I don’t know about you but there is something therapeutic in fresh starts. The excitement, the possibilities and for me, the chance to be creative. At the end of each school year I feel stuck. I am wanting to throw myself into the next school year but I am still wrapping up the current one. My mind is constantly reviewing, trying to close this year and plan for the next one. The feeling that goes with that is not so great. I find that sleep eludes me during this time, a time when I need it the most. I find that I am also at my most creative but also challenged the most. To help me, I created a review that I feel might support me to close the door on this year and open the door for the next one. I have created a free support workbook for everyone who wishes to join me on this journey. I will break things up into small steps. I am hoping that this allows me to clear my mind and channel my ideas.
I find it fascinating to listen to people’s perceptions of a teacher’s role. Majority of answers simply involve a response to say to teach kids. When you ask people for further information, I have rarely heard the same answer twice. Some people focus on the basics of reading and writing, others want wellbeing and some simply have minimal understanding of what exactly a teacher’s role is.
The one thing that I wrestle with recently is the role teacher’s have in cyber safety and education. To me, teachers are expected to teach cyber awareness and how to be safe online. That is a given and I am comfortable teaching this. I am more than happy to raise awareness of the positives as well as the dangers online. The actual curriculum is not the issue. I am finding the constant calls to manage out of school social media problems the most challenging part in my role.
The surge in out of school cyber issues entering the classroom is nothing short of amazing. It feels like zero to one hundred in the last few years. Majority of issues I am dealing with are comments made online through games, social media accounts or You Tube, coming into school and starting again the next morning. I really feel for this generation. They go home to switch off, like we as adults do, have an incident and it stays unresolved at night and then comes to school the next morning to have to deal with. If I had an issue at school as a kid, I could at least go home and get space from it. And had the time to process it. There were no comments via games or people raising the issue and constantly commenting. Good luck calling a house phone and making your comments to that person's parents! I got the space to process things, to be free from the drama and spend time with my family. By the next day, the issue was forgotten, more manageable and I could move on. Now kids come home and the issues and name calling continue. Now, I am finding a pattern where new issues emerge the night before school in a game or chat and then have to be addressed again when the kids see each other face to face.
When this is constantly happening, I find my role challenging. My personal opinion is that all social media accounts are technical 13 years and over or with parent consent. Therefore, if it is illegal for underage children to be on social media, then schools shouldn’t pick up the slack for that decision. Part of me would love to issue a blanket statement that says “As the legal age for social media and certain apps is 13 years or over, all matters concerning cyber issues will need to be directed to the appropriate provider or authorities”. Strong words I know. Reality yes. Help fix the problem? No. This wouldn’t help fix the problem. It would shift the responsibility but wouldn’t help address wider issues nor would it help educate families. After all, often parents need just as much support and education as teachers, service provdiers and school systems do.
So what do you think would help address these issues? At this stage, I am open to suggestions.
#education #cybersafety #school
I was at a professional development day the other day. I found myself sitting there and completing a task. A valuable task of recording what we want students to do and therefore what is our responsibility. Then it struck me that the expectations of a teacher in this subject would be exactly the same for all other areas. It’s what I call Teaching 101. We all want the same goal. To provide engaging and rich learning experiences that foster personal growth for all students. Whether it is social, emotional, academic or spiritual growth. Some sort of learning. It occurred to me that the same was pretty much expected from teachers at all times. So what is it that I consider my teaching 101 role?
One of the things that helps determine what is your teaching 101 role is answering a simple question: What do you want your students to get out of the experience or session?
List it. Brainstorm everything. For me, when I saw the list the first thing I thought was wow, that is too much! I had to change my expectations. To think every student would walk away with fifteen things each session is so unrealistic. This made me really look at the list with a more critical eye. Once I had determined the most important factors, it was then a matter of writing a matching list for my role as a facilitator.
For example: if I want students to generate rich questions then I need to provide deep content. Or if I want them to think deeply, then I need to have great questions. So two things on my list are thought provoking questions and rich content. That I can do. I suggest that you generate your own personal list of what you want students to feel like or get out of any learning experience and your role in that. Learning experiences are much easier to plan once you have your own personal little formula.
Once you have your list, keep it somewhere you will use it. Pin it, glue it, stick it wherever it will keep it in your mind. I have been teaching nearly 20 years and I loved doing this quick refresher. The bottom line is if you wouldn’t engage in your own lesson, why would you expect kids to? Driving my teaching at all times is how can I get these group of students to get the most from this experience. It’s my role to facilitate rich experiences as it is yours. Some sessions you can't jazz up. They will be boring and you just have to do it. However, you can look to add a teaching 101 aspect. A mindset focus, an interesting question or a time to build connections. The lesson already deepens. What’s on your teaching role 101 list? We would love to see yours!
