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.
- What do we see in these data?
- Why are we seeing what we are?
- 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.
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.
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To our little student we are like celebrities, to our big celebrities we are simply there to serve them, the idea of having a life outside the classroom is simply impossible.
I recall a time early in my teaching career when I was teaching a 1/2 class. It was a Monday Morning, and usual for them to be happy and smiling when they saw me, but on this day one student was beyond the normal level of excitement, He was beaming. He saw form the distance across the playground ad came running over, grinning ear to ear. “Miss Green, Miss Green, Guess What? Guess What?” he shouted. “What is it?” I replied thinking he had some big exciting news, “I saw you at the shops on the weekend”, ‘You did?” I asked, “what was I doing?”, “You were buying your groceries” he shared with everyone around him. “Well I do get hungry” I replied.
In this moment it occurred to me, that for this student it hadn’t occurred to him that I might be doing something like buying groceries, that I might have to do other things or that I even leave the school grounds. Our little students especially have a perception that we live and breathe school to the point where I have even been asked where I sleep at night while a student looks around the classroom for my bed.
So how is that we are supposed to reduce the pressure on our selves when even our little people think we only ever exist at school?
Teachers are people too. In fact teachers are people first.
You are a person, before you are a teacher.
This is why you need to put you first, why you must take care of you, make time for you and schedule you into your day along with your students, family and everything else.
The issue lies when we are faced with so many external pressures which expect us to simply be teachers only. To live and breathe teaching, to be on email 24/7, to have parent meeting at 7am or 7pm because they work during the day, to pack a lunch each day as there is no way you can leave school to pop out and get something, to make appointments and deal with things like the bank and doctors after school and weekends because making appointments during the day is just not an option. Every decision is made with you the teacher in mind.
But what about you the person?
This is where you need to do some work. You need to know you as a person; who you are, what your values and beliefs are, what you like to do when you are not wearing your teacher hat. Teaching is a big part of your life, but there are other big parts of you too that also deserve your time and energy.
Time to shine not just as a teacher, but as a person too.
Holidays are nearly here, we have been waiting for this, counting down even, yet the holidays as we know will be gone before we even lift those books to mark into the house.
Making a plan for holidays is as essential as planning your day, if not holidays end and you feel like you need another holiday just to get everything done.
So can you make sure you get the most out of your holidays, feel rested but also like you have achieved what you intended?
Here are my 10 tips for making the most out of holidays:
- Make a list (actually 2)
Holidays are about 2 things; relaxing and getting stuff done. The best way to ensure you get both of these things done is to make a list of everything you want to achieve. Why 2 lists? One for school related stuff and one for home/life-related stuff. If it is not on the list, it most likely won’t happen, or will loom over you when you are trying to relax and enjoy your time off.
- Plan out when the stuff on the list will happen. This is a simple case of ‘plan to fail, fail to plan’. I find there are two ways people approach this; either it is getting the list stuff done in the first few days and taking the rest of the time to relax, or relaxing first and using the last few days of holidays to get stuff done. There are also a small few who like to do something each day; maybe first thing in the morning or last thing at night when everyone else is asleep. For me, I like to have holidays all to myself so I work hard the week before school ends and once I finish up on the last day I am done. This is purely a decision you have to make for you and how you best work.
- Schedule the items on your list. It’s one thing to have a plan and know morning you are going to do something, or you have 3 days before you are off on a cruise so you must get everything done, but without a schedule, you are leaving most of it to chance and from my experience, this just doesn’t work
- You need a schedule for what you will do when, and this needs to be done in advance. Break the time you have into 30minute chunks and schedule in exactly what to do when, This way when you get started you know exactly what you are doing and you don’t have to worry about what to do once you start. No schedule is a recipe for procrastination and a great way to get distracted and end up doing nothing. Once you have your schedule you will be sure to be ticking things off your list.
- Add time to relax and take time off to your schedule. It is easy to think we have plenty of time in holidays to relax and recharge, but it can easily happen that holidays are gone and we haven’t really stopped at all. Plan in time for time off. It is that easy.
- Decide what you will do for self-care and relaxing. It is easy to say you want to do it, and even set aside time for it, but if you don’t know what you are doing, it is likely you will end up doing nothing or even worse, school work or housework because you just don’t know what to do and you can’t sit still! So what do you want to do? A holiday or short break somewhere, read a book, get a massage, learn a new skill or take up a craft (I love time for macramé). It doesn’t matter what it is, but it does matter you know what it is, and you put this in your schedule.
There you have it, 5 steps to ensuring you get the most out of your holidays, get your school work done, home/life stuff done and also make time for self-care.
Whatever you do these holidays, make sure you enjoy them, you deserve it.
Why did I start ‘The Teachers’ Coach?’
I often get asked why I started ‘The Teachers’ Coach’, and with new people on board, I thought I would share this with you…
There is nothing like the enthusiasm, excitement, and passion of a beginning teacher. They arrive early and leave late, they take work home and they are consumed with their class. You can see them a mile off with their wide smile, glowing skin and gentle way they interact with students. Beginning teachers bring a passion like no other, a passion that is deep, and a passion that has a significant impact on how and who they are as a teacher.
