As the beginning of the 2013 school year nears (I go back to work this week), I’ve taken some time to set up my iPad ready for the return to the classroom. Our school will be a 1:1 laptop school this year and I want to be ready from Day One. There are a number of great apps that I have come across on various blogs, websites or through chats with colleagues during the break that I will be using to organise the administration, planning and implementation of my teaching. I have included a brief description of each, and provided links to the iTunes site for further details.
Teacher Kit: Go paperless with your gradebook. A personal organiser for teachers that allows you to add numerous classes and collate information about individual students including photos, parent contact details, grades, attendance and behaviour.
Educreations: An interactive whiteboard on for your iPad. Easy to use app that allows you to record a video tutorial while you tap, draw, type and speak. Then upload it to the Educreations website as a private or public file, or share with students or colleagues via email.
Explain Everything: Similar to Educreations. Create your own video tutorials for students via simple to use screencasting. A range of options for saving and sharing.
Good Notes: Draw, write, type up notes, or mark-up PDF files. Saves the files in notebooks that can be shared as entire notebooks or as individual pages. Free version is limited to two notebooks, paid version allows you unlimited files.
Meeting Box: An easy way to store minutes from meetings. Make audio recordings of discussions and type or write notes, then file them as you desire. Notes can be shared with others via email.
Timetable Pad: Set up and customise your timetable, including short notes for each lesson. Not designed for timetables that are continually changing, but great for school or uni. (I intend to use this one to give me an overview of my lesson plans for the week, all on one easily accessible screen.)
Socrative: A handy and easy to use instant-polling/student response app. Can be accessed from any device with a web browser.
Lesson Planner: An app designed by Selena Woodward , a South Australian teacher, blogger and Education Technology Consultant at Flinders University, Provides creative ideas for lessons that are based on the Four Part Accelerated Learning Cycle (Connect-Activate-Demonstrate-Consolidate).
Confession. I’m a bit of a work-a-holic. I have always struggled with study-life or work-life balance. And to be painfully honest, at times over the past couple of years, it has impacted on my physical and emotional health. So this year I have set myself some resolutions, both professional and personal. One of these promises to myself straddles the line between professional and personal – to establish a healthy balance between my work and the enjoyment of the other facets of my life.
Drawing upon the wisdom of members of my PLN (including Louiza Hebhardt’s helpful blog and #TeacherWellbeingChat) and a number of the health and well-being experts that I follow across various social networks, I have come up with a few steps for how I (and maybe others who read this) might go about achieving this balance.
1. Establish a routine. This one’s not too difficult for me. I have always thrived on routine and my work day is divided by bells so I’m used to it. Where I have often fallen apart is making time for myself in that routine. So schedule some time to do the things you enjoy. I have recently started attend yoga and pilates classes and am loving it and am already feeling the benefits. When I go back to work this week, I intend to find time in my week to continue them. I’ve also embarked on a few small projects – painting, reading (which is a pastime I ADORE but just never seemed to managed to make time for in my day) and planting my own herbs (the source of much amusement for my partner because “it would be easier just to by the packs from the shops”).
2. Eat well. Drink lots of water. Exercise. Limit alcohol. This was a big mistake I made during my first couple of years teaching. I didn’t make the time in my day to exercise and I didn’t eat well at all. And I soon found myself getting sicker more easily than I ever had before, and started to put on weight. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t assault my body with deep-fried garbage. But I didn’t give it enough of the right nutrients either so my metabolism slowed. Make sure you eat plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit and protein – limit the processed stuff, because while it’s convenient, it’s not good for you.
3. Enjoy positive relationships with colleagues, friends, families and partners. Make time to spend with them without other distractions. Be mindful of your relationship with yourself and others.
4. Learn to say ‘no’ and to ‘switch off.’ If there is something you truly do not feel comfortable with, or that is going to put you under unnecessary stress, learn to politely say ‘no’ and not feel guilty about it.’ And try to avoid taking work home (I know for educators this is a toughie!) and put the technology down for a while. Take time to enjoy the fresh air or have a face-to-face conversation. Until late last year I had my work email connected to my phone. It drove my partner crazy because I felt impelled to check it every time I heard it go off and would then feel I needed to reply. This also meant that parents had access to me at anytime. So now we’ve come to a compromise. The email has been disconnected from my phone (which is with me all the time) and connected to my iPad (which isn’t). It was incredible how much pressure that small switch alleviated from my life away from work.
5. Get plenty of sleep. A no-brainer that I struggle with. Our bodies need plenty of rest. When they don’t get enough we become less productive physically and mentally. During the term, I have previously functioned on about 5-6 hours sleep a night, when an adult should be getting at least 7-8. Wind down for about half an hour before you go to sleep. Switch technology off, read a book, fill in a gratitude journal, or just relax and be mindful of your breathing.
