Podcast

TnT 87 How to tackle organization when you’re naturally disorganized

Imagine if teaching only involved the part where you’re interacting with students. Things would be much easier, right? But the reality is that there are so many facets of teaching that pull at us, and unless you’re hyper-organized, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by it all. I know that there are many of you that are FAR more organized than I am, but I really want to help out the rest of us that are too frazzled or absent-minded to be that way. Through a lot of trial and error, I’ve been able to keep my organization in check and at a manageable level, and I wanted to share some tips I’ve learned along the way. 

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As I mentioned in the introduction, I’m not a very organized person by nature. Now before you peace out because you don’t want to take advice from someone like me, remember that the people that are hyper-organized don’t understand why you can’t get it together. I do understand and have battled with this, and because I’ve pushed past it, I’m exactly the person you should take advice from!

 

So a lot of you really like planners, and I’ve seen so many people invest in those gorgeous Erin Condren planners. I personally LOVELOVELOVE to buy planners! I remember going to Michael’s and geeking out on the Happy Planner and all of the accessories that go with it. I bought washi tape, fun pens, cute little post-its, and everything else that you can use to pimp out your planner.

 

Here’s the thing: I LOVE to buy planners but I never, ever use them. I’ll try it for a month, and then I’ll stop using it. And I’ve invested literally hundreds of dollars over the years in planners that I never use.

 

In fact, my daughter laughs at me when I ooh and ahhh over planners and literally pulls me away. She says, “Mom, you’re not going to use it and you know it.” And I’ll say, “But look, it’s so pretty! If it’s THAT pretty I’ll use it!” To which she’ll reply, “When was the last time you used a planner for an entire year?”

 

And she has a point! The last time I successfully used a planner was in college some twenty years ago. So yeah, buying a planner is a waste. Plus, I have to actually remind myself to use it. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of it?

 

But if you’re a die-hard planner person and can use it, then I highly encourage you to do so. Planners are such an effective tool for staying on top of things when there are so many balls in the air. I obviously won’t recommend one because I can’t stick to one, but I cast no judgment on how much or how little you spend on one.

 

So what do I use instead? Technology.

 

I’m an Mac and Apple nerd, and the fact that the devices sync with each other is really helpful. If I was an Android user, I’d probably use more Google Apps because I already use them a lot on my iPhone.

 

I make lists on the Notes app, use Reminders, and put all dates on the Calendar. I only use the native apps on my phone because I don’t find it necessary to pay for anything.

 

I used to not have a system in terms of planning. Every year I’d have to spend hours rebuilding what I did the previous year, and for whatever reason, I always want to change things up. Sound familiar?

 

So my first step towards solving this conundrum is I took a paper monthly calendar, went through the calendar in JupiterEd (which is the learning management system I’ve used for YEARS) and the assignments in Google Classroom from the previous years, and wrote down what I did and when. I needed a visual for what I had done before so that I could always come back to it. If you use a paper planbook, then you can do that too.

 

Next, I started to transition to creating notes in the Notes app with my schedule for the week or month. I’d put what I’d teach each day for each period, and it gave me the flexibility to adjust as needed.

 

I know some people who use Google Docs for this. The reason why I used the Notes app is because it didn’t require the internet to get my Notes, and unless I set my list as being able to edit offline, Google Docs requires internet. And while I usually have good service or Wifi, I don’t want to have to deal with it if I don’t. Also, in the Notes app I can create folders, while you have to make folders in Google Drive and then put the Google Docs in there.

 

There’s also Google Keep, which is just like the Notes app. If I didn’t have Notes, I’d be using Keep because it’s very intuitive and is a little bit easier to hyperlink to online files.

 

This year, I’m trying out something new by putting the agenda for each day on a Google Slide, and I have a set of slides for each quarter. I have a slide for each day with the periods listed since I have more than one prep. I used to put the Google Drive links with the resources I used in the speaker notes section of each slide, but honestly, I’ve kind of slacked off on that part. 

 

In any case, this method helps me stay organized, and ideally, I can just reuse these slides next year with new dates. I’m basically trying to make it so that I don’t have to do any planning next year unless I feel compelled to. I don’t want to slave away at planning anymore, especially if what I’m doing this year is effective. I mean, unless you hate what you did last year, you can just reuse everything with minor tweaks. That will save you a LOT of time while also keeping you organized! 

 

And another way to cut down on planning the next year is to take notes after a lesson that you know needs to be better next time. For example, if you need more or less time next year, write that down. If the activity didn’t help the kids learn what they needed to do, write that down so that you can find a replacement.

 

So there’s definitely work upfront, but it means that with each subsequent year, it’ll become easier and easier because you’ll have a system down.

 

The next part of being organized is your classroom. I have a unique advantage this year in that I don’t have my own room. It might seem like a nightmare, but traveling to different rooms means that I have to be very strategic in terms of what I take with me. I’ve opted out of getting a teacher cart and basically have a few bags. And I’ve been more organized than ever before!

 

So think about what it is that you really, truly need on your desk. I’m all for having photos of your family, friends, and pets. But do you really need all of the desktop organizational systems? How often do you reach for what’s in it? Can it have its own bin in a drawer so that you don’t have to look at it all of the time?

 

In terms of what’s on your desk, try to keep it to things that you find yourself reaching for frequently. This could be post-its, pens, pencils, tape, stapler, and a pencil sharpener. The more you stuff you pile on your desk, the less real estate you have to actually work!

 

If you can, take advantage of drawers in your desk, and if you don’t have any, you can buy one of those rolling drawer systems for supplies like rubber bands and white-board markers. But having a desk that is relatively clutter-free will help your sanity and level of organization.

Now let’s talk about bins. I know a lot of teachers with a TON of bins that are filled with stuff they never use anymore. What’s the point of that? The more stuff you have in your room the less room you have for teaching. You don’t need to cover every space with something, and in fact, too much clutter is also distracting for students.

 

So the more storage you give yourself in your room, the more likely you’re going to fill it with things that you don’t need anymore. In my End-of-the-year Sanity Saver course, I have an exercise where you pack up your stuff in preparation for summer cleaning. This is the perfect time to get rid of stuff that you know you won’t use because you haven’t

 

When I moved out my classroom, I got rid of a LOT of stuff and pared down everything to about five small boxes. And now that I’ve traveled and know what I truly need, I know that I’m going to get rid of even more stuff at the end of this year. But what if I get my own classroom again? I still know that I don’t need so much stuff to do a good job.

 

You also want to think about where you put things down. This could be student work, paperwork or forms you have to fill out, mail, supplies for kids to use, etc. Does the location of those items truly make sense? Are the bins for submitting work in an easily accessible place for students? Is your paperwork and mail pile somewhere where you won’t’ look at it? Do you have stacks of items that are randomly pushed the side of a table that will be dealt with eventually?

 

The reason why I ask this is that everything that one can set down somewhere needs to have a purposeful place. If you have random stacks of things or you just pile everything on your desk, you’ll become overwhelmed and never get to it. You’re going to find yourself behind on paperwork, losing student work, and having a lot of things just collecting dust.

 

So you need to come up with a system so that everything that gets set down has a home. And stick to using that home for only those things.

 

Now notice that I didn’t give you a system or suggestions on how to do this. This is because whatever system you use, you have to own it. I’ve read and heard about so many different ways to organize a classroom, but if it doesn’t work for me, I won’t use it. So you need to really know yourself and what makes sense for you and stick to it. If you want to try something out, then do it, and get feedback from your students as well as to how it’s working.

 

And let students help you! If you need assignments alphabetized for easy grading, having someone do that. If you need someone to check off who’s submitted an assignment so that you can hunt down the ones who haven’t, then do that. You have students that really want to help and feel important, and who are naturally organized, so tap into that. When they take ownership of the classroom, that gives you more mental bandwidth to focus on teaching.

 

Finally, I want to do a refresher on making use of your non-teaching time. I’ve talked about this several times before, but I think it’s important to reiterate a few things.

 

First, if you think you have no extra time, then for a week or two, write down exactly what you do every hour that you’re NOT physically teaching. This could be social media, eating, grading, planning, answering emails, etc. I know this seems tedious, but it’s really important to get a clear picture of where all of your time is going. And be honest with yourself – there should be no shame involved. You’re doing this so that you can increase the amount of free time you have outside of your duty day and spend more time taking care of yourself.

 

So take a good look at this and figure out where you’re wasting time. You might think that you’re working really hard after school, but instead, you’re chatting with your neighbor, playing words with friends, and scrolling on Instagram. Which is TOTALLY fine, but then we have to be honest with ourselves about why we feel like we don’t have enough time in the day.

 

Once you’ve figured out your time-wasters, you need to start actually scheduling what you’re going to do with the hours outside of teaching. If you have a one-hour planning period, decide what you’re going to do during that time on each day. And batch activities so that you’re not wasting time switching between them. So save your photocopying for one or two days and grading on another.

And stick to your schedule as much as possible. If you schedule the gym, go. If you schedule family time, don’t work. If you schedule grading, stay off of social media. It’s really hard to be committed to this, but you have to remember that the ultimate goal is to be more organized and have more free time.

I personally get to work about 15-20 minutes before school starts. This is the time when I answer emails in bulk. One of the benefits is that I can do this rather efficiently, plus my email ends up at the top of the recipient’s mailbox. Of course, if there’s an urgent or time-sensitive email I’ll answer it at other times, but sticking to a schedule makes it easier for me to be in one zone at a time.