Fast forward around 5-7 (or more) years and something has happened. Our passionate, beginning teachers have been replaced by new beginning teachers, and their passion it seems has been handed down to the new teachers. The same passion a beginning teacher has is clearly not sustainable, it almost seems to have an expiry date and is replaced with a new set of traits. These traits resemble that of someone who is unhappy, someone who has lost their passion and someone who is distracted with the daily busyness, making it hard focus on why they became a teacher in the first place.
It seems once the beginning teacher passion has fled, teachers replace it with an uncanny skill to teach on auto-pilot (how can this happen if every class and every student is different?), they get distracted by the daily admin and compliance tasks, which can be done quickly if focused on instead of putting off, and they engage in endless hours of whining and complaining about things they have to do, things that are their job, things that used to be part of their passion.
So why does this happen? In my opinion, there are a few reasons. We know the curriculum is ever increasing, and becoming more crowded with things that once didn’t exist, or that once sat with parents. The needs of students are becoming more complex and diverse in a single class, making it difficult for teachers to teach the curriculum outcomes but also modify it for those who need to access learning below and above their year level curriculum targets. Finally, the paperwork and admin tasks teachers are required to complete, at times, have no impact on their day to day teaching tasks.
With all these things and more impacting on a teacher’s job, I am asking ‘What have we done for our teachers? All of the above are being demanded by people on the outside of the classroom, yet nothing is coming in the classroom. Where is the extra support, time or resources to help implement and deliver the new demands? It doesn’t exist.
We are losing up to 50% of our beginning teachers, not because of the above demands, but because of the lack of support. Because our teachers, who once parked their car each day and jumped out with excitement, planned with passion and taught with enthusiasm, are now so consumed with all the extras and feel so unsupported, they can’t handle it.
Is it any wonder our teachers are losing their passion, surviving the day on autopilot or getting caught up complaining about their job? I personally don’t think so.
We need to start asking ‘What about the teachers?’ Who is supporting them to be their best, so they in return, can support the students to be their best?
This is my mission. This is what I am giving to you. Let’s work together to get back your passion, motivation and love for teaching so again you can love your life!
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.
Holidays are coming to an end…
The late night Netflix binge and a few glasses of wine, sleep ins and no alarm and lazy days with nothing on the to-do list will soon be behind us. Instead we will be hearing the alarm ring before the birds begin to sing, Netflix series will take a term to watch instead of an afternoon and the wine will stay in the bottle until next time.
There is no denying holidays have been fun. You have laughed, played, worked on your tan, read books, caught up with old friends, watched movies in the afternoon and had a few nana naps (something we all love to do).
However, now the end is only a few sleeps away, I hate to break it to you, but you might be better off toning down the holidays and building up the work thing before your first day back and the first alarm clock is set for the year…
Now before you pull that face, cringe a little and exit this blog, let me first share why…
It takes 6 weeks (so they say) to build a habit, and most of us have been on holidays for 6 weeks, which means everything we have been doing consistently, are now habits – the sleep ins, the nana naps, the afternoon TV session and wine afternoons with friends, these are all now habits, your body expects it, and even makes sure it happens (that sleep in is a little easier than you thought hey?).
So if it takes 6 weeks to build a habit, and the ones we have established over the last 6 weeks while on holiday are pretty solid. This means we now need to re-teach ourselves the habits of getting back to school life, but it isn’t easy.
For me, the thought of a 5am alarm and rushing to the gym makes my eyelids heavy, not to mention back to making my lunches and 8am meetings.
So how can you avoid the inevitable back to school battle – easy, start building up those habits needed to get through the day early.
Luckily, you have been here before, so just like muscle memory, your brain remembers what school is like and the habits you had before holidays, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get things back to where they need to be.
Next week, I’ll be doing a few things to help ease this transition and get me back to work mode before the school bell rings.
Here’s what I suggest you try to help get yourself ready too.
1. Set your alarm for the same time it would be on a school day and get up! Use this time to move, exercise and begin to think about your 2019 goals. I also like to use this time for journaling and meditating, as well as a walk and listening to a podcast to get me motivated.
2. Get back to eating like you are at school. On holidays we can eat when we want, but school, as we know, is very different. Soon your meal times will be dictated by the bell and the option of putting off lunch until mid-afternoon may not be possible. Take this week to get back to eating a proper lunch at lunch time. For me, I’ll be doing my meal prep on Sunday like a normally would, but I’ll be eating at home instead.
3. Get your brain tapping into school by starting to plan your week or meeting with colleagues. After not being in school mode for such a long time, it can be hard to tap into this part of your brain straight away; it will need some warming up before you can get into full swing. To do this, I like to actually go to school and be in the physical space, tidy things up, make sure my classroom and work spaces are organised and ready to go as well as mapping out what my first week will look like. It can even be nice to meet up with a few colleagues and start having conversation which get your brain thinking.
