Author Archives Mathew Green
Thank you. I still am truly humbled that new teachers from all over the world stop by, read and share the articles and resources at I’m a New Teacher. It has been wonderful to hear your stories and to engage in discussions.
Below is are a few of the most viewed articles of 2016.
Why great teaching (still) really matters. As a recent graduate, you are embarking on a rewarding and noble career. Whether you’re casual, permanently employed, working as a support teacher or on a temporary contract with your school, you are directly involved in educating, training and shaping some of the greatest minds that this world is yet to see.
An interview with Professor John Hattie. Like most Australian teachers, I first heard about Professor John Hattie’s work in an undergraduate lecture theatre. Despite the caffeine buzz and the limited nutrition damaging my body, I was impressed and inspired by the prolific work executed by Professor Hattie in the name of improving education outcomes in Australia and beyond. Professor Hattie is renowned for his research in student engagement and measurement of quality teaching and learning.
One of the greatest prac students I have ever met. I wanted to congratulate you again for choosing such an admirable and rewarding career. Teaching is a fast paced and challenging profession and schools need dedicated and committed professionals now, more than ever. I have worked in schools for a number of years, and I have met many wonderful and inspiring teachers. I am so impressed by the standard and the commitment of the new teachers that I meet. I want to tell you a story – one about the greatest
Convictions that drive us. I have many convictions that help to shape my life. I have convictions about looking after my health, building a strong marriage and convictions about investing time and energy into my family and friends.
I hope that you and your families have a refreshing, relaxing and rejuvenating holiday. I looking forward seeing you all in 2017.
It’s easy to sprint out of the starting blocks, tick off your to-do lists and kick goals in Term One of the year. We are excited to be in our new school, on our new class or to be a part of a new team. There are clear, concise professional and personal goals clearly displayed (probably with colour-coded sticky notes). The beginning of any school year is an exciting time. By the Term Two we are well into the swing of things, we have routines established, our new behaviour management program is chugging away and things are humming along beautifully.
Then the Term Three starts, niggling issues start to rear their ugly heads, people start annoying us and we start to get that familiar tickle in our throats. Then, suddenly we realise that Term Four is upon us; reports, parent teacher interviews, behavioural issues, end of year function and the flu season. Before we know it the end of the year is a stone’s throw away. Finishing the year strong is really important as it helps us to launch into the next year. It’s understandable that you might feel lethargic and tired at this point of the year, but now is the time to dig deep and finish strong. Here are some suggestions for finishing your year strong:
Say a specific thank you.
Despite what kind of year you’ve had – inspiring, frustrating, awful or awe inspiring – there is always someone who you can thank. Maybe your supervisor, your principal, a parent or a classroom assistant. Specific and intentional gratitude or praise is amazing for the recipient, but it’s powerful for you too! Gratitude instantly lifts your mood and gives you a better perspective on things.
Tidy your storeroom.
The good ol’ storeroom. That ‘blackhole’ where partially completed class projects, those papier-mâché volcanoes and old syllabus documents are hiding. You’ve put off the clean out for the last three terms, and now things in there are trying to escape. Book an hour or two into your next two weeks and get stuck in there. Be ruthless with decluttering and you’ll love yourself for it in the new year.
Amidst the chaos and complexity of this term take the time to create memories with your students. Create space to talk, to laugh and reflect on the year that it has been.
Plan for 2017.
Take some time to think about what you would like 2017 to look like. Is it time to focus in on your teaching pedagogy or is this the year that you will start working on your resume for your next career step? Whatever the case, take a few moments to dream, imagine and plan for 2017.
No year is perfect. There are a host of things that you could have, should have and probably will do better next year. Despite the year that you have had and regardless of how you feel right now you can still decide to finish 2017 strong.
Teachers have a lot on their plates! Satisfying the rigours of curriculum and balancing the complexities (or chaos) of the school and classroom environments is vital to our jobs. It’s important, however, that we acknowledge the significance and influence of our role in society.
Every day we have the opportunity to guide, support, lead and shape the behaviour and development of children and teens. We can use this opportunity to nurture the emotional development of young people, giving them tools to live productive and satisfying lives in an often complicated and stressful world.
