Category Archives: Reflection

Reflections on 2017

I sit here, trying to reflect on what was the year of 2017.

My personality type dictates that there needs to be some order to this process. That it needs to be a logical, methodical process; not some random collection of sunshine, glitter, lollipops and unicorns. I noticed a post from a Tim Ferris somewhere (I think it was his 5 bullet Friday’s newsletter) where he talked about his process for reflection. As a big fan of Tim’s work, I thought if it was good enough for him that if was definitely good enough for me.

So, with my Google Calendar open beside my OneNote notebook, I went through and collated the highs and lows of 2017 in chronological order into my very orderly two column table.

The most glaring observation was that things I remembered most or really enjoyed about the year gone by involved people.

  • Musicals and performances with friends
  • Dinners with friends
  • Spending time away in Daylesford and the Yarra Valley
  • Catching up with close family in Ballarat or Gelong
  • Going swimming then heading out for coffee or breakfast afterwards
  • Seeing extended family for birthdays or BBQs
  • Spending time with my niece at Collingwood Children’s Farm
  • #beerpedagogy and celebrations with friends
  • My brother, Michael, staying over mid week if he is working in the city
  • Catch ups with past colleagues for drinks or birthday.

Whilst continuing with our cleaner and outsourcing our ironing come at financial cost, they buy me the time of being able to rest, to read or to spend it with others.

Professionally, a huge highlight was getting a substantive Assistant Principal position. This has been a long term goal but has also been a gigantic learning curve. Again the highlights of 2017 have been the work that has been achieved with people. Working with my principal, our leadership team, my coach, staff, students and their families to be their best bring me the greatest reward.

I continue to love volunteering with VicSRC for the ‘greater good’ of our education system and the wonderful team of people I get to work with why doing this.

2017 also brought with it some negative experience and definitely some lessons learned.

I’m glad to put the experience of renovating our kitchen behind us as we finished the project in March; many months overdue.

During the course of 2017, I heard many stories of others life experiences and situations; making me appreciate the simplicity of my own life and value more the simple things I can able to do that others can not.

Whilst I absolutely love my job, my biggest learning this year has been that I am not my job. This was evident most at the end of the year when I literally dragged myself over the finish line. (I was incredibly sick and forced myself to school on the last day of the year). What followed was a week in bed, a very subdued Christmas and the inability to interact with others or complete the most basic of tasks.

My personality type wants me to be the best. But at what cost? What good is a life if you don’t make time to live it?

So, as I prepare to jump into 2018, here’s to a year of saying no – unless it’s a ‘hell yes’. A year where I will be at the top of my list and take responsibility to be more than just my profession. A year focused on taking time to rest; to recharge; to smell the roses; to be in the company of family and friends who remind me of my essential purpose, who raise my standards and who challenge me to be the best version of myself.

PS: A shout out to Steve Brophy who so eloquently puts into words what my brain so often is processing and to Amy Green who’s work I have only recently been introduced to but look forward to exploring more.

Have you got a minute?

So…..  It’s been a while between blog post and, as always, a lot of water has gone under the bridge since I last wrote.

The short story is that I switched schools (again!) mid way through last year to take on an Acting Assistant Principal role and at the beginning of term 2 this year, I was successful in obtaining the substantive role.

The question I have been asked the most often is along the lines of if I like the change; if I prefer one role over the other or if I miss the classroom. I find this a really difficult question to answer as the work and the role is so different.

One of the biggest challenges has been managing my time. As a classroom teacher in a primary school environment, my day followed a fairly standard routine. Reading would happen in the morning, Maths would be after recess….

Even as a leading teacher, I would make a list of tasks and jobs I would want to get done that day, find a space to work and get them done.

Switching into the Assistant Principal role, this recent video in the Leadership Scenarios series from AITSL really resonated with me.

So much of my work is reactionary.

“This teacher has called in sick.”

“The pipe inside the toilet has burst.”

“This parent wants to talk about an issue.”

