Category Archives: wellbeing

New year, new apps

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I download so many apps onto my iPad and only use a small percentage of them. I don’t download all of them for my personal use – I like to be able to recommend apps for others to use, that they may find helpful or interesting for them or their students.
By recommending apps to others, many people in return have given me recommendations of their own. Many of them I have used but not really made the most of it, so I’ve decided to write a list of apps that I want to give a red-hot go in 2017.

  1. Smiling Mind
  2. Buncee
  3. Seesaw
  4. Adobe Spark.

Not a huge list, but these are apps that I’ve had other teachers tell me about, or found out about through my fantastic Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter.

Stay tuned for updates on how I’m using these apps in the school setting…not just the classroom, as my 2017 role is going to be broader than a classroom!

In memory of Carly – the importance of online safety.

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Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of true crime podcasts, which isn’t the most uplifting of choices, but I love a good mystery.
The latest series I’ve been listening to is called ‘Felon True Crime Podcast’ and the other night, this episode grabbed my attention, as it focused on social media, which is part of what I have been researching at school, through the Digital Citizenship program I’ve been helping develop. 

It features the story of Carly Ryan, who was the first girl in Australia murdered by an Internet predator. Back in the days of the social media platform MySpace, it details elements of teenage romance and rebellion, which ultimately lead to tragedy. This story took place in 2007 – I was in my second year of uni…and a prolific MySpace user. If someone had told me to stop using it, I wouldn’t have. But it’s a situation reliant on positive digital citizenship, which is impacted by peer pressure, social norms and seemingly important communication. 

Since Carly’s death, her mother has started the Carly Ryan Foundation to educate young people on the potential dangers of online interactions and has released an app called Thread, which can be found in the iTunes App Store. 

Given that there are so many more social media platforms available these days, just 9 years since Carly’s death, I urge you to listen to the podcast and talk to your teenagers about online safety & digital citizenship.

Being ESmart

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Part of my current role is to coordinate our school’s journey to become an ESmart accredited school, through the Alannah & Madeline Foundation.

Today I ran a staff induction to bring them up to speed on what the program is about, what we have already accomplished and where we need to go from here.

I’ve been doing hours and hours of research to find videos and resources for students to view to make them aware of the positives and negatives of digital technology, mainly around the concept of a’digital footprint’. I thought I’d share some of the fabulous videos that I’ve come across – some are suitable to show students, others are probably not…use your discretion and common sense. If you have any other gems to share, I’d love to hear your list!

I began today’s staff session by showing Jigsaw, by Think You Know (UK).

As part of our curriculum for 2017, certain year levels will be viewing and analysing the short film, #GameOn, from the ESafety Office. Here it is below.

Smashing apart my comfort zone.

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Photo credit: Donncha O Caoimh

48 weeks ago, I was ready to jump off the nearest educational bridge (metaphorically speaking), never wanting to enter a classroom setting again. I was broken and had no desire to teach another human being as long as I lived. I resigned from my position effective from the last day of the school year.

But money is a necessary evil and I accepted a position 2 days a week at a local independent school providing extra release periods for their staff. Over the course of 2 days, I teach every single child from Prep to Year 6. I also spent time mentoring their first & second year graduate and I’m currently working on writing some curriculum documents.

And you know what? I absolutely love it. I cannot imagine what was going through my head last year.

So what has changed in the last 48 weeks? A lot. My comfort zone has had a major transformation, almost to the point of not being able to be defined as a zone.

Aside from teaching, I started a new direct sales business which involved public speaking. Not just public speaking, but going into other people’s homes and speaking to their friends…who were to me, strangers. For someone who refused to speak, let alone answer, the home phone until I was around 10…this was huge. That being said, I still hate calling people – email is my best friend.

I began tutoring students in their own homes after school. Dealing with a lot of special needs throughout my time I’ve come to appreciate the hard work that goes in to assisting those students who need it (when you don’t have 22 other students in the room crying out for attention too!!). I tutor 5 students per week, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Do I enjoy it all the time? No. It’s hard. But it’s probably harder for them.

I taught some secondary classes! Yes, the students were taller than me and yes, I survived. Phewf.

Tomorrow I take my biggest leap outside my comfort zone – presenting at an Educational Conference – EdTechSA at Immanuel College in Adelaide. There are over 200 people at the conference, but luckily for me the workshop numbers are capped at 25…so 25 will be the maximum number of educators I’ll be talking to. Well talking, but showing and teaching them some hands-on activities that they can try themselves in their classrooms! I’m actually going to be encouraging other teachers to teach – something I never thought I’d be doing 48 weeks ago. (In fact, I resigned the very day after my pre-service teacher finished her final placement, as I didn’t want to put her off teaching by doing it while she was still there!!) I’m going to be public speaking, to a room of people I don’t know, in a city I’m not from, in a state I don’t live in – here I go!

A comfort zone is something that everybody has. But everybody has the chance to leave it…or smash it apart!

 

How well do you know your students?