An individual’s emotional Intelligence, or lack thereof, can have a huge impact on their work life, relationships, success and happiness. Our emotional intelligence included our ability to: exercising self-awareness, manage our emotions, motivate ourselves and others, empathise with others, and build and maintain meaningful relationships.
As teachers, we talk a lot about student development. There is curriculum to align, outcomes to match and work samples to analyse. Summative assessment, that is the evaluation of learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing to a standard or benchmark, can be relatively straightforward. You have a piece of ‘evidence’ and you see if it shows that students are proficient in a particular skill.
Formative assessment on the other hand can be slightly more troublesome. In this case, the assessment process is conducted during the learning process so that the teaching can be modified accordingly to improve student learning outcomes. Now, let’s take it a step further, into even more challenging and difficult terrain, that of emotional development.
In short, emotional development:
Involves learning what feelings and emotions are, understanding how and why they happen, recognising one’s own feelings and those of others, and developing effective ways of managing them. Kids Matter
How do we assess our students’ emotional development so that we can support them more thoroughly in class?
Develop your students’ sense of self
It is crucial that students develop an accurate sense of self. Allow students to develop an understanding of their individuality and a healthy perspective of their unique contribution to the world.
Provide opportunities for them to talk about their emotions
Giving students opportunities to communicate how they are feeling is fundamental to a child’s emotional development. You could consider using a colour scheme in your class and students could point to the colour or emotion that they are feeling.
Give them strategies to manage their emotions
Students must be given opportunities to manage their own emotions. Some strategies include giving students a relaxing area in your classroom in which they can pause and reflect on how they are feeling.
Teachers have the opportunities to make a difference in a young person’s life every day! Nurturing of emotional development in our students can help them to develop into productive citizens, parents, employees. leaders and more. You may have the privilege of teaching thousands of students in your lifetime, paying attention to this area of development will help to equip to understand and navigate the bright and complex future they face.
For more resources about emotional development, I highly recommend the Kids Matter website.
I had been trying for year, sometimes successfully and other times not so much, to become more of a morning person. I live in a beautiful part of the world, with lots of peace and quiet, and a short walk from the beach – I really have no excuse to not enjoy the morning! Mornings to me represent starting well. If I start the day well, eat a nutritious breakfast and have some time to myself, then the rest of the day tends to flow quite nicely.
I noticed the importance of my morning ritual, when I first started in my teaching career. For many years, I would go to bed late (due to marking), get up early and skip breakfast. By the time I arrived at school, I was rushed, unprepared, hungry and caffeine overloaded. I hadn’t even started the day and I’d be feeling stressed and desperate for a break.
It wasn’t until recently that I began to seriously look at and approach my morning routine strategically. One morning, when I was tired of being tired, I decide to write down everything that I did that morning.
My aim was to see where my time was being spent and what I could do better. This exercise was confronting and immediately highlighted areas that I could improve on.
Below are a few suggestions (in no particular order) of how I re-engineered my morning schedule:
Each morning I try to have time to myself, to think and reflect about the day ahead of me. It’s a great way to push pause and clear your mind of the clutter and stress buzzing around in there.
Each morning I try to exercise (either got to the gym or go for a walk). It helps me to focus and feel energised for the coming day.
Each morning I try to eat a wholesome and nutritious breakfast. Proper nutrition helps to keep you focused until recess. I tend not to eat breakfast at home because I leave quite early in the morning. Instead I keep a bag of oats at school.
Each morning I try to plan and prepare for the next day. Things in school change quickly; someone is sick, the photocopier breaks, or a myriad of other tings can happen. By planning ahead I can have contingency plans and remain flexible if I need to.
Starting the day feeling refreshed, well nourished and focused can have great positive effects on your teaching day. Remember if you don’t look after yourself you will not bring your best into the classroom.
Even if you’re a night owl, you can still benefit from doing mornings well. Your morning ritual can change your whole day, if you get a little deliberate about it.
