10 Top Tips to Busting Back to Work Blues for Teachers

Education, Teaching and Learning

Following the recent Guardian’s Secret Teacher article and Carrie’s response to it, we put our heads together and bought you our 10 Top Tips to Busting Back to Work Blues! 

  1. Remember, it’s a fresh start.

This is a completely new academic year. It is the perfect time to make a fresh start, so wipe that slate clean and walk into those school doors like Rocky.

Walk into that school Rocky style.

Walk into that school Rocky style.

 

2. Let the creative juices flow.

You have had a break. You are feeling relaxed, refreshed and ready. Resist the temptation to fall back into your usual tired habits. Brainstorm. Reflect on what you can do differently and how you can build on successes. Then put it into action.

3. Take it easy.

Don’t laugh. We are serious. It’s great to hit the ground running in the first week back but arriving early and staying late every day leads only to burn out, which isn’t going to help you or your students in the long run. The autumn term is a marathon not a sprint.

Take it easy.

Take it easy.

4. Be Organised

Returning to school after a long time off can feel overwhelming. Make a list of what you need to do that week, and then prioritize each one. A is urgent through to C which can wait till later. If you are anything like us you may find your entire list is full of As – don’t panic – number them 1 – 10, 1 being more important. This will ease the first day back mania.

5. Set Goals

Create and set meaningful goals that inspire you and your class. No matter how big or small goals give purpose to the day, month and year. Just remember, to make them SMART. To give you an idea here is our team goal for this academic year…

Our team goal for the year!

Our team goal for the year!

6. Create. Teach. Share. 

Chances are your colleagues will be feeling exactly same way so grab the bull by the horns and team up. Create an idea exchange in the staff room, a little wall space and post it notes is all that is necessary, fellow teachers can then share activities, ideas, research etc. with minimal effort.

7. Channel Carol Dweck

Let’s face it, nothing ever works out perfectly. Failure is essential. A capacity to persevere is what marks out the most successful teachers. Carol Dweck’s growth mindset theory is becoming a popular approach in schools, but we must not forget to apply the principles to ourselves.

Carol-Dweck

Channel the mighty Dweck.

8. If in doubt, laugh.

Laughter releases endorphins that instantly raise spirits and give a feeling of wellbeing. To help raise your spirits watch this baby laughing hysterically at ripping paper. It is 1 minute 44 seconds of pure joy.

9. Book your next holiday. 

It is only 9 – 10 weeks, or about 50 days until October half – term. But hey, who is counting?

10. Sleep, Sweet, Sleep. 

There is plenty of scientific research on the restorative power of sleep, so we are off for a nap!

Sleep, sweet, sleep

Sleep, sweet, sleep

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A level Results Day!

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keep-calm-its-results-day

The day that the majority of A level students throughout the country have been anticipating has arrived. For many this will be the first time that they have been able to relax in months, and for others the time has come for them to pull their heads back out from under the sand.

It isn’t however just students that face the undeniable pressure and apprehension that this day brings- results day is equally as daunting of a day for teachers and parents! That fact is widely forgotten.

For most students, the moment of finding out their results is life changing in some way. That small bit of paper holds possible answers to their future, answers to their next step in life and potentially to the next path that they will take. Speaking from previous experience, this moment is overwhelmingly nerve-racking. How can this one moment, based on one set of exams, mean so much? That complete desire for something that you want so much. Something that relies solely on the information that one bit of paper holds.

It is not only the insane amount of pressure that students put on themselves that creates that feeling of utter disappointment if they do not get the results they were aiming for so difficult to accept, but also that overcoming concern of ‘what will my parents think?’

