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Miss Who?! : Why a get to know you segment is ESSENTIAL in all pre-service teacher lesson plans.

What a week!! The fact that I managed to get this blog post done at all is a miracle. for the last 5 days I have been on prac (professional experience, placement etc.) at one of the local high schools and it has been a roller coaster!

One of the most challenging things about being a pre-service teacher is that no matter how great you are, or how fantastic you teach, at the end of the day you are still just ‘taking over’ someone else’s classroom. If you’re a perfectionist (like me) you will spend hours personalising power point slides and creating interactive activities for your students so that your lessons are fun and engaging – but all of this means absolutely nothing if the students don’t want to listen to you. 

This was getting me down a little last week – I put so much effort into my lesson plans BUT for some reason I kept getting “flat spots”. Eventually my supervising teacher (I actually had 2 for this placement so lets call this one ST 1) pulled me aside and told me that the reason the kids weren’t engaging is because they didn’t know a thing about me. They were being polite and copying when I told them to copy, doing the activities that I asked them to do, but the reason I kept getting “flat spot” was because the kids didn’t have any interest in me. This amazed me ! At university we are consistently told to “get to know your students” and to “draw up class profiles” but nobody had really emphasised that this relationship is actually a two way street.

So I rallied. My next lesson – instead of starting the students off with their learning goals I asked them if there was anything they wanted to know about me? Anything at all – it was a little awkward at first, and for one terrifying moment I thought that no-one would ask anything, but then a girl in the second row meekly put up her hand and asked “Miss, why do you want to be a teacher?” And then we were off – I told them my story, once the ball was rolling they didn’t hesitate, they asked all about my prior (unsuccessful) university degree, where I grew up and what my dogs names are – by the time we got around to discussing the learning goals they were all listening and there was no trace of “flatness”.

I tried this approach in my next 2 lessons and SUCCESS!! I had broken down a wall (there were still quite a few walls left but HEY any success – even the small ones – are worth celebrating!!!).

I will be returning to the same school in term 3 for three weeks so I’ve planned to make a little slide show showing pictures of me at different stages of my life to kick off the “getting to know Miss” segment of our lesson.

This week was a valuable reminder that there is more to teaching then just knowing the content – #pedagogicalknowledgeonpoint

Thats all from me (I have bulk assignments to write 😉 )

Until next week,

Namaste xx

 

How to Do it all… and not go crazy

We’re getting to that point of semester where things are starting to become a little hectic. We have a mountain of assessment looming, professional experience starts next week and all in all it kind of feels like this might be the beginning of the end.

But it’s not all gloom and doom ! I know that I’ll get over this hurdle because I have a pretty cool set of steps that I follow when things get super busy.

Step 1: Exercise

The first thing most people (myself included) do when things get crazy is stop exercising. “I don’t have time” and “I’ll work on my assessment instead” are the two things I tell myself right before I skip my workout and spend 3 hours watching Netflix.

I’m sure there are some fancy statistics out there that will tell you all about how good exercise is for your health (physical AND mental) ; but if you’re too lazy to google them (like me) then just take my word on it – EXERCISE WILL HELP YOU FEEL BETTER. My brain always feels more focused and less cloudy when I exercise consistently – and it doesn’t have to be a whole cross-fit workout – sometimes just getting out of the house and taking my dogs for a walk is enough to re-energise my brain.

Step 2: Food

PUT DOWN THOSE RED FROGS!!! Again, during marathon study sessions it is all too easy to sneak downstairs to woolies (Australian grocery shop) and spend all your money on delicious, sugary goodness to try and invigorate your super-student status. BUT take it from a girl who has eaten her fair share of red frogs (and drunk a fair bit of redbull) in her time … the crash isn’t worth it. Save those things for your “after-party” (i.e. as a reward for when you finish studying) that way, when that inevitable sugar crash comes you can just go to bed ❤ ❤ ❤

Step 3: Bed-Time

This is literally my favourite time of the day ❤ If I was an animal I’d be a sloth, or a cat, or a koala (they sleep 22 hours a day!!!). Don’t neglect your bed time – this one is the one I struggle with the most. More than once in the past week I’ve woken up in the middle of the night stressy and anxious over one or more of my assignment pieces and as a result I’ve gotten up, stayed up, worked all night and then been completely useless in all my lectures the next day. Plan your sleep and stick to it. Don’t drink coffee before bed (sounds obvious but sometimes I forget) and stay away from sugar.