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Last week I spoke to @alice_eliza on the phone and she was telling me about the activity she did with her Year 5 students. I’d heard of the activity, but hadn’t jumped on the bandwagon yet.

She simply asked the students write on a piece of paper to finish this sentence,

“I wish my teacher knew…”

I’d seen lots of photos that teachers had posted using the #iwishmyteacherknew hashtag and after speaking to @alice_eliza, I decided to give it a go on Monday with the Year 4/5 class I taught. I teach this class once a fortnight, so I do have a relationship with them but I thought it would be a good insight for their classroom teacher. I promised them that I wouldn’t look at their pieces of paper…and I would keep them face down until I handed them to their teacher.

So how well do you know your students? As I handed over the stack of papers to their teacher, she was gobsmacked with some of the things she found out – some sad, some concerning, some hilarious and some interesting facts.

She verbally shared a few of them with me (I’d promised I wouldn’t look at them)…and there are two that stood out to me – and her!

#1. I wish my teacher knew…I am afraid of NAPLAN.

#2. I wish my teacher knew…I’m not really a fan of minions. (This teacher has a theme in her classroom – minions! Minion money as a classroom reward system, minion posters, minion pictures…you name it, she’s minion-ed it!)

But you know what? This teacher read every single one – and then proceeded to write a note back to every single student, acknowledging that she now knows something that they chose to tell her.

Personally, if I were in that class, I’d feel that my teacher knows me so much better. Not because I wrote a note to tell her something…but that she wrote back to me and made me feel important.

How well do you know your students?

Do they feel like you do?

 

Offline inspiration – can it be done?

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This post may seem contrary to the title of this blog,but it’s ok. Life goes on.

When Christmas shopping in November, I bought a copy of this book for my friend.


Then I added another copy to my basket…for me. (Thanks kikki.k)

It’s as simple as the title suggests – go offline and be inspired. It features 135 ideas to inspire you to go offline and experience the world around you. It also has a book cover which doubled as a 30-day challenge poster. The idea is that you do it to completing a set activity each day for a month.

While I could probably do each daily challenge,I’ve decided to select 8 in particular that I’d like to achieve by the end of the school holidays:

#3 – instead of reading the news online,read a newspaper (goodbye,ninemsn.com)

#5 – rediscover an old cookbook and put a recipe to the test (goodbye taste.com)

#8 – leave your phone at home & go for a walk outside (not recording it using Runkeeper)

#9 – decluttering your wardrobe and embrace the feeling of freedom it brings

#14 – meditate for 5 minutes (I’m guessing without a guided voice from an app telling me how to do it and what to think of…)

#17 – book in a time to catch up with an old friend (can I book in the time without using Facebook?…)

#25 – make something with your hands (without referring to the step by step instructions on Pinterest)

#27 – start the day with a walk around your neighbourhood,yoga or some simple stretching

So,wish me luck. 5 days of holidays done, 12 to go…

Appreciation.

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It doesn’t take much to appreciate what you have. But many of us don’t do it often enough. During the last week of term before Easter, staff were involved in a morning devotion focusing on gratitude – an attitude of gratitude goes a long way.

This year I appreciate so much more than I used to.

The fact that I am healthier than I was in 2015. I enjoy the variety that my job offers me. The new opportunities that I have had. The support I am offered. The love I am given. The friendships I have.

I was talking with my fiancee last week about being in the ‘now’. I feel that the constant integration of technology into our lives has suppressed our ability to appreciate what we already have. Now, when I’m the passenger on a road trip, I’m often looking at my phone…instead of looking out of the window. Instead of leafing through my countless recipe books and family recipes, I jump online to find a recipe quickly. Instead of having to wait days to have photo film develop, we upload them to social media…after we’ve deleted the first 4 attempts because someone wasn’t looking, or it was a ‘bad angle’ of mum.

Now we have apps on our phones and iPads to help us create to-do lists, with schedules and reminders. Thankfully…I have scaled back from this and have gone back to an old-fashioned diary this year. And on the table next to the couch are 3 pens and a pad of sticky notes.

Don’t forget to appreciate the little things! Like pens…and sticky notes.

 

The story of a successful school ‘buddy’ program.

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This post has been floating around in my head since the first day at my new school this year, however seeing @kaz_phi on Pinterest today prompted me to put my thoughts into action.
On the first day of school for the Foundation students, their week-long swimming program started. Me: “What the actual heck? Are these people (staff) crazy? What a nightmare!”

However, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed. Each new Foundation student had been given a buddy. They had met their buddy on the Orientation day last year and had a photo of them to look at over the holidays. On the first day of school, the Year 6 buddies collected the Foundation students and ate recess with them. They were in charge of helping their buddy get changed for swimming and changed again after swimming. This process lasted all week.

On the third day of school was the first whole-school Assembly. The Year 6 students collected their little buddy, walked with them to Assembly, showed them where (and how) to stand in line and then took them to the Year 6 classroom afterwards to show them where they do their learning.

