Preparing for a new year
Baby Red Mangrove by Bob Peterson CC BY SA
As I sit and reflect on the joys and windfalls and the areas on which I would like to see improvement from last school year, it is often overwhelming to try and decide where to place focus for the new year at hand. I would like to share some of the long wish list that I am pondering about and to see where this shapes and takes me for the coming 12 months. I have enjoyed reading and listening to various sources this summer, a few of these include Andy Vasily’s blog, Vicky Davis and Joey Feith’s blog as well as the #Physed and #pegeeks twitter feeds as they are always full of interesting things. I have been combing through the ACHPER blog and website and also watching out for information following the #PEinstitute14 on twitter as there were a number of big PE names at this conference all using their social media and strong practice for good PE change. I have enjoyed reading some good books this summer – Green Vanilla Tea by Marie Williams, The Memory Box by Margret Forster as well as The Other by David Guterson – all of which are about journeys made (some intentional, others instigated by family or fate) and it has led me to question what I believe in and what I would like to continue to do as I move into my next year of teaching and parenting. (I should add here that I also read some terrible books just for the enjoyment factor, I do like a variety of things in my reading diet). Next on the list are: Nothing to env by Barbara Demick; The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor and to read more of Spark by Dr John Ratey and Eric Hagerman. (Joey Feith has begun a #physed reading list on his website if you are interested in more books – this could be a great way to see what others are reading).
Reflecting on my practice continues to be a valuable tool that I am going to put further forward in my -to-do- list. As a newish Head of Dept, I wish that we had more time to reflect and share what worked well for our students and what the core ideas, activities, questions and motivations that kept our students working hard in our curriculum. With a change to the new MYP this year and a chance to look at our PYP PE curriculum, I am keen to see what we can hold together with our collective wisdoms (the PE teachers I work with have collectively over 40 years experience in PE!) so we know what we are doing – now we are all on the journey of doing it better. VIcky Davis talks in one of her recent blog posts about the mindset we have and how we take criticism and about the growth we have and the added value we can take in having meaningful conversations – I like her quote about the difference between wise and foolish:
The Wise: The wise person responds to correction. They take notes. They ask questions. They go out and work to improve.
The Foolish: The foolish person blames others and won’t even accept the criticism so they can begin to correct it.
So – reflection and learning from others is going to be high on my list. I feel that we need to know what worked – from a teacher and a student perspective – so that we can all grow from the learning experiences offered. I have learnt from previous experience that you need to take a grain of salt and not look to much at what students offer as feedback – look at the collective trend in your data rather than individual comments – this will give you a good idea of what students thought of your course. But team teaching and discussion with others teaching the same course is so very valuable and will enable you to make those changes ready for a new year ahead.
Managing a team is a big commitment and one that I find quite overwhelming at times. I want to make sure that I am offering the support required to each member of my team in a way that suits them. I am email heavy – I use email for many tasks and I have found this to not be suitable to each person I work with. There must be a balance to the way in which I spend time communicating effectively with my team and there has to be time for people to approach me without feeling that they are interrupting me with their concerns etc. I am not an expert at this. I want to try and work with my team to find the best ways to communicate and share but also to learn and grow – I will be working with the same team for the next few years, and so to establish firm time management together is vital for our growth and success as a team.
I am not efficient with my own time – I procrastinate and I choose tasks that are trivial instead of taking the major items first. I am going to try and not email during the day and leave that for nighttime work and focus on the student learning, curriculum writing and team meetings over the social and email forums that tend to take up most of my work time.
Collective agreements in the Team
Many teachers write up class expectations with their classroom students – I have done this too. But this year I am going to focus on having a collective agreement in my department, I think this will filter into our dealings with students too. I want to have the 4 of us agree of how we are going to work together. I am hoping that the team will suggest ideas too – but I intend to suggest a few and hope that Andy, Joey and others may share theirs as well.
- assume best intent – assume that the email you read, or the meeting we had or the comment made was made with the best intention – do not assume that what was said/read/written is meant to harm or be negative to you or your teaching practice. If you feel unsure, always ask that person directly, do not take this to someone else first.
- Be open to new ideas – listen before you condemn or shoot down an idea
- Ask Questions – ask as many as you like until you get the answer or feel satisfied with where things end/stop.
- It isn’t about you – depersonalise situations – this is a big one with students too – try not to make this about your idea or your suggestion, make it about ‘the’ idea or how it will affect learning in your space.
- student learning is first – what we do is work to offer the best learning environment we can – we need to make this the priority in our classes, this isn’t about us (well not always :))
- Laugh – make something fun and think about how to do this
- Meeting when we need to – not because we have to – make our meeting time about our learning environment and try and limit the sharing of information in meetings (eg. less about schedules and spaces and equipment)
- Share the wealth – share our collective wealth with the team sharing their PD or lessons or something on a regular basis
- Stretch Goals – set goals that stretch our learning and understanding. There is no pass/fail attached to this – rather it is about growing our wisdom and learning as individuals. I have blogged about this before.
This is too many to begin with but I want to make sure that we are moving in a positive way – this will impact directly on our students too – so we need to model this together as a department and as individuals.
I am the best measure of my own happiness. I know what I need to do to be happy and therefore to be a more effective teacher – part of this is tied up with being a good parent – (I could devote a whole book to this…) but I will say that I hope to have less guilt in my life (I work full time and have three children – this is hard) and be more forgiving of myself. I will try and exercise most days as I know this adds great value to my well being and mind set!
So the new year is about to start – I would be interested to hear from other leaders and PE teachers about where they see their year going and about what motivates them in their current environment.