What’s coaching got to do with glitter?

This week’s #2PencilChat moderated by @nathan_stevens in @MagicPantsJones’ absence was on the topic of Glitter. Now while you’re probably in doubt as to its validity, it actually was quite an inspiring chat. Stevens used glitter as an analogy to do with education, with teachers, students and learning.

Question from #2PencilChat 7/6/16

Question from #2PencilChat 7/6/16

Since I used my blog hour time participating in the chat, it got me thinking…


“What does glitter have to do with my idea for a blog post on coaching?”

So here it is… (Hilariously I wrote this while waiting for my dad at the dentist!)

1. Coaching has been around forever and it is slowly infiltrating our schools in a positive way, so hopefully, like glitter, it will hang around and infiltrate every corner from leadership to students, from grounds people to parents.

2. Glitter adds sparkle to every project, so too should coaching in schools ignite a passion for learning, setting goals for improvement and actioning ideas to promote optimal learning and teaching.



3. Glitter surprises people, especially if it is included in the envelope containing a Christmas card (no I’m not apologising for this) – just making a point about the element of surprise in coaching especially after a coaching conversation where the coachee realises they can and has a way forward which they themselves developed!

4. Glitter is plural, only as a handful or more does it make an impact. Collaboration is the impact in coaching. Coaching needs lots of people and a positive mindset to make a difference. Coaches need other coaches to help them grow and develop the skills to coach. Coachees need to be open to sharing and to believe in themselves as change agents, just as much as coaches believe in them.

handful of glitter

5. Glitter is made up of all shapes and sizes just as coaching in our schools can be seen in all manner of ways. In coaching everyone is learning, everyone is responsible for growth, no matter what your title or position, coaching is about the coachee – be all in, grab that chance to sparkle and make a difference to learning and teaching in our schools!

Yes, I think coaching is a lot like glitter. Get out there and sparkle!
Thanks for reading 🙂

5 things I want my pre-service teachers to know

Of course, if you’ve been following this blog you already know that one of my professional goals was to teach pre-service teachers and that this semester I am privileged to have my own tutorial group of 29 students. Given the large number and the course outline which stipulates that they must prepare and deliver a 30-minute lesson first to a couple of Year 7 students in a school -you can read about that here – and then to their peers during our tutorial time over 6 weeks it leaves me very little time to review or give feedback out loud. Our sessions are all about getting everyone a turn to deliver their class, while feedback is provided in writing or sent via email after the sessions. I have to say, there has been much learning in these sessions and as second year students they have done a great job!

Next week the students are due to go out on their professional practice rounds and so there will be no tutorials scheduled for two weeks after which there is only one more session for the semester aaarrgghhh!

Hence this blog post. I really want my pre-service teachers to know the following:

1. Relationships



All of you have delved into this area at some point in your peer teaching session but I cannot stress it enough for when you are teaching and learning students. It does not take much to learn your students and does get easier the longer you remain in the most rewarding of all professions. However, sometimes we forget, especially when our own baggage comes in with us into the learning space. I have always said and will continue to do so – when going into your learning space, leave your baggage outside as there will be no room for it given there are between 25 and 29 other pieces coming in. Please remember that those students come into the learning space with needs, some with more needs than others, but they always need to feel safe, to be respected, to be loved (you know what I mean here) and for you to believe they can and be prepared to show them how.

2. Aims & Objectives

SMART goals

SMART goals

There is a clear difference between aims and objectives but they are constantly running into each other. Your aim (usually only one) is what you hope to achieve or the overall big picture item. The objectives are the steps that need to be taken to achieve the aim. In other words long- term plan and lots of short term plans to make the journey more enjoyable, less stressful and more achievable. Objectives usually begin with verbs – doing words. I encourage you to use the S.M.A.R.T goal process in developing them.

By the end of the lesson/class/week the students will be able to….(now list the objectives based on SMART).


3. Information overload

MacMeekin's infographic on Blooms 'revised' Taxonomy

MacMeekin’s infographic on Blooms ‘revised’ Taxonomy

So you are about to plan and teach a class -how much information is enough? By information I mean knowledge and skills. I think you can never have enough knowledge and skill but one can only digest certain amounts at particular times. This is mostly true if you are ‘feeding’ them the information. I want to remind you that you don’t have to have all the knowledge nor do you have to give them all the answers. I’d like to see you take more risks and allow time for students to explore a little more and hence develop their own skills and knowledge. Consider practical applications to encourage your students to think, to evaluate and to analyse. Why do they need to know this? How will it help them in the future? These are sometimes really hard questions to answer especially when there is a set curriculum to get through. Don’t be afraid to accept any teaching moments that occur BUT be wary you are not leading them down the garden path. Incorporate into your lessons some Bloom’s Taxonomy – you don’t have to do it all, all of the time but we do have to move from just receiving and regurgitating knowledge for testing and then forgetting all about it. Create ‘fun’ ways for them to seek, find and apply.

