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Podcast title The Teaching Space
Website URL http://theteachingspace.com
Description The Teaching Space is a weekly, term time podcast for the teacher or trainer who wants to love their job and be an amazing teacher WITHOUT taking work home evenings and weekends.
Updated Wed, 22 Jan 2020 11:10:48 +0000
Image The Teaching Space
Category Education

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1. Managing Worry for Teachers and Trainers
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Episode 79 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores ways teachers and trainers can manage worry.


Today it’s personal! When I started this podcast back in 2017 I didn’t have plans to talk about myself a great deal. I knew I wanted to help teachers and trainers try to achieve their version of work/life balance, but of course, there was a personal reason for that. Without talking about myself explicitly, it was still about me. I was in a position to share some useful strategies I had learned due to my own experience.

Today I’d like to share a bit more of my story and also show you how I am still learning new strategies and don’t plan to stop.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

One of the main reasons I have worked so hard on creating a work/life balance for myself and also being as productive as possible is because I have anxiety.

Specifically, I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder (“GAD”) which is described by the NHS as “a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event”. While lots of different things trigger my anxiety, one of the worst is not being in control. You can imagine the effect an excessive workload and complete absence of work/life balance had on my anxiety.

Medical Management

While my anxiety has been managed medically for years, I decided, in close consultation with my doctor, that I wanted to come off anti-depressants about six months ago. Obviously, I was anxious about it (go figure!) as I’d had several “failed attempts” in the past. I gave it a try and it did not go well, but rather than take the path of least resistance I went back to my doctor and asked for additional help. She arranged for me to receive cognitive behavioural therapy (“CBT”).

Before I go on, just in case this needs clarifying:

I am not for or against anti-depressants; they were a medical intervention that worked for me at a difficult time. My choice to come off them was entirely mine - I am not suggesting anyone should go on them or come off them. Also, I am not a medical professional, what I share in this episode is just about me and my experience. Please see your doctor if you are anxious or require medication, or want to come off your medication. CBT

According to the NHS website, CBT is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.

CBT is not for everyone. It has not cured me; I am still pretty anxious. However, it has helped me learn some strategies for managing my anxiety. It has put me more in control of how I react to situations.

I’d like to share some of the strategies that are working for me (these are very much from a non-professional’s perspective; the language is mine).

Classifying Your Worries

This strategy relies on you being able to spot a worry when it is happening. A good way to learn how to do this is by logging worries. I found a great app called Worry Watch to do this.

When you notice a worry, ask yourself: is it practical or hypothetical? (“Practical” meaning a worry that is affecting you right now and has a practical solution; “hypothetical” meaning a type of worry about something in the future that there might not be a solution for). If your worry is practical, then apply problem-solving strategies. What is the worry? What is the problem? What are all the solutions? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What is the best solution? Make a plan. Put the plan into action. Review. If the worry is hypothetical, then let it go (or defer the worry to a later time). Prioritising Self-Care and Positive Thoughts

Without a doubt, my incidents of anxiety are reduced when I make time for self-care and positive thoughts. I have scientifically proven it to myself!

My self-care activities are going to the gym (who even am I?) and knitting. I also enjoy cooking (when not under pressure) and walking my dog. When I skip these activities I feel bad.

On the positive thoughts side of things, at the risk of sounding a bit “woo”, I recommend an app called 3 Good Things. It’s a super-simple, free happiness journal which prompts you to note three good things that happened that day. It forces you to spend just a few moments thinking positive.


Finally, when I am in the midst of full-on anxiety feelings I use the 54321 method. Here’s how to do it:

Name five things you can see in the room with you. Name four things you can feel. Name three things you can hear right now. Name two things you can smell right now. Name one good thing about yourself.

I stop, breath and go through the steps above. Usually, I get them all mixed up but I am not sure it matters. The process is about distracting yourself from your worry. Weirdly, it works (don’t ask me how!)

Wrap Up

That’s it from me today. If this episode helps one person then it’s worth the mild discomfort of getting personal.

Please feel free to reach out if this episode has resonated with you - it’s always lovely to hear from listeners. And, as I mentioned earlier, if you are struggling with anxiety, the best person to talk to is your doctor.

Support the Show

That’s it for today. Before I go I have a small request: if you enjoyed today’s episode, please support by leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen.

Questions? Comments?

If you have any questions about the show or thoughts you’d like to share you can do so by either:

Leaving a comment on this episode’s show notes blog post. Posting in our Facebook group: TTS Staff Room. Posting on Twitter (I’m @MartineGuernsey if you want to mention me). Contacting me via The Teaching Space website: theteachingspace.com. Leaving me a voicemail on Voxer where I’m theteachingspace.

The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com.

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.


2. One Teacher's Journey to Productivity: An Interview with Justin Hockey
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Description: Introduction

Hello and welcome to the Teaching Space Podcast. It's Martine here. Thank you so much for joining me.

Martine:      Today, I have a guest on the show and we're going to be talking productivity. Rather than have a big intro, I'm going to hand straight over to my guest, Justin Hockey. Justin, welcome to the show.

Justin:             Thank you, Martine. It's great to be here.

Martine:            I'm so pleased to have you on. Could you tell me, I'm going to get you to introduce yourself if that's okay, who are you and what in the world do you do? And where in the world do you do it?

Justin:             That's a great question. With modern technology, anywhere in the world is just about possible. So my name is Justin and I'm a music teacher. I've been working in various countries around the world teaching music. India, Australia, and now South Korea, so that's where I am right now in South Korea. I teach at an international school. I'm also married and with a child. So that adds into the productivity mix, as I'm sure many of your listeners will also experience or know of.

Martine:            Let's talk about productivity, because you and I both have a common interest in being the most productive people we can be. You said you're a music teacher. What is it about the role of a teacher that makes productivity such a challenge?

Justin:             Gosh. I mean, I've had some notes about this. I wrote down three things to prompt me: people, processes, and products. People, I mean, as a teacher in any setting you're dealing with people, obviously your colleagues and supervisors, or bosses, or heads, depending on whether it's a further education setting or a school. For me, I'm at a school, and currently a junior school, or what some parts of the world call an elementary school or a primary school. So, I have over 300 students I see each week. And so, dealing with that many moving parts, people as it were, is a challenge. And then there's all the processes that go with that in terms of routines that are meant to happen but of course, in most schools no one week is the same as the next exactly. And particularly this time of the year when we're recording it, it's coming up to Christmas.

And then I said the word product, which is not necessarily perhaps the best word. But I guess the outputs. What are we trying to achieve? We're not manufacturing devices or selling products in a store. We're shaping people's lives, and whether that's shaping adults' lives, young adults' lives or children's lives, that's something which in some senses is a never-ending job. So, it's very easy to, as a teacher in any setting, to feel like the work is never done. Because in a sense, it never is. There's always more to be done, and people can quite quickly burn out or become overwhelmed. And I know for myself and many of the listeners, we've been there and experienced those challenges. And so I'm excited about sharing some of my insights and journey so far. But obviously, like teaching itself, it's almost like a never-ending process of learning to be more productive. Like climbing a mountain, the higher you get, the more you realise is ahead of you and how far you've come.

Martine:            You alluded to the fact that you have some strategies that you use. I'd like to kind of attack this from two angles. Initially, if we talk about the sort of general approaches and resources and things like that, and then go specifically into productivity apps and tools. So, if we start general and then sort of drill down into the detail, that would be great. So tell us what you do.

Justin:             Great. What I thought I would do is approach this through three people that I've come across. These are not people I've met in person, but they're all ... Well, certainly one of them is a teacher herself, and the other two are people that I've seen referenced in productivity generally. So, the first one I'll start with is Angela Watson, and for a long time she was an instructional coach and teacher in the United States, and now she runs her website. She's got a number of brands, or a number of websites I should say. But I guess the key one is the 40 Hour Work Week Club for teachers where she essentially says, "As a teacher, it is possible to cut down your work week to 40 hours." And I signed up to her email list and blog and podcast at least five years ago, and she still offers this course as well as a number of other services online, which tens of thousands of teachers have signed up for and gained a lot out of. But four of the key things I gained from her are batching, lists, using the calendar and mindset. I mean, there's obviously other things that go with that, but I'll just touch briefly on each of those.

Batching was such a ground-breaking concept to me. The idea that as a teacher, or any worker really, you've got a bunch of tasks that need to be done, and some of those tasks are actually similar to each other. So, for example, you might have a whole bunch of planning that needs to be done, or you might have a whole bunch of physically moving things around your workspace that needs to be done. And rather than trying to do a little bit here and a little bit there, if you can arrange your schedule or arrange your time such that you are batching these tasks, grouping these tasks together, you tend to get them done better during that time because you're not scattering your attention across days or weeks or even months. And you're also, by the fact of thinking through what types of tasks you need to get done, that tends to force you to think more carefully about what you're doing, and when you're doing it, and even perhaps why you're doing it.

Martine:            I think that batching was a big game changer for me in terms of how I deal with marking. I think marking is one of those really, really good examples of where batching can just make you far more efficient, because I really have to get into a zone when I'm marking assignments and things like that. And it takes me a long time to get into the flow. So, if I end up doing a bit of assignment marking here and there, I never actually get into the flow of it at all. So, one of the things I always batch is assignment marking.

Justin:             That's exactly it. Marking, writing reports is a big one which I'm in the middle of. Anything dare I say tedious. But also, whether it's involving other people or things yourself, batching is certainly a great way to start approaching things. And if there's nothing else that listeners go away with, that would be something, one I would say if you haven't tried it, start looking at how you can group your tasks or processes together so that you're not scattering your attention and time across things like that. Another big thing that Angela Watson talks about is making lists. And this really comes into the question of apps. It's like, well, there are great apps out there. But at the end of the day, you need to have some sort of centralised list of tasks and projects and goals that you have, whether it is on an app, whether it is in an analogue form such as a diary or a notebook, or even a combination system, a hybrid. But somewhere to create lists. And then thirdly, calendar. Some system, again, of having a calendar, whether it's Google Calendar, a notebook, or again, a combination.

And the fourth aspect that Angela Watson has brought up time and time again and has in fact written a whole book about recently is mindset. Because productivity, at the end of the day, shouldn't be just about getting more things done faster. Anyone who's been in the game long enough will realise you don't just want to be working faster, because you end up like a hamster on a wheel. But thinking about, hang on, what's this all for? What kind of mindset am I going into this with? A sense of dare I say sort of abundance or scarcity? Scarcity in the sense of, "Oh, there's not enough time to do everything, I'll never get everything done, and I'll just frantically try and put out all the fires." Or, of a sense of abundance, of saying, "I as a teacher am able to make choices about what's most important for my teaching, for my professional life and even my personal life. Because of course, you can't really divorce or separate your personal life from your teaching life. Those two are inextricably linked. So that's Angela Watson and some of her things there. Before I go into the other two, I thought maybe perhaps you have any questions or comments on that, Martine?

Martine:            Yeah. I wanted to say that I'm a big fan of Angela Watson's work. I don't know if you know this, Justin, but I actually did the 40 Hour Teacher Work Week a couple of years ago, and it was a real-

Justin:             No, that's news.

Martine:            ... yeah, it was a real source of inspiration to me, and I really enjoy Angela's podcast too. And I will make sure I link to all of that information on the show notes, because I think it can bring lots of value to any listeners to the podcast. So yeah, totally agree with you, I'm a big fan. I also liked the point that you made when you were talking about to-do lists and calendars and things like that, getting focused on the process and not kind of getting into the apps first or the tools first, just having a calendar in any format. Just go analogue first to get used to what the tool is for. And then start thinking, "Actually, could I use this app? Could I use this tool?" Just start with the I want to say kind of productivity concept, and then look at the tools afterwards. Because you've got to get used to using a list and using a calendar. And those things are sort of at the foundation in my opinion of being more productive. So, I think that's really, really good advice.

Justin:             It is great. And just as teachers, I mean, I'm sitting here thinking, yes, I want my students, I teach music, I want them to be able to use composition software or digital keyboards. But at the end of the day, if we don't have what in music, we call musicianship skills, in other words, being able to think musically without tools, devices, or even instruments believe it or not, then we sort of miss something somewhere. And I think productivity is quite similar to what you said about understanding the concept of the calendar in terms of physically having a calendar, or physically having a to do list puts into perspective what tool or what app you're going to use. Yeah. That's a great thought cycle there.

Martine:            I like an app as much as the next person. And I kind of get a bit of shiny object syndrome if a new app comes out. I'm like, "I really want to try that. Apparently, this new thing's really good." But it's important to stop, work out what you actually, what the foundation you need to look at is first, and then get into the apps. So great point.

Justin:             Excellent point, Martine. And you used a keyword there, stop. Which, you and I haven't talked about this next person yet, but Michael Hyatt is the next person I'm going to talk about.

Martine:            Love Michael Hyatt. Great minds.

Justin:             Yes, indeed. Michael Hyatt has written a number of books. And for those listeners that don't know who he is, amongst other things, he's been a former CEO of one of the major book publishers in the United States, and for the last almost 10 years now he's been running his own company. Which, amongst other things, focuses on productivity and helping people to succeed in life and be more productive, but being productive in the right areas. And I took one of his courses about two years ago. I signed up for the Free to Focus course, which is now also being turned into a book. And just think of the title, Free to Focus. He talked about productivity, that I mentioned earlier in fact, productivity not being a hamster wheel that we want to get on necessarily, but rather a question of other priorities.

I mean, Michael Hyatt was the one who really clued me into this idea of freedom. We want the freedom to be productive and the freedom to focus, but not for the pursuit of just endless work. But rather freedom to achieve what we want to achieve, and then freedom to then go on and live our lives in a satisfying and successful way. So that's one big thing for Michael Hyatt, Free to Focus. He's also done a number of other books, and in some cases courses. Your Best Year Ever is about goal setting. Which, as he says, Free to Focus is about the day to day and week to week productivity, nuts and bolts. They think, "Oh my gosh, I'm overwhelmed by to-do lists, and students, and emails and all of those things." That's like being stuck with the trees.

But then if you want to look at the forest for a moment, his Best Year Ever course and book, and of course there's many other people who do this, looking at the goals you have for the months of the year and even for the year. Setting yearly goals is such a valuable thing to be able to do. And then he says even ... We talked about the trees, and then there's the forest, but perhaps you can look at the whole national park if you like, if want to use that picture. He's written a book called Living Forward, which is about writing a life plan. Which, until I'd come across the concept, I mean, who thinks of writing a plan for their life? Most of us are busy writing plans for our lessons or our semester curriculum, whatever it is. But he does talk about a life plan.

And if you can, or when you can, make the time to really stop and do that. And it's a process. You don't just do it once and think, "Yeah, tick that box. I don't have to ever think about that again." But thinking of how I came onto this and how you prompted me on this is stop. So, within the Free to Focus productivity system, he's got three steps really. And Step One is Stop. Step Two is Cut. And Step Three is Activate. So, stop is really a process of actually hitting pause on everything and saying, "What am I actually doing this for?" Which, can bring in the question of, "What are your life goals? What are your yearly goals? Or what are your quarterly goals?" So, taking that time to stop. And then secondly, the idea of cutting. Because once you've paused even just for five minutes to say, "Well, hang on. What do I need to get done today, let alone this week, this month, or this life?"

Being able to perhaps eliminate in fact within the cut step, I think from memory here, the first thing he says is eliminate. “There are some things on our to do lists, that don't actually need to be there. And if we can't eliminate them, perhaps we can delegate them to other people. Or if we can't delegate them to other people, we can automate them.” In other words, we can set up a system, a process, or in some cases and Apple tool to actually do that for us. And certainly, with social media posting or depending on the kind of teaching you do, there might be things that you can delegate to other people or to apps or processes. And then the third stage he talks about is activating. Which, is the actual process of going out and executing your to do list. So that's Michael Hyatt. And then there's one more person I'll talk about. But I'm sure you've got some thoughts on Michael Hyatt too, Martine.

Martine:            Yeah. I do like Michael Hyatt. I think he's got a lot of good stuff to say about productivity. I found it interesting when you were talking about the life plan. And part of me was thinking, "I haven't even got a lesson plan for tomorrow, let alone a life plan." I'm kidding, I do have a lesson plan for tomorrow.

Justin:             Where are your priorities?

Martine:            Absolutely. But I think personally that's kind of a next step for me, so I might check out his book. Again, I'll make sure this link's in the show notes to all of those books. I'm very good at having a yearly plan, breaking that down into quarterly goals and things like that. But going further than a year is kind of scary sometimes isn't it. So, your point about it being a work in progress is something that you don't just set and that's that. It's a really good one. So yeah, thanks for the book recommendation, I'll be looking into that.

Justin:             Most welcome. So next, we've talked about Angela Watson, who herself is a teacher, and Michael Hyatt who comes from the corporate and business world. And the third person I want to talk about is Cal Newport. Funnily enough, I guess you could label him as a teacher. Cal Newport, for those who don't know him, is a professor of computer science at one of the big universities in the United States. And amongst other books, he's written perhaps the most relevant book here to our discussion is Deep Work. The concept of deep work, which links to batching. Having the time and space, and most importantly attention and focus to execute or to really work deeply on things. Now, this may be in terms of research, or it might be in terms of preparation, even marking and report writing. Those are all deep work type tasks that, if we can eliminate distractions, minimise disruptions, having the time and space to do deep work, which could be something as short as the famed Pomodoro Technique of 25 minutes of blocked out time, everything from 25 minutes through to half a day to even a day. (Check out Episode 12 on the Pomodoro Technique)

I mean, in the book Deep Work, Cal Newport talks about people who take whole weeks or months to do things. But of course, they are not your bread and butter teachers typically. Some of them are ... Adam Grant is one famous example he gives. And Adam Grant is an author, and I think he's certainly in one of the big US colleges. He's a professor, and he still teaches students. But he's arranged his schedule such that he does have chunks of time, several days of the week where he can just focus on his research for example. I could rave on and on about Cal Newport. I'll just mention one other book he's written called Digital Minimalism. And it's a book that came out back in February of this year, 2019. And he really pushes deep into this idea of if we're trying to execute on deep work, if we're trying to eliminate distractions and interruptions, what does that look like in a digital world?

And Cal Newport himself famously has never had social media accounts, no Twitter and no Facebook. And yet, he's been extraordinarily productive with putting out research papers and acquiring a significant teaching post at a university. So Deep Work and Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, well worth investing in for anyone who's trying to get their heads around the overwhelm as it were of being a teacher, or indeed anyone else in the 21st century.

Martine:            I read Deep Work quite a few years ago, and I think I'm due for a reread actually. But you just reminded me of possibly one of the biggest shocks to the system for me when I went into teaching just over 10 years ago. I came from a corporate background, and I think the biggest shock was not having any stretches of time to try to get into that state of deep work. I was always just snatching a quarter of an hour here and there between sessions. Having a one-hour lunch break suddenly became quite an attractive stretch of time where I could be doing some deep work. So, I think going from corporate to teaching, that was the biggest change. The fact that we, as teachers, often don't have a whole day or a half a day where we can just get our heads into something. So, I think I'm due a reread on Deep Work. I loved Digital Minimalism, it really challenged me.

Justin:             Oh yeah. And I was just reading it today, Digital Minimalism, thinking, "Gosh, I really need to get back into this idea of trimming, of cutting, or even detoxing from a whole bunch of digital input." Yeah. That's a thing with this, it's a journey of learning and in some cases relearning or revisiting these concepts and ideas.

Martine:            There are some great recommendations there, Justin. Let's start moving towards tools and apps, because we're both big fans of tools and apps. Talk to me about your current productivity toolkit.

Justin:             Sure. I will start again with Michael Hyatt. Forgive me for banging that drum. But Michael Hyatt has, interestingly enough, he was really into his digital tools and still is. And in fact, I think I found you, Martine, because Michael Hyatt and yourself or certainly someone who knows you are on a Facebook group for Notion, which I will mention shortly.

Martine:            That's right. Yeah.

Justin:             So, you have him to blame for that. But Michael Hyatt, he put out, he created I should say basically a diary, a planner. Because he had been using digital tools and apps, and still does. But he reached a stage about three, four years ago when he realised to achieve this deep focus state and be really strategic and plan, he needed to be going back to analogue tools, so pen and paper. So long story short, he created the Full Focus Planner. And because I've been following Michael Hyatt, I saw sort of the early pre-release material and was one of the first users to sign up for the Full Focus Planner. So, I still carry that around. It's been really interesting, because I can see in analogue form, I don't have to go through apps, or apps that I might have used and stopped using. But I can pick up my now close to eight quarterly planners that I have and flick through them and see days and weeks where I've been very almost religiously following the system that he has in terms of making a list and using the calendar, and scheduling the day, and reflecting on the day.

And then there will be days, dare I even say weeks or two here and there where I barely scratched the planner with my plan. Yeah. That's just an interesting self-reflective point for me. But that's certainly one tool I could recommend, is the Full Focus Planner. And if you're not using the Full Focus Planner, it doesn't just have to be that one. Anyone I think these days who's questioning this idea or exploring this idea of productivity needs to think about the time to be switching off from digital and using analogue or working out what balance and what hybrid system if you like of using analogue and digital tools.

So, with that I'll go onto digital tools. I mean, gosh, most of the major ones certainly that I've seen you talk about I've seen you use at one time or another. So, Asana, been there, done that. Todoist, I was using that for quite a while. Trello, I think Trello I actually started using more frequently because you had mentioned it, Martine, and enjoyed that for quite a while. Google Keep was another one I started to go onto. But if I'm really honest, none of those at the moment I'm using. I still have the accounts for some of them. But in the last certainly 30 days, six weeks, I haven't really used those. I've been really getting into WorkFlowy. And again, Martine, this is something you had put me onto. And the thing I love about WorkFlowy is that it is just so simple. In fact, some of the reviews and some of the people who mentioned it said it's almost like you sign up for it and think, "Is this thing broken? Am I missing something?" Because it looks so simple, or it is so simple.

And yet, the more you use it, the more you realise it's powerful. And certainly, that's my approach. And I think this a key thing. Whichever app, or whichever tool you're using, digital or analogue, and this is a perspective I have as a music teacher, is, it's an instrument that you're learning to use. And you will get better at it the more you use it. And you may reach a stage where you think, "Well, actually this is really not the tool for me to use in my setting, or at this point in my life, or at this point in the year," or whatever it is. And that's fine. But look, for me, WorkFlowy is certainly the tool I've been using the most lately. And I have two accounts, one for work and one for home, and then can share the dots, or the documents as it were. And just quickly for those who don't have a clue what I'm talking about, WorkFlowy essentially is ... I mentioned dots because you open it up and you just see these bullet points. And then you can create your own bullet points.

But the killer feature as it were of WorkFlowy is you click on the bullet point and it opens up that bullet point as a whole new screen, or document I should say. And so you can then add more bullet points, click on those bullet points and have further levels. So, as they describe it themselves, it's an infinite level of ... levels if you like of being able to go into this mega document you're creating. And then hashtags, that's the one that's really started to make me realise that it's a quite powerful tool if you understand the hashtags. And then just being able to check off the check lists. So that's some of the tools and apps I've tried in the past, and WorkFlowy that I'm still using.

Notion. Notion, again, look, I was using it for quite a while and I thought, "Wow, this is amazing." I'd actually transitioned to Notion from Evernote. Now, I still have an Evernote account, and still click things nowhere near as much as I used to, but I still click things on Evernote. And Notion at the same time seemed like a great alternative to Evernote. And there seemed to be this quite geeky, and I use that in the best sense, community of people saying, "Look, Notion's amazing. Look at all the things you can do, and look, here's something." The capacity to create notebooks and templates and share them with others is incredible. And I'm not ruling out using Notion myself in the future. But look, as a music teacher working with hundreds of kids every week and juggling all sorts of things I thought, "Look, I don't want to get caught up on spending so much time on the tool that I don't actually achieve the things that I'm setting out to do. Which, is get a whole bunch of things done for us." Which, is why WorkFlowy, for me, is the best digital tool I've got at the moment.

Martine:            That's such a good point. And the way that you've compared WorkFlowy to Notion, I can really relate to what you're saying having used both tools, and I'm a fan of both tools for different reason. Notion has so much potential. At the moment I'm using it as what I would call a personal wiki. And all my aims and goals and that sort of life planning piece that I haven't quite done yet, that will all be in Notion, because that's the sort of thing I can spend some time on, and I can lay it out in a really nice way. And Notion is really, really good for that. But when it comes to things like quick capture of information, or the kind of web clipping that you describe that you do within Evernote, Notion's not quite there yet because it's a massive, flexible tool that could be lots and lots of different things.

 And as such, it doesn't do everything as quickly as perhaps you want it to. That's my kind of overriding sense of where Notion is currently. And you're so right when you say, "The Notion geek crew," who I do count myself as part of in a very, very lovely way. We're always changing our Notion setups and finding new and exciting ways to do things. But actually, sometimes by spending all that time on that, you're not being terribly productive in other areas. So, I think you make some really good points there. And I miss WorkFlowy. I'm not using WorkFlowy for anything at the moment. I love WorkFlowy. You described it really well.

 I don't know if you've come across my good friend, Frank Degenaar. He does a lot of WorkFlowy tutorials and things like that, and he's written a book on WorkFlowy.

 Justin:             I think I have. In fact, did he interview you on his podcast, or the other way around?

 Martine:            He did.

 Justin:             Yes. And I'm pretty sure that's how I came across you, Martine, was Michael Hyatt was raving about Notion. And he mentioned there's a Notion group, so I looked at the Notion group. And then there was your friend, Frank. And then there was a link to your podcast. And I thought, "Goodness me, there's actually a teacher out there talking about productivity." So, the rest is history.

 Martine:            Isn't it funny how these happen? I love that. Frank's book's excellent. It's called ... I always get the title wrong, but it's something like Do Way, Way More With WorkFlowy. And he's got like a WorkFlowy academy going and all sorts of things. He's a good contact.

 Justin:             Brilliant.

 Martine:            But it's great that you're using WorkFlowy in such a good way by the sounds of things.

Justin:             Yeah. If I could just talk about literally work flow, I mean, it's quite funny how they created that name. And I was looking at Google ... My school, my organisation uses Google Docs. That's the other thing. With Notion I thought, "Notion's wonderful, but when I'm trying to create something that I'm going to use with my colleagues, then really Google Docs is where it's at for better or worse."

Martine:            Yes, me too. I'm in the same situation.

Justin:             And Gmail. So, with Gmail, Inbox Zero, I remember coming across this years ago, Inbox Zero. And I was like, "Oh my goodness, I can empty my inbox, and wow, this is amazing." And look, I don't get it done every day or even every week sometimes. But certainly, in the last two weeks, to pick an example, in the last two weeks I've hit Inbox Zero probably about 50% of the time. And my current process or workflow of that is looking at what's in my inbox. And if it's not something I can do straight away or snooze and forward, in fact there's something called Follow Up Then. This is another web service. Follow Up Then, where you forward an email to for example tomorrow@followupthen.com, and then it shoots that email back to you, snoozes the email then sends it back to you at the right time.

Anyway, so if I've got something like a task that needs to happen next week, and I'm not going to forward it on to myself in a week's time I'll put it into WorkFlowy. So WorkFlowy sort of becomes the ... In fact, there's a section in my WorkFlowy called Dumping Ground or something, words to that effect where I just dump in all the tasks out of my inbox. So, then my inbox is clear, and then I can go into the tasks, prioritise them, move them around, allocate time horizons or dates. "This needs to happen this week, or today, or tomorrow, or next week." So that's I guess part of my work flow with WorkFlowy and email.

Martine:            Your WorkFlowy work flow. That's brilliant. And thanks for highlighting, the snooze function on Gmail is an absolute life saver for me. We don't use Gmail in my work environment unfortunately. We are a G Suite for Education college. But for some reason, we're still using Outlook for emails, which is deeply frustrating to me. Because obviously, the Google tools all play beautifully together. But that aside, I use Gmail for all of my personal stuff. And I do pretty much get to Inbox Zero every week, but it is with the help of the snooze tool. So, for those who aren't using Gmail, then that service that you mentioned just before, I'll link to that in the show notes, because it's essentially a non-Gmail version of the snooze tool by the sounds of things.

Justin:             It certainly is, yeah. The snooze tool on Gmail, in fact, I think it kind of snuck up on me. I didn't even realise the snooze tool was there. I've been using this other service called Follow Up Then and then realised, "Hang on a minute. Gmail actually does this anyway." Although, the slight difference is in there are some things that the snooze is good for, and other things which Follow Up Then is better for in my opinion. And the best way to discover that is to actually go out and try it yourself. And one other quick one on email is something called Boomerang, which one of my colleagues put me onto. And Boomerang is wonderful. If you're up at some odd hour of the day or night, and you want to send an email to someone or even a group of people, but you don't want to email them at 3:00 in the morning or 11:00 at night, the weekend, you can use Boomerang to basically have the email held and then sent out at a later date or time. So, Boomerang is another one I've been using for email.

 Martine:            There's a good list of tools and the apps there for us to have a little play with I think, Justin.

Justin:             For sure.

Martine:            Amazing. Is there anything else you would like to mention as part of this interview about teacher productivity?

Justin:             Just, I was thinking Martine, I'm no guru at this. And if anything, I'm having to relearn all of these things. So, I've shared a number of tools and people and resources with your listeners. But honestly, there are some of these things I need to go back and revisit. So, it's a journey. So, for anyone who's out there and maybe you've never heard of any of this before and you're just starting out, or you've tried all of these things, or tried some of these things. And maybe you reached a point of not feeling that all of them work necessarily. The keyword I can say there, key encouragement is, look, it's a journey. And what will work for some people won't work for others. But some things will work at different times for us. And as teachers, as educators, gosh, our work can seem like a never-ending process.

But look, a podcast like yours, Martine, and reaching out to people, productivity is all wonderfully great. But at the end of the day, if we're missing out on better human relationships, whether that's at work in terms of the students and colleagues we work with or in our personal lives, then something's missing. So that's a second aspect there. And one other thought I'm just going to throw in there knowing you've been to a Research Ed Conference, I'm very jealous by the way, for anyone who's listening, they're just about to ... April 2020 they're hosting one in Shanghai, and I'm hoping I can get to that one. So, for the listeners who don't know, Research Ed is a conference run by teachers for teachers looking at research based or research informed practises in education.

And the tie that I think I spotted there with productivity is the gentleman Joe Kirby. Joe Kirby, I don't know if he still works at the school, but the school is called Michaela Community School in London. And he's written an amazing blog, which I'll send to you, Martine, and you can share with the listeners called Hornets and Butterflies. And he addresses I guess this question of productivity from the point of view of, is what we're actually the most effective thing to be doing? So, hornets being the high effort low impact things that we do in schools, or in institutions of education. And the butterflies are the low effort, high impact things that we do in schools.

