So what if the beach was a whiteboard?

In today’s classrooms on at least one wall, there exists a whiteboard – used to be a blackboard but those days are long gone. I’m wondering then if maybe it’s almost time to sign off on whiteboards. Yes, I know we have those interactive numbers in many schools but even so…I’m not convinced they are being used to capacity.

Since it’s supposed to be summer in Melbourne – I say ‘supposed to be’, cause I’m currently at the beach in a lovely new house on holiday, just a few minutes walk from the beach, and it’s freezing… aside from that… what if the beach was a whiteboard? What might this look like?

This post was initially prompted and began swirling in my head by a couple of photos sent to me in November when most kids were busy studying for upcoming exams. It was cemented in me last night when walking along the beach here and happening upon some wonderful sand drawings.

sand drawing

What prompts children (and adults) to write and draw in wet sand? Have you ever thought about it?

I bet you’ve done it.

Thomas was prompted to write in the sand while studying for his English exam. Yes, really. He scraped out quotes from his novel as a way to remember them. Funny. No one encouraged him to do it, in fact, he was on his own down at the beach and then…he picked up a stick.

He tells me he actually planned to walk down to the beach so he could write them in the sand.

Thomas’ sand quotes


“I didn’t have a whiteboard. I usually write them on a whiteboard, rub them out and write them again.” At the beach, he didn’t need to rub them out. It was expansive enough to just move on to another space and repeat.


Thomas purposefully adapted his preference for learning and used his immediate access to the sand in order to learn.

As he stands back to admire his writing, passers-by are curious.

“It’s okay,” says Thomas, “I’m just revising for my English exam.”



Is that what it is?


Thomas doesn’t think so – for him, he was just studying, thinking, adapting to his environment, taking advantage of what he had – a stick, a voglia, (desire) to explore learning, sand, prior knowledge and experience.

So what if the beach was a whiteboard?

How might you use it for learning?

Thanks for reading 🙂

Do more than ‘know your students’: Learn them

I’d like to propose a leveling up from ‘knowing’ your students to ‘learning your students’.

So how’s it different?

It is similar to holistic education where the student has the possibility to be developed in all aspects of humanism. It develops their physical, academic, spiritual, social and emotional being. In ‘learning’ students then, it becomes an ability to really know them beyond what they like to do, how they learn and what they got on their last test result. It’s about being open, allowing them to develop, take risks and all the while the teacher is watching, listening and learning. Only after this can one act accordingly. In learning students, one is compelled to take action.

What are the steps in such a proposal?

  1. When greeting them at the door go one step further beyond asking how they are going. Watch their body language, listen to the tone in their voice and distinguish if it was any different last time you asked. Then act.

    Watch, listen & learn

    Watch, listen & learn

  2. Reflect on the last class you taught. Who are the students that made an impact -that is- asked the questions, interacted with the teaching and learning, those you had to remind to get back on task. Now, picture those who did not. Why not? Have they interacted more effectively in previous classes? What was different this time? How can that change for next time without making them feel exposed? Now act.

    Classroom interactions

    Classroom interactions

  3. Do you know what your students like doing outside of class? Do you make efforts sometimes to include aspects of these things in the teaching and learning? Let me give you an example: You asked your class and this particular one has quite a few that enjoy sports -don’t roll your eyes – I’m not keen on it either but just bear with me. Keep in mind while you do plan that there are undoubtedly some students who do not like sport – but maybe they like games… what aspects of sport and games could be included in your class? I encourage you to think outside the box here, include ideas about skills- dependent on what year level they are: Might you include some healthy competition, or adding by goal points, even creating open-ended problems related to sport but reflective of the skills you require? Is there a story about sport/competition/achievement/training/teams you could use instead? Just because students like footy, doesn’t mean you have to ‘do’ and ‘talk’ footy. Perhaps you can cover their love of sport via other related means. Now act.


    Students’ talents

  4. Are you comfortable sharing something of yourself? Of course, I would expect that it be relative to the content matter being presented. This is a great way to reveal your own humanism and might move your students into telling some of their own narratives. Your role here is to model respect and trust when and if they do, to listen intently and thank them when they finish. Everyone needs to know they have a voice in your class when they want to use it and will be respected accordingly. One last point – the students don’t have to ‘talk’ their narratives, there are plenty of other ways to ‘show’ them. There might be an opportunity sometime during the semester to ask them to complete … ‘I wish my teacher knew …’ Now act.

