Category Archives: Staffroom

No 46. Hold a meeting from a distance

meeting remote

With faster broadband speeds and easy access to the internet there is really no need to hold meetings in school. At the end of a long day or crammed into a lunchtime is often not the best time to hold an important meeting. A novel approach may be to schedule it for an evening when everyone is at home when they are more relaxed and fresher. The website www.anymeeting.com makes this all possible. Its free to join although you do have to pay to get rid of adverts and allows you to hold meetings remotely. You can upload presentations on which you could have the agenda and you can communicate to each other using your computers microphone or by simply writing messages. It may also take away some of the confrontation away that can exist when staff are tired and irritable. You can also record the meeting too -dangerous!.  Give it a go and see what happens. Please comment freely. If you already doing this using a different site or piece of software then please let me know.

Incredible!

The photo in this post is from here.

No 45. Join the Un-schooling discussion

There is a really interesting community being created over at www.unschoolery.com. This blog has been created by Leo Babauta who has had much success with zenhabits. There are some great articles on unschooling already been written. Basically unschooling throws all the rules of school out of the door. Here are some initial rules.

  1. No one tells you what to learn. Instead of some administrator setting a curriculum, based on what the committee thinks a young person will need to know in a decade from now (unknowable), the student picks for himself.
  2. No one tells you how to learn. Instead of everyone basically cramming information down their heads, and spitting it back out on tests, the student can figure things out for herself, be creative, play, do projects, anything.
  3. There is no authority but the unschooler. When the schooler follows the authority of the teacher his whole life, he never learns to think for himself, solve problems, decide what’s important, deal with uncertainty. As an adult, the schooler will then feel much safer having an authority telling him what to do — a boss in a regular job. An unschooler, who has been her own authority all her life, is better prepared for the real world.
  4. You don’t have to learn at the same pace as everyone else. My son was bored in school because the stuff he was learning was too easy, but his classmates learned at a different speed. That’s fine for them, but why should he be forced to learn slowly and be bored? Why should someone who doesn’t learn as quickly feel stupid if he falls behind?
  5. You don’t learn a data set. Regular school decides what a kid should know by the time she’s 18 … but who decides this? How is it possible to know what the world will be like in 10 or 15 years? Who is so good at predicting the future that we should follow his predictions? Learning a data set is useless, because much of that will be obsolete. Even learning a skillset is mostly useless. Instead, learn how to learn anything, and then no matter what the world is like or what the jobforce requires in a decade from now, you’ll be able to adapt and learn it.
  6. You learn that learning is fun. For me, school mostly drove out the joy of learning, and taught me that learning is boring. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned how fun learning is, and this discovery has led to incredible things. Why make learning boring? It should be play! It should be joyful!
  7. You learn to deal with uncertainty. If you’re told what to do your whole life, then you never have to doubt if you’re doing the right thing. But as an entrepreneur, there’s never that certainty. You never know for sure if you’re doing the right thing. So I think many people avoid starting their own business, because of fear of uncertainty. If you’ve dealt with uncertainty your whole life (unschooling), then this is not so scary as an adult.
  8. You learn how to motivate yourself. Kids in school have to be forced to do work they don’t like. This means many of them never learn how to motivate themselves. If no one is forcing you, then what? Unschoolers deal with this on a daily basis, and while they often fail (who doesn’t), they also learn more about themselves than most kids do.

Why don’t you join the discussion – it will really make you think about your own teaching methods and question if we as classroom teachers are doing the right thing.

unschool-bus

The image above is from here.

No 44. Track your time for a week

It is quite important to evaluate your time management in a busy job such as teaching. There are various ways of doing this but using this table is a pretty good start. Make a conscious effort to fill it out for a week and at the end of the week see where you could have saved time. Let me know how you get on. If you have any other tips for time management in teaching then please comment.

time managment

 

The image above is from here.

No 43. How to have a healthy school day – part 1

A day at work can be very stressful. Here are a few tips to help you cope with the stress. These are only my suggestions so I would welcome some from you. Please comment freely.