Sometimes I smile at how lucky I am to be a teacher. To help in any small way shaping hearts and minds is a true gift. Other days, I could curl under a blanket and never emerge. Hide, watch Netflix or bury my head in a book for enjoyment. If anyone tells you they love every day and every moment of teaching, I would say lucky you! I love my job 99 percent of the time. It brings me joy to help with creating “wow” or “ah ha” moments. Those little one percenters however challenge me. So what pushes my buttons as an educator? Is it the same as yours?
Meetings that run over: a given. I have yet to meet a teacher who says no I love it when a meeting goes over. Or please, ask a few more questions with one minute until home time. Now the obvious one is out of the way let’s continue.
Inefficiency: productivity and effectiveness are two things that I value immensely. Teachers have so little time to spare that what time we do have is precious. Sometimes however, my idea of efficient isn’t always the same as others. There are certain things that need to be covered, I understand that. However, being as productive as possible is what every one of our kids deserves.
Too many night events: I miss my life, I miss my husband and I wish that I had more time with people at nights. I highly value work / life balance. It is something that I firmly believe in. After all, our students don’t deserve tired, run down teachers drowning themselves in coffee to survive. In the ideal world they deserve the best of us and eliminating as many night events as possible would support this. It would allow educators more rest and recovery time.
Too much talk and not enough planning: discussion is valuable. Discussion is great for sharing ideas, clarifying understandings and proposing scenarios. At the end of the day, discussion needs to happen in order to led to a best fit action, decision or outcome. I am more than happy to chat about educational content but our students need us to be prepared and ready. They need us to provide rich, targeted and engaging content. Information can often be summarised in emails and if I had to pick what was more valuable for kids, planned experiences wins every time. All of us become frustrated at times with the amount of time spent chatting as opposed to planning.
Round and round we go: it gets to a stage, as I get older, that some things have been said in the industry for years. It even gets to a point where what is said gets reinvented or renamed. The core business of educating the whole person still is the goal. Often, I find myself thinking how similar ideas, concepts and strategies are and that I have heard them all before.
A lack of decision: there is nothing more frustrating than sitting through meetings and professional development with no action or decision. We have all been there. Time and energy has been invested and there is no end result. Nothing changes despite all of the time and resources invested.
I often wonder if I am alone in my one percenters. Are they common or do different things push people’s buttons?
#education #teaching #twocreativeteachers
For teachers who have just returned to work this year, we all know that saying.
“Nothing beats the beginning of year teacher tired”. Truer words can never be spoken. In eighteen years of teaching, I have found ways to manage the tiredness factor (asleep by 7 if I am lucky) but not the amount of tasks. Productivity, in the face of holiday mode, is next to impossible. Your only job was getting up a week ago and all of a sudden having seventy tasks to do .Information comes from so many sources, you are lucky to know what the day and date it is.
So what exactly have I learnt that can help calm the storm? Here are my top 5 tips for surviving the back to school blues:
It eventually gets done: every year I think the mountain of work in front of me is impossible. It will never get done and I will be doomed to fail miserably. Yet bit by bit, I chip away and things magically seem to fall into place and I get into a routine.
Let the little things go: really at the end of the day, no one really cares or notices if I don’t have that one display up or I miss trying that one strategy. Progress not perfection will be my mantra this year. Never has someone chased me because I didn’t have that display or try that strategy. (Fingers crossed this year isn’t a first).
Pick one or two new things to try: Your head swirls with hundreds of exciting ideas. The possibilities, the new information, the fresh start, the new content and so on. Meetings are constantly full of fresh strategies and parents provide new information that you want to use to help their child. It is impossible to get it all done. I have learnt to get excited over one or two things to avoid being overwhelmed.
Know that you are not alone: take comfort in the fact that every teacher around the world goes through this stage. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Hundreds of teachers dread alarms, miss their sleep ins and wish that the meeting would end fifteen minutes early.
Don’t forget to enjoy: the one thing that I always remind people is to find the little moments and enjoy. You may not love every aspect of your grade or new school but find one little thing a day to be grateful for. Stop and enjoy that moment. Celebrate those little wins.
So, it begins again. The speed race that is teaching. Zero to one hundred by the end of the first day! Today, I want you to know that you are not alone and someone feels your pain.
#education #teacher #backtoschool #twocreativeteachers #teaching
Ok, so it is finally done and dusted. I have officially changed classrooms and survived. It is a massive thing in teaching that many people underestimate. It would be like asking people to pack up and move a big room in their house. I was lucky enough to have a very patient and understanding teaching partner who made the move fifty times easier and put up with my stress. So now, looking back and sitting here enjoying a coffee, are a few tips that I would like to share:
1. Do a small amount each day: instead of looking at it as one major move in one day, if possible start earlier and do a small amount each day. I selected one area a day to pack up, clean and cull. One shelf, one box or a few folders. Whatever it is, try to start small and the earlier the better of course.
2. Clean as you go: this was the most obvious and easiest thing but can often get overlooked. Once you have cleared the space, clean it immediately. This helps to make the process run quicker and build momentum. It also makes you feel like you are making progress which makes the job seem a little less overwhelming.
