Getting Things Done

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. It’s exciting but it can also be quite daunting. In one year a student could spend more time with you (learning, observing, absorbing) than with any other adult role model. Therefore, the way that you approach your work, your professionalism and your ability to have a well-rounded life outside of the classroom truly matters. Teaching is so much more than textbooks and programs. You the teacher are central to the message. Students watch your interactions with other professionals and they notice the ways that you approach life and lifelong learning. For this reason, teachers have much more at stake than many other professionals.

If you are a bored carpet cleaner, for example, very few people will be affected or influenced by your blasé approach to your profession. The impact is far greater if a teacher’s approach to their profession is dull and indifferent. We all have off days, but the impact of consistent average teaching and apathy can have serious repercussions for impressionable young minds. On the other hand, exceptional teaching practices and an enthusiastic, supportive attitude can change students’ lives! At times it seems impossible to help students move forward but with continual professional development, loads of initiative and a resolute commitment to positive change you can have a huge impact.

Despite the opportunity to make such a positive impact, the sad reality is that many teachers do not make it past their first five years in the profession. As a new teacher, you will face many challenges in your early career. The overcrowded curriculum; parent, executive and school expectations; ever increasing liabilities; Workplace Health and Safety issues; mental and physical exhaustion; unfairness; bureaucracy; apathy and a multitude of conflicting priorities will constantly compete for your attention. It’s no wonder that many new teachers throw in the towel early. A study conducted in ‘Conditions that Support Early Career Teacher Resilience’ 2010 states that ‘In western countries we know that between 25% – 40% are likely to leave the profession in the first five years.’

This is not acceptable. We need the best, most dedicated, equipped and passionate new teachers in our schools. This is why I’m a New Teacher exists. Through real life teaching stories, innovative teaching resources, new teacher support programs and mentoring I aim to help you be the best educator and professional you can be.

Posted by Mathew Green on May 02, 2017  /   Posted in Uncategorized

Creating S-P-A-C-E in Term 2

Time for a great article from Aziza Green:

I made a big decision before we moved to our new place. I believe this one decision has given us back 15 to 25 hours  a week back in productivity and rest, and more s-p-a-c-e.

We gave up living with a TV in the house.

Sounds so simple… silly even, but this one decision has changed our lives. I can’t rave about this lifestyle choice enough! I’m not out to convince anyone to get rid of their TV, but let me just rave a little bit more about it before you dismiss me as a lentil-loving-hippie.

Greater productivity

Okay, I’m not saying I get home from work and write 2000 words a day (although occasionally I do) or that I’ve become some kind of supreme being (although I can see the similarities), but I’ve found that I take care of business like I never did when I had the TV on. I have the energy and motivation to clean more, to take care of my nails, to plan ahead so that I don’t miss things/events/parties. What I’m saying is, I clear my mind and clear my to-do list, so that when my writing day or the weekend comes I have the head space to get stuff done.

Also, in the absence of a TV, I’ve remembered all the books I have in our book shelf. I started reading more fiction and more of things I’ve always been interested in like psychology, history, art and more. I even started reading some of my husband’s books about finance and business, which I previously would not have touched if my life depended on it. My brain feels challenged, full and hungry all at the same time!

Rest

I never found watching TV restful. Often I would switch off the TV and feel agitated, restless, over stimulated and bored. Watching TV doesn’t challenge your brain nor does it give it a chance to process what’s happened in the day. It’s pure distraction, an opportunity to zone out and be entertained without expending any mental energy.

At first, when we went TV-less, I found that my head would freak out when I got home at the end of the work day. I would feel bored and overwhelmed with my own thoughts. It took a while to get past that.

Now to unwind I make a peppermint tea and sit quietly, or my husband & I talk about our days (who knew he was so interesting!), or I read, or I cook something delicious to share together. By the time I’m ready to bed, I feel like I’ve had a full day of hours. I feel rested and ready to sleep.