I also make really good use of my planning period and our advisory. I try not to go on social media during that time unless I want to give a quick update on Instagram or my Teachers Need Teachers Facebook group, but otherwise, I work really hard to get things done.

You’re going to find a system that works for you, but just know that the only person who can give you back your time is you. If you waste time, then obviously you won’t have any left to do the things that really matter to you.

And the benefit of being purposeful with organization and your time is that when you finally have time for yourself, you can be truly present. I can’t take back the time I spent on my computer grading or planning when I should have been hanging out with my daughter. And now that she’s a teenager, she’d rather be with her friends.

But when she was 7, she wanted to play with me. She wanted to go on walks with me. But not, mommy was too busy, so let me put something on the TV so that she can be distracted instead of distracting me. I have a tremendous amount of guilt about this and really wish that I’d done things differently, which is why this topic is so darn important to me.

Now, maybe you don’t have a child, but you can think of this the same way with the time you spend making friends, spending time with the ones you have, dating, etc. Unless you’re truly purposeful about it, you can neglect a lot of important people in your life or miss opportunities for some really great memories.

And maybe you need a side hustle but you can’t find the time. Staying on top of organization this way will allow you to do that successfully without burning you out.

So I know I covered a lot today, and I hope you can walk away with at least one or two strategies to be more organized. I also have the transcript for this episode at teachersneedteachers.com/87 if you want to remember what I covered without listening to the episode again.

And remember that I’m still going to be releasing episodes, but they’re going to be ones I did in the past that you guys have found to be the most useful. But if you don’t want to miss my returning episode, be sure to hit that subscribe or follow button.

And as always, please share this with your colleagues and professional learning network. Share it on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook…and let other teachers know how much it’s helped you! Most podcast apps make it really easy to do that! Let’s work together to build a huge community of new teachers that are benefiting from the advice I share here!

Thanks again for hanging out with me today, and have a fabulous week.

TnT 86 How Open Middle Math lessons can get your students addicted to math

Math tends to be one of those subjects that kids either understand and love or are completely befuddled by and hate. New math teachers often find themselves struggling between teaching procedures versus concepts. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of controversy in terms of which way leads to greater student success. In this interview, Robert Kaplinsky of openmiddle.com lets us in on why Common Core is given such a bad rap, the concept of Open Middle Math (and if you’re a math teacher who hasn’t heard of it, you’re in for a treat), and then we both get into the complicated discussion of grading.

Where to find Robert:

Open Middle Math

RobertKaplinsky.com

Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

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TnT 85 How to set yourself up for success with station rotations

In the last episode, we covered why teachers should incorporate station rotations into their teaching, the logistics of planning for them, and how they can help with differentiation and classroom management. But if you’ve done them in the past and they were a disaster, chances are you didn’t set them up properly. Today I bring Laura Kebart back to discuss how to use stations for small group instruction as well as how to train your students so that your stations are a success.

Where you can find Laura:

languageartsteachers.com

The station rotation freebie:

languageartsteachers.com/easystations

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TnT 84 Why station rotations can positively impact your teaching practice

A lot of teachers have different strategies for cooperative learning or to facilitate more engaging learning experiences. One that most know of and not enough try is station rotations. I’d seen these done with various teachers and even dipped my toe in a bit, but I wanted to know more about how to do them effectively. So I invited my friend, Laura Kebart from languageartsteachers.com, who is an expert on making stations fit within the context of your class. We go into what stations are, why we should use them, how to group students, how to create an assignment that lends itself to stations, how to make them work in a 45-minute period, classroom management, AND grading.

Where you can find Laura:

languageartsteachers.com

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Kim  

I’m super excited about this episode because not only do I want to learn more about stations, I want to try to convince you to give them a shot as well. I’m always looking for ways for students to stay engaged and to create deeper learning experiences for them. And I think stations are really going to change up how I do things. 

 

Kim  

Well, thank you, Laura, so much for being on the podcast. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this.

 

Laura  

Oh my gosh, I’m so happy to be here. Kim, happy to talk to you and we’re ready to go. Yeah.

 

Kim  

So about a year ago, actually, you were on the podcast. And you know, we have you back with For those who haven’t heard that episode that you were on, could you tell my listeners more about what you do?

 

Laura  

Oh, sure, yes. So I serve middle school English language arts teachers by providing full curriculum and instructional coaching. So that involves embedding, reading, writing, speaking, listening all those skills into the lessons, and I work with teachers all across the country at this point who either have no resources, or they have too many resources and lots of flexibility. And you know, teachers who were told Oh, just teach the standard, you’ll be fine. Well, what does that mean? 

 

Laura  

And so I provide those resources and that instructional coaching to them and I do it in a way that’s completely realistic. I really take the whole teacher into account when I’m providing advice or instructional coaching in other words, what’s your what’s going on with your family at home? What do you like to do on the weekends? What’s happening in your life outside of school, so that I’m always providing information and resources that make sense for them where they are. 

 

Laura  

So I will never tell a teacher you need to put together this whole project, it’s going to, you know, you ever been to those workshops and conferences and you think, wait, if I was actually going to do that, that would take hours every night, right? And, you know, so I just I never offer that kind of advice. So I serve in a very realistic way. The teachers you know, who are in our membership, so I serve these teachers through membership so that I can provide consistent support and resources every month all year long.

 

Kim  

And what’s great about that is I’ve always recommended to my listeners, especially when they’re starting out to not create their own lessons, because it just it takes a long time, number one and number two, you kind of don’t really know what’s going to work. I think that it’s better to you use other people’s lessons that are vetted and that have worked in the past, you know, they’ve worked out all the kinks. 

 

And with a subscription service like yours for middle school, la Teachers, that overwhelm of Okay, am I covering all of the standards? Am I, you know, doing everything that I’m supposed to do? And then they still have to grade? And then they still have to answer parent emails. 

 

So when you use somebody else’s resources, it just takes one more step in this step that takes up a lot of time. And I think it also helps eliminate that Sunday fear, where what am I going to do tomorrow? Well, if you are using your service, it’s like here, this is what you’re going to do for the next month. You know, it’s already planned out and they don’t have to worry, that’s one less thing for them to worry about.

 

Laura  

Yeah, it’s true and it opens up so much bandwidth, to be able to actually build relationships with your students. So instead of thinking about all the things you’ve got to do, and the random Random resources online and you know, spread out all over the place. You’re trying to kind of Frankenstein your plans together, or you have no resources and you’re trying to invent something scratch that takes so much emotional and mental bandwidth. And then you’re doubting yourself, Is this enough? And, you know, we’re Teachers, it’ll never be enough. 

 

Laura  

So we put that pressure on ourselves. But you know, to have that part, taken off your plate opens up so many more possibilities to just get to know your kids and to build those relationships. And, you know, rather than focusing on what is going to happen the next day in class, because now you’re out of lesson plans, or you don’t have anyone to ask about it, so right. I really enjoy serving in that way.

 

Kim  

Now, the reason why I brought you back this time, is because I want to know more about stations. I’ve heard of other teachers using stations. I tried it in the beginning of the year, and it was really cool. My students were into it, but I still kind of feel like I could be better about it. I don’t know, I was a little bit overwhelmed with it, it was actually super exhausting. So for those of us that either have never used stations or maybe we’ve only dabbled Can you explain how they work?

 

Laura  

To answer that question, so much of what we think about stations comes from seeing how they’re supposed to look after months and months and months of prep time. Or it’s like seeing the final product and not understanding what it takes to get there. And nobody really talks about what it takes to get there. So I know for me, I’ve been through you know, so many workshops and professional developments just like everyone else, and you know, stations, this is what you’re doing and they show you what it’s supposed to look like, but there’s nothing about how to get there. 

 

Laura  

So people who have never used stations, what it is is stations allow students to work for a very specific amount of time. On a very focused piece of content, and then they rotate to another type of work, they can physically get up and go to another table where that next assignment is already there for them. Or if you have a large class or a wonky class, and you don’t want them giving up, because we’ve all been there, um, sometimes the students stay seated and the work itself can rotate. 

 

Laura  

So the point is that students have a very specific amount of time to work on a very focused piece of content. And that’s what makes it so different from just group work. You think well, how’s it different from group work, but group were kind of has a, I don’t know, kind of a connotation that there’s no real star, there’s no real and everyone’s kind of working together and you end up with the one kid who writes in the other, just kind of sit there and you know, gets out of hand. So stations are a lot more strategic is what it is, and it allows for differentiation, which we can get into later. But that’s really the way to think about it is that it’s a special civic amount of time, the students are working on a very specific assignment.

 

Kim  

Okay, so it sounds like you’re more of a proponent for stations compared to just regular group work.

 

Laura  

In most cases, it depends on what you want to happen. So if you want to use stations in other words, if you want your students to slow down, you know you’ve got these fast workers, right? I’m done after five seconds. If you want students to really focus on one thing at a time, give their best effort. If you want your students to not feel overwhelmed. If you want your students to feel successful with just one thing at a time, then that stations now group work there’s nothing wrong with group work. 