And so this springs up what for some people are quite controversial things about, "How much marking should we do? And how much feedback, or what kinds of feedback should we do?" And a whole bunch of other workload related issues, which ultimately tie back into productivity. Because as I've said, as we've said, you can be as productive as anything. But if you're not actually focused on the right things that fit into a bigger picture, then you need to at some point pause and look at where it's all heading. So, there's a few other things I thought I should share with everyone.

Martine:            It is. I will look forward to reading that article and know a little bit about the Michaela School. So, I'll find that really interesting to read. And as you suggest, I'll share it in the show notes so the listeners can have a look. April 2020 is going to be a really good part of the year, because that's when the Guernsey Research Ed is happening, and I've got a recap episode from when I went to the national conference back in September 2019. So, I will make sure I link to that in the show notes too. But you're going to have such a good time if you can go. You'll really, really enjoy it. (Check out the Episode here)

Wrap Up

Justin, thanks so much for coming on the show. I have one final question for you, and it's an important one. Where can people find you online?

Justin:             Great. The central location I guess for my online presence is my website, which, justinhockey.com. It's hockey as in same as the sport, H-O-C-K-E-Y, justinhockey.com. I'm also on Twitter, with a rather awkward user name, which is linked on my website. So, I'll just leave it at that. But yeah, that's my main online presence. And I've got a sometime blog, a blog that I sometimes write on that. And certainly, there's at least on article on there so far about productivity and some of the tools we've described today.

Martine:            That's brilliant. Thanks again, Justin, it's been a pleasure having you on the show.

Justin:             Likewise, and thank you so much, Martine.

3. How to Set Up a Professional Development Library (Anywhere)
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Episode 77 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores setting up a professional development library… anywhere!


Today’s episode is will be short and practical. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if it was an episode in its own right! However, based on the success of this particular initiative, I decided it was too good not to share.

So, here’s the issue: through conversations with teaching colleagues, I became aware that only a small number seemed to be reading for professional development (with the exception being our trainee teachers and those studying at Master’s and PhD level).

I’ve not yet come up with a definitive reason why - and it is beyond the scope of this episode - but it could be anything from lack of interest or incentive to not realising reading could be classed as professional development.

Whatever the reason, I decided one possible solution could be to make professional reading more (physically) accessible. We have some great books about teaching and learning in the library but we never see teaching colleagues there. This is probably because it feels more like a student space. Perhaps the answer was to take the books (and journals) out of the library and to the people!

My Inspiration

Full disclosure - setting up a professional development library is not a new idea. While I had recognised “the problem” my inspiration for the solution came from a talk I saw at the ResearchEd National Conference back in September 2019. You can listen to my recap episode at theteachingspace.com/73. Thank you to Joanne Jukes, Joanne Tiplady and Louise Lewis for the inspiration (follow them on Twitter!)


There was only one person I need to talk to about this idea - my librarian (Learning and Information Services Manager), Rachel. Thankfully, we share an office, so that was easy.

I am extremely lucky to have Rachel as a resource. She is first and foremost a LISM but she is also a qualified teacher in FE, so she has a clear understanding of some of the challenges I face in my professional development role.

At first, Rachel was a little concerned about removing books from the library as she has systems in place for lending. This was totally understandable. However, our library facilities aren’t always staffed and there is a sign-out sheet system in place for these times. Moving books out of the library, under the sign-out sheet system, posed no increased risk. Furthermore, the creation of “mini-libraries” would likely result in increased loans.

Rachel was on board.


One major challenge we needed to consider was the fact that our College is spread over three campuses. We decided to set up a separate “mini-library” on each campus and ensure the curated book selection was the same, to ensure fairness.

Making a Plan

So Rachel worked on a plan to create three mini-libraries. We wanted to start small and low key, so we curated a collection of five books about teaching and learning and a few copies of BERA (British Education Research Association journal). We also included an academic poster.

We agreed it would be good to refresh the books once a term (with the flexibility to change that frequency as needed). For our first book collection we selected:

Visible Learning for Teachers by John Hattie Dual Coding for Teachers by Oliver Caviglioli Just Great Teaching by Ross Morrison McGill What If Everything You Knew About Education Was Wrong? by David Didau Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan Wiliam Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction (Poster by Oliver Caviglioli)

We created a spreadsheet to note our current and future collections.

Then it was time for a “campus tour” to identify the best locations for our books - staff rooms seemed to make sense. Once the locations were agreed, we decided on a date to “go live” (two weeks later).

Rachel assembled the books and sign out sheets, I made posters and took charge of “marketing!” (Ahem… when I say “marketing” I mean that I mentioned the libraries in my weekly professional development email newsletter and tweeted about the libraries a bit!)

Going Live

Our libraries went live on a Monday morning. We chatted with lots of colleagues about the libraries during the set up process and the reception was great. I tweeted all morning about the initiative and received a sponsored book collection offer!


At the time of recording the libraries have been running for over 6 weeks and lots of people have borrowed and returned books. My aim was to encourage colleagues to access professional development books - this has worked. I have yet to run the numbers but it’s clear that people like the libraries and they are being used purely based on sign out sheets. I will run statistics when we refresh the collection. I suspect we will need to refresh the collections more regularly to keep interest high.

What Now?

We have so many ideas! Here are a few:

Journal club Book competitions Staff recommendations/curated collections Reviews

Ultimately we need to ensure the collections are carefully curated; books should be current (with some classic teaching and learning texts) and relevant. We plan to avoid subject specialisms and focus on teaching and learning.

What do you think? Is this something that could work in your organisation? Let me know, I would love to hear from you.

Wrap Up Support the Show

That’s it for today. Before I go I have a small request: if you enjoyed today’s episode, please support by leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen.

Questions? Comments?

If you have any questions about the show or thoughts you’d like to share you can do so by either:

Leaving a comment on this episode’s show notes blog post. Posting in our Facebook group: TTS Staff Room. Posting on Twitter (I’m @MartineGuernsey if you want to mention me). Contacting me via The Teaching Space website: theteachingspace.com. Leaving me a voicemail on Voxer where I’m theteachingspace.

The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com.

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.

4. Helping Lower Level Learners to Thrive: an Interview with Louise Misselke
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Episode 76 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores the topic of helping lower level learners to thrive.


Hello and welcome to The Teaching Space Podcast. It's Martine here. Thank you so much for joining me. Today I have a guest on the show and, I think, rather than me tell you all about her, I'm going to ask her to do that bit herself. Hello, Louise. How are you?

Louise:    Hello, I'm good. Thank you.

Martine:      Welcome to the show. Would you like to introduce yourself to The Teaching Space Podcast listeners? Tell us who you are, what you do, and most importantly, where in the world are you?

Louise:    Yeah, okay. My name's Louise Misselke and I'm the Principal of the College of Further Education in Guernsey, which is a general FE college. At the moment, I'm sitting in my home looking at a blustery gale outside.

Martine:      Yes, that makes two of us because actually we're both based in Guernsey and actually, Louise and I work together, which is one of the reasons I knew she'd be a good guest on the show.

It’s really horrible out there, isn't it? There's probably going to be a bit of a windy noise in the background. So listeners, if you hear anything a bit peculiar, that it's just the weather.

The reason I have asked Louise to come on the show today is that we are going to chat about helping lower level learners to thrive in further education, in particular. Today, we're going to be talking about an ongoing study that you're working on with Dr. Liz Atkins from the University of Derby.

The title of today's show is Helping Lower Level Learners to Thrive and I'd really like to dig into this study and what you've discovered and all of that good stuff.

Louise:    Okay.

Martine:      Would you be kind enough to provide a bit of background on the study in kind of the Guernsey College context?

Louise:    Yes, yes. I'll talk about the Guernsey College context and then, I'll talk a little bit about the background of the study.

 As I said, we're a general further education college, so we have students aged 16 to 19, but also, we have adult learners and apprentices as well, all studying technical, professional or vocational education. Every year, we get a number of students who come to us who have largely been unsuccessful at school, so they come to the college at 16.

Now, when I say they've largely been unsuccessful, this could be for a whole variety of reasons. It could be for social emotional reasons, it could be because they've got very complex lives, it could be that they've had health issues during their school years or it could be that they just didn't fit in school and, for a whole host of reasons, haven't been successful. They exit school without any qualifications at 16 or with a suite of qualifications with very low grades and progressed to the college. We have had a variety of different models for supporting these students with the goal of trying to get them to progress on to further courses at the college, either full time or through an apprenticeship with limited success in the past.

Around 2015/16, I went to a conference where I saw Dr. Liz speaking about her research around the level one learners. I had a chat to her and talked about the possibility of us collaborating on a piece of research really to see if we changed the curriculum offer on our approach, whether that would actually provide a better service to our students because what was happening was students were becoming disengaged and exiting the course early or not achieving and we weren't really doing the best by our students.

Now, if I think about level one students in general, if you look across the UK and in England, so these are students who, as I said, often have very complex lives, but not always. They're often socially excluded, they're invisible in terms of policy, they have often had a negative previous education experience, often characterised as problematic, between 30 and 50% of them usually become NEET, which means Not in Education, Employment, or Training. Often their progression is characterised by periods of employment in low skills, low value employment and periods of unemployment and usually work is not secure. Often they're only able to access low status, low value programmes and the curriculum that's offered in England for level one, currently and historically, has been a very dry curriculum with little aspirations and actually has very little value in the market place.

The group of students that we were having in Guernsey College was no different, really, to the groups of students that Liz had done her research about in the UK. They come with everything that I've described and actually the curriculum that was available for us in Guernsey but also for colleagues in the UK, generally, is a very dry, low value curriculum offer.

We had a lot of discussion about what we can do in Guernsey and because through Liz's extensive research, she sort of had hypothesised what would be really useful for students in this group. We developed a curriculum together and have been monitoring and evaluating, through research process, its effectiveness over the last... Well, we're in our third year now.

One of the reasons we thought it would be really useful to do the piece of research here was because we are an island and students, particularly these sorts of students, often don't leave and so, it's easier, in many ways, to look at their long-term progress to see if what we've actually provided for them has had an impact on their own self belief, their aspirations, their career progression and pathway, and whether its had that positive impact.

Martine:      Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I can see that sort of following their journey would be far more straightforward on a very tiny island as we are.

Louise:    What we did was we looked at the curriculum and looked at how the curriculum needed to change in order to engage the students because we did have quite a high dropout rate. What were we doing that was not really good enough for them? We weren't engaging them, keeping them inspired and so on. How could we do that and how could we create a curriculum that actually allowed them to have a meaningful experience with high value that they could then go on to meet their own goals and aspirations? Because, often these students, first of all, they're not unintelligent, which is a common misconception about level one students and number two, they absolutely have aspirations for their place in the world, but often, sometimes because of their complexity in their life or their experience in school, if it hasn't been a positive one, they've missed out on a huge amount of careers information, advice and guidance, which would allow them to understand the stepping stones they need to take to realise their aspirations.

We recognise that the curriculum has to be really, really engaging, that we had to build in really clear and visible careers advice, information and guidance. English and maths, obviously, is of critical importance. We know, don't we, that if we ask any sort of employers what one of the most critical things that they will talk about is the need for English and math skills, literacy and numeracy skills. But the other thing that is really, really important for this group is to provide them with some ways of gaining social and cultural capital to understand their place in the world and that powerful knowledge that comes from social and cultural capital building because, often, these students might have missed out on those aspects throughout their earlier years.

Martine:      That cultural capital comment is really interesting. I don't want to keep going back to the fact that Guernsey is different to the UK, but actually, we don't live in, for example, a particularly multicultural society.

Louise:    No.

Martine:      Actually, from a kind of life experience perspective, I can really see how in particular our level one learners could be missing out on lots and lots of important experience, that certainly, when you get into the workplace, is absolutely essential.

Louise:    Yeah.

Martine:      That's a really interesting point.

Louise:    Yeah. Yes, absolutely.

If I talk about the offer, the curriculum offer, and then, I'll talk about the research that sort of wrapped around it, the curriculum offer, as I said, is it's composed of a core vocational offer. We felt it was very important that the students still had the opportunity to attain qualifications because for feelings of self-worth and self-belief, actually being able to achieve something is really, really important. We offer them a curriculum of a vocational qualification in the area they particularly want to, so students can apply to us and do a programme in sports and public services, for example, or in health and early years, for example.

Then, there are the English and maths elements which are essential. Then there's the really visible careers information, advice and guidance. And when I say it's really visible, what is important with these students is for them to realise where they are and where they want go and actually map that out. It sounds like a really basic thing. What we've done here is not a golden... It's not something fantastical that's never been done before, but we have displays of what the students' careers aspirations are and the stepping stones that they need to take to get there.

We also include work experience and that's really interesting because work experience and work placement was something that we, before we did the project that we were really challenged by often because the students had bought with them such challenges that we, as an organisation, felt that we couldn't place them with some of our employers. That, on reflection, is really wrong because we were denying those students an opportunity and actually what we've discovered through the project is work experience is one of the most useful elements for the students in terms of really developing their concepts of self-worth and self-belief, but also those relationships with employers and realising that they can make a positive contribution to society, has been essential.

Then, wrapped around all of that, is an enrichment programme. Things like taking the students out for dinner, going to the cinema, going to the theatre. They've had an off-island trip and that's really important because some of these students have never been off the island.

The teaching team took them to UK, which is really important because some of these students have never been to the UK or actually off Guernsey before and they went to an activity centre for a week and also went to Thorpe Park, which was pretty amazing for all of them.

The curriculum is delivered through project, so it's a project based delivery model, which again is not rocket science. It's been around in education and talked about and actually there's a huge amount of research evidence that says it's really effective. But this is the key, I think, that keeps those students engaged because they do a series of projects and through that, they attain their vocational curriculum, their maths and English, they get the work experience, they get the careers, information and guidance and also the enrichment through those series of projects.

That's the curriculum. One of the other things that we're very lucky, another element that the students experience is time in the Forest School. We're very lucky to have a highly qualified member of staff who is trained in for a school. The students go have that on their timetable every week and go and build fires and cook pizzas in the new pizza oven that's being built out in a sort of woodland area, which which they really, really love.

Martine:      It sounds like so much fun. Sorry to interrupt you. Could you just explain in a bit more detail what the Forest School thing is because some of my listeners might not be familiar with that and I think it's an exciting concept?

Louise:    The concept of Forest School is really outdoor learning and our lecturer is a trainer for Forest School practitioners. It commonly happens in the primary area where teachers are trained in Forest School abilities to enable them to take younger children outside to learn and play. Things that our students do in this context is learn how to build a fire. They've done some cooking outside as well. But for primary age children, it is learning outside and that's the concept of the Forest School.

Martine:      Sounds wonderful.

Louise:    Yes, it is. The sorts of projects that the students have been engaged with, they organised an event for equality and diversity for the whole college. That was great because they had the media in and were being interviewed by the radio and the TV, actually, so that was really exciting. They organised, last Christmas, a Christmas community craft event where the students invited older people from one of the residential homes in and also invited children from a local preschool in and they did Christmas crafts together. The students organised the whole event and then, obviously evaluated it afterwards, which was part of the qualification that they were doing.

Some of the enrichment things I've talked about. They've been to the cinema, they'd been out for a meal, they've been to listen to some lectures where speakers are over on the island. All sorts of different things, which are sort of broadening horizons.

Work placement, as I said, has been really, really important. In fact, one of the students attained an apprenticeship through going on their workplace with an employer, which was a really successful outcome for that young person.

That's been the curriculum. Now, the research, we're very, very lucky and fortunate to have been sponsored to do the research by a local company, Rothschild's and Co, who have a really significant corporate social responsibility programme to support young people in these sorts of circumstances. It was a perfect fit and they've sponsored the research over the last three years. We're in our third year now.

The research that has happened is we took students from the year '16, '17, we had 39 students enrolled in total. Just to give a profile of those students, 11 had been supported by the youth commission, which is the youth service charity locally, 6 of them had experienced a family breakup, 2 did not live with the birth family, 6 had seen or experienced domestic violence, 7 stated that they had no one to talk to, 3 of those students had self-harmed, 3 had a family member who were involved with the police, 2 were supported by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, 3 of the students had social workers and 8 of the students suffered from anxiety. It gives you an idea of the sorts of challenges that these young people are faced with in their lives.

The research really focused on research for social justice, not socially just research and focused on looking at gathering information about a smaller cohort of those students. We actually took a sample of 12 students and they were given structured interviews at the start of their programme during their programme and at the end of their programme. Then, they've been followed up subsequently over the last couple of years with similar interviews, really looking at whether they feel that they've achieved what they wanted to achieve, whether the course and the qualification helped their progression, what are they doing there now and how do they know, has the course supported to get them to where they are now.

We've been able to follow students during that time and, of course, since '16, '17, we've had other students enrolling on the programme and every year we've taken a small cohort, a small sample to follow them. Not only have we got the first cohort that we're following, we've got the subsequent years cohorts as well.

In terms of outcomes, what we've seen is if I talk about the percentage becoming NEET, which is Not in Education, Employment, or Training, before we started the programme, about 30% of the cohort were becoming NEET. Now, we're on about 18%. Whilst it's not good enough, because it's still 18%, it has decreased quite significantly. The dropout-

Martine:      Yeah. That is a significant improvement.

Louise:    Yes. The dropout rate, so the attrition rate has dropped significantly. We were losing probably about 40% of the students before we changed the curriculum. That's increased. I mean, that's dropped significantly. That would be the wrong way, wouldn't it?

Martine:      Absolutely.

Louise:    Yeah. The retention has improved dramatically. Our overall retention last year was something like 92%.

Martine:      Wow.

Louise:    That's had a massive impact on the students' attainment as well. Progression is massively improved. Students are doing the programme with us and then, progressing on to other courses within the college, which is absolutely fantastic because it means that they're working towards meeting their goals and aspirations either as full-time students and quite a number of them have managed to achieve an apprenticeship which, of course, is aiming for them to achieve their professional goals and aspirations.

But, I think, some of the most profound findings are the stories about how students have progressed and I'm quite happy to give you an example of one of the stories if that would be useful.

Martine:      Yeah, that would be lovely. Please do.

Louise:    The names of the students have been changed to give them gender neutral names in the research because we're a really small community and anybody that lives in a small community knows that it's really easy to identify anyone. Even if you just think that you're not using their name and their details, because we're a small community, you have to be really careful because people do know each other. Through the research, we've given them neutral names and also referred to them as he or she, so that their gender isn't specific.

This is a case about Hero, who enrolled onto the programme in 2017 with a really difficult history. Very poor attendance at school, a history of self-harm, had been ejected from the family home due to disapproval of her or his sexuality and was currently sleeping on Auntie's sofa, was abusing drugs and alcohol and was also engaging in risky sexual behaviours, really lacked confidence in their ability to succeed in education or work. During the course, he/she really enjoyed the Forest School, taking part in games, activities, which developed personal confidence and working as a member of a team, fully felt accepted at college and proudly wore the college hoodie and promoted opportunities around the college to other people.

This group had an off island trip to Herm, which was a residential trip, which is a little island off the coast of Guernsey. Initially, Hero was really reluctant to go to Herm as they'd never been on a residential trip before, but really enjoyed this and really felt part of the group.

We have a annual summer ball at the end of the summer term for all of our students and Hero really didn't want to go to the summer ball but eventually did and had an amazing time. Passed the level one programme with a distinction, passed GCSE maths with a significant credential in terms of further education and employment and has been working part-time for the last six months during the course, managed to attain a part-time job.

This student progressed onto a level two programme and continues to develop self-confidence and work placement, most importantly, no longer uses drugs and reduced alcohol intake and is no longer engaging in risk taking behaviour. That was Hero. Quite-

Martine:      What a success story.

Louise:    Yeah, a really, really profound success story. There's so many of them. One student who attained an apprenticeship went on a work placement and attained an apprenticeship. The employer said that the student's attitude to work and confidence was so good that could he have some more students from that group, please.

Martine:      That's wonderful.

Louise:    That really, really, really is good. The students are feeling proud of their achievements and rightly so, they should be. I think, that's so important, isn't it? Because often, these students are people who will have never passed anything necessarily or achieved something. To be able to come to college, stay and then achieve and go onto the next steps is really, really important.

Martine:      Well, I love hearing the statistics and the data as much as the next person, but it really is so heartwarming and surreal when you hear a story like that and the effect that such a positive education experience has had on this individual's life is incredible, really.

Louise:    Yes, it is. It is. Some very positive employment outcomes for students. The research is showing significant social and personal benefits, particularly in the most vulnerable students. The benefit of the project-based approach and the work related experience has been invaluable, particularly in terms of the progression that those students have now been able to secure. If they've gone into an apprenticeship, then it's a secure apprenticeship. They haven't dropped out. Significant improved retention and a smaller proportion of those students becoming NEET.

We've still got some work to do, so we're in the third year, final year, although we've been talking about extending the study for a further two years. We've made some tweaks to the curriculum delivery as we go based on our learning from the previous years. This year, we've tweaked it quite a bit, where the students are going to be achieving qualifications in the first term and then more in the second and more in the third. But fundamentally, at the heart, is a project-based curriculum with a vocational qualification, with all that enrichment wrapped around to confer the social and cultural capital with the maths and English and with the careers advice, information and guidance.

Martine:      That's fantastic. Thank you so much for explaining that, Louise, and also giving that additional context of a real life story because it makes such a difference and actually, the listeners of the podcast are from a wide variety of education backgrounds, but just kind of having that overview of why this is working and how it's working is really fascinating.

Louise:    It is.

Martine:      Thank you for that.

Louise:    That's okay.

Martine:      Is there anything you would like to add to everything that you've explained? 

Louise:    I think, the most important thing about what we've done here is it's not rocket science. There's a huge amount of research, isn't there, around delivering learning and knowledge through projects being really successful and that's what we've done here.

We have got the benefit of having the research around it, which clearly demonstrates how well it's working. The other thing, I think, for any of your listeners that are further education, it hasn't really cost us any more than a UK college would be able to spend on level one students. It's not a really costly way of delivering a curriculum and supporting that learning because all the projects are things that are naturally occurring in the community and we've just tapped into that.

Martine:      That's a really good point actually, Louise, because I think there is a misconception that Guernsey is such an affluent island, that we have all the funding available to do anything we want and that's not the case at all.

Louise:    No, no.

Martine:      A really valid point that this new approach to working with lower level learners has not cost the organisation or then, perhaps, it would've done doing it the old way as it were, so that's a great point.

Wrap Up

Martine:     Louise, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Louise:    You're welcome.

Martine:      It's highly likely that people might want to ask you a question or two-

Louise:    Yes, yes.

Martine:      ... about this exciting project. If that is the case, where can people find you online? What's the best way to say hello?

Louise:    Either Twitter, I'm louisemisselke or people could email me at the college, which is louisem@gcfe.net.

Martine:      That's wonderful and I will make sure there's links to your Twitter account and also the email address on the show notes for the episode.

Louise:    Great. One more thing, I should have said, if anyone wants to ask Liz Atkins, the Professor from University of Derby, she also is available on Twitter, which is drlizatkins, I think. She has got an inaugural lecture at the University of Derby, which is very prestigious, coming up in November, where she is talking about our study.

Martine:      Amazing. Well, again, I'll make sure that information is on the show notes. By the time this episode goes out, I suspect that will have happened. If there are links to sort of a recap of that lecture or any information about it, again, I'll pop that in, so people can access it.

Louise:    Great.

Martine:      Fantastic. Thanks again.

Louise:    That's okay.

Martine:      Thanks for coming on the show!

Louise:    All right then.

Martine:      I hope you'll come back again.

Louise:    All right.

Martine:      Thanks.

Louise:    Have a good day.

5. 5 More Ways Teachers and Trainers Can Improve Presentations
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Episode 75 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores five more ways teachers and trainers can improve their presentation slides.


In episode 45 of The Teaching Space Podcast I explored ten ways teachers and trainers could improve their presentation slides. I recommend you listen to the episode or read the show notes. As a short recap, I covered this:

Use a consistent design Use images carefully Pay attention to fonts Avoid text heavy slides Try shortlinks Embed video Keep animation minimal Use audience participation Use QR codes to share slides Try GIFs

My main professional development focus this year is how I use slides (and handouts) to support learning; there’s some dual coding theory to explore here. I’ve already learned so much through reading and experimentation that I thought a follow-up episode might be in order. So, here it is.

Five More Ways to Improve Your Presentations 1. Branding

This one could be controversial! Some time ago, my College introduced slide templates featuring the organisation’s logo and social media icons and handles. The intentions were good. I understand the benefits of consistent presentation to the outside world (wearing my corporate hat). Another benefit was that for some colleagues, decision fatigue was reduced, along with the use of distracting fonts…

Without questioning, I started using the templates. I also spent time switching old presentations I still used over to the new format.

Then I attended Oliver Caviglioli’s talk at the ReserachEd National Conference in September and he prompted some questions:

Is a logo really needed on all slides? Do my learners need reminding where they are? Do I want my learners to interrupt their learning to follow the organisation on social media?

The answer is no.

Marking guru, Seth Godin, recommends no more than six words per slide:

“No more than six words on a slide. EVER. There is no presentation so complex that this rule needs to be broken.”

I’m not quite there yet, but working towards this goal. The reason I bring it up, though, is that the words used in our logo and social media handles totalled far more than six. The words, and indeed the images, were superfluous and distracting.

2. Purpose

What is a slide deck for? It is not a teleprompter for the teacher or trainer. Be honest, do you use your slides this way? I did. That’s why they were so wordy!

Your slides should support and enhance the learning process. Fewer words - more images. Dual coding theory makes an excellent case for this approach, as mentioned briefly in episode 74.

If you have wordy slides and insist on reading the words out to your learners, you will likely encounter split-attention effect. This is when your learners are required to split their attention between, for example, reading information from a slide and listening to you read the information out at the same time. This results in increased cognitive load and is likely to have a negative effect on learning as information does not enter working, and ultimately long-term memory.

3. Presentation Notes

“But Martine, I want my learners to take away more than a set of slides with just a few words and pictures on…” I hear you and agree some learners will want more after the session.

Why not create presentation notes as a separate (but beautifully formatted) document? You can use them in the session and learners can take them away afterwards.

You could argue that “speaker’s notes” in PowerPoint or Google Slides serve this purpose, however, if your learners follow along with your presentation digitally, they could access your speaker’s notes and become distracted. Speaker’s notes have limited formatting options too.

4. Grid System

When deciding on your slide layout, consider using an invisible grid to align everything. PowerPoint and Keynote have this feature built in. You can add gridlines manually in Google Slides.

A grid allows you to create visual consistency, which is pleasing to the eye. Do vary the pattern though, to create interest. According to Oliver Caviglioli:

”Alignment is very important in bringing order and harmony to how the information is presented.”

5. No Bullets

I’m challenging myself to stop using bullet points on slides. Bullets are usually a sign of slides being used a prompt for the teacher or trainer.

Seth Godin reminds as that “slides are free”. Rather than having, say, six points on one slide, six slides could be used. That would equate to one point per slide (you’d not need a bullet point in that case would you?) A short, punchy sentence would suffice. Or even, shock horror, just a picture.

Again, I’m not there yet with this approach. But I am keeping it in mind when I produce a slide deck and I’m seeing positive reactions.

Wrap Up

I hoped you enjoyed this episode; I also hope it challenge your practice. I am certainly not an expert in this area, however, I am really enjoying exploring it and experimenting. I’d love to know about your experience too.


Blog post from Seth Godin: Really Bad PowerPoint Blog post from Seth Godin: Words on Slides Dual Coding with Teachers: The Course by Oliver Caviglioli - Slides Dual Coding with Teachers: The Book by OIiver Caviglioli Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds Slideology by Nancy Duarte Support the Show

That’s it for today. Before I go I have a small request: if you enjoyed today’s episode, please support by leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen.

Questions? Comments?

If you have any questions about the show or thoughts you’d like to share you can do so by either:

Leaving a comment on this episode’s show notes blog post. Posting in our Facebook group: TTS Staff Room. Posting on Twitter (I’m @MartineGuernsey if you want to mention me). Contacting me via The Teaching Space website: theteachingspace.com. Leaving me a voicemail on Voxer where I’m theteachingspace.

The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com.

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.


6. A Brief Introduction to Sketchnoting for Teachers and Trainers
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Episode 74 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores the visual note taking skill of sketchnoting.


In today’s episode we’re exploring my new favourite thing: sketchnoting. I am excited about this topic because it seems to combine all of my worlds: education, writing, reading, learning, technology and drawing. I’m still a sketchnoting novice, but hopefully, for the purpose of this podcast anyway, my enthusiasm makes up for my lack of skill.

What are Sketchnotes?

According to sketchnote-love.com:

”Sketchnotes (sketch + notes) are visual notes, so more than just the regular text notes we all are used to take. When sketchnoting you enhance your regular notes with visual elements such as small drawings, frames, arrows, letterings etc. In the end you get notes with benefits. They help you to visualize and structure contents of any kind and help you to treasure information.”

I love the idea of “notes with benefits”!

Here’s an example of my first sketchnote; it’s from a talk I saw by Daisy Christodoulou deliver at the ResearchED National Conference 2019 (listen to my podcast about the event here).

Why are Sketchnotes Useful for Educators?

There is vast array of research available to explain why combining words and images helps support memory and learning. You won’t find a better starting point than Kathy Schrock of Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything. It includes links to research papers, books and videos.

In short, thought, sketchnoting uses both the verbal and visual input channels to your memory so increases the likelihood of taking in and retaining information. Your whole mind is engaged. This is the basic premise of dual coding theory. If you are listening to a talk, for example, you go from being a passive participant to an active one if you are doodling what you hear. Sketchnoting helps you concentrate and remember what you heard.

This is of course, useful for students, but my focus for today’s episode is us: the teachers and trainers (I’d like to explore how our students could use sketchnotes in a future episode). If you are super keen to explore this now though check out Doug Neill’s course: Sketchnoting in the Classroom.

Why might WE find sketchnoting useful? Quite simply, it’s for our professional development. You could sketchnote at conferences or while listening to education podcasts or reading books. TED talk videos are ideal sketchnote material while you are still learning the skill as they are short and you can pause them! I have found the app Blinkist invaluable for the same reason.

Incidentally, if you fancy sketchnoting an episode of The Teaching Space podcast then please do! If you email me the sketchnote or share it with me on social media I will send you a free copy of my book, The Productive Teacher.

