Strive for Greatness!

Over the last eight years I have had the privilege of listening to and reading from the work of some very well respected educators on what makes the biggest difference to student progress. Hattie, Fullan, Khan, Benson and Wilson are all surnames of people who wrote books about education. I am sure at least a couple of them have argued for the point that having great teachers is the thing that gives our students the best chance of success.

Ultimately we can introduce different intiatives, programs and technologies in our school but it all means little unless we have great teachers in our schools. Part of the challenge for all of us is how do we ensure that we get the most out of ourselves and each other everyday. What steps can we take to ensure that we are taking a step towards greatness that is going to help our students? I emphasise here that this lofty goal of greatness is not something that anyone I know would comfortably admit. Perhaps it is a hallmark of great teachers to be very critical of themselves and hence unlikely to describe themselves in that regard. What is important is the journey and the constant and continued improvement and refinement of practice that striving to be great (to steal LeBron’s motto) entails.

We all have ideas about what makes a great teacher, building positive relationships, high expectations, passion, knowledge and adopting the growth mindset of a lifelong learner are all traits that come to mind and you would be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees that these are characteristics typical of great teachers. If we want to obtain a deeper understanding of these things so that we can learn adopt and share our learning with colleagues we need to be constantly looking at and learnng from our most effective teachers.

I want to try and make a conscious effort to learn form the most effective people not just in my own school but also in other schools. It is no good…I will rephrase that, the amount of influence of great teachers is severely limited if they teach in isolation. With their impact rarely escaping the four walls of their classrooms. We need to involve great teachers in important decisions in our schools, we need support, encourage and praise them for their efforts so that they will feel more inclined to share some of their insights. We need to be thinking creatively and be careful with our interactions so that our great teachers feel valued and their influence spreads in our schools and beyond.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I really enjoy myself when I am learning something new. I want to keep doing this as much as I can so why not learn form the best!


Sharing is Caring

I recently stumbled upon this article by Dkerr for connected principals. It highlights the importance of us, as educators sharing our experiences, successes, failures and everything in between.

Historically teachers have been left alone in isolation to run their classrooms using their own experience, knowledge and judgement to make an impact to the kids in the class. Surely in 2016 we have an obligation to share the professional knowledge that lives inside the walls of our own classroom and give it to colleagues not just across the corridor from us but also across the world from us. If we truly believe in the ability of the students in our direct care then surely we must also care about students everywhere! We  should make time to explore and connect with what’s out there through blogs, tweets, videos, and anything else we can get our hands on.  We can learn from each other and if we can contribute our own little bit then we can truly become a cog in a very exciting moment in the life of the teaching profession.

Do yourself a favour, read the article, start a blog (I need to get better at this one!), tweet something worth sharing and keep on learning!




Mindfulness at BSPS


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Recently the staff at BSPS had the privilege of spending a full day workshop with Dr Richard Chambers who is an expert on mindfulness. There is a plethora of research available that has suggested that practising mindfulness has a number of benefits in learnning, happiness and general wellbeing.richard-in-the-garden

It was a riveting day and the staff have had vey positive things to say about the day. Dr Chambers has also written a great book called Mindful Learning. Check it out if you would like to learn more. Additionally you could listen to this great ten minute talk on Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe

Collaborative Leadership @ BSPS

We have a great model of what we have always called ‘distributed leadership’ at BSPS. Our school recognises, celebrates and encourages people to play an active role in the leading of our school.

I saw this poster on a interesting post by Stephanie McConnell at Principal Principles. I believe the beliefs underpinning this sort of leadership approach truly have the ability to make a difference in schools.

Collaborative leadership gives everyone a voice and leads to greater sense of ownership in schools. This allows staff and students to co-create a vision for the school and once this vision becomes explicit for all because everyone contributed to it, it allows everyone to move in the same direction with purpose and a deep belief in what we are doing.

In Michael Fullan’s book ‘Coherence’ he discusses a school that had three distinct teams of which anyone could voluntarily involve themselves in. The teams had different responsibilities: 1. Data 2. Management issues and 3. Curriculum and Instruction. These teams sound to me like they have to very strongly linked and held together by a strong vision and principles but it allowed the school to develop a collaborative culture and steadily interest in involvement groups grew until the school experienced unprecedented buy-in and allowed to experience some fantastic results.

I would like to hear from more schools who are truly exploring different ways to become more involve students and staff in school leadership.

Data Right Now!

Here are some really quick notes on the use of data in my current context. I am sure that these will be far too simple to be of great use to many people!

Obviously the everyday work of the teacher is to improve student learning. When this your overarching purpose then it becomes relevant to ask; what do I need to know to make the biggest impact? What the students know? What they need to know? how they learn? What will make the biggest impact? These are all essential questions that I continue to seek clarity on in daily practice.

At the moment I use a combination of assessment items, anecdotal records, formal assessments,  writing samples, running records, and generally what I see and hear everyday to help make decisions in daily classroom activities. In a whole school sense, a combination of evidence described above as well NAPLAN and On Demand trend data, Staff, student and parent opinion surveys are utilised and Ausvels data help drive whole school decision making.

Decisions that are made using the data mentioned above include from a classroom perspective; what to teach and how to teach it. The whole school uses data to make decisions about strategy, goals and objectives to move forward.

It is important that the data is in fact relevant to the decisions that are made. It becomes apparent that if we are using data to make important decisions that misinterpreted data, or a lack of quality data can have serious consequences when we are trying to achieve our goals.