We live in a full world. We rush, we run, we shuffle papers, we attempt to multitask and we are all over-committed. We have a lot on our plates and it can sometimes feel overwhelming trying to keep them all spinning simultaneously. I get it, I truly do. The other day I was on my way home from school and I called into my local shops to pick up something for dinner. When I had decided what to buy I walked to the checkout. There a young man, probably in late teens, served me. I asked him how his day had been and before I had finished my sentence he responded ‘busy, really busy, you have no idea how busy.’ I was taken aback. Nevertheless, I wished him well and proceeded to walk to the car and head home for dinner. As I was driving I couldn’t get his response out of my head ‘busy, really busy….’ I don’t mean to sound archaic or insensitive, but what would a young working casually (I assumed from his school logo that was visible under his nametag) know about being busy? I began to get defensive and thoughts like ‘…what would he know about being BUSY? I’ll give him one day…one day…in a classroom and see how he copes with being really busy!’
After I had returned home, and settled down, I began to be a bit more apathetic about what had happened at the checkout. I realised that when you ask people how their day is going quite often the first response is ‘busy’ or that they are ‘tied.’ It is a response that we can’t help giving, it is automatic and it is a response that is ingrained into our twenty-first-century lives
Now busyness and tiredness in the twenty-first century is a far greater topic than we have time for in this short post, but it did get me thinking. I decided that for thirty days that I would try an experiment. For thirty days, when someone asked, despite how tired, overwhelmed and stressed out I felt, I would search for other adjectives that ‘busy’ or ‘tired’ to describe my mood and my day. As a result, some interesting things happened:
- I had to pause and think about how I was actually feeling – instead of just blurting out how I felt I actually took the time to stop and listen to how I was feeling.
- I had to expand my vocabulary further – I had to search deep into my reservoir of language and find more suitable descriptive words like complex, full, challenging and intense.
- I felt less tired or stressed the less that I used those words.
- I learnt that my the words that I used had a powerful influence on my mood.
The words that you use have a power influence on your mood, your emotions, and your mental state. I encourage you all to take the Thirty Day Challenge and please let me know how you go.
A little while ago I had the privilege of corresponding with Chris Guillebeau. He is an author and passionate challenger of the status quo. I have been following his work for many years and I am a huge fan of his book The Art of Non-Conformity and his website. I thought that it would be interesting to ask him about his views on education and what he thinks are the essential skills that we should be teaching children.
Enjoy this short, but insightful, set of questions:
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where you are from, your background.
I’m a writer, traveler, and entrepreneur. I’m currently visiting every country in the world. When not traveling, I live in Portland, Oregon in the U.S. A few years ago my wife and I returned from a four-year volunteer commitment in West Africa, which was a formative experience for both of us.
What projects are you currently working on?
I like to work on a lot of projects at once. Two of the present ones are an online course called Adventure Capital that will serve as an extension of the $100 Startup model for people interested in small business, and I’m also writing the next book that will be about quests and extended journeys.
In your manifesto ‘A brief guide to world domination’ and your bestselling book ‘The Art of non-conformity’ you write extensively on the topic of thinking outside of the box and challenging the status quo. Why are you so passionate about these topics?
Because I want to help people understand that there are alternatives to traditional paths. I’ve been fortunate to have traveled a great deal and met thousands of people all over the world who have created incredible freedom for themselves. I want more people to be able to create the same kind of freedom and use it to help others.
Do you think that the current education system encourages students to think outside the box and challenging the norm?
There is more than one current education system, but I think it’s fair to say that most of them are somewhat resistant to independent thinking.
Why do you think this is the case?
Well, I don’t think it’s the fault of the system per se. Systems are designed to accommodate large groups of people. They are inherently opposed to individual thought or alternative paths, since those things tend to detract from the greater group. So it’s only normal, therefore, that a system should reinforce conformity by default.
How do you think teachers empower students to think outside the box?
Teachers have the ability to subvert the system! Or at least go around the system, or at least encourage students to think about their own motivations and goals. In other words, I’m not sure “the system” will ever change, but I’m also not sure it matters. In the hands of good teachers, students can develop in their own way.
What was your experience of school like?
It was quite varied. I moved around a lot as a kid and was constantly changing schools. Then I dropped out of high school after my freshman year. I later snuck into community college and then university, where I tried to complete the program as quickly as possible (I earned two Bachelors degrees in two and a half years, but I’m not sure how much I learned). Finally, I went to graduate school a few years later and earned a Master’s degree.
With such a range of experiences, it’s probably clear that some were positive and some were negative. I have good memories of a few positive learning environments, and I try to forget the rest.
