Teacher5aday calendar: Dec 1st

 

calendarTaking up the #Teacher5aday Calendar challenge see below for my “3 things you are most looking forward to over the festive period”

One of the things I am looking forward to doing over the Christmas break is reading.   I currently have just started reading Behave by Robert Sapolsky however haven’t made much progress in the last week or so.   I note that it is quite a substantial book running at 675 pages excluding the appendices.   I also have a book on Data Science which has been sat on my bedside table for a while now.

I am also looking forward to doing my annual reflection and pledge.    Actually setting time aside to look back on 2018 and the successes and challenges is very useful.  In the day to day it is often difficult to see what has been accomplished so to put time aside to actually sit down an reflect is very useful   It is also useful to consider those things which haven’t been done and those things I want to tackle in the year ahead, and to put some initial prioritization into these, identifying what is really important and what is less so.

And my final item is family time.   My wife will be largely busy during Christmas so I will be stealing whatever time she has free, and outside this plan to spend some time with my son working on our new PC and also having a kick around on the football park.      We are hopefully going to explore podcasting and video/audio editing which is something we both have an interest in.

 

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Habits, and fitness

trainersThroughout last year as I reviewed each month I repeatedly identified health and fitness as an area which I needed to work on however also an area which does not come naturally to me.   As such my initial focus was on finding a simple way to introduce some physical activity to my day.    The approach I ended up settling with was to park across the school campus every morning meaning that I had to walk to get to my desk.    The walk isn’t particularly arduous, being around a 5 to 10 minute walk, uphill on the way in, in the morning and downhill at the end of the day.    This idea worked for me for a few months however when the cold weather set in I am afraid I dropped the idea and returned to using the main cark park which is a significantly closer.

My resolution for 2017 has been to revisit the physical and health aspects of my life however this time I didn’t want to just be content with a short walk twice a day.    As such I restarted parking across campus however I also set myself a daily step target.   My plan was to increase this target and hopefully move to jogging possibly.

The above worked quite well for the first week, with me hitting my target every day however the second and third week brought with them an issue.   It became clear that on some days I would meet my step target however on others I would reach home at the end of the day still having failed to meet the target, despite the walk across campus.     At the end of the day the prospect of going out for a walk, especially in the currently cold weather, was not particularly appealing.   If I wasn’t even hitting my initial target how could I hope to increase it over time?

I have been reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and he described situations where people’s habits included a plan for how they would deal with difficulties.   E.g. how would a smoker deal with that stressful moment which leads to them craving a cigarette.   I needed to identify a habit I could use to help me meet my step target.   Ideally a habit that was easy to start at the end of the day after a full day at work, and a habit which didn’t involve having to go out in the cold.

The solution I arrived at was to make use of the stairs in the house, to climb them, up and down, to reach my step target.  This represents a reasonable physical activity similar to that of walking uphill, yet is easy for me to get started and carry on until I met my target.   It is now my new habit.

I wonder what other activities, which are affected by motivation, might be helped by identifying a habit and plan ahead of those difficult moments.   I also wonder about how developing habits, aimed at dealing stressful and/or difficult situations, might help students.

 

 

Resolutions for 2017

2017-torSo it’s the final day of 2016 and the start of 2017 draws ever closer.   As such now is the time to conclude my 2 part blog, which started with a look back on 2016, by looking forward and setting out my plans, pledges or resolutions for 2017.    My targets for the year ahead are not as quantifiable as those set for 2016.   This is the result of reflection which has led me to conclude that the narrow focus of quantifiable targets, which although good for motivation, fails to allow for the appreciation of the richer nature of life and the achievements of a whole year.   As such this years resolutions are more broad strokes, with quantifiable and measurable targets set on a weekly or monthly basis as need arises.

So on to the resolutions:

#BeHappy

I think this is of key importance which I why I am listing it first.   All the achievements, success, etc. isn’t worth a whole lot if you are not happy.    I also give some thought to the book I have just finished, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.    He suggested that our feelings may have a link to our successes, so if I am more positive I am more likely to succeed.   He also suggested a link between feelings and health with someone more positive more likely to overcome colds and other common aliments than someone who is negative or unhappy.   For me this all links to mindfulness and being aware in myself of how I am feeling.   So in 2017 I hope to be more happy which will require me to be more mindful.