That’s how I think sketchnoting can help teachers and trainers.

Here’s an example of a sketchnote I did after listening to Daniel T. Willingham’s book “Why Don’t Students Like School?” via Blinkist.

But I Can’t Draw

I am predicting the number one barrier to teachers or trainers trying to sketchnote is this statement… “I can’t draw”.

No problem.

According to Mike Rohde sketchnoting is about “ideas not art”. If you have ideas, you can sketchnote. Rohde makes the point that:

”Kids draw to express ideas. They don’t worry about how perfect their drawings are, as long as their ideas are conveyed.”

So why not give it a try?

Resources Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything: Sketchnote Resources The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde The Sketchnote Workbook by Mike Rohde Verbal to Visual with Doug Neill (check out his courses) Wrap Up Support the Show

That’s it for today. Before I go I have a small request: if you enjoyed today’s episode, please support by leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen.

Questions? Comments?

If you have any questions about the show or thoughts you’d like to share you can do so by either:

Leaving a comment on this episode’s show notes blog post. Posting in our Facebook group: TTS Staff Room. Posting on Twitter (I’m @MartineGuernsey if you want to mention me). Contacting me via The Teaching Space website: theteachingspace.com. Leaving me a voicemail on Voxer where I’m theteachingspace.

The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com.

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.


7. ResearchED National Conference 2019 Recap
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Episode 73 of The Teaching Space Podcast shares clips from my visit to the ResearchED National Conference in London earlier this year.

Links and Resources

This episode features a selection of recordings I made on my mobile phone (please excuse the quality) while attending the ResearchED National Conference in September 2019.

Here are some of the people and resources I mentioned: 

ResearchED ResearchED Guernsey event Daisy Christodoulou on Twitter Seven Myths About Education by Daisy Christodoulou Sam Pullan on Twitter CPD ladies on Twitter: Joanne Jukes, Joanne Tiplady and Louise Lewis Oliver Caviglioli on Twitter Dual Coding for Teachers by Oliver Caviglioli Wrap Up Support the Show

That’s it for today. Before I go I have a small request: if you enjoyed today’s episode, please support by leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen.

Questions? Comments?

If you have any questions about the show or thoughts you’d like to share you can do so by either:

Leaving a comment on this episode’s show notes blog post. Posting in our Facebook group: TTS Staff Room. Posting on Twitter (I’m @MartineGuernsey if you want to mention me). Contacting me via The Teaching Space website: theteachingspace.com. Leaving me a voicemail on Voxer where I’m theteachingspace.

The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com.

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.

8. Public Speaking for Teachers and Trainers (the Podcast Edition)
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Episode 72 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores the skill of public speaking and why it is relevant to teachers and trainers.


Today’s episode is based on a blog post I wrote a few years back on public speaking. I really wanted to make an audio version; so here it is.

Before I launch into this topic, I want to say this: teaching is SO MUCH MORE than public speaking.

I don't believe good public speakers necessarily make good teachers. In fact, often, they're terrible. The role of the teacher is to facilitate learning; not to talk ALL THE TIME.

However, I do believe that improving your public speaking skills can have a positive and powerful effect on your teaching, but probably not for the reason you think.

I mean, yes, working on your speaking skills focuses you on communicating clearly. That's important.

But the most positive outcome is this: you appear confident. While you may not feel confident on the inside, you project confidence to everyone around you. This will elevate your teaching to a higher level.

In business, we call it relationship marketing. You aim to project yourself in such a way that prospective customers will begin to know, like and trust you.

Teaching isn't that different really. You want your learners to know, like and trust you so you have the opportunity to create a learning environment in which they thrive and have the best chance of success.

What follows are my thoughts on how to improve your public speaking if you are faced with the terrifying task of giving a speech or talk.

Public Speaking is Terrifying

Every single time I talk to a group of people I experience the same feelings: fear, anxiety and an overwhelming desire to be sick. Even preparing to podcast (ahem… that’s basically talking to myself) gives me butterflies.

But I love it.

And apparently, I look like I love it too. After a talk, people often ask, "Were you nervous?" My immediate reply is always, "Yes, terrified". My response surprises them.

Despite the fact that I find public speaking nerve-wracking, I love it, and I can present in a confident, capable way.

How is That Possible?

With careful preparation, as well as the use of specific routines, I can reduce my fear to a manageable level. I have learned to re-frame my nerves positively.

We learn stress and anxiety are bad, and more often than not, they are.

But pre-performance nerves, whether you are a speaker, athlete, teacher, or actor, can be an asset. You just need to know how to transform those nerves from negative to positive.

A Bit of Biology

It’s useful to understand what happens to our bodies when we are nervous. It’s all about the brain. Your brain has one important job - to keep you alive. It makes your organs work and keeps you safe.

When you are in a potentially dangerous situation, for example, standing in front of a group of people, preparing to speak, you experience the feeling of fear.

In response to your fear, your brain releases adrenaline and other stress hormones such as cortisol in preparation for a “fight or flight” response. Adrenaline super-charges you so that you’ve got extra energy and power for fight or flight. It’s amazing - you can even see and hear better.

The more fearful you are, the greater the adrenaline surge.

How Does This Help Me?

If you perceive a situation to be utterly terrifying, there is going to be a lot of adrenaline shooting through your body. A bit of adrenaline is good. Too much adrenaline is going to make you feel awful (heart thumping, sweating, panic… you’ll be opting for “flight" any moment).

The brain does not know what you are scared of - it only knows your emotional reaction to the thing that scares you. If you are feeling terrified, it’s going flood your body with adrenaline. If you are only mildly scared, less adrenaline is needed. That’s the key.

If you can make the prospect of speaking in public seem less scary, your body will not produce as much adrenaline. You can do this through practice, careful preparation and routine.

The second thing we can do is carefully manage the remaining adrenaline and use it positively.

Here are some strategies to help before, during, and after your public speaking engagement.

Before Become A Better Speaker

If you know you are a good public speaker, your feeling of confidence will dramatically reduce your fear.

The more public speaking you do, the more confident you become. You’ll still feel some nerves - this is healthy. Anyone who walks into a public speaking gig with no nerves at all is cocky. Cocky people aren’t engaging. They are irritating.

If you are new to public speaking you need to practice, but not necessarily in front of others at this stage. That comes later.

One of the best ways to improve your public speaking is to record yourself and listen back. Video is better than audio, but let’s take one step at a time. It’s going to make you cringe but do it anyway.

Listen out for:

Verbal fillers: for example, “umm” and “err”. We use fillers because gaps in speech make us uncomfortable. Also, they buy us "thinking time". Verbal fillers can irritate your audience. After a while, it’s all they can hear. They focus on counting the number of times you say “like” and ignore your actual message completely. Try to minimise your use of verbal fillers and instead, just pause. A pause can be incredibly engaging. Popular TED speaker, Sir Ken Robinson, demonstrates this beautifully. He’s also got fantastic comic timing - if you want to see a master public speaker at work, watch as much Sir Ken as much as you can. (Incidentally, I am aware I used some verbal fillers on this podcast; “so” is a favourite. I’m aiming for a very conversational style for the show, and as such, I leave fillers in so it sounds natural. This advice is about formal public speaking where different standards apply.) Pace: the excess adrenaline caused by fear makes everything move a bit more quickly. In a traditional “fight or flight” situation, it would be your legs or fists moving fast. When you are giving a talk, it will be your breathing and speech that speed up. Public speaking is very different to conversing with just one person. You need to remember your audience is made up of lots of different individuals. Perhaps some speak English as a second language or are not familiar with your accent. You want to speak to be understood by all, so you must speak more slowly than normal. It will feel odd, but re-record yourself speaking more slowly and listen. Also, practice pausing. Mouth sounds: microphones pick up the (utterly gross) sound a dry mouth makes. Nerves will make your mouth dry. Drink water before giving your speech (not too much - remember the effects adrenaline can have on your bladder) and if possible, have water available during your talk.

Once you’ve practised alone, it’s time to bring in some trusted friends for feedback. Your family are either going to be too kind or too harsh when it comes to giving feedback (I learned that one the hard way!) Find trusted friends who will provide genuine, constructive feedback. Ask them to identify what you are doing well, and your areas for improvement.

Know Your Audience

You cannot prepare for a public speaking engagement without understanding who your audience are. Ask yourself these key questions:

Why are they there? What are their expectations of you?

You could take this exercise a step further and “design” your typical audience member. Give them a name, appearance, age, employment history, religious and political views. Then prepare a talk just for them.


Public speaking starts with writing. Many of the rules for crafting a compelling story apply to writing a speech. For example:

Ensure your talk as a beginning, middle and end. If appropriate, recap regularly and sum up at the end. Outline your topics first using headings or keywords - then build your sentences. Engage your audience from the start. Ask questions. Interact. Use the rule of three to reinforce points (for example “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”). Show don’t tell - use examples and stories to illustrate your point. It will be far more memorable. Write the speech from start to finish and read it out loud, record it and get feedback. Cue Cards

Of course, you don’t want to read your speech word for word on the day. If you do, you will not get a chance to engage with your audience. It’s boring watching someone speak to you with their face buried in a pile of notes.

Your speech needs to be distilled down to discrete cue cards. Here are some tips for creating cue cards:

Use a sentence or heading, to sum up the topic of each card. Include keywords to jog your memory. Type your cue cards if there is any chance you won’t be able to read your handwriting on the day. Colour code your cue cards if your speech includes key themes. Number your cards. Write on one side of each card only. Include approximate timings on your cards. Use plenty of white space. Think about answers to likely questions and put them on relevant cards. Power Posing And Routine

In Amy Cuddy’s popular TED talk, and later in her book “Presence”, she explores the effect positive body language can have on the mind. Cuddy advocates a “fake it till you make it” approach to confidence. If you look and sound confident - you will be more confident. Use the power of body language to melt nerves away.

It might sound like a load of old bunkum, but what have you got to lose? Try holding a Wonder Woman style pose (stand straight, hands on hips, chin up) for a few minutes before you make a speech.

Use your posing time to centre your body and mind and then go for it. Your power pose, combined with some deep breathing and quiet time, might just stem the flow of excess adrenaline and allow you to turn those butterflies into an asset.

I’d recommend turning a chain of activities like this into a habit. Routines are calming and can ground you before stepping into the unknown.


Once you’ve started to speak, you won’t have the mental capacity to remember long and complicated coping strategies. Here are just a few simple things you can do:

If it’s appropriate, have water with you. You can take a sip to fix a dry mouth, or at any point, if you lose your train of thought or need a moment to centre yourself, take a sip. Wear breathable, comfortable clothes, where possible. Don’t wear a colour that will show up an attack of stress sweating. If you are on a stage with lighting, it will be warm - bear that in mind. Think about your physical status. I have a fantastic book called Teach Yourself The Clinton Factor by David Gillespie and Mark Warren which explores the power of status. Regardless of your feelings for ex-American President Bill Clinton, he was an incredibly charismatic communicator. Think about your physicality when presenting to a group of people on a scale of one to ten (one being small, quiet and ineffectual; ten being over the top, loud and dictatorial). Imagine this not only in terms of physical status (stance, hand gestures, eye contact and facial expression) but also vocal tone and vocabulary. One of the reasons President Clinton was popular with so many different types of people (despite, ahem… some significant misdemeanours) was he always pitched his presentation between five and seven. He was sufficiently “presidential” but also “normal” and subsequently very engaging. Can you use this when you give a speech? You must make eye contact with people when presenting or speaking to them. Don’t single out one person - share your eye contact with the room. Write the word “breathe” on every cue card. You might forget! Excess adrenaline makes you breath more quickly. Slowing your breathing down will calm you, make you feel better and slow your pace. After

Take a moment to reflect on what you’ve just achieved. Take note of what your body feels like now the fear has gone. I suspect it will feel pretty good. That’s why I love public speaking.

Wrap Up Support the Show

That’s it for today. Before I go I have a small request: if you enjoyed today’s episode, please support the show by either:

Leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. Buying my book, The Productive Teacher, on Amazon or Kobo (find more information at theprodutiveteacherbook.com). Making a small one-off, or monthly, financial contribution to the running costs of the show on my Kofi page which you can find at ko-fi.com/theteachingspace.

… or doing all three if you are feeling super generous! Any financial contributions go directly towards the running costs of the podcast so you are investing in future content. Thank you.

Questions? Comments?

If you have any questions about the show or thoughts you’d like to share you can do so by either:

Leaving a comment on this episode’s show notes blog post. Posting in our Facebook group: TTS Staff Room. Posting on Twitter (I’m @MartineGuernsey if you want to mention me). Contacting me via The Teaching Space website: theteachingspace.com. Leaving me a voicemail on Voxer.

The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com.

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.

9. Getting Started With Productivity Apps and Tools
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Episode 71 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores how to get started with productivity apps and tools.


If you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while you will know I love a good productivity app! If a new one comes out I will be first in line to try it. However, the massive range of tools and apps available can be overwhelming, particularly if you are just starting your journey to becoming a productive teacher.

Even if you’ve been working on improving your productivity for some time, it’s easy to focus on apps and forget the productivity strategies you need behind them. So that’s what we’re looking at today. We’re going back to basics.


The Productivity Trifecta

I suggest the following tools are needed for improved productivity:

Calendar To-do list Project management

A calendar is essential - without having one safe place to note times and dates of events and meetings, you’re going to struggle. A calendar can also be used to time block (see episode 62 of The Teaching Space podcast).

All tasks you need to achieve, both personal and professional need to come out of your head and into a trusted place - this is likely to be a to-do list. David Allen explores this idea of “a trusted place” in his Getting Things Done methodology. This isn’t just a productivity necessity - it’s a positive mental health practice.

As projects are made up tasks, you might need to go a step further and have a system to manage projects. It might be that you have one tool that integrates date, task and project management. Or you might prefer different tools for each. That’s what we will explore next.

Analogue or Digital?

Before we talk tools, we “could” get into the analogue versus digital discussion… but let’s not! You absolutely must work in a way that suits your needs, regardless of trends or peer pressure!

I’m a digital gal but that does not mean digital is better, it is just right for me.

If you are comfortable and happiest with paper then perhaps look at the Bullet Journal. If I was a paper person, it would definitely be the approach that interests me most, not least because you can manage tasks, projects and dates in one trusted place. You can also design your Bullet Journal exactly how you want it.

Let’s not forget the fabulous Filofax either. While it isn’t quite as flexible as the Bullet Journal, you can still customise a Filofax with different sections and cover the Productivity Trifecta with ease.

Apps and Tools

Allow me to talk digital for a few moments. Here are some tools and apps I like:

Calendar Google Calendar for EVERYTHING (check out episode 62 to find out more about how I use Google Calendar) Integrated calendars in certain to-do list or project management tools such as TickTick or Asana Calendly To-do list TickTick (I use it as a simple project management tool) Todoist Workflowy Project management Asana Trello Notion Wrap Up Support the Show

That’s it for today. Before I go I have a small request: if you enjoyed today’s episode, please support the show by either:

Leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. Buying my book, The Productive Teacher, on Amazon or Kobo (find more information at theprodutiveteacherbook.com). Making a small one-off, or monthly, financial contribution to the running costs of the show on my Kofi page which you can find at ko-fi.com/theteachingspace.

… or doing all three if you are feeling super generous! Any financial contributions go directly towards the running costs of the podcast so you are investing in future content. Thank you.

Questions? Comments?

If you have any questions about the show or thoughts you’d like to share you can do so by either:

Leaving a comment on this episode’s show notes blog post. Posting in our Facebook group: TTS Staff Room. Posting on Twitter (I’m @MartineGuernsey if you want to mention me). Contacting me via The Teaching Space website: theteachingspace.com. Leaving me a voicemail on Voxer.

The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com.

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.

10. Powerful Plenaries: An Interview with Oli Bailey-Davies
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Episode 70 of The Teaching Space Podcast is an interview with Oli Bailey-Davies discussing the use and impact of plenaries.


Hello and welcome to the Teaching Space podcast. It's Martine here. Thank you so much for joining me. In today's episode I am excited to bring you an interview. I'm going to hand straight over to Oli and ask him to introduce himself to you, explain who he is, what he does and where he is in the world.

Martine: Hello Oli.

Oli: Hi, Martine. How are you?

Martine: I'm well, thank you for joining me.

Oli: Thank you for having me. Yeah, so I'm Oli. I'm a lecturer at the College of FE in Guernsey and I'm also the Artistic Director of a professional theatre company that's based at the college that I teach at as well.

Martine: And what are we going to be talking about today and why?

Oli: Today we have the exciting task of talking about plenaries and the impact of them on your students and on your classroom, I guess. And part of the reason I guess why you asked me to get involved in this is our college has just started a new observation kind of model, where we were asked to specifically think of one thing that we could impact our teaching or our students. We focused on that as part of our observation cycle. Mine was plenaries because I've always, since doing my teacher training sort of struggled with the concept of plenaries, especially in the performing arts context. I tend to stick them into my lesson plan and then never get to them.

Yeah. So I decided to focus on effective plenaries rather than tokenistic plenaries.

Martine: I'm excited to hear more about that. Bearing in mind the listeners to The Teaching Space Podcast will come from a variety of backgrounds, some will know what plenaries are and use them all the time. Whereas for some it might be kind of a newish concept, particularly people who are just embarking on teacher education for example. So could you just explain what a plenary is exactly, and why it's a good idea?

Oli: Sure. Plenaries are the sort of final task I guess of your session and they are a way of reviewing the learning to gauge, I guess students' understanding of the session. So it’s that kind of final task that you put in to summarise or review the whole session.

Martine: So in some respects it's a bit of formative assessment. It's a bit of recapping, it's a bit of summing up, all kind of amalgamated into one final activity.

Oli: Sure. It's almost like the umbrella of the sessions going, what did I want them to know? Have they understood it? What have I missed, or what haven't they got? I think it's a really good way, especially for teachers to ... I think it's almost more effective as a practitioner to be able to go, did I do my job today? Was I good at what I did? Or did they completely miss the point? I think sometimes you can do a whole session and you can really be like, "Oh my god, this is brilliant, this is amazing." And then you get to the final bit and they like they really didn't understand what I was trying to get to.

I guess in performing arts especially, sometimes we work perhaps in metaphors more, or concepts. We're sort of trying to ... We try and encourage people down a path, or down a journey, rather than saying here are a series of information that you must be able to remember by the end of this session. So sometimes what you think they've understood isn't actually what they've taken from your session.

Martine: I quite like the idea of using a plenary for both assessment, as in checking for learning, but also using it as a bit of an evaluation as well, in terms of working out the quality of what occurred in that lesson, in terms of your performance, and how you made that learning happen and things. So I think the idea of it kind of traversing those two aspects of teaching and learning is a really important point.

Oli: Yeah. And I think to me really, I think I'd almost personally put it that it's a reflection for me almost more than for the learners. I find looking at the sort of the effective of plenaries it's about saying, well have they got it? And if they haven't, then maybe you have to be a bit flexible and you go, okay, right next session I'm going to have to change my style to task. I'm going to do a review of my previous learning. Or maybe I'm going to have to do that whole session again in a completely different way, because they have fundamentally not got the key thing that I thought I was delivering perfectly.

Again, like within performing arts as a context, our lesson plans and our schemes of work have to be really flexible. Because you never know what's going to come up. Or you may plan to say block 10 pages, but you might get stuck on the first page. That's a whole session just on one page of text. So you have to be able to flex and wiggle your schemes to fit. I think the plenary is a really good way of checking in and going, "Have I done what I needed to do today?" Yes or no, and then and then from that, that will affect the next day or the next session or whenever you see them again.

I think self-reflection for staff is one of the most important parts of our development and also the biggest impact for students because you have to sort of not be the master of everything all the time and be prepared to be wrong.

Martine: Your point about self-reflection being so important for teachers is absolutely bang on and actually it's really valuable for students too. So if we can model that to them through our practice, I mean that sends a really powerful message. I get what you're saying about the need for fluidity within your sessions and kind of being able to adapt your scheme of work, that makes a lot of sense. But I guess if you're using say a starter activity and a plenary, it really marks the beginning and the end of the session as well. So where there could be a complete lack of structure, it creates a little bit of structure as well. Is that a benefit you've noticed as well or is that just me making things up?

Oli: Yeah, so I always choose a starter activity like when we play warm up drama warmup games, but I choose the games really specifically to show the skill that I need them to use that session. So it may look like an irrelevant game, but actually it's a really clear, well thought out plan. Although maybe not everybody would see it. So perhaps a game where they're learning a sequence or a pattern, but they have to use words and movement. Then we're going into blockings. It's like, okay, well you have to remember words and blocking and we warmed up your brain to remember muscle memory and spoken memory. So therefore it is a really underpinned theory to the silly game that we play at the start.

But what I've always struggled with is how to then mirror that at the end. The plenaries then have always become ... It's a ticket to leave, or it's one of the kind of the standard education games or activities that would kind of suggest. But it's never felt necessarily vocationally appropriate.

That's where I struggled, felt that I struggled with plenaries. But I also always, always, always run out of time. I get really overexcited and kind of like, we're like really focused on what's happening. And then suddenly, we sort of teach in two-hour blocks, that time has just disappeared. I barely look up at the clock.

Yeah, so I've always run out of time on my sessions and then would upload to Google Drive, or Google Classroom, the plenary task. It would tend to then blur into maybe a bit of sort of homework in a way. Or like a development tasks, going, "Maybe look at this." Or, "Can you comment on this?" Or often it was a sort of a review and comment on the work. So watch this video clip and then tell me two things that you may improve for next session. Or set yourself a target. Or whatever it is that I need them to do.

But again, it always sort of felt tokenistic and like I was trying to fulfil some kind of educational model that I must put in, otherwise I'm not an effective teacher. Whereas it didn't feel like it was necessarily doing the job that a plenary should, of kind of really being in that moment of assessing, or reviewing the learning of the session. Also to give me an understanding. I didn't feel like I was grabbing all of the best bits of the plenary.

Martine: With that in mind, you researched this as part of your college's or our college's professional development scheme, and there was an observation and things like that. What did you find out? What did you learn? Where are you now with plenaries?

Oli: So I think the main thing I learned, or the main thing I took from it was that I was doing really good plenaries, but I just wasn't calling it a plenary. That plenaries aren't necessarily some dark arts of education. That they are something that we naturally do, and we probably instinctively know how to do it. We don't necessarily have to carve out this additional task. Because if you are teaching, especially in a scaffolding approach, you're naturally taking away that support. Then by the end the students tend to have something that is a bit freer where they get to demonstrate their learning. That actually is your plenary. So we always, if I'm say directing a show, and I'm working on a scene, I'll go through the blocking, we'll talk about character choices. We'll look at moments that could be developed or ideas or thoughts. They try things out in three or four different ways. And I'd give them feedback and it's a very reciprocal process.

Then at the end of that moment, we would then put it all together and run it. Then I'd put a plenary task on the end to do something else. And it's like, well actually that run, that is the plenary task, because they they're showing me what they've learned, what they've remembered, and they're also demonstrating what I need to do next to help them improve.

Martine: That's such a great takeaway. So what you're saying is you actually were doing plenaries already. They were serving their purpose. They were part of your teaching and learning plan from the beginning. It was almost a case of putting a label on it. That's so interesting and a great reflection on your part, definitely.

Oli: It's definitely the thing of like, you know, we have, or I tend to favor the sort of the five minute lesson plan sort of structure. It visually works for me a bit better to have a bit more of a kind of a creative page in front of me when I'm thinking about planning my lesson. But you tend to have like certain amount of boxes for your tasks. Say there are five boxes and you're like, "Right, I must split my class into five. I'm going to do my starter task, and then I'm going to do my kind of introduction, and then I'm going to do an activity. Then I'm going to do activity two. Then I'm going to do my plenary." I don't know, I kind of sometimes go, sometimes my lesson is one task, but it's just a really big task that naturally flows from something that gets you into it, doing the activity and reviewing it.

For me, it's learning how to break that down into boxes, I guess, to be able to compartmentalise each section. I could theorise my practice loads and have so many tasks and reflection points and feedback points and peer reviews, and all these things that happen naturally. Or I could get on with my job. So that's, I think, the biggest takeaway I've had is going, if I need to now articulate in a really detailed way, my lesson structure, it's all there. But ultimately I also feel much more confident in going, I've done a plenary because we have reviewed the learning of this session, and I've seen what the students have taken away from it. What they've been able to apply straight away, and sort of looking at the development metacognition, and their ownership of the learning.

Most of my plenary tasks are much more meaningful because the students own it, rather than sort of arbitrarily filling in a form or a, I don't know, you know, sticking a post it on a wall. They've actually just gone, "No, I've done it. I've got it." Or, "I haven't got that bit, I need to work on that."

Martine: There's so much good stuff in there. I mean, when is it ever a good thing that we do something in order to tick a box? That really sounds like what we were doing, you know, I don't know, 24 months ago in terms of the old approach to lesson observations. Where it was performance management and you had to ... You know how lesson observations used to be, there was a formula to get an outstanding lesson observation. You have a starter activity, you have a plenary, you make sure there's plenty of assessment for learning, you don't do a lot of teacher talk, etc, etc. When is that ever good?

Oli Yeah, no, I think that's the thing. It definitely feels like, and I guess this ... Maybe it's an old school approach to kind of the fear of Ofsted, where you have to go through all these things, and there's a certain formula to do a perfect lesson. But I think also there's that thing of going, the perfect lesson is the lesson that needs to be taught. This is what they need right now, and this is how I need to do it. Of course you can be developed, and somebody can give you pointers and guidance on ideas, of how you could improve. But really I think especially in sort of creative subjects, where you just go, this is just what needs to happen right now.

I remember I was being observed, I had my formal lesson observation, and we were lighting the show. It just had to happen, it was the only day I could get into the theatre. The only day I could have the technicians. And that was the time that I was given for my observation.

My lesson plan was like literally one thing of going, I will sit with a technician and we will light the whole show from beginning to end, and the students will stand on stage and move when I tell them to. It was very old school chalk and talk, because they had to be pretty much silent. Do not say anything, until I ask you something, and do exactly what I tell you, when I tell you. Because that's the nature of vocation, what plotting the lighting run is. The observer was ... I just sat there sort of apologising in advance, going, "I'm really sorry, be as honest as you want to be honest, but this is ..." I kind of explained the situation.

I got really brilliant feedback and he really highlighted how independent the learners were. How they had ownership of all of their work. They knew exactly what was doing. We were working completely vocationally. We were working in symmetry. The students knew what I wanted them to do. They were able to adapt, they were resilient, they were resourceful. It was like, "Oh yeah, all that stuff is there and it does demonstrate teaching and it definitely demonstrates learning." But because working in the vocation environment, sometimes you feel like maybe you're not doing the perfect teacher job. And you feel that you should, you know, put more bells and whistles on it. Like there was no maths, I didn't ask them to count to eight whilst walking in time to the music.

Martine: And you didn't use an iPad. There was no iPad use.

Oli: There was no iPad use, there was just a lot of me shouting. That was pretty much it. But that again, that I professionally know and there's a point where, as a performer, you become a self-moving piece of furniture. It's “I don't need your opinion. I don't need you to tell me what the problem is. I need you to stand there so I can make sure the lights are on you, and that the technician can do their job. Right now your ego is not needed, thank you very much.”

Martine: If your learners don't learn that, then they are not going to be good actors who get hired, ultimately.

Oli: That's a really important thing. I mean we very much teach the importance of respecting your technicians. That's a big part of the industry, is, you know, sound and light are people who get given very little time to do their job. But ultimately they can mess you up on stage because if you annoy your lighting technician, they will turn your lights off before you finish speaking. Or they will not turn it on quick enough. There's lots of many ways that other people can mess you up whilst you're the one in front of the audience. So you have to really, I teach a lot of like, as an actor you are only one part of this production. It just happens to be that you're the one that gets all the glory. But really understanding the whole process is a valuable thing for our learning. But also just being able to be ... For somebody, an observer to come in and reflect back to you, that actually I've worked for 12 weeks on this production. I teach company as my core thing. That we're teamwork, I guess, and kind of more educational speak. But that they are there as a company of actors. They are there to work together and they are there as a collective, and that their individual ego isn't being serviced.

We get a lot of stars, or wannabe stars, and it's very difficult sometimes to put them in a box and go, "You're part of a bigger thing now, this isn't about you, this is about everybody." But that learning was then reflected back as a sort of almost towards the end of the process. It's like a summative way of showing that their professionalism is demonstrated more in that moment than it necessarily is when they're performing, because the professional attitude is just to be able to go, okay, this is what needs to happen and I need to do that now.

Martine: Going back to the observation process where you were doing this tech rehearsal and actually your observer was able to kind of highlight so many aspects of good practice there. I also think we need to give a nod to the experience of that observer, because clearly they weren't coming into your lesson with that kind of tick box approach. Where they wanted to see this, this, this, this, this and this. They obviously had a lot of experience and recognised good teaching and learning when they saw it.

Oli: Yeah, absolutely. I mean I feel at our college we are very lucky to have a very ... I guess because we're a vocational college, we have a really diverse teaching staff, who come from many different walks of life. Not many of them are educationalists, first and foremost, they come from industry and they come with lots of different perspectives. It's really nice, I think, at college when you get to go to areas that are completely different to what you would teach in. So you have zero opinion on kind of the content of the teaching. I have no idea whether or not that's how you effectively weld something together. But all I'm looking at is the delivery, the structure, the support, the information and the kind of environment. So I'm not going to go, "Well if it was me, I would ..." I was going to try and talk about welding then, you know, "I would do it slightly differently. I would hold it at this angle."

I don't know that, I haven't got that specialist information. But I can stay that instruction was really clear, that was a really supported ... I can see there was development, you know, those are the things. And so my observer was somebody who does have, I think quite often observed the performing arts area, and always really says ... Has said that they always enjoy sort of coming in and seeing a world that is completely far away from what they exist in normally. Actually that kind of that distance helps you to remove your own opinion or preconceived idea, and you just observe what's going on.

Martine: Absolutely, and I have to say, that is probably the best part of my job, because as a teacher trainer and assessor trainer, I get to see the most incredible teaching and learning happen. Not so long ago I was working with the local police force, and I was watching a firearms trainer assess other police officers shooting. It was such a privilege to be able to be in someone else's environment, and be allowed in. I think as teachers we can learn so much from watching other teachers in different environments. Ultimately, it is just teaching and learning. To make the connection with plenaries, it's much more of a concept than a specific set of games or tools or activities. It's about embracing the concept and making it work for your environment really, isn't it?

