Back to school special! Notes from my teacher’s journal.

As teachers and students in Victoria and other states and territories prepare to return to school this week, I thought I’d share some of my reflections about teaching and learning.

recite-peg1wxrecite-44sluk recite-1o7r9v3 recite-1mbeky5 recite-p9il37 recite-avlvkiAs the 2015 school year begins…


A special call out to all our newest members of the profession  – one that makes other professions possible…

If I Knew Then: A Letter to Me on My First Day Teaching

To all educators out there beginning the new school year, DON’T forget…


One last reminder to all CRTs – YOU MATTER


Hope the year begins with a blast, continues with enthusiasm and ends on a high!

Thanks for reading 🙂





“This is not how our teacher does it!”

Good Morning Folks,

The other day I had the privilege of delivering the  Keynote address at the TLN CRT Conference. I have to say I was rather nervous at first but once I put my hands on that lectern it was all over and off I went. I really love doing what I do and I love meeting and speaking with educators, sharing ideas and anecdotes about teaching and learning. During my Positive Classrooms workshops, at the same conference, there were many ideas thrown around that I hope participants might try the next time they are in the classroom. My favourite idea was the alphabet game where the first person chooses a word – say –  learning, the next person must then say a word beginning with the last letter of the previous word – growth – and so it goes until everyone has had a turn. We then tried it using only words relevant to the topic at hand, and while this was rather difficult it is an excellent way to really challenge the students and stay on topic. It might also be useful as a revision or prior / post knowledge game.

Many thanks to all those who participated on the day. Remember that each child is taught by a CRT for almost 2 years of their 13 years at school. We can make a BIG difference to their lives, make sure it’s a positive one!

Lastly…for those who would like to know how the “I failed preps” story ends please click here

tigerinjunglebookThanks for reading 🙂

4 ‘cools’ I found out …

This week I spent a day with a bunch of teachers taking time out of their well earned holiday to attend my sessions on ‘Getting Boys Engaged in Learning.’ There were quite a few who attended the face to face sessions and then even bigger numbers who logged in, on live stream. It was a great day for me and I’m hoping that participants took away something they can use. I got some very positive feedback from many of them and even one who took the time to post her thanks on this blog!

There are 5 main reasons I enjoyed the day. The first is that I got to meet and chat with some dedicated educators who really enjoy their vocation and the other 4 reasons are because I found out some very ‘cool’ stuff.

jigsawCool 1: I asked participants to share some ideas about what methods they use to group students. The best idea had to do with jig saw pieces. I love it! Here’s how I interpreted it:

  • Simply grab different pictures / photos* and cut each one into jig saw shaped pieces, (depending on how many you would like in a group)
  • Distribute pieces randomly amongst the students
  • The students then have to find others who have the matching pieces that make up the relevant visual. They then become a group.

*As an extension of this idea, I thought that perhaps the image could be related to the task they will be doing as a group and if the pieces are two sided the instructions or outline could be printed on the back, once they put it together, they can begin the task.

notes appCool 2:  The notes app on iPads and iPhones will type what you say when you hit the microphone key on the keyboard. If you activate the Speak Selection button in Settings/General/Accessibility and then highlight text it will even read it back to you. I’ve been playing with it for ages and it is very accurate.#

# Of course when I went to share this new found phenomenon with my youngest, she already knew all about it and added, “My mac does it too!” GRRRRRRRR fancy not telling me this earlier!

Cool 3: This is more a personal thing that made me happy: there were three participants over the day who had previously attended another one of my workshops and had come back for more! Thanks folks! 🙂

mocking brid bookCool 4: One participant mentioned that her colleague who taught next door was having problems engaging the students in quiet reading sessions so instead of ‘making’ them just read, the teacher challenged the students by asking them to turn their books upside down and then try reading. This strategy not only re-engaged them with the reading but even though they read less, the students actually retained a lot more of what they had read.+ How cool is that?

+ It has been suggested that the more we challenge ourselves in thinking and learning the more information and skills we retain.

As I write this I have just logged out of a live stream session myself, similar to the one that I was holding above – it’s a great way to learn and saves the hassle of driving in, especially on wet and dreary days like today. And …you can stay in your pjs, in your bed or laid out on the sofa to participate. That folks, is yet another cool!

TLN runs many sessions on line. Why not see if any interest you here.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Please feel free to add your thoughts below.

5 things a CRT should know

51CRtGZAmOL._SL500_AA300_I’ve been doing some CRT work lately at a couple of different schools. I really miss teaching a classroom full of students so this is a great way to keep my hand in. I really love teaching kids! I love it even more when they teach me a few things too! 

While working as a CRT I’ve been able to put into practice some of the things I really believe about classroom management and getting to know the kids in very little time – especially being in secondary schools where you only get about 50 minutes on average to make a connection. So here are a few things I’ve tried and tested and I believe they work:

1. Always, and I do mean always, arrive at the room very happy to see the students and greet them wholeheartedly! With this they come back with “Are you our teacher today?” to this I like to reply “Yes! And I can’t wait!” 🙂

2. I usually begin with asking them what they have been doing – even though the work left by most teachers explains it – but I always like to have them think they have the upper hand  and that I’m dependent on them letting me know. AND I’m very interested in hearing what they have to say – I make eye contact with each and I even move to stand near each student as they make a contribution. I then proceed to begin a discussion where I’m asking the sorts of questions that require them to take charge and tell me what they know BUT I also slip in lots of questions that actually makes them ‘think’. I like to think of it as challenge beyond knowledge. This is where I mentally engage the de Bono green hat. I’ve written about how I use these hats in different ways in a previous blog. I try and get them to begin questioning what they know and think ‘outside the square’ and I have lots of fun doing it especially when they start to realise and say “Miss, I never thought of that.” That’s when I know I’ve got them. It also helps if you can relate what they are doing to real life experiences, so I tend to share one of mine (not too personal) and encourage them to do the same.

3. I always make sure that the work the teacher has left is covered – but I also have no hesitation in actually ‘teaching’ it. For example, if the regular teacher has asked that they read and respond I offer different strategies they can use in order to get the work done based on learning preferences. I encourage them to highlight main points, show a few different methods of note taking, and tell them interesting facts about how their brain works, like “did you know our brain can remember 5 main points down the page but many points across? Why? I have many other ideas I employ depending on the work left by their regular teacher.

4. I always write a detailed account of what we covered in class and how we went about it and instead of pin pointing trouble makers, I actually highlight the students who I think contributed something interesting or challenging about the work.

5. I always try and use the last 5 mins to re cap the strategies they may have used that made the work more manageable and encourage them to take that into their next class. I have found over the many years that secondary students don’t always take their ‘learning’ from one subject into another. I don’t always blame the students for this. I am going to put myself out there and suggest a lot of that comes from we secondary teachers who tend to ‘teach’ subjects rather than students. It is important that students are aware of the different strategies they can use in their learning. Many times they, and we, forget that while it is important to ‘know’ content, it is far more important to learn to ‘know’ what to do with it, and how and when to use it, oh… and WHY…

Thanks for reading 🙂

PS: TLN runs CRT conferences during the holidays. I’ll be presenting on July 2 check it out here