Space

We have more physical space in our home. We live in a two bedroom apartment – space is a precious commodity for us! Instead of a TV as the focus of our living room we have a big window that looks out to some trees, blue sky and a little bit of the ocean if you lean to the left and squint a little. The result is a living room that seems bigger, brighter, uncluttered and peaceful. There’s also the metaphoric space, which I’ve already mentioned. I’m not exaggerating when I say I have sent entire Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons lying on our sofa and staring out of that big window. When Monday comes I feel like I’ve had a good break and I’m ready for the new week.

Also that lack of constant advertising means that I no longer want more clothes, kitchen utensils, gadgets, snuggies, those porcelain dolls that you paint the face onto – thus the entire house has less stuff in it too. Funny that.

Not sure what we’ll do when we have kids old enough to care about things like TV, but I’m kinda hoping that a lack of TV will drive said future kids to pursue other enriching activities. To be seen I guess.

Okay I’m done raving. I know I said I wasn’t going to try to convince anyone to give it up, but I’ve just changed my mind. If you are lacking in productivity, rest and space you should give up your TV for a while and see if it makes a difference. It does take some adjusting to, but you’ll soon find better ways to occupy your precious free time. Maybe salsa dancing classes, more varied reading, more laughter, more dinners together, more life outside the box (see what I did there?)

How do you create more space for what is important?

Posted by Mathew Green on May 02, 2017  /   Posted in Uncategorized

Digital Decluttering for the chronically distracted

My brain has too many tabs open!

Lest you mistake me for some kind of magical decluttering unicorn, I feel it necessary to expose the ugly truth about my digital life.

I am a digital, media and information addict. I took stock last month and I had folders full of the beginnings of blog posts. My Evernote was overflowing clippings. I was working on my Google calendar + my hardcopy calendars + my day planner – let’s just say they were not synced. (Sorry if I missed our brunch or if you copped an eyeful of my unshaven ankles!)

I had three and a half overwhelming inboxes (don’t ask) and about 20-35 (I didn’t count) tabs open across several web browsers. My desktop was intense and I got a little carried away and downloaded about 15 unnecessary apps on my iPhone last month – damn you Apple App Store you sexy timesuck and promiser of productive tools!

I’m not proud of it, but this is my life and yeah it’s been a little overwhelming! I share this all with you because I know for a fact that most of you experience the same thing. It’s called being a business owner in the 21stCentury.

The new human condition

When you’re running a business just about everything feels like a priority. You need to keep existing clients happy while prospecting for new clients. You have to come up with fresh content for your blog, your website needs updating, your social media channels are lacklustre and you haven’t engaged in meaningful ways with anyone.

Maybe you’re like me and sometimes you want to give it all up. But the technology and the information is not the enemy. These are beautiful, powerful tools designed to make our lives easier, better. Our problem is a lack of discipline and systems. We have to learn to live in the digital space with intention and purpose.

Today, I’m not speaking to you as your guru or digital spirit guide in this subject. I’m speaking as one for whom #thestruggleisreal. One who is still trying to hack the tension between productivity and distraction-free digital engagement.

How digital clutter affects our brains

So it’s time to get honest about our digital lives. Are you living with digital clutter that is slowly stripping you of any semblance of sanity that you have?

A study by the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute into the impact of physical clutter shows that our ability to focus is restricted when our spaces are cluttered. Clutter is not only distracting, but it makes it difficult to assimilate information.*

Being distractible is a trait of creative personality types, but being constantly distracted is exhausting and devastating to productivity.

Digital clutter is even more pervasive than physical clutter, we are almost blind to it, until we get stuck in a wormhole of files or blog posts or social media for several hours. Your computer, your phone, your devices are your workstations, and these need as much attention as your physical environment.

The Princeton research shows that you will be less irritable, more productive, distracted less often, and able to process information better when your spaces are uncluttered and organised.

The places we hoard digital clutter

decluttering project woman at computer with clutter

There are FOUR key areas of our digital lives that tend to become hoarders’ dens.

Your personal computer – Of course. The desktop is covered with docs, downloads, photos, screen grabs and the icons of all your fave programs. Your folder hierarchies make no sense – or you’re like folder hierarchies??!! LOL!!! [insert cryface]

Do I need to bring up your email inbox? I knew a woman who had 10,000+ emails in her inbox. Just… No. That makes my fingernails hurt. I can’t.

