Personal Organisation for success

Welcome back to 2018! It is set to be the best year yet.

It’s the first week back and we are frantically trying to finalise planning, organise classrooms and attend PD sessions that hopefully motivate us. But are we really ready to start? Are you personally organised for the new school year?

My first 2 days this term have been spent focusing on my own personal organisation. Below are the tasks that I completed to start the year off organised and keep me focused on what’s ahead.

1. Organise my digital calendar

I use Outlook as my digital calendar. This replaces a hard copy diary for me. If I need records from a term I can print or save that section of my calendar.

  • I schedule all my classes and regular appointments from the beginning of the year. Personal organisation for 2018To see how to add reoccurring appointments click here.
  • Add the week numbers and school holidays.
  • Invite other staff to meetings.
  • Block out personal preparation time
  • Add important lesson information.
  • Add important deadlines including reporting parent interviews etc.
  • Set tasks to complete in week 1.

2. Organise my teacher Binder

This year I downloaded a binder set from teachers pay teachers and modified it to suit my needs (this included the covers and dividers for my binder).

I also added:

  • Checklists: these were an important inclusion this year.
  • Observation sheets: easy to access.
  • Faculty Goal planners: I like to use the SMART goal sheet listed here.

I am still finalising aspects of my binder and will post a copy here in the coming weeks.

3. Plan my early afternoons

  • To ensure that I have a balanced working week I schedule early finish afternoons ( leave by 4) this allows me to be able to complete non-school related jobs like shopping etc.

4. Completed my Personal Goal setting for the year

I wrote a post here last year that gave some guidance as to how I set my year goals.

Having a plan for how you are going to organise each day, knowing deadlines, events and evenings makes finding those spare moments for marking, parent contacts and additional preparation so much easier.

I hope that you have a fantastic year.

If you have tips on how you get yourself organised please leave them in the comments below or on our facebook page.

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Teach Tip Tuesday: Streamline your parent phone calls

For many teachers one of the most stressful parts of the job can be the need to make numerous phone calls to parents. Phone calls can be time consuming especially if you need to make a number of them at a time. Often the cause of our stress is the unknown, what will the parent say, will their response be positive or negative etc.

This week’s Teach Tip Tuesday focuses on tips to make the process of contacting parents more streamlined and less stressful.

5 Tips to Streamlined Calls to Parents

1. Introduce yourself

Sounds simple right. Every call that you make as a teacher should begin with a formal introduction, it is important not to assume that the parent will recall who you are even if you have had plenty of contact previously. State:

  • Your name
  • The school that you are calling from
  • Who you are calling about
  • Your relationship to the student

For example: Hi my name is Crystal Caton and I am calling from…………………. Is this ……….. I am ……… maths teacher and would like to talk to you about …….. if you have a few moments.

2. Keep calls short and concise.

Calls should be no more than 5 minutes long. If you need to speak with a parent for an extended period of time book a parent meeting. Remember you are calling unannounced and they may not appreciate an extended discussion when they answer.

Don’t try to make 20 phone calls in one afternoon. Pick a few each day until you have gotten through your list.

3.  Be clear about the reasons for your call.

The biggest contributor to extended parent calls is getting off track from the purpose of your call. Ensure that you are focused on the key reason that you are calling, try not to deviate too far from this to ensure that the call is short.

Prior to making your call consider if you are:

  • Calling to advise
  • Calling to discuss
  • Calling for advice

Focusing on your purpose can keep the call short.

4. Keep a record of your call

Most schools have requirements about how contacts are to be stored and recorded.

As a minimum ensure that you diarize your conversation and make a couple of dot points just in case you need to refer to it later during a followup phone call or meeting.

5. Talk to upset parents at a later time

Sometimes phone calls to parents don’t go the way that we planned or hoped. Try your best to retrieve your phone call if it is going off track but if it isn’t working try to schedule a better time for a discussion.


“I can hear that you may be a little busy, would you like me to call back at a more convenient time?”

“Perhaps it would be more convenient to discuss the issue with …. tomorrow?”