Those very apparent doubts and ‘what if’ thoughts that fill the heads of those students that open that envelope and haven’t got what they wanted, often despite trying their very hardest, are such a struggle to deal with. We all want to feel proud of ourselves but also make others proud of us!

woman-cryingparents a level results

From students that just miss out on that ‘A’ they needed to get in to the university of their choice to those that completely messed up an exam and haven’t got in to university at all- does everything really happen for a reason? How can getting in to university be so black and white? Students must be proud of what they did achieve and realise that this isn’t the end. I hope that today support and reassurance is being provided all over the country to help manage that indescribable disappointment which is so difficult to know how to deal with.

Hard work should be recognised whether they got that result they were looking for or not. These exams ARE important, but students shouldn’t be made to feel like this is the end. Opportunity is still there! Lets make students feel proud. Let’s provide them with the support that they need today. Never underestimate what can be achieved through sheer encouragement to keep going! They must remember that results alone cannot determine a future and there is so much further success that is yet to be achieved.

Those who haven’t got in to the university of their choice- the process of clearing is another stress to add to this pressure filled day. Along with disappointment, the rush of ‘where else can I go’ takes over. The opportunity of clearing creates many happy endings, but actually in a lot of cases can increase apprehension. It often means being accepted somewhere they haven’t had the chance to visit or somewhere that is maybe so far from home but yet they haven’t began considering leaving their family. This means the step from college/sixth form to university is even more dramatic than perhaps anticipated.

right decision sign

Even for those A level students that are filled instantly with sheer relief when finding out their results, it doesn’t end there! Today the pressure and apprehension is not only on those who failed to reach their target, but also those who succeeded to. It is time for these students to consider how to prepare for the unknown. Some will be ready and some will not be.

This day is truly life changing but i believe that positivity should be taken whatever the outcome. It is important to spot the signs of students who are struggling; those who need extra support on this very significant day. The ones most in need of your help aren’t always the most obvious. That struggle may vary from accepting that they missed out on a grade to dealing with the idea of moving away.

The point is, it isn’t just about what results they get, it is about providing encouragement, motivation and mind-set for that next step – whatever that may be!

For now, make the most of the summer and I wish you all a fantastic start to the new academic year!

relax

Holly Chandler

Presenter Coordinator

Forget Paxman – The Real University Challenge

Education, Exams, Learning, Motivation, Politics

More young people than ever are applying to university, with 495,600 getting a place in higher education in 2013.  That’s a lot of teenagers applying for the same courses.  I found out recently that the most popular of these can have up to 18 applicants per available place – what?!

I know what you’re thinking.  Not another student complaining how hard their life is, how difficult applying to university is, bla bla bla.  But give me a chance – I promise I won’t moan too much…actually don’t hold me to that one!

A lot of changes concerning higher education have happened during my time at secondary school, notably the rise in tuition fees.  The pantomime villain responsible for this, according to most students, is Nick Clegg.  After Clegg (boo hiss) promised the National Union of Students that he would oppose any rise in fees, the coalition government proceeded to increase the cap on the amount to be charged to £9000 a year.  Hmmm.

My main memories from this time are of the student marches in London and the auto-tuned YouTube parody of Nick Clegg’s apology (if you haven’t already seen it you’re missing out).  However, now that it’s time for me to start the university application process myself, I’m realising how much of an impact changes such as this are going to have on the choices I make.

It could be argued that the rise in tuition fees has had some positive effects.   After a dip in applications in 2012, numbers have continued to rise.  The difference is that teenagers have to think much more carefully about university – it’s no longer an option if you aren’t sure about any aspect of university life, or your course.  Interestingly, despite the increasing price of attending university, the numbers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds entering higher education have never been larger – the reasons for this welcomed change are not yet clear.

Since higher fees have encouraged teenagers to look into other ways of gaining further education, it could be argued that this has prevented many young people from making the wrong decision.  Unfortunately, I know of a few students who have taken up a course and realised that it wasn’t what they wanted a few years in.  Now that tuition is so high, dropping out or switching courses is a huge decision to make; £9000 is a lot of money to ‘waste’.  As a result, it seems to some students that once you begin at university, there really is no going back.