Step 4: Plan Like a Boss

This is my favourite step ❤ I adore anything that is organised, and worship schedules. For example the time it is taking me to write this post was scheduled into my weekly timetable, which I organise and manage using iCloud.

For example.. this is what my next 4 weeks looks like…

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 6.36.27 am

I organise everything into individual calendars (some of which aren’t displayed above – because they wouldn’t all fit). I set reminders and I sync everything to my iPhone, iPad, Macs and Fitbit – so that no matter where I am or what I’m doing I’ll always get a little reminder for my appointments.

If you don’t like iCloud there are multitudes of other apps and programs out there that will let you do the exact same thing. Or if you’re a pen and paper sort of gal (or guy) then go for it – AmeliaLane is my favourite place to buy physical planners ❤ I’m currently using the 2018 desktop daily as my “Teacher Diary” and it is beyond fabulous (but that’s another story for another time…(https://amelialanepaper.com.au)).

Step 5: Remember You?

The last AND MOST IMPORTANT STEP. Don’t forget about yourself. Take time to smell the roses, or sit by the ocean, or get your nails done (I’m doing this today SO EXCITED).

Don’t forget about your family ❤ (Unfortunately my poor fiancé always seems to be the one who suffers the most when I get stressy (mega cow alert)) so working on that has been one of my personal goals for this year (and yes it’s going well ❤ lucky he loves me).

Spend time with your besties ❤ talk about nonsense, watch that trashy television program – “you do you, boo” (Davine, MAF). And remember at the end of the day if you’re truly unhappy then its not worth it. It’s ok to drop a subject or two – college isn’t going anywhere ❤ Take a year off – follow your heart and good things will follow ❤

Ok, thats all for now my lovelies … I’m off to pilates then I’m doing a group study session ❤ ❤ ❤

Namaste xx

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When is Enough Enough?

So something happened at school this week that I have never experienced before and to be quite honest it rattled me a little bit.

For a bit of background knowledge I am at present a pre-service teacher, I graduate from university in June next year (2019) and at the moment I work some mornings and most afternoons at a school as an after-school-care employee (basically a babysitter for older kids).

Last week I was minding the prep / year 1 (5/6 year olds) students while they ate their afternoon tea. Everything was going smoothly, the kids were telling me about their day, then suddenly I noticed this one little girl was taking her watermelon, throwing it onto the wooden deck and stomping on it with her foot. Using my strong teacher voice (I didn’t raise my voice or yell – just changed the tone slightly so that instead of sounding light and playful as I generally do when interacting with the kids I now sounded serious and authoritarian) I asked her what she was doing. The student, lets call her Sally, didn’t respond and looked rather shocked that I had questioned her watermelon squashing motives. (This little girl is in Prep and it was only the 5th week of school for her ever – so in hindsight I don’t believe she would ever have been spoken to in a corrective manner by a teacher which would explain her astonishment). Again using my strong voice I asked her “is that how we treat things?” – she responded with a timid shake of the head, her eyes had begun to water at this point. I then said (in my strong voice) “You can go to the bathroom, get some paper towel and clean that up please. That’s not how we treat things ” – and off she went.

By the time the watermelon had been cleaned up Sally had progressed from watery eyes to full tears and I was considering my next move. The incident had happened, Sally had cleaned up the mess she had made (and she was obviously remorseful) so now my job was to re-establish a positive working relationship with her. I went over and sat with her (the other children had all dispersed by this point to participate in various activities) and we had a quiet chat about ‘why Miss Millie had gotten cross’ and how ‘if we don’t want our watermelon we  give it to the chickens (two extremely obese pet chickens that live at school) and not squash it into the slats of the wooden deck’. After we had finished she gave me a little cuddle and then the afternoon proceeded as normal. In fact I think that Sally may be more attached to me following this incident because she has been drawing me a picture to take home almost every day since.

So that was the “incident” now comes the true reason for this post… 

Almost a week after the incident occurred I showed up for work and my supervisor called me  into her office. She explained to me that Sally’s mum had complained about me to another staff member, and this staff member had repeated the conversation to her.  The complaint-recieving staff member, lets call her Sharon, was summoned and the story was told. It started like normal Sharon had greeted the Mum, lets call her Donna,  and they had a friendly chat about miscellaneous things and then Donna said “I need to talk to you about Millie”. When Donna had picked Sally up from after-school care last week she had been really quiet and Donna had questioned her about what was wrong Sally came out and said something along the lines of ‘Miss Millie yelled at me for making a mess with my watermelon and its not fair because other kids made a mess too’. Donna, the mum, now went on to criticise me to what I think may have been an excessively nasty level (based on Sharon’s reluctance to tell me too much of the what was said exactly) and then took her leave.

