Juggling teaching and study

And here I thought that juggling work and study was hard enough! Teaching can be incredibly draining and by the end of the day, you don’t want to be staring at a computer screen do to University work (well, I certainly didn’t!)

Time management is always a tough thing for me. I want to put my 100% into everything and I’m not willing to do less. Having to juggle teaching, where my students deserve 100%, and my study, where I need to give 100% otherwise, I may not pass the subject/s made it a rough year. Imagine this, an early career teacher having to teach 4 subjects and still maintaining a full-time study load. Essentially having to keep my grips on six subjects. Six. That was rough.

I am now at the end of term 3, I have submitted two assignments late because I chose to put my students first, do I regret it? Nope. Not one bit. My students needed to come first, they needed the stability of knowing that they were number 1 for me (in a professional sense). If I had a free lesson, I would prioritise doing some university study so I didn’t fall too behind. This sort of worked as it gave me a break from consistently doing work but also gave me a greater opportunity to become distracted by everything else.

I also needed to realise that burning myself out, gets me nowhere. It does not help anyone or anything. So developing some coping mechanisms for when it got too much really helped too. I would spend weekends with family and friends. I would prioritise the people in my life over the work I had to do. I would go out for date nights with my partner. These things kept me sane.

So, having rambled on for a while, do I have any pearls of wisdom for someone who wishes to do what I have done (or similar)? Nope, everyone is different. Everyone has different study patterns, motivation levels and the ability to multitask much better than I. When juggling many balls, remember that some are plastic and can be picked up later. Prioritise the glass ones and make sure that you are one of the glass ones. Remember your self-care and your own sanity.

First Year Tips and Tricks

Your first year out of your teaching degree is one of the hardest that you will do. You are new, and you still have a lot to learn. You are hesitant and not wanting to stuff it up. I’ve been there this year and these are my top tips.

          Coffee in the AM and your beverage of choice in the PM.

There are some days where you will only be able to function on caffeine in the morning and will then need to have a beverage at night (AKA a glass of wine or an aperitif). You will need the fortification to get through the day and to get through the marking at night.

          Prepare, prepare, prepare

Make sure you are prepared, with Plan A, B, and C. And for good measure, add Plan D in there too. Be prepared for a black out or a kid telling you to “f**k off”, or for some students to start bawling or a fight. Be prepared for students who are Autistic, for those who have ADHD, dyslexia, anxiety, depression. You will face all of this and more during your first few years and at times you will have no idea what to do. Hence, prepare, prepare, prepare.

(Unless you have a worldwide pandemic. Nothing prepares you for that!)

         Learn from your co-workers

Your co-workers are your greatest allies – unless you severely piss them off (which I don’t recommend). Share resources and take what you can from them. You will be able to learn a lot from them and be able to adapt their resources. You can also look at their professional practice and learn a lot from it. You can decide what you will borrow and what you won’t.

  Fake it until you make it

Confidence, people, confidence. Some of us have it, others have to work for it. If you don’t feel confident, don’t let it show. The more you ‘fake it’ the more confident you will begin to feel until it becomes natural. And the best part? The students you have won’t know.

These are my top 4 tips, but at the end of the day; you do you. You follow what you think is right and what you think is going to help you create your career. Ultimately, you are in charge of your own destiny.

2020: The year of COVID-19

COVID-19 is still rocking Australia. Victoria is still in lockdown; some states are opening up to South Australia and we still can’t go international. We are still sanitising our hands and, in some places, wearing masks.

But we are getting better in adapting to it – slowly.

COVID-19 shut down didn’t affect me too much. Yeah, it was a pain to not be able to go down to the pub for a meal and a drink. It was annoying as hell to not be able to buy toilet paper or have restrictions on basic things (#panicbuying) but overall, I wasn’t too affected by it.

I worked my butt off to get the lesson and unit plans structured for a move to online learning. I planned like I never had planned before and at the end of the day, I was thankful for it. I like to think that my students were thankful for it too as it gave them a sense of structure.

That was one thing I tried to give to all of my students: structure. Structure in the lesson flow, in my expectations, in how I approached them. I also let them see me as human. Many of my students were being negatively affected by COVID-19 in many, many ways and I wanted them to see that I was human and affected by it as much as them – even if it was a simple “Was planning on going out for dinner but we can’t any more”. They knew I was their teacher but they could also see me as human.