“Would you like me to schedule an appointment at school?”

Never stay on the phone with a parent that is not treating you with respect. Politely interject with something like: “I think it would be best if we discussed this another time”. If the parent continues to be disrespectful hangup and record the conversation as per the manner above. (Note: This is not common, the majority of parents react in the way that you expect but you should always be prepared for ones that don’t.)

What are your tips for handling phone calls home to parents? How do you keep your calls short to help manage your time? Please post in the comments below or on our facebook page.

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Teach Tip Tuesday: Prepare for sick and absent days

Teaching is an odd profession where you wake up in the morning feeling less than yourself and you still have to drag yourself out of bed and prepare your lessons for the day so that a substitute can take your classes for the day.

Also when you take short term leave there is an expectation that you leave a substantial amount of planning completed.

This Teach Tip Tuesday gives 5 tips for preparing for days off for a less stressful morning and seamless transition for a supervising teacher.

1. Set up generic supervision forms for each day of the week. 

This should include: room, key pickup, classroom entry procedures, seating plan, behaviour management procedures, etc. these things generally sty the same for the year so only requires on initial setup.

Save each one as a template to ensure the file does not get corrupted or edited. See here for any example. Generic Supervision Blog

2. Have a busywork folder

Prepare a busy work folder for students to be used as back up for fast finishers or when the lesson you prepared goes out the window.

I like to include colouring activities related to math problem solving. Comprehension and literacy activities.

Some examples of what I include:

Order of Operations ColouringMultiplying and Dividing Colouring Activity and more just like this. Message if you would like other suggestions for other KLAs or year levels.

3. Have a supervising teacher folder. 

This folder can include special passes that might be needed like toilet passes, behaviour passes, brag tags, stickers etc. maybe even pop in a chocolate if you have a difficult class.

4. Keep a digital copy of your texts at home. 

There is nothing worse than being at home unexpectedly and not having access to students text that they are currently working from. Keeping a digital copy at home allows for referencing page numbers for supervising teachers.

5. Layout supervisions and resources for planned absences. 

If you know that you are going to be absent spend a small amount of time the day before ensuring all the resources that the teacher will need is prepared and readily available. Include on your desk your busy work folder, supervising teacher folder and your supervisions.

For longer absences, leave planning to the degree that you want to ensure it is completed. Longer term contracts usually require the replacing teacher to complete their own planning, marking etc.

What do you do when you need to have a day off? How do you make it easier on yourself? Please share in the comments below or on our facebook page. 

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Teach Tip Tuesday: Feedback to students 

With the start of a new term comes reflection and goal setting for both teachers and students.

This week’s post offers suggestions to help your students set achievable goals for the term.

Teach Tip Tuesday (2)

5 Tips to Goal Set with Students

1. Hold an individual conference with each student. 

Individual conferences are a great tool for discussing how they progressed on the goals that they set the previous term and why they think that they were or were not successful. Often students need assistance in determining if they achieved their goal or not.

2. Ask students to set 2 goals for improvement this term and provide written feedback on how you could assist the student in achieving these.  

This might be on a goal setting sheet, blog, google form, post it etc. You might also like to set categories for students to set goals under for example: achievement, behaviours, effort.

I often ask my students how I can help them and they never seem to have any

suggestions for me. The old adage of you don’t know what you don’t know applies here. Feedback in this tip is essential.


3. Get your students to think SMART. 

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Teach Tip Tuesday: Take a break from work each week.

In this digital age it is easy to be switched on to work every minute of everyday. This week’s tip is to ensure that you switch off entirely at least one evening a week.

Switching off entirely means no pinteresting, tweeting, facebook posts or blog reading that is related to work in any way.

Mental health and work life balance for teachers is exceptionally important. There are usually no breaks during the day and we are expected to keep working until the job is done and if we are honest with ourselves it is never done. This is why it is so important to consciously switch off from work to keep the balance.