 

Laura  

But if your intention is I just need my kids to work together in groups because I’ve got a splitting headache and it’s Friday and it’s 240. Go for it. That’s fine. You know, or if it really is a group project, and you need your students working in groups on the project, that may be a different situation, but stations are just a lot more strategic. And they really allow the teacher to differentiate without doing a whole lot of extra work. So group work is not going to have much differentiation involved. Not typically, you know, and I don’t want to say never, because I know there’s someone out there who will argue, and that’s not the point. It’s just that stations are very, very strategic, whereas group work is a lot more open.

 

Kim  

Okay, so then what do I need to take into consideration in terms of like the classroom layout and how I split up the students to make stations more efficient and make them work better?

 

Laura  

Yeah, and you know, this is going to depend on your group of students, it’s going to depend on the time of day, you may have to approach stations a little bit differently, let’s say after lunch, then maybe before lunch, but it’s you know, you have to think about how many minutes you have in your class period. You’ve got to think about the behaviors in each class, the student dynamics, really looking at which students work well together, which ones don’t. 

 

Laura  

And so, you know, it’s interesting, because we may have listeners right now who are thinking, well wait a second, it should depend on reading level, it should depend on, you know, Lexile or, well, yes, we’re going to get to that as we go. But when you’re just getting started with stations, none of those other things matter. If your students are not working, if they’re not working the way they should, if they’re not getting along with each other, those other pieces don’t matter. So when we’re starting out, we need to consider how much time we actually have for stations per day. And which students work well together and which ones should never be together because that’s just the reality. Right?

 

Kim  

And then is there a better layout for the physical movement that you’ve seen like? Should everyone be at opposite corners of the room or

 

Laura  

Do you know what I mean? I do yeah, I know what you’re saying. And again, that’s going to depend on your students. As you get to know your students throughout the year. You’ll know which ones are okay. Kind of back in a corner working and you know which ones you would never have. Okay over there on that part of the room. When we’re getting started with stations, though, I do want everyone sitting in a chair. Now if you know flexible seating, that’s different, but I need to see all of my students I need to be able to see what they’re doing. I want everything out in the open. 

 

Laura  

And then as we move through the year as I get used to the stations, as the students are getting used to the stations as they’re working up to my standards, then I can start to be more flexible. Yes, you three can go and sit on the pillows over there. Yes, it’s fine for you to go over, you know what I mean? But starting out, I’m I recommend being a little bit more strict about it. 

 

Laura  

You just want to make sure that Visually you can see and hear your students and get to them quickly as you’re going through those initial setup, you know, set up procedures for training them on stations. And I mean, we can talk about how to train your students for stations too. But okay, yeah, but for the layout, I really want my students to have space to work, and I need to be able to see and hear what’s going on.

 

Kim  

Right. And so now if I decide that, you know, I haven’t figured out in my head, like how the layout is going to be and who can go where what should I consider when I’m creating an assignment for stations?

 

Laura  

Oh, my gosh, that’s a great question. So well, first of all, whatever the assignment is at that station, is it the type of assignment the students have actually done before in your class? So Well, yes, they’ve done vote. Yes, we do vocabulary every week, okay. But is this a totally different way? that they’re using the vocabulary because if so, That’s it’s going to bring up some questions. And so the point of stations is that ultimately you need to get your kids to the point where they can work independently the other institutions, but you know what I mean, they can work independently, without having to ask the teacher a question every two seconds, it really needs to be an assignment that they’ve done before, or that’s very, very similar to what they’ve done before. 

 

Laura  

So when you’re getting started with stations, give them something to do that is very similar to what you’ve done before. So maybe, maybe it’s annotations. Let’s say you’ve been working on poetry annotations. So you know that they can do it whole class, you feel confident that they can handle it. They’ve done it before they’ve seen the work before. So give them a very similar assignment. Something that’s been done before that’s really important. Do they know what their work is supposed to look like? So again, if it’s a similar, you know, if it’s an assignment that similar to what they’ve done before, then they know what their work is supposed to look like if you’re giving them something new. thinking, Oh, well, they’re working together, they can figure it out. They may or may not figure it out. And they may or may not use that as a perfect excuse to not really put forth their best effort because they can always fall back on the well, we weren’t sure what to do. And we know they know that sometimes, you know, it’s just it’s so much easier when you’re starting out with stations if you do. 

 

Laura  

If you provide an assignment that is similar to what they’ve done before, they need to know what their work is supposed to look like as well, which goes back to your expectations, right? So you know, and when we’re creating an assignment for stations, it’s, it’s important that students know what to do when they’re done. So let’s say you’ve got a short 45-minute class. And let’s say you plan on having students do you know, to 20-minute rotations, maybe that’s all you can do that day, right? Um, students need to know what to do when time is up, so or they need to know what to do if they look up and they see your timers. And they’ve still got four minutes. That’s something else to consider as well. 

 

Laura  

So if you’re creating an assignment for stations and you know, they’re only going to have 20 minutes, is the assignment going to be too long? Is it maybe not long enough? Or do you have procedures in place? So the students know what to do next? Or where do they put their work? How do they submitted to you. So those are definitely some things to consider when you’re setting up an assignment for stations. And on that note, when you’re first starting out with stations, I recommend actually giving all of your I’m going to use the word groups here. I recommend giving all of your groups the same assignment because when you’re first training your students, it’s not even about the assignment. It’s about making sure they know what to do without you. Making sure that they know what to do if they finish a little bit early, or what to do. If you know the timer goes off, and they’re not done yet, what the quality of work looks like and so you That’s the other thing too, that is so much easier for teachers starting out with stations. 

 

Laura  

It’s like we’re taught that we need, you know, eight stations in the room and every station is something different. And that’s how we get started, oh my gosh, no. Start with however many groups you need. And just give them all the same assignment because we’re not ready for differentiation yet. We’re not ready to let the kids complete and figure out everything on their own. It’s just a step. It’s a step to figure out who should never be sitting together. Are they completing the assignment with the same level of quality that they would if they were not in a station?

 

Kim  

So that answers my next call. That leads me to my next question is classroom management because, you know, you did mention like some students can and cannot handle it. And of course, that’s the reality. There’s got to be some trust built into there, but it In my mind, it kind of sounds chaotic. And how can I make sure that everyone is actually working when it appears to be complete chaos?

 

Laura  

Yes. And I know what you’re talking about. Yes, complete chaos. And this is the fear that causes many teachers to either give up very quickly on stations or don’t even try them because they don’t even want to go there. And I get that, like, why would you want more chaos to your classroom than what’s already there? So, okay, one tool, I guess that really helps ensure that all students are working, rather than doing what something they’re supposed to be doing, which brings chaos is really using your teacher station strategically. 

 

Laura  

The teacher station is it’s literally just you may be sitting down at a table, not your teacher desk unless your teacher desk is a table but it’s you as a teacher sitting down at a table with a small group of students in front of you. Maybe the goal is you want to do a mini-lesson with them. Maybe you want to extend the lesson for your more advanced students. Maybe you want to just make sure you know you’re closing some gaps, whatever the purpose is of the teacher station when you’re first starting out, you can use the teacher station very strategically to help ensure that your students are actually doing what they’re supposed to be doing. So here’s the deal. 

 

Laura  

Once you feel confident that your students are completing the assignment you gave them and stations, they know what to do if they finished early, they know what to do if you know time is up, and there’s so much done. The quality of work is about where it should be. You can start using the teacher station as a classroom management tool. And so the way this works is you sit down at your teacher station and this is good. You want your students to see that sometimes you sit down and sometimes you’re up, keep them on their toes. 

 

Laura  

So when You sit down your teacher station, the first time you do this, don’t just pull up a group. Well, I need to pull my low group because I need No, don’t do that. Because what happens is now I’m not saying you don’t ever do that I’m saying this is all, in the beginning, this we’re starting out or you know. So instead of pulling one group of students to come and sit with you, so you can reteach or whatever, pull a student from each station over to you. Because what this does is you pull a whole group to you, what are all the other groups in the class thinking for about the next five or 10 minutes? You know, like, oh, we’re off the hook. Okay. She called group a good writer work, you know, but when, when you’re training your students when you’re wanting to hold them accountable for their work. There’s nothing wrong with pulling one kid from each group, pulling it from this group pulling it from that group. Call her names out, have them come to you. And when they come to you, they bring their work with them. Because this is not group work where there’s like one paper for each kid or you know, they’re working in stations, they’re working together, they’re allowed to talk with each other. But ultimately, they’re responsible for their own work. 

 

Laura  

And so when you call their names, they bring those papers to you. Or if you’re, you know, or your one to one device, whatever your situation is, but they have to bring their work to you. And so they sit down with you. And you’re just looking at the work. The point is not to create it. The point is, not to reteach something. The point is not to go in deep with something right now, the point is to get your kids get used to you calling names. They’re getting used to you holding them accountable, they know that you’re going to be looking at their work. And this is just a quick check. 

 

Laura  

And in the beginning, they’re not sitting down with you for 20 minutes. Right now. We’re still in the early stages of training our students for stations So you call, you know, four or five kids over to you. They’re all from different groups in the classroom. They come to you. And maybe you’re just checking in. Maybe you’re just looking at Oh, I noticed you skipped number two. Are you doing okay with that? That’s great, that’s a great checkpoint. Just checking. Hey, I noticed You’re almost done. And we have 14 minutes left in her station. Oh, why do you think you went so quickly? You know, or it’s not a gotcha. It’s not you’re not looking for anything to get them on. It’s just to let kids know that you are always looking, you’re always checking and they have to bring their work to you. 