Oli: I think so, and I think, you know, you can go online and you can find a hundred effective plenary tasks, or the best plenary activities there are, or buy this and we'll give you loads of plenaries. But really it's working out what is the most effective for you as an individual, but also for the session that you're teaching. A ticket to leave, I keep using that one because it the one I remember the most from teacher training was like okay that's a good one to use, because it's sort of tangible. But that's not always going to be the most effective thing to use. I always worry about students feeling a sense of, "Oh okay, why am I doing this?" If it feels irrelevant then, they're not going to get anything from it, and they're just going to write down anything. I also think plenaries have always felt to me like they're the last five minutes of a session.

The last five minutes of the sessions are, you know, that as are people leaving, you know, really to me the other thing I took away is I tend to do my plenary, the activity really is, is probably three quarters of the way through the session. It's almost like you need a plenary and then an end task, like a fun thing to finish, or a don't forget. Or you know, parish notices, by the way, next week can you bring this in? Whereas it all tended to get very muddled on top of each other. Fill this in, do this, don't forget to do that. Somebody uploaded this, go for that. Can you make sure you stack the chairs away. Okay, bye. And it's like, what just happened? Nothing happened. Nothing was effective, nothing was learned, or no space was given to the reflective nature, I guess, of the plenary.

For the students to be able to go, okay, what have I taken away? What do I need? What did I get? Have I got a question? Like now is the time to ask the question. It's like going, I don't want you to sort of next week come back in and go, "Oh yeah, I forgot to ask at the end of last session, what was this?" It's like, no, ask me at that time. Ask me at that moment, so that we can nail it, or we can make a plan.

Martine: That's such a good point. That's such a good point about not having to have your plenary right at the very end. You know, why are you doing a plenary right at the very end? Because the books say you should. That's a really important takeaway that you've got to make it work for your learners and your topic.

Oli: I think also when I started teaching, or started my teacher training, I realized that I try and fit in a lot into my sessions. Or I want them to really kind of grasp loads of things from every single session, and it's like 20 different takeaways. Actually kind of go, okay, well, no I need to dilute that down. I need to be ... This session I'm really just going to focus on these two or three things. Then your plenary is going, did they get those two or three things? Are they ready for more? That sense of being able to sort of take a litmus test. Go, "Okay, cool. Where were we up to? Okay, we're up to here. Yeah, I can give these people more." Or that person's flying, I'm going to ask them to really work on these two or three things. That person has got no idea what day of the week it is, I need to pull this right back. Being able to gauge where each individual learner is up to means that your plenaries have to be purposeful, and not just like say, "Oh, the books tell me I must, in the last five minutes, do something. Quick, here's a post it note and a felt tip, draw your emotion. Slap it on."

Martine: Could you offer some advice or maybe any kind of resources to the listeners who are wanting to maybe investigate plenaries further, do a little bit of research, see how they could focus on that element of their practice?

Oli: So the best sort of resource that I found that really sort of helped me develop is the How to Teach range by Phil Beadle, I think his name is. There is a book called The Book of Plenary. That's a really good resource for understanding sort of the purpose of plenaries, I guess. Then there are loads of like ... The Teacher Toolkit is a really good place to sort of start. They've got links to the resource plenary resources. My advice really is take the structure of any of the activities, and work out how to adapt it to your session. Even if it's like for giving it a theme or kind of redesigning it slightly. I also think sometimes when as teachers you kind of go, I want to find the resource that I can just download, and just do, and then that's just done. It's the path of least resistance.

I think sometimes just taking five minutes to go, okay, well how could I just slightly re-imagine that, or make it work for what I'm teaching, would be really effective. So if you're on a topic, again, I'll go back to ticket to leave, which is just saying to somebody, "Write down two things that you've learned from this session, or two things that you're going to do. Or a task, something you must remember for next week." Or whatever. Can you fit that into your theme or your topic? How do you adapt things? Really, to me, I think, you know, primary school teachers to me are the absolute pinnacle of teaching pedagogy, really. Because they do this all the time. Constantly just adapt and mix up what they normally do to fit their topic, to fit their theme. Whether it's dinosaurs or Egypt, or whatever other topics there are.

They adapt their resources, and they just spend that time ... A friend of mine, we used to meet up in the evenings, and she used to arrive with pages and pages of laminated stuff that you'd be sitting chatting, and she's still cutting out her laminated things for the next day, because she's like, "I just need these resources, and I've got no time to make them." And primary school teachers to me seem to have, they just have that gift of going, "Here's an idea, and here's how I'm going to change it to fit what I'm doing." They probably use the same resource every term, or every topic, but they just twist it, and then they adapt it. That's something I think teaching older students, you get a bit lazy about. We go, well that's just that, you have it, and there's nothing you can do with it.

So my advice is definitely looking at making it meaningful. If your students needed to have learnt a series of 10 things, then the plenary needs to be, do you know these 10 things. Not don't deal in metaphors, and if a metaphor is not right, tell me, do you know this? If they need to be tested, test them, but maybe try and find a, I don't know, a fun way of testing them. You know, a physical Bingo, where everyone stands up, sits down, when you say a word, what's the definition? Loads of game shows have structures that work for education. Jeopardy is a great one where they give you the definition, you have to say what is the dah, dah, dah.

But yeah, if you need to test them, test them, but be explicit about it. If it's a gauging of where they're up to, then that can be a really diverse and fun way of doing it.

Martine: Oli that's great advice. Thank you so much. Any resources you've mentioned I will make sure I pop a link in the show notes to them, so people can access them easily. Before we wrap things up, I have one final question for you, and that is where can people find you online?

Oli: So I'm on Twitter as myself as OliGsy. That's where I tend to sort of interact the most with education stuff, information. But I'm also, I am the artistic director of a theatre company called TinWhistleProductions.com, where we run corporate training using improvisation and drama techniques.

Martine: Amazing. Well, thank you so much for joining me today on the podcast. It's been a real pleasure and I hope you'll come back again soon.

11. Effective Starter Activities
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Episode 69 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores different ways to start your teaching sessions.


We’re going back to teaching basics today and focussing on starter activities. For the benefit of any new teachers or trainers listening, a starter activity is a short activity at the start of the session which engages your learners as soon as they arrive. It sets the tone of the session.

Why are Starter Activities a Good Idea?

One of the main benefits of using a starter activity is that done well, it can ensure learners arrive in your training room and settle into work-mode quicky and easily. This applies to learners of all ages, incidentally!

It is also a good way to get learners excited about what is about to happen in the session to come. You can really “hook” learners in with a good starter activity.

Starters can also be used to recap on what you covered in the last session.

But Do They Work?

In drafting the outline for this show I did wonder if perhaps starter activities were a bit “passé”. I could not find significant evidence to suggest this. Based on my own experience, starter activities can work extremely well, however, there is an art to picking the right type of activity.

It’s essential to know your learners and select something to meet their needs. In most cases, you should also select an activity related to your teaching topic, otherwise, depending on the age of your learners, it might feel childish or like a waste or time. Also, stick to your session plan when timing your starter activity. It is easy to get carried away and use up a quarter or half of your session on a starter!

Starter Activity Concepts and Resources

I’m conscious that this podcast attracts listeners from a wide variety of backgrounds - this means you could be teaching any age group. So coming up with a list of starter activities you can use today is a little challenging! Instead, what I thought I’d do, is share a few starter activity concepts which you can adapt to suit your learners.

Anagrams: use keywords related to your subject area (although do consider the needs of learners with dyslexia). Here’s an anagram generator. “Pub” quiz: questions could related to the previous session. Perhaps split learners into teams and use buzzers. Kahoot is a fun, online quiz tool if you prefer a digital option. Even my adult learners love a Kahoot starter activity! Who Am I? I mentioned this activity in episode 66 The Power of Sticky Notes - it makes a great starter. Don’t just use people though, perhaps use keywords from the previous session. Recap activity: one of my favourite plenaries is to choose a learner and ask them to tell the group their main takeaway from the session. They then get to chose someone else to do the same. This can also work as a starter activity if learners need to remember an aspect of the previous session. Bingo: using the standard layout of a bingo card, you can create a whole host of starter activities which can get learners answering questions, collaborating and talking about the session topic rather than the weekend. One minute/30 second recap: learners could work individually, in pairs or small teams. Challenge them to come up with a one minute or 30 second recap of the last session which they can deliver verbally or in a way which suits their needs. Pictionary: a team activity requiring a learner to select a card with a keyword from the previous session on and draw it. Team members have to guess the word.

I’d love to hear how you use starter activities - please let me know.

Wrap Up Support the Show

That’s it for today. Before I go I have a small request: if you enjoyed today’s episode, please support the show by either:

Leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. Buying my book, The Productive Teacher, on Amazon or Kobo (find more information at theprodutiveteacherbook.com). Making a small one-off, or monthly, financial contribution to the running costs of the show on my Kofi page which you can find at ko-fi.com/theteachingspace.

… or doing all three if you are feeling super generous! Any financial contributions go directly towards the running costs of the podcast so you are investing in future content. Thank you.

Questions? Comments?

If you have any questions about the show or thoughts you’d like to share you can do so by either:

Leaving a comment on this episode’s show notes blog post. Posting in our Facebook group: TTS Staff Room. Posting on Twitter (I’m @MartineGuernsey if you want to mention me). Contacting me via The Teaching Space website: theteachingspace.com.

The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com.

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.

12. One Teacher’s Experience with Meditation
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Episode 68 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores a reluctant teacher’s experience of meditation.


So, guess what? The “one teacher” named in the title is me and up until about six weeks ago, my general attitude towards meditation was something akin to: it’s a bit “woo-woo” and it’s for “other people”.

I should have called this episode “One Reluctant, Anti-Woo-Woo Teacher’s Experience with Meditation” actually; it would have been more accurate.

Let’s unpick this a little. Based on a gut feeling, I had decided that meditation wasn’t for me. Actually, that’s not strictly true (I am being a little hard on myself). I’d tried meditation a couple of times in various yoga classes. It was really hard. Based on that, and my gut, I decided it wasn’t for me.

Yikes, that’s even worse.

So I decided to try again.

What is Meditation?

Before we delve into my recent meditation experience, let’s take a step back and clarify what meditation is and isn’t.

I have two definitions for you.

The first is from The Cambridge Dictionary:

“Meditation is the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religions activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed”.

The second is from Headspace (more on Headspace later):

”Meditation isn’t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. It’s about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well.”

Honestly, the first definition is really the sort of thing that put me off the practice initially. However, the second definition is interesting. It sounds do-able and beneficial. If you’re anything like me, I suggest you focus on the second definition.

Bigger picture though; I am learning meditation is different things to different people. And that’s OK.

Why Now?

There are two main reasons why I decided to give meditation another try.

The first was that it’s just not cool to discount something entirely based on a (not even particularly strong) gut feeling and the fact that it is hard. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that meditation helps lots of people.

The second reason is more personal. I’m an anxious person; I have struggled with anxiety for most of my life. This might come as a surprise to you given how I present and what I do for a living.

I have learned strategies for managing my anxiety and for the most part I deal with it well. A recent (positive) medication change, however, disrupted my coping strategies somewhat, so I needed to explore some new ones.

Hello, meditation.

What Did I Do?

As you know, I’m a tech gal, so of course, I researched apps to help me learn to meditate. I settled on Headspace because the app appeared friendly and accessible. I took one of their introductory courses which require you to meditate for just a few minutes at a time. Yes - just a few minutes per meditation. There’s a meditation myth busted, right there. You don’t need to meditate for hours on end. A few minutes is fine! The idea of doing something positive for my anxiety for just a few minutes a day is… well… do-able!

The course’s meditations are basically just sitting (or my preference: lying down) quietly, breathing, focussing and listening. What’s not to enjoy?

The app encourages you to meditate daily but doesn’t exactly tell you off if you don’t (another ✅ - I needed this to be gentle if I was going to return to it).

What Did I Think?

I actually rather liked it. And am still liking it. MOST importantly though, I managed to use meditation to bring myself down from an anxiety wobble. Research hat on: this shows me it can work.

Will I Continue?

Short answer - yes. I am not at the stage where it is a daily habit for me but I can see the benefit in building up a kind of “meditation muscle memory”. Honestly, that is probably my next step.

What About You?

Tell me what you think. At the very least perhaps consider why meditation could have value for educators. I’d love to hear from you.

Wrap Up Support the Show

That’s it for today. Before I go I have a small request: if you enjoyed today’s episode, please support the show by either:

Leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. Buying my book, The Productive Teacher, on Amazon or Kobo (find more information at theprodutiveteacherbook.com). Making a small one-off, or monthly, financial contribution to the running costs of the show on my Kofi page which you can find at ko-fi.com/theteachingspace.

… or doing all three if you are feeling super generous! Any financial contributions go directly towards the running costs of the podcast so you are investing in future content. Thank you.

Questions? Comments?

If you have any questions about the show or thoughts you’d like to share you can do so by either:

Leaving a comment on this episode’s show notes blog post. Posting in our Facebook group: TTS Staff Room. Posting on Twitter (I’m @MartineGuernsey if you want to mention me). Contacting me via The Teaching Space website: theteachingspace.com. Leaving me a voicemail on Voxer.

The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com.

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.

13. Seven Ways to Simplify Your Life Outside Work
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Episode 67 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores seven ways you can simplify your life outside work.


While I keep my personal and professional lives separate, I cannot deny that having a simple, stress-free personal life makes me happier and more productive at work.

Here are seven ways I have made my life outside work as simple as possible. Each of these strategies saves precious minutes and minimises stress.

1. Wardrobe Choices

My college doesn’t have a specific dress code; teachers can dress to suit their vocational subject. I’m a teacher and assessor educator so I choose to dress on the smarter side of casual (for example, no jeans, but equally, no power suits!)

While I don’t quite go as far as Steve Jobs and Barack Obama in the sense that I wear the same clothes every day, I do tend to opt for a type of uniform. I tend to wear a dress and cardigan. I’ll usually wear tights and boots in the winter and a closed-toe sandal with bare legs in the summer.

I have a number of similar dresses featuring different patterns, which I rotate, and numerous smart cardigans in neutral colours so I can mix and match them with my dresses easily.

My “uniform” definitely saves me time choosing what to wear in the morning and helps me avoid decision fatigue.

2. Paying for Things

This might seem like an obvious one but I pay all of my bills online, where possible, by direct debit. If I cannot pay by direct debit I always make payments through the banking app on my mobile. I rarely receive paper bills or statements now so my shredder doesn’t get much use anymore.

As an Apple Watch user, I also pay for everything on my watch; even the smallest amounts. While this only saves seconds, those seconds add up.

3. Meals

In episode 31 of the podcast, I explored the benefits of meal planning. I still think meal planning saves a lot of time and stress in the long run; particularly if you have a variety of meals/recipes on rotation.

However, sometimes, if I know I’m going to have a busy week, I might outsource my meal planning by using a service like Hello Fresh. Hello Fresh is the only recipe box delivery service available in Guernsey, but I know there are lots of other options worldwide.

If you’ve not used a recipe box delivery service before, they’re amazing! While I would not want to use one every week, they can be a great help at certain times. Hello Fresh has an app, so you use the app to select the meals you want for the coming week (you have several choices but not so many that it is overwhelming). Then the ingredients and recipe cards arrive by post on your designated day. All you need to do is cook.

4. Batch Like a Boss

If you’ve not had a chance to listen to episode 65 of the podcast yet, I recommend you do, as it is all about batching. The episode focusses more on batching at work, however, it is easy to use the batching technique at home. For example, you might batch certain household chores, like cooking or gardening. Personally, I try to batch errands and appointments - I like doing as much as possible in one trip.

Batching is a great way to simplify your life.

5. Say “No”

This is probably the most challenging strategy on the list but in some ways, the most important. If you want to simplify your life you must learn to say no. I’m not suggesting you become a hermit and ignore your friends and family, but sometimes, you need to prioritise your needs to keep things simple, and that might mean saying no.

6. Shared Calendars

I’ve talked before about how my life is mapped out in Google Calendar - so is my husband’s. He has access to my calendar and vice versa.

In episode 62 of the podcast (Time Blocking for Teachers and Trainers) I explain my Google Calendar setup in a little more detail.

Having shared, online calendars makes things really simple when, for example, we are trying to organise a dinner date; we can always see when each other is available.

7. Household Chores

As mentioned above, batching is a great way to simplify your approach to household chores.

Personally, I use a cleaning company to deal with the basic weekly cleaning of my home such as hoovering, dusting and bathrooms. Obviously, there is a significant cost associated with having a cleaner, however, for me, it is worth every penny when I consider the time and mental space it frees up. Even when I was working part-time, we adjusted out expenditure to ensure we could still afford a cleaning service.

If you are keen to explore using a cleaning service that remember you don’t have to use them weekly. Perhaps a once a month deep clear could work for you.

Wrap Up Support the Show

That’s it for today. Before I go I have a small request: if you enjoyed today’s episode, please support the show by either:

Leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. Buying my book, The Productive Teacher, on Amazon or Kobo (find more information at theprodutiveteacherbook.com). Making a small one-off, or monthly, financial contribution to the running costs of the show on my Kofi page which you can find at ko-fi.com/theteachingspace.

… or doing all three if you are feeling super generous! Any financial contributions go directly towards the running costs of the podcast so you are investing in future content. Thank you. 

Questions? Comments?

If you have any questions about the show or thoughts you’d like to share you can do so by either:

Leaving a comment on this episode’s show notes blog post. Posting in our Facebook group: TTS Staff Room. Posting on Twitter (I’m @MartineGuernsey if you want to mention me). Contacting me via The Teaching Space website: theteachingspace.com.

The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com/67.

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.

14. The Power of Sticky Notes
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Episode 66 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores the power of sticky notes!

Why Sticky Notes?

My favourite non-digital teaching tool is, without a doubt, the humble sticky note. Despite running a mostly paperless classroom, I seem to be able to find a phenomenal number of uses for these magical squares of stationery goodness. In fact, I love them so much, I thought they deserved a dedicated podcast episode.

Incidentally, I will probably use the terms “sticky note” and “post-it note” interchangeably in this episode - please know they mean the same thing.

A Little History

According to the How Stuff Works website:

“A Post-it note is a small piece of paper with a strip of low-tack adhesive on the back that allows it to be temporarily attached to documents, walls, computer monitors, and just about anything else. The idea for the Post-it note was conceived in 1974 by Arthur Fry as a way of holding bookmarks in his hymnal while singing in the church choir. He was aware of an adhesive accidentally developed in 1968 by fellow 3M employee Spencer Silver. No application for the lightly sticky stuff was apparent until Fry's idea. The 3M company was initially skeptical about the product's profitability, but in 1980, the product was introduced around the world. Today, Post-it notes are sold in more than 100 countries.”

Seven Ways to Use Paper Sticky Notes Idea generation/gathering Plenary/reflection: for example, one thing you have learned from today’s lesson Who am I? game/ice breaker Build graphs Assignment planning: for example, to help learners structure their writing. Marking up books RAG (red, amber, green) rating: for example, learners could indicate whether then need more help with a topic.

More ideas from Post-it here.

Five Digital Alternatives to Sticky Notes Google Jamboard Answergarden Padlet Stormboard Pinup

Bonus: Post-it scanning app

Wrap Up Support the Show

That’s it for today. Before I go I have a small request: if you enjoyed today’s episode, please support the show by either:

Leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. Buying my book, The Productive Teacher, on Amazon or Kobo (find more information at theprodutiveteacherbook.com). Making a small one-off, or monthly, financial contribution to the running costs of the show on my Kofi page which you can find at ko-fi.com/theteachingspace.

… or doing all three if you are feeling super generous! Any financial contributions go directly towards the running costs of the podcast so you are investing in future content. Thank you.

Questions? Comments?

If you have any questions about the show or thoughts you’d like to share you can do so by either:

Leaving a comment on this episode’s show notes blog post. Posting in our Facebook group: TTS Staff Room. Posting on Twitter (I’m @MartineGuernsey if you want to mention me). Contacting me via The Teaching Space website: theteachingspace.com.

The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com/66.

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.


15. Using Batching to be a Productive Teacher or Trainer
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Description: What is Batching?

(This section is adapted from my book, The Productive Teacher).

According to business productivity expert, Michael Hyatt, batching, or batch processing is the grouping of similar tasks that require similar resources to streamline their completion.

You probably batch tasks already. For example, cleaning or making freezer meals.

Why is Batching a Good Idea?

Batching is the extreme opposite of multitasking. To understand why batching works, it’s worth remembering why multitasking doesn’t.

Multitasking, or more accurately, task switching, is not a productive way to work. Our brains are simply not wired to multi-task and need to focus on one thing at a time. Every time you are distracted by another task (the task switch) it takes time and energy. Doing this constantly will drain you and stress you out.

Focussing on one task means you are not task switching and allows you to get into a state of flow. Flow is an amazing state to be in because you work better and faster.

Batching for Teachers and Trainers

One of the biggest productivity challenges teachers face is that they rarely have long stretches of uninterrupted time outside of the classroom to do work. It’s usually short bursts of time. Getting into a state of flow quickly, therefore, is essential. Choosing to batch aspects of your work, for example marking or dealing with emails, even for short periods, can be a game -changer.

Step by Step Batching When/how often are you going to batch? What will you batch? How many things are you batching? Prepare to batch and get it on your calendar. Do it! Protect your batch times. Example 1

While this might not be the most relatable example, please look at the process behind it.

To plan my podcast batching I use Google Sheets and my to-do list app, TickTick. Here is a snapshot of my podcast batch recording plan:

Screenshots 1 and 2

You can see I have scheduled episodes for the year on my Google Sheet and in TickTick and I have also marked out ’recording weeks’.

I can comfortably write four episodes in a day and record them the day after. In my TickTick you can see an example of a batch recording task showing four episodes.

Screenshot 3

My batch times (writing in one day, recording in another) are scheduled on my Google Calendar. Whereas I mark out the weeks on my Google Sheet, I select specific days in my calendar. This works because I only record when I am off work on holiday so usually it is a minimum of a week off.

Example 2

This is a more relatable but less specific example:

When I am at work I schedule batch marking sessions. These are not the same weekly slots as my marking workload differs week-by-week. But as soon as I know I have marking to do (this should be well in advance of work being handed in!) I review how much I will have against my calendar for the week. I select my batch marking slots by working out roughly how long each paper should take to mark.

Technically, as I know when assignments are issued and due, I should be able to plan my batch marking for the year… but the reality is a little different, as I am sure you understand. For me, week-by-week batch planning works OK in this context. The key thing is to plan the batching and schedule it. Then you need to protect your schedule.

(Top tip: if others have access to your calendar and tend to book meetings in your gaps, call your batching time block ASSESSMENT - it sends a clear message that meetings are not to be scheduled in that slot).

Helpful Tools and Strategies

Using the marking example, here are some strategies I use to support batching:

Minimise distractions: Work in an alternative location Block the internet (unless you are marking online) using a tool like Freedom Use focus apps like Forest to stop you mindlessly scrolling on your mobile when you should be marking Treat your batching time as if it is a really important meeting Experiment with the Pomodoro Technique. Over to You

Do you already use batching or is it a new concept to you? Let me know your thoughts; I’d love to hear from you.

Wrap Up Support the Show

That’s it for today. Before I go I have a small request: if you enjoyed today’s episode, please support the show by either:

Leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. Buying my book, The Productive Teacher, on Amazon or Kobo (find more information at theprodutiveteacherbook.com). Making a small one-off, or monthly, financial contribution to the running costs of the show on my Kofi page which you can find at ko-fi.com/theteachingspace.

… or do all three if you are feeling super generous! Any financial contributions go directly towards the running costs of the podcast so you are investing in future content. Thank you.

Questions? Comments?

If you have any questions about the show or thoughts you’d like to share you can do so by either:

Leaving a comment on this episode’s show notes blog post. Posting in our Facebook group: TTS Staff Room. Posting on Twitter (I’m @MartineGuernsey if you want to mention me). Contacting me via The Teaching Space website: theteachingspace.com.

The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com/65.

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.


16. The Lesson Observation Episode
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Episode 64 of The Teaching Space Podcast shares a new approach to lesson observations.


Welcome to season two of The Teaching Space Podcast. I have decided to start classing each academic year’s worth of episodes as a season to make it easier to keep track of where we are with the show.

I started recording the podcast back in December 2017, so I am classing the episodes between then and June 2018 (episode 27) as season 0. Episodes 28 to 63 (the last academic year) were season one. So that means today’s episode marks the start of season two.

I wanted to kick the new season off with a meaty episode, that’s why I’ve chosen lesson observations. If you’re listening and thinking “this doesn’t apply to me as I am not in a school environment”, keep listening. Remember, I am not in a school environment either. You’ll find I am going to talk more about professional development than anything else.


I work in the further education and skills sector. Like most Colleges, in recent history, our approach to lesson observations has been something like this:

One lesson observation a year Observer is a member of the lesson observation team Lesson observations are graded against criteria They are judgemental, as opposed to developmental Managers (middle and senior) carry out additional learning walks

The rationale behind this approach, like most observation schemes, was performance management, loosely framed as professional development. You could argue there is a degree of developmental focus in there, as if someone was not performing in a certain area, they could access various CPD opportunities. But, when it comes down to it, performance was being measured against criteria.

This is how most observation schemes are structured, to the best of my knowledge. In most cases, observations would be carried out by managers rather than peers (as in our case). On the face of it, we appear to be a little ahead of the game, using peers instead of managers. However, should a peer have a responsibility for contributing to the performance management of another peer? Probably not.


Added to this, current research demonstrates that traditional, graded observations do not work. If you are interested in reading more about this I highly recommend anything by Matt O’ Leary, in particular his book, Classroom Observation (which I think is being updated at the moment). I have just downloaded his more recent book, Reclaiming Observations, which I am looking forward to getting stuck into.

Some of the reasons these observations are not effective are:

They are a snapshot of teaching practice They cause teachers unnecessary stress There is a formula for achieving an outstanding lesson observation

As such, lesson observations are not a good measure of performance and rarely contribute to a teacher’s professional development.


We decided to redesign the entire professional development cycle for teachers at my organisation. We wanted to:

Redefine the role of lesson observation as a tool for professional development only - performance management would be handled outside of this process Avoid causing teachers undue stress and needlessly adding to their workload Place ownership of professional development with the teacher Create a culture of professional trust Encourage collaboration with peers, reflective practice and scholarly activity Place teaching and learning at the heart of professional development.

So the “ONE THING” was born. Broadly speaking, it looks like this:

Start of the academic year: teachers self-assess their practice against the ETF Professional Standards for Teachers and Trainers in the UK. In discussion with peers, they choose their ONE THING - an aspect of their professional practice to focus on developing for the academic year. Teachers research their ONE THING with peers and experiment in their classroom. Observed activity happens (not always classroom-based): Pre-meeting to discuss the focus of the observation (ONE THING) Observed activity happens Post-observation discussion to explore next steps and developmental/research opportunities Observation is conducted by a peer, is: Non-judgemental Ungraded Focussed on the ONE THING Driven by the teacher End of the academic year: self-assessment is repeated. How Did it Go?

The short answer is: extremely well based on the questionnaire and focus group feedback from lecturers. On the questionnaire, 100% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed the ONE THING process benefited their teaching practice.

There are things we are going to change for next year, for example, our communication strategy and our ONE THING vocabulary. The phrase “ONE THING” has stuck well but some of the role names within the process have not, for example, there was a lack of clarity on the role of the “buddy” and the role of the “peer”. While we’d simplified the observation paperwork dramatically, we know we can simplify it further.

Over to You

I’d like to take our observation research further and find out your experience of similar processes. Feel free to email me on hello@theteachingspace.com or pop into our Facebook Group (TTS Staff Room) and share your story.

Wrap Up Support the Show

That’s it for today. Before I go I have a small request: if you enjoyed today’s episode, please support the show by either:

Leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. Buying my book, The Productive Teacher, on Amazon or Kobo (find more information at theprodutiveteacherbook.com). Making a small one-off, or monthly, financial contribution to the running costs of the show on my Kofi page which you can find at ko-fi.com/theteachingspace.

… or doing all three if you are feeling super generous! Any financial contributions go directly towards the running costs of the podcast so you are investing in future content. Thank you.

Questions? Comments?

If you have any questions about the show or thoughts you’d like to share you can do so by either:

Leaving a comment on this episode’s show notes blog post. Posting in our Facebook group: TTS Staff Room. Posting on Twitter (I’m @MartineGuernsey if you want to mention me). Contacting me via The Teaching Space website: theteachingspace.com.

The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com/64.

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.

17. How Teachers and Trainers Can Plan a Relaxing but Productive Summer Break
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Episode 63 of The Teaching Space Podcast outlines a simple strategy to help teachers and trainers plan a relaxing but productive summer break.

1. Visualise

First, think about where you want to be, both personally and professionally, by the end of the summer. Write it down.

2. List

Next, list all of the steps you need to take to achieve that overall aim.

3. Highlight

Grab a highlighter pen and mark out your top priorities. This will be helpful when you start mapping out what you will do when later on.

4. Balance Check

This is the most important part of the process. Check that what you are planning is balanced. Your requirements will be different to mine, but for example, I would be ensuring my plan is balanced between:

rest/health home improvements friends and family personal projects

Where tasks don’t contribute to a decent balance, and are not a priority, strike them off.

5. Plan

Now grab your calendar and plan out each week’s to-do list.


This is the last podcast for my academic year - I will be taking a break over summer. The next episode will go live on Friday 30 August 2019 so if you are not currently subscribed to the show, I recommend you do so. I’ll still be active in our Facebook group during my break, so feel free to come and hang out over there. I’ll also still check in with you by email if you are are signed up to receive The Teaching Space Extra.

All that remains to be said is thank you for your support during this season of the show. If you enjoy The Teaching Space podcast or blog please consider contributing to the monthly running costs over on my Ko-fi page. You can find this at [ko-fi.com/theteachingspace](http://ko-fi.com/theteachingspace).

18. Time Blocking for Teachers and Trainers
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Episode 62 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores time blocking as a productivity strategy.

When You’re Really Busy

When I am really busy and there's potential for, what I like to refer to as "a wobble", I do three things:

I stop (and usually grab a cuppa). I ensure my list is totally up-to-date (in other words, that everything I need to do is on my list - if I don't know what I need to do when, I cannot get things done). I time block my days. What is Time Blocking?

There are probably lots of different definitions, but for me, it is planning every single 15 minute block of my day (this includes rest, breaks etc). Every. Single. Thing. Goes. On. The. Calendar.


Stuff on the calendar gets prioritised. It gets done.