5 Tips to switch off

1. Switch off from social media one evening a weekimages

With many teachers following blogs through facebook, instagram, pinterest etc it is easy for work to creep into the most of your feeds. Soon enough we see an idea that we like and we are working again. Alternatively to switching off from social media have accounts that are for personal and for work, this way you can intentionally look for work ideas and can be removed from them when you wish to be.  Continue reading

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It’s a Breakout! Having fun with Consolidation.


At the end of last term I wanted to do something fun with my year 9 math class that allowed them to consolidate the work that they had done throughout the term and also develop their ability to problem solve and work in teams.

I did not just want to do a worksheet or like so many of my students ask watch a video.

A few months ago I was researching through my professional learning network (PLN) ideas for games that other teachers do to help their students revise. Mainly I was looking for online platforms that were suitable for this purpose however during these conversations it was suggested to me by Kelly Hollis (@Hobson_k) that breakouts were a great way to do this. My response was “what’s a breakout?”


What is a Breakout activity?

A breakout activity is essentially an activity where students need to solve problems or puzzles to unlock a series of locks to open a box.

If you have ever completed an escape room the idea is quiet similar except that students are trying to break into a box rather than escape a room.

There is a video of some students attempting a breakout activity here.

Benefits of a Breakout?

  1. problem solving
  2. creativity
  3. team work
  4. logic
  5. persistence
  6. engagement
  7. ….. and many more

Setting up for a breakout

There are companies that sell breakout kits if you want to purchase one straight out. Personally I found them a little expensive you can buy one here.

My Classroom Breakout

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Teach Tip Tuesday: Share the Plan

In the spirit of the start of the term this week’s Teach Tip Tuesday is about getting your students and parents on the same page as you from the start of the term.

This week’s tip: Share your term plan with your students and parents. 

I love the saying “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.

Fail to plan plan to fail

I think this is also true if you fail to share the journey that you are planning for the term with your students and parents. Let them share in what is coming and also be able to take ownership of completing the work that they might miss due to planned and unplanned absences. Each term I share my overall term plan which includes: topics, videos, additional activities, exercises to complete, key assessment dates and scheduled interruptions with both my students and their parents. Having all of the stakeholders on board at the start of the term with what they need to do is certainly a plan for success. Follow the link here to see an example of the planning that my students and parents receive. Plan 1 / Plan 2

My top suggestions on ways to share your plan:  Continue reading

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Teach Tip Tuesday: 5 Tips to get the most out of your commute time.

Many teachers including myself commute to work each day. I commute 30 minutes each way to my school everyday. That’s 5 hours of time lost per week. Have you ever wondered how you can use this time productively? There are some days that this time is great for reflection, chilling out or other non work related activities for sure but making use of some of this time can help to ease your workload or stress levels.

5 Tips to utilise your commute time


1. Listen to POD casts to access learning.

I enjoy listening to technology podcasts to update my tech knowledge. Maybe you can even record your own podcast.

Some PodCasts that you might like to listen to:

2. Set your tasks for the day.

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Teach Tip Tuesday: 5 tips to help students revise

We are fast approaching the exam part of the term and revision is very much in our minds and the minds of our students (well we hope it is anyway.) So what can we be doing to help our students prepare and revise for their upcoming assessment?


Here are 5 Tips to help your students revise and prepare for their assessment. 

1. Start early and often

We tell students to start revising at home early but are we helping them. Revisit content regularly throughout new content perhaps have a question in your lesson starters or maybe as a brain break in the middle of the lesson, it could also be an exit pass question.

2. Use games to engage students during revision time. 

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Teach Tip Tuesday: Blogs to follow for Flipped Learning

This week’s Teach Tip Tuesday encourages you to read widely and enjoy the many educational blogs available through twitter. Even though the blogosphere is full of educational material finding ones that reflect our current educational system can be a struggle.

Below you will find 5 blogs by teachers that are successfully flipping their classrooms in a range of subjects in Australia. Don’t be fooled they don’t just write about their flipped classrooms, they share a range of teaching insights that any teacher may be interested in. Click the links to check them out.

Teach Tip Tuesday- 5 Flipped Teaching Blogs You should read


1. Joel Speranza

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