#BeConnected

I will continue my efforts from 2016 into 2017, continuing to blog and be active in twitter in particular however also engaging in conferences and other events as they arise.   I also want to continue to write and submit articles for inclusion in #ukedchat’s magazine.    This said, I will try to avoid myself feeling obligated or forcing myself to write a set number of pieces or tweets per week or per month.   Where more important matters arise my connectedness may fall however this is to be expected and accepted.   I need to keep a better eye on putting first things first.

#BeChallenged

I am not sure what my challenge for the year ahead will be, whether it will be to refocus on Google Certified Educator, on Microsoft Certified Educator Expert or on something totally different however in 2017 I will push myself to achieve some form of certification or accreditation.    As it stands I still await results from the CISA exam I sat in December.   Hopefully these results will be released in January and it may be that I choose to follow an industry IT route as opposed to an educational route for a while.  I will leave the specific decision as to the route I plan to take to some point towards the end of January.

#ToExperiment

In order to find the best solutions it is important to continually experiment and try new things.  In 2017 I want to make sure I engage in such experimentation as a leader, as an educational technologist, as an IT Director and as an individual.

#ReadReadandReadSomeMore

I have found re-engaging with reading to be very useful and also fun during 2016.    In 2017 my target will once more be to read a minimum of 1 book per month.   I would love to subscribe to do 1 book per week however I don’t believe this is realistic for me both in relation to time available and also in relation to my chosen reading materials which can seldom be considered “light reading”.  As such the target of 1 book per month seems more realistic and reasonable.   I will also need to try and ensure that the books selected cover a variety of different topics as I feel some of my more recent reading has converged on a single topic which therefore reduces the breadth of benefit I get from reading.

#BeHealthy

I repeatedly reflected on my poor fitness level and also my poor commitment to fitness overall.   In 2017 I need to do something about this.    So I will be restarting walking across school campus every morning as a starting point.    I will also be setting a weekly target for steps.     Key to me here is likely to be coming up with some sort of motivational reward to encourage myself to actually stick to fitness efforts.    This will become even more true if I am to take up something more strenuous than just walking, such as jogging.     The main aim here will be to close 2017 in a much more healthy and fit manner than I came into it.

#BeFamily

In 2017 I need to make more time available to spend with my youngest child, who is 11, and also with my wife.    I also need to make sure that it is “quality time” as opposed to just time.    One part of this will be to have some sort of family holiday in 2017, something which we haven’t actually done in many years.   I also need to be more “romantic” as I wife puts it; Something which doesn’t come that naturally to me being more of a pragmatist and get things done type of person.

2016 was a good year especially when viewing the quantifiable targets, and possibly more so if viewed beyond just these targets.     I hope that 2017 is even more successful.    And so it begins anew………

 

Photo “Terraces on the Tor” by Rodw, Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0

 

It’s the little things that make the difference!

I have been struggling in addressing my personal fitness for a significant part of the year.   Ideas with regarding taking up jogging have came and went.   I just cannot seem to get up in the morning early enough to go out before work and am too tired after work.    I have considered buying a running machine, however I remember my previous attempts when upon purchasing one out in the UAE the most exercise it ever saw was the two blokes who had the unfortunate job of carrying it up the stairs.    I just seem unable to make much in the way of progress.   The want, or mind, is there however the motivation, the heart, isn’t.

groundsThat was until the other morning, when I decided to park my car on the other side of the school campus due to attending an event in the evening at that side of the school and wanting to leave directly from there.   The walk across the school took around 10 minutes and according to my phone accounted for around 850 steps, most of which being uphill.    Then it hit me, here was an easy solution at least to make some progress towards improved fitness;  to park at the other side of school every morning and walk across the campus.    This would amount to regular exercise without have much of a significant impact on my working day.   Yes I would need to get up slightly earlier however it would also give me the opportunity to network with colleagues who I suspect would be around campus in the mornings, as well as allowing me to take in the lovely grounds of the school.    I would be getting exercise, appreciating the surroundings and also improving my overall visibility and presence on site.