If you haven’t already, please check out his work.
What would you add to his list?
I’m sure no one ever sets out to become a bored, frustrated and mundane teacher. At some point, even the most out-dated and unmotivated professionals actually cared for the profession. The scary thing is that mediocrity seems to seep in slowly. Mediocrity seems to seep slowly into teaching practise – I know because I have experienced it in my own teaching.
Mediocrity is dangerous. It’s dangerous not only because a blasé approach to teaching directly impacts the students that you teach but also because it seem to creep in ever so slowly.
You have all been either subject to or affected by average teaching. I’m sure that no of the teacher started their teaching career feeling like they wanted to become frustrated with the profession. I recently took a new off-class position in a school. It was a wonderful opportunity and a great to further my professional development. Having said that, the adjustment hasn’t been easy. I have had to transfer to a new school (from one that I absolutely loved), leave my Kindergarten class half way through the year, learn a new set of rules and school protocols, meet new people, develop new programs and start afresh with a new group of students. In a funny kind of way, even though I have been teaching for a number of years, I have just had another experience that is not too dissimilar to that of new teachers!
In the first term or so of this new job I felt like I was starting to slip slightly. Despite writing extensively to new teachers and trying to inspire them with phrases like: excellence in teaching, initiating change in your school, passionate professionalism and don’t loose your spark I found myself slipping, slowly. I can honestly say that I truly enjoy and am passionate about the job that I am in, I have a renewed sense of excitement for teaching and I am a passionate as every about education. But this didn’t happen naturally, rather it was the result of a number of specific and intentional acts. So, how did I find my passion (again) for teaching?
I got honest with myself. I acknowledged that something had changed, I didn’t know what, but I knew that something wasn’t right. You cannot change what you don’t acknowledge.
I took responsibility. I decided not to blame anyone else, and I decided to figure it out.
I wrote down my priorities. I remaindered myself of what was important in my teaching profession.
I reread my teaching philosophy. I dug out the teaching philosophy that I used in my DET interview. I choose that one because I wrote it before I had set foot in the classroom, and before I knew what it was to be frustrated at teaching.
I made a plan. I decided that if I was going to do something I wanted to make it great. I wanted my department to be known for getting results.
I decided to take action. I instead of putting it off, I decided to take action and do something.
If you are like me and have questioned your role and wondered if you have chosen the right career don’t worry. It’s perfectly acceptable to feel overwhelmed and frustrated. You may have had a horrible day, a horrible week or a horrible year. The important thing is to not stay there. Failing to be honest with yourself and ignoring the situation will not fix it. Identifying that you are ‘slipping’ is really important. You have to recognise that something is not right, and you need to make some very intentional decisions to get your head in the right place. If you feel like you are slipping, don’t worry, acknowledge the situation, calm yourself and make a plan.
Like most Australian teachers, I first heard about Professor John Hattie’s work in an undergraduate lecture theater. Despite the caffeine buzz and the limited nutrition damaging my body, I was impressed and inspired by the prolific work executed by Professor Hattie in the name of improving education outcomes in Australia and beyond. Professor Hattie is renowned for his research in student engagement and measurement of quality teaching and learning.
For some reason his name stuck in my mind after that introductory lecture and I actually went home and researched and read some of his papers. What I read sparked my interest in the differentiation between expert teachers and novice teachers. I realised that age and experience do not necessarily determine the quality of your teaching practice. It was an exciting thought for me that as a new teacher, I could still contribute positively to student achievement. Back then I didn’t know I’d find myself teaching in some really challenging educational contexts, but what I read in Professor Hattie’s research has helped me enormously in my day to day work.
So, as you can imagine, I was delighted when Professor Hattie agreed to speak with me about the attributes that make a great teacher and the current issues in teaching retention.
According to Professor Hattie’s research article “Teachers make a difference” (2003) teachers account for about 30% of the variance in student achievement. This is the largest influence outside of individual student effort. This highlights just how significant the impact that quality can have on a student’s life.
Professor Hattie is a New Zealand native, who currently lectures at Melbourne Graduate School of Education.