 

Laura  

Oh, I noticed you don’t have anything on your paper. Tony, what’s going on? You’re not accusing them you’re not, you know, you’re just opening up that dialogue. And so, you know, listeners might now think, well wait a second, but what if we are at the point where each station is doing something different? That’s okay. You can still do this because you’re just checking in. You’re just checking in with them. This whole thing could be three, four or five minutes. That’s it, you send them back to their stations, and then maybe you call another four or five kids. 

 

Laura  

And the beauty of this too, is that when we’re talking about training our students for stations, if your students are in the station, and maybe there’s a mistake, maybe there’s a typo on your instruction sheet. Maybe they truly cannot figure something out and they’re stuck. Well, if they know that anyone from their group could be called it anytime, then they know that they’ll be able to come to you and ask a question like, well, I’m really stuck on number two. I don’t even think number two is right. I think we read this. I think mister mister mister herb is so and so. Made a mistake. Well, okay, so I’m gonna jot that down on a sticky note the next time she calls someone from our table, take that question to her. Okay, yeah. So you just turn your students into problem solvers. They can skip whatever is holding them up, they can move on. And you as a teacher doing these quick check-ins, it gives you a chance to address or questions as well, that’s really good for relationship building too.

 

Kim  

And you do get a chance to see their work and, you know, mini-conference with them to which there’s that already, you’re setting that expectation that they’re going to show you their work, and you’re going to talk to them about it.

 

Laura  

Exactly. And, you know, on that note, if you pull, you know, maybe four or five kids from random groups over to you, and if you see a red flag with one of the ones you called, it’s okay. Just you can do the check-in, send the others back. And then you can do a quick reteach or get them back on track or you know, whatever the situation is. So, you know, it just, it allows for flexibility as you and the students are figuring out this concept, this concept of stations in the classroom, you’re not locking yourself into where my kids had better be a because I’ve got to sit down with this group of students for 20 minutes because we need to do this guided reading activity or I need to get their minutes in. Yes, there’s a lot of pressure to do that. But realistically, you will be able to do that if you’re putting these other pieces in place first.

 

Kim  

Okay, so then when they’re coming, and I’m checking all of their work and have you ever experienced where students are sort of like reluctant to show you their work because they get anything done or while you’re working with the groups, other people are being off task?

 

Laura  

Absolutely. I mean, their kids, it does happen, for sure. And here’s the thing, these strategies will make a huge difference in those kids who are on the fence like they could go this way or they could go that way. But when they know you’re checking, it’s going to help them choose the right direction to go. And now are you gonna have some kids who no matter what you do, are still going to be off task. Yes, but it’s going to be much fewer and it gives you a chance to actually see you.

 

Laura  

You know, because if you’re checking in with kids and you start to notice, okay, it’s the same kid over and over or you know, in some cases, let’s be realistic, it’s the same kids over and over, you’re able to document that. And so you can have a clipboard sitting next to you and they don’t need to see what you’re writing, you know, let you know, let them wonder what you’re writing. It doesn’t matter. But, but you can start just very quickly jotting down notes about how often it happens. Who’s not working consistently like over I’m not talking about one kid one day doesn’t feel good isn’t working. I’m talking about when you start to notice those red flags over and over and over. You are covering yourself because now you’ve got documentation that proves that you’ve been checking in with your students because of course if this goes to a point where the parent says all they do is working groups, you Don’t ever check on them. That is not true. And you have documentation to back it up.

 

Kim  

Oh, that’s good. Yeah. Now how about grading? Do you grade everything that they do in the stations? Because I’ve seen the stations where there’s a different assignment for each station. And I couldn’t even get through all the grading Laura there were like eight stations, which means that times 176.

 

Laura  

No, yeah, whatever that number is no way. Okay, so two things here. First of all, if you need eight stations in your classroom, because let’s say you have that many kids, right like you’ve gotten 30-35 kids you need a station because you don’t want 10 Kids each station That’s ridiculous. If you eight stations, your classroom that does not mean that you need eight different assignments. If you could, you could have four assignments and maybe you have like, there to station to station Bs, you know what I mean to station sees. So right there that cuts the word coat and half. 

 

Laura  

The other thing too, is that you can take a regular assignment, let’s just use the example of a terribly boring 10 question worksheet, I now use the W word which everyone frowns upon. But let’s just say you have a terribly boring 10 question worksheet. Well, for stations, I mean, you can cut, cut that worksheet into five parts or cut that worksheet into four parts. And maybe each station ends up with two questions. Let’s say you only have 15 or 20 minutes for a station. Okay, we’ll let them as a station choose which of those two questions they’re going to answer. I guarantee you will get such a better answer when they’re only responding to one question. And they’ve got 15 or 20 minutes to do it. 

 

Laura  

On better be a fantastic question, especially if you’ve been working on Short answer writing if you’ve been working on, you know, restating the question from the prompt, pulling in a quote, embedding it, adding in some commentaries and text evidence to support that can easily be that one question could easily turn into a 15 or 20 minute assignment. And the focus that they’re going to put in on that question is going to be so much deeper. 

 

Laura  

So right there, we’re not talking about creating eight different activities. That’s, that’s insane. That’s the stuff that Teachers fear, I’m going to be up all night long creating these eight different station activities, because I was told I have to do station, you know, you can take something you already have and just split it up, break it apart, cut it up, and let students really just focus in on one or two things and the quality of work is going to be so much better, because they’re not looking at a worksheet with 10 questions that they are just going to throw any answer down at all to get through it. Okay, I’m done. 10 questions. Great. I’m done. It’s going to be a lot more focused. That’s the first thing. 

 

Laura  

And then the second part of that is, what was the second part of the grading? That’s right. Here’s the thing, when you’re pulling kids up to you, when you’re doing these quick little check-ins, just these five minute little check-ins, you know, you can tell so much about what a student understands, just by talking with them. So if you’re worried that your students are they’re just, they’re just all copying each other. Yeah, I agree. They have their own work, but it’s really not their work. They’re just copying each other. Okay? Well, when they come to you, make them hand their papers to you. And just you know, so they can’t look at them again, but and just just talk about what’s going on. 

 

Laura  

So just look at their paper, look at the questions and just one at a time. Just ask them. If they can explain it back to you. They’ve got it right. And if they’ve got it, could you record a grade? Right there? Oh, good point. Yeah, right there. Have a clipboard sitting there, how your laptop up and just put a note in there. Especially if your standards-based, I mean, if they’ve got it, they’ve got it. If they don’t have it, and you know, they need more practice. Could you give them a temporary grade? Could you give them a little grade and progress? Could you just jot something down next to their name on your roster? So that you know, okay, well, he’s got about 75% of it. And maybe that’s not the real grade. But you know, he’s got about 75% of it. 

 

Laura  

So right there, okay, I’m gonna call him back up. I’m gonna give him a little, you know, a little something to think about. And then I’m gonna call him back up later in class or call him back up tomorrow, and I’m going to look for him to improve upon that. 75% Okay, and then this kid, okay. Wow. I mean, he barely wrote anything on his paper, but wow, we just had a pretty good discussion and two or three minutes. He’s got it. Um, I’m going to encourage him to go back and write it down. But in my grade book, I’m, I’m giving him full credit. He got it. Right. He got it. Yeah. Yeah. So that’s how I handle a lot of the grading. It takes so much pressure off of you. was a teacher to bring home all these stacks of papers. And it’s really good, authentic in time feedback for your kids now they don’t need to know what you’re writing down. If you’re doing this all the time, they’re used to it, they’re using you miss this. So as I was always writing stuff down, I don’t know what she’s doing.

 

Laura  

You know, because I don’t want to, I don’t want to give a kid you know, a perfect score in the first 10 minutes of class and then he goes off and thinks he’s done for the day. But at the same time, I need to record for myself that oh my gosh, this kid has it and I’m probably going to need to extend him a little bit. So and there are other ways that you can handle you know, the grading issue if you know that something is just practice like you really just need them to practice. middle school kids still love stamps and stickers. 

 

Laura  

I mean, if you have a stamp collection not you know, like postage stamps and talking about you know, I have I have a stamp collection like Cookie Monster stamps a rainbow stamp a cupcake stamp but footballs to happen to just have a sitting there and you know, and just talk about Your kids, hey, show me what you like best about this particular paragraph you just wrote, oh, I really liked that I finally figured out how to use a quotation from this text. Great. How about a football stamp? I like that too. Good job. They’re not too old for that. They love it. So there are different ways to assess their different ways to interact with what your kids are doing. And behind the scenes off to the side, if you know they’ve got the concept, give them a grade, you know, just give them a grade and be done with it. Are you going to get through 100 kids in one day with all your classes? No. But I mean, my goodness, if you could get through half of them, right. What would that do to your grading load?

 

Kim  

And then I wouldn’t have to grade outside of school ever again.

 

Laura  

Yeah, and the the assessment is authentic. I mean, it’s meaningful to them. It’s certainly helpful to you, and right there in the moment. Do you know who’s struggling you Who you need to circle back with? And you know who’s writing for something else?

 

Kim  

Can you guys believe how much Laura just covered? I’ve already learned so much from just this conversation right now. And next week, she’s going to tell us how to train our kids for stations, and how to incorporate small group instruction. So here are my key takeaways from today’s conversation. 