Now to make things clear it isn’t the fact that a parent has complained that has rattled me; it is the fact that ;

  1. The story the parent heard was not exactly what happened;
  2. Instead of questioning ME or my supervisor, the parent has chosen to go to another staff member and make her complaint;
  3. The parent got nasty (extent of which is undetermined – but it was unnecessary regardless)

As a pre-service teacher I take things such as behaviour management very seriously and I do my utmost to make sure that all of my corrective actions are consistent and respectful. I checked myself against the Decisive Leadership Model (a set of principals to guide a teachers response to misbehaviour), as reported and developed by Aitken in 1999 and my comments on the most noteworthy principals are as follows;

Principal One: Respect – I made sure that I spoke clearly and didn’t raise my voice or use an derogative terms. I said please.

Principal Three: Collegial Support – When I questioned my senior colleagues (both after the incident and again after the parental complaint) they thought that the steps I took were appropriate and one even suggested that I come down harder on students in the future.

Principal Seven: Choices and Consequences – Sally made a mess so the consequence was that she had to clean up the mess. I emphasised this point more in the chat we had following the incident.

Principal Eight: Certainty not Severity – the consequences imposed (I think) perfectly matched the behaviour

Principal Nine: Re-establish a positive working relationship – I made sure that I sat down with Sally afterwards and explained why she had gotten in trouble. I made sure that she had an opportunity to ask me questions. Judging from her behaviour following the positive relationship was successfully re-established.

It has begun to become clear to me that the one thing university is not going to be able to teach us (pre-service teachers) is what to do with the parents. There is millions of pieces of literature surrounding classroom management and numerous models to guide us on making the right decision in the classroom – but as of yet we havn’t been exposed to any learning or literature that teaches us how to effectively communicate and collaborate with the people who influence our students the most.

My goal for the next few weeks is to educate myself and find some literature to help me understand where this mother (Donna) was coming from when she turned on me. But for now I would love the opinions of any teachers, educators, child care workers AND parents – Do you think I handled the situation appropriately? Is there something more I could have done? Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated!

 

Until next week 🙂

Namaste x

 

The Competitive Mindset : Helpful or Harmful?

In one of my yoga classes last week the instructor made reference to the competitive mindset and how he believed to truly experience a sense of mindfulness we need to learn how to harness competitive urges so that we can use them when they will be of the greatest benefit to us.

This got me thinking – being a naturally competitive person I have always been drawn to activities that are largely independent. In school I swam, because there were no team mates to slow me down; after school I focused on making money, at one point I was working three back-to-back jobs; and now, as a university student my grades are my competitive focus. My competitive mindset has pushed me towards high achievements in all aspects of my life; economic, social, physical and academic – and for the most part I find it to be extremely beneficial.

BUT for every high there has to be a low – you know that old saying “the grass is always greener on the other side”? This is where having a competitive mindset becomes harmful to our health and wellbeing.

For example – the practice of yoga takes years and years to finesse. It isn’t the sort of activity that is designed to be competitive because it would be impossible to judge. When you walk into a yoga class you central focus has to be on your own body; physically, mentally and emotionally. If you try to force your body into a pose, because the person two mats in front of you is doing it with ease, it won’t work and more often than not you will harm yourself.

Another example can be found when we examine our desire for material things. The girl from work got a new car and, even though your car is only 18 months old, this makes you feel like you’re not doing enough. So you go out and buy a new car. You put yourself into debt all for the sense of satisfaction that you feel because now you are equal, or even better, than the girl at work. This satisfaction is sometimes so strong that people begin to justify the economic harm that they do to themselves, that they will continue to do to themselves because, as we all know, happiness from material objects is short-lived.

Romantic relationships are one of the hardest competitive mindset cycles to break. Your friend is happy, engaged to be married and head-over-heels in love. You took years to find your current partner and even-though things don’t feel quite right you stick it out because your afraid of the stigma you’ll face if you’re alone. You try to convince yourself that everything is fine, you make up stories, take a lot of cute instagram photos and basically do everything in your power to convince the world that you’re happy when really you’re not. Being with someone, for the sake of being-with-someone, is a problem that so many of my friends face; it’s a problem that I have faced more than once in the past; and I don’t think it’s a problem that is going to go away anytime soon.

