Posted in wellbeing

Appreciation.

appreciate
 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/11167810745

 

It doesn’t take much to appreciate what you have. But many of us don’t do it often enough. During the last week of term before Easter, staff were involved in a morning devotion focusing on gratitude – an attitude of gratitude goes a long way.

This year I appreciate so much more than I used to.

The fact that I am healthier than I was in 2015. I enjoy the variety that my job offers me. The new opportunities that I have had. The support I am offered. The love I am given. The friendships I have.

I was talking with my fiancee last week about being in the ‘now’. I feel that the constant integration of technology into our lives has suppressed our ability to appreciate what we already have. Now, when I’m the passenger on a road trip, I’m often looking at my phone…instead of looking out of the window. Instead of leafing through my countless recipe books and family recipes, I jump online to find a recipe quickly. Instead of having to wait days to have photo film develop, we upload them to social media…after we’ve deleted the first 4 attempts because someone wasn’t looking, or it was a ‘bad angle’ of mum.

Now we have apps on our phones and iPads to help us create to-do lists, with schedules and reminders. Thankfully…I have scaled back from this and have gone back to an old-fashioned diary this year. And on the table next to the couch are 3 pens and a pad of sticky notes.

Don’t forget to appreciate the little things! Like pens…and sticky notes.

 

Posted in wellbeing

The story of a successful school ‘buddy’ program.

This post has been floating around in my head since the first day at my new school this year, however seeing @kaz_phi on Pinterest today prompted me to put my thoughts into action.
On the first day of school for the Foundation students, their week-long swimming program started. Me: “What the actual heck? Are these people (staff) crazy? What a nightmare!”

However, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed. Each new Foundation student had been given a buddy. They had met their buddy on the Orientation day last year and had a photo of them to look at over the holidays. On the first day of school, the Year 6 buddies collected the Foundation students and ate recess with them. They were in charge of helping their buddy get changed for swimming and changed again after swimming. This process lasted all week.

On the third day of school was the first whole-school Assembly. The Year 6 students collected their little buddy, walked with them to Assembly, showed them where (and how) to stand in line and then took them to the Year 6 classroom afterwards to show them where they do their learning.

At the end of Week 3, I noticed a few key things:

-Foundation students rarely approached a yard duty teacher if they had a problem in the playground – their first port of call was their buddy, or another Year 6.

-The culture and atmosphere at the Swimming Carnival was incredible and took a lot of weight from the teachers shoulders, as Year 6 buddies ran and helped organise events for the Foundation-2 students.

-The Year 6 students love to spend every moment possible with their buddy.

True, it’s a small school with only about 100 primary students & 50 students in Year 7-10. Yes, all of the Primary students have the same area to play in, at the same time. There is also a dedicated ‘buddy’ program on a Friday afternoon in every class, run by the school chaplaincy workers.

But the credit must go to the Foundation and Year 6 teacher…who investigate ways to support and nurture these new relationships to bring the buddy program to such a high level of success. I have never seen such a strong bond between buddies! In my previous job, it seemed such a hassle to organise a buddy time in the crowded weekly timetable…and then who would organise an activity…and run it…and what would the educational outcome be?

This…just works.

Does your school have a buddy program? Structured or unstructured? Successful or unsuccessful?

Posted in Learning, wellbeing

My start to relief teaching in 2016.

This year my weeks are planned as relief teaching on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and teaching all grades at a school from P-6 over Thursday and Friday as I provide release for school leaders and graduate teachers.

I’ve had 3 days of relief work at my part-time school so far, but went and visited 5 other schools to offer my relief teaching services. The results were all positive, but one school stood out. See if you can see why.

All of my conversations began at the school’s front reception, and went exactly like this: *smile* ‘Hi, my name is Fiona and I was wondering if there was anybody here I could speak to about relief teaching?’

School 1:

‘Tom’ is out at the moment, but I’ll pass your resume on. Thanks.

School 2:

Sure, come through and see ‘Tom’ in his office.

Tom: Lovely to meet you Fiona. I’ll pop your details in our file. Do you have your VIT card here with you so we can photocopy it? Speak to you soon.

School 3:

Oh wonderful, I’ll call ‘Tom’ over the speaker immediately.

Tom: Great to meet you, we’re looking for some reliable CRT’s this year. The days your available suit us perfectly. That’s excellent. Thanks.

School 4:

‘Tom’ is teaching right now, but I’ll give him your details. Thanks.

School 5:

Certainly, I’ll grab ‘Tom’ from the staffroom.

Tom: Lovely to meet you Fiona. Thank you so much for bringing your details in. Do you have your VIT card to photocopy? Actually, would you like to have a tour of the school? Here is the staffroom, tea and coffee available for all, plus there’s some lockers here to pop your handbag in when you come in. All of our student medical information can be found here, as well as in the staff toilets, which are here. There are 3 senior classes, so there’ll always be another teacher to ask if you have any questions or problems; the same in the 3/4 unit. We eat our recess after play and the same system for lunch, which we find works well. This is our principal, Mr X *shakes hand and smiles*.
So, that’s our whole school, plus the 4 different yard duty areas, which are A – here, B – out this window, C – the basketball courts, and D – down the end near the toilets, plus an inside first aid duty.
Now before anybody starts working here we have to do a 5 minute OHS induction – we can do that when you bring your paperwork back, like your bank details…or, do you have time to do it now? Excellent. Do you have any questions for me at all?

 

Now, School 5 might seem overwhelming to some people, but I had never felt so comfortable and at ease upon walking into a school for the first time.

First impressions – invaluable.