 

First, stations aren’t just an alternative to or a fancy way of doing group work. At their simplest stations allow students to hone in on a specific skill and really show mastery of that. So rather than just having students sit and write a science lab, each part of that lab can be split up so that they can focus on one task and make sure it’s really really good. soon as they’re still doing their own work, but they’re working cooperatively through a task. 

 

Second, you don’t need to spend a lot of time doing stations. So even if you only have a 45 minutes period, you can benefit from them. Don’t focus so much on the number of rotations or stations with different activities. Instead, consider how you can split up groups, whether it be by personalities and or levels, and what you can have them accomplish before they switch tasks. You obviously have complete control over how long each station takes. So don’t get hung up on those details. 

 

Now, finally, stations don’t have to be a classroom management and grading nightmare. I originally thought that this is what it was going to be like from my one experience. But you know, Laura gave us some really good advice on how to monitor students with the teacher station, and I’m definitely going to steal her idea but streamlining the grading process with students so that they meet you at the station. So I’m a huge fan of that teacher station part. 

 

So next week I have the second part of this conversation or Laura goes into how to incorporate small group and structure And she breaks down How to Train Your students for stations. You don’t want to miss that. Now, remember, you don’t want to just dive into stations and see how it goes because you just might become overwhelmed and quit like I did. Laura has a systematic method for doing this at ease them into stations, and it’s definitely worth coming back for. Plus, if you come back next week, are you listening? She’s offering a freebie that you can use with your stations. So you can’t get that freebie download unless you come back next week. So of course, then be sure to look down at the device you’re listening on and hit subscribe. That way you won’t miss out on that episode or honestly any week’s episode. Thanks again for hanging out with me today and have a fabulous week.

 

TnT 83 The founders of Prac-E tell us how new teachers can survive in difficult schools

New teachers come out of their practicum excited and ready to dive head-first into teaching. But they often run into the problem of trying to decide which schools to teach at, being a positive force for students with difficult home lives, and a long list of other serious issues. How do they know if a school is right for them? How can they handle being a long-term substitute or start in the middle of the year? In this special interview with Liam Auliciems and Scott Harding, the founders of Prac-E, we answer these questions plus discuss what to do if your school has a toxic culture.

Where to find Prac-E:

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Kim  

I have a fun and informative interview with Liam Auliciems and Scott Harding, the co-founders of Prac-E. I was originally in contact with Liam through our mutual respect for each other’s work since we both have a mission of helping new teachers. I was particularly impressed with their symposiums for new teachers that Scott and Liam will talk more about, as well as all of the tips and hacks they provide through different types of media. I really enjoy the videos they put on Instagram and YouTube so you guys should definitely check those out, too.

 

Now a little bit about them. Scott is a veteran teacher of more than 22 years and he’s taught in every type of school out there both in his native England, as well as Australia where he’s lived for quite some time. He’s passionate about mentoring beginning teachers and gives us a lot of practical advice on this episode that I know you’re going to find valuable. 

And Liam, who used to be one of Scott’s students, is an education entrepreneur. academic researcher, registered teacher, and a post-grad master student. His teaching experience ranges from being a residential tutor in a private school to volunteering to support some of Australia’s lowest socioeconomic students. And you’ll hear him go into that when we have our conversation. 

As the three of us get into the thick of it, you’ll notice that there are a surprisingly large number of parallels between the problems we face here in the US with Australia, the same teacher shortages, the same frustrations with pre-service programs, the same concerns about the work environment and classroom management are there in two completely different continents across the ocean. Now, I won’t make you wait any longer for this. So here’s my interview with Liam and Scott. Thank you, Scott, and Liam, for being on the podcast. I really appreciate you taking the time all the way from Australia.

 

Prac-E  

Thank you very much. We’re very happy to be here. It’s amazing when we started off this idea a few years ago the last thing that could ever have imagined that we would have enough slides right someone in America is Dr. Have no idea so it’s amazing so thank you so much for having us.

 

Kim  

Yes thank you well now since you brought it up How did you guys get started with Prac-E like the idea of the name everything?

 

Prac-E  

Well I actually taught him of all things is I survived which is nice. I taught him and then he came on prac at my school so basically started out you know, as a substitute teacher at ours and we were chatting one day said look, there is a formal process for for mentoring people we talk we made up on the fly almost there was no specific guiding process for me as an experienced teacher to him. 

So, we work very closely together and we worked at a good working relationship and there was nothing there’s no manual there was nothing to follow. And I said how many people in the first off 2, 3, 4 years their career get no guidance in my huge and you look at the drop out rights was global, you know, not just America. But here in Australia, certainly back home for me in England, I’m English by the way, sorry. I just my accents in advance. And you know, the dropout rates approaching 50 is nothing higher 50% and you look at it and go, a lot of that has to do with the fact that people aren’t, aren’t feeling supported, or there’s a gap between what they’re told in the university, or what they’re told and lectures and the reality of teaching. 

And it’s, it’s alarming if you’re an experienced teacher and you’re expecting people’s coming behind you as a generation. Where’s that going to come from? If people are dropping in this all the time, it’s not going to, it’s not going to be, you know, something that’s supportive, you know, for any kind of batch of education, really, whether it’s private or public. You know, I was able to see it firsthand as well through my university. 

Every time we went, we came back from our practical experience out on school, my cohort had literally halved. We basically had a lecture theatre where we sat 400, 500 students. And then we came to the first lecture post-prac. And it was compulsory to rock up and only eight students were there, including myself on the Hunger Games show. And from what I’ve heard, there was a massive discrepancy between what we’re being told we were in store for. 

And then the reality of the situation once we went out and to prac, and I had people peace of mind out on prac. They had a nightmare listen as any of us do, but they didn’t have that support network or the context to put in why that not man lesson particularly happened. So they blamed it all on themselves. And then you asked where John went because it’s period one and he’s not here. And then his mentor, he goes out, he dropped out last night. And he goes, it’s so there was only so much of that that I could take before we had to step in and come up with some sort of model to actually meet these needs. 

And I think that’s where Prac-E originated from? Yeah, we know, from my perspective, certainly I’ve been teaching for 22 years now. And, you know, I can’t in good conscience sit there and watch that. I mean, I really can’t. I’m looking at that and going, there are so many good minds and so many great potential career teachers going to waste because they’re not feeling supported or, or mentor or cancel properly and we all have bad lessons happens. I mean, it’s whether you have bad days than bad weeks and then bad months, that’s a different thing completely. 

But you can see where people would catastrophizing go, Well, I’m, clearly I’m not cut out for this. If I have two or three bad lessons for the classes resistant to them, you know, and they just because as far as I know, it shouldn’t be a teacher. Just stop. must happen to a lot of people in Australia. 

So Scott mentioned that just before we have this thing called the teacher drought, where basically the teachers within the first five years of their careers especially dropping out and then astounding, It is debated whether how high the stats go, some statisticians say that upwards of 50 to 60% of teachers drop out of the profession. We also have the same themes here with the university because a lot of people are saying, you know what I’m learning in the university. It’s a lot of theory. It’s not anything that’s practical. And then so the one I go to my student teaching or practical experience, I feel like I’m completely unprepared and I’m eaten alive. 

 

Kim

I don’t know what why do you guys think that this is so common, though, you think that they would have higher standards for preparing teachers?

 

Prac-E

We are running universities then because I’m sure they do a fine job and in terms of the academic theory, etc, is the practical knowledge that people want is people want to know what happens if a kid throws a chair at me. What happens is, you know, what happens if you know my technology fails on me, which is, you know, technology Driven classrooms is such a thing that But what happens if the internet goes down? What do I do then? How do I cope? I don’t feel that silence. And it’s that it’s the idea of the terrifying silence when you first get up and people looking at you. 

And when we first started, Prac-E, we were discussing how the model should actually look. And obviously, what if you get a whole bunch of teachers in a room? Usually, the discussion goes to debates around big pictures kind of stumped and loaders. Whereas usually, with beginning teachers and university and college students in particular, sometimes we wonder, just the tiniest things that may be an experienced station may take for granted. For example, I have a million resources yet my lessons keep going short by 15 minutes, you know, and then I’ve got this dead air, like, why is this happening? And there are so many little tiny questions that beginning teachers have that don’t get covered in a unit or don’t get covered in a lecture. So Frankie really wanted to be practical. 

So we wanted to hit those tiny little questions that probably caused the most anxiety before you go out on placement, and basically this comes up and gets experienced teachers and change. Yeah, change the context and go, Well, what are those tiny little things? Let’s nail the mole within an hour and a half, two hours. And then from there, you’ll have a bit more experience. So when it happens, it’s not happening for the first time. But the question is what keeps you awake at 2am? In the morning? Yeah, right.

 

Kim  

So then what do you guys actually do with Prac-E? Like, I know that you had some symposiums? And like, how do you get people to go to that? Who are you targeting? What does your model look like?

 

Prac-E  

So Prac-E split into two halves. First half of Prac-E symposiums were a panel of varied panel of experienced teachers aim to demystify the teaching profession for pre-service teachers and early career teachers and a q and a format, every single perspective that you could possibly imagine and we basically sit them down in a panel and Prac-E actually doesn’t present any content ourselves. It comes from the audience. So we have a lot Link as the audience can come through, which links to an online forum, and then it links to me the host, so they can literally ask any anonymous question to this panel for two hours. 

