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How to finish the year strong.

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.

Create moments.

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.

Posted by Mathew Green on December 09, 2016  /   Posted in Uncategorized

‘I’m busy, really busy….’

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. I felt less tired or stressed the less that I used those words.
  4. 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.

Posted by Mathew Green on June 06, 2016  /   Posted in looking after yourself, stress

What to do when you feel like you are slipping?

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.

Posted by Mathew Green on March 17, 2016  /   Posted in Uncategorized

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 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.

Posted by Mathew Green on February 22, 2016  /   Posted in Uncategorized

Neil Gaiman, being yourself and making great art.

I can’t say that I have ever read any of Neil Gaiman’s work (although I most certainly will after listening to this speech). This speech spoke to me on so many levels; about following your passions, breaking rules and being yourself.

I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

 

Posted by Mathew Green on February 16, 2016  /   Posted in Uncategorized

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. The word ‘conviction’ is quite a traditional word that for some contains connotations of being restrictive. I see convictions as quite the opposite I see them as being deep principles that you can build your life around. I see them as anchors that give stability, even in the storms of life.

When I was seven we lived in quiet a remote village in the Peak District, in England.  it’s a beautiful area, covered in lush green paddocks but far from the water. When my parents told me that we were going on holiday on a boat I was thrilled! On our first night on the boat, a small rickety old thing, it was my father’s responsibility to anchor down for the night and secure our spot on the river. It was a calm night and there was no wind. After we had anchored down our family went to bed early. In the middle of the night, there was a terrifying crash. My father jumped up out of bed to investigate. We had drifted about three kilometers down stream and smashed into a wharf. We had done incredible damage to the boat and the neighbouring wharf all because we had not anchored down properly for the night.

Anchors are interesting things; they are not merely metal objects that moor a boat to the bottom of the river bed or the ocean. They provide stability or confidence in otherwise uncertain times.  As teachers we have to have an unwavering believe, a conviction in fact, that we are here to make a difference. Our convictions will anchor us during challenging times.

My convictions about teaching are:

For me:

  • I have a deep conviction that great teaching does make a difference
  • I have a deep conviction that I was born to teach.
  • I have a deep conviction that everyday I am closing the gap, little by little of educational disadvantage.
  • I have a deep conviction that all children deserve access to a world-class education system.

What are some of your convictions about education? What are your anchors?
Please leave your thoughts here.

 

Posted by Mathew Green on February 16, 2016  /   Posted in Uncategorized

Small actions, BIG results.

Small actions done consistently every day add up to big outcomes in the long term. A while ago I heard one of my favourite speakers, Robert Fergusson give a presentation titled ‘Mastering the Mundane.’ In his presentation Fergusson spoke convincingly about the importance of attaching significance to the small, seemingly insignificant, things that you do each day. His presentation got me thinking and it has stayed with me for many years. We often don’t see the compounding results, either positive or negative, of small decisions until much later in our lives.

Acts like brushing your teeth, daily exercise, kissing your spouse or being grateful may seem inconsequential but the truth is if you do these consistently they could have more significant outcomes than you can imagine.

Conversely, daily habits and actions that are unproductive can also have negative compounding results over the long haul. If you consistently work late, skip breakfast or neglecting time with your family you may find yourself heading down a road that you did not expect. When I was a student I never serviced my car. I was living out of home, had very little money and I just didn’t really see the point. I would drive my car all over the place, fill it up with the cheapest fuel possible, never change (let alone check) the oil and rarely check the tyres. I just assumed that it would keep going indefinitely. Of course it didn’t. The money that I had ‘saved’ from not servicing the car was quickly surpassed by the price of a new engine. Lesson learned. Small decisions like regularly servicing your car can save you lots later on.

If your health, life and career could be dramatically improved by the ‘small things’ that you decide to do or not do every day what would you do differently? What small things would you change today?

Here are a few small thing that, if done regularly, could have a huge impact on your teaching career:

  • Saying hello to the principal
  • Being courteous to you colleagues
  • Taking a deep breath and smiling before you walk into your classroom
  • Enjoying your lunch break
  • Returning phone calls
  • Building relationships with parents
  • Returning emails
  • Adhering to deadlines
  • Being present in meetings
  • Negotiating yourself out of over commitments
  • Walking slowly across the playground
  • Having a life outside of the classroom

It is so easy to neglect the small things that we (should) do each day. Amidst the busyness and chaos of the start of the school year these things can be easily forgotten. But these small things build up, so decide to build a reservoir of small decisions and do you best to minimise the poorer options.

What other actions would you add?

Posted by Mathew Green on February 04, 2016  /   Posted in Uncategorized

Stop and Think! What’s your Teaching Legacy going to be?

In the words of actress, director, and civil rights activist of Maya Angelou

People will forget what you said
People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel’

How will your students feel and view themselves after you have finished teaching them?