Social Media – I get it. You’re grinding, building your business and you need to get your brand out there. But maybe you were a little zealous with the volume of social channels you signed up to and then did nothing with? Also are you following TOO MANY people but connecting with no one?

Phone – Arguably the greatest tool for productivity and procrastination in our lives. Our phones have become an extension of ourselves. It makes sense that the chaos of our minds finds the greatest expression in our most intimate device.

Subscriptions – Subscription-based services have become a core part of this brave new world. From digital storage to entertainment, from business networks to education and training – we’re all racking up subscriptions like they’re striped casual T-shirts. It’s easy for these $5/$10/$20/$40 per month subscriptions to tick away in the background without our even noticing it.

Taking stock of your subscriptions and making decisions as to whether you really need them is a great way to make space and save some money too.

How to start you digital declutter

Before you tackle the clutter. Make one promise to yourself… I WILL LET GO OF THIS SUPERFLUOUS CRAP!

Now you have a big life, I get that. The Atomic Bomb Strategy of a digital purge would be amazing – few days of intense deleting, prioritising, organising and TA DA! If you don’t have that kind of time, you may want to work with a One Bite At a Time Strategy.

Whichever way you do it, the key is to commit to continuous improvement. You can tidy as you go, and/ or schedule the labour into a 1 or 2 hour project every month.

I created my Monthly Digital Declutter printable to stay top of the clutter and stay accountable to myself.

Digital Declutter Checklist

 

Decluttering projects get you started:

  1. Your documents
    • Delete old or unnecessary documents
    • Refresh your document folder system and sort docs accordingly
    • Archive anything that you don’t need on hand
    • Remove as many icons from your desktop as possible. I have two folders on there, one called Reference and one called To read. Be ruthless.
    • Close all the browser tabs
    • Empty your trash can
  1. Tame your inbox
    • Action, sort, delete emails in your inbox. Aim for Inbox Zero at the end of every week or month.
    • Cull unhelpful email subscriptions
  2. Social media
    • Unfriend/unfollow/cull
  3. Software
    • Uninstall unused software, apps
    • If you have updates pending, update them already
  4. Photos
    • Update photo folders
    • Delete unusable photos
  5. Phone
    • Delete unusable and backed up photos
    • Delete unused Apps
    • Switch off all notifications
    • Close all the browser tabs
  6. Subscriptions
    • Take inventory of your paid subscriptions
    • Unsubscribe to anything that you don’t use
  1. Digital goal setting
    • Set 3 or 4 digital goals to curb or bring awareness to your digital consumption.
    • One of my weekly goals is to reset to zero – email, web browsers, smart phone web browsers, desktop. I want to treat it like a meditation to finish every week.

I created my Digital Declutter printable to stay on top of my own digital madness. If you want to join me in taming your clutter, sign up, download it for free – and let me know how you go!

Posted by Mathew Green on April 29, 2017  /   Posted in Organisation

8 Must-Do’s For New School Leaders

Here is another brilliant article from Megan Dredge. When I read this article I was actually in the process of writing on a similar topic. I stopped… and decided to focus on Megan’s article instead. She is a brilliant leader, both inside and outside of the classroom, and I can’t think of anyone better to speak on the topic.

Enter Megan:

Taking on a new leadership role is an admirable venture. Many teachers aspire to a leadership responsibility and look forward to a season of new beginnings. Learning to juggle your new leadership role can be exciting and rewarding, and can sometimes be challenging and overwhelming. Here are 8 strategies to help you be a great leader in your school.

1. Clarify what’s expected of you

As a leader, ask lots of questions about what is expected of you and get clarity on your role. Knowing what your goals are and what you are aiming to achieve is the most crucial step in getting your leadership journey off to a good start.

2. Get to know your team

The people you are leading want to know that you genuinely care about them and that you are genuinely interested in them. Take notice of what is going on in their world and always be looking for opportunities to learn something new about your team members.