So there we have it; a little thing in parking across school, which could make a big difference.    I suppose, if I am being honest, this is easy enough now however the challenge will be whether I can keep it up when the winter weather returns!

Reflections on 6 months of 2016

It’s the end of June, and six months have passed since I set my resolutions for the year.    I must note and thank for pointing out we are ½ way through the year and time has passed that quickly that I hadn’t actually realized.

I think the first thing to acknowledge as I think back over the first half of the year is the speed with which time has passed.   This may very much relate to the fact that this year everything is pretty much new to me.   1 year ago I was still working across a number of schools in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, providing consultancy services and focusing on the IT infrastructure and #edtech within new schools being constructed.    Today I find myself back in the UK working within a single independent school.    The roles are very different.    The work required and people involved are very different.   And the climate is very different…….  Oh I wish for the sun again!!

Mid_East

Looking briefly over my targets I think I am doing quite well.    My blogging target for example was to blog twice per month however for the last couple of months as part of #44weeks I have been blogging at least weekly.   I have also started to try and share additional thoughts via pages on the blog on the books I have read and my favourite apps.

My twitter activity has very much gone through periods of ups and downs however it has always remained about my target of 1.9 tweets per day.   By the end of May I already had tweeted 900 times.

Late last year I achieved Google Certified Educator Level 1 status and the plan was to achieve Level 2.   This is one that I have made little progress on however there is time yet.   In addition I have applied to become a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert which hopefully I will achieve.   I am also in the process of working towards an IT professional qualification.    These two qualifications more than accommodate for the Google qualification and as such I am considering this target to be progressing well.

With regards my reading of one book per month I started very well however have trailed of a little in recent months.     This is very much due to other workload issues.   The target of 1 book per month continues to be the target I wish to work through however it may be that I will need to work hard on this during the summer holiday period.

As to my other targets I am making some progress in each one and therefore am happy at this stage in the year.   The one big area where I still need to make progress is that of fitness and physical activity which is still very limited.   I think I have the mental want to do this when I reflect but a lack of the motivation to actually get up and do something about it.     I also think that I am still adapting back to the UK after so many years as an Ex-Pat and that this is playing a part in my motivation.    It may be that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is playing its part and in being mindful about how I feel I can identify this as likely.     Having spent years with constant heat and sunshine, with brilliant sunrises being my normal drive to work, I would suggest it is little wonder that the UK weather is leading me to feel a little bit down which is therefore impacting on my motivation to undertaken physical activity especially where this activity might involve being outdoors.    I need to meet these feelings with a positive outlook if I am to address this area for development.

So its 6 months or half of the year done.    The specific targets identified at the start of the year are all well on their way to being achieved or are already achieved so the outlook focusing on these areas is highly positive.   The outlook on the bigger picture and the less tangible is less positive however this relates to the new situation I find myself in and the need to continue to adapt to this new context.     The challenge is to continue to remain positive and to take steps to build on the first 6 months of this year.    In 3 months time I will have completed a full year back in the UK.    I wonder what my reflections will be then, once everything is no longer new?

 

 

Reflections on May 2016

As Victor Meldrew would put it:  “I cant believe it!!”

We are now at the end of May, the 9th Month of the academic year.    Time seems to be flying by as it seems like only yesterday I was posting my reflections on April.    I am not sure whether this is a good thing, as in “time flies when you are having fun” or a bad thing in so much as I don’t think I have achieved all the things I had hoped I would achieve by this point.     I think I will stick with the optimistic view and put it down to engagement, fun and possibly a bit of flow or my “element” as Ken Robinson would put it.

My previous reflections have all focused on the targets I set my self all that time ago back as the sun went down on 2015.   This time month I would like to do something a little different.

Recent weeks have had me reflecting on my time out in the UAE and on all the things I have done while there.    Thinking back the various events, dates, items and other very tangible items don’t elicit much of an emotional response.   They happened, I remember them but they lack any real richness.    The things I really, really, remember are those events to which I have now attached a story.      These stories have a rich detail which I happily share when appropriate.    They also elicit an emotional response in that I find myself smiling when I think about them, or for some stories it’s possible more likely a grimace than a smile.