The main thing that I have noticed since starting to consider higher education is the increased pressure to guarantee employment after your course ends.  Again, this is largely down to the amount of money you are investing – it makes sense to want to get something back!  The continued popularity of medicine, education and law courses support this idea, but what about those of us who don’t want this sort of job?

It seems to me that more and more people are choosing a subject because of its employability levels rather than how passionate they are about it.  Three years is a long time to study something you hate, even if you do get a ridiculously well paid job out of it.  This is one of the main issues with increasing the price of going to university; I’d like to think we should at least partly be motivated by doing something that we love.  Maybe that’s a little naïve.  Perhaps the opportunity to study for pleasure is one only available to a privileged few, with everyone else having to think in more practical terms.

I’ve faced issues frequently since deciding that I want to study English at undergraduate level.  Even though I love the subject, many people seem to see it as a waste of time.  When I tell people about my plans, a common reaction is a kind of strained smile followed by: “So do you want to be a teacher then?”  As well intentioned as this comment is, I often feel like screaming: ‘NO.  NO I DO NOT WANT TO BE A TEACHER’ (don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate teachers – I just don’t fancy it as a career).  The other frequent reaction is a look of surprise and a comment about me being ‘a clever girl’ – why don’t I want to study law or ‘something sciencey’ instead?

The answer?  I love literature and I always have done.  I’m not put off by the very small amount of contact hours for arts degrees and I want to do something that I’m good at.  I’ll confess:  I don’t yet know exactly what career path I want to take upon the completion of my degree (shock horror).  I’m sorry if at the age of 17 I don’t know how I want to spend my entire future – I’m certainly not the only one.

My last year of A-levels is going to be packed with decisions and applications.  The most pressing concern upon my return to college is writing my personal statement, something which seems to involve a whole military style procession of checks, redrafts, more checks and rewording.  Who would have thought that 4000 characters could be so intimidating!  The fact is that competition for courses at some universities is so fierce that a good personal statement is more valuable to a student than an iPhone.  Well, I say that…

But what about those who might not have had as much help with their personal statement?  There is still a heated debate over whether success depends primarily on preparation or natural talent.  Many people are complaining that a system which favours pupils who have been ‘trained’ during their A- levels reflects unfairly on those who attend less affluent schools or colleges.  Are university applications still affected by issues of class?

Essentially the UCAS application process seems to me like one big competition (I’m thinking a Crufts style arena and everything) where only the students with the best grades, the best work experience and the best interview technique  get to go where they really want.  No pressure then.

I know that there are options other than university, some of which are absolutely brilliant.  But for me personally, I feel this is the right choice – unfortunately this means A LOT of work for me over the next twelve months, as well as for the other estimated 500,000 – 600,000 people applying through UCAS this year.  Despite this I’m still excited about (hopefully) starting university in 2015.   I’m telling you, it had better be worth it!

Timing is everything – Time Management

Education, Exams, Learning Performance, Motivation, Revision, Study Skills, Teacher Resources

I’ve been struggling to manage my time recently. There simply isn’t enough hours in the day. So I thought I better sort my chaotic life out, and practice what I preach.

Prioritising 

Everyone likes a good list, especially if you can tick things off immediately. But once I’ve written my list of things to do I rate them. The official line to students is to rate them as per the following:

A = Very Urgent (deadline imminent)

B = Quite Urgent (deadline about a week away)

C = No so Urgent (deadline longer than a week)

Personally, I use colour and symbols. I won’t tell you what the symbols are, they’re rude! Moral of the lesson is that you can use whatever rating system that works for you.

Good Plan

A list is all very good and well but you can action any of the points unless you can plan or know what you are going to do.

This is where my five golden features come into play:

1. Description of the task

2. Allocation of priorities

3. Estimation of the time needed

4. Setting up a timetable (if necessary – this is good for revision)

5. Monitoring of progress (basically a big fat tick when that blasted task is done!)

This may seem very basic and common sense (it is) but I’m always surprised to find students who simply don’t know how to manage their time.