My Calendar Setup

I use Google Calendar. Did you know you can set up multiple Google Calendars under one email address? I do this to categories and easily colour code my activities. It’s also helpful to be able to toggle certain categories/calendars on and off. My calendar list looks something like this:

External appointments Internal appointments Events Get stuff done (this is for tasks) The Teaching Space Martine Makes Health

I also have access to my husband’s calendars.

Why Does it Work?

Simple maths - you’ll get to see if there actually are not enough hours in the day! You have to be more realistic when setting deadlines too.

Another helpful aspect of time blocking is if your calendar is accessible by others who want to book meetings with you, they can see when you really do have space!

You can batch work in time blocks to increase efficiency. Read The Productive Teacher book for more on batching.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, things on the calendar are priorities. They get done.

Time Blocking Resources Get More Done With Calendar Blocking by Amy Landino (video) A Quick Guide to Time Blocking by Kelsey Jones (article) Timeboxing: Elon Musk's Time Management Method by Thomas Frank (video) The Truth About Time Blocking (Or: How I Learned to Love Compartmentalization) by Juliana Casale (article) Deep Habits: The Importance of Planning Every Minute of Your Work Day by Cal Newport (article)

19. How it's Made: The Teaching Space Podcast
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Description: Introduction

Today’s podcast topic is something a little different. Quite a few people have asked me what goes into making a weekly podcast, so today, I am pulling back the curtain!

General Organisation

I work full time so it’s necessary for me to bulk record podcast episodes during my breaks, otherwise I’d spend a considerable chunk of my weekend on podcasting. Over the past year, this has worked extremely well for me. The only downside is that I can’t react as quickly as I’d like to current topics as I’ve usually got 6 weeks' worth of content already created. But this is a minor disadvantage.

I map out my podcast planning in Notion on a Kanban-style board (very similar to Trello’s set up). My main columns are:

To be recorded In progress Queued Published Misc

I have a virtual assistant, Tilly, who collaborates with me on this board.


Under my ‘To be recorded’ column in Notion, I have a card for each episode (containing the episode number and due date). When I come up with an idea for an episode, I add it to a card as a working title. I flesh out the details later.


Bearing in mind I create podcast episodes in bulk (3 to 6 at a time) the planning/writing aspect happens in bulk too.

I spend the most time writing episodes, as the notes I create to record from become the show notes. Because of this, they have to follow a certain format and be reasonably error free. I write episode notes in Notion and format them in a particular way. I have a standard checklist which gets copied then pasted into each episode for Tilly and I to follow. That way, nothing gets missed and we have a consistent approach to each episode.

Once I’ve written the notes and ensured there is a call to action, I run everything through ProWritingAid. Then it is time to record.

Recording and Editing

Episodes are recorded fairly quickly with minimal editing. I use the previous episode as a template so my opening and closing elements are already there. This works well because episodes are usually the same length. You can find details of my tech setup here.

The audio is published in draft with my hosting company and I download an MP3 version to extract a trailer clip if audio.

Then it’s over to Tilly.


Tilly creates social media images for the episode in Canva and adds them to Notion. She also creates the episode artwork. She prepares video clips for social media using an amazing tool called Headliner. She checks and formats the show notes, as per our checklist.

Tilly then hops over to the episode on my hosting platform and checks and edits everything over there. Everything remains in draft.

She then moves the card in Notion to “Queued” so I know it is ready to go.

Publication and Sharing

On the day the podcast is due to go live, I publish it with my host and on my blog so the show notes are live. This then gets pushed out to podcast apps like Apple Podcasts etc. I set up a URL redirect so the episode is easy to find. After that, I share the episode to all my social platforms, using the collateral Tilly created. I also schedule a month’s worth of tweets about the episode using Amplifr.

I keep a database of pre-written tweets so Tilly can reshare episodes with the relevant images at a later date.

And that’s it!

Wrap up

That’s all from me today, before I go, I have one small ask. Please sign up for my weekly email newsletter, The Teaching Space Extra. It includes access to my free resource library, as well as lots of great reading recommendations and information about productivity, teaching and tech. Hop over to theteachingspace.com/tts-extra to sign up.

20. What is Active Reading?
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Episode 60 of The Teaching Space Podcast delves into active reading.


Last year I read 100 books. I know. It’s a crazy number and it’s not something I’m planning to repeat any time soon (I chat about this in episode 47).

While I have run no official statistical analysis on my 2018 reading list (surprised?) I’d estimate 90% were audiobooks. I’m a huge fan of audiobooks, but one downside for me, is I don’t fully absorb everything I hear. While this is usually OK for fiction, it’s sometimes problematic for non-fiction, particularly if I’m reading for professional reasons (e.g. study).

This has lead me to explore active reading, and that’s what I will talk to you about today.

What is Active Reading?

According to the Open University website, active reading is “reading something with a determination to understand and evaluate it for its relevance to your needs”.

When I’m listening to an audiobook or a podcast, I’m listening but I am definitely not evaluating at a high level. The closest I come to evaluating is deciding whether or not I like the narrator’s voice (can I listen to it for 10 hours?!)

There’s a big difference between the passive way I consume audiobooks and the definition of active reading.

How to Make Your Reading Active Highlight and annotate important passages of the book (I do this on the second pass because you don’t always know what is important on the first read). Highlight selectively. Build an alternative index (I read about this in an article written by Shawn Blanc, but I believe the concept came from Maria Popova from Brain Pickings). It’s a personalised index based on your own ideas. Split screen approach: this is what I am experimenting with at the moment. I read on my iPad and have the Kindle app open on the left, and my note-taking app open on the right. I read for, then make notes. SQ3R


SKIM through the text quickly to get an overall impression. QUESTION. If you are reading it for a particular purpose (for example, to answer an assignment), ask yourself how it helps. Also ask questions of the text: Who? What? Where? When? How? READ. Read the text in a focused, and fairly speedy way. REMEMBER. Test your memory - but don’t worry if you can’t remember much. REVIEW. Read the text in more detail, taking notes. Use your own words. What About Those Audiobooks?

I’m not giving up audiobooks any time soon; I love them. But I have decided to focus on using them for fiction only. I need to be more active when reading non-fiction.

Wrap up

That’s all from me today, before I go, I have one small ask. Please sign up for my weekly email newsletter, The Teaching Space Extra. It includes access to my free resource library, as well as lots of great reading recommendations and information about productivity, teaching and tech. Hop over to theteachingspace.com/tts-extra to sign up.

21. Martine's Current Productivity App Seup
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Episode 59 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores my current productivity app setup.


Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I LOVE a productivity app. You’ll have heard me geeking out on this subject in episode 56 of the podcast when I interviewed Francesco D’Alessio.

I want to point out that my setup changes regularly. While I do try to make most of my podcast content pretty evergreen (in other words, it does not date too much) this episode probably will date. I will likely record an updated version in the future.

Martine’s Top Five Productivity Apps

Ok, so here are my current five favourite productivity apps, in no particular order:


I’ve probably used every task management app out there but right now, I am thrilled with Todoist. It’s powerful enough to manage complex projects with lots of different tasks due on different dates, but it’s also sufficiently lightweight to work as a idea inbox. If I get a random idea at an odd moment, it’s easy to just dump it in my Todoist inbox and file it later.

The best feature of Todoist for me is its integration with Google Calendar. It allows me to time block my day particularly well.

I have a paid subscription to Todoist, but the free version is great.

Google Calendar

It won’t surprise you then that Google Calendar is next on my list. I just use the regular Google Calendar app. Everything goes in there - if it is not in Google Calendar, it is not happening.

My husband and I would really struggle to make our schedules match from time-to-time without Google Calendar’s help.

Google calendar is free.


Notion is my life and business hub. It’s like my own internal intranet. My favourite thing about Notion is you can make it into anything you want. It’s a blank canvas. This can be quite intimidating for people who aren’t entirely clear what they want from the tool, but for me, it’s great. As I mentioned earlier, I have used a lot of productivity apps, so I know exactly what I need from them. I have built what I need in Notion.

I use Notion for high level planning and collaborative projects. For example, I use a Kanban style setup in Notion with my VA to manage the podcast.

You might wonder why I still use Todoist, if Notion is so great. Well, that would be a good thing to wonder! Notion is still a young company and they are making updates all the time. One thing I’m hoping they will improve is how Notion handles task management. For me, there are just a few too many steps involved. Hence the need for Todoist. What I’m hoping is there will soon be an integration between Notion and Todoist - then I get everything I need in one place.

Notion is has a limited free option which is great for experimentation and getting to know the tool. I have the paid version of Notion.


Forest is a cross-platform focus app. I tend to use it on my mobile device, but I noticed there is a free Chrome extension which I will definitely give a try.

The premise of the app is you set an amount of time to focus, e.g. 30 minutes, and you start the app. Over the 30 minutes, the app plants a virtual tree. If you interrupt the planting process by picking up your phone and navigating away from the app (to check Facebook, for example) the tree dies. The idea is to create a forest with no dead trees.

Forest is great for fans of the Pomodoro Technique (listen to episode 12 of the podcast for more on this).

I love gamifying focus time, and it gets even better when you compete against your friends and colleagues.

Forest costs $1.99.


Finally, my writing app of choice is Ulysses. I consider this a productivity tool as it’s a minimal, yet powerful app that helps me get focussed on my writing.

Ulysses is great for long-form writing, for example, I wrote my book, The Productive Teacher, in Ulysses. But I am also finding it useful for writing notes when I’m reading something on Kindle. I can use the split screen function on my iPad and have the Kindle app on one side and Ulysses on the other.

There’s a learning curve with Ulysses - for starters, you write in markdown, which takes getting used to. I recommend Sean Blanc’s Learn Ulysses course.

Ulysses is a subscription based app.

Wrap up

That’s all from me today, before I go, I have one small ask. Please sign up for my weekly email newsletter, The Teaching Space Extra. It includes access to my free resource library, as well as lots of great reading recommendations and information about productivity, teaching and tech. Hop over to theteachingspace.com/tts-extra to sign up.

22. Managing Monday Morning Anxiety for Teachers and Trainers
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Episode 58 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores Monday morning anxiety.


Back in March I wrote an email to my TTS Extra subscribers about Monday morning anxiety. I was surprised that so many people responded to it, so I thought it would be a good idea to record a podcast episode on the topic.

What is Monday Morning Anxiety?

I guess for some, it is technically Sunday Night Anxiety.

For me it’s a sinking feeling in my stomach, a mixed sensation of anxiety, anticipation and worry about the week to come. Ahem... I also have physical symptoms, but you need not know about those!

The thing is, I’m happy, I love my job and manage my stress levels extremely well. But Monday morning anxiety is something I have struggled with for over 30 years and it won’t quit. It’s definitely got to the stage where it is far more physical than mental, but even so, it’s there and it is a pain.

That being said, I have developed a few strategies to manage it.

How I Manage MMA

One of the most important strategies I use is switching off from work at the weekend. I don’t check emails and I don’t mark or plan. The closest I get to working at the weekend is professional reading or study (for example, working on my Advanced Teacher Status portfolio). My weekend priorities are recharging my batteries, hanging out with my people, being outdoors and enjoying my creative hobbies. Check out The Productive Teacher book for more on this.

Another strategy I rely on is planning my Monday on Friday. I review my calendar and organise my to-do list. Often it’s The Unknown that increases my anxiety.

Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Goodness, I am so ‘on brand’ for a teacher educator! Your basic needs must be met if you stand a chance of reaching self-actualisation (a.k.a getting through the week!) I meal plan and grocery shop every Sunday. Having meals organised for at least five days removes an element of stress from my life and helps me manage my energy. I am quite convinced meal planning on a Sunday helps reduce my anxiety on a Monday. I even recorded a meal planning podcast episode (check out episode 32).

Planning and organisation is definitely at the heart of my approach to anxiety management.

Create Positive Habits

Many of the strategies I mentioned above have become habits. If you are interested in learning more about establishing positive habits then you should definitely listen to episode 49 of the podcast, Create Positive Habits That Stick and read the book I mention in it.

Wrap up

That’s all from me today, before I go, I have one small ask. Please sign up for my weekly email newsletter, The Teaching Space Extra. It includes access to my free resource library, as well as lots of great reading recommendations and information about productivity, teaching and tech. Hop over to theteachingspace.com/tts-extra to sign up.

23. Five Ways Teachers and Trainers Can Manage Imposter Syndrome
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Episode 57 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores imposter syndrome.

What is it?

“The imposter syndrome is a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.” (Psychology Today, 2018).

My Recent Experience

I experience imposter syndrome ALL THE TIME. This often comes as a surprise to people as I present as an extroverted person positive about their broad skill set. I’m actually an introvert (I get my energy from being quiet and on my own). I have a broad set of skills, but as a result, I usually feel I lack expertise in anything; "jack of all trades, master of none".

I recently signed up for a series of lunchtime lectures on conducting research because it’s something I’m interested in, but know little about. At the start of the first session, the lecturer asked us all to explain why we came to the session. I was in a room full of Master’s and PhD students... I’m not working towards, nor do I have a Master’s or a PhD... so why was I there? Did I have a right to be there? Serious imposter syndrome alert.

Ironically, it turned out I was also the only person in the room who had published anything. While my book, The Productive Teacher, might not be based my own officially documented academic research, it’s mine, and it’s published. I have also written multiple articles for industry journals. So on this occasion, I was ok. But it doesn’t always work out that well for me. Can you relate?

Imposter Syndrome Triggers

You’ll notice the title of this episode refers to “managing” imposter syndrome. Unfortunately, you probably cannot make it disappear. However, I believe you can manage it if you know the situations that trigger you. Here are examples you might relate to:

Lesson observations Returning to teaching after a break Talking to parents about their children or employers about their staff Attending courses Job interviews Working with a new group of learners Teaching a new topic Social media Strategies for Managing Imposter Syndrome

Here are a few ways you can try to manage imposter syndrome:

Recognise it’s normal: teachers and trainers are front and centre in a group of people, it’s natural to feel like an imposter sometimes. Recognise that and stop judging yourself. Place a hard limit on negative self talk. Temporary social media ban: if social media triggers your imposter syndrome, stop. Unfollow those who trigger you and stop overloading yourself with input. Reframe your feelings as reflection: I sometimes thing imposter syndrome is reflection gone wrong. Reflection is good - negative self-talk is bad. Go back to basics. Use Rolfe (What? So What? Now What?) Be honest with students: while I don’t advocate you telling your students you are a total fraud and don’t deserve to be there, you can often be more honest than you think. If you are tackling a new (to you) topic, approach it with your learners in a more collaborative way. Empower them to teach you. The results might surprise you. Use this approach with care. Confide: finally, talk to a trusted colleague. You’ll likely discover that EVERYONE feels the same as you at some point. It helps - honest. Wrap up

That’s all from me today, before I go, I have one small ask. Please sign up for my weekly email newsletter, The Teaching Space Extra. It includes access to my free resource library, as well as lots of great reading recommendations and information about productivity, teaching and tech. Hop over to theteachingspace.com/tts-extra to sign up.

24. Productivity Tools for Teachers and Trainers: An Interview with Francesco D'Alessio
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Episode 56 of The Teaching Space Podcast discusses some tools for productivity in an interview with Francesco D’Alessio.


Hello and welcome to the Teaching Space Podcast. It's Martine here. Thank you so much for joining me.

Martine: Today I am thrilled to bring you an interview with productivity expert Francesco D'Alessio. Francesco, welcome to the show.

Francesco: Hello, Martine. Yeah, good to be here. I'm very excited.

Martine: Not as excited as me. I'm a bit of a fan girl. I can't lie. I've been listening to your show for a while and following you on YouTube and things like that so it's a real pleasure to have you here. Could I ask you to introduce yourself to the Teaching Space listeners?

Francesco: Yeah, I know that, it's great you've been following for a while and obviously I've seen you in the community so much helping others, which is amazing.

Martine: Doing my best.

Francesco: Definitely. Yeah, no, for the viewers out there, my name's Francesco. I run a YouTube channel called Keep Productive which is essentially helping people to find the right tools for their needs, whether that's work or life. It's a very fun pursuit and very recent pursuit of mine.

Martine: Excellent. Productivity is your thing, really, isn't it?

Francesco: Yeah, apps and software.

Martine: Apps and software. How did this interest in productivity start?

Francesco: It's probably quite a weird thing for a 24-year-old to be this interested in, right?

Martine: No, definitely, no I think it's great. You're never too young to be into productivity.

Francesco: That's it. Yeah, I think my sort of passion came ... I was in school. I think I was about 15 or 16. It was just before year, I think I was in year 12 and I had sadly failed all of my grades that year, minus Italian, but I'm figuring by the name I should have passed that one right?

My AS levels were sort out the door which was a bit of a shame. Then I had the opportunity, like many year 12 students do, is to repeat the year which I was a bit annoyed about but after speaking with my mum she was like, "You need to get organised this summer and really got on it." I ended up reading a book that I'll probably end up mentioning a couple of times called Getting Things Done by David Allen.

Martine: One of my favourites.

Francesco: It's a classic, isn't it?

Martine: Definitely.

Francesco: I read that one and obviously with that book came all of the other useful software like Evernote and a couple more at the time. I came back to school and I started doing well in my grades and all in this sort of outside world of that. I ended up weirdly teaching some of my teachers about the productivity apps.

Martine: Amazing.

Francesco: I felt like I had a knack for teaching other people about how to use software. It sort of spiralled form there, I'd say. We've been working on the channel for about four, five years now and it's been growing ever since. Our goal really is to review as many softwares as we can and make sure we cover them in the most honest way, I guess, to help people find the best one that meets their needs.

Martine: Have you always been into technology in a kind of a general sense? Are you quite a tech-y sort of a guy?

Francesco: Oh, yeah, 100%. I follow all the tech stuff up so obviously that's probably where we clashed on Notion right?

Martine: Yeah, totally. Totally. I'm an early adopter of many many tools and apps and things like that. So, yeah, I can totally understand that.

It all started in school for you. That's super interesting. I love the idea of you teaching your teachers how to do certain productivity things. There's nothing like instilling confidence in a learner by getting them to teach you something. That's fab.

Francesco: Yeah, and obviously they found a lot of benefit from those apps as well so it was really good to see.

Martine: As you know, my listeners tend to be teachers or trainers. We face some quite unique productivity challenges. For example, often we end up trying to do administrative type work, in other words, the work that we're not doing in the classroom during short bursts of time between sessions. The main part of the job is being in front of the class and teaching but then we've got these little gaps in which to do our non-teaching work, so from a productivity point of view…that's really tricky.

We've also got constant interruptions, too many meetings. Oh my goodness. I've never worked in an environment where meetings are so loved.

These are just a few of the challenges that my listeners will be facing as teachers and trainers. We just wondered, bearing in mind that kind of set up, whether you have any tips or tools or anything that you recommend to busy teachers and trainers out there?

Francesco: Yeah, sure. I've got a few notes in front of me that I'd like to cover. Some of them are some useful methodologies I think would work and also some recommended tools.

Yeah, and as you said, teachers are… When I was in school and at least after school with a lot of my friends going into teaching they always seem to be quite timed for teachers. It's sad to see but obviously it's such an immersive job and it's such a passionate job that everyone wants to get very emotionally involved because they want to help the children so very much. It's a very noble pursuit definitely.

I think methods are probably the backbone of productivity in general although I don't know all the methods and I tend to bring in experts to talk about that. I normally recommend a lot of good stuff that's helped myself and other people. I would say the first process that I recommend is going back to the Getting Things Done bye David Allen.

Martine: Yes, definitely.

Francesco: It's a fantastic book. What I quite like about it is it will teach you a way of processing anything new and that's quite beneficial for all types of work. Whether it's admin work or ad hoc work it actually can be scaled to any situation. What I recommend doing is grabbing a copy of GTD or listening to it at least on apps like Audible because it will give you a framework that then you can then apply to the admin side of stuff.

Martine: I totally endorse that recommendation I must admit. One of the best things I took away from David Allen's book was the idea of just having one trusted place to keep everything. The idea that you don't have things all over the place in different apps and different locations in your office and things. That one trusted place thing for me was a massive takeaway.

Francesco: Yeah, 100%. I can imagine that you kept quite strict with it and once you've kept that sort of rigidity to GTD I think it can be so beneficial like not storing things in different places and making sure to capture things in a specific way, organising it and then clarifying it. It can really help, really help.

Then I would say like you mentioned those short bursts of times that sometimes can be interrupted or sometimes can actually be uninterrupted but more likely interrupted. The Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo, is a really fantastic one and that's a very simple method of 25 minute timers and then a five minute break and having that cycle repeat itself. [Check out Episode 12 for more on this]

The goal behind this is you're wiring into that 25 minutes work without being distracted by other stuff. You've got one task or two tasks in hand that you'll be doing back to back and it's a real point, an opportunity for you focus. There's some great Pomodoro timer apps out there but you could just start by using your timer on your iPhone or Android phone. I highly recommend it to, from teachers to professionals to students because they all seem to find a lot of value from it.

Martine: I think it's a great point about using it with students. I use it personally when I'm marking because I do have a tendency to get a bit distracted when I'm marking and having that enforced time block helps me zone right into what I'm supposed to be doing and I get into a state of flow a lot more easily and a lot more quickly. I think for marking it's brilliant but I love the idea of encouraging students to use it. Generally, they've all got a phone in their back pocket so they've got that timer available. You can encourage them to put headphones in to get themselves really sort of zoning in on their work and I just think that's a really good tool for students. So a top tip there for sure.

Francesco: Yeah, definitely. The app that I would recommend for students as well is an app called Forest.

Martine: Oh, I love Forest. It's one of my favourites.

Francesco: It's so good isn't it?

Martine: Yeah, really good. Do you want to explain a little bit about what Forest is because I love it.

Francesco: It's such a friendly application. Any of the students can download it for IOS and Android, I believe. The concept is you set a timer. It can be 25 minutes, 40 minutes, however long you want your students to focus. At that time, it starts planting a tree over those 25 minutes. If the student decides, "I'm going to go over to SnapChat or Instagram," the tree dies if you don't get back to it within, it's a couple of seconds. The goal is they've got to create a tree and over time build a forest. I think it's a really healthy way to stop using your phone. Obviously you can set a timer and then forget about the timer and jump on your phone or go on your laptop or something and that's quite a nice way in making sure you're focusing.

Martine: The gamification of focus. I absolutely love it.

Francesco: Yes.

Martine: One of the things that's really helped me with Forest, because I am a competitive sort. I can't lie. I've got a group of people that I follow and who follow me on Forest and we kind of compete to see who can have the best forest.

Francesco: Oh I love it, yeah.

Martine: This is what I do in my time.

Francesco: It's a great app.

Martine: Yeah it really is. I highly recommend it. I will make sure that I link to it in the show notes so people can refer to any of the apps that you mention.

Francesco: I'll tell you my final sort of methodology or book is a book called, How to be a Productivity Ninja, by Graham Allcott. The reason I recommend this is it's actually a really beneficial for e-mail and admin. Although GTD's a very good framework this has like, it's packed full. It's a fairly meaty book and it's packed full of how to process e-mail, how to reduce stress when you're doing admin tasks. It's got a lot of good advice that can be used across the board. I can't recommend that book enough.

Martine: Fantastic. Again, I'll make sure there's a link to that in the show notes. Those are your top methodologies or approaches to productivity. What about specific tools? Have you got any of those that you'd like to recommend?

Francesco: Yeah, sure. I typically recommend three types of apps and I try to say that people should have these core apps at least and that's a to do list app, a calendar App and a note taking app. A to do list app really for your upcoming tasks, actionable stuff you need to get done. A calendar for obviously meetings and events and things like that. Then a note taker for all of that information that you're gathering. Of course it depends on, you know, you can't obviously store information so you'll have to check with your department's, what access you have of course.

The to do list app site to start with, I always recommend two ones that I think are really strong. That's Todoist and TickTick.

Martine: Okay. Todoist I use actually and I can definitely say it's a great app. Personally with that one I like that it integrates with Google Calender.

What's TickTick, did you say? I've not come across that one before.

Francesco: It's all one word, TickTick. It's very similar to Todoist in a sense but what people like slightly more than Todoist in some ways, is it has a calendar ability inside it so if you wanted to plot all of your stuff in a calendar you can do it. That's something that Todoist doesn't have just yet.

Martine: That's super interesting, particularly if you like to time block your day, bearing in mind that teachers tend to work to a timetable, then actually that could be really useful.

Francesco: Yes, 100%. I think that's why I tend to recommend it. It's a very beautiful application. The good news is they've only recently added a Pomodoro timer to it so I guess it even adds even more to it, right?

Martine: That sounds like that it's really worth a look actually. I'm thinking to myself, "No, I've committed to Todoist. I can't change yet again."

Francesco: Todoist, I'm still user of that and I love it. I think it's such a good application for determining ... I think it's better at a cleaner interface and making sure that you've got a list in front of you. You can organise stuff based on time which is quite lovely. I think that's a great application all around, so there's no need to switch.

Martine: No, I mustn't, I really mustn't, but I do have a bit of a passion for to do lists apps in particular so I'm going to stay loyal to Todoist for at least the next month or so. One thing I like in particular about Todoist is the ability to kind of look at what the next week looks like, how may tasks that you've got coming up, for me to do a bit of foreword planning I find that particularly helpful. That and the integration with Google Calendar as I mentioned. So two good recommendations there.

Francesco: Of course if you start using that GTD process both of those applications have what's called an inbox and that's essentially your task inbox for dumping all the stuff you haven't processed yet. It's a pretty neat experience.

Obviously calendar apps, I typically recommend people stay with Google Calendar or Apple Calendar, normally because I guess sometimes the calendars either G-suite or it could be Microsoft in some institutions. I guess it's up to that department or that school, right?

Martine: Absolutely. Interestingly, my college where I work, we are a G-suite for education establishment, however, and I don't know the reason why, I really must talk to IT support, we use Outlook for e-mail and calendar. It's really frustrating because we use Google docs and everything else is G-suite. The great thing about Google Calendar is that it talks to every other app in the suite so it almost feels like you're kind of, you don't have that seamless integration when you're doing a bit of Microsoft and a bit of Google. It's something I'm working on changing, put it that way.

Francesco: You're filtering in and working out how to get it changed?

Martine: I'm on it. I am absolutely on it.

You're a Google Calendar or an Apple Calendar or whatever the kind of native calendar to what your use is, that would be a recommendation?

Francesco: Yeah, I use Google Calendar but on my iPhone I have an app called Moleskine Timepage.

Martine: Ooh, interesting.

Francesco: It's a very nice app. It's a paid subscription app so I think it roughly works out at about $11.00 a year or something like this. It's just such a beautiful application. It helps to make everything look very attractive on the go at least. I would say the note taking side, obviously bringing together lots of information is really important. Of course a lot of teachers would be considering OneNote because that's obviously connected with Microsoft services but I would say Evernote is also a very strong option, especially for teachers that are looking to annotate pieces of work and be able to use the web clipper for deep research and just in general use some of the PDF abilities that Evernote has. Of course when it comes to note takers Notion sort of falls into that spectrum and that's obviously where our passions lie at the moment, isn't it?

Martine: Yeah, absolutely. That's certainly how I discovered you, Francesco and what you do is through Notion. I have mentioned Notion a few times on the podcast but I really struggle to actually explain what it is. I tend to say it's like a personal intranet and it can be pretty much whatever you want it to be and it kind of runs on data bases but maybe you can do a better job of describing it than I can.

Francesco: I think that's probably how I describe it. The way that I always say is it's like Lego building blocks. It's almost like that software you can create yourself. It's really weird because it's one of the ... I don't know whether you remember Evernote in its early days when it first launched. People were coming up with so many different uses and that was quite exciting. You had people using it to organise all of their work and even use it as their project manager to some extent.

When I'm getting e-mails about how people are using Notion it's very exciting. There's a chap who e-mailed me the other day saying he uses it to organise all of his heart data so that whenever he visits the doctors he has all of the heart monitoring information that they need to know. When I was with the Notion team last week they said people were using it to organise their bowling society.

Martine: Oh, that's so cool.

Francesco: And all of the scores that they made. Yeah, so all of these use cases are like wild. At the same time it's quite an exciting application for note-taking because they're slowing adding stuff to it that makes it a really strong platform.

Martine: Oh, that's really good to hear. I think probably one of the most creative uses I have for Notion, two of my favourites I think. I use it to manage the podcast, so from planning to writing out the notes, to sharing it with my VA so she does my social. I use it for complete podcast planning, but also for meal planning as well. That's one of my favourites too. I have a data base of recipes and I have a couple weeks set out like on a Kanban board. That really works quite nicely.

Francesco: Yeah, it does. That's, I think, quite an exciting use as well. A lot of people like it for ... it's one of those apps that actually blends work and life and not in like an intense way either. You could be planning your podcast but then jump over to your meal planner within seconds. It doesn't feel disconnected in any way.

Martine: I think that's a really interesting point because up until a good sort of year or so ago I was dead against mixing my day job stuff with my personal stuff when it came to productivity tools. I liked to have things totally separate. The reality is that those two things are very closely interlinked with my life, so now that I tend to look at everything through one lens I find it a lot better. I'm more productive.

Francesco: Yeah, definitely. I think what's quite nice about Notion is it is like that personal intranet you mentioned. It's almost like it's even more so a second brain because you can almost lay out your home page like your brain of all of the different aspects of your life. I use my Notion as a way to track finances, health. I use it with my wife to plan what rooms we're going to have in the house and travel. It's literally like a consortium of information that ... It's like my brain. I'm not sure whether I'd be able to go much further without it.

Martine: I love the idea of it being your external brain. That's a really good way to describe it. I think for me the one thing that I'd really like to see with Notion would be an integration with Todoist because I did try running my task management through Notion and there were just ... It's a brilliant tool but there were just a few too many clicks required for me to do task management in there so if there was an integration on the horizon I would be thrilled.

Francesco: Yeah, yes. I agree. I agree. Notion does 80% of what the majority of apps do but it doesn't do, for example, Todoist amazingly because it's not a task manager. It can do task management. It's a very strange experience but I can imagine they'll be adding to this and hopefully building on it. I'm sure we'll have all our fingers crossed, right?

Martine: Yeah. They're a very young company and from what I can tell they're very responsive to feedback. It's really interesting to see what they've got on the horizon.

Francesco: Yeah. I'm hoping to do ... Well, I was out there last week with the team, actually two weeks ago now, blimey. They are a very fast moving team. They seem to put updates out pretty regularly and it's quite exciting what's happening. I think it's all keep an eye on them.