4. Learning activities



While it is important for students to develop collaborative skills, there are many who don’t enjoy it, feel they have nothing to offer, or take advantage of the others and choose not participate. Sound familiar? As a pre-service teacher you need to build a repertoire of different ways you can get them to collaborate without saying, “Okay now let’s get into groups and discuss…”  Sometimes it’s important to allow them time to think on their own or perhaps with just one other peer. The way you ask is also crucial  – let them know there is no one answer – I always like to say for example, “What do YOU think of ….?” ” Can you give me an example from your own experience ….” “What does your partner think of ….” These types of questions don’t require correct answers because it’s their opinion and these are the types of queries that help build confidence and lets them know that what they think is important and they are encouraged to share it if and when they wish. Can you think of ‘fun’ ways to group your students without exclaiming the dreaded “Okay now let’s get into groups and discuss…”? Why not share them below so we can all begin filling our tool box. 

5. Thinking scaffolds

FAIL - First Attempt In Learning

FAIL – First Attempt In Learning

Every student has different learning needs and every class is different and I understand that this can be quite overwhelming for any teacher but most especially for pre-service teachers. Don’t be intimidated by this, remember what I said; each of your students needs to feel safe in your classroom, a place where it’s okay to make mistakes and that learning is challenging (this is good) but there are plenty of scaffolds you can use to help them get to the goal. Providing scaffolds my dear pre-service teachers is not the same as giving them the answers or making it easier -they are different kinds of challenges that don’t overwhelm students and burden them so they give up. Think of it this way…there is treasure on the other side of a deep, deep forest and each student will take a different path through that forest to reach it. Some students are armed with sickles and make their way quickly only having to stop when the trees are very thick to re-think their options. Other students take their time and discover little entry points here and there and follow the paths, stopping at lookout points along the way to take photos, others plunge into the forest without a plan and soon find themselves lost and without supplies, another lot of students stand at the clearing, too frightened to attempt the journey in case they are discovered as imposters as they haven’t a clue where to begin. These are the students in your class; there might even be others. Scary isn’t it?



Everyone will learn, eventually, you just have to help facilitate and encourage that learning through scaffolds. It is always a good idea to begin with a plan, ask questions -both open ended and closed and discuss some scenarios. “What would you do if…?” “What options do you have?” “Which option would you be willing to try? Why?” “What do we need to …?”

Step by step graphic

Step by step graphic

You may give them some tools to use to clarify their thinking – my favourites are graphic organisers and there are hundreds of websites and apps you can use just google it and see. I also think that if each student had a chance to discover which 2 or 3 were their favourites they could use them over and over when they needed to plan out their thoughts.

There are, of course, many more things I would like to tell you but taking my own advice in information overload, I’ll leave that for another time.

Finally my dear pre-service teachers, remember teaching and learning is meant to be ‘FUN’ don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Now get out there and make a difference!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Contemplating reflection – some practical applications for my pre-service teachers

My dear pre-service teachers,

I was very excited when finally one of my career goals was realised earlier this year with an appointment to run a tutorial group of pre-service teachers.



I have a great bunch of 2nd year students who will one day embark on the greatest of professions. Teaching, after all, is what allows all other life’s dreams to come true. Have you thought about that? Teachers make all other professions possible. For many of us it’s about making a difference. That’s what sets us apart – I believe I can make a difference even if it takes years and years, I’m never giving up!

Reading and digesting the text

The other day I was reading my chapters from our text book – I figure if my pre-service teachers have to read it, so should I (yes I know you don’t all read the chapters!). Much of what is written I have encountered over the last 30 years in schools but every now and then I find a gem or two that makes me think…Ahhh yes!

So I thought as part of my first ‘blog hour’ – my coach had me set a goal of one hour per week because I mentioned in a telecoaching session last week that I really miss writing my blog. It seems to be the one thing I always set aside till next time because there’s some other more important task to complete. Well, now that’s over and here I am feeling happy and comfortable – early morning writing 🙂

So…about my first ‘blog hour’ – easily distracted is what I would have on my school report!

Back to this particular chapter – the one on reflective practice -are you reading this my pre-service teachers? I’m just about to surmise it for you – as if you picked up my copy and only had to read the highlighted sections and border notes.

“No matter how well you are doing in your teaching, there’s always room for improvement and refinement” (Churchill et al., 2016, p. 482).

Reflecting on practice is not always about mending what doesn’t work or reviewing those classes that just didn’t go the way you were expecting them to evolve. It’s also very much about celebrating what did work and will work in the future.  Put the failed class behind you as there will be many of them, don’t let them defeat you. Instead soon after talk it out with your mentor or a friend who understands, record your thoughts, that’s what iphones are really made for, blog it out, write it in your teacher journal, anything, just get it out while it’s fresh, and don’t forget to make it more than just a re-tell, incorporate the skill of critique and ask yourself; Why? How? 