3. Encourage team members’ strengths

As you build genuine relationships with your team, you will learn what they are good at and what they are passionate about. A great leader knows the strengths of their team members and gives them opportunities to use them.

4. Be a good follower

If you want your team members to follow you then be a good example. Show them how you are part of a greater team (your ‘boss’ or the person you report to) and how you are committed to that greater team.

5. Confront when appropriate

Great leaders know how to have a difficult conversation. There will be times when you need to confront a team member – as a leader, do it with kindness and fairness.

6. Say sorry

Great leaders are humble enough to admit their mistakes and to actually say sorry. Be a leader who shows your team members that you too are on a learning journey and that it is ok to make mistakes and admit when you are wrong.

7. Encourage ongoing professional development

I’m sure you have heard it said that leaders are learners. It is absolutely true. A great leader is always growing and developing and enthusiastically encourages his or her team to engage in regular Professional Development.

8. Have an open door policy

Be approachable. Make it easy for your team to come and talk to you. Don’t hide in your office or behind your desk. Keep your door open and welcome conversation from your team members. Help them feel at ease when they talk to you and do the hard work to make every conversation productive and useful.

This week’s assignment:

As a leader in your school, choose one of these 8 strategies and really focus on it in your interactions with your team members this week.

Enjoy the journey,

And more importantly,

Enjoy the moments.

:)

Megan

 

Posted by Mathew Green on April 29, 2017  /   Posted in Uncategorized

Excuse me… Stop and listen

Take a moment to think back to when you were at school. In primary school I remember being obsessed with transformers, The Spice Girls and what my friends though of me. I was a slightly overweight, pasty and short student who cared deeply about the opinions of the ‘popular children’ and who always strived to please the teachers. I was a diligent student. I remember one day in the playground telling my Year 3 teacher, Mrs. Richards, that a group of students wouldn’t let me play with them. They were being mean and calling me names. I recall it, as if it was yesterday, Mrs. Richards stopped her conversation with one of her colleagues and shooed me away. I persisted, and told her my traumatic tale again, and once again she shooed me away with a waving hand. At that moment I walked away trying hold back tears. At that time in my life being accepted by my friends was a big deal – in fact, it was my world. Mrs. Richards was a great teacher; passionate, kind and dedicated; yet in that moment she was busy, probably tired and otherwise disinterested.

I too have been guilty of Mrs. Richard’s mistake. Sometime you get busy and your mind is a million miles away. As teachers we can never be too busy, or too distracted to engage with our students. We need to get into their wonderful world so that we can truly engage with them.

When you on playground duty be present – Playground duty can be chore, but you need to loo at it as a wonderful opportunity to connect with your students outside of the classroom.

Emphasise with your students – Think back to when you were their age. What was important to you?  Just watch the faces of you students light up when you actively participate in their lives.

Be interruptible by your students – no matter how busy you are.

As teachers, your words are held in high esteem. By taking a little bit of time each day, you can step inside the wonderful world of your class –  world full of imagination, friendship drama and infinite possibilities.

Posted by Mathew Green on April 28, 2017  /   Posted in Uncategorized

Why I got rid of my desk.

At the beginning of each term, or at the end of the last (depending on how organised you are), our classrooms get a little makeover. Newly covered walls, exciting displays and a revamped book corner add a little life to our spaces. This term, however, I have decided to do a little simplifying, a little decluttering if you will.

For too long my desk (and I assume yours too) has served as a dumping ground for files, textbooks, student work, forgotten cups of tea, lunch boxes and all manner of other school-related paraphernalia.  Every morning my desk starts clean, well mostly, and ordered. Yet somehow by the end of every day, my desk looks like a cyclone has hit it.

So I’ve decided to bite the bullet and get rid of the whole desk.

It seems extreme, but I’ve been asking myself for some time now – what is the purpose of every object in my classroom? For me, the clutter is a distraction, but it’s more than just about keeping a tidy desk. This experiment for me is about questioning what drives student learning in our classrooms.