Posted in Learning, Routines, Technology, wellbeing

Gaining insight into your students’ wellbeing

Screenshot 2016-01-12 20.52.56

As many teachers around Australia are gearing up for another year in the classroom, I am sitting on the couch watching tennis, reading books and painting my toenails. This year is all about wellbeing for me. Yes, I am working 2 days a week in a variety of classrooms and will also put my hand up for relief teaching, but ultimately in 2016, I am putting myself first.

In my Year 2 classroom in 2015 I began to think carefully about not only my own wellbeing, but the wellbeing of those in my care. Some of my students had diagnosed learning difficulties including Asperger’s and Oppositional Defiance Disorder, others came from broken families, some had infant siblings and the list goes on.

With a few prompts from our Student Wellbeing Leader, I began to put this concern for my students into action, by creating a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Attendance Roll (using Smart Notebook software) that the students were in control of.  Each morning, their names were clustered together under the ‘House’ icon, meaning they were at home. Once they walked in the door, they dragged their name to the appropriate column on the screen. Those students who were absent were still listed under the ‘House’, meaning they were at home.

Some pages were about feelings – “How are you feeling today?” and featured a variety of visual images to students to work with, to assign their name to one of those feelings. I found that these pages often gave me a chance to do a quick one-on-one chat with a child while they were unpacking their bag, or simply keep an eye on them for any signs of emotional distress throughout the day.

I also created pages for graphing what each student ate for breakfast – we found that cereal was always the most popular – and check-ins for the end of playtime, end of the day, or to see how many stars you would give the weekend you just had?

This Smart Notebook document is available from my TPT store, which you can find here.

I’d love to hear any other feedback about how you cater for Social and Emotional Learning in your classrooms – mindfulness is a huge buzz word at the moment, but it’s no good if we don’t put it into action!

Posted in wellbeing

Not a NYE resolution, just reality.

I’ve started a new part of my day. I started last night…and it’s going well 18 hours on.

It’s not a New Year’s Resolution, because:

a) I’m starting it BEFORE January 1st

b) I’ve never managed to keep a NYE resolution before

c) It’s a coping mechanism, not a radical life-changing promise

Last night I pulled out a small notebook and wrote 3 things that I wanted to achieve today. Nothing groundbreaking, just ‘things’.

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I’m proud to say that the new microwave we got for Christmas is unpacked and 2 bags of clothes have made it to the op-shop bins. My walk in robe in now usable and my bedroom is nearly free of random clothes lying around.

My new reality is 3 things every day. I feel like I have achieved something to help me find clarity and peace.

What would your 3 things be?

Posted in Learning, wellbeing

Feeling broken

On Wednesday I arrived home at 5:30 and crashed on the couch in tears. I honestly felt like my students had broken me.

Over the last four years of teaching, I have prided myself on having fairly ‘good’ behaviour management. I’ve had behaviour management ‘systems’, visual strategies and classroom expectations. All have worked well.

This year is different.

I have lots of external classroom support, but it means so many of my students are in and out of the room at different times, in different rooms, with different teachers and aides…that it means I have to be planned and organised to the utmost degree…and God forbid that one of them is away, because I’m turning into that pedantic teacher that cannot handle any change to the timetable because it means that a) the students cannot handle it and b) their teacher is about to explode.

I spend my days given instructions at least 8 times over. I also use visual cues and hand signals to give directions to save my voice – however they only work when the student actually cares to look. By the time all of them have worked out the directions, we’ve lost 20 minutes of learning time. Use a timer you say? Yes, there’s a massive countdown timer on my interactive TV…but there are some students who are oblivious to any sort of timeframe.

I skipped my yoga class on Thursday afternoon and went home in tears again. My job overwhelmed me. The insane combination of behaviours and learning disabilities had made my head spin.

I feel like I am failing the children who are actually wanting to learn.

Posted in wellbeing

Do actions really speak louder than words?

Do you socialise with colleagues outside of work?

I moved 5 hours from my family for the job I am currently in. I knew nobody in the town I moved to, except for a long-lost family friend who was nursing at the local hospital.

5 years on, I am engaged to a local guy. He’s a teacher at a different school. Let’s just say that if I hadn’t have socialised with my colleagues outside of work hours, I wouldn’t have met him.

Despite this success, I’m not sure if it’s healthy to socialise with the people I work with outside of hours. As I am typing this, I am counting the number of friends I have locally who are not my colleagues…and I can count them on one hand.

I mean, I’ve met people. I’ve been on 3 netball teams and a regular yoga class. They’re just not people I would call on a Saturday afternoon and ask to come and walk my dog with me while having a chat.

A lot of my friends are teachers. Teachers at the same school as me, at other schools in the area, or friends that I’ve had since uni. When we get together, the tendency seems to be to talk about school. I don’t actually mind talking about school – my students and the actual teaching.

What I do mind though, is the negative attitude people have towards school, that they feel they need to pass around and infect on the people around them. Yes, I’ve been guilty of this myself, I know. The thing is, if I stopped hanging around my colleagues, I wouldn’t be able to moan and whine about teaching. Better still, I wouldn’t have to listen to them carry on about how much they hate Mr Maths, or Miss Humanities. Or how Mr History needs a bigger belt for his pants…or bigger pants. Or how Mrs Administration’s new haircut makes her look 20 years older.

I’ve made a few changes. There are certain colleagues I refuse to spend time with outside of work. I can act collegial towards them at work, but once 4pm on a Friday comes, there is no chance I will willingly spend my time in their company. I feel it would be detrimental to my own health.

Their words are what I’m avoiding, but it’s my actions which are doing the talking.