Reflective questions

Reflective questions

“Reflection … entails making sense of what occurred, not just reporting on it or repeating it back at a later time” (p. 484). 

‘Real’ teaching is reflection in action (p. 485) that is thinking about and reflecting simultaneously while practising. It is simply the act of learning by doing and is only possible while planning, teaching and assessing. By the way this also works for your students, don’t forget to plan for it!

Speaking of which, students are a great feedback tool. They tell it like it is and we should all make efforts to ask them for feedback. It doesn’t always have to be formal and after the completion of a session or unit. Listening as they go about their learning is a powerful tool in gaining insights into what they can offer by way of data for your reflective practice. Even the silence is important – what was not said or asked?

“Observations can be done from a distance; listening requires proximity and intimacy” (Schultz, 2003 in Churchill, 2016, p. 489).

Take the time to ‘learn your students’ and while listening is a really important avenue so is watching, and learning them as a way to then take action. If you are interested in formal feedback it doesn’t always have to be an arduous task, feel free to download

and use it with your younger students to gain insights into how they perceive what is going on in your classes. Don’t take it personally but use feedback as a tool to continually improve your practice.

Another avenue for collecting data on which to reflect is via a critical friend. This will mean inviting a trusted colleague into your class to observe a pre-determined aspect of your teaching and then give their feedback. Video recording just 10 minutes of your class is also a great way to reflect on practice. Turning the camera towards the students, similar to how a go-pro operates offers even further insights.


From a teacher’s perspective

It also got me thinking my pre-service teachers that while on placement you might contemplate asking your peers to come and observe your teaching – yet another interesting perspective.

Using technology to reflect

In this technological world there are a myriad of ways one can record reflective practice: video diary, blog, wiki, journal, word doc, instagram, etc., but have you thought about twitter? As a social media outlet I have found it to be an inspiration in my own teaching and learning and have a wonderful professional learning network of outstanding educators with whom I interact and share my practice. I would highly recommend it – you can’t judge until you try it. You can read more about my twitter experience here.

As you’ve probably concluded I use this blog as reflective practice and cannot say enough as to it’s value for me as an educator and learner. I write about many aspects of my life and always use them as a reflection of how we can be better.

“As an action-orientated habit of mind, critically reflective practice can offer new insights that will improve our work and our relationships with our students … far from being ‘busy work’, reflection is an essential component to … [our] work as teachers” (p. 502).

I once again encourage you my pre-service teachers to begin recording your experiences, thoughts, questions, think out loud through your reflective journal and “when [you as] novice teachers move beyond thinking about … [your] teaching as ‘doing’ to conceptualising how … [your] ‘doing’ informs … [your] practice, … [you] are on the road to turning … [your] experience into expertise” (p. 503).

I am so very happy to be part of that learning journey with you.

How will you record reflective practice? Please share your thoughts by commenting below.

Thanks for reading 🙂


Churchill, R., Ferguson, P., Godinho, S., Johnson, N. F., Keddie, A., Letts, W., Mackay, J., McGill, M., Moss, J., Nagel, M. C., Nicholson, P. & Vick, M. (2016). Teaching: Making a difference. Milton, QLD, Australia: John Wiley and Sons. 

Not all gifts are perfectly wrapped

The other day I bought a gift for a very special person and asked the shop assistant if she would gift-wrap it for me. She agreed and asked whether the gift was for a male or female. “Female,” I replied. I didn’t pay much attention to her as she wrapped it and then out she came from behind the counter and handed me a bag. That’s when I noticed the wrapping and realised two things:

1. The wrapping did not suit my friend at all and

2. It failed to reflect what was actually within.

shop wrapped gift

shop wrapped gift

I remember feeling annoyed because I hadn’t bothered to pay any attention to the wrappings available, as I’m sure there were other choices. I left the shop feeling deflated after having been so pleased with the find. That night – you must believe me – I continued to fret about the gift and began doubting whether it was appropriate. By morning I had changed my mind and decided that I was not going to gift it all.

It was then I tore the wrapping away to expose its inner beauty. The gift was beautiful and I still loved it as much as I had when I first saw it and it did suit my friend as I had first assessed. My whole problem was the actual wrapping paper. I had failed to see beyond the exterior. It took so much away from what was inside. I decided that yes this was the gift for her and yes I would gift it after all. I rewrapped it leaving part of the gift exposed and tied it with a silk ribbon. The colours were better suited to my friend and the gift half exposed lived up to its whimsical shape and form.

gift rewrapped

gift rewrapped

Instantly I felt better about it both inside and out. The gift was finally exposed, it suited the wonderful person who would eventually receive it and it made me proud.