Being Present in the Classroom

As teachers, our interactions with students are precious and we need to make the most of them. Having a desk has often provided a (highly desirable) barrier between the teacher and the students. It’s a place we can retreat to, to mark work, take care of some admin or just have a timeout. No judgement, we’ve all been there. The temptation to hide behind our fortress is often too strong for us to resist.

Removing our desks increases opportunities to engage with our students. This increase in classroom interactions should also help to improve learning outcomes.

The Decluttering Bonus

Everything must have a place –no longer can things be dumped, thrown or ‘filed’ away on a desk. This means that books, stickers, pens and folders need to have a home and my students and I need to learn new habits of putting everything in its place.

By establishing new classroom habits and processes, I hope to save myself a stack of time reserved for tidying at the end of each day/week/month.

Incremental Improvements

I have high hopes for my desk-free experiment, but I’m not looking for a one-off cure to all my classroom challenges. As I said, I’ve been questioning the necessity of every item in my classroom. I believe that we can all make small changes which may incrementally improve student learning.

Getting rid of desk won’t fix all our problems, but it may just help us be a little more present in your classroom. Our job is complex enough and we need to ensure that our students’ learning is central.

Wish me luck as I embark on this new term without my trusty desk. I’ll keep you updated with the challenges and rewards. Maybe you could join me in this experiment and we can learn something new together.

Posted by Mathew Green on April 20, 2017  /   Posted in Uncategorized

Do you remember being in school?

Do you remember being in school? When I was in primary school I remember being obsessed with transformers, The Spice Girls and rollerblading .. I was slightly overweight, pale skinned and short  and I  cared deeply about the opinions of the ‘popular kids’  and strived to please my teachers.

I remember one day in the playground telling my Year 3 teacher, Mrs Richards, that a group of students wouldn’t let me play with them. They were being mean and calling me names. Mrs. Richards stopped her conversation with one of her colleagues and shooed me away. I persisted, and told her my traumatic tale again, and once again she shooed me away with a waving hand.

At that time in my life being accepted by my friends was a big deal – in fact, it was my world. Mrs. Richards was a great teacher; passionate, kind and dedicated; yet in that moment she was busy, probably tired and disinterested. I walked away from that moment feeling hurt and more lonely than ever.

Sure, I got over it eventually, but I wonder how often we let our students down because we’re  busy or distracted by tasks that should come second to our students. As teachers we have a unique opportunity to help our students feel heard, significant and special. We need to get into their wonderful worlds so that we can truly engage with them.

Here are some ways to engage in more meaningful ways with your students:

  • When you on playground duty be present. Playground duty can be chore, or you can look at it as a wonderful opportunity to connect with your students outside of the classroom.
  • Emphasise with your students. Their concerns may seem minor to you now, but think back to when you were their age. What was important to you? Just watch the faces of your students light up when you actively participate in their lives.
  • Be interruptible.  You didn’t get into teaching to hide in the staff room or to diversify your photocopying skills. No matter how busy you are, whatever task  ‘must’ be done, you have to allow students to interrupt you.

Don’t underestimate how powerful your words and actions are in the lives of young people. By taking a little bit of time each day, you can step inside the wonderful world of your class. A world full of imagination, friendship drama and infinite possibilities.

Posted by Mathew Green on February 26, 2017  /   Posted in Uncategorized

Getting Things Done: Helpful Productivity Tweaks

This piece originally appeared here.

A little while ago I had had the privilege of interviewing productivity guru and author of Getting Things Done (GTD) David Allen.

Getting things done feels amazing! It builds your confidence and momentum, especially when you’re starting a fresh new year. Unfortunately, many of us find that the to-do list is often much longer than the days in which we have to complete them. As you face the bright new year, here are a few productivity tips to get you off to a positive start with good productivity habits!

Brain dump” your to do list then prioritise

Do you start your day by writing a long to-do list? I love lists,  this is step one. Planning your day and your to-dos is a key part of getting things done, and more importantly, getting the right things done.