One of the hardest things we faced was the feeling of the unknown. Of not knowing if some students could come to school, if people we knew were going to have jobs or not, of if (or when) we would make the move to online, distance learning. Students were restless, their attention was rock bottom and work submission was for the most part even more sporadic than usual.

But we survived. Writing this at the end of Term 3, we still have one term to go, but the hard part is over. We have learnt how flexible we can be, how quickly we can pivot from our original plan to aa completely new one. We learnt the in’s and out’s of Zoom and Microsoft Teams and how to (hopefully) avoid the pitfalls.

Families, friends, strangers and more discovered how valued teachers are and how much work we actually do. They learnt that teaching isn’t just a ‘soft’ career, that a shit load of planning, hard work and heart goes into what we do.

And that is the one thing I am probably most grateful for.

ETL507: Study Visit Report Reflection

The Study Visits have helped me professionally by highlighting how different Information Studies fields can be impactful on the local community. I really enjoyed the Study Visits conducted by Katie Haden (Study Visit 2: Supreme Court Library Queensland), Krystal Gagen-Springs (Study Visit 1: Mount Alvernia College), and Justine Hanna (Study Visit 8: Moonee Valley Libraries). This is because I am a Legal Studies teaching major and hearing how Katie Haden works in the Supreme Court Library really ties into the area that I teach – it makes another link between my degrees that I didn’t expect nor did I know of. In an ideal world, I’d love to be able to work in a secondary school library and hearing from Krystal Gagen-Springs highlights what the current climate is in a school library and gives me ideas for what I could possibly try if I were in her position. It has made me consider the different possibilities and consider the impact that I could have on the low literacy students, in terms of what resources I could bring into the collection. I have also had a real love for my public library; however, my council area only has one site, not several like the Moonee Valley Library. This study visit, highlighted how different sites can help different patrons but also help the wider community, as seen with COVID-19. I learnt a lot about how they operate on a multi-site system and how you need to consider the local demographic in all that you do.

Personally, I really enjoyed the Study Visits and they were a good alternative to face-to-face ones. Ideally, I would have loved to have the face-to-face Study Visits as I found the different times that they were held difficult to manage and keep track of. Having a consistent time for all study visits would be of benefit, especially for those who are in a different time zones to the majority. Overall, the Study Visits were enjoyable and well worth the time and effort.

ETL523: Assignment 3: Part B: Critical Reflection Blog Post

Digital citizenship is the concept behind being aware of your actions online. It is teaching ourselves and our students that there are consequences to be had if we do the wrong thing online. Digital citizenship is not taught nearly enough in schools and this can result in students thinking that they are invincible and not able to get caught if they harass or bully someone online.

I have completed a unit with my Year 8 English class about social media and the effects it can have alongside looking at the Community Standard that govern the actions of their users. They were shocked about what they contain and the methods that some people go to intentionally hurt others. They were also shocked at the lengths that any social media user should go to, to ensure that they are protected online.

In preparing a school digital learning environment, the IT/e-learning specialist should ensure that it is appropriate, easy to use and above all, keeps the students safe. If these three requirements cannot be met, then the considered platform should not be used. If the platform cannot show our students practical ways to keep them safe and if the platform cannot help teachers model the behaviour that we want to see in our students than we should not use that digital learning platform.

ETL523 opened my eyes to what a digital learning environment is; however, it was not until my experiences with teaching and monitoring online learning in my site that it really sunk in and made sense. One thing with topics is that a lot of it comes across with a practical application but we do not often get a chance to apply it and I feared that this would be the case with a digital learning environment. However, with COVID-19 and having to make the transition to online learning and use a digital learning environment, it really reinforced what we were studying within ETL523. I enjoyed the chance to apply the skills we were learning in a practical sense within my own classes and I have enjoyed the challenge of moving past the theoretical content that we were learning within ETL523.

The role of leaders in the digital sphere was seen quite a bit within my site as we made the transition to online learning then back to face-to-face. We had strong leaders and motivators within our site to guide us in the transitions and to also create interactive content for our students to utilise. We were also giving the opportunity to be our own leaders and to lead other members of our faculty and to lead our students into the changes that were happening.

Overall, I have learnt a lot during ETL523 and along the way had opportunities that I otherwise would not have had. I am grateful to have completed this topic and to have learnt about what it means to have a digital learning environment that accommodates both the students and the teachers needs and requirements.