At the end of Week 3, I noticed a few key things:

-Foundation students rarely approached a yard duty teacher if they had a problem in the playground – their first port of call was their buddy, or another Year 6.

-The culture and atmosphere at the Swimming Carnival was incredible and took a lot of weight from the teachers shoulders, as Year 6 buddies ran and helped organise events for the Foundation-2 students.

-The Year 6 students love to spend every moment possible with their buddy.

True, it’s a small school with only about 100 primary students & 50 students in Year 7-10. Yes, all of the Primary students have the same area to play in, at the same time. There is also a dedicated ‘buddy’ program on a Friday afternoon in every class, run by the school chaplaincy workers.

But the credit must go to the Foundation and Year 6 teacher…who investigate ways to support and nurture these new relationships to bring the buddy program to such a high level of success. I have never seen such a strong bond between buddies! In my previous job, it seemed such a hassle to organise a buddy time in the crowded weekly timetable…and then who would organise an activity…and run it…and what would the educational outcome be?

This…just works.

Does your school have a buddy program? Structured or unstructured? Successful or unsuccessful?

My start to relief teaching in 2016.

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This year my weeks are planned as relief teaching on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and teaching all grades at a school from P-6 over Thursday and Friday as I provide release for school leaders and graduate teachers.

I’ve had 3 days of relief work at my part-time school so far, but went and visited 5 other schools to offer my relief teaching services. The results were all positive, but one school stood out. See if you can see why.

All of my conversations began at the school’s front reception, and went exactly like this: *smile* ‘Hi, my name is Fiona and I was wondering if there was anybody here I could speak to about relief teaching?’

School 1:

‘Tom’ is out at the moment, but I’ll pass your resume on. Thanks.

School 2:

Sure, come through and see ‘Tom’ in his office.

Tom: Lovely to meet you Fiona. I’ll pop your details in our file. Do you have your VIT card here with you so we can photocopy it? Speak to you soon.

School 3:

Oh wonderful, I’ll call ‘Tom’ over the speaker immediately.

Tom: Great to meet you, we’re looking for some reliable CRT’s this year. The days your available suit us perfectly. That’s excellent. Thanks.

School 4:

‘Tom’ is teaching right now, but I’ll give him your details. Thanks.

School 5:

Certainly, I’ll grab ‘Tom’ from the staffroom.

Tom: Lovely to meet you Fiona. Thank you so much for bringing your details in. Do you have your VIT card to photocopy? Actually, would you like to have a tour of the school? Here is the staffroom, tea and coffee available for all, plus there’s some lockers here to pop your handbag in when you come in. All of our student medical information can be found here, as well as in the staff toilets, which are here. There are 3 senior classes, so there’ll always be another teacher to ask if you have any questions or problems; the same in the 3/4 unit. We eat our recess after play and the same system for lunch, which we find works well. This is our principal, Mr X *shakes hand and smiles*.
So, that’s our whole school, plus the 4 different yard duty areas, which are A – here, B – out this window, C – the basketball courts, and D – down the end near the toilets, plus an inside first aid duty.
Now before anybody starts working here we have to do a 5 minute OHS induction – we can do that when you bring your paperwork back, like your bank details…or, do you have time to do it now? Excellent. Do you have any questions for me at all?

 

Now, School 5 might seem overwhelming to some people, but I had never felt so comfortable and at ease upon walking into a school for the first time.

First impressions – invaluable.

Gaining insight into your students’ wellbeing

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As many teachers around Australia are gearing up for another year in the classroom, I am sitting on the couch watching tennis, reading books and painting my toenails. This year is all about wellbeing for me. Yes, I am working 2 days a week in a variety of classrooms and will also put my hand up for relief teaching, but ultimately in 2016, I am putting myself first.

In my Year 2 classroom in 2015 I began to think carefully about not only my own wellbeing, but the wellbeing of those in my care. Some of my students had diagnosed learning difficulties including Asperger’s and Oppositional Defiance Disorder, others came from broken families, some had infant siblings and the list goes on.

With a few prompts from our Student Wellbeing Leader, I began to put this concern for my students into action, by creating a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Attendance Roll (using Smart Notebook software) that the students were in control of.  Each morning, their names were clustered together under the ‘House’ icon, meaning they were at home. Once they walked in the door, they dragged their name to the appropriate column on the screen. Those students who were absent were still listed under the ‘House’, meaning they were at home.

Some pages were about feelings – “How are you feeling today?” and featured a variety of visual images to students to work with, to assign their name to one of those feelings. I found that these pages often gave me a chance to do a quick one-on-one chat with a child while they were unpacking their bag, or simply keep an eye on them for any signs of emotional distress throughout the day.

I also created pages for graphing what each student ate for breakfast – we found that cereal was always the most popular – and check-ins for the end of playtime, end of the day, or to see how many stars you would give the weekend you just had?

This Smart Notebook document is available from my TPT store, which you can find here.

I’d love to hear any other feedback about how you cater for Social and Emotional Learning in your classrooms – mindfulness is a huge buzz word at the moment, but it’s no good if we don’t put it into action!