The other half of Prac-E is digital media. So we basically could use the exact same approach to the symposiums. But for ongoing written or written word, audio and video. So we do a series like ask Prac-E anything where the teachers can send in real niche context questions, we answer them in real-time. Hopefully, it’s something that applies across international context anyway, because there’s just universality to a lot of the issues that people face, irrespective of the testing regimes and, and freedom that you’re given or not given rather from the government. Hopefully, there’s some kind of universal application for everyone who listens.

 

Kim  

What factors do you think a new teacher should consider when deciding whether or not they want to even apply for a school? I mean, do you recommend the A new teacher just take whatever job they can get.

 

Prac-E  

We get this question a lot during Prac-E, because obviously, the target market are going out into the profession. And they don’t know. I mean, I’ve worked in some horrible places in when I was a barista working in cafes. So I know the variants of workplace can have on everything, your mindset, your well being. So it’s a big issue for beginning teachers. They obviously want to find a school that they can succeed at. But the problem is, is that like you said, How do you know what that is until you’ve landed the job you have to go in and you have to do diligence, first of all for what you’re going into, you know, that’s, that’s the first thing you’ve got to know and do your research. 

So if you do get a position, and you accept one, you have to have researched it well beforehand. The I mean, so if you know you’re going to be going into an area where there are challenges, you are least ready for those challenges, and then your criteria may well be a little bit different as a result of that. I mean, so for instance, with the low socio economic area, maybe attendance new class, you know, you’re going, if 80, 90% of them are consistently come into your class, and you know, other statistics in the School of 50, 60%, you’re doing well, you know, and yes, it might be physically taxing on you. And you might only last two, three years within the system, for you feel you need to change. But what a way to start your career. And that’s how to get through your first five years is to is to have those success criteria in your own mind as to what you wish to achieve.

 

Kim  

So do you think that go for it, then just go and see how the chips fall?

 

Prac-E  

I think so. I mean, the end of the day, we all start somewhere. I mean, we all start somewhere, and it might be something you didn’t expect to happen happens. I mean, it might be you look at the school and you first come and go, I’m not sure about this. And then six weeks later, you fall in love with it. And as a beginning teacher, there are a lot of things that you can do to fleshes school out and see what they’re like. It’s also beginning that journey to deciding your own pedagogical views as well. 

I mean, when I started my degree, I had just come out of kind of the more private independent sector. And that’s personally where I thought that I was going to go yet through experience in those sectors. And I thought, Well, maybe not, maybe I need to go do this. That’d be I need to go do that. So I think keep your options open. And really ask yourself what you believe in it pedagogy that may be done through further research or practical experience. There’s a lot of things you can do such as, you know, get your foot in the door, volunteering at a school shooter at a school. Coaches sporting team, something along those lines, and then you can actually because if you base all of your opinions about a school or a sector based on an advertising pamphlet, yeah, that’s exactly right. It is it’s a promotional pamphlet, and that may not be the reality of the situation everyone’s going to make up on. 

So get your foot in the door, and actually have tangible solutions. And also that goes a long way to landing a job as well, rather than cold calling the school. If you can show that you’ve had you volunteered your time working with that school and you like it, then that can go a long way towards getting a positive relationship with that school going forward. I think

 

Kim  

You know, something that’s really common for new teachers is they are just kind of desperate for something in terms of a job. And so they’ll take a position like the long term substitute position. Do you guys have that? So maybe someone will go on maternity leave or take sabbatical? Or maybe I’m taking over someone that actually left at the first semester, and now the class is mine. So this is this is actually really common here. So what advice you give to those new teachers who are just kind of like thrown in, and what are the most important things that they should plan for and do like right off the bat?

 

Prac-E

It’s a great question, really, because that’s a big issue here in Australia as well, especially rural. And it rules usually quite short because no one wants to live in the country for a prolonged period. So they always say, so it’s not forever, but then Metropolitan so competitive that they go, Oh, you’re only going to be able to get a contract. And you got Well, which one is it? You know, where do I actually get a full-time position. So it’s something that is very common here. 

That the rhetoric surrounding it is basically you get your foot in the door with some terms, three contracts while someone’s on maternity leave or something along those lines, you put your best foot forward, and hopefully, they offer you a full-time position. It’s a very odd way to structure a career. I think. It’s not a bad thing, though. Because, like I said to you, it’s about collecting experiences and your first five years of your teaching, you should be collecting experiences, right? 

That’s what I personally feel and then you are in a position to be more discerning more discriminating event. Wait until you feel you naturally fit. But until you try something you don’t know, I think contract positions are a really good way to start a career. And the reason I think that is because you have to come in and you have to be on, you have to be on straight up, right? Because you can expect the first two weeks to be very turbulent, you can because the students are disrupted, no one likes change if it’s enforced on them, right? So the students are going to react to that. And they’re going to react that depending on where you are in the context of your country or the class that you’re dealing with all the culture you’re dealing with, in different ways. But you need to be ready for that. 

And again, I come back to my consistent model. Well, that’s that does happen. We draw a line. This is now my classroom, this is what we do. I mean, and you have to you have to enforce that line. I remember seeing that film Coach Carter? And he comes in, and the basketball team already disruptor with the beginning, he goes, these are my standards, and they laugh at him initially, and then they don’t laugh at him when he starts to enforce those standards. Now, I mean, and over time, he makes a real point about those standards, and they become ingrained within him and they respond Well to him, but it takes time. It takes a little bit of time. And for you, you are in a position there, if you think about it’s a bit of a free hit, you know, you’ve come in, it might be that you’re taking over from a very, very loved teacher, in which case, you’ve got a little bit of a harder, harder.

It can be an uphill battle at that point because you might hear that, well, this teacher does it this way, right? We’re used to this. And you’ve got that resistance initially that you have to wear down over time, and they won’t like you. That’s okay. Initially, you know, there there are various people that I’ve met in my life that I didn’t like, but I love them now. I mean, that’s the thing. You say, Well, you don’t like me yet. It’s always like yet the word yet is very powerful. So you don’t like me yet? I mean, and you just leave it there and you just keep enforcing what you do. And eventually you’ll find in three months, six months, that’s a different picture. 

And it’s having that long term idea in your mind is that this isn’t going to last forever. These first two weeks of turbulence won’t last forever. You know, it’ll get better. And it’s about you and what you can bring to the table not so much then you What can you do as an educator to bring things to life a little bit? What can you do that is different? What unique strengths do you have?

 

Kim  

What can they do this first two weeks, knowing that the kids are going to be disrespectful? They might not even know where they left where the teacher left off. You know, if it’s a teacher, that’s a good teacher, and they’re just going on leave. Hopefully, they’ll leave them lesson plans, but let’s just say the teacher leaves and they just kind of have to pull everything together overnight. What are some suggestions so that, you know, when new teachers are faced with bad classroom management or a bad classroom environment, it really wears them down? It makes them feel like failures, they don’t want to do it anymore. How can we help them out in terms of like, preparing them and teaching them these last-minute classroom management type techniques?

 

Prac-E  

The first thing you got to understand is that it’s about establishing your classroom. Right? So it’s not about content, you can catch upright? You can flip content, there’s various different ways of dealing with content. So the first thing got to get out of your head is I must cover content. Because if you haven’t established any kind of report anybody, you don’t know where you’re throwing against the wall and sliding down the wall. So the first few lessons shouldn’t be done through the content should be using them just talking. The beginning Teachers as well, I think you obviously want to put your best foot forward and succeed in the profession. 

But I think an unfortunate symptom of that is that beginning teachers usually overcomplicate things and overstressed things and overwork and don’t put in particular boundaries. So you told me about that situation there. And I’m just thinking, there’s only so much you can control. And I think scheduling admin, you know, where those kids were before. That’s out of your control as a beginning teacher, and so are a lot of things within the happenings of the school, as Scott said, you can only control what happens within those four walls. During those 45 minutes. 

You might as well just focus on that building rapport with that school and With that class and then leave kind of what’s going on with staffing and all those type of things and content and where they’re going to get with the assessment and what were they doing before? I think that’s that can you be awake or not? If you worry too much about that, you should just focus on that my job is that when those kids are in that classroom for that period of time on teaching, now Scott, you had touched before on how difficult it can be to teach in a more Metropolitan schools, you know, low sec socio-economic.

 

Kim  

I’m sure where you’re at you also have those neighborhoods where there’s a lot of crime. The students have witnessed a lot of hardship, and maybe even experienced trauma. So, Liam, you also mentioned that these areas, ironically, are more popular because new teachers want to live in the city. So how can they prepare for this you know it they may not even be aware of how deep this goes because They may not have experienced it. They’re like I want to go live in the shiny city. But they don’t really know what the people who have grown up in that place are experiencing. So what should they expect and what should their priorities be?

 

Prac-E  

I’ll jump in here because I’ve recently had experience in a very low socio-economic area of Brisbane. And I was in a school where I was shocked. I didn’t know that we had that low socio-economic students with that much hardship in our country, honestly thought that there was a bottom level and then I experienced the reality of the situation that I’ve been ignorant of my whole life. And it opened my eyes honestly thought that there was a base level standard and that these kids, some of the things that they have to go through on a daily basis. It was absolutely shocking to me, and it completely opened my eyes. 