I used to be a big believer in having an ‘open-door’ policy; that being accessible was important in building a sense of trust. But I am beginning to shift in my thinking towards this and
reconsider what this may look like practically.

I’m also conscious that often when I make an appointment, I get interrupted with a student issue or something that needs immediate attention. This seems disrespectful to the person who has set aside time to see me.

I also find that my calendar gets full with meetings. There are some days where I can bounce from meeting to meeting to meeting, often without a break in between. I feel like I walk out with my head full,

E-mail and incoming paperwork also takes a huge chunk of time. I’m a big fan of David Allen’s work around Getting Things Done but I seem to spend the bulk of my time getting ‘in to empty’.

I don’t have time at the moment for ‘deep work’; for working on tasks and projects that are meaningful and will drive school improvement.

So…. What am I doing to fix it?

I’ve started to track my work each day by making note of the time I start something and when I finish it.  It was interesting to reflect on the number of ‘interuptions’ to my work and the length of time it took to complete some tasks. A report that I started at 9am didn’t get finished until 3pm simply due to other tasks that interupted the work flow. I have a feeling that most of my day is spent doing administrative tasks and responding to student behaviour and welfare issues but I want to get some qualitative data that supports this. (I’m working on a seperate blog post that explains my workflow for this)

I’ve also been tracking my energy levels throughout the day. Each time I start a new task, I give myself a score between 1-5. 3 is a good average score; anything above and I am in the zone. Anything below a 3 means my focus and attention is fading fast.

I’ve also made a point of tracking small gratitudes each day as it’s often so easy to get caught up in the administrative side of things. Most of them relate to students who have made
achievements or staff who have worked with students to create these achievements.

Finally, I’ve recently signed up for leadership coaching and am keen to work with my new coach on how I can make improvements in this area.

Hopefully I’ll have more to share with you as I go through this process of change and learning… when I get a minute!

A blank canvas – Part II

This post is in response to a comment I received in relation to my “Blank Canvas” post and and expands on my thoughts in relation to my ideal learning space.

I remember once having this idea that I wanted to start the year with a totally empty classroom.
No furniture. No chairs. No desks. No displays. Nothing.

That together as a learning community, we would talk about how we liked to learn, what resources we needed in order to learn best and what furniture and layout best supported that. Together we would source the items and materials we were after and collectively create a learning community that reflected our needs.

What would begin as a blank canvas would become a masterpiece that we would paint together.

masterpiece

Somewhere in the middle of my dream though, reality set in.

28 students in an open space with nothing seemed like an invitation for chaos…. Or a great place to play game of gang up tiggy.

The principal taking school tours of prospective parents walking past beautifully arranged classrooms; sending out an unofficial message of ‘calm and order’ to only to arrive at my room to see an empty and unprepared space.

The logistics of storing all the furniture that was in the room previously. Where would it go when storage in most schools is already at a premium?

And what if they ‘got it wrong’? Previous attempts at having students ‘design their ideal classroom’ lead to them arranging the desks in rows. Because that’s what a classroom ‘should’ look like (according to American movies and TV Shows). Aren’t I supposed to be ‘professional’ here? Shouldn’t I be the one with the knowledge of learning theory and what works best? Not that I’ve been to hospital, but I can’t imagine going into operating theatre the day before my operation and rearranging the layout of the room based on my needs.

I’ve probably gone to the extreme here and I’m certain somewhere in the middle is a ‘happy medium’. For example, while I arrange the tables in our learning space I don’t believe in having ‘set seating’ arrangements for my students; I’m one for allowing students to choose where they sit.  If someone is annoying them or disturbing their learning, they then have the choice to move and find somewhere else they would like to work. Part of this process centres around choosing ‘good’ locations for learning and what this looks like (ie: not always next to your friend). If this continues to be something students have difficulty with, I will then let students know they need some help to make a good choice and offer 3 of my own suggestions.

Like most changes in education, until perceptions change around what ‘should be’ we continue to do what has always been done. Maybe one day I’ll challenge this perception.