All three of the above examples are very different but they all come back to the harmful effects of a competitive mindset. I’m not a doctor, or a scholar, or even university educated (yet – 17 months to go!!!); this whole article is just my opinion. All of my examples stem from real life situations that I have experienced or witnessed my friends, colleagues and peers experience. In the end I think that being competitive is fine, as long as your goals are clear and you don’t lose touch of what is truly important.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Alfie Kohn to have a think about ❤ ❤ ❤

“When we set children against one another in contests- from spelling bees to awards assemblies to science “fairs” (that are really contests), from dodge ball to honor rolls to prizes for the best painting or the most books read- we teach them to confuse excellence with winning, as if the only way to do something well is to outdo others. We encourage them to measure their own value in terms of how many people they’ve beaten, which is not exactly a path to mental health. We invite them to see their peers not as potential friends or collaborators but as obstacles to their own success…Finally, we lead children to regard whatever they’re doing as a means to an end: The point isn’t to paint or read or design a science experiment, but to win. The act of painting, reading, or designing is thereby devalued in the child’s mind.” – Alfie Kohn.

Have a good week everyone,

Namaste x

Mindfulness: What does it mean and why is is important?

We’re almost back into the swing of things at Uni, classes are about to start and as of next week all of the new and returning students will be flooding onto the campus grounds – excited to get back into their respective degrees.

We had our mentor training session today – where we went over all the do’s and don’ts of supporting the new students. The thing that stood out the most for me was the little chat that we had about mindfulness. I found it really encouraging to see that such a simple concept was being embraced on such a grand scale; and as a result I was inspired to write this blog post.

What is it?

In a nutshell mindfulness is;

  • The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something (Google Definition)

 

  • “The unfailing master key for knowing the mind and is thus the starting point; the perfect tool for shaping the mind, and is thus the focal point; and the lofty manifestation of the achieved freedom of the mind, and is thus the cumulating point” (Nyanaponika Thera – Buddhist scholar and monk)1

 

  • A deceptively simple way of relating to experience, has long been used to lessen the sting of life’s difficulties, especially those that are self imposed (from the text Mindfulness and Psychotherapy)2

 

Three very different definitions, collected from three very different sources, but essentially all saying the same thing. Need a bit more? Below I’ve embedded a nifty little you-tube clip  (Language Warning!!!) that sums up the entire concept of Mindfulness in under 3 minutes 🙂

 

Why is it important?

Mindfulness is important because it allows us to examine the inner workings of our own mind and recognise when we might be overthinking, exaggerating, losing self-control or procrastinating.  By looking down on our actions and their consequences, as if through a lens, we are able to be objective and instead of acting on impulse – as we most commonly do – we are able to pick our actions based on whichever path we deem to be the wisest.

For example; imagine that you have a group assignment due on Monday, everyone has contributed except for one member of the group who has done the bare minimum the entire time and has now failed to submit their final draft.  Now everyone would react differently in this situation – personally my instinctive reaction would be anger and annoyance and I could be tempted to send off a nasty email or two. But a mindful person would rise above this primal urge and instead examine the situation objectively. Sure writing that nasty email would give me a chance to vent and temporarily make me feel better BUT it probably won’t encourage that last group member to submit their work, and could even make things worse. A mindful person would recognise that maybe there are circumstances beyond the other individuals control that they haven’t shared with the group at large, and that perhaps help and support should have been offered by the remaining group members earlier to ensure that each group member had an equitable (yet fair) workload.

This final clip is one of my all time favourites – it’s simple, short, to the point – and I think (for some of you) it will do a much better job than me at explaining why mindfulness is essential for human happiness.

This is just an example – and by no means am I suggesting that to be mindful you have to let people walk all over you and do the bare minimum. Rather it is the way we deal with these situations, through wise decision making and not raw emotion, that makes us mindful, empowered individuals.

Final Note:

I hope you enjoyed this post. A few people noticed that I took a little break from the internet over the christmas period but I’m back now and I’m planning (hoping) to upload at least one post a week this year. So stay tuned 🙂 Exciting things to come !!

Namaste xx

 

References

  1. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2015). mindfulness.Mindfulness, 6(6), 1481-1483. DOI: 10.1007/s12671-015-0456-x
  1. Germer, C. K., Siegel, R. D., Fulton, P. R., & ProQuest (Firm). (2013). Mindfulness and psychotherapy (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.

