TeachMeet Kids – enabling teachers with young families to connect and share their practice

TeachMeet Kids

This week there was a TeachMeet with a difference. I organised the first TeachMeet Kids, a family-friendly TeachMeet. TeachMeets are a group of educators who come together to share their practice. Traditionally TeachMeets are held during after-school hours (between 5pm and 7pm) followed by TeachEat (dinner and drinks). I use to regularly go to TeachMeets but haven’t in the last year due to the birth of my daughter. I noticed that quite a few other educators have dropped out of the TeachMeet circles due to having children. Early evening is not a good time for teachers with young children. A few educators with young children indicated that they felt disconnected due to this.

And this thought came to me:

Why can’t we have a kid-friendly TeachMeet?

Why can’t we have a TeachMeet where educators can bring their children (if they wish)?

Why can’t we have a TeachMeet that’s during the day as early evening is reserved for the dinner and bath routine for the little ones and not everyone is lucky enough to have family to look after the kids?

The result of these thoughts was TeachMeet Kids. While TeachMeet Kids was targeted at educators with young children, any educator can attend. It was held in the school holidays during the day. Educators can bring their little ones if they wanted to. The venue was kid-friendly. It was pram accessible, had pram parking, close to public transport, had car parking, had baby change rooms and baby feeding facilities. All attendees knew to expect some rowdiness because this TeachMeet will also be attended by kids.

Australian National Maritime Museum very kindly provided a free space for TeachMeet Kids. Not only that, their museum educators also took the kids around on a pirates tour.

For me, TeachMeet Kids gave me back the opportunity to connect with educators like I did pre-baby days.Ā I think TeachMeet Kids also enables the education community to tap into the expertise of educators who have young families. I learnt so much from the presenters. From how to use Kahoot! to enhance formative assessment, enabling all students to be leaders, film-making using mobile devices and making crystal radios to what it’s like to be a museum educator and embedding selfies as a learning tool.

I am looking forward to seeing more TeachMeet Kids šŸ™‚

Work life satisfaction – my #edugoal progress

  
Previously I have blogged about my #edugoals for 2016, one of which is work life satisfaction. I don’t think I have achieved it. I sometimes still feel very overwhelmed being a teacher and also a Head Teacher.

And then I saw this photo posted on Twitter from a book by @teachertoolkit.

  
One thing I’m learning to accept is that there’s always more to do. It doesn’t matter how much you do as a teacher, there’s always more you can do. I’m learning not to stress too much when the to do list isn’t completed. Don’t get me wrong; I do know how to priortise . But what I have forgotten to do was to have wellbeing in the priority list as well. What I’m doing now is adding wellbeing activities on the to do list. Things like read Harry Potter or watch TV, because these little things are just as important as replying to the never-ending emails and modifying programs.

What do you do to achieve work life satisfaction?

My #EduGoals for 2016

In many areas of Australia, the new school year is about to start. In the state of New South Wales, many schools return this week. As the new school year beckons, I’m like many teachers who are thinking about their educational goals (EduGoals) for the new year. Here’s my 3 EduGoals for 2016:

1. Using learning spaces to further enhance teaching and learning

classroom

My classroom this year

Last year I was very lucky to have received a bunch of more flexible furniture from John Goh. To put things in context, I’ve always been very lucky to have a “nice” learning space. The science lab I’m in was only refurbished in 2010 so my classes and I have always worked with new furniture. However, when I began my project based learning journey in 2012, I realised that the standard two-seater rectangular tables were no longer working. Students wanted a space where they can easily transition from whole-class instruction/discussion, to small group work and to individual work. The space, as it was, was very effective for whole class instruction, but not for small group work where students needed to collaborate and often worked on different projects at different paces. For the next few years, students spilled out into the hallways, took up nearby classrooms if they weren’t being used and even moved out into the quad in order to work on their projects as a team.

I’m hoping that with this new set up, more space is created. John enlightened me last year when he told me that it’s not about furniture, it’s about space. For a long time I’ve always looked at how to get round tables or pac-man shaped tables so that 30 students can have their own desk. It isn’t about that. It’s about creating space to learn. At the moment there’s only enough table spaceĀ for 24 students. However, students can sit on the floor or move over to the “wet” area of the lab where there are standing desks. I gave away lots of my original furniture in order to do this. I think I still need to get rid of more.