Martine: Yeah, definitely. It's nice too, I was a reasonably early adopter with Notion. It's kind of exciting to see them developing. So yeah, we'll keep an eye out. Fantastic.

Francesco: Definitely, definitely. In terms of planning projects I think that's a good way as well. Obviously Ever Note and Notion do a good enough job of being able to store the data and manage that but if a teacher was looking for a way to maybe visually plan, I'd recommend checking out either Trello or Asana. They don't necessarily have to use Notion at the same time. They could use like Trello and Ever Note or Asana and Ever Note. They're both really good ways to visually organise because they've got that boards feature that helps you to plan visually.

Yeah, I wouldn't rule those out as a way to keep track of you and your department because if you want to share stuff with other people then you can assign tasks there pretty easily.

Martine: It's definitely a tool that works well for collaboration. I would say the same goes for Trello and Asana, as I've used both of those. If you want to collaborate with a team then all three of those options are good ones, Notion, Trello, Asana. They're great for collaborative work.

Francseco, is there anything else you would like to add to those amazing recommendations?

Francesco: No, the thing is ... What I recommend is just trying to read as many useful pieces and books about the busyness and time and trying to learn as much as you can because there's a lot of good conversations about mindfulness in the workplace blended with the actually busyness and the concept of it. I recommend trying to keep track on Apple News of all of those good articles.

There's another book I'd want to recommend now. Sorry. A good one is Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.

Martine: I swear we read all the same books and play with all the same apps. We're separated at birth.

Francesco: Yeah, we need to ... We'll just be starting to share now stuff for e-mail. We'll just be like, "Have you read this one? Have you read this one?" There's so many good books out there at the moment. I think it's just about taking in how you can calm down in the workplace. I think more employers are actually understanding that that's a thing as well which is good news.

Martine: It's a big conversation in education at the moment, the work life balance approach and that's very much what I focus on with The Teaching Space. I want to help teachers be as brilliant at their job as they can be without having to take work home at the weekend. I think that Digital Minimalism book recommendation is a good one because it's all about balance. You and I love tech. We love apps. We love all that stuff but actually quiet time, fresh air and just tuning out from all that stuff is also incredibly important and very healthy.

Francesco: Yeah, definitely. The final recommendation is just subscribe to The Teaching Space because it is definitely one of the best podcasts for education.

Martine: Oh, you're very smooth, Francesco, very smooth. Well on that topic what I'd like to do is give you an opportunity to tell The Teaching Space listeners where they can find you on line.

Francesco: Oh, that's very kind. You can just type into YouTube KeepProductive. We've done plenty of Notion videos and we try to help you match up with the best apps. Again, we'll give you recommendations and if you want to pop me an e-mail directly francesco@keepproductive.com. I happily recommend apps, to hear obviously your needs and then we recommend apps so feel free to reach out to me.

Martine: That's very generous of you Francesco. Thank you for being on the show. It's been an absolute pleasure.

Francesco: Thank you for having me. It's been really fun.

Further Listening

Why not check out these episodes for more on productivity tools for teachers and trainers?


How to Stop being Distracted and Interrupted by People and Things

How to Use a To-Do List Properly

Managing Your Teaching Workload With Asana

Why The Pomodoro Technique is The Perfect Productivity Tool for Teachers

7 Books That Have Made Me A Better Teacher

25. 10 Ways to Deal With Negative Colleagues
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Episode 55 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores 10 ways to deal with negative colleagues.

We’ve All Been There

Unless you work on your own, I am sure you can relate to the disruptive and wide-reaching effect a negative colleague can have on a team.

If I reflect on my experience, I can remember a particular colleague who could walk into a room and the overall mood and feeling would drop dramatically. She didn’t have to say anything. It was a superpower! I don’t know if it was her body-language or something even more subtle than that. You could just sense it.

Negativity is contagious and it can have a terrible effect on your mental health and wellbeing.

I’m not suggesting you transform into a superhuman constantly happy person. We all have off days. But what I would like to do is share some simple strategies to help you deal with negative colleagues in such a way that the impact on your mental health and well-being is minimal.

10 Ways to Deal With Negative Colleagues Remember: the only person whose behaviour you can change is your own. Avoid interacting with your negative colleague if you can. Set boundaries (episode 37). Don’t get drawn into office gossip and politics. Encourage your colleague to seek HR or Union support as appropriate. Seek out positive colleagues. Don’t spend time over-analysing negative behaviour. Remember: negative behaviour is usually about the person showing it - it’s not about you. Prioritise self-care (episode 54). Raise your game - be even more positive.

26. How to Prioritise Self-Care When You Have No Time
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Episode 54 of The Teaching Space Podcast will help you learn to prioritise self-care even when you have no time.

Teachers are so Busy

Teachers are the busiest people I know (I wrote a book about it!) The vast majority of them are awful at prioritising themselves and self-care just doesn’t form part of their day. I understand why. Our job is all about our learners. They come first every single time. I get it. The problem is this:

If you do not look after yourself, you are not best placed to look after anyone else. It’s just like when you are on an aircraft and they do the safety announcement. In the event of an emergency you are expected to put your oxygen mask on before you help anyone else with theirs.

Now, I am not comparing teaching to a plane crash - I promise. But you take my point.

If you need me to phrase it this way, I will: you have a professional responsibility to care for yourself. I don’t want you to do it because your job demands it. I want you to do it for you. If you have ever thought of self-care as selfish, you need to flip that. If you are concerned with giving your best to others, then NOT caring for yourself is selfish.

A Bit Woo-Woo

Until recently, I thought the concept of self-care was a bit woo-woo (a lot of my teacher colleagues seemingly agree). And if you are close to skipping this episode because you think I will force you to meditate - please don’t. The message is important.

I should add, before we start, that I am coming at this episode from the perspective of someone who has only recently discovered the power of self-care. I am not an expert.

What is Self-Care?

I rather like Maria Baratta’s definition as seen on Psychology Today:

“Self care in essence is the mindful taking time to pay attention to you, not in a narcissistic way, but in a way that ensures that you are being cared for by you.”

I like what she says about “you being cared for by you”.

Self-care means different things to different people. For some, it’s exercise, for others it’s going to the dentist when you have a toothache (preferably before!)

My self-care practice usually involves getting enough sleep (I need a lot), getting fresh air and flexing my creative muscles.

How do I Make Time? Don’t fill every slot of time on your calendar. Reassess your self-imposed deadlines and standards (episode 39). Adjust your morning and/or evening routines. Walk when you wouldn’t normally.

27. The Compassionate Teacher: An Interview with Andy Sammons
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Hello and welcome to The Teaching Space Podcast. It's Martine here, thank you so much for joining me. Today, I'm excited to bring you an interview with a very nice man called Andy Sammons.

Martine: Andy, welcome to the show.

Andy: Hi, nice to be on.

Martine: It's very nice to have you here. Why don't you introduce yourself to the listeners?

Andy: I've been teaching for seven or eight years in secondary school as an English teacher. I've been a main scale teacher, worked towards being a lead teacher, a lead practitioner. I've coordinated from key stages three up to five, I've worked as a second in English, as well as now as a head of English. Everything was pretty much plain sailing for the first few years, it was fantastic.

It was only last academic year where things really got difficult for me, and that's what's let me down this path of focusing more on well-being and teacher psychology, and things like that. As a result of that, I decided to put my ideas down into a book, and luckily someone's been mad enough to take it up and publish it for me.

That's why I'm talking in this space and beginning to operate in this space as well because I am really interested in teachers' mental health and well-being.

Martine: Fantastic. Well, it's really nice to have you on the show. In today's episode we're going to be talking about poor mental health amongst teachers, and it's something that I'm really passionate about in terms of helping teachers improve their well-being, and their work-life balance. That's how we got chatting really because we have that in common, I think, don't we?

Andy: Yeah.

Martine: Tell me, what's going on with this wave of poor mental health that we seem to be seeing amongst teachers and trainers at the moment? Why is this happening?

Andy: I think it's an interesting question. I feel I'm in a pretty decent place to answer that because over the last seven years or so I think that the profession that I now see, and I am experiencing is completely different to the one I came into seven years ago or so, it really is. I think, not to blame the government completely about this, but it ties into austerity and the coalition government, and all the rest of it, if you think about a broader political and economic narrative.

I think when I spoke to Emma Keller about this for the book she said, we were talking about this seven years ago when we were all starting to go on strike over pay and pensions, and I suppose back then I was just too much in love with teaching to realize what was going on, but I think what we've seen is since then, the last seven years, a really so slow process of attrition, of wearing away, of accountability, of squeezing over funding, and that kind of divorce of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. I think all of these things has now reared its head in manifest in the numbers leaving and the recruitment problems we're seeing.

What I think this happened is a lot of the underlying factors ... because teaching if you do it properly it's really quite a stressful job, at any level there's no escape from that, but I think what's happened is a number of the contextual factors have unearthed a lot of that stress, and have brought it to the surface a bit more.

I think the reason we're beginning to see the narrative now around even Ofsted mentioning now about work load and manageability, and even the new Ofsted framework, for example, about not just outcomes, but about the curriculum I think in some way indirectly or directly that's a response to what we're seeing to make the profession less toxic, I suppose, in lots of places. I think what we've got is we've got a combination of things, which are now slowly starting to come together and that's why we are starting to hear more about it than before. Actually, I think things feel like they're coming to a bit of a head at the moment.

Martine: I think even though I'm based in Guernsey in the Channel Islands and my government is different to your government, but my government is often influenced by the things that your government does, so I can certainly relate to what you're saying about everyone feeling a bit squeezed. Ultimately, the people in charge are wanting more for less, and the people that impacts on are the teachers because we do not want it to impact on our learners, so I know exactly what you're saying.

Andy: No. The other thing of course, is not to generalize too much, but I think people go into teaching because they have a love of either teaching young people, or they have a love of teaching or their subject itself. There's something intrinsically passion focused there, I think, for people to go into teaching and education.

I think if you're going to put such squeezed accountability measures on people, of course there should be accountability, but if you take it to the level that I think some places seem to be then I think that's misappropriating what accountability is for because actually if you want to improve your share price for a company that's a certain context that works for that context to generate a profit, but improving people's lives in the way that education is attempting to do and needs to do that's more nuanced than just an outcome in any way you measure just an outcome. I think what's happened, certainly, in the last 7/8 years or so is that this drive for measures, and this drive for proof is actually having a profoundly damaging effect on teachers, and the profession itself is well. That's my feeling on it.

Martine: Definitely. That's evidenced by the numbers of people leaving the profession very early on in their careers. It makes it so tragic when you say about that intrinsic motivation to help people, and to help young people and learners, and things like that. Then, for them to get into their dream job and go, "You know what? I just can't hack this, this is too much," that's just really tragic.

Andy: What you say there's really interesting actually because a lot of research I've been doing recently is that actually the people leaving the profession, age isn't a particular predictor of people leaving the profession, it's not so much young people, or old people. The real correlation is a lack of experience, so most people seem to be leaving within the first three years of starting teaching.

Martine: That doesn't surprise me.

Andy: Which is says something about, in terms of teacher training, the lack of actual meaningful support that's going on for those inexperienced teachers. I'll be honest, I'm happy to say I'm not sure if I would survive in teaching had I come into it in the last couple of years. I was lucky that I found myself in an incredible school for my first couple of years that just completely nurtured my joy of my subject, but also teaching itself. I feel so thankful for that because if I was just dumped into a difficult class and said, "Off you go son," that wouldn't have worked for me, and that's what we're doing to too many people nowadays, I think.

Martine: If I just reflect for a moment on when I went into teaching, I'm coming up to 10 years now teaching, and I'm in a different area to you I'm in further education, but I started teaching 16 to 19-year-olds. Prior to that I'd been working in a senior position in the financial sector, I was a director of a trust company, and the massive transition between that roll into teaching. I have never worked so hard in my life during that first year of teaching. I can vividly remember in the first week sitting in bed with my husband going, "What have I done? What have I done?!" It was such a shock.

I'm thankful that I had really supportive colleagues around me and, like you, I was with great organisations, and I'm with the same organisation. It's about having that support network, and the support from your employer, that certainly helps.

Andy: I think also a lot of the stress that we're talking about well, I noticed ... I’m married now and I've got a young boy, and what I found is that the stress has been appalling for me over the last year and a half since I've had children because your life is so much more pinched in terms of your time and resources, and all the rest of it. Whereas before my wife and I would just work into the evenings, and we'd have a bit of a chat, and we'd spend all that time together. Whereas now, because our resources, our time, and our energy, and our emotional resources are so much more squeezed because we've got children as well as our responsibility in our jobs I feel that that ‘unsustainability’ is there particularly for people who have got families that they're looking after and they've got commitments outside of work as well.

So if work is expanding it needs to go somewhere, it needs to fit that space and, ultimately, it's leading to people taking too much home, which is great in the short term for schools because it might mean better results, but in the long term it's catastrophic for not just schools, but the industry because people leave because they can't cope.

Martine: What it's forcing you to do, ultimately, is to try to do your job within the hours that are allocated to that job and people are struggling to do it. There's a fundamental problem there.

Andy: We're asking too much pf people who want to give the best of themselves, but they can't give the best of themselves, and as you say, in that sustainable way if they're not that person outside of school as well, if they're not that person outside of the building because, ultimately, we're in a room with people teaching and imparting knowledge, and that's not just about reading from a textbook. That's about being a human whose well rested and who understands the complexities of their subject, as well as human interaction. If you're too knackered to give yourself it doesn't work in whichever way you look at it, I don't think.

Martine: I know it's a bit of a cliche, but I often like to say about teachers' mental health and well-being is when you're on a plane and they do safety announcement and they're saying, "In the event of an emergency you need with your oxygen mask on before you help anyone else with theirs." That's the same as being in the classroom, if you're not looking after yourself and your well-being then you are not best placed to look after other people i.e. your students. I know it's a bit of a cliche, but it really hits home to me, you got to look after yourself first.

Andy: I know we'll probably touch on this later, but there is a real misunderstanding about the metaphor of that putting on the oxygen mask. There is a real misunderstanding about what that entails I think, and that's that's a real danger, that's a real problem I think.

Martine: Let's talk about how we can improve well-being amongst teachers. It is not as simple as ... I saw this meme recently, it was about compulsory yoga. Teachers don't have time for compulsory yoga.

Andy: Let me go and buy my books instead.

Martine: Yeah exactly. It's entirely the wrong thing. It sounds like it's well-being personified, but it just isn't what the teachers need right now. What are your thoughts on improving well-being amongst teachers?

Andy: I think there's two things that we need to understand, both of which involve education around this actual term. As you've hit upon, well-being isn't an afternoon off every six weeks, or a yoga class, or bringing in someone to paint nails while there's a quiz going on in the next room. That's not what it is, and I think that represents, as you have alluded to, a profound misunderstanding about how we should look after ourselves. I think that's something that we need to get away from. I think that the key to that is understanding that whatever we understand by well-being should be deeply personal to the individual, and we need to understand about what makes a person, what makes you as a person well mentally, what is that? I think we need to encourage professionals, teachers to stand back and understand what those small things are that make a difference to us. Only when we can fully understand what it is that makes us feel well can we really begin to create space for ourselves around our stress to separate ourselves from our stressful thoughts, our negative thought, and things like that.

A silly little thing for me is coffee. It's silly, but it's not just drinking coffee, it's what's that represents. It's that time and that space to taste something, to be present in the moment, to engage with what's happening around me as I exist as a person in this moment. I know that sounds almost hippie-ish…

Martine: No, not at all.

Andy: I think it's about presence. When I was doing some work for the book, and I've done lots of reading around this, there was really sound evidence to suggest that we should, I don't if this is the right phrase, but we should sweat the small stuff. We should be bothered about having breakfast in the morning. We should be bothered about making sure we've got a drink when we're at work in the daytime. We should be bothered about carving time out, leaving at 4 o'clock one day a week if we can, if that doesn't create too much stress elsewhere to create that space to go to the gym, or for whatever it is for that person.

If well-being for one person looks like getting in at 6:30, so they can leave at 3 o'clock, 4 o'clock of a day then that's fine for that person, and I think part of the dialogue we need to improve in schools is about recognizing that in each other, and recognizing that that person goes home early, but that's fine. That's nothing to sneer at, that's to be commended because they're managing their work load in a different way.

Often our hackles go up when we don't see the hero teacher, and this cult of hero teacher that celebrates marking until 12. That's not funny, that's not heroic, and that's damaging actually for me, for the profession, and I think we need to try, and reclaim health for ourselves actually. If working until 12 ... to retract that a little bit I suppose, if working until 12 is what works for one person then that's fine, but that doesn't mean to say that's what everyone should be doing. I think that's what I mean by that.

Martine: I know exactly what you mean, yeah.

Andy: In a nutshell, I think we need to improve our education and our understanding about what it means to be well, and how we can do that, how can we achieve that.

Martine: I love what you said about focusing on the individual, and that it's not a one-size fits all approach. When you really unpick this it's mildly ironic that we, as teachers, forget that because what we do in our classrooms is before we even meet our students we identify their individual needs, and work out what they want to get from their education experience, and then work out how we're going to accommodate those needs. We know, as educators, it's not one-size fits all, but when it comes to ourselves suddenly we forget, which is just mildly ironic.

Andy: It's one of those things, I think everything about our world, particularly in the Western World is almost directly or indirectly designed to make us feel like we're not an evolved animal. We think we're somehow above the evolutionary chain in some way, and we think that ... I don't know, we think that we don't have to look after ourselves. As teachers, we don't have to worry about all that because we'll just do, and we'll never run out of energy.

Actually, there's fairly sound evidence, there's more than sound evidence about this in terms of making sure that we need to look after ourselves, and not just keep shutting the box on that, and about acknowledging about when our body and when our mind is telling us that things aren't okay.

The more we neglect that of ourselves, and we put our students first well, I would argue that actually if we keep putting our students first and neglecting ourselves we're actually doing, as you alluded to before, we're doing our students a disservice. Then, what we're doing is we're showing a complete misunderstanding about our own selves at the same time as well because if we don't listen to when our heart rate goes up, or when we're beginning to sweat because we feel anxious or we're feeling anger, or whatever, or even apathy about certain things if we don't acknowledge those thoughts and where they came from, and what caused them, and we keep neglecting to understand that we are an evolved entity then that's really damaging for your mental health, I think.

Martine: It is. Also, you're not setting a great example for your learners, are you?

Andy: No.

Martine: The students, obviously, play a role in all of this, and regardless of the age you teach students are intuitive things, and they will pick up on the fact that you aren't looking after yourself.

Andy: Students smell fear, can't they?

Martine: Oh they do. Oh they definitely did in that first week of work that I remembered earlier.

Andy: Absolutely. They do. I was a very middle-of-the-road student at school, but you can sense it a mile off when a teacher's not prepared, or when a teacher's not in control. As you say, one thing students are, all different students they can see that you are first and foremost a human, and the moment that you aren't credible with them in terms of ... and you don't show credibility and integrity in front of them then something goes off in that room straightaway. There is something out of kilter in that room straightaway, and I think that's dangerous.

Martine: Definitely.

Andy: At least for the learning anyway.

Martine: Yeah, it is for sure. How else do students fit into this equation of teacher well-being?

Andy: Well, I think that's a really interesting question. I'm really interested in this idea of compassion, and I think there's a difference here between being compassionate with people, and being sympathetic with people in this sense. What I mean by that is, rather than with our students being sympathetic with them and saying, "Oh, that's really rubbish or that must be really difficult," or something like that. I think in terms of well-being, I think, we need to model well-being with them. I think what that means is ... There's a really good analogy about this. If someone's in a well and they're upset sympathy would be shouting down saying, "Hey, that looks really rubbish down there, doesn't it? I'm really sorry that you're down there, that's rubbish."

Whereas compassion is about climbing down into that well with the person and saying, "Yeah, I can understand why that's difficult. I can understand whether it's emotion, whether it's something to do with the subject, I can understand that," and it's about going on that journey with the young people really.

I think it's about, first and foremost, what we touched on before, about modeling that honesty and integrity with regard to emotional intelligence, with regards to what it means to look after ourselves. I think it's really important that for silly things if you mention to the students that you're watching ... I'm a football fan so I'm watching the football tonight I'll mention that. I'll mention that I took my little boy to the park at the weekend. I think it's really important that students see that human side of you, and even if for whatever reason, the photocopier's blown up and you haven't got your resources, I think it's really good just to acknowledge it with the students, and just show that you're a real human.

I think we need to be human with our students, but I think in terms of more direct educational sense I think we need to educate our students more about well-being. I think that's a lot more difficult than you might expect because one of the downsides to what we've discussed about education, as we see it now, is that this obsession with outcomes, this obsession with league tables I think there's this creeping insidiousness about, if you can't measure it we're not bothered. Inadvertently, I think teachers pass that on to students.

It struck me because once I was listening to a teacher deliver a session on well-being about exam stress to their class, and this teacher's probably one of the most inspirational teachers of ever worked with, she's just phenomenal, but the session was just dry. There was nothing in it because I don't think she was passionate about it, about that particular topic, I don't think the students were passionate about it because I think the students thought, "Yeah, you don't really get it anyway. We have to go through the hell of these exams, you don't." I think there was a real disconnect and I think educating students about what well-being means, all the things we've talked about in the last half an hour or so, it's more difficult than just saying, "Make sure you have a drink, and make sure you chunk your revision up into 30 minute sections." I think we need to go back to the start with students too, and that means when they're younger educating them when they're younger about emotional literacy, about emotional well-being too.

I think to summarize there, I think there's two parts to it. I think, firstly, it's about modeling honesty and integrity with our students. Secondly, I do think there are some curriculum implications in terms of helping students understand what well-being means, but there needs to be a culture change because if you can't measure it, and it's not a result I think people aren't motivated by it, which is one of the unfortunate byproducts of our current education system.

Martine: Do you see change on the horizon in terms of the if you can't measure it it's not important type approach? You mentioned the new Ofsted framework, and things like that. Do you get a sense that there's going to be improvements in that area?

Andy: That's interesting because I get a sense from having a couple of conversations with people off the record, and speaking to people about this in and around the hierarchy of education, I do think that what we see with Ofsted and this new framework is there's a couple of really good people at the top of Ofsted at the minute, I think. I think Amanda Spielman and Sean Harford are banging the right drum from what I can understand by people who are around them, and people who have spoken to me about those particular individuals. I think that's really important, and so I think there's going to be change in that sense.

I'm not sure whether or not we're going to be looking much longer term before we see a real change beyond that though. What I can say, but I do feel is that this new framework definitely is a step in the right direction, and I think it'd be foolish to turn our noses up at this new framework because I think at least it is, from what I can see I know it's in the consultation phase, but what I can see is that it's acknowledging that it's about the richness of the curriculum rather than just the outcome. One of the things that I like as, certainly, a middle to senior leader is that when Ofsted are coming into the school I think as a middle leader you should be able to walk around with them and justify what's happening in the classroom in terms of the direction of the curriculum, what you're doing and why and the rationale.

Yes, I think baby steps would be the short version to that answer. Baby steps, but I think there needs to be a lot more done, and it takes a long time to unpick a culture.

When I was at school, if it was PSHE I didn't care, if it was general studies without something that was going to go on my UCAS form, I didn't care. I think there's a lot of that in schools nowadays, and that's what we need to turn round, I think, and that starts right from Primary whether or not that's on the agenda for change in the future I couldn't say.

Martine: It's a case of coming at it from all angles, isn't it?

Andy: I think so.

Martine: Whether you're senior leadership, whether you're one teacher starting this well-being journey, whether you are Ofsted. Whoever you are, it's coming at it from all angles, and that's the way we're, ultimately, going to achieve positive change.

Andy: The sad thing is that I'm not sure what's motivated the inspection framework change, but the fantastic book written by Becky Allen, The Teacher Gap really explores what's going on with teaching in terms of what we need for our students, and what we're providing them as a profession at the moment. Those hemorrhaging numbers are a problem. I think these hemorrhaging numbers in terms of profession, and not the numbers but the quality that we see in front of the students at every level, I think that's going to be felt for a good few years, unfortunately.

What we can do in the meantime is take ownership over our own well-being, and make sure that we are the best for our students in front of us everything every day, that's what I think we can do.

Martine: Definitely. One of the ways that people can make a start in the right direction is your book. Tell me about a bit about your book, Andy . Did you like that segue? That was beautifully timed wasn't it?

Andy: Yeah, that was fantastic. Yeah, that was beautiful. It's a bucket list of mine to write a book, and actually I've had a fairly difficult 2018. Actually, it was really difficult, and as part of my coming back from where I was emotionally I went through a form of therapy called compassion focused therapy. Effectively, what it does is it's an evolutionary psychology model that helps us to understand what motivates how we see the world. What is it that we see as threatening about the world, and how can we unpick that in order to be kinder and be more productive with ourselves? The source of helpful things we can say to ourselves rather than keep having these unhelpful voices in our minds almost, this critical voice.

Once I really began to emerge from how awful I was feeling in 2018 I began to think about well, actually does this model of compassion focused therapy about threats and drives and soothes, which you can find out more about in the book, does this apply to education as a whole? As a culture, as an educational culture have we become plagued by threats, have we become plagued by drive, drive, drive to get results and threats if you're going to lose your job, or whatever is going to happen if we don't get these results rather than actually being on the soothe drive axis? This axis where you feel safe, and you feel content, but actually you're able to go to work and feel passionate, and feel safe, and be the best version of yourself. I began to start with that model, and then branch off into all other kinds of psychology and things in the book.

What it is, is a bit of a frank disclosure of what happened with me before, in Chapter 2, it goes on to thinking about the wider education system and how it is, in some sense, it's almost wired for poor mental health. In the second half of the book it's much more practical, it's much more how we can see ourselves in schools in a much more healthier way and the relationships with our colleagues and students. Then, in Chapter 4 it's much more about practical methods to cut the work load and be well, but also be effective in the classroom. It's around the topic trip in terms of mental health in schools, and how we can be productive as best we can be. That's the book in a nutshell, if that's at all clear. I hope that's clear.

Martine: No, that sounds fantastic. Where can we get a hold of a copy of it? What's it called and where do we find it?

Andy: It's called The Compassionate Teacher and you can find it on Amazon, and you can also find my blog and there's a couple of excerpts from the book put up on the blog, and that's compassionteach.weebly.com, and you can find it on there. If you go through Amazon you'll be able to find a little bit about the book as well, and things like that, and that's going to be out on the 15th of March in paperback and Kindle as well, so I'm excited.

Martine: Congratulations on the book, that's quite an achievement. It's so good to hear you've come out the other side of not such a great year last year, and you've put all of your energy into something so positive helping other teachers who are struggling with their mental health. I think that's fantastic Andy, you must feel really good about it.

Andy: Yeah. It felt really great to start the year as it started, but then finish it towards the end of 2018 being able to put something together. Actually, the way the book shaped up it was quite cathartic disclosing everything that happened with me, and how the theoretical approach of compassion focused therapy help me. I think anyone who might want to buy it would be pleased to know it's not my autobiography. It's a disclosure about what happened with me, and then the model, but then it goes into a thorough, fully contextual understanding about education in this country, and all the rest of it.

I do sincerely hope it helps at least one person, if it does then it's not in time wasted. Even if it doesn't then all I wanted to do was add to the literature, add to the debate in some way. I'm thrilled that someone's actually said they'd like to publish it, and the final manuscript's gone in now, so it's just off to them to do it now.

Martine: Fantastic stuff. Andy, it's been a real pleasure having you on the show. Thank you so much for joining me. Any final words to listeners of The Teaching Space Podcast?

Andy: I would say, be very clear about what your soothe is, be very clear about what things relax you, hold them close, make space for them because if you don't you'll pay it back somehow later, I think. I think it's really important to treasure the things that make you feel safe, and make you feel happy.

Wrap Up

Massive thanks to Andy for the interview. Don’t forget to check out his book and whist you’re at it why not hop over to The Teaching Space Facebook page here.

28. How to Get Teachers Excited about Professional Development
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Episode 52 of The Teaching Space Podcast investigates how to get teachers excited about professional development.

My Job

Part of my day job role this year is heading up professional development for my College. When I took it on, I knew one challenge would to get (some) teachers excited about professional development. In this episode I will explore why teachers sometimes aren’t the most enthusiastic recipients of organised PD and what I’ve been (trying) to do to change that.

The “Why” Before The “Why”

Before we look at the “why” in terms of why we need PD. Let’s be honest, we all know we need to do it, but let me re-frame the "why" for you in a slightly different way.

Would you be happy being operated on by a surgeon who uses 10-year-old methods? Would you be happy allowing a builder to work on your house if they had not updated their knowledge since their apprenticeship 20 years ago?

I think I know the answer. Surgeons and builders are professionals in the same way that teachers are. PD and professionalism go hand in hand.

Why the Sad Face?

We know we have to do it, and we know why we have to do it. So, why do so many teachers turn their noses up at organised PD sessions? I’m talking INSET days and mandatory courses mostly, here.

Many reasons. Here are just a few:

Extrinsic motivation - they have to do it. Sessions are boring and often mostly about sharing information. Too busy. How Can We Make Things Better?

This list is a starting point - let’s chat more.

Teacher-led PD - what do they want and need? Share information in other ways. Model good teachers. Rethink observations. Peer collaboration. Professional learning communities (episode 44). Fun.

29. Equality Versus Equity in Education
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Episode 51 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores the difference between equality and equity and why, as educators, we must understand both.

Why This Episode? Why Now?

My professional development focus for this year is equality and the promotion of diversity. I am focusing my research on trainee teachers as that’s they are the people I teach most. Working with people at the start of their teaching career might just have the most impact.

I have become increasingly frustrated with the idea that putting a token piece of clip art in a presentation featuring a person of colour who just happens to be a wheelchair user is enough - box ticked. It’s not enough. Where’s the conversation? Where’s the genuine understanding?

My starting point for exploring this theme is the language we use when we teach and learn. That’s where the idea for this episode came from.

I’m fully aware that you might feel this is going back to basics with teacher training, but I’m OK with that.

Definitions of Equality and Equity

According to dictionary.com:

Equality is “the state or quality of being equal; correspondence in quantity, degree, value, rank, or ability". Equity is “the quality of being fair or impartial; fairness; impartiality".

To put this into an education context:

In an equal learning environment, all learners would be given the resources they need, such as books and technology. In an equitable learning environment, learners would also be given the support they need to achieve. This probably means the teacher is spending extra time with those learners who need it most. It might mean some learners have longer to complete assignments.

On the face of it, this does not appear equal, but it is equitable. What you are doing is creating an environment where all learners have equal access to success in learning. Equity is fair. It creates equality.