‘Professor Hattie’s work is internationally acclaimed. His influential 2008 book Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement is believed to be the world’s largest evidence-based study into the factors which improve student learning. Involving more than 80 million students from around the world and bringing together 50,000 smaller studies, the study found positive teacher-student interaction is the most important factor in effective teaching.’ cited here
Some of his teaching accolades are as follows:
- Outstanding reviewer for Educational Researcher, American Educational Research Association (AERA), 2010
- Hedley Beaer Award for Writing in Education, Australian Council for Educational Leadership, 2010
- Distinguished Teaching Award, University of Auckland, 2010
- Outstanding reviewer for Educational Researcher, American Educational Research Association (AERA), 2009
- New Zealand Finalist, International IMS Learning Impact Awards, 2007
- Highly Commended, Bearing Point Awards for Innovation in Technology, 2004
- Inaugural SPANZ Leadership in Education Award, Secondary Principals Association of New Zealand, 2004
- Highly Commended, Bearing Point Awards for Innovation in the Public Service, 2004
- Excellence Award for Use of IT in Education, Computerworld New Zealand, 2003
- Member, American Psychological Association, 2000
Despite his remarkable career and accomplishments, he had a way of making me feel like an equal. He was friendly, as most New Zealanders are, and spoke with a confidence that comes from years of contributing to the discussion of practices in the education system.
It’s interesting to see data supporting what we all know – that new teachers are not supported in the classroom. What impact do you think this has on teachers?
J: Looking at the trajectory of teacher learning, we see that teachers gain almost all of their understanding of the profession in the first two years of teaching. This shows why those first two years are so critical for teacher development. Many people say they didn’t learn enough about the profession at teacher’s college. This is why many new teachers experience, what can best be described as, transition shock.
Stepping into the classroom as a graduate is a huge shock for many people. In Bruce Johnson’s paper, Conditions That Support Early Career Teacher Resilience, it says that “In Western countries we know that between 25% and 40% of beginning teachers are likely to leave the profession in the first 5 years.” It’s frightening to think that so many teachers are leaving the profession, particularly in the current climate with growing exit rates due to the aging population and retirement. Why do you think the attrition of new teachers is so high?
J: One of my criticisms in Australia is that we’ve dramatically over saturated the market with teachers. The Ex-Director General of Queensland told me just a couple of weeks ago that last year in Queensland about 1,500 students graduated from teacher education programs, only 54 of them got jobs.
What about the quality of teachers that are left in schools?
J: A colleague of mine tracked the first two years of the careers of two groups of teacher graduates. One group were “A” or high achieving graduates the other were “C” or average performing graduates. What she discovered was that once the graduates entered a school, the schools made every effort to undo the what graduates learned at university by telling them, this is just the way things are, this how we teach.
My colleague then did an analysis of those schools to look at how successful the graduates were. In New Zealand we have an inspector system that helped answer that question. Her findings were that if you take the “A” graduates and you put them in not so good schools and you stifle their practice by telling them “this is how we teach”, about 70% of them leave. If you take the “C” graduates and put them in the not so good schools, around 60% of them stay. Conversely, if you take those “C” graduates and put them in good schools about 70% leave. And when you take the “A” students and put them in the good schools about 80% stay. And so the point that she was making was that the experience of those first two years is truly the biggest predictor teacher retention.
Bruce Johnson argues that the teachers want support, but that’s an interesting one too, because the thing that got me into this area was a study back in the 1990s by the same colleague of mine who interviewed first year teachers and within six months. They were asked, “What’s the best thing that could happen in terms of developing your career?” Close to 100% said, “Just leave me alone.” The government’s going to put money into inducting teachers and one of my problems with this is that the government’s approach to induction is where they give new teachers additional release time in the first two years of their career, instead of appropriate mentoring. This has been one of the biggest failures in the world, where they’re giving that money to induction as opposed to the system.
When they’re not in the classroom, most new teachers go in the staffroom and sit alone and prepare or mark. Of course you need that time but there’s no development. Denmark’s an interesting place, where they’ve always had teachers on class four days a week and they’re supposed to spend one day working together. They’re in the process now of cutting that back because it’s not working for them.
For about the last 30 years we’ve had 40% to 50% of people leave the profession within 4 to 5 years for many reasons that I’ve mention. First year’s miserable out there. Also, we’re not necessarily losing just the good ones or the bad ones – it depends the nature of the school experience.