  1. Always have water with you. Take regular sips throughout the day. Keep well hydrated and avoid reaching for coffee as your drink of choice.
  2. Avoid negative people. Teachers can moan and groan of allowed and will often be keen to give you are ‘good listening to’. Try to sit away from these time sappers and find positive people.
  3. Lunch can be lethal. Don’t take too many carbs such as rice and white potatoes and help yourself to plenty of green vegetables. Carbs are bound to be on offer in abundance but be careful. You may not do enough exercise to carb carb load.
  4. Keep your hands out of the biscuit box – usually staff rooms or departments have a obligatory tin of sweet confectionary. My advice that these will put weight on by stealth. Stick to one or too and avoid eating in parallel.
  5. Try to go for a walk at lunchtime. Make a point of going for a short 15 minutes walk. A bit of exercise during the day will do you good.

biscuit tin

The image above is from here.

 

No 36. Use parents to show prospective parents around your school

There are various approaches used to show off a school when it comes to open mornings and open evenings. It is very common to use pupils to show around prospective parents around the school. This has the advantage of the pupil perspective and can be very effective. A novel variation on this is to ask existing parents to show around prospective parents the school. This allows for adult to adult conversation which gives a true and honest opinion. Obviously you will have to choose your parents carefully – you don’t want a parent that is going to highlight all the faults and leave nothing to the imagination! I’m sure if you asked for parental help many would come forward and would be only too pleased to show off the school. Perhaps the school pta is the best place to start. Maybe a combination of pupil show rounds and parental ambassador is the way forward. If you are interested in marketing your school then this is perhaps something you could suggest.

How do you market your school?

school open day

 

The image above is from here.

No 34. Dealing with a difficult person with the word ‘feel’

difficult conversations

Unfortunately from time to time in the world of teaching you can encounter another member of staff that seems to be making your life difficult. This may include

  • talking to other people about you behind your back.
  • deliberately putting your ideas down during a meeting.
  • criticising you by e-mail and copying other people, often senior people into it. The cc and bcc are rarely used carefully.
  • greying matters by telling half truths.
  • talking to the students in their classes about you. A false and wholly inappropriate way of them gaining respect.

If you think this is happening to you then the worse thing you can do is to do nothing. You must confront the person directly and take the following steps

  1. Ask the person that you would like to talk to them privately – don’t do this by e-mail, keep it all face to face.
  2. Tell the person how they are making you ‘feel’. The key word here is ‘feel’. They won’t be able to argue with a feeling but can argue with facts which they can say are not true.
  3. Say that you would like it to stop otherwise you will be taking it further. Stress that you wanted to deal with the matter informally first.
  4. Keep things short and to the point. Keep it firm but friendly.
  5. Keep a record of it yourself in writing with a date but don’t send it to anyone.

I think it is really important to deal with the matter yourself. Don’t tell other people that you are going to do it or discuss extensively with other colleagues. You may end up being as bad as them! Make sure you are professional at all times.

difficult conversation 2

Incredible!

The images in this post are from here and here.

No 32. 12 ways to build team spirit within your department

If you are a Head of Department in a school then you will want to do your best to maintain a good team spirit. Here are twelve ways that you can do this  – if you have any more then please comment.

  1. Communicate well with honesty – you could have a weekly briefing sheet with all the important events and deadlines on it.
  2. Be visible in the department, for instance make sure you around at break times and lunchtimes.
  3. Set the standard – make sure that you are seen to be working hard and not going against the school ethos. Lead by example and set high standards
  4. Make an effort to point out the good in what people are doing. If someone in your team has spent time putting up a display then go and look at and make them feel appreciated. Celebrate what you see.
  5. Make sure that meetings have a clear agenda with AOB at the end so that everybody has an opportunity to speak and raise their point. Ensure that you start and finish meetings on time and keep them moving.
  6. Arrange to have informal one to one meetings with your team members away from performance review or appraisal to see how things are going.
  7. Make sure that you listen well to people – listen more than you speak. Don’t talk over people to get your point across – be interested in what they are saying and make them feel important.
  8. Have a folder of relevant INSET and encourage people to develop professionally. Make sure that you budget appropriately for this.
  9. Allow for staff to express their own opinions and contribute to decisions.
  10. Be fair and consistent in your decision making. Make sure it is in line with the core values of the department and whole school.
  11. Have  a good sense of humour but don’t get too close and familiar – be friendly but professional.
  12. After a period of intense work such as report writing buy a box of chocolates or cakes for the department. Leave them somewhere communal for everyone to enjoy. Make your team feel appreciated.

team spirit

The image above is from here.