It’s easy to identify pupils (and adults for that matter) who haven’t got effective time management strategies. They are usually the ones drowning in work, buried under the pressure of unfinished assignments and missed deadlines. Then you have the opposite spectrum; those who are so overwhelmed by the tasks ahead they bury their heads in the sand and pretend its not happening.

With exams so close, it may be an idea to remind students of these simple strategies to keep them in track. Failing that encourage them to download an app on their phone. I’m lost without my ScatterBrain app.

For more information please visit our website www.learningperformance.com 

 

The final push to exams!

Education, Exams, Learning, Motivation, Study Skills, Teacher Resources

As exams draw near we are getting increasing queries about how to motivate students or give them that final push!

Let’s not be under any illusion… Motivation is not an exact science and there’s no silver bullet. Responsibility for any individual’s education belongs and always has belonged with that individual. If a student wishes to learn then they will, if not they won’t.

However, there are plenty of motivational theories to choose from such as, Abraham Maslow’s “Need Hierarchy Theory”, “Theory X and Theory Y” of Douglas McGregor, and Goal Setting Theory of Edwin Locke…. to name but a few.

Ours is simple;

Lack of Self-Belief + No Goal + No Plan = LOW MOTIVATION

Lack of self – belief is usually the core issue. If students believe they can’t do something, then why bother putting any effort in? There are a number of things a teacher can do to help encourage students self – belief and confidence. The simplest is praise; positivity can go a long way. After all, you may be the first person to tell them they can achieve.

The other is getting students to look at their mindset. Professor Carol Sweck’s summary of growth and fixed mindset is brilliant. Dweck’s work can open our eyes to the possibilities for growth across different areas of our lives, while alerting us to the fixed mindsets that may be weighing down our careers, relationships, families, or schooling.

Students (and you) can discover what mindset they are with this simple test. Just click on the link to download the questionnaire. What is your mindset

You can then encourage students to grow, develop and achieve.

As Dweck says;

The fixed mindset limits achievement. It fills people’s minds with interfering thoughts, it makes effort disagreeable, and it leads to inferior learning strategies. What’s more, it makes other people into judges instead of allies. Whether we’re talking about Darwin or college students, important achievements require clear focus, all-out effort, and a bottomless trunk full of strategies. This is what the growth mindset gives people, and that’s why it helps their abilities grow and bear fruit.

To book a motivation workshop for students or staff contact us on 01903 872 849 or email carrie@learningperformance.com

www.learningperformance.com

@LPerformance

Get Rid of Revision. Work Smarter Not Harder.

Creativity, Education, Exams, Learning, Learning Performance, Revision, Study Skills, Teacher Resources

Revision is a nasty word with many negative connotations. It stops students having fun, it fills them with dread, it is connected to boredom, exams, and stress.

That is why we (Learning Performance Training) Get Rid of Revision and use the Reviewing Philosophy. This is about working smarter not harder.

When we learn new links are formed between neurons in the brain.  These connections are strengthened every time you review what you have learned. If these connections are not reviewed regularly they fade over time so it is important to review information regularly and creatively.

This is our suggested review schedule.

    Review

 

        When

 

 For how long?

 First Review

 

 10 minutes later

 

 About 10 minutes
 Second Review

 

 1 day later About 5 minutes
 Third Review

 

1 week later Between 2 – 5 minutes
 Fourth Review

 

 1 month later Between 2 – 5 minutes

Reviewing does not need to be a time consuming process, as long as the time is used effectively. Timetables are a great way to manage your time. You can download a template Timetable here.

Remember, to schedule in 5 minute stretch breaks every 30 – 45 minutes. Trust me, students may think studying all day means will get more done BUT the brain’s level of recall and understanding diminishes significantly after an hour or so. Therefore, all that ‘hard work’ is a waste of time.