ETL523 – Module 6

For the use of mobile devices, I would offer these key points:

  • Phones in lockers/bags at all times, otherwise the teacher holds them until end of the day,
  • Students must let teachers see the screen when asked for,
  • While mobile phones are really great tools, they can and are a distraction,
  • Mobile phones are not a replacement for a laptop or tablet/iPad, and
  • Mobile devices are a priviledge, not a right.

I am not a part of the leadership team so I am unaware of the exact process and timeline for policy development.

The leading teacher is someone who is able to trial new ways of doing things and feedback to others, in addition to teaching others. To me, ‘teacherpreneur’, is someone who willing and able to assist in the changing of the site and the progress forward for them both technologically and physically. Not all teachers are willing to be completely willing to be ‘guinea pigs’ when it comes to exploring and trying new things. This means that only a few teachers will be willing to adopt this sort of mentality.

A good digital leader in the environment that I am in ensures that students have access to what they need and that they acknowledge good digital literacy skills and knowledge. They acknowledge themselves as a learner in the space and recognise that they could get things wrong on occasion.

ETL523 – Assignment 2: Part C – Reflective Blog Post

Creating this Digital Learning Environment was a good challenge. Working with Weebly wasn’t new to me having created an e-portfolio before, however, having to create a website that suits the tastes of everyone in the group was an interesting discussion.

Communication was completed via Facebook Messenger with video calls when needed. Our collaboration was great as we gave each other feedback that was honest but not worded to offend. The extension offered us a chance to create a solid website that outlined everything we wanted to and to what we considered to be a high standard.

With my prior experience with Weebly, I offered to create the basis of the website and to do the ‘background’ work of setting everything up. With quite a bit of the textual aspects, we wanted it to read as if we were having a conversation in the office or staffroom. We wanted it to be approachable to educators (as it is designed to be a Professional Development style website) and having a slightly more informal tone. Educational modules need to be informative and user friendly, hence, our use of links in pages as well as drop down menus. We ensured that these were some of the main features of the module.

Ensuring that the individual aspects of the module flowed was key. I have prior knowledge of Google Classroom as I use it on a day to day basis which made it great to be able to share the knowledge that I have. A challenge of mine was showing how to use Google Classroom but ensure staff and student privacy. This was alleviated when talking to a colleague about it and she suggested creating a new Classroom and record that instead. This meant re-recording what I had done but it was worth it to ensure staff and student privacy. From here, it is logical to move onto the actual content to populate the Classroom with, hence the audio and video mastery sections.

Translating this back into my own situation, I hope to share this with staff at my site and this can help them create their own easy-flowing Classroom and when they feel ready to do so, move onto audio and video recordings. I hope in the future to be able to use different platforms (such as Microsoft Teams) and create tutorials similar to the one that I did for Google Classroom.

Collaboration within an online learning environment is fraught with danger, but I believe that we have been able to pull together and create a module that works well and shows what we have been able to bring to the table as well as learn during this task.

ETL523 – Module 5

Currently, there are no job descriptions including the terms “digital learning” or “leadership for digital citizenship” or any form of that wording. Making a DLE part of the job description would make it clear that monitoring or being heavily involved within the DLE is a part of the job and not have any confusion. Making it clear that they would be looking at the DLE from a social, cultural and global perspective would also make the desires of the site clear. My personal DLE is generally made up of databases that I have accessed as well as the use of OneNote for recording of notes or documents. Within my employment we use Google Docs and the Google Classroom for recording of material and saving of documents.

The frustrations of going digital include having used new mechanisms and programs that we are unfamiliar with. It can also be a struggle with having to keep the content continually updated and easily accessible for students. You also have teachers who are set in their ways of teaching and moving online is struggle because it goes against what they have always done. Leadership need to support the teachers in the transition to online learning. My wish list for improving a DLE includes having an ease of access of work from a personal computer as well as an ease of having discussion boards. Responsible learning is being able to take charge of your learning and being able to keep up with what is required and not leaving it to the last minute. It also encompasses being able and willing to ask for help when you need it.

It is important as many of the today’s students have devices and spend much of their time online. However, we need to ensure that we are teaching them how to be safe online and how to keep themselves safe from predators. A digital citizenship program can ensure that all students have accessed the same thing, as not all teachers embed digital citizenship into the curriculum. Some teachers see this as being a useless point of the curriculum as some teachers thing that our students are experts in their fields.

