Education

Feeling pretty chuffed!

I recently inherited the job of setting up and maintaining the website for VALHALLA Strength – South Brisbane and right now, I’m feeling quite proud of myself!

We inherited the site earlier in the year. It was essentially a straight copy of the website for our sister gym on the north side of Brisbane: VALHALLA Strength – Brisbane. I had to change all the details, links, images, and much more to reflect the information required for our gym. Let’s just say, I had a lot of hidden links to uncover, image settings, and many other general settings to find and change. In fact, I’m feeling so proud of myself that I want to share a little list of all that I have achieved in the last week (yes, I’m even celebrating the tiny wins because they’re still wins!):

  • Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 6.24.36 pmSite icon! It’s such a small thing and hardly noticeable, and I may change it again, BUT I STILL DID IT!
  • Site logo! Again, such a simple thing but it was hidden somewhere in the back end of the theme design and it took me days to find it…
  • Different menu options
  • Resizing of featured images for the blog post – this was a massive win!

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  • Integrating a social stream plugin! So proud of this one as it took LOTS of trial and error (and lots of frustration and head scratching and even consultation with colleagues that are very clued in about this stuff)

Of course, there were numerous other things I had to do and it’s certainly not perfect at the moment but it’s done, and I’m very proud of myself. During all my fumbling around I learned quite a few things about myself and thought I would share some of my learnings…

Here’s what I discovered:

  1. You can figure it out if you don’t give up
  2. Google is your best friend when problem solving the unknown
  3. You don’t have to be an expert but you have to be willing to learn
  4. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s very rare that you’ll do something so horrible that it can’t be undone!
  5. Always ask for help
  6. If you’re starting to get frustrated, WALK AWAY! It’s amazing what a little bit of distance can do for your frustration levels…
  7. And most importantly… PUBLISH FIRST, PERFECT LATER!

While fiddling with the website I couldn’t help thinking about how my students would tackle the problems I encountered. In my classroom, when a student comes up against an issue their first instinct is to ask me, their teacher, for help… They tend to be unwilling to trial things, make mistakes, search for the answer and then give it a go. It’s like they want to be shown exactly how to do it and to know that they won’t fail! Well, this is not what happens in the real world, as I have just proved, and somehow we need to teach them that they are more than capable of discovering the answer to their problem themselves.

I’ve been tossing up with the idea of writing down my thoughts about digital natives and the like, which after this experience I think I’m going to have to, if only to get it straight in my own head! So… stay tuned for that.

Education

The power of language

It’s no secret that words have power. My good friend Lynette Noni has based a whole series on not only the power of words, but the power of our intention behind the words. (First in the series is called Whisper and it is set to be released on May 1st 2018, get excited!) However, as much as I would love to discuss the power of words when we use them to talk to or about people or places, today I am more interested in a slightly more education based discussion. I want to talk about the power of the language we use when teaching, and how we can either promote or demote certain subjects just by saying an off-hand comment!

I am a geography teacher. I love what I do and I love what I teach. I try to make my lessons as authentic, engaging, and filled with opportunities as much as possible. I know I still have a fair way to go but I am getting better every single lesson.

When I started teaching at Mount Alvernia College I was thrown into the world of girl’s education. I never had any aspirations to teach in a girls school and when I stood in front of my first class, I really struggled – despite being a young woman myself! I quickly discovered that I needed to change my language.

Girls are predisposed to thinking “I can’t do that.” There’s no point arguing about it, it’s ingrained in us from the very beginning of our existence. In my first couple of weeks I would often hear myself saying to the girls “I could never do maths, I just didn’t get it.” I’d say the same sort of things about science too, and I quickly realised that not only was I undermining the girls’ confidence, but also the subjects that my colleagues had been working so hard to encourage girls to engage with. It hit me then, I NEEDED to change my language. Not only to make sure I wasn’t undermining my colleagues or my girls, but also to change my own ideas about what I thought I was capable of achieving. In short, since I changed the way I talked to myself about the possibility of me learning some scientific facts, or relearning some maths skills, I have become more open to these subjects AND I have found that I have a much better capacity to understand them – JUST FROM CHANGING THE LANGUAGE I USED!