Give yourself a break. Work smarter not harder.

Creativity can unlock so much.

Creativity, Education, Enterprise, Exams, Learning, Learning Performance, Study Skills

A small school in Northern California is experimenting with a new way of learning.

Nightingale Elementary School are using a different teaching philosophy where the staff collaborate in creating learning plans that broaden students’ education and skills. For example, teachers collectively decide  what the school’s academic focus will be for a month or so. Let’s say it is health. Students then read biographical books about cancer survivors in English class; they create an interactive timeline of cancer treatment discoveries in history class; they understand oncology counts in math; and finally there might be a visit to a nearby cancer research center for science class.

The idea is that students remain engaged and are better prepared for life beyond school.

As a company, Learning Performance, has visited numerous schools with different creative teaching methods. David Starbuck, author of ‘Creative Teaching; Learning with Style,’ has a brilliant vision statement for creative schools, which I think sums it up nicely;

A creative zest for learning and for life – Aim to provide outstanding and motivating opportunites for all our pupils to really enjoy learning, to be part of the learning process, and to establish the skills needed to enjoy and flourish in their life beyond school”

The great thing is, bringing creativity to the classroom and curriculum doesn’t have to be mission impossible. It can be used daily. Take for example, this teacher I met at one of our INSET workshops where we talked about the need to appeal to the pupils’ left and right brains. One of the maths teachers came up to me during the break and told me his brilliant idea;

He got his students to play darts (I assume the Velcro variety, but you never know, it might be the real thing!) They played darts and had to add up the score as quickly as possible and subtract it from the overall score. The pupils got competitive – in a good way – as they all tried to call out the correct score before anyone else. They all had fun, and they were doing mental arithmetic!

Creativity unlocks so much. It develops a pupil’s passion for a subject, pupils’ enjoyment of a lesson, it rejuvenates teachers, inspires confidence and unlocks potential. If you have an idea, try it.

If you would like to know more read David Starbuck’s ‘Creative Teaching,’ I can’t recommend it highly enough. Or for Nightingale Elemmentary School’s full story visit Mindshift.

Feel free to comment below or join the discussion on twitter @LPerformance

Stressed? Here are our 5 top tips to beating it.

Education, Exams, Learning, Learning Performance, Study Skills

Stress can be a good thing. The adrenalin rush can push you to work harder & faster. However, too much stress can be damaging to your health and life.

With exams looming both teachers and students are feeling the heat, so here are our 5 strategies for coping with stress.

1.     Give yourself permission to relax

Be kind to yourself. You can’t work or study 24/7. Allow some time each day to relax, whether that be watching TV, listening to music in your room, or just 5 minutes quiet time. The best way to give “permission” to relax is with self-talk. Try repeating the word ‘relax’ or ‘peace,’ several times while taking deep breaths. If it doesn’t work immediately, then repeat it a few times (believing it) until you feel some effect.

2.     Control your breathing

When you are feeling tense, it is good to become aware of your breathing. You will probably find that it is quite shallow and fast. Try to deliberately control your breathing—long, slow and easy.

Breathe in, to the count of three

Hold your breath, to the count of three

Slowly release it, to the count of five.

You’ll be surprised how much difference this can make.  Try it now!

3.     Do regular relaxation exercises

Keeping your eyes closed, try to imagine yourself somewhere that you find relaxing.  This may be the beach on a warm sunny day, or it might just be your bedroom! Picture yourself in the place that relaxes you, until you are calm and ready to continue with your work.

Or my personal favourite, is trying to clear you mind (it is really hard!) whilst breathing deeply and repeating a mantra like ‘Calm’ or ‘Chill Out.’ Concentrate on these words and your breathing and let any thoughts that do come in your mind just float away. I find that I come up with my best ideas whilst doing this!