Know Your Learners

It’s important to understand the difference between these words, but it’s more important to know your learners. That’s how you will create equity in your learning environment.

When I work with trainee teachers, we spend a lot of time on the importance of initial assessment. Actually, they find out about it before they start the course because I put them through a rigorous initial assessment process. They have to submit free writing, complete an application form and reflect on their previous experiences of education. There is usually an interview too.

Later during the course we reflect on why this process is important and what it was for.

Over to You

I am really interested to start a conversation about how we can be better at learning the language of equality, equity and diversity and putting positive processes into practice. How do you get to know your learners and assess their needs? Hop over to The Teaching Space Staff Room and let's chat.

Further listening/reading: episode 42.

30. The Productive Teacher
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Description: Introduction

An extract from The Productive Teacher by Martine Ellis:

Teaching is the hardest job I’ve ever done.

You have to play the part of the expert (because teaching feels like acting sometimes) , even if you really don’t feel you deserve it. You have to know the answers, even when you don’t. You are in charge, even when you don’t want to be.

My journey into teaching wasn’t a traditional one.

I left school after my A levels and worked in a variety of industries from lending to recruitment. I settled in the finance sector because I found a company I really liked (this helped mask the fact that the job was dull). They recognised my potential and fast tracked me to a senior leadership position. I became a director at 29.

On the surface, everything looked great. I was earning a high salary, and I drove a convertible (and I wasn’t even 30). But things weren’t great. I wasn’t happy in my work. I felt that what I did wasn’t important.

The other problem was that no one really understood my work. Do you remember how nobody really knew what Chandler in Friends did? That was me. I used to work with international property developers so most people thought I was a timeshare salesperson!

(Alleged) timeshare sales to teaching? That seems like a leap, doesn’t it? Let’s rewind a little.

Way before I started full-time work, I was teaching. My stepmother was a dance teacher, so I learned to dance and ended up teaching for her. At every stage of my career I have trained staff, not because it was in my job description, but because it was something I did well and loved.

When I finally summoned the courage to admit that I wasn’t happy in my finance role, a few strange, seemingly unconnected things happened.

First strange thing: I filled out one of those irritating chain letter style questionnaires on Facebook. You know the ones; they ask loads of questions and then you need to copy and paste the questions and answers in your status and tag other friends to do the same… Anyway, I must have been bored at work that day because I completed the questionnaire.

One of the questions was something like “what job do you wish you did?” And without thinking, I typed “teacher”. A dear friend commented on my status with a simple question “well why not?” She made a good point!

Second strange thing: around the same time, I found out my local further education college was advertising a one-year maternity cover contract teaching office administration to 16 to 19-year-olds. Now, I’m not a girl who believes in fate or anything woo-woo like that, but it really felt like the universe was trying to send me a message.

In true ‘message from the universe’ style, the contact for the maternity contract advertisement was the sister of a close friend of mine. I called her to talk about the role and, shock horror, the deadline had passed a few days before. They allowed me to apply anyway (third strange thing) and, long story short, I got the job.

I’d like to say it was all plain sailing from that point onwards, but it really wasn’t. I had to take a considerable pay drop, which took some getting used to. My first week of teaching was hell. It was just so different. I’d gone from having the corner office with a stunning view of the ocean and a team of staff, to sitting in a cold, damp staffroom, so close to my colleagues we almost needed to work in a Mexican wave.

I started my new role on a Monday, and that Wednesday I can remember sitting in bed with my husband, in tears, saying over and over again, “what have I done?”

Once that first week was over, I had a stern word with myself. I leaned on my new colleagues and confided in them that I was struggling. They were amazing. I got to know my learners and, slowly but surely, I fell in love with my new profession.

I also started using the productivity tools and skills I’d learned in industry, while climbing the corporate ladder.

By the end of that first year, I knew I was in the right place. Thankfully, the college agreed with me and took me on as a full-time lecturer. My gamble paid off.

That was 2009.

Fast forward to today and I am now a teacher educator at the same college where I started my journey into teaching. I help others discover how amazing teaching can be and support their transition from industry to educator. I’m also a Google Certified Trainer and technology coach which means I support teaching colleagues with using technology in the classroom.

When I’m not teaching, I produce an education podcast, The Teaching Space. I also speak at events and train other organisations (often with a focus on Google products, but not always).

So why this book? Why now?

The role of the teacher is becoming more difficult every day. Budgets are being cut and teacher workloads are growing. Many teachers are leaving the profession and new teacher numbers are in decline.

Here are some worrying statistics about teacher wellbeing from the UK’s Education Support Partnership Annual Health Survey (2017):

75 percent of teachers have faced physical and mental health issues in the last two years because of their work. 50 percent said they had experienced depression, anxiety or panic attacks due to work. 64 percent would not feel confident in disclosing mental health problems or unmanageable stress to their employer.

Unsurprisingly, one of the main reasons given for this stress in the survey was the volume of work.

Teachers have an unusual work day structure. One of the biggest shocks for me on leaving the corporate world and going into teaching (aside from the dramatic decrease in disposable income and the tragic loss of my sports car) was working to a timetable.

Being in the classroom is great, but the time you have to complete non-teaching work is so limited. You try to snatch time between sessions but it’s never enough. Timetables never seem to allow for a stretch of a few uninterrupted hours. How is anyone supposed to do focused work by snatching 15 minutes here and there?

This unusual work day structure is one of the reasons teachers spend so much time working at home and during their holidays (which is not OK, by the way). It’s also why we fail miserably at achieving work/life balance...

But that’s where I, and this book, come in.

While I cannot inject a massive wad of cash into the global education system, I can help individual teachers.

Using my business, teaching and technology experience I can help individual teachers and trainers be more productive.

I can help you work smarter and faster, without compromising your personal and professional standards. I can do this because I have done it. I have achieved work/life balance.

You can do it too.

Here are my 10 proven productivity strategies.

P.S. I have kept this book deliberately short because I want you to read it twice. Once to absorb the information, then a second time to put these strategies into practice.

P.P.S. This book is written with teachers and trainers in the post-16, non-compulsory education and corporate training sectors in mind. That being said, the strategies can apply to anyone in a teaching role. Just bear in mind some of the terminology I have used might be slightly different in, for example, a primary school setting. 

Wrap Up

I hope you enjoyed this episode. Thank you for listening and supporting the show. Thanks for helping me get to episode 50 - I could not have done it without you.

Find out more about The Productive Teacher at theproductiveteacherbook.com.

31. Create Positive Habits that Stick
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Description: Introduction

In last week’s episode (48 How to Start a Book Club for Educators) I mentioned my book club’s first title choice, Atomic Habits by James Clear. It was a great read and has inspired this episode.

While I will highlight my main takeaways from the book, I still recommend you read it as there is much more to it than what I will cover in ten minutes.

Before we start though, let’s consider why a teacher or trainer should think about the science of habit formation.

Why Should We Care About Habits?

“A habit is a behavior that has been repeated enough times to become automatic” - James Clear

Let’s focus on you first: most forms of self-improvement start with establishing positive habits.

If you’ve read my book, The Productive Teacher, or you have been listening to this podcast for a while, you know I place great importance on self-care for teachers and trainers. Teaching is an exhausting job at the best of times, frequently you are responsible for the welfare of other humans. You cannot possibly give this your best if you are not on top form. So self-care needs to be a priority.

Here are some examples of how you might use habits for self-care:

Bringing an exercise routine into your week. Drinking more water. Taking more breaks.

Each of these actions can become positive habits.

Now think about the people you teach. Could they benefit from understanding how to break bad habits and create positive ones? I suspect the answer is a resounding YES!

Book Highlights

My main takeaways from Atomic Habits are:

Small changes build up over time and can create big results. Positive habit formation is all about systems. If you have failed to establish a good habit in the past, chances are, you did nothing wrong. You just did not have the right system in place to give yourself the best chance of success. Habit formation has four steps: Cue Craving Response Reward Example: you are walking to work and you smell coffee, you crave coffee, you pop into the nearest coffee shop and grab a coffee, you reward yourself with coffee and perhaps a cake! Walking to work becomes associated with coffee and cake. To establish a good habit, make it: Obvious Easy Attractive Satisfying To break a bad habit, make it: Invisible Difficult Unattractive Unsatisfying Make habit formation about identify - who do you want to be? Example: you are not trying to give up smoking, you are not a smoker). One of the easiest ways to form new, positive habits is to attach them to exiting habits. This is known as habit stacking. Formula: “After CURRENT HABIT, I will NEW HABIT.” Example (taken from the book): Exercise. After I take off my work shoes I will immediately change into my workout clothes. Wrap Up

I hope you enjoyed this episode. Please check out my new book, The Productive Teacher at theproductiveteacherbook.com.

32. How to Start a Book Club for Educators
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Description: Introduction

In the last episode (47 How to Make Time to Read More) I mentioned setting up a professional development book club at my college. This week I will walk you through the process, step-by-step, hoping you might consider doing something similar.

Before we delve into the practical aspects of setting up a book club, let’s consider why it’s a good idea.

Why Set Up a Book Club?

Towards the end of last year, I took on a new role at my college: CPD Manager and Scholarly Lead. One of my responsibilities is coordinating professional development for all staff (teaching and non-teaching). While I expected some resistance to PD activities, I was a little surprised at the level of resistance some colleagues demonstrated (this is will be covered in a future podcast episode).

For me, professional development is at the heart of the teaching profession. How can we be great teachers without loving learning?

Does any teacher or trainer genuinely think it’s OK to teach in exactly the same way they did 10 years ago and not try be better, or at least, current? Would you let a surgeon using 10-year old methods operate on you? I think probably not.

Reading can be a relatively low-friction gateway to professional development for some. It’s not for everyone, but given the rising popularity of audiobooks and the relatively low price of ebooks, it’s an accessible gateway. With this in mind, I started a book club for colleagues.

Before I started, here are some questions I asked myself:

Questions to Ask Yourself 1. Who is the book club for?

My book club is for all staff - teaching and non-teaching. This felt important as so often, PD activities in colleges or schools feel aimed at teaching staff only.

If you are a freelance trainer, you might consider organising a book club for other people in a similar position to you.

2. What kind of books will you read?

Considering my response to the first question, I’ve been very careful to choose a variety of personal and professional development titles. Some are education-based, but most focus on general personal development. For example, our first book choice was Atomic Habits by James Clear. I will talk a little more about that particular booking next week’s episode.

I have categorised each book choice to ensure variety.

3. Who will choose the books?

I have collaborated with my college librarian to organise this book club so at the moment; we are choosing book titles. However, it is my aim that club members will eventually take on the responsibility. I want it to be their book club.

4. How will you advertise the book club?

I send out a weekly email to colleagues called PD Weekly. I advertise the book club in this email, and on my own internal website. The website is a Google Site and I have a page for the book club. You can see a screenshot below.


The page includes information about the club (e.g. who it is for and how frequently we read, meet etc). There’s also an emphasis on the fact that the club is low commitment. Staff can dip in and out when they want.

There’s an embedded Google Sheet which shows book choices, meeting dates, links to where to get the book, etc.

There is also a Google Group/Online discussion forum embedded on the site.

5. When and where will you meet?

My college is spread across three campuses so the plan is to rotate locations. Generally, we are based in the library. We meet monthly - I’ll delve into date logistics in a moment.

6. How long will you give people to read the book?

Actually this is one of the most important logistically bits to decide. Here’s what we do:

1st week of the month: announce book title Last Thursday of the month: meet to discuss the book

This gives participants just under a month to read the book. Of course, sometimes things don’t work out that way with school holidays, so the schedule is adjusted to accommodate. All dates are share on the website.

7. What can you do to help people access the book?

It’s important to remove as many barriers to participation as possible. Whereas some participants will want to buy their own copy of the book or like me, they might have Audible credits to use, others will not. As I mentioned earlier, I have collaborated with our college librarian to organise this book club, so she ensures there are copies of the book available in campus libraries. This has worked really well so far.

When you start your book club it is a good idea to plan your first six titles in advance. This is especially helpful if your librarian needs to order (and budget for) multiple book copies.

8. Will you meet face-to-face, online, or both?

My club does both. The main club element is face-to-face, but those who cannot attend can share their thoughts on the book in our online forum.

9. Will you set discussion questions? If yes, when will these be released?

So far, I’ve opted to keep this fairly simple and just issued one question when the book title is released. So, for example, with Atomic Habits, I asked, ‘what is one action you plan to take having read this book?’ This started the conversation going, and we branched off into different areas from there.

Think about how much structure you want the conversation to have. For some groups, a very structured conversation will work well - for example, six questions, one every 10 minutes, etc. For my group, one question was enough. This might change as time goes on.

However structured you make the discussion, I suggest someone (you perhaps) take the role of informal chairman. You can move the conversation along as needed and ensure all are involved and get a say.

10. Who will help you?

If you can collaborate with a librarian then that works really well. If not, find a colleague or peer who would be happy to work with you on the project. It’s helpful to share the workload.

Wrap Up

I hope you enjoyed this episode and it has inspired you to either start your own professional development book club or find one to join.

Please check out my new book, The Productive Teacher at theproductiveteacherbook.com.

33. How to Make Time to Read More
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Here are the show notes for this episode.


Last year I managed to read over 100 books. That’s a crazy number, right?

This list comprised fiction (some complete trash) and non-fiction. I tend to read fiction for relaxation and non-fiction for personal and professional development. Reading is, to me, both relaxation and learning.

I happened to mention how many books I read last year to a few colleagues (in a completely non-bragging way, I promise) and many were a little stunned. Quite a few didn’t believe me! Many confessed they wanted to read more but just didn’t have the time. In response, I set up a book club for my colleagues.

This podcast episode will hopefully help too.

Here are my 14 tips to help you make time to read more.

Consume audiobooks - it’s not cheating! Understand that it’s OK to leave a book unfinished. Remember - there is no test at the end. Start or join a book club. Find a reading buddy. Wake up early to read. Go to bed early to read. Keep a book in your bag. Have two books on the go at the same time. Make the most of your commute. Try short stories/books. Set reading goals and track your progress using an app like Streaks. Set a daily reading reminder on your smartphone. Read what you want, not what you should.

This episode was inspired by one of my favourite podcasts: seanwes.

Wrap Up

I hope you enjoyed this episode. Please check out my new book, The Productive Teacher at theproductiveteacherbook.com.

34. 30 Edtech Tools in 30 Minutes
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Episode 46 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores 30 Edtech Tools taken from a blended learning session I ran recently.


This episode’s audio is taken from a video I created for a blended learning session called 30 Edtech Tools in 30 Minutes.

Below you will find links to all of the tools I mentioned, as well as a copy of the Google Slides presentation I used in the session.

Presentation Tools Used



Emoji Copy

TES Teach with Blendspace

Quick, Draw!

Google Keep



Voice Typing in Google Docs

Just Press Record

QR Code Creator






Adobe Spark


Google Forms/Quizzes

Answer Garden


Insert Learning


Random Name Selector



Google Hangouts


Day One


Wrap Up

I hope you enjoyed this episode. Please check out my new book, The Productive Teacher at theproductiveteacherbook.com.

35. 10 Ways Teachers and Trainers can Improve Presentations
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Description: Introduction

In this episode we will explore ways teachers and trainers can improve their presentations (specifically, how they can improve their slides, we will save the communication aspect for another show).

This episode considers presentation slides as just one of a teacher or trainer’s teaching tools. If you use a presentation in every teaching session, or you are overly reliant on them, I encourage you to try a session without a presentation and see how it goes (after you’ve listened to this episode, of course!)

1. Consistent Design Set up a master slide so your design is consistent. Choose a colour scheme. Aim to create a stylish, aesthetically pleasing document. 2. Careful Image Use Do not use copyrighted image - especially those with watermarks! Choose age-appropriate images. Further reading: Free Photography Resources for Teachers and Trainers The Noun Project for Google Slides and Google Docs 3. Pay Attention to Fonts Pick a readable font (I favour sans-serif - it’s easier to read and looks more modern). If using a white background, opt for grey text to reduce “glare”. Use a maximum of two fonts - one for headings and one for text. Avoid underlining text as this can make it more difficult to read. 4. Avoid Text Heavy Slides Your slide text should be a prompt. Use speaker’s notes for more detailed text. 5. Use Shortlinks To avoid cluttered slides shorten all links. I recommend the link shortener Bitly but alternatives are available. 6. Embed Video In Google Slides INSERT > VIDEO (direct link to YouTube). Exiting the presentation looks clunky and wastes time. 7. Minimal Animation I don’t use animation. It wastes time and is distracting. 8. Use Audience Participation If you use Google Slides, experiment with their audience participation tools. Alternatively, use a back channel tool. Further reading: Nine Classroom Backchannel Tools You Can Start Using Today 9. Use QR Codes to Share the Presentation Instead of giving paper handouts consider sharing the presentation electronically (if your organisation has sufficient tech to do so). Share using a shortlink and QR code. My favourite QR code generator. 10. Use GIFs Moving images can make slides more interesting and also inject a little fun into a dry subject. GIFs can sometimes be a good replacement for video if you are demonstrating something simple e.g. a short series of mouse moves on a computer. I use GIPHY for finding fun GIFs and Cloud App for creating my own GIFs. Wrap Up

I hope you enjoyed this episode. Please check out my new book, The Productive Teacher at theproductiveteacherbook.com.

36. Professional Learning Communities 101
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Description: Introduction

In this episode we will explore professional learning communities, often referred to as PLCs.

What Professional Learning Communities ARE

They are typically (note the word “typically”):

Groups of teachers or trainers, from the same organisation, gathering regularly to learn together and share good practice and ideas Led by teachers, not senior leadership Part of an organisation’s CPD schedule Led by a teacher facilitator (although the facilitator could easily change every time of there is a standard agenda and process) Planned well in advance with themes Face-to-face (although there is no reason online wouldn’t work) What Professional Learning Communities ARE NOT

PLCs should not be (note the word “should”):

Moan fests For Union related discussion Negative To gather data Token CPD Benefits of PLCs

There are many benefits to PLCs. They can:

Empower teachers through the ownership of their CPD Create a feeling of togetherness - this is important for teachers in need of support Be a place for innovation and creative idea generation Foster relationships between colleague  Create opportunities for peer observation, support and mentorship Where They Go Wrong

PLCs are an incredible tool. But they can and will go wrong. Here are problems to expect:

Teachers not having time to attend Part-time staff not being in school at the time of the PLC  Deciding wether attendance should be compulsory or not Perception of who drives/wants the PLC - if it is top down this is going to cause issues No single point of contact and co-ordination Poor communication Poor procedures Lack of understanding of the purpose of PLCs What Now?

Let’s chat in the Facebook group. 

Questions to consider if your organisation has PLCs already:

Are they working?  What’s going well?  What isn’t?

Questions to consider if your organisation doesn’t have PLCs:

Could they work? Could you pitch the idea? Who is the right person to pitch to/co-ordinate?

Questions to consider of you are a solo trainer:

Could you join an online PLC/trainer community? Could you start one? The Teaching Space Staff Room

Obviously I would love our Facebook group to more closely resemble a PLC, but I don’t think it’s likely for several reasons. 

For starters, I don’t see Facebook as a professional platform. Also, it’s too easy to get distracted while you are there! The group (and this podcast) is for a wide variety of teachers and trainers. For a PLC to work, I think there needs to be a commonality, whether it’s the age group of your learners, your subject or the level your teach.

That being said, I believe members of my group and listeners to this podcast have one specific teaching related thing in common and that is the desire to be the best teacher you can without sacrificing weekends!

I would like to create some online PLCs but not on Facebook - let me know what you think about this.

Further Reading

If the concept of PLCs is interesting to you, here are websites and articles with more information:

All Things PLC

PLCs - What The Are and Are Not

PLC Best Practices

Wrap Up

If you enjoyed the episode, then please consider leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts or your preferred podcast directory. This helps more teachers and trainers find the podcast when they search. Thank you. Also, check out my new book, The Productive Teacher at theproductiveteacherbook.com.

37. How Keyboard Shortcuts Can Improve Your Life
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Episode 43 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores the benefits of using keyboard shortcuts to improve productivity.


This episode is one of those that probably works best in a written format. If you don’t normally visit the show notes for an episode, then I will insist you do so on this occasion (in the nicest way!) 

What Are Keyboard Shortcuts?

Keyboard shortcuts are a key or combination of keys providing quick access to a specific computer function. Even if you don’t use shortcuts often, the one you are most likely to be familiar with is copy and paste. These are CMD + C then CMD + V on a Mac and CTRL + C and CTRL + V on a PC.

Right Mouse Clicker

Until recently, I wasn’t the person who used keyboard shortcuts (other than copy and paste options). I was a right mouse clicker. I used the right mouse button to access a shortcut menu.

However, there are lots of reasons (aside from the productivity ones) you should learn keyboard shortcuts.

Why Should You Use Keyboard Shortcuts?

While using a shortcut might only save you a second or two that time adds up. Using a mouse for everything can lead to repetitive strain injury.

There are lots of keyboard shortcuts available to Mac, Windows and Google Docs users - besides those we will delve into ways you can create your own keyboard (and mobile device) based shortcuts.

How to Learn Shortcuts

One of the best ways to learn keyboard shortcuts is to choose one shortcut, write it on a post-it note and stick it to your computer screen. Keep the post-it there until you have used and learned the shortcut off by heart. Then change it for another, and another.

This is another excellent thing to teach your own learners once you have mastered it yourself.


Keyboard shortcuts on a Mac require you to hold down one or more modifier keys while pressing the last key of the shortcut. Your Mac modifier key symbols are:

Command ⌘

Shift ⇧

Option ⌥

Control ⌃

Caps Lock ⇪

Function Fn

Rather than read out a list of handy shortcuts please visit (and bookmark the following link): tts.fyi/mac-keyboard. 


Keyboard shortcuts on Windows computers work similarly to Mac. Often, it is a simple case of using the Control modifier key, instead of Command, but not always. There is also a set of shortcuts requiring you to use the Windows logo key.

Again, I have a handy link for you to check out and bookmark for a list of useful Windows shortcuts: tts.fyi/windows-keyboard. 


If you use the G Suite, your keyboard shortcuts will, in most cases, be the same as above, dependent on the keyboard you use (Mac or PC). However, some might not work in all languages.

Here’s a nifty trick: to open a list of keyboard shortcuts in Google Docs, press Ctrl + / (Windows, Chrome OS) or ⌘ (command) + / (Mac).

Find out more about Google keyboard shortcuts here: tts.fyi/google-keyboard. 

Create Your Own

There is a variety of different ways to create your own keyboard shortcuts. My favourite method is using a tool called Text Expander which you can find at textexpander.com.

According to their website:

”TextExpander lets you instantly insert snippets of text from a repository of emails, boilerplate and other content, as you type – using a quick search or abbreviation.” 

It’s useful for frequently used words and word combinations, but where it really comes into its own for teachers is for often used feedback comments and emails.

An example of how you could use Text Expander for emails would be if you were organising work experience for your group of 20 learners. While each email you send to prospective placement hosts will be different and personalised to the employer and learner, there will also be repeated aspects in relation to, for example, health and safety and child protection. It’s these sections of text that could be created in Text Expander.

One way Text Expander has saved me a great deal of time is replying to course enquiry emails. I have a standard response which thanks the person enquiring, includes links to the course leaflet and application form and explains what happens next. Prior to using text expander, I would type these emails from scratch.

Wrap Up

If you enjoyed the episode, then please consider leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts or your preferred podcast directory. This helps more teachers and trainers find the podcast when they search. Thank you.

Also, check out my new book, The Productive Teacher at theproductiveteacherbook.com.

38. Is Your Learning Environment as Inclusive as You Think? An Interview with Kate O' Sullivan
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Episode 42 of The Teaching Space Podcast is an interview with Kate O’Sullivan discussing how we can be more inclusive.

Podcast Episode 42 Transcript

Hello, and welcome to The Teaching Space Podcast. It's Martine here, thank you so much for joining me. Today I am joined by a guest on the show.

It's my great pleasure to introduce you to Kate O'Sullivan. Rather than me try to reveal the very, very large number of layers to Kate and all the amazing things she does, I'm going to ask her to introduce herself to you.

Martine: So hello Kate, welcome to the show!

Kate: Hello Martine, thanks for having me.

Martine: It's my pleasure, tell us about you.

Kate: Okay-

Martine: That's a huge question. That's a massive question.

Kate: Okay let's see if I can do it because I always go blank the minute we ask people this don't you. Tell me about yourself. So yes I am Kate. I currently am living in Edinburgh. It is freezing, we had our first frost here today. I have a daughter and a girlfriend and I'm self-employed as a writer, kind of broadcaster and photographer.

And my thing is creating online and journalism. And I tend to cover a lot of topics around the area of sort intersectionality, identity, feminism, LGBT+ issues, social justice and kind of looking at opening up conversations that can be quite simple but also quite challenging. You know those ones when you start having a conversation perhaps if you're at a dinner party or something and you're chatting someone and suddenly find yourself in that conversation and think, "I am out of my depth here."

It tends to be those that I lean in towards, because I think a lot of us struggle with those and I think particularly with the political climate and so many changes happening around social policy, both home and abroad at the moment, there's a lot of people who are suddenly finding themselves realising that they have kind of almost blank spaces in their knowledge about other people and the communities and some of these policies that are changing.

I think it's quite an anxiety-provoking state for people, where they feel like they've failed in some way or they feel that maybe they're ignorant in some way. Or it can actually make us feel quite defensive. We can often sort of really feel like "well I'm a good person. I'm not racist. I'm not homophobic." And we can't always address sometimes the fact that a lot of these things crop up because that's the way we've been conditioned.

So I think I'm trying to host conversations and write articles about just making these things explicit, so we can see them and perhaps not feel so afraid to have conversations. That's kind of what I'm doing, which is quite a big aim and quite a broad aim. And also a very exact and minute aim all at once, is how I feel.

Martine: Multi-layered, definitely multi-layered. In some respects, education is at the heart of what you're trying to do by the sounds of things because you eluded to the fact that there's quite a lot of fear around saying the wrong thing in regard to certain topics.

And what you're trying to do, from what I understand, is kind of equip people with what they need to get rid of some of that fear. Would that be fair to say?

Kate: Yeah. I think it's sort of really balancing that line between personal growth to get yourself in sort of a confident place and to acknowledge that you're not going to know everything. And that you know, particularly when you're talking about systems of oppression, they're not ... they're not always obvious. It's not as simple as somebody used a really bad word against this person, and that makes them racist.

It can be quite layered and very institutional. And we're all subject to those. And sometimes it's really hard to see as a result.

So I think it's that kind of personal growth that sort of not feeling bad about that but feeling empowered to address it.

But then at the same time there's kind of that real much more community focus of are you being inclusive? Are you getting out of your bubble? Are you thinking about other people? And are you working emphatically with people?

And I think that's the word that kind of really has to drive so much of these conversations, is the word empathy. Because it's, that's such a skill that we, it's really hard to teach and learn. But it's so crucial I think to so many of these conversations going a lot easier and smoother I think.

Martine: That's such an important word. And actually one of the reasons for this conversation we're having, just to give you a little bit of background, I'm gonna steal the word empathy and take it. Its mine now. Take it to my initial teacher training students.

Because part of my sort of day job is to help people who are interested in perhaps making a move into teaching. Helping them kinda get ready for making that move. So we do, essentially an initial teacher training program targeted at people interested in post-16 education and adult education as well. And we do lots of stuff on equality and diversity. I mean, it really is the backbone to a qualification which is fantastic and right and essential.

But, I do sometimes feel certainly from the material that I use to deliver my topic that there is a tendency to be a bit tokenistic, you know.

I mean an appalling example would be, so if you're going to do a PowerPoint presentation in your session then make sure you have at least one black person, one person in a wheelchair, etc, etc. and it's just awful. It's so tokenistic and I see that quite a lot and I really want to see some change there. I'm not entirely sure where to start.

Kate: Yeah. I think that's where a lot of people are as well. And I think there's a lot of people who are trying with the best will in the world and sometimes that is the start. I'm fairly sure that's how I started. It was being particularly aware as a photographer saying "oh, we don't have a single model that looks like X, Y or Z." You know, whether it's her skin tone, whether it's her age, whether it was whether she was able bodied, whether they were cis-gendered.

You know, I think that's probably how most people start, because they're sort of aware that we've been sort of perpetuating an idea that is a very homogeneous looking resource quite often.

You know it's often a very white, very straight, very able bodied, very cis-gendered, very affluent quite often. You know working class narratives are often only presented as a tragedy. Particularly when it comes to literature.

I mean it's quite exhausting sometimes, what you have to draw from. I really feel that as a sort of literature graduate. Sometimes you just think God, the only things I sort of knew where the things like cares where it was just like gloom, doom and women were abused. You know, that was kind of the only narrative you could have if you were working class.

So I think you know, I think once you're at that stage where you're sort of aware of it, it can be very hard because you look up and realise that well I live in a bubble. And then we start saying things like "well I live in a very undiverse area," or "the resources I have are not very diverse," as if these things are easy to overcome. Of course you are. That is that institutional layering of oppression.

That is how you know, we have black girls that grow up thinking that white dolls are much more, attractive or better behaved. You know, there's a study that's been done over 40 years of young children playing with black versus white dolls. And sure enough, every single child chooses the white doll as the good doll. The white, the beautiful doll. The white doll who's loved more. Because that is a message that's come through across all media.

You know all their lives up to that point, these children are five. They do it again at six, seven, eight, nine and ten. It's one of those, to watch the videos kinda like one of those you know ... having to sort of you know, swallow hard kind of moments when you really realise what you're up against.

So then, it's sort of then, you realise that it's something, you have to really commit to inclusion. And it's something that, you're right, it can get tokenistic. And sometimes it's about really thinking about things.

So the example I used, the one to do with photography is like oh we don't have a model that looks like our community. Well that's great. But of course the other side of that is I cannot just say "oh, I've ticked that box. I've put this model in front. I've put a speechless, voiceless woman on the cover of something. Great. Job done." Because, am I hiring people who are doing the writing? Am I using things like copy editors and all these different steps in the process. And that's when you start moving beyond a sort of tokenism because it's intrinsic.

You’re sort of opening the door and saying “I am not going to be a gatekeeper here”. And in the classroom that would be things like, why do sourcing materials, or say talking to the community that surrounds you. Who can we see? Who can we use? Who is coming in and doing work experience? Who's being hired? Who am I referring to if I'm using a YouTube resource? You know, that sort of layering.