So the question is what are the stories which arise from May 2016?

It was my birthday this month and my plan had been to try and get through without any real fuss; to have a quiet one so to speak.     That failed as my colleagues became aware of the event and decided that I would look all the more professional leaving the school site with a helium birthday balloon floating above my head.    The mug they provided me makes me laugh.

Smile_Cup

Now am not sure if this means that I should smile more at work or smile less.

My exercise level in May has not improved at all.   A perfect piece of evidence for this is the flower bed in my garden.

weeds

I might claim that it is like that on purpose as part of a wildlife conservation scheme however I doubt anyone would believe me.   Maybe by the time we get to the end of June some effort and work may have been done on this and I may be able to report a greater level of exercise.   Time will tell.

I think my reflection on May is the need to consider both the quantitative data and qualitative data in reflections and reviews of life and of progress.   I may hit targets I set around social media involvement, courses attended, etc but how important is that if when I look back I have no stories to tell or no rich memories.     What are your stories from May?

 

Reflections

It’s the end of March, 3 months into 2016, 25% of the year gone already!    2 out of 3 terms of the academic year finished!!   Where is the time going?

It is that time to reflect once more on the promises I made to myself back at the start of the year.   I honestly cant believe that we are already 25% of the way through the year as it seems like only yesterday I was writing my promises.   It seems like only yesterday that I returned to the UK after 7 years living and working in the Middle East.   Am going to chalk it up to “time flies when you are having fun” however I have to admit it hasn’t all been “fun” thus far.

So to my resolutions and progress to date.

  • To blog twice per month.

After a very busy February with #29daysofwriting and a blog every day I have became a little tired during March which has caused me to seek to recharge my batteries allowing some of my resolutions to lapse a little.    That said I have still managed to maintain and even exceed this target as part of #44weeks.    Currently I am managing to write a post weekly as opposed to every two weeks.    It is my hope to continue this going forward.

  • To tweet on average 1.9 time per day or more

My contributions to twitter have significantly dropped as a result of my need to recharge.    In February I managed over 230 tweets within the month however so far in March I have only managed 70 tweets.   70 tweets is above my target however only just so this is an area I would like to improve on.   I think I also need to acknowledge that most of my tweets in March have in fact been retweets as opposed to new content.     This has served its purpose in March however I think it is important that I am contributing to the twitterverse rather than just consuming.

  • To achieve Google Certified Education Level 2

Still have made no real progress on this one.   Given the Easter holidays it may be something I can address over the coming weeks.

  • Read at least 1 book per month

My reading in February significantly dropped as a result on writing so much for #29daysofwriting.  Sadly in March I have done little to address this.    I therefore need to get back into the habit of making time to read at least every couple of nights.

Easter

Overall I am still doing reasonably well against my targets however a reduction in my momentum is clearly evident when compared with January and February.   I would suggest that this is inevitable however I would also suggest that the Easter break comes at the right time to allow to recovery and a reset for the next term with renewed momentum.

Bring on term 3!!

 

Time to recharge

The last week or so has seen me less engaged in the social side of education, including blogging and tweeting, than normal.  I have also been less engaged in reading and almost totally disengaged in anything akin to exercise.   I have found myself content to arrive home at the end of each day, do some prep work for the following day and then lapse a dazed state watching popular TV watching.

Looking at my twitter activity over the last few weeks I have returned to the point of re-tweeting some brilliant posts and ideas from others rather than contributing anything much new myself.  This is something I am a little critical of as in my early use of twitter this was the limited extent to which I was involved.   At that time, and on reflection, I vowed to make an effort to be a sharer but also a contributor and therefore a return to sharing alone represents a step backwards.

The question at hand is why this has happened and why I now find myself in this situation.    I think the answer to this question lies in looking at all the things that went on during February.   During February I took place in #29daysofwriting during which time I wrote 29 blog entries, 1 for each day of February.   I also took part in #teacher5adaysketch and made some attempts around getting a little bit fitter as part of #teacher5aday.