However you go about finding your work-life balance this year, look after yourself. And if you have any tips to offer, I am all ears! 🙂
Happy New Year, all! As 2013 arrives, so too does the halfway point of those blissful six weeks called the summer holidays. One thing I really enjoy doing during the break is catching up on some reading that I otherwise struggle to find the time to do during school term. Currently at the top of my reading list are Susan Cain’s fantastic book Quiet: The Power of Introverts and Michael Lewis’s Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. The former has been recommended to me by several colleagues and was also brought to my attention when I viewed the author’s passionate TED talk (accessible below). The latter was a thoughtful gift from my baseball-mad partner who has just returned from the US. I suspect this is a not-so-subtle attempt to further educate me in the intricacies of his beloved game.
Whilst I am yet to get stuck into Moneyball, I have just finished reading Cain’s Quiet, which is, without a doubt, one of the most refreshing, enlightening and thought-provoking books I have read. Cain explores the nature of introversion and extroversion and considers how in western countries there exists an ‘extrovert ideal.’ She argues that this ideal often dictates people’s perceptions about how success is achieved and what kind of people achieve success in their lives. Because it is perceived that extroverts gain more power, wealth, confidence, and so on, Cain, backed by wide-ranging research, suggests that introversion is often unfairly undervalued and pathologised.
The book considers extroversion and introversion as being on a spectrum, and each person will lie somewhere along that line – not all introverts will be entirely withdrawn all of the time, and most extroverts will have some degree of introversion about them. It looks at how many of the world’s great leaders have been introverts (including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniack, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Rosa Parks, and Gandhi) because of their innate ability to listen to others and take the time to consider prior to acting, unlike some their more headstrong counterparts. Of course, this is not to say that extroverts can’t be great leaders, but outcomes can often be very different. Introverts can also be fantastic public speakers, sales people and work in other highly communication-driven roles, but often bring their own distinctive strategies for rising to the challenge.
Cain also explores the cultural differences between western countries and Asia and how that affects which personality type is more highly valued. She undertakes a particularly interesting analysis of the clash of cultures that Asian-Americans often find as they try to balance the more introspective, reflective approach with an emphasis on listening, reading and writing that is valued in Asia with the more verbal western approach.
Finally, Cain looks at the implications of this refreshed perspective on introversion for education. Current educational trends champion verbal communication, constant group work and connection with others. But at what cost to those students who would truly prefer to work individually, and flourish that way? This is certainly not to devalue group work, but as an introvert myself, I know how exhausting and overstimulating it can be to be constantly working with others. Some children, teenagers and adults, just need time to enjoy solitude. Not loneliness. Solitude. To think. To reflect. To create.
Personally, I found this book incredibly refreshing and helpful. As I read, I found so many similarities between myself and Cain’s introverted subjects that it is becoming apparent that what I used to think was ‘something wrong with me’ (a tendency to prefer time at home alone over a social occasion, a preference to work on a task individually and in my own way, an aversion to large groups of people) may actually be a strength rather than a problem to be ‘treated’. Of course, there will always be occasions when I have to bring out my extroverted side – my role as a teacher requires that of me. But I feel more comfortable doing that at school because I love my job, which makes it far easier to take myself out of my comfort zone in order to achieve what I want to achieve.
So I suppose the lesson here is that, as educators, we will inevitably have both extroverts and introverts in our classroom. How will we cater for all of them? Extroverted students may come to our attention more quickly than their quieter counterparts, so Cain calls for some “[focus] on introverted children, whose talents are too often stifled, whether at home, at school, or on the playground.”
The following passage, found in the Conclusion of Quiet summarises beautifully the lessons that I will take from this wonderful book:
“Whether you are an introvert yourself, or an extrovert who loves or works with one, I hope you’ll benefit personally from the insights in this book. Here is a blueprint to take with you:
Love is essential; gregariousness is optional. Cherish your nearest and dearest. Work with colleagues you like and respect. Scan new acquaintances for those who might fall into the former categories or whose company you enjoy for its own sake. And don’t worry about socializing with everyone else. Relationships make everyone happier, introverts included, but think quality over quantity.
Figure out what you are meant to contribute to the world and make sure you contribute it…
Respect your loved ones’ need for socializing and your own for solitude (and vice versa if you’re an extrovert)…
Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to…
If your children are quiet, help them make peace with new situations and new people, but otherwise let them be themselves…
If you’re a teacher, enjoy your gregarious and participatory students. But don’t forget to cultivate the shy, the gentles, the autonomous, the ones with single-minded enthusiasms for chemistry sets or parrot taxonomy or nineteenth-century art. They are the artists, engineers, and thinkers of tomorrow…
If you’re a manager, remember that one third to one half of your workforce is probably introverted, whether they appear that way or not…
Whoever you are, bear in mind that appearance is not reality.”