Some of them are in and out of juvie juvenile detention centers. Some literally the majority of school rocked up high on drugs, not just weight either like hardcore drugs, meth and things of that nature. None of them basically had consistent harming. They were all pale and they all had big sunken eyes and sores all over their skin. Some of them had bullet wounds. And then just the initial reaction to me being there was that they threatened me and threaten my life. And it’s just the most it just made me feel so dark and just so sad for them and so empathetic and it was made me feel shocked that this country allows that to happen. I mean, that their lived experience day to day is something that I could never fully understand. 

So as a teacher coming in and those teachers that literally deserve to have their name up in lights every single day for this. Things that they put through and the things that they do, and that they come every single day, at 10 in the morning to do the same thing for those students, and they’re probably the only consistent role models that they have in their whole life. 

You know, that’s jumping back into what you were saying. And going back to what I said earlier, that’s a success criterion right there. You know, you’re adjusting your expectation that points to what you can really achieve, because you are fighting things that you can’t control. So one of the first things you would say to a teacher in a difficult school like that is control what you can control. You can’t worry about things outside of what you’re doing, because it might be and I’ll go back to that safe space thing about again, your your classroom is a safe space, that person knows that they that’s a big responsibility.

 

Kim  

Let’s say that I’m in a school where things like the students aren’t in a bad socio economic area. The kids are well off, the parents have all kinds of money. And then I discovered that the culture is toxic. I’m sure you’ve have experienced this where there’s mistrust between the administration and the staff, or your colleagues that are really, you know, they’re really bitter and jaded. And there might even be factions in the school. So you know, with new teachers, and I hear this all the time. They’re like, I came into this, and everyone hates each other. And I can’t even find a mentor because everyone is so better. So how can we help them out?

 

Prac-E  

So something for getting teachers I think millennials always shocked onto the bus. Because, you know, we say they say that you know, that we can’t communicate and we can’t form one on one relationships anymore. That’s not the fact of it is that it hasn’t gone. It’s just changed. It looks in a different way than it used to be in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. What I’m talking about is that the capability for online platforms in terms of community professional development, communication is unheralded. And it is the point of coal for any beginning teacher that’s struggling out there. I mean, to connect with you, we’re in Brisbane, Australia, and we’re talking about pedagogy the summit in San Diego. That would never have been possible. And I think we need to take advantage of that because studies have shown that millennials value communication in that way. 

And there’s numerous ways of doing it doesn’t have to be Prac-E. You know, Prac-E does that. But if someone finds something else that’s supporting them, I don’t care. As long as they’re finding some support and professional development. The easiest way of doing that is literally a Google search. There’s teacher meetups in your area. There’s Facebook groups, there’s Twitter hashtags, where people you know, talk about their problems. There’s Instagram groups, I mean, the ability to find teachers that are literally in your exact same level of your career is amazing. Whereas back in the day, I think a negative was that you had to find mentors in person. 

I may feel all alone in the staff room, especially if they click off lucky was saying yet in the world today I can find numerous hundreds, if not thousands of like minded teachers that are going through the exact same thing. And that camaraderie is unparalleled. So if there was one thing that I would suggest is that if you’re not getting the support that you need in your school, is to kind of extend your realm of influence, start looking into online platforms, because there’s plenty of it out there. Well, the one thing I would say is any of that, if we’re talking generationally, and millennial teachers, your future, so things are going to change because you will change that. So you get this toxic culture that exists now, it’s not going to be there. When you become somebody who’s in that position. It’s just not gonna be there. So I mean, you look at that and go, I’m not going to go that way. And you can choose to go outside of your school, you don’t have to have a mentor within your school. You just don’t have to do that anymore.

 

Kim  

Just working with them though. Like, I have to go to a department meeting with them. And they disregard everything I say, because I’m a new teacher, or because I’m a millennial, and you know, what, can I contribute to the conversation? How can a new teacher feel like they belong in the situation and not just be completely, you know, overshadowed by everything that’s going on in the school?

 

Prac-E 

Well, the first thing is you got to separate the issue from the content. So if you’re looking at you’re looking at something, for instance, like grading papers and feedback in my subject area of English, that’s a massive thing, right? So you might have somebody who’s very, very adamant that this is the way that we do feedback and someone else is your faculty because they think that decides to go the other way and you’re sitting there watching this big battle going on. Right. Now the honest truth is, as in any situation, there’s probably merit in both their approaches, you take what you need. I mean, you just write it down, keep it for yourself, find a middle way. And getting advice to climb their positions gradually, gradually, gradually over time. You’re not if they actively dislike each other, there’s not much you can do about that. All right, but we’re all professionals at the end of the day. So mainly, hopefully, yeah, hopefully. So if it’s going to be unprofessional behavior or illegal behavior that get dealt with by admin, that’s nothing to do with you, you’re too far down the chain to worry about that. 

 

Kim  

Duck out of the fray.

 

Prac-E  

Duck out of the fray, you stay out of it, don’t take the stand of it, right. And all you do is you sit there and you watch and you go, that person’s got that point, that person’s will that point, and you can suggest the middle way, you know, come out with a solution, you know, be solution oriented. This is My advice. Don’t worry about the issue. Don’t get involved in the politics. If there’s someone asked you to say, I’m sorry, I’m too young. I don’t understand. By played all over, it doesn’t matter. Stay out of it. Do not be recruited. That’s my advice. 

And for the love of God, don’t engage in stuff and gossip yourself. That’s the fastest way to go. Once you’re in that world, you’re in that world forever. You’ll do the high school girl mentality. “You know what Jenny said? And he say, Oh, yeah, whatever.” I don’t even say anything. And then they go to Jenny, “Do you know what Lisa said?” It’s the exact same type of thing. I mean, it’s, you got a question, Who are the adults and they were the kids in some schools. What you’ve seen, but you want to be that one staff member when someone goes, You know what? Liam’s never said anything. Does he have good ideas? Yes. I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about him or he’s never said anything bad about anyone else. Yeah, if that means you have to get up and leave the room.

 So Be an excuse. But sometimes joining that is never to your advantage ever because people notoriously flip flop. And then sometimes you agree with their opinion on Monday. They’ve disagreed, and they’ve changed their mind on Tuesday, and then suddenly, you’re the enemy and you didn’t even agree with anything. You can’t get dragged into that quicksand. So the obvious social traps avoid is just because they’re toxic doesn’t mean you need to be right. All right, don’t sit there and get sucked into that quicksand of nonsense, you just stay out of it. And as I say, you find that external support, if you can’t find internal support, and you diarize you don’t rise now, this is what I’m learning here. This is what not to do. Apparently, this is what not to do, as opposed to what to do.

 

Kim  

Now, Scott, have you ever been in a situation where you were singled out either by administrators or other colleagues, you know, in a negative way, and they just, it just felt like they had it out for you?

 

Unknown Speaker  

Oh, of course. I think we’ve all been there. When you speak your mind You tend to, to invite that occasionally and English faculties and tourism. Yeah. But, you know, you look at that and go, that’s okay, that’s part and parcel of being that kind of a person is that if you’re going to give your opinion, you’re going to get some back. I mean, you have to understand the rules of the game there. And then obviously, you play within the structure that you have. I mean, you have to understand from a unique perspective, you actually have some rights as a teacher, right? You have some rights, you’ve got responsibilities for your rights. So there’s certain collegial behavior you should expect if that if a faculty member for instance, is criticizing you to the students, you know, and behind your back that’s that’s a massive No, no, in our profession, you just don’t do that kind of thing. I mean, that’s extremely unprofessional. So that’s happened to me occasionally. And I’ve had to come up to the stage with questions like, Can I have a private chat with you please. And if that private chat doesn’t go, Well, it gets escalated. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. And it can just be a personality clash. It can be a lack of professionalism. It can be a lot of different things domain can be misunderstanding sometimes it can be genuine.

 

Kim  

With administrators, though, what if it seems like nothing you do is good enough. They’re always criticizing you. And you know, you’re a new teacher worrying about getting tenure?

 

Prac-E  

Yeah, of course. I mean, that’s something that is a legitimate concern. But again, email everything, email, everything, keep it real, keep it real. Keep it real. Right. All of your interaction with them has to be formal. And it has to be Yeah, on email. Right? Protect yourself and join a union with advice. Those are the two things that I just say to any teacher join a union. All right. I’m not saying that because our catastrophizing, the saying, as a former teacher insurance for yourself is too volatile profession in terms of what you may encounter. You may require it one day, and it’s a very important thing to understand that you have collective voice, you know, so, email everything, join a union, and also seek support colleagues and make people aware what’s happening so that you can’t be taken in isolation at that point. 

There was one school that I went to where I fundamentally disagreed with the head of departments strategy. And then I was foolish enough to say something about it. And this is another practice, you know, this is what happened is that I noticed naturally that type of person anyway. And it probably wasn’t the best way to go about it. And I think there was some other things going around the part of that time was probably the worst period in human history for me to actually be there. There was a lot of things going on. And then it turned into I think it like he was saying, it turns into some also almost personal battle, and I think it might be persecution here. 

But what really helped me in that instance, was that, like I was saying, I focused on my students, and I focused on what I could do in that classroom. And during that time, my job at that point was to teach that group Kids 45 minutes period three, the teaching them 1984. So I made that the best that I could communicate an hour I was doing that, but the department start started to have it out. Because I wasn’t the only one that was disagreeing with this perspective. It was kind of like are saying before like there was a bit of hostile gossip going around and people with you know, saying it’s almost like a House of Cards thing going on. 