I have previously written on the benefits of treating life as a series of sprints as opposed to a marathon (you can read this posting here) however there is a down side to this approach.    The downside for me appears to have hit me during the last few weeks.

race

My sprint through February has left me a little depleted in terms of energy and motivation.    As such my TV watching has been an attempt to recharge my batteries and build up on my currently depleted reserves of energy.

Looking back at my posting on sprinting through activities I still stand by my comments however in hindsight I will add one additional point.  If you plan to sprint through an activity be aware of the impact it will have on your energy reserves and the fact that following the spring you will need to rebuild these reserves.  Also, the bigger the sprint, the bigger the required recharge period so after 29 blog posts in a month, plus a number of other activities I need a larger recharge period than if the sprint was focused on a lesser or single activity.    Looking back I now see the importance of including a period for recharging within my plan and making sure you stuck to it.

I now feel I am coming out of my recharge period, which is further helped by the bank holiday weekend.   With that in mind, onwards and upwards!!

 

 

#teacher5adaysketch

During half term I was involved in #teacher5adaysketch for the 2nd time.   As part of the event I endeavored to draw something each day of half term.   Each day a separate challenge identified the subject of the drawing.

Given below are my sketches from the event:

My Hobby

Am more about watching sport than playing it sadly!

sketch1

My Footwear (and ideal footwear)

Ok boring black shoes didn’t quite seem enough for a sketch

sketch2

A Piece of Art

Have always wanted a big stone head for use as a classroom talking point.

sketch3

Favourite film

Can you tell which film?

sketch4

Drawn using computer or tablet

And finally my favourite drink!

sketch5

This is an excellent event to get involved in as it highlights that, as teachers, we don’t need to be 100% engaged in teaching 100% of the time.   It is important to have some other hobbies or other focus points away from education.   It is important to try and reach a balance in life.

I have also found the event beneficial from a collaborative and social perspective as fellow educators from across the world contribute their artwork.    They also share encouragement and motivation.   I find this particularly useful in terms of my personal fitness as I am not the fittest individual plus lack motivation when it comes to physical activities.   Through #teacher5aday colleagues I am finding some of encouragement and focus which I need in order to build on my physical fitness albeit, I must admit, slowly.

I enjoyed 5 days of sketching and look forward to the next session.   I also hope to engage in some sketching outside of the #teacher5adaysketch event on a regular basis.

Keep sharing!

 

Fitness Fail!

Day 7 and almost a quarter of the way through 29daysofwriting.  Am actually quite impressed with myself that at this point I am still going.  Its also Sunday which means a little bit of a relaxing day, including the wifes birthday then all finished off with #mltchat and #sltchat at the end of the day.

My posting today will focus loosely on assessment as a result of the below message which appeared on my phone this morning:

unfit

So although I may be doing ok at #29daysofwriting my phone is unimpressed at my fitness levels.   I have never been a particularly fit person and recently I have noted how much I struggle in terms of the health and fitness aspect of my life.     As such this was something I was trying to build upon and up until this morning I felt I was making some progress, then my phone provided me with this assessment of my performance.

I liken this message to the large and often standardized tests which we provide students.   I would suggest that students may end up feeling as I did today;  dejected, de-motivated, disappointed and disengaged to name but a few words beginning with “de” or “dis”.

Prior to receiving this message I thought I have been making progress as daily I was seeing an upward trend in the amount of exercise I was doing.     My measurement of exercise being steps taken as recorded by my phone.    I had also built up a bit of understanding as to how my exercise developed over the week, noting that my worst performance was at the beginning and end of the week, peeking with my best performance in the middle of the week.

weekfit

This brought the realization that maybe I would have to focus on the start and end of the week with focused activities to improve my performance, whereas in the middle of the week when things were going ok, it might equally be ok to continue as currently.

Again looking at students this daily or regular feedback might be akin to assessment for learning with assessment data provided frequently and students required to use the data to drive improvement.   At least in me, this regular data did not dishearten or de-motivate, I as attempted to improve.

This makes me things that it is important to consider the frequency of testing and assessment, plus how we frame feedback.   I will admit that this isn’t anything new.

The issue here though is how I can get back to exercising following the de-motivational impact of my phones message.   The good thing is I consider myself to be quite resilient although I will leave that discussion for a later posting.

 

 

 

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