We tend to remember the extremes: the amazing, and the horrible. If you think back to your childhood, it tends to be filled with these extremes. I remember the most horrific day of my schooling specifically Term 1, Year 4. I had a crush on a girl named Sarah. She had just arrived at our school, and within hours I had had enough time to plot our future together and was convinced that she felt the same. The truth is, I doubt that she even knew of my existence. I only spoke one sentence to her. I asked her ‘Could I sit with you at lunch?’ To which, in front of all of my friends, she laughed and turned away. Looking back, that wasn’t such a big deal, but then, as a slightly chubby Year 4 student, I wished the world would have opened up and swallowed me whole. Or the other time, the greatest day of my life, when in Year 6 I won a community award for my ‘engaging and entertaining’ acrostic poem on hot cross buns. Upon re-reading the poem many years later, I realised that there were a number of typos and strange rhyming sequences, including feast and treat, and Easter and minister.

If you’re reading this article I am going to assume that you want to leave a lasting teaching legacy.

  • I want to be remembered as a teacher that made students feel as though they could achieve anything that they set their minds to.
  • I want my students to leave my classroom with a sense of awe, wonder and appreciation for the world that they live in.
  • I want my students to be passionate lifelong learners.
  • I want my classroom to be a place where the words ‘hard’ ‘impossible’ and ‘boring’ are made redundant.
  • I want my students to see themselves as active citizens of the world in which they live.
  • I want my students to value individuality and value opinions that are different to their own.

One day your teaching time will come to an end. One day you will have taught your last lesson and all that will be left will be your teaching legacy.

How would you like to be remembered by your students?

Posted by Mathew Green on February 03, 2016  /   Posted in Uncategorized

Things that will just make your life easier.

Today I thought that I would share some ideas that will just make your teaching life easier. It’s not rocket science, nor do you need a master’s degree to implement them. They are just common sense ways that will make your day run smoothly.

Use your own mug. One casual teaching day I grabbed a mug from the staffroom and sat down to have a cup of tea. I wondered why one of the teachers was scowling at me. Doris was watching someone else drink out of the ‘Doris Mugs.’

Pay for your tea and coffee. If you use the tea, milk or coffee it’s a privilege. Make sure that you put money in to cover your cuppa.

Take notes in meetings. It’s important to take notes for two reasons: it helps you remember what has been said, and it makes your look like you are paying attention.

Be courteous with staff members. Just be nice. Say please, say thank you and show a smile. It doesn’t cost anything.

Thank people specifically. When your praise people, be specific. ‘I really appreciated the way that your spoke to Jane’s parents about the issue in class. Thank you’ is far more effective than ‘Good job with the assemble.’

Check your emails regularly. I check my emails each day at 8am and at 3:30PM when I finish. It’s just good practice to reply to emails and stay on top of your inbox.

Look at the duty roster. I am guilty of forgetting my duties. Each day, remind yourself of when and when your duties are.

If you jam the photocopier then fix it. It’s just bad manners. If your jam the copier, just fix it.

Say hi to the office staff. The office staff are the backbone of the school. Things that seem to just happen, don’t. Be appreciative.

Plan your day before it starts.  I write down everything that I need to do for that day. I keep a detailed daybook and I write down my to-do lists. If it is in your head it will distract you from teaching.

What can think of that will just make your day easier?

Posted by Mathew Green on January 31, 2016  /   Posted in looking after yourself

How to handle complexity this term.

No two days are ever the same in teaching therefor; handling complexity is a huge component of teaching. At any given moment you will have deadlines (often conflicting ones), parent expectations, staff expectations, school policies to implement, class routines to uphold and supervisors giving you feedback. To add to the complexity you will could have student(s) having a bad day, a differentiated curriculum to implement and students to engage in a variety of creative ways. There are always things to do and things that you will feel as though you could have done better.

Amongst all of this chaos and confusion, you have your own emotions to deal with; are you cranky, sick, or have you just got a lot on your mind? The nature of our profession makes it essential to have the skills to manage complexity or you’ll end up feeling tired and burnt out

So what can you do to simplify your work habits and get the most out of your day?

How can you manage the complexity of teaching? How can you plan and prepare, but still remain flexible?

Write things down. I would not survive without my daybook. My daybook doubles as my diary and I carry it everywhere. I do a daily ‘brain dump’ (link to David Allen article) and write down all of the things that I am thinking about.

Remember: If you don’t write things down they take up valuable mental space.

Make actionable items. At the end of each day I write essential and actionable items for the following day. This helps me to feel in control and gives me a sense of accomplishment when I complete the essential items. It also helps to write using ‘verbs’ so that you attached an action to each of the points. For example, for tomorrow, I have ‘Book excursion bus, Burn new musical CD, Practise drumming composition with the students.’

Remember: Choose three things that are essential for that day.

Plan your week. I always plan a whole week in advance. That means that all of my photocopying, class resources and teaching equipment are ready one week ahead. This is not always possible as others teachers may be using equipment, but I try my best

Remember: Think ahead, what equipment and resources will you need?

Teaching is a complex profession. It’s important to get some of these practises in place so that you can keep some brain space free for what matters most, your students.

Posted by Mathew Green on January 30, 2016  /   Posted in Uncategorized
Whether you’re a casual teacher, 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.
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