give myself more time and space, to be me, to laugh and have fun, to read, to love, to be, to be present. I am not saying this is easy, it surely is a skill, and something I am working on, but without this thought, you are just going through life, and not actually being in it. Awareness is the first step.

Be in your life.

So, did I survive? Yes, I did. Everything was just as I left it when I returned, apart from a few more emails, nothing drastic though, nothing I couldn’t handle, the only thing difference was me. Me. Committing to change my life to be in it, not rushing through it. Being present in the now, knowing what each moment is for, living, loving and being in my life.

I know for some of you this may seem hard, and as I shared, it was for me too, but the thought of missing out on your life is harder. Put your laptop away, make time for you, set time aside to really be present at the moment, build the skill until it is a habit, until it is you.

Need help, I’m here with you. Reach out. Let’s get your life back.

Mention this blog for your free strategy session NOW!