Your morning “brain dump” gets everything out of your head and onto a sheet of paper or a screen. Once you get it all out of your head, you can look at each task objectively and decide where to schedule them in your week. Creating a prioritised to-do list will help you to manage your time and energy rather than driving blind through a snowstorm of tasks.

Learning how to prioritise: Evaluate the value of each task

You took the time to read this so why not take the time to EVALUATE where you’re putting your energy. One of the best ways to do this is to use a system like the Eisenhower Decision Matrix. This matrix provides four categories under which all your tasks will fall:

Important AND Urgent: Just do it
Important but Not Urgent: Schedule it
Not Important but Urgent: Push Back
Not Important AND Not Urgent: Avoid

Eisenhower decision matrix

eisenhower decision matrix

Does everything feel urgent AND important all the time? This may indicate that you either have too much pressure in your life OR you’re rubbish at prioritising. If you have too much pressure, you need to make some serious changes in your life because you’re on track for a burn-out – just saying.

But… before you make any drastic changes, let’s just do a little experiment together. Sort your to-do list into the four quadrants of the Eisenhower decision matrix. Consider which tasks produce results that you want and start to prioritise these over the Not important items. You may be getting things done quickly, but are you spending all your energy on doing the right things?

Getting things done with deadlines

When a client or your boss ask you to do something, make a habit of asking the question: “When would you like that by?” This will help your client or superior articulate their expectations and help you to prioritise the work. If they’ve asked for 20 things today, you can follow up by asking: “Which of these tasks/projects are most important this week?”.

Creating deadlines helps to manage the other party’s expectations and your own. When you work without clear deadlines, you tend to focus on getting the easiest tasks on your to-do list done, which may feel satisfying, but doesn’t always pay off.

Manage your mood and stress

When you’re happy and calm you are more productive. You work smarter, you think more clearly and you can work for longer. Schedule activities and establish habits in your day that reduce stress and boost your mood. READER BEWARE. These items will always feel like your lowest priority, but if you make them your #1 priority you’ll be better at getting things done.

  • Exercise – I hate exercise. I complain before doing it, while I’m doing it, after I’ve done it. But I know that I’m sharper, happier and more effective when I get it done. Choose an activity (walking, jogging, HIIT, weight training, swimming, etc) you can learn to love and do it. Start with 20mins three times/week and build it up from there.
  • Drink HEAPS of water – I’m talking litres. Start from the minute you wake up and keep sipping until you go to bed. I love coffee, but I limit it to one/day and aim to drink 2.5Litres+ of water/day.
  • Make time for peace – Stare out of the window, breathe deeply, read a good book, pray, stretch, take a stroll. Whatever it looks like for you, make a little space to relax.
  • Choose your meals wisely – Treat your body to good healthy food and it’ll reward you with good vibes.
  • Reflect on your day – Write down your thoughts at the end of each day. Consider what went well in the day and what you would like to do better next time. If something’s bothering you, it should come up in this reflection time. Decide to either let it go or work out a way to resolve the issue and move forward.

Commit to your tools

Do you have about 15 different productivity apps or tools that you’ve “tried out” over the years? Time to quit fooling around and make a commitment. You can become more efficient and effective when you choose just one or two tools for getting things done.

This may take a few days or weeks, but move everything from all your various apps, notepads, pieces of paper into one place. And while you’re at it get your calendar in order. Putting everything in one place will simplify your process and ensure that you don’t miss anything.

Review

Not many people take the time to review how they are performing or how well their tools and systems are working. Schedule time once a month and once a quarter to review how things are going. This is a great time to celebrate your wins and give yourself a pat on the back for what you’ve achieved. It’s also a great time to address those niggling little issues that keep coming up.

If you’ve been getting some negative feedback from others about some area of your work or how you work, make time to consider what the contributing factors might be. Do you need some training or mentoring? Is organisation an issue for you? Could a holiday help? There’s no point in beating yourself up! Approach your challenges with a focus on solutions and you’ll find a way through.

Taking the time to review will ensure that all your hard work is going into the right things.


What about you, do you have any productivity tips for getting things done?

 

Posted by Mathew Green on January 10, 2017  /   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.
^ Back to Top