I’m continuing to ensure the walls of the classroom is used for learning. I visited a New Zealand school a few years ago where the teacher said: “Anyone, doesn’t matter if it’s a student, teacher, parent or someone else, should be able to walk into a classroom and know what the class is learning and doing immediately without asking anyone.” I haven’t used my classroom walls for “decoration” for a few years now. The walls are filled with our learning routines, our “topics”, current projects, relevant learning strategies and displays of student work.

stuck posters

Posters of strategies to encourage independent thinking and problem solving

classroom wall

Timetable and posters showing current topics for different key learning areas

 

2. Using technology to further enhance teaching and learning

Last year, I played around with OfficeMix. I really like how it is an addition to PowerPoint and can create videos that work across all platforms. This year I’m going to be using OfficeMix to create a flip classroom for maths. I’m planning to have students sign in so that I can get analytics and use that to inform my future practice. I’m also going to get back into OneNote. I’ve been following the work of Pip Cleaves in how she is using OneNote to create staff and class notebooks. I’m keen to see how it can work for me, my faculty, my students and my school.

 

3. Using video to improve my practice

Classroom observations is a key strategy in teachers reflecting on, and further improving on their practice at my school. I’d like to step it up this year and include video analysis when a colleagueĀ observes me. Having a video recording to look back on would seem to enrich the feedback from the colleague in the post-observation meeting. I know video analysis of teacher practice is done regularly at some schools and I’d like to try that personally.

 

4. Finding work/life satisfaction

Last year was my first year of full time work after returning from maternity leave. My baby is now 18 months old. Being a parent and a full time teacher plus a leader is challenging. My online PLN often talks of work life balance. However, Jason BortonĀ said to me on Twitter that he calls it “work/life satisfaction” and not “balance”. I really like the term “satisfaction” than “balance”. To me, balance is more quantitative. Something like ‘I must spend equal amounts of time doing work, spending time with my family and doing things I enjoy.’ On the other hand, “satisfaction” seems more qualitative to me. ‘Am I happy?’ “Satisfaction” is also more personal. Work/life satisfaction is different to each individual and it doesn’t have to be 50/50 all the time.

 

 

baby V

Baby V

Babies and school – how to find balance

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I haven’t posted a lot lately because I have had my first baby in July. She is definitely the best thing that has ever happened to me. However she is also the biggest challenge I have faced. It is more than the challenge of taking care of a tiny little person who is totally dependent on you round the clock. For me the biggest challenge has been adjusting to how I define myself and how I will find a work life balance.

I have always identified myself through my work, especially my work ethic. I pride myself in being able to dedicate 500% of myself to my students. This has meant long hours of work after school and on weekends to create the best learning opportunities and resources for my students. I pride myself in being able to juggle multiple roles. In addition to my roles at school, I also worked with UTS, UNSW and Microsoft. I rarely said no to any opportunities that came before me. Even before the baby arrived other teachers have said I was going to have a nervous breakdown because I was working so much.

And now the baby has arrived, I have realised I can’t continue doing what I did. I now need to say no. So far I have said no to working on the national assessment program for science literacy with UNSW, the summer school program with UTS and presenting in Singapore because I was either physically unable to or doing so will mean I will not be sleeping for months on end. Not saying no will no longer just impact on me, it will now impact on a little person as well. This is something I am really struggling with at the moment. It feels like I’ve lost a part of who I am.

However, the biggest challenge for me will be next year when I return to work full time. Baby will be 6 months. I am already thinking of how I’ll balance work commitments from school, my baby’s needs and my own wellbeing. Some things I have asked myself are:
-When should I do school work? Should I stay at school and finish everything at school? This would mean picking up baby from daycare late and by the time we get home, it will be time to put her to bed. If I pick up baby straight after school, I’ll get more time to spend with her but will I then be doing school work till the early hours of the morning and affecting my own health and wellbeing?
-Will I be able to dedicate myself to my students & my faculty as much as I used to?

I’d like to hear from other teachers who are parents and are already on this journey. What are your advice & tips? How do you balance your passion for teaching with your family’s needs, and your own needs?