Tag Archives: Planning

Friday Thought: Be Reflective

2 Jun


I was told this week Andrew you must reflect more on your practice. It was a timely reminder. I have heard a few times recently when discussing the importance or reflection as part of the school improvement process. When digging deeper into what is meant by this, I have found that in some cases there is a lack of understanding as to what it really means to be a reflective teacher. Too often, when we think about being a reflective practitioner, the reflection process is limited to evaluation; what went well and what did not. In some instances, reflection may include what might I do differently next time. A peer tells me often it is about process.

Being reflective is much more than that. Reflection must involve action. True reflection in education cannot happen without the the thoughts of what might be done differently next time actually translating into planning for action and taking action. There is no point saying that all teachers are reflective if there are lots of thoughts but no action. How does that really improve student learning?

Collaboration is an important part of being a reflective teacher. Reflecting on your own can have its limitations in terms of having other people to bounce ideas of, having other people to challenge each others viewpoints, having other people to give us the necessary feedback to critically reflect and, most importantly, other people to share our journey with. I recognize my own PLN here.


Planning My Lessons

9 Mar

Planning the level of challenge of your lessons can be a difficult task.  It is important that knowing your group and where they are will help this.  My pieces about the famous learning plan have illustrated this. What you plan to do needs to be related to prior learning – which is why formative and summative assessment, and what you do with it, is so important.  For a while I thought I’d planned challenging lessons for all.  But that was the problem.  I rarely differentiated on an individual level and predominantly set the same task for all.  Challenge should apply to the learning, not merely the task.  And the learning needs to challenge all students.  Now this is a real skill and one that I have been honing for a while. I often organise prior learning collaboratively which my students love.

“Planning can be done in many ways, but the most powerful is when teachers work together to develop plans, develop common understandings of what is worth teaching, collaborate on understanding their beliefs of challenge and progress, and work together to evaluate the impact of their planning on student outcomes.”

Hattie 2012

Using colleagues to bounce ideas off of can be an excellent way of designing lessons.  There have been numerous times when I actively seek out colleagues and run ideas past them.  I know many departments set time aside to collaboratively plan larger schemes of work, but having a critical buddy to work with on individual lessons can be a great resource.

I will pay particular attention to the level of it in my lessons.  It’s important that I pitch it right.  Too easy and there is no reward.  Feedback has less effect and becomes low value.  Too hard and it can provide a feeling that achieving this goal is unobtainable. The only way I will know if the levels are correct is if I go back and check prior attainment and know my group before planning my lesson.

So why pay more attention to challenge this year more than before?  Well because of the various factors that it links to.  Memory and feedback being two in particular.  If we are to get the glutamate and dopamine present whilst learning and thus commit what we are learning to memory, we need to ensure that what work we set is challenging (so there is potential for a reward – achieving the goal) and actually achievable (to release the reward – chemicals).  If work is too easy and not challenging, these chemicals aren’t released as highly and won’t be committed to the long term memory (the aim of learning).

Lessons from Triathlon

22 Sep


Last year, as many of you may know, I took started the journey toward a marathon which I completed last March. Now I am heading towards a half ironman and believe it or not it has helped me as an educator.

It’s only in the last couple of months that I’ve really appreciated some of the analogies I could draw between by experiences training and facing the everyday issues in schools. Having being involved in sport all my life I have always taken from sport and tried to apply it to life.

1. Time is precious

There are so many hours in a day and you can’t waste them. This year I have spent less time sitting wasting time and being more efficient. This time management has made me better at what I do. It has become more about quality rather quantity of hours at work.

2. Plan my week

With training I make notes on the whiteboard at home about what is required. The same process at school has meant that again I have become more efficient. The unplanned such as the parent phone call or that upset student does no longer throw the day out.

3. The harder the session the better I feel

I love the idea of get out there and punishing or pushing yourself. The thrill you get from carving it up down the road is awesome. The sense of accomplishment I am finding is a buzz. So when pursing my own goals I take this on board. If something seems too hard, it’s probably worth doing. If something seems too easy, it probably isn’t. I pass this onto my students.

4. Self-reflection

Being out training by yourself is a great time to reflect. Some of my best lessons or ideas for the College have been solved or conceived while flying down a hill or running down a road.

5. Don’t stop ’till you get enough

Often you need to slow right down to handle the toughest parts. Some time I need to slow down to a walk or paddle. But I don’t stop even though my initial instinct may be to do so. As soon as you stop that’s it go home. Momentum helps you maintain my focus. Any progress is good progress because as soon as you stop, you fall.