So why am I writing about a silly gift and its ill-suited wrapping?

Because it made me feel the same as when I meet students who don’t get the opportunity to shine. I spent many a sleepless night feeling anxious about students who just don’t love learning. As a teacher I feel that it’s my responsibility to ensure that all my students are given a chance to discover their gifts and talents and once that discovery is made to set up opportunities for them to shine.

We’ve all taught that student whom you just can’t seem to gel with. Who winds you up and makes you feel uncomfortable or annoyed, angry, or sometimes they make you feel you have failed as an educator. That student who constantly disrupts your class, back chats when reprimanded and fails to do any work at all. You’ve tried everything; had a chat with him after class, spoken to his other teachers, called home, perhaps dished out some consequences and still the behaviour continues.


Well, I think it’s simply because we haven’t torn away the inappropriate wrapping to discover that yes the real person is there. He has just been given an unfair wrap. We haven’t taken the time to learn him.

I encourage all of us to never give up on any of our students, no matter how difficult. Always believe in them, work hard to find the truth, to unearth their talents and interests and then give them as many opportunities as possible to shine. They’ll soon come round and the old wrapping will be disposed; the true beauty of their talents and abilities will shine but only with the love and support of a much better wrapping.  These are the strategies you teach them so they can become better learners.

You see, the shop assistant did not know my friend as I do and so the wrapping was all wrong. She didn’t really understand how much I loved that gift and hoped that my friend would too. So really it was my fault for not taking the time to let her know of the wonderful things I saw in the gift and of how much I really care for my friend. So I had to make an extra effort and exposed it for myself. It was only then that I felt I could share it with that friend and, well, celebrate together.

Thanks for reading 🙂



‘Salsa dancing’ into my second year p/t PhD: A MOOC reflection

I just re-enrolled for 2016 (confidence) and promptly got a response that I hadn’t been successful in so doing (frustration) only to have a third email relay difficulties the university is having with re-enrolment processes and reassuring me that I had indeed been successful in re-enrolling (confusion). Phew! I remember thinking at the time – Really? I’m not re-enrolled? (fear) Is this a sign? (confusion again) Should I be re-thinking this? (and fear) But my good sense (more confidence) told me I should just let it go. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on MOOC #survivephd15 with @thesiswhisperer et al. is that everything I’ve felt, am feeling, will feel throughout my PhD journey has a name, some research to back it up, and strategies to deal with it (curiosity).

This week I’ve been reading Kristin Luker’s book Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences (2008). I like how she writes. I can hear her saying the words, giggling when I do and reading seriously when I am. Infact the first chapter begins “I’m serious. Really I am.”

Me too!

Reflecting on my own blog posts about my PhD I can pretty much put a label on each entry. Everything I have written about fits into an emotion from the MOOC. Extraordinary!

In my first post about my PhD I discuss my reasons for beginning the journey itself:

This research is relatable – in fact it relates to a very important part of my memory and attitude to teaching and learning. I do this because I will never forget what it felt like to not understand what other people were talking about.

It’s personal.


In my first blog about my journey beginnings I promptly announce that I have been preparing for this all my life. Now that’s confidence!


There’s been plenty of frustration this last year, including potential supervisors telling me ‘you can’t do that type of research, just too much work.’ Reading between the lines it really meant “I’m too busy.” Luckily my existing supervisor who was very supportive helped me find my current supervisor -an inspiring individual who had no issue joining the team. In fact our team meeting just this week was a really fun and engaging learning experience!


Lonely? Are you kidding? Not anymore with my great new PhD mates on MOOC, twitter and facebook.  This experience has been terrific and I hope that it continues into the future. My final submission was an idea to begin a tweetchat using the #survivephd15 1st Thursday of every month beginning Dec 3, 2015 at 8:30 – 9.30 pm AEST. I’d be happy to moderate/ co-moderate and have guest moderators if anyone is willing

I have prepared the first three months worth  – 6 questions per chat with the themes of MOOC running through each but with a twist. More details will follow via social media as the time draws nearer. I do hope you will join me in helping to maintain the wonderful support network we have shared throughout the MOOC and retain it as a place to continue to post and share ideas and resources and even get a pat on the back or a supportive word when needed!



For me fear is a motivator – I work well under pressure.




There have been plenty of times when confusion and self doubt creep into my thinking. The process of becoming continues and I think it’s just one of those things that will be just out of reach until perhaps one day I will be submitting my PhD and it will be good – no more confusion or self doubt. Well, at least until the next process begins.


This post is part of the November #HDRblog15 challenge @debsnet announced as her final activity for MOOC. Never a dull moment. I look forward to sharing and hearing about all of our PhD journeys.



Thanks for reading 🙂