My next realisation came when I was teaching a year 9 geography class just yesterday. We were looking at a choropleth map of Australia that showed the average rainfall in January across the country. We ended up having a discussion about North Queensland and why it would have more rainfall than South Australia. One of the girls ended up asking if it had something to do with the humidity and I was a little shocked to realised that they were struggling to make the connections between humidity and precipitation – the water cycle that they spent so much time learning in year 7 and then touched on again in year 8 – and it got me thinking. Do they truly not remember this important piece of information OR is it because we weren’t in a science classroom that they weren’t able to make the connection?

Again, I realised that I would need to change my language. I started to wonder if I needed to use terminology from their science classes in my geography classes so that they could connect the dots themselves? I got really excited by the possibilities this would open up – I have never been more excited about broadening my scientific knowledge than I have in the past 24 hours! I’ve spoken to the Learning Area Advisor for Science and a couple of the science teachers to see if there was potential for cross curriculum collaboration (I know, it’s an old concept but for the first time I’ve actually thought it to be possible) and I was even more excited to learn that they were VERY interested in working with me on getting this up and running! I’ve even had an invitation to attend a year 9 science excursion on Monday next week and I’m going to do all I can to be involved.

I’ve gone from someone that thought “science wasn’t my thing” to “science is something that I want to learn so much more about!” I know that I have a long way to go and that I will be limited by time when it comes to just how much I’ll be able to achieve. However, if I can get this excited over the possibility of learning more about science and implementing it in my geography classes, I hope that my passion will inspire the girls too. I hope that they will be able to make the connections between what we’re doing and what they’ve learned in other classes themselves. The ultimate goal in teaching (in my humble opinion) is to create authentic learning experiences, and the research shows that clear connections between subjects helps with that, so that’s what I’m hoping to work towards. Who knows, perhaps I’ll be able to turn maths into something that is “definitely my thing” and feel more confident in including that terminology in my classes too!

One final little mention about the Science Department at my school. THEY ARE AWESOME. In a girls school it’s really important to have strong female role models, and our science department is majority female; we even have a female physics teacher! (I’ve been told that this is an amazing thing as there aren’t many.) Not only are they awesome teachers with a great range of knowledge, but they are passionate about what they teach and are willing to include me in their teaching and learning, me who is someone that quite possibly would have been their idea of a nightmare student – you know the type, lots of potential but just lazy because “science wasn’t their thing.” Not only have they been welcoming, but they have also been enthusiastic and full of great ideas. I can’t wait to see where this goes!

Thoughts

Holiday reflections

It’s no secret that 2017 was a massive year, but what I didn’t realise was how much stress this year has brought into my life. It wasn’t until I had left the country for my honeymoon that I realised just how much stress I had been carrying around with me all year. A very good friend of mine and I were having a chat a couple of weeks before my wedding and we were discussing that elusive “work life balance” thing everyone goes on about, and how neither of us has been very good at it this year. My friend was ordered to go on a holiday from her doctor, and I had truly adopted the mantra of “one day at a time.” At what point did my friend and I need to learn that telling everyone that “I’m fine” will not actually make it so? Well, apparently it was running away to New Zealand for both of us (on separate holidays, maybe next time we’ll explore this beautiful country together) that made it sink in: in 2018, things need to change.

And so, I thought, what better way to start fresh than to share what I have learned about stress and its impact on our lives. Read on only if you are into personal development…

About a week before my wedding day, I decided to visit my hairdresser and have a dramatic change from middle of the back-length hair to shoulder-length (most brides would never dream of making such a change, but it definitely felt like the right thing to do and I do not regret it!) While I was there, my hairdresser told me that I NEEDED to find a way to reduce stress in my life, otherwise I would end up losing all my hair. This was the beginning of operation reduce stress, but first, wedding.

My wedding went so smoothly; I was not stressed at all and the day was absolutely beautiful and everything I could have hoped for. Even the last-minute change in plans because of a storm was not enough to ruin the day. It wasn’t until the following day though, that I learned just how much headspace a wedding takes up.