Incredible!

No 29. Organise an after work running group to improve work-life balance at your school

running after work

One way of improving your work life balance at school is to start an after work staff sports club . A couple of years ago I started a beginners running group starting at 4.30 on a Wednesday evening. We are fortunate where the school is positioned to have some beautiful countryside so finding a routes was easy. I was surprised with the interest in the club. I aimed the club at total beginners as to be inclusive. We started off with running and walking and slowly built up the distance over the weeks. It’s now 2 years on and the after work running club is still going strong. We have built up from a distance of a mile with walks to a distance of 5 miles non stop with some pretty steep hills. After the run every one feels like they have had a tough workout and have forgotten about deadlines and school politics for a while.

The advantages of this type of staff activity as I see it is are as follows.

  • It’s free team bonding – better than any expensive course you can buy into.
  • It keeps your body and mind fit.
  • It helps to keep stress levels down and staff illness down.
  • It is regular and people will look forward to coming along. If it happens every week then people can dip in and out of it.
  • It is addictive – you will be surprised how many extra people come along once you start, especially if you pitch it at total beginners.
  • You get to talk to people that you don’t normally talk to from different curriculum areas. Our deputy head and assistant head have both come on runs.
  • It is an alternative from going to the pub straight after work. Exercise first and go to the pub afterwards if you must.
  • You may find that the club spills into the holidays. The running club is so successful at my school that runs are also planned during the holidays  – not from school but from different peoples houses and locations. Make friends as well.
  • Will look good in your performance review as a whole school activity  – work/life balance for staff is very important and if you can contribute to that then you are doing a good thing.

Depending on how keen you are you may want to enrol on an UK athletics leadership in running fitness course. These excellent courses teach you how to run a beginners running group.

run england

Also the website Jeffgalloway.com has got some excellent advice on running and walking for beginners.

This maybe a start of term activity but why don’t you send an e-mail around to all  staff with a time and a place and get running!

Please let us know how you get on.

The Classrooms and Staffrooms team

The images in this post are from here and here.

No 24. Take steps to avoid e-mail addiction

I am not addicted

It’s not uncommon in the modern school to receive up to 100 e-mails a day. These vary from tasks to do, reminders and advertising from publishers selling you the latest and best resource ever. The teacher and laptop combination has meant you are never far away from your e-mails and if you throw e-mail addiction into the mix then if you are not careful your productivity levels will drop and your stress levels will rise.

Here are a few tips to avoid e-mail addiction:

  1. Set yourself times when you will check your e-mails. The times for checking can be flexible and found by trial and error. For instance you might find checking twice a day too few or too many.
  2. Sometimes it us useful to check your e-mail first thing in the morning and categorise them into urgent, non urgent and deletable. Did you know that 50% of e-mails are deleted before they are opened?
  3. Don’t be tempted to have your school e-mail installed on your phone. Do you really want a message from your line manager at 11.00 in the evening before you go to bed?
  4. Think before you send an e-mail whether you need to send it or not. Could you not walk and talk to the person instead?
  5. Is there such a thing as e-mail competition? For instance, does sending an e-mail late at night impress anyone? Does the recipient really think – gosh, they’re working late!? Don’t point score by sending your e-mail later than anyone else.
  6. Limit yourself to a set number of e-mails a day. Sometimes I set myself a 5 a day sending limit. If I have to send more then I will go and find the person or phone them.

Remember there is no such thing as an e-mail emergency!

If you have a way of avoiding e-mail addiction then please comment freely.

e-mail addiction

The images in this post are from here and here.

No 23. The Pedagogy Wheel

Bloom’s Taxonomy is always talked about in education showing the different learning objectives that pupils should achieve. For a more up to date version have a look at the pedagogy wheel which gives examples of actions and activities that pupils can engage in according to the four objectives of: remember/understand, apply, analyse, evaluate, create. Better still, it even suggests iPad apps that are relevant for pupils and teachers to use for each of the four objectives.

pedagody wheel

The image above is from here.