    Lacking confidence

    Lacking confidence

  5. Stop teaching the content and start learning students. We are always talking about how we don’t have enough time…but time spent learning your students is much more valuable than always thinking you don’t have time because there’s so much content to get through. Content will happen, as will learning (which is the whole point of education) if we do more to ‘learn’ our students. Have open discussions about learning – discuss with them how they learn, talk about the brain and how clever it is and notice how, when, where and what students do in your class when you set learning tasks. I encourage you to change the language used – instead of asking them to get on with their work… try “let’s get on with our learning”. It just seems to be more inclusive and less burdensome somehow.


Matthys, 2016

Matthys, 2016

Now act. Let me know how it goes. Why not share your ideas below so others may also learn.


Thanks for reading 🙂

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 🙂

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. 

Moonshots and other really cool shooting stars

Last Sunday night’s Aussie Ed tweet chat was all about moonshots. You can read the storify later.

Moonshot is literally the launch of a rocket into space. In more recent times the term has been introduced in education as a means to think ‘big’, think ‘innovatively’, think ‘huge’, think ‘change the world’ one small step at a time.  It can be big or small, done on your own or in collaboration with others.

What we said

The first question in the #aussieED chat asked this: In your opinion, what is a moonshot? My initial response was

What is a moonshot?

What is a moonshot?

You’ll notice my question mark at the end – obviously I had not heard this before and was taking a stab at it. As the chat continued and others shared their thoughts, it got me thinking about my own personal experiences with moonshots and those of the people around me, family, friends, students, colleagues, and parents. I really enjoyed reading what others thought about moonshot. I’d like to share a few -there were many others that you can read for yourself once you’ve finished. I’ll even give you the link. Keep reading…

Kim said this

Kim said this

A crazy idea

I love this! I’ll admit I’ve had some really crazy ideas over the years and was not afraid to see if they could go anywhere. My crazy idea that I could write a book came about simply because I thought I could. Mostly it’s pretty much finished but needs a little tinkering and possibly updating given I began writing it some years ago. Maybe I’ll shoot this one early next year.

Joel said this

Joel said this

It just won’t work…(really?)

This kind of comment just makes me more inclined to go after that which others think won’t work. I’m an optimist but more importantly I work hard to solve problems or issues. There are a great many things out there that people thought impossible  – imagine if we still thought the world was flat and if you went to the edge you’d fall and plunge to destruction. Thank goodness that belief was proved wrong. What else? Better still what other beliefs are there today that could be holding us back?

I’d like you to imagine a place where all children had the opportunity to learn in their own preferred way but also engage in other ways of learning so as to grow their repertoire as an ‘all round’ learner. Imagine a place where children and adults collaborated to change the world to make it an equitable, safe and sustainable place for all living creatures. Some have already started but it would be much more logical if we all worked towards it. So…let’s do it!

We can begin making a difference by taking Carl’s advice and developing a plan to save the world. Impossible? Do you mean making the plan or saving the world? Nothing is impossible.

Carl's plan

Carl’s plan

As Steve points out:

Steve said this

Steve said this

It is most important that we adults model how to deal with failure; after all without it we cannot learn. To make a mistake we have to take a risk, if we fail, we analyse why it happened and move on to make it better next time. Imagine if Edison stopped work after blowing up the first bulb.

Never give up

Never give up

Shake it out

Shake it out

Shake it out

I really like Karen’s idea of a moonshot too. I enjoy shaking things up – in fact I make trouble all the time. I say what I think and I back it up because taking a shot at something you truly believe will make a difference – so worth it. A major component of moonshots is to believe.

Last week I had to deal with a family issue interstate but had a consulting gig already booked which couldn’t be undone. So I asked a colleague if they would consider workshopping it for me. I never doubted her ability to do it – not because I’m so good but because she is. It’s a little like paying it forward – someone gave me a chance to shine long ago so I’m passing it on. Its success is in your hands.

exploding moonshots

exploding moonshots

What’s your moonshot?

Thanks for reading 🙂

(Now you can read the storify)

Sunday nights 8:30 AEST #aussieED