Side note: It’s amazing how much headspace certain things take up. Perhaps I should explain what I call headspace before I go on though. For me, headspace refers to how many things you are keeping in your head, all those projects, thoughts, worries, and jobs that you are constantly thinking about. Tertiary study is a really good example. After 3 degrees, 7 years of study (with one year off in there for working full time), I finally finished at the end of 2015. 2016 rolled around and I started my current job. I promised myself that 2016 would be the year of doing things for me, like getting my full teaching registration and reading anything I wanted. Although I loved having freedom and not having to worry about what I should be doing rather than what I wanted to be doing, I did find myself starting to think about studying again, to fill that empty space I had in my head. I very nearly signed up to start a second Masters in 2017, and in hindsight, I’m so glad I didn’t, because it turns out that opening a gym and planning a wedding are more than enough to fill that empty space!

And so, after the wedding was all finished with and we returned to our normal lives before heading off on our honeymoon, I had a moment of panic where I couldn’t help but think: what now?

I’m glad to say that I made it through that interim week without doing anything stupid, like signing up for another Masters (although the urge was strong), and I got on the plane with my husband with way too much luggage and that feeling of holiday excitement.

When we arrived in Wellington all I wanted to do was see everything. We were there for 4 whole days and I wanted to see it all. It took a spa visit on my third day in Wellington for me to realise that I was on my honeymoon, I didn’t need to be going flat out to see everything – I mean, we were in New Zealand, basically a part of Australia and not so far away that I wouldn’t be back any time soon – and that I needed to relax. It took some time and effort to stop my brain from going a million miles an hour, but from that point on, I found my holiday to be MUCH more enjoyable.

So, I’m writing this blog post on my 2nd last day here in New Zealand. We have been here for a total of 12 days and we have travelled from Wellington to Auckland, with a one night stop in Rotorua. Here’s what I have learned about myself:

  • I need more sleep than I have been getting. 5-6 hours of sleep a night is not cutting it for me, I’m much more pleasant when I get 8-10 hours.
  • Food is really important! I know it sounds silly but existing on caffeine, sugar, pizza, and the occasional bowl of cereal is not good enough.
  • My job as a teacher is always in the back of my mind, and that’s ok, but I have found that writing my thoughts/ideas down on paper and then walking away from them is enough to give myself a proper break from that particular headspace.
  • Friends that are ok with not hearing from you for weeks/months on end and then are willing to catch up when you’re free are the holy grail, and I am so lucky to have a few of these wonderful people in my life but, I need to try and make a bit more of an effort to reach out to those people more frequently because I always feel better after catching up/checking in.
  • I need to actually schedule in time for myself, so that it becomes a priority and not an afterthought.

Basically, I need to take all those pieces of advice that we give to our students and apply them in my own life.

I also have really taken to heart something that another friend of mine once told me: “There’s no such thing as balance. Stop trying to find it, because it’ll drive you mad.” She was essentially saying that there is no balance between work life and home life, that there are times where a certain part of your life needs more focus than the other and that can make those of us whom are chasing that perfect balance feel like we are failing. We need to be ok with things being slated towards specific priorities from time to time, but we also need to know when to let things go and get ourselves back on track.

Stress is an inevitable part of our lives, everything we do can cause stress. The trick is knowing when your body has taken on too much and knowing how to help reduce it. This year has pushed my body and my brain to accept more stress than it should, and it’s taken time away from my crazy lifestyle for me to realise this. Thankfully, I have an amazing husband, a supportive family, and some wonderful friends that have helped me to see the error of my ways in 2017, and are willing to help me focus on living my best life in 2018 and beyond.

Ps. When stressed, I often find the beach relaxing, and I have thoroughly enjoyed being close to the water for so much of this holiday. Below are some panoramic photos of the places we have been. These places have really helped me to relax and enjoy the now, I hope you find them as beautiful as I do.

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Wellington Waterfront
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Views from Mount Victoria, Wellington
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Random jetty discovered whilst exploring the coastline of Wellington
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Random lake discovered on our drive to Martinborough
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Lake Taupo from the South
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Lake Taupo, Taupo
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Lake Rotoiti
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Henderson Creek, Te Atatu Peninsula
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Muriwai Beach, Gannet Colony
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Oneroa Beach, Waiheke Island
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Waiheke Island
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Onetangi Beach, Waiheke
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View from Mount Eden, Auckland