With regards to your 2003 paper Teachers Make a Difference, you mention a number of factors that affect student achievement. Some of these factors are student learning and student home environment. According to your findings 30% of the variances in achievement attributed to teacher input. Why do you think that teachers play such a crucial role in student learning?
J: Certainly, just to qualify, I’m saying that the larger source of variance, that we have some control over, is the teachers. The students have more variance, but the reality is we often can’t change what the students bring to us. And when we made the rules back in the 1800s that schooling was compulsory, it was based on the notion that expertise was better than parents.
We have to encourage everybody in the profession to improve. Teachers learn most of what they know in their first two years. In those first years, schools expect teachers to be outstanding, but that’s absurd. And so I’m quite driven by the notion of looking at how we can collaboratively get all the teachers making a difference.
You write a lot about visible learning. How important do you think it is to see learning through the eyes of your students and why do you think that’s so significant in terms of effective teaching?
J: A recent study by Bill Gates, comes to mind, where he put webcams in about 3,000 classrooms over a 3 or 4 month period and 60% of those teachers did not have a classroom discussion once. Every teacher that you meet will say, “Oh, not me. Not me.” But when you go and actually look at it, most student’s experience in the classroom is learning how to look like they’re listening. And so my argument is how do you turn that around by saying, “Hey, your job is to listen through the ears of the students?”
Let me just comment on the kind of thing that we’re trying to do down here to break this. We had a dean of a teachers’ college down here about 7 or 8 years ago who decided to he wanted to change the traditional approach to training teacher. He was an audiologist so he came from of the clinical practice model. The first thing you should learn to do is to diagnose where the student is in terms of ability and what their success should look like. The second thing is you should have multiple interventions so that if one intervention doesn’t work you must try a different one. The next part is to evaluate your impact.
Current in class teacher assessment tends to exclusively on teacher performance. Is this the full picture?
I have a former colleague who did a study where he put microphones on kids every morning and every afternoon. Then he would go home and listened to what the kids said. He did that for years and then he wrote a book called The Hidden Classroom, the premise being that 70% to 80% of what happens in the classroom are unseen or unheard. And when you’re a new teacher it’s probably 80% to 90% that you don’t see or hear.
So I have the argument, that it’s a sin to go in the class and watch a teacher teach because all you end up doing is saying, “You could have taught more like me.” What you should do is go in the class and watch how kids are learning.
The interview with John was insightful and inspiring. I have asked him if he would be willing to speak with I’m a New Teacher more regularly and he graciously accepted.
What questions would you ask him if you had the chance?
You can find more of Professor John Hattie’s writing here.
I wanted to congratulate you again for choosing such an admirable and rewarding career. Teaching is a fast paced and challenging profession and schools need dedicated and committed professionals now, more than ever. I have worked in schools for a number of years, and I have met many wonderful and inspiring teachers. I am so impressed by the standard and the commitment of the new teachers that I meet. I want to tell you a story – one about the greatest prac teacher I have ever met.
This prac teacher was completing her first prac and was quite nervous about implementing her first lesson in my class. She was shaking, hesitant but professional. She had handed me her program, a well planned, well structured, and well developed lesson on fractions. Her preparation was outstanding. As she walked to the front of the classroom to deliver her masterpiece, a student projectile vomited all over her shoes and proceeded to spray his classmates in a thick covering. I watched this poor prac student arrived at a cross road – she had the option of either taking the distraction in her stride and attending to the situation at hand, or, as I would have probably done on my first prac, cried and given up. This brilliant prac teacher, calmly and professionally, navigated through the situation. She cleaned up the child and ushered him off to the sick bay. She sent the children that had been vomited on to the toilets to get changed and somehow, miraculously, maintained the focus of the rest of the class. The good news is, the prac student delivered her lesson, and continued to grow and develop her teaching skills.
We can all take away lessons from this new teacher’s experience. She came fully prepared for the class, but demonstrated the ability to adapt to the situation as was needed. She led the class with confidence and ultimately completed the lesson she set out to deliver.
As educators we never really know what the next day will hold, but we can always face the joys and the challenges with confidence that what we are doing truly matters. Even on the tough days I try to keep in mind the privilege it is to teach and remind myself to always, always keep smiling and give my students my best.