3. Keep focused: what is your goal?

Its hard swimming in open water as there is no line to follow. You need to keep reevaluating. When competing or training in a new area the body is constantly challenging itself. Where to next? When pursuing goals, I have to keep on the targets. I have learnt through my own inquiry this year it is about the process not the result. Some days it is tough but other days the entire team is on board. It may be a matter of years before I achieve an ironman but it will happen. But the process is important. Regularly reminding myself of what I want to achieve – and why –helps me to keep going.


PD or PL that is the question?

28 Jun

Is there a fundamental difference between professional development and professional learning? We often define professional development as a one-off activity that takes place outside of classrooms.

The appearance of professional development is shifting. No longer is effective PD going to a course and listening to a speaker. The 21st century learner (the teacher in this case) demands more. At present we have in many cases we have a remnant of the 20th century when perfecting routines and tasks (productivity) were more important than collaboration and innovation (creativity).

I believe that tooling teachers does not necessarily transform teachers. Effective teachers are life-long learners. Ministry documents emphasize this time and again. Our goal this year is addressing this. I have written here about a desire to create Professional Learning Network in schools. This is a desire for creating a better teaching and learning environment. This point was made in my professional reading by Fullen last week.

“Leaders who are most effective in their own organizations and beyond are

those who can connect to the bigger picture.”

In moving from professional development to professional learning, teachers will inevitably take greater responsibility for their own and their students’ learning. School leaders take greater responsibility for teacher-learning and systems provide the necessary support and condition to enable this to happen systematically.

Evaluating performance, seeking feedback and asking questions of students and colleagues happens on the job – as part of the process of improving teaching. This itself is professional development.

The final point for me is that professional learning demands reflection. How well we reflect on our learning is a crucial question which influences how we move forward?


Professional Reading:

Fullen – 8 Forces for Leaders of Change

“This is an extremely useful reading, and links in very well to developments within New Zealand regarding leading change in schools. It would be helpful to use at the beginning of a change phase within a school, and to share with staff so that they come to understand the various stages in the process of implementing change in a school.”

I highly recommend this.

Work Smart – Stay Sane

21 Jun


This week we are still in the middle of reports and various projects that occur in the second term of a school year.   The best advice I was once given was not to take it home with you, where possible. Trying to live by this advice has been hard but it has kept me, my family and friends sane.

Once I could not believe that I could still be an effective teacher and not take home any papers to mark, lesson plans to write or parents to call. How can teachers not take any work home?   That’s part of the unwritten portions of a teacher’s contract – to be willing to work long hours for which you are hardly ever reimbursed.  The advice, not to take work home, was radical but I was determined to see if it would work.   I decided I was no longer going to take my work home.

After some thought and having put the advice into practice, I thought I would share some of my hints and practices with you.   I hope they will be of some use.

1.I pace my marking/report writing.

I decided that I had to take control of the amount of marking and work smarter.   So I devised a plan that would let me handle the amount of work, I had to mark without losing my mind.   Once a term I have a lengthy writing assignment to mark. To better help me mark those essays, I mark the students as they go along in the assignment.   I call it conferencing.  It serves as a kind of double whammy, if you like, as I then have evidence of a student’s progress  . When the final drafts are due I usually have around 100 papers to mark within a 1-2 week period. So I take the amount of papers to mark and divide it by the days in the week (100 papers divided by 10 school days) and the sum is the amount of papers I need to mark on a daily basis to meet my goal.

2. Planning.

Everyone gets a planning period, but unfortunately we, as teachers, are usually called to do other things.   Knowing this, twice a week I close my office door and request not to be disturbed (within reason).   It’s amazing what I can get done.

3. Emails.

I only check my email three times a day. 7:00am, 10:00am and 4:30pm. You would be amazed what a time waster this otherwise can be.

The following helped me with email.


4. I use extra work time at school.

On those late nights e.g. socials, talent nights etc. I use the in between time to catch up on work.

5. I lesson plan during the summer.

During the summer, I carve out 1-2 hours a day to work on unit plans.  By the time summer is over, I have plenty of units that I will use during the school year.   Of course, things change and I have to modify, but I find when I can begin the school year with units already complete, it makes things easier during the year. All my work eLearning material is then set and saves time later. I use this time to work on Learning Plans.

I hope these tips help you as they sure have helped me work smarter and more efficiently and stay sane.


Professional Reading:

This a great piece for reflection for your next staff meeting.



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