4.     Do regular physical exercises

If you have stress chemicals hanging around in your body, the best approach is to burn them up. Get some fresh air; take a walk to the local shop, anything to get rid off those nasty stress hormones!

 5.     See the process

You may think that exams, teachers, deadlines etc. cause you mental stress, but they don’t.  It’s what you think about these things that causes you stress. For example, you have an exam coming up you may say, “I’m going to fail.” Well, then you are right. If you think you can’t, then you can’t. You can do it. You can achieve.

Remember, if it gets too much ask for help. A problem shared is a problem halved!

 

A day in the life of a LPT presenter!

Education, Exams, Learning, Learning Performance, Study Skills

Teachers often ask when booking a workshop with us for the first time, “What actually happens on the day?” Well, who can give you the best insight in to a day with Learning Performance – one of our fabulous presenters! Here is  Fayon Cottrell’s version of events.

I’m Fayon and I have worked with LPT for three (wonderful) years. 

I’m visiting a well – known theatre school today. Jazz hands at the ready, its GLEE time! 

I quickly understood how passionate and focused the  teachers were about their students achieving great results and contributing in a  to the already glowing reputation of the school! I love that. 

After meeting up with my fellow presenters in reception, we were all taken to our rooms and left with 30 minutes to prepare before the students arrived. The room was already set up, so all I needed to do was crank up the power point presentation, write  some facts about my self on the board, (these are wiped away soon after and used as part of testing their initial memory,) and hit play to get some funky music pumping out. Booklets at the ready it’s 9am…Here come the students!

Today’s workshop is a half – day programme called “Reach for the Stars!”  The music is a definite plus as by 9.05 they can’t resist dancing in their seats – perhaps it will be like a Glee episode after all?! 

I begin with my introduction and then ask them to work in pairs and deliver back their intro’s so we can all hear. They complete a name plate which they design from out of the booklets and I now have a better idea of whose’s in the room and I give them a brief outline of the workshop. 

My workshop is a combination of ice breakers, video’s to reinforce the content and as much participation as I can get from them. Why should I be the only one jumping about?! The students I worked with today were really sharp. I found it easy to get them involved in all aspects of the workshop. 

The students were more than happy have a picture taken. Here we are! 

Our very own Miss Motivator - Fayon with students.

Our very own Miss Motivator – Fayon with students.

 

Does our education system focus too much on results?

Education, Enterprise, Exams, Learning, Study Skills

Here at Learning Performance’s headquarters we are slightly obsessed with the endless thought – provoking goodies on Brain Pickings. For those who don’t know or have yet to discover Brain Pickings, it is a wonderful site full of curiosities; a treasure trove of interesting articles on art, design, science, technology, philosophy, history, politics, psychology, sociology, ecology, anthropology, and more!

Don’t worry, I’m not being paid to plug them. I simply love it.

I stumbled across Ainissa Ramirez‘s  Save Our Science: How to Inspire a New Generation of Scientists, which advocates the value of science education. I hated science at school, so lacking any personal interest I was ready to move onto the next page when this quote stopped me.

“The 21st century requires a new kind of learner — not someone who can simply churn out answers by rote, as has been done in the past, but a student who can think expansively and solve problems resourcefully.”

Amen to that. We expect so much more from students now. A recent survey from Association of Graduate Recruiters on skills shortages in graduates revealed 67% of employers believed students lacked commercial awareness, 64% said students had poor communication skills, and 32% considered pupils lacked problem solving skills.

This survey is quite damning of our education system & curriculum. It suggests the focus is on results, perhaps even general knowledge, rather than creating rounded individuals who are business savvy, can communicate effectively, and are analytical.

We have been running workshops on Employability and Enterprise and Leadership & Communication for some time now and they are becoming increasingly popular.

What do you think? Do you think education should focus more on creativity, critical thinking, and hands – on learning? Please feel free to leave comments below or tweet us @LPerformance using the hashtag #21stcenturylearner