Teach Tip Tuesday: Working through Change

A few weeks ago I eluded to a number of posts that were going to address how I deal with change.

For those of you that are first time readers, in 2019 & 2020 Queensland senior teachers are reinventing their previous resources to implement a new curriculum beginning 2019. Every subject has a change of syllabus and many will now have external exams as the final assessment item in year 12.

For my subject area, currently mathematics this means significant changes to way that we assess, mark and also to the content that we teach in some subjects.

As an experienced teacher I have found this change challenging and I’m sure many others are too.

Whether your change this year is a major curriculum one like mine or something else hopefully today’s tips can help you come through the change positively.

1. Ask questions

Asking questions is the only way that you find out something that you don’t know or are unsure of. Don’t wait for your up line to work out that there is something that you need clarification on or you simply don’t know.

When you don’t find the answers you are looking for ask questions somewhere else.

2. Form strong networks

Strong networks during a change can be a welcome life line. A network offers you the opportunity to bounce ideas with colleagues, share resources, share assessments, moderate, cross mark and commiserate together.

Networks also provide another avenue to ask questions when you aren’t getting the detail you would like from your up line.

3. Decide what matters

When a big change is in its first years it can be tempting to go in “horns and all”, but it is important to remember that you only have so much time and you don’t want to burn yourself out.

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Teach Tip Tuesday: Find your driftwood

Professional development is a big investment that schools make in their staff. Whether it is for their own personal development or to assist in the development of school programs the cost can be a significant portion of the school budget and we all want a slice of it.

Sometimes PD that we are sent on leaves us feeling refreshed, insightful and ready to tackle the task head on and other times it is hard to work out why you bothered to write supervisions for your class.

When the PD is great there is not much to be said. You naturally go back and spread the word with your colleagues to hold on to the motivation that you felt during the PD. But what happens when it didn’t hit the mark, you didn’t get it and your asking yourself why you were there and what you were meant to get out of it. What then?

In my teaching career I have attended numerous PD’s and not all of them have been fantastic and often I would lament in my staffroom about why I bothered. This changed for me last year at Rescon Aus 2018, where one of the keynote speakers talked about driftwood.

How does driftwood relate to PD? Let me explain……

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Teach Tip Tuesday: Set SMART Goals

This week’s Teach Tip Tuesday focuses on setting SMART goals. Currently at my school we are reflecting on our practice and setting goals to be our focus for the next year.

Part of this process includes completing the AITSL reflection tool to identify your strengths and areas for improvement. From here we are asked to select 2 – 3 goals that we would like to focus on for the year. While determining a goal can be easy, completing the goal may be challenging.

This is where SMART goals and action planning come in. Any goal that I have successfully actioned used SMART goal planning with an action plan that contained clear deadlines that I needed to meet because for me no deadlines means little progress.

So how do you form your goals?

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Teach Tip Tuesday: Managing the small stresses.

Firstly I would like to welcome all our readers into the new year and let you know just how excited I am for 2019. This year is a year of change fraught with stress at every turn and I have to say that over the last few weeks it has been getting to me. When we let all the small stresses pile together it doesn’t take long for them to snow ball, leaving you with one unmanageable ball of stress that is difficult to get out from under.

Everyone has ways that they manage the small stresses. These might be subconscious management strategies or intentional ones. In my year of change to help manage this my strategies need to be up front and intentional because unfortunately doing it subconsciously is just not going to cut it.

I will exploring some of the big changes that are happening for me over the next few weeks but for this week’s Teach Tip Tuesday I have 5 strategies that you can use to prevent the snowballing stress effect.

1. Focus only on what you have direct control over. 

When everything is changing around you it easy to get frustrated, anxious and stressed over every change and every part of the change that you don’t understand. It is important to remember that you if you can’t control it to action it if you have to (because you can control if it is actioned) or leave it to revisit if necessary.

This year I have adopted a focus on my circles. The circles define for me what I do and don’t have control over and help me to keep this in perspective and yes sometimes I still lose perspective which simply results in being overwhelmed.

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Teach Tip Tuesday: Share with a Colleague

Welcome to this week’s Teach Tip Tuesday. This week I want to encourage you to share something with a colleague. Often teachers, depending on their context hear few positives during their day or week and due to the many task we are all trying to accomplish we end up as mini silos, each working towards their own goal and sharing is forgotten.

Here are 5 ways that you can share with your colleagues:

1. Share a resource

Have you got a great resource that you have created or found? Why don’t you share it with the teachers in your team.

2. Share a compliment

Tell a colleague about something positive that you have seen or otherwise heard from students. This can be a real boost to a teachers day.

3. Share something positive you are doing in your classroom

Do you have a great behaviour management strategy, a different pedagogical approach or something else fantastic that you are doing? Share it with your colleagues and even better yet invite them in to come and see you in action.

4. Share your time

Have you noticed a colleague that’s having difficulty in class? Why not offer to come in and help for part of a lesson or two while they get on top of the students behaviour.

5. Share something personal

Improve your relationships by sharing something personal, like what you did on the weekend, your favourite book or movie.

Let us know how your sharing goes this week by leaving a comment below or on our Facebook page.

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9 features of Adobe Reader DC you might not know about.

Many of us have the standard install of adobe reader and it does a great job at showing us the pdf that we want to read but it can do so much more. If you need to do a lot of adjustments in pdf form then maybe adobe pro is more your cup of tea but mostly I can do almost anything with Adobe Reader.

1.  You can add text.

Do you have a document or form that you need to add a name to or another section of text. Use the comment function (on the right of the page) and a bar of tools will appear. Use the capital T as shown below to insert text anywhere in your document. You can also move it once you have added it if you like.


highlight tool.JPG

2. You can highlight text. 

Using the comment function you can highlight text with the highlighter pen. To change the colour of your highlighting, right click and select properties a pop up will appear and click on the colour box to change.

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“Work Smarter not Harder”

There is an ever increasing workload given to teachers each year but unfortunately no more hours are materialising.

Unless teachers start working an unproductive 80 hour week we need strategies to accomplish more in less time. A 40 hour working week is the goal I strive for.

Each year I strive to find new ways to complete tasks more efficiently and I want to share with you some of the strategies that I employ to “work smarter not harder”.

1. Automate, automate, automate

If I can find a way to automate or partially automate a task I will. In the last few years mail merges, v-lookup tables and scheduling assistant have become my best friends.


Mail merges are great for creating individualised letters to parents and students, individualised learning plans for students, report cards, individualised emails, bulk password emails and more.


I mainly use v-lookup tables to complete large data set analysis.

Scheduling assistance is a feature in outlook that allows you to view availability of colleagues, meaning that you can book an appointment or meeting without needing to have a conversation to plan a meeting.

2. Use “Impact vs. Effort”


I always consider before completing the task how much effort is needed to achieve the desired impact. For example if I need a list I usually just jot one on a note pad, as much as I like to use technology often the effort needed to make an electronic list is greater than that to create a paper list with the same impact. Continue reading

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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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