Collecting evidence for the things we do in school is important as it provides everybody with a clear base for why we do what we do. It is though at times time consuming. If we know what needs to happen, why can’t we just ‘go and get it done’? We need to find ways that collecting evidence is not an extra but that the actual process of collecting evidence becomes an enlightening experience for teacher unlocking truths that otherwise would not have been known.

Reshaping a classroom for Junior School

I am very excited about my upcoming transition into junior school. After five years of teaching year 5’s I will be moving done (or should I say up?) to year ones. I know that there will be a big difference in the students and therefore a steep learning curve awaits me and it is one that I am very excited about.

One part of the transition also involves moving classrooms after three years of being comfortable in the same space I am moving from the newest area of the school to one of the older buildings. Setting up my classroom for year ones and the developmental play aspect of teaching in Junior school is also something new to me. Taking advice from collegues and using some of Kathy Walker’s ideas I have tried to setup up particular areas in and around my classroom to engage and allow the students to explore whatever their hearts desire.

Is till have a long way to go but here are my attempts so far…


A couple of trophies and a speed hump!

At a recent staff gathering we were given an opportunity to reflect on our year and discuss a couple of successes and also talk about one hurdle that we had to clear to have a good year. In terms of my role as Digital Learning Leader a couple of the success I thought of was the role out of our BYOD trial in the year 5 and 6 area. We had around 80 students sign up to the program and so far it has been a very smooth process. Of the 80 over 70 students opted to bring iPads into the school and we have now taken that into consideration for the expansion of the program.

The new look Digital Learning team in our school decided to expand the program to years 1-6. Next year will be a very exciting time when we see how the program will evolve and develop.  We planned and held a well attended information night and there is definitely a buzz around the program.

We also just recently became an officially recognised E-Smart accredited school. This is the culmination of over two years worth of work of auditing and formailising our teaching and wellbeing practices to ensure that we are giving our students access to the best online safety advice and education. We are now looking forward to not only maintaining our good practice but keeping in touch with the latest trends and advice from online safety experts that we have built connections with.

Making our mind smile…

At this afternoon’s staff meeting we had a discussion about mental and physical health. While most of us in general think we are ok mentally it was good to have a reminder that we need to regularly check ourselves for our own mental wellbeing.

It is easy to get overwhelmed as a teacher at this time of year, end of year assessments, reports, transitions and preparations for next year are all pressing issues. We talked about some cues that we should look for that might signal we need to take a little time out for ourselves. Everyone might have different signals and also might like to deal with these signals in different ways. Some people thought that exercise, eating healthy, being in friends, family and being in nature are great ways to de-stress and feel better about yourself.

We were also introduced to a great website with some excellent relaxation techniques and strategies that allow ourslef to really aprreciate the moment.  One of which was the deliberate slow, touching, smelling and tasting of a mintie to really appreciate the moment. We also did a 5-minute relaxation session from the  It was a good session and something that you might be able to use with your students as well.

Here are some positive words for you to consider…

What are your favourite things to do to relax?

Check it out!

Out of the way…but close enough..

Picture of lions

The above picture I found on National Geographic’s website and it immediately resonated with me. As a teacher I think it is important that we allow kids to explore their world and learn by trying new things, exploring their own interests and passions, being creative and taking risks. As teachers we need to let them explore their own worlds and give them every opportunity to find their passion. Of course we need to guide them and share our own experiences in that will give them the best opportunity for them to be at their best.

This picture shows a lion cub venturing out into the water, with the parent and siblings (or peers) right behind. Despite the potential dangers the adult lion is giving the cub space to explore and learn on its own. I think this picture embodies some of my thoughts about teaching. At times we will be side by side with our students as we both learn and explore and at other times we must let students find and develop skills that align closely with their own interests.



Mr Ideal, or Mr Wright?

My favourite teacher was a bloke called Mr Wright. He was my grade 5 teacher. I have always gone through my life with this image of him being my favourite or ideal teacher and now that I am actually put in a position to talk about why he is my ideal teacher I find myself battling a little bit to explain why I liked him so much. I only remember bits and pieces of his class so I guess I can talk about those.  He read the newspaper a lot to us, I guess in a way he kept us focused on real issues and in my eyes he seemed to be teaching us important stuff. There was a regular competitive side to his class, lots of student vs student stuff, top of the class etc. Something that I enjoyed participating in, but now would not emulate. It is funny that the some of things that I enjoyed him for I  would never replicate in my own class.

The article made me think a little bit about perceptions. The fact that pre-service teachers though that personality was a more important attribute than subject knowledge is very interesting. This could be due to the pre-service teachers just relying heavily on their own experiences of teachers (most likely as a student) and rememering their favourite teachers. It was probably the teachers personality that made them appealing in the first place and not necessarily how much they knew.
Content knowledge started to be of increased importance to teachers probably as they were exposed to the reality and pressure of classroom teaching perhaps they found they needed more than their bubbly personalities to help them get through the day.
I definitely think that content knowledge is important but I can’t help but think that somehow pre-service teachers might be onto something that some teachers forget once they are in the everyday hustle and bustle of the classroom.  Respectful relationships are very important and to an extent personality allows positive relationships to occur. Specific content knowledge is important but perhaps the most important knowledge for a teacher to have is where their students are at (in relation to content) ,where they need to get to and how to help them get there.