There are internet and Chromebook policies that are updated regularly as well as a Learning from Home guide, that was created this year. The senior leadership team is responsible for the updating of the policies. I can understand both sides of the ‘devices at staff meetings’ debate and I am personally for that everyone should make the choice themselves. Some staff members cannot write clearly (dyslexia, dysgraphia etc) and therefore, computers are the way they can take notes and transcribe what is occurring. Some staff prefer handwritten notes as they take in the content easier.

There are some norms and that is that people stick with what they know. People see no harm with what they were doing and continue as they have been, regardless of whether they know better or not. Adults don’t tend to know when to stop with social media; they tend to see it as a ‘norm’ to get into arguments online or Twitter feuds – in many cases adults are worse than children.

If comfortable, I would share some of the pitfalls that we have encountered in social media as it shows that it can happen to anyone and it doesn’t discriminate against people. I would also highlight the content of documents such as community standards for different sites as this can highlight some facts that they may not know or be willing to acknowledge. Handling these topics with care is important as it means that we are acknowledging their different experiences and histories.

ETL523 – Module 4

The digital environment is a global place – you can connect with anyone from all over the world. We need to foster a global perspective, otherwise we are being blind to what is occurring globally; regardless of the sphere it is in. When developing a professional personal brand, we need to keep in mind that the data online is not 100% safe. There are reports of social media accounts being hacked and held hostage or posting content that goes against our personal beliefs. We need to ensure that we have protected our integrity online to the best of our ability. We need to be able to display the same level of professionalism (if not higher) that we are expecting from our students. Our students are still developing their competence in this area and as a site, I am unsure as to what we are doing exactly (I do not have a home group nor do I work with the year levels as a whole.); however, I am hoping to instil some of these concepts in my Year 8 English class. I personally dislike small talk, I prefer to get to the point – teachers are busy enough that scenarios that involve small talk, in my personal opinion as a waste of time. Also, as a TRT (and Early Career Teacher to boot), I find that some long-term teachers use this as an opportunity to brag about what they have done rather than trying to pass on valuable information that could help the new teacher.

I personally dislike using social media as part of a DLE. I like to keep my social media separate from my work and therefore reduce stress etc. I do, however, follow some teaching pages on Facebook in order to keep up to date and learn from them but I very rarely interact on a deep level as it is a stress trigger for me.

Using technology for collaboration and communication can be a challenge. Sarcasm, for example, cannot be easily expressed through the written word. It is more easily detectable through tone and inflection; and while the use of video calling can help ease this, connection delays and less than great internet connection can make it a fairly large barrier. At a basic level, time zones can be a challenge for online collaboration. Where one may be awake, another may be sleeping and vice versa. Even within Australia, time zones can be rough to try and arrange collaboration.

21s century digital learners need to understand that what they put online, stays online, regardless of whether people try and bring it down. Even as technology gets more sophisticated, those that wish to exploit it are becoming savvier. It is easy these days, for fake accounts to be created and even if the person is on a legitimate site, they can be swayed by hackers or those of ill-repute.

ETL523 – Module 3

My own DLE’s are generally restricted to work and study – I use the Google Classroom platform for work and the CSU platform for study. I like the Google Classroom because you’re not overwhelmed by everything else but the CSU platform is more cohesively designed for online study. My students also use Google Classroom to access their work and to submit assignments. The main frustrations of going digital is being able to help students engage and our familiarity with audio and video tools to provide lessons. I am also hesitant about having a video or audio recording running while I am teaching face-to-face as I don’t wish to have parents criticising the flow of the lesson or while I am dealing with a behaviour management issue. I would love to see more accessible forums available in the Google Classroom rather in addition to the ‘Facebook style’ posting feed it has now. Being able to have the forums easily accessible would be great.

Instilling the need for regular, reliable and responsible behaviour for learning is hard enough face-to-face, trying to do this online would be really hard. I think students need to be familiar with the concept of online learning for a long period of time to try and replicate the preferred type of behaviour. Behaviour within a DLE is being able to participate in discussions, be prompt with the viewing or reading of materials and generally speaking, having the ability to complete the work in a timely manner. Having checklists that the students can update themselves can help as they are then – in part – accountable for their progress.

My experience with social media for learning is limited. I agree that it has it’s place and can be useful; however, I do feel that it should be used with a grain of salt. Many of what is said online can be taken the wrong way and could result in bullying or harassment online.

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