4. Sleep. This is a must. The week before you are back to school start introducing the idea of bedtime again, aim for 7-8 hrs a night (no less than 7 if you can), and make sure you are on track for getting the sleep you need.
Really, this week is about making sure you are ready for 2019, that you have given your body and your mind the start it needs, and that you are set up and ready to go for an awesome year.
If you haven’t already, take complete my ‘Reclaim YOUR time’ and/or ‘Reclaim YOUR Energy’, course depending on your needs, and make sure you are putting in place the things you need to succeed.
Make 2019 your year, put you first, and take the time you need to care and value yourself. You are where it starts.
As we sit and reflect on 2018, and start to prepare for 2019, it’s easy to start rattling things off the list. Things you didn’t get to do last year, things you think you didn’t do very well, or things that were awesome that you want to do again.
- I’ll try a new reading program
- I want a better reading corner
- My maths needs to be more hands-on
- I want to try a passion project
- I want to use flexible seating, not seating plans
- Peer marking needs to be more consistent
It’s so easy to think about what you want to do in the classroom, with your students, for your students.
But what about this list:
- I want more time
- I am not going to take work home
- I will actually have a weekend free of school work
- I’ll leave school at a decent hour
- I won’t spend so much time marking
- I’ll be more organised
- I’ll pack my own lunch and not buy it
- I’ll be healthier
- I want to exercise every day
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
There is a problem with this second list though… this second list isn’t about your students, your school, or even teaching. This list is about you.
There are two lists for 2019. One is about your students, school and teaching, and one is about you.
So which one gets done? Which one becomes your priority? Which one is top of the list?
It’s not you, is it?
It’s your students, school… it always is.
Well, not this year.
This year is your year to put you first, put you at the top of the list, make you number 1.
So how do you do this?
Start by asking yourself what you want and then say it as if you have it now (because if you wait until school starts, it is never going to happen).
- I have all the time I need
- I leave work by 5pm
- I don’t take work home
- I work effectively at school
- I put me first
- I eat healthily
- I move daily
Make these your goals, your mantras and your standards.
Write them on post its and stick them everywhere.. inside your roll, in your car, on your desk, in your diary, on the back of the toilet door.
Putting yourself first means reminding yourself that you are doing this, and you will need reminders every day, because as we know, teachers are great at putting everyone else first, but not this year.
Now it won’t be easy, and it won’t happen instantly, but know that by writing it down, reading these and making some small changes, you are saying yes to you.
BE TOP OF YOUR LIST
Person First, Teacher Second.
Just to share… I have had me at the top of my list for a while now, and will always be top of my list. It meant some pretty big changes but also meant I had to be very clear about what I wanted, what I was happy to give up and let go, even if it meant others didn’t agree, and some still don’t, but that’s not my problem. These are my examples, you will need to find your own, and if you have trouble doing this, let me know. This is something we can do together.
Happy 2019 – You got this!
Here’s the thing, no-one owns your wellbeing except you!
No one can tell you when to stop and take a break, when to make changes so things are easier or when to leave work earlier to go and do some yoga; all of this is decided by you.
Sure, others (even me), can make suggestions, give tips and advice, or give you something to read, but the decision to engage with it lies with you, no-one else.
So why is it you are looking for someone else to make your life easier, more calm, less overwhelmed?
It’s not up to the school, the education department you work for or your principal to ‘fix’ what is wrong with teaching, workload and how you manage your time, this really sits with you.
As I said, all anyone else can do is give you the tools, advice or tips on how, but it is up to you to take the first step, to engage in it, to really take action and begin to implement these things into your life.
A one off yoga class instead of a staff meeting is not going to eternally fix your feeling of overwhelm, a meeting free week is not going to mean you will all of a sudden be on top of your work, and having regular holidays away from school is not all you need for work/life balance.
Real change, change that is sustainable and lasts longer than the yoga class is up to you, it is hard, and it is at first a lot of work, but it is work that changes and impacts your life in the way you want it to, and only you can do this.
So why is it we look to others to ‘fix’ all these things? We are teachers, we know that no matter how much information we give our students, unless they do something with it, action it, the learning is wasted.
When we are teaching something new, we don’t just do one lesson and expect our students to grasp it and understand, so why should we expect the one yoga class or cancelled meeting to solve all our stress and overwhelm. It won’t. It doesn’t. When we want our students to learn something new we teach, and teach, and teach again, then we have them apply it in multiple ways, over and over, and this is what we should do too.
Learning how to do life, how to have better work/life balance, how to manage our stress, overwhelm and time has to be learnt, it’s not easily fixed, but can be done.
So what is it you need help with? What area of life do you need to improve? What is it you want more of? To have this what needs to change?
Ask yourself these questions? Ask yourself what you can do? What change can you make now?
The power to any change starts with you.
If you are stuck for answers or need some help, let me know. This is what I do.