But what happened to me was that I simplified things, actually simplifying things and boiling it down to what are your core responsibilities and when can really help you get through the day. I mean, sometimes it is heavy, especially if there’s a department meeting, you know, after the beginning of school during school and you have it out and then you’re quite upset, or something gets said and you you take it personally and there’s something that needs to be happening somewhere down the line, but it’s hard to go back to the classroom after that sometimes Because you just want to be like, what was that about? Then you start questioning yourself. But it is difficult. I can fully empathize with the perspective of this question, but simplifying it and analyzing your role, and really looking into what matters and what doesn’t. And changing your perspective and what is in control of what is not in my control can really help you get through day to day.

 

Kim  

I’m imagining this might be different for each of you. At what point do you think a teacher should leave their school? When is it time for them to move on to a different school because some teachers they don’t want to leave because they feel like they’re quitting on the kids and they’re quitting on themselves, but they’re just really is a point when it’s not good enough for you anymore. It’s not good for you anymore. What do you think that point is?

 

Prac-E 

I think once it starts bleeding into your well-being, I think that critical point where you need to deeply question your circumstances. Now whether that’s changing things within the school and sticking it out and maybe that some other circumstances leading to that, that’s one thing. But if it’s day in day out from the school, then there’s questions to be had. I think it’s alright to have a bad day, bad week, bad month, even bad term. 

You know, sometimes just from the nature of where the school is at the moment where you’re at pedagogically in the combination of your classes, sometimes you are going to have a bad thing. We talked about resilience earlier. However, if it’s month after month, month after month, month after month, and it’s just you don’t see any kind of light at the end of the tunnel and that’s bleeding into your well being day to day, your relationships with other people. That’s when you need to question. If those schools the right fit for you, school culture is very dramatically different. 

Through the symposiums to teachers that you think should be relatively similar from similar sectors have very drastically different opinions. And it just goes to show that schools are very different places than what they’ve taught us. We’ve talked to teachers who basically got fired from the school because they thought they couldn’t teach us themselves out of a wet paper bag. Yeah, they go to the next school and they get a promotion straight away, and then suddenly, they’re headed of the department. Sometimes schools are very insular bubble places. And sometimes, if you’re not in that bubble, and you don’t agree with it straight away, you know, they are very different approaches to education it can definitely change. 

So I think if it starts bleeding into your well being and you just have fundamental differences step by step for prolonged period of time, that’s when you need to start looking to greener pastures, I think, was as two ways of looking at it right. So firstly, certainly there’s the there’s the well being aspects of things which is the obvious answer, but If you’re feeling like you’re getting stale. 

I remember my first school, right? And six years I was there and I can remember the day I remember the lesson even though I decided that’s it, I’m done. And it was literally it was a French lesson with my European class. And I was literally repeating line for line the same lesson done the same week, the previous one, because you can see yourself becoming a robot that ends up happening stale. And it’s, it’s not it’s admitting that to yourself and going, I’ve hit my limit here. I mean, I need to move for my own sake at this point. And as it turned out, I emigrated but it’s really interesting to see. 

When you know, you know, I mean, it’s whether you wish to admit it to yourself. I’ll give you example, right we watch UFC Conor McGregor hasn’t admitted it to himself yet either. He hasn’t. And it’s the same kind of thing with you with your teaching career. When you think, I’m at the point. Now. I need to do something different to myself. And so you can get stale. So the the corollary to the idea of well being is that you’re actually in a place for 7, 8, 9 years. And you hit that slump, which I’m sure you know, your 18 years in your career, I’m 21 into mind, you go, what do I do next? What do I do now?

 

Kim  

So I’m curious with Prac-E, what’s next for you guys? What do you have down the tube?

 

Prac-E  

Where is this with Prac-E? The The response has been absolutely amazing. And I think that it’s really hit a gap in the market that this needed to be here. I think is a global issue as well. The advice for beginning teachers from the perspective of beginning teachers is very rare. And it gives us a unique voice that I think is refreshing. These are the practical things that helped me perhaps help you as well. I think it cuts through a lot of the discussion at a real gets to what works and what doesn’t. And now we’re really finding our feet from now on, and it’s really going to explode from here. 

So we’re going to be doing a new model where we’re doing four symposiums a year whereas before we were just kind of doing when and where we could raise. Now we’re actually getting a consistent model that I think is going to just extend the momentum because we were doing cold calls from nobodies to now, whereas now it used to just be me and my little basement. Now it’s people coming to us and I think that’s been a massive difference. 

And I think it’s just going to go strength to strength from there. And then obviously, the videos and the audio will just, you know, production values will just extend from there. And then we’re also going to be offering, we’re going to be calling them Prac-E double downs, because something that we’ve found very interesting, Kim is that after our symposium and no one leaves, because I think people are hesitant to ask niche questions n an open forum. Everyone thinks, what’s a general question I can bring to bring value to the whole room? 

So they’ll have some issues that can help everybody but someone may want to know I’ve got this one particular naughty boy. In my grade eight spirited six class, we’re teaching Hamlet, you know, and we got Scott here is an experienced English teacher. Now that you people are hesitant to ask that question because it’s so specific, that they wouldn’t bring value to anyone else. 

So what we’re going to be doing is offering that context now with Prac-E double down. So we’re going to have basically our own thing where we’re going to have the Prac-E team, having a whole day conference, basically, we’re going to be giving that access that’s never been given before. Yeah, we’re going to be running, you know, we’re literally going to get principals in to do mock job interviews. We’re going to have Scott sit there who’s, you know, top ladder jobs in any type of school you can imagine go through your CV and say, if he had hire you or not what you can do to change it. 

Now it’s going to be exactly the same ethos for symposiums. But it’s going to be to a selected few, which will give us the opportunity to really go deep dive with these people. I think that’s going to bring a lot of value as well. So with the symposiums with the double downs, we’re going to be doing post event kickoff as well. So the panelists are going to be logging on to our platform post event. And doing like asked me anything’s through throughout online platform because we get into literally hundreds of questions can every single symposium and we’ve only got time to get to maybe 10. You know, so there’s a lot of demand. And at the moment, we’re not meeting that demand. So what’s the next for practically is we’re going to be meeting that demand through a whole lot of things. That’s awesome.

 

Kim  

And so now I know that my listeners because they’re all brand new Teachers, their interest is piqued so where can they get ahold of you? If they have questions?

 

Prac-E  

I think the most the best way to contact Prac-E is through our website. That’s the really the One-Stop Shop everything that we do, we obviously diversify content. So our Instagram, Twitter our Facebook offers unique content to the way that you like we obviously we have our Prac-E podcast as well. And the YouTube and LinkedIn basically, you can find Prac-E on any platform that you would like in the way that you might like to engage with content. The best way to connect with everything that we’re doing is our website which is www.Prac-E.com and that’s the best way everything gets uploaded there and that’s kind of the One-Stop Shop native place where if you want anything to do with Prac-E it will be the set.

But I just want to say that if beginning teachers are out there and they just are interested, I don’t particularly want to promote Prac-E, I want to promote beginning teacher support platforms. It doesn’t have to be Prac-E. If I want to find support, then I implore them to it can be Prac-E then we will be there if they want to connect with us. But if they need something specific to look into Facebook groups, Twitter and just engage in the community and we can help with that. And don’t be afraid to ask questions and I sometimes it’s such an odd thing to feel like if that was an in person you disrupt trends and asking them questions. But online support platforms offer a way that no one’s ever communicated with before. I see it bringing value to beginning teachers every day. It can be Prac-E, it could be not, but I feel if you’re, if you are not feeling 100% of that way, you are pedagogically to reach out a lot and engage with the community. Absolutely.

 

Kim  

Well, thank you two, for being on the podcast. I really, really appreciate it.

 

Prac-E  

Awesome. Pleasure. Oh, thank you so much.

 

Kim  

I’m sure you guys could tell that I had a great time talking to Scott and Liam. And don’t you guys wish we had something like Prac-E out here. I mean, I do my best with this podcast to provide you with as much knowledge as I can. But those symposiums sound amazing. I feel like I need to start saving up so that I can head down there and witness it myself. So here are my key takeaways from our conversation. First, don’t get too hung up on where your first teaching job will be. Liam had mentioned that there are ways to research a school and find out if it’s a good fit, but Scott then insisted that you should just apply anywhere and see what happens. You just might end up loving it, or vice versa, you know, a school that you thought was your dream school could be terrible. If you go in with an open mind, and without too many expectations, you’re less likely to be disappointed. Next, and similar to this first point, a lot of younger teachers want to live in the big city and teach in more metropolitan areas. But with that comes a unique set of challenges. Scott and Liam gave tips on how to prepare yourself for that and temper your expectations and realize that there are trade-offs regardless of which area you teach in. Finally, we spent a good amount of time talking about school culture and how to deal with toxicity. Both limits got recommend keeping your head down and staying out of gossip. And if you can’t find positive role models at your school, then reach out to online like-minded teachers, you can definitely find support where you need it in online spaces. I really want to thank Scott and Liam for being such awesome guests on the podcast and if you want to connect with them and learn more about Prac-E, I have links for you in the show notes. And if you enjoyed this and other episodes, please subscribe to the show and share it with your teacher besties so that they can benefit from it too. Thanks again for hanging out with me today and have a fabulous week