Self Care Tips for Anxious Students

Hi Everybody,

So I know it has been months since my last post – I’ve been taking a little time away from the digital world to really focus on my own health and wellbeing. Last semester I got so caught up in the stress of exams and so overwhelmed with the constant pressure of wanting to do well that I lost myself a little bit and towards the end I was pretty unhappy.

It was obvious I needed to make a change so I decided to take things a little slower this semester and as a result I’m feeling a lot happier, I’ve found time to branch out my “friendship tree” and I’m still getting the same high grades.

So , without further adieu (did I spell that right?) here is my little list of self-care tips ❤ Enjoy!

1. Eat Right

You are what you eat! (Without going to vegan-white-girl on you…) Fruit and veggies are literally my life blood. I don’t want this post to turn into a vegan rant but  I couldn’t skip over it completely. Fresh fruit and veg teamed with lots of healthy fats (from walnuts or avocados) are the best way to keep your mind clear and focused. Steer away from heavy takeaway foods, energy drinks and anything high in sugar – it tastes amazing at the time but in the long run it will leave you feeling bloated, sleepy and more burnt out then you were originally. Drink plenty of water and DON’T SKIP MEALS!!

2. Don’t compare yourself to others

There will always be that one person in your class who has everything finished weeks in advance, knows all the answers and in general just seems like they’re crushing it. Don’t compare yourself to this person.  Every person’s mind is different. We all learn at different rates and with different styles. You need to work with the rhythm that is right for you. You can’t get there before you get there; don’t try to force your mind and body to move too fast – trust yourself.

3. Have a snooze

Sleep is important for physical and mental health. When you sleep your body becomes involved in an intricate healing cycle that not only replenishes your energy, but allows your subconscious time to sift through all of the little highs and lows you’ve experienced throughout the day. Busy students often fall into the trap of thinking that all-nighters and long hours are the key to success, but in truth if you don’t get enough sleep your memory becomes unstable and the basic process of acquisition, consolidation and recall become heavily compromised.

4. Make your bed

A healthy home environment is essential for reducing anxiety. Everyday when you wake up, take 2 minutes to make the bed. Simple little rituals like this take next to no time, and go a long way to helping keep your mind clear and your anxiety levels low.

5. Don’t live in the Past

So you failed a subject last semester, maybe you failed 2, maybe you failed all of your subjects and you’re starting to feel snowed under and you can’t shake that little voice in the back of your mind that is telling you “you’ve already failed once, so you’re doomed to fail again”. Take a deep breath, summon all of your positive vibes and tell that voice to Fuck Off. Einstein failed high school math, J.K.Rowling was a jobless, single parent who got knocked back by numerous publishers, Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and Van Gough was constantly told he was  a terrible painter (he didn’t become famous until after his death!) – my point is failure isn’t a bad thing. Failure is a stepping stone, learn from your mistakes, look at what you did last time and do it differently this this time. It’s not over until you say it is.

6. Meditate

Meditation is so easy, and so beneficial. I’m not saying that you should sit in a meadow full of flowers surrounded by weed-smoking hippies and talk about the meaning of the colour purple (if anybody actual does do this – you are the best – please take pictures for me!! ) . What I mean by meditation is to take time every day, as little as 2 minutes before  you fall asleep at night, to think about all the great things that are going on in your life. Make a list of all the people you are grateful for, think about how lucky you are to be where you are, to be given the opportunities you’ve been given and in general just how lucky you are to be alive.

7. Exercise

Not going to lie… I hate going to the gym. I find it boring and uneventful and smelly. My exercise of choice is either a quick run around the block or yoga ❤  But that’s just me … find what you love and do that. Just because all the insta models enjoy lifting weights doesn’t mean that you’ll love it too. Give yourself the freedom to explore, try new things, maybe play a team sport – you’ll be amazed at what you could discover.

 

So that’s all I’ve got guys.. I hope you find this list useful. Are there any self-care tips that you swear by and thing I should add to my list? Please let me know in the comments 🙂

Thanks for dropping by ❤ ❤ ❤

Namaste xx

Goal Tracker

Hello hello hello!!!

It has been sooo long since I last posted 😦

I just finished my exams at university and I’m in the process of finalising all of my notes so that I can upload them for everyone 🙂

 

However I took a little time out today to make up this Goal Tracker… I’ve seen a few similar designs floating around and it seemed like an awesome way to keep track of all the little day to day things we tend to forget … so I jumped on and designed my own 🙂

Also, I re-did the decor for my blog :/ I hope you guys like it !! I was trying to make it less girly-girl!!

Anyways… enjoy 🙂 xx

Goal TrackerGoal Tracker