3. Cull before you pack: if you have the luxury of a little time or at least a spare few minutes don’t just shift things into boxes and dump it. Over the years I had accumulated so much stuff that I didn’t even realise. I found the best part was sorting and culling things before I packed. You can donate items that you will not use to the art teacher or offer them to other teachers if they are still in good condition. I looked at the condition of the items and either threw them or donated them.
4. Box according to year level: I have been lucky enough to teach grade one to grade six so I have resources that span across all year levels. It is easier to box my resources according to the year level. I boxed up all the junior items that I won’t need for now. That doesn’t mean that I keep everything. Worksheets and little things that I could locate and find again I throw out. Books, manuals, supplies and games are the only things that I tend to keep. After all, you never know when you will get that call to move.
5. Ask for help: if you are lucky enough to work in a team, ask for help. Whether it is shifting boxes or needing time. I was truly blessed to have understanding leaders who gave us a little extra time if we needed to move. My teaching partner was very helpful as always and of course, I had some older kids come and move smaller items of a trolley. This made the transition much quicker and smoother.
6. Negotiate with the teacher whose room you are moving into: this is essential. Again, I had an amazing teacher on the other end who was flexible and made small amounts of space at a time for me even though he was moving himself. You can’t just go and dump all your boxes on the next teacher and leave them to work in that space. On the same token, you have a responsibility to leave the space clean for the next teacher. Think of how you would want to walk into a that space.
7. Establish areas: I found it easier to fully clear one space and then work from there. I packed my office into boxes and used that space to leave anything that I needed to move. Then I used a spare table to make a donate pile. Finally, I just threw what I needed to each night in the bin or the dumper.
The good news is that you will survive a move and that it will get done. It is an enormous job that many people underestimate. Support is a huge key and if you are moving, I hope you get some! Good luck if you are moving year levels or classrooms this year and feel free to drop us a moving tip if you have any. #survivethemove #twocreativeteachers
As I start writing this article, I need to be honest. I started in the “NO WAY” camp for school concerts. A few experiences years ago, put me in that camp. The issue for me was the challenge of managing kids in between numbers, the dismissal at the end of the concert and the time that it took to prepare. So when, after 8 years of concert free bliss, the school decided to do a concert I was sceptical and inwardly groaning. There were all those thoughts and more racing through my mind. Notes, costumes, medicine, rehearsal etc.
However, this time something changed. I had a passionate and talented dancing teacher next to me. My community teacher partner was a fantastic dancer and loved to dance. Not only that, another one of our junior teachers also did dancing and was also very talented and excited. Both of these teachers brought passion that was contagious. Passion and enthusiasm are definitely catchy. I found myself slowly and reluctantly engaging in the process. My community teaching partner planned to the dance and showed the kids step by step in such a way that even I could understand. It started to make me like dance, just a little more.
At the same time, a concert team was implementing plans. They had checked out the venue, planned a tight timetable, looked at movement in between numbers, spaces to hold students and ways to get on and off the stage seamlessly. It seemed to be managed. One confident staff member was brave enough to tackle to the sound, backgrounds and screens. The team prepared all the concert notes which was a huge relief. Then my teaching partner gave some examples and links for costumes and we emailed them to parents. There was a long list of questions but I was really surprised about how enthusiastic and positive the parents were. They were just as engaged and when I tried to pinpoint why it was because their kids were fully engaged and excited. Parents wanted to get involved and support their children. Suddenly costumes became a bonding experience not a hassle which was an outcome I didn’t expect.
Over the next eight weeks, we had a two hour time slot on Fridays to rehearse. We built in extra rehearsals in the last week. I was amazed at how these little six and seven year old’s could absorb this dance so quickly and enthusiastically. They were determined to learn the dance. My teaching partner and I also heavily focused on mindset and the management of feelings as well as the dance aspect. It seemed to become a much deeper learning experience. We performed for anyone who come in the door to build their confidence.
The day come and I watched these little kids up on the stage dazzle and amaze the crowd. They knew the dance so well they didn’t even need us there with them. They smiled and remembered their steps. And we were first! I couldn’t believe how excited the kids were, how ready they were and how engaged they were. They come of stage buzzing, excited and proud of themselves and each other. As I watched our kids on stage, I was reminded that the kids and their experience is at the heart of what I do and why I want to teach. Even more surprisingly, was how many parents went to trouble of emailing such positive feedback to us!
The concert, the way that it was run and more importantly, the confidence, enjoyment and pride I saw in the all the children was worth every single second of stress. So what have I learnt about school concerts that made a difference:
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I have been doing workshops in different levels for a few years now. I started experimenting with a senior grade and have spent the last few years developing with a team in juniors. So what have I learnt? Stopping and reflecting is still one of the most powerful tools in an educator’s toolbox. If I am being honest, I still love so many elements of them but there is still a long way to go. I don’t think that anyone will ever get the perfect workshop system. There are some great systems that I have seem but I can still see pitfalls in many of them. So what are the current barriers that I experience in workshops.
Annette Palma and Carley Rogozik/ Dawson