And you know, we're currently looking at some really depressing statistics around how much representation there is. You know, you're looking as little as one percent for some resources aimed young people of being B.A.M.E characters and that's really miserable. And as a result, it can't be just one character suddenly turns up.

We are gonna have to make a wholehearted effort to say it's not good enough. 50% of my curriculum needs to be representative. And it doesn't matter if 50% of my classroom doesn't look like that because this is about the young people in front of me being aware that this an issue. But also being aware that when they go forward, that's what they should be doing. Because perhaps they will be in an environment where 50% of their community looks like that.

It's sort of, we need to sometimes stop this "well our school isn't a very diverse school so we don't need to address that." What you've said to all those children in front of you is that it's not our responsibility to address inclusion and diversity or racism or homophobia or any of these things because it doesn't effect our community. It affects everybody.

And that becomes a kind of, we use the term sort of white supremacy around those kind of ideas because you are perpetuating a system that continues. That you benefit from.

Whether we like it or not. I get better treatment as a white skinned woman. And that is a privilege that I enjoy. So when I address anything when I'm a speaker at an event, then I always ask who else is involved. Who's hired behind the scenes? What's your marketing material like? Is one of the first questions I ask, because I really see that as my responsibility.

I've done a lot of work with events who've suddenly looked up and "oh we have not done enough on this." Like great, I can make these suggestions, I know some amazing people. It can be that small or that big a gesture.

Martine: I can really relate to what you say about people's response of "I don't live in a particularly culturally diverse place," because I live in Guernsey. It's a tiny, weeny island of 60 odd thousand people. And it is a default response. And I don't mean to criticise my fellow Guerns but it is something that I hear quite a bit.

And as you rightly point out, that means we have to work even harder to have this conversation and do this work, and do this research and just make it intrinsic. As you pointed out, and that's so important.

It is difficult for trainee teachers to know where to start. And you know I didn't want to sound negative about the tokenistic approach earlier, in so far as everyone's gotta start somewhere. And it's about awareness. And I get that. But it's about the next step is elevating it. Quite often, what I've done in the past is with my trainee teachers I've said, “you can start by doing this tokenistic approach, but what next? You tell me. Is it okay? Why is it not okay?” And we end up having a really interesting discussion about taking it that next level.

What I'd really like to think about, if this is okay with you Kate, is some practical steps that trainee teachers can take in order to make sure their learning environment is really properly inclusive. What'd you reckon? What can they start by doing?

Kate: I think there's certain terms that would be really helpful to get familiar with.

Because once we are okay with certain terms, and what they mean, we don't have to fear them in our environment.

Things like the fact that I said white supremacy. For a lot of people I can imagine they absolutely hate hearing that expression. It's a very normal expression that we need to normalise and say we live in a culture right now that values white skin. That has white values and that is absolutely institutional.

There are fantastic folks out there. Reni Eddo-Lodge did 'Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race.' She has a series of free podcasts attached to the book. And it's an audio book as well. So in terms of accessibility there's some great stuff that you don't have to buy the book in order to sort of understand the concept. And you know you've got audio as well, which helps for anybody that has access issues.

And I think she really sort of broke that down, particularly in the UK.

There's 'So You Want to Talk About Race,' which is this US version of in terms of you've got sort of a more international kind of background. It sometimes helps.

But I think once you sort of got to terms with that idea, understanding words like privilege and what that means it can be very very hard and can really get people's backs up to get this idea across. And it's something that really needs to be got across to young people who are gonna go and vote soon. They are part of the next generation that's gonna be shaping policy. And understanding that we don't all have the same starting blocks in life makes an enormous difference to how you go forward in presenting material when you're teaching. And how what you expect of your students as well.

So a really sort of basic way of understanding it is if you are white, if you are able bodied, neuro-typical, you have a reasonable, you're sort of within that body mass index that's considered healthy, rather than overweight, you are straight, you are cis-gendered.

All these things kind of add up. Means that you will have a slightly better start than somebody who does not present like that. And it means that your work will go harder, no one's denying that you’re not working hard but the privilege comes in when your starting block just is so much further along.

There's so many people, that just putting their name onto a CV immediately it takes in something into that interview, if it even gets to that stage. And there's a lot of research about people changing their names in order to get to an interview. And what happens at that stage.

So we've got privilege. We got white supremacy. And you know, terms that just strike fear. Understanding some of those can really change the way we go about finding resources, the way we talk to people and the way we encourage the young people that we're working with. Because, as I said, it's not necessarily just that we're representing them sometimes and showing them what it means to be seen.

I mean it would've made a huge difference to me as a 16 year old to have seen a better representation of the LGBT+ community. I grew up during Section 28 which was the really homophobic piece of policy that was put in by the Tory government that basically forbid any encouragement of a homosexual lifestyle. It meant that there was no resources. And it’s now just not there. It takes a long time to put those things in place. And to put teacher training in place. That we can be more inclusive in our approaches. That it just is there, it's just seen whereas that didn't exist for me.

So I think that I would really encourage people to have a look at that. Another thing that people get really hung up about is well, how do I do it because I'm a white woman? And what do I do when I want to talk about or you know, reference something? And I think this is educational but how do I know that I'm not stepping on toes? It's perhaps looking at the term cultural appropriation or cultural misappropriation.

And as a sort of a primer to it, the idea is that we are using something from a culture and we've removed the people from it.

So it might be something like, I have a background in primary education, I have done post-16 because I did special ed. But it would be things that you just have a lot of primary classes. You'd have like little teepees as like reading corners. That's great, but the teepee actually has a really strong cultural and spiritual purpose for indigenous community. And we've removed the people from that. So perhaps it isn't appropriate that we've put that in our very white colonial classrooms. And we've removed any kind of reference to it. And we can't say "oh well it's educational. It's important they see a teepee," if we’ve taken all the references around it that actually make it important and an educational or appreciative tool.

So I think the first step I really think is just getting comfortable with these terms that can often just make us really pull back. And perhaps not put things in for fear of getting it wrong.

And perhaps or we just like dig in our heels you know. I'm not a racist person. You know, I'm not homophobic. You know as somebody who only really came out very late in life.

You know it's only in my thirties that I started to question these feelings that I had. That's internalised homophobia. If I can be homophobic of myself, I'm fairly sure straight people can homophobic, you know. We right need to sort tie ourselves in knots at this idea of I am too good a person to let this happen. We all do it. We all make mistakes. And I do it all the time.

And it's really important at those times, we don't double down. If you get feedback from within our communities and our classroom. If we look at our materials and think, "oh wow this is very colonial, this geography topic I'm doing," or you know, whatever it is.

Don't double down. Think, okay, what is my next step? Sit with that discomfort.

And I think that is the kind of foundation that then will really help you go about looking for those resources. And asking around and talking in a way that you feel you can choose the right language. You're not bulldozing up to somebody. Because it's no one's job to educate you.

You know, you're not walking up to the South Asian woman and you know saying, “I really need to be more inclusive, can you tell me about this experience?” Let's pull back from that. But it does mean that I'm really aware of this and I'm glad you're here. Would you be interested in, and I'm really aware of my privileges.

Just changes the emphasis of the conversation that you're trying to have. And also, you know, dealing with the reaction of something. This is exhausting. I don't want to have this conversation. And not being upset by that but understanding for that person, they're living with that identity every day.

So I think, that would my biggest advice. Rather than go to this resource and it'll teach you how to do it. Or read this thing and you will be a better person. I don't think there is a thing that's going to fix it. But I do think working on ourselves and those hangups and where our bias starts and ends is possibly the best start ever.

Martine: I'd really like to ask you about your school experience. Cast your mind back. It's not that long ago-

Kate: It was. That's the sad thing, it was.

Martine: I think we're a similar age actually. I think so-

Kate: You're thinking it's not that long, and you'll have a goodness when you see it in black and white, right?

Martine: Absolutely. So cast your mind back. From an equality and diversity and inclusion perspective, is there something that you felt could've been done a lot better when you were in school?

Kate: Yeah. I think I was very lucky in a lot of ways that I had, we had a lot of student teachers at my high school. And then again at my college. That meant that not that somebody was sort of a more mature, sort of more experienced wasn't capable of, but we definitely had these student teachers who were really keen to kind of make things very relatable and be a lot more hands on. And they weren't as perhaps, frightened of topics that were seeing policy change.

So as I said, I was a child of Section 28 and it was completely forbidden for about I think it was almost two decades to even touch on a topic that related to homosexual experience.

So for a lot of teachers, they never had any training or background other than you will lose your job if you discuss this. And for some people that was kind of a relief because it didn't relate to their experience, they wouldn't put themselves in a position that they felt uncomfortable with. But for some people obviously, they really felt that they needed to talk to young people. Because they understood what it is to grow up with that stigma.

And so a lot of the time we sort of had this, in some ways I can, immediately spring to mind we had this great science teacher, she was our chemistry teacher. And our biology teacher was sick right during our sex education syllabus. Which she was like, "oh great I noticed how you timed that." And she made a really big joke of it. And she was really young. And she was like "okay take advantage of the fact that you have a young teacher and see how you can make her blush." Was kinda of her approach, which was amazing. And it took a lot of the shame out of that conversation.

Because I think particularly I think for sort of young people sort of ... I haven't quite seen it in my daughter yet, she's really young but I'm seeing the beginnings of that kind of shame response. Our bodies are something that is uncomfortable to talk about, or to be visible. And there's certain ways you behave. And you know things that are desirable and not desirable and that's the end of discussion. And I think that can be really limiting for young people. And it can be very dangerous.

When we start talking about healthy relationships. Healthy relationships with our bodies. Healthy relationships with each other. And before we even get onto those, you know the topic of intercourse.

So I think in some ways I was very lucky that that shame was removed. And I felt very at ease as a result.

But for me, I have grown up in a family that their attitude… we had a friend whose daughter was a lesbian and I can remember family members saying like it was this huge tragedy. Well she'll never have children. It's just awful. And they were trying to be really accepting like, oh we don't have a problem with her but gosh could you imagine having a daughter who'll never have children. Which of course is fundamentally untrue. It's just not true. And yet, that was the thing that struck me more than anything.

And I buried my feelings. To me that was, I can really pinpoint that oh, this is not okay the way I feel about girls. And I hadn't really explored very much but explored very little. And up to me I just didn't see, well you can be attracted to boys and girls and sexuality is fluid, no? Oh no, it's really not. Okay. We don't do that. And because it was completely lacking in school, there was no one to correct me anyway.

You know, all the sex education materials that we looked at were you know, there is a man, there is a woman. They have sex. A baby arrives. They raise it together. I mean, that's just erasing a ton of experience from single parent families, to IFV, to, there's so many things.

And of course, they were all white. They were often in the 70’s porn kinda thing. The guy often had like a mustache. Is what I remember really clearly and being quite traumatised by this.

Martine: Well that's gonna traumatise anybody.

Kate: Exactly, I was like where is this material coming from? Because I see people didn't often didn't want to sort of really tackle it. You know, who wants to sit and look through a pile of sex education resources, right? But it's really important.

And there's great places now doing really inclusive education. There's actually an organisation it's called amaze.org and they have, they focus on young people and it's fully inclusive. So they talk about things like coming out. And they talk about masturbation in a really sort of almost body neutral way. They're explicit but they don't assume gender is binary. And I just think it's extraordinarily forward thinking.

And so important because we know from so many people who've spoken up for the transgender community. Most people know. And they know very young. And the risks to mental health for people who cannot live authentically and cannot fully realise their potential, is devastating.

So those kind of resources, and it's also not keeping it just within sex education, it's looking around yet not talking in binary terms about gender and sexuality. And not reducing it just to the active sex. There's so much more that goes with that, that just was not visible.

You know, it wasn't in my English literature. It wasn't in my geography when we did sort of more social side of geography. It wasn't in sex-ed at all. It was forbidden from being there. And that needs to come right the way through education now.

It's, you know, there's been so much focus on I think it's become like, I think it's become the gender equivalent of being a plastic straw and the zero waste debate. But there's kind of you know, gender neutral bathrooms. Gender neutral toilets within schools are so important because it means that somebody doesn't have to, they're just there. It's just not a big deal. And somebody doesn't have to you know, wave their hand and signal "I need a different option here." It shouldn't be on the person who's still probably trying to figure themselves out. Let's be honest.

And there's been quite a focus on schools. Whether they should have them or not. Well actually, this, the law's already been changed that you can put them in and implement them. That changed quite a while ago. It's just taken a long time. And that's an example of how long policy takes to actually implement. That it's just not standard yet. You know, this is a couple years ago, this changed.

So, I think sometimes we can get really hung up on one aspect of making sure that everybody is included at the sort of cost of well where else am I doing it within this educational setting? You know, yes I am. I'm teaching chemistry or physics but there are times and we know this within classrooms where those discussions are gonna come up, or material that we're using, or something that we're looking at can lend itself to a much more inclusive conversation. It's kind of a, you're one part of a collective whole, aren't you?

And I think for me, it would've taken just one teacher. One teacher to maybe visibly be out or be sort of able to spot. You know, the signs of somebody who was really struggling with their identity. Or just to talk really frankly or just slide in you know, like a little reference.

We're still having it in, recently in the US there's somebody has been legally dismissed because they referred to their wife. And you know were like this is inappropriate behaviour. Yet I haven't seen anybody, any female teacher who's been fired because she referred to her husband.

Martine: Wow.

Kate: Just yeah. Exactly. You know, it's still very culturally relevant. And particularly around young people. People have a really hard time sort of separating sexual aspects of sexual identity and identity.

You know, the queer community we're all about like different style choices and you know subversiveness and there's so much more going on there and yet it is often reduced to well this is an act that I can't agree with so, done.

So if you're hosting conversations or just making it a gentle and safe environment and signaling that safety, you are possibly part of something that is gonna help someone live a much more authentic life.

And just not waste the time I did.

I wasted 20 years of bad relationships before I went "oh, I don't think I like men as partners. Well this is a revelation." And things changed. You know. That could've been avoided so long ago, by just having a more inclusive educational setting. I really believe that.

Martine: Gosh it's just such a massive reminder about the important role that teachers play in society. I mean, what a difference you can make.

Kate: It really is. And it's one of the things I feel so passionate about teachers you know, being given appropriate times to prepare these lessons to be, have their work properly valued, to be properly paid and have the time off, you know. And the first to kind of support schools you know. And if teachers make mistakes I'm like "do you know how much pressure this teacher's under to perform?"

I think it's really important that the support goes both ways. Because teachers are so powerful. They really are. Like, everyone can remember a good and a bad teacher, can't they?

Martine: Oh, definitely. Definitely. Wow. That sounds like another conversation for another podcast episode. Goodness me.

Wow. Kate there's so much good stuff there. Thank you very much. I told you listeners she has lots of layers and that's very positive. So thank you for such a thoughtful response to the topic of this episode. There's so much both trainee teachers and experienced teachers and trainers to think about. And what you've said.

Thank you very much.

Kate, where can people find you online? Because everyone's gonna wanna stalk you online now.

Kate: Very welcome to. I can be found as kateosullivan.org. That's my website. And you'll find links there onto my blog. And my podcast where I host interviews around these kind of topics. They just make the every day quite explicit sometimes. I think people really struggle with it otherwise.

I also have a Patreon community that's linked there. And the Patreon funds kinda everything that I do. It pays for all the podcasts. And I make sure everything's transcribed. And one of the reasons is for access, but also because I have teachers and things who often use them as material to teach from or to become part of their learning and education. And I do live broadcasts on there and some more podcasting. Some blogs. Some essays. With a view of just you know, people who want to invest a little bit more time they can then help substitute my pay so we can do it. It's kind of a crowd funding community, which I love.

And online, I'm trying to think, so I recently changed all of my media handles you see… I am Kateo_Sullivan. You can find me in most places. I'm a bit sweary on Twitter and less so on Instagram but still quite sweary.

Martine: I love that. Hashtag, a bit sweary.

Kate: A bit sweary. I kind of had this idea that you know, all language should be available to us, so we ought to use all of it.

Martine: So if people want to find you on social media presumably you've got some links on your website to all of those.

Kate: I do. It's all linked. If you go to kateosullivan.org you got links like all up the top for everything you might need. From the podcasts, to Instagram. Whatever floats ya boat.

Martine: Awesome. Thank you so much.

Kate: Thank you.

Wrap Up

Huge thanks to Kate for a fantastic interview. It was a real pleasure to talk to her. Before we conclude the episode I have something exciting to tell you about. My first book The Productive Teacher is now available to purchase online. To find out more hop over to theproductiveteacherbook.com and you can grab your copy via that link.

Thanks for tuning in. I hope you’ll join me next time.

39. How to Say No: Proven Strategies for Teachers and Trainers
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Episode 41 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores some strategies to help teachers and trainers in saying “no”.


This is the show I promised you in episode 37 - we will be exploring strategies for saying “no”.

To avoid doubt we are focusing on saying “no” to colleagues when the right answer is “no” even though we feel like we should say “yes” and often do.

Why Should We Say “No” Sometimes?

If you Google “say no motivational quotes” you’ll find a whole heap of Instagram-worthy cheesiness answering this question. Normally I steer clear of this sort of thing but actually I found a few (un-attributed) crackers:

Saying NO often means you can say YES to things that really matter.

Sometimes you need to say NO to others to say YES to yourself.

I thought these were so good I’ve made them into Instagram graphics for you to share as a reminder to yourself and others. Please free to use them in any way you like. You need not sign up to get them or anything - just right click and save the image.

Here are more quotes from famous people

Steve Jobs: “Focusing is about saying ‘no.’”

Warren Buffett: “We need to learn the slow ‘yes’ and the quick ‘no.’”

Tony Blair: “The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is easy to say yes.”

Why is it SO Difficult?

We are teachers and trainers. Our job is to help people and usually, saying no isn’t perceived as helpful. The trouble is that being selfless is not, in the long run, going to do you any good.

Most of us avoid conflict and ultimately we want to people please.


How to Say No

One of the main purposes of The Teaching Space Podcast is to help you focus on YOU as we spend so much time focused on others. 

Here are some suggested strategies for saying no:

Use the word “no”. Say it clearly. Leave no room for doubt. Don’t waffle. Say it straight away.

Try following your “no” with a “because”. That “because” can help the “no” be better understood.

Offer an alternative: “no I cannot do this for you but what I can do is…”

Acknowledge how the other person will feel when you say “no” but still say it. Empathise. Validate that person’s feelings. “You will be upset and disappointed but…”

Use the broken record technique. This is usually best deployed in a more heated discussion. You repeat your “no”. For example: “no, this simply cannot happen today, no, as I explained…”

Use your body language and your facial expression, to reinforce your “no”.

In our recent episode about setting boundaries with colleagues we talked about how to react when you are asked to do something you consider unreasonable. Rather than breaking down and saying “I am so stressed - I can’t cope with this on top of the million other things I have to do today”, explain “if I do this now then X will not get completed - what is your preference?” This is not a direct “no” but it is a useful strategy nevertheless.

In the same episode we covered the win-win technique. This is also a great “no” strategy with alternatives. Example: if a colleague asks “do you have a minute to talk about something?” and you are in a state of flow with marking, offer a response that offers two wins. “I’d love to talk to you. I can speak to you at 10am when I am on my break or at 4pm when I have finished teaching. What would you prefer?”

Just to be really clear, I am not recommending you say “no” to everything! 

My Experience

I’ve become good at instinctively knowing what to say “no” to and then using the appropriate strategy. That’s why I feel well placed to record this episode. As such, coming up with an example of my own experience has been tricky as they are my “normal”.

However, a broad example would be the year I decided I needed to say “no” to working full-time hours. This was for medical reasons and I used the consequences strategy to explain. I then negotiated different hours and the whole transaction was smooth and painless with everyone winning.

Wrap Up

If you enjoyed the episode, then please consider leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts or your preferred podcast directory. This helps more teachers and trainers find the podcast when they search. Thank you.

40. How to Drastically Cut the Time You Spend Typing Emails
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Episode 40 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores how dictation could help you cut time spent typing emails.


Did you listen to Episode 33? In it, I explained my secret method for working twice as fast as anyone else… touch-typing. Did you try it? Can you already type?

This episode is for those who are still struggling. It’s for those who already type at ANY speed. In short, it’s for anyone who needs to get words down quickly. So… anyone!

Today’s episode is all about dictation. I was going to call this episode How to be a Dictator, then I changed my mind!

Back in the Day

In the offices of the 90’s and early 2000’s (I’m basing this on my own memory by the way), dictation was used regularly. Someone would speak into a dictaphone (they had mini tapes!) and dictate letters, notes… anything really. The tape would be sent to the secretary or secretarial pool and the audio would be transcribed.

As technology developed, people’s IT skills improved. The advent of email meant that many people developed typing skills, and you’d increasingly find people who previously would have dictated, typing their own emails and letters.

There are still some professions who use dictation, for example, doctors and lawyers. But they are in a minority as I outlined.

Why Did People Dictate?

The main reason for dictating was and still is speed. However, if you use the “back in the day” example I mentioned above, it could take over 24 hours to receive anything back from a secretary, depending on their workload. That’s not fast. You can see why many people typed up their own correspondence and why touch typing is such a valuable skill.

But why am I telling you this?

Because speaking is still faster than typing and (thankfully) technology has moved on.

Dictation Today

Dictation today is very different. There are lots of options:

Use a human transcription service. Record your audio (on your phone would seem simplest, no need to buy extra kit) and send it to a transcription service like Rev's business is transcription and they have super fast typists all over the world just waiting for you. They have turned short pieces of work around for me in less than an hour. Their prices are reasonable at $1 per minute.

Use machine transcription.  Rev's sister company, Temi, uses advanced voice recognition software (there is no human involved) to transcribe your audio. Turnaround times are way faster than Rev and the cost is minimal at $0.10 a minute. They offer a free trial.

Use a dictation app: I love Just Press Record app - the accuracy is amazing.

Use voice typing in Google Docs: you can find this option under the TOOLS menu. This is also accurate.

Use the microphone icon on your iPhone to dictate texts, emails, etc.

My Experience

I’ve tried all the options just outlined and they are great. The one I use most is the Just Press Record app. But I encourage my students to use Voice Typing in Google Docs regularly. Dictation takes getting used to as if you are using an app, you need to speak your punctuation. Just take your time, learn the commands and go for it. Remember, writing and editing are two separate activities. With this in mind, I have found NOT seeing the words forming on a screen in front of me helpful. That’s why I love the app option.

In Summary

If you want to work more efficiently and spend less time typing, try dictation. 

Wrap Up

If you enjoyed the episode, then please consider leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts or your preferred podcast directory. This helps more teachers and trainers find the podcast when they search. Thank you.

41. Could it be That You Need to Drop Your Standards?
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Episode 39 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores why we may need to evaluate our self-imposed standards.


Shocking episode title? I hope so! Did I get your attention? Did you read it wrong? No - you did not.

In today’s episode we are talking about the standards you impose upon yourself, not those imposed by your organisation or profession. 

It’s time to audit those standards if you are struggling to get everything done and must take work home in the evenings. If your work/life balance is out of whack - you need an audit.

As teachers, we are reflective practitioners. Evaluation is an essential part of the teaching, learning and assessment cycle. So let’s evaluate, or audit, our self-imposed standards.

Why do we Aim so High?

Sweeping assumption: I think your standards are high. Why?

You are listening to a teaching podcast in your own time for personal and professional development.

You take your position as a role model seriously.

Areas Where Self-Imposed Standards Might be too High



Working hours

Communication turnaround time

Is it OK to Lower Standards?

No one WANTS to do it. But it is possible to adjust your standards so that no one notices. That’s the way to do it. 

Identifying areas where standards can be lowered without a negative effect on learning, frees you up to do other things (incidentally, that might be self care, and that’s important and will ultimately make you a better teacher).

Ideas and Solutions

Are you assessing too much? What is the minimum amount of assessed work you are required to log per week? If it’s two pieces, why are you doing seven? Surely two in-depth assessment activities, combined with lots of in-class formative assessment (non-workload heavy) would be better?

Are you drowning in marking assignments? Do you have to mark all aspects of the assignment? Could you use peer assessment to pick up on spelling, punctuation and grammar, for example? Could you use self-assessment so learners check their work better before handing in? Why not design a checklist outlining the criteria you are assessing in learner appropriate language so they can mark their own work first?

Are you trying something new in every session? Well, don’t! It’s important to keep your sessions fresh and engaging, but limit yourself to one new thing a week or month. 

Are you responding to emails within 24 hours? Are you checking your emails at the weekend? Well stop. You’ve trained the people who email you to expect a quick response, so that’s on you. But if you managed to do this, you can re-train them. Schedule email time (check out the Inbox Zero episode of the podcast) and put an explanation on your email auto-signature. 

Are you making yourself too available? Define office hours - let everyone know your availability. Share your calendar. Encourage appointments.  Are you spending too much time making your classroom look perfect? Stop - delegate tasks to learners.  Wrap Up

If you enjoyed the episode, then please consider leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts or your preferred podcast directory. This helps more teachers and trainers find the podcast when they search. Thank you.

42. How to Stop Being Distracted and Interrupted by People and Things
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Episode 38 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores some strategies and ideas on how you can concentrate more and be distracted less. 


One of the biggest challenges of being a teacher or trainer is that we have such small gaps of time between sessions to get non-teaching work done. As a result, we attract more interruptions than most! (Perhaps not “more”, it’s just they are condensed into a shorter space of time). We also have a tendency to get distracted easily (again, because we are required to get focussed quickly and we don’t have long).

Distractions and interruptions fall into two categories: people and things. I will tackle both together.

My Top Six

Here are my top six workplace distractions and interruptions, and techniques for managing them.

1. People (Physical Interruptions) When someone walks over to your desk to talk to you, stand up. This sends the message you don’t have time for a casual visit and will help them realise they need to get to their point quickly. When interrupted, state immediately that you only have X minutes to talk. Wear headphones (big ones, not tiny ear buds) so prospective interrupters can see you are working in a focussed state and they should only interrupt you if it’s necessary. Work in an alternative location.

It’s important to note that if a learner is in need, you want them to come to you. The consequences of them not doing so could be disastrous.

2. Meetings If you schedule a one hour meeting, it will take an hour, even if you could have successfully completed the meeting in just 20 minutes. This is an example of Parkinson’s Law.  Where possible, schedule short meetings and ensure they fit with your calendar. If you are a Google Calendar user, consider adjusting your settings so that your default meeting time as short as possible. Also, enable Speedy Meetings. Is it necessary to meet at all? Can you make use of team collaboration software solutions such as Slack or Google Hangouts? Check out Episode 23 of the podcast for more ideas. 3. People Noise Use noise cancelling headphones. The noise cancelling benefits are fairly obvious, but if you work in a busy place where people often interrupt you, wearing headphones sends potential interrupters a visual cue you are concentrating. Make more noise! Although it sounds counterintuitive introducing more noise into your environment can help. Research suggests that noise itself isn’t distracting, but unwanted speech noise is. This makes sense, doesn’t it? If you tune in to a conversation, you cannot help but try to listen to what is being said. This forces an unwanted task-switch. Adding a continuous, low-level ambient sound to an environment (such as white noise, which sounds similar to the sound of airflow) can help mask unwanted speech noise, making it much easier to ignore. My favourite app for this is called Noizio. 4. Brain Noise If your busy brain is preventing you from single-tasking, get a whiteboard. Every time an idea or new to-do item pops into your head, write it on the whiteboard. You then won’t lose that thought and it can be dealt with later, allowing you to focus on the task in hand.  Brain noise prevents many people from concentrating for long periods of time, so why not use a timer define focus periods? Experiment with using the Pomodoro Technique (more in episode 12 of the podcast). 5. Email, Internet and Social Media   Close your email program. Disable email notification across all devices. Only answer emails at set times throughout the day (for example 10 am, 12 noon and 3 pm). Put these slots on your calendar; set alarms if you need to. Mention your email answering time slots on your auto-signature or out of office message to manage people’s expectations. Use an internet blocking app such as  Freedom to block distracting websites for times when you need to focus. 6. Mobile Devices (Messages, Calls and Notifications)   Turn off all push notifications - “use” your mobile device, ensure it does not “use” you. I think I’ve mentioned this…! Switch to flight safe mode when you want to focus on something other than your mobile device. Move your mobile device out of your eye line.   Wrap Up

If you enjoyed the episode, then please consider leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts or your preferred podcast directory. This helps more teachers and trainers find the podcast when they search. Thank you.

43. Why Setting Boundaries With Your Colleagues is Essential and How to do it
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Episode 37 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores why establishing boundaries with colleagues is important and essential within working environments. 


In the last episode we explored setting boundaries with learners. I explained:

I like to think of boundaries as positive limits. They aren’t huge walls with barbed wire on the top. They are a protective measures. Boundaries can relate relationships, physical elements and emotions.

I found two great articles on this topic to help me prepare for this episode. You can find links to them in the show notes.

Why Are Boundaries Important?

Having boundaries in place allows you to:

Navigate complex colleague relationships.  Protect yourself, specifically your role and responsibilities.  Preserve your mental health and emotional energy. Uphold your own standards and values. Be productive.  Examples of Personal Workplace Boundaries

Some examples include:

Job description: what you are required to do. Interpersonal: how you behave with others. Personal: your work/life balance. Why This Topic? 

This is a huge topic. It is impossible to cover all aspects of setting boundaries with colleagues in a short episode.

The purpose of this episode is simply to make you think. If you pick one thing from the episode to act on, then that is fantastic!

How to Set Boundaries With Colleagues

Here are suggestions for establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries at work:

Decide on your boundaries (think about those which relate to your job role and responsibilities, your relationships with colleagues, your general behaviour and your work/life balance). Document those boundaries in your journal and revisit them often. Practice explaining your boundaries to people in a firm but positive way. Know that colleagues at all levels will cross your boundaries at some point.  Use the win-win approach (this also works well as a behaviour management strategy with learners). Example: if a colleague asks “do you have a minute to talk about something?” and you are in a state of flow with marking, offer a response that offers two wins. “I’d love to talk to you. I can speak to you at 10am when I am on my break or at 4pm when I have finished teaching. What would you prefer?” List people who drain your energy and don’t respect your boundaries. Where possible, have as little to do with them as you can.  When boundaries are crossed, try to avoid a personal or emotional response. For example, if your manager makes an unreasonable request, rather than breaking down and saying “I am so stressed - I can’t cope with this on top of the million other things I have to do today”, explain “If I do this now then X will not get completed - what is your preference?” Learn to say no - future episode. My Experience Physical boundaries: I am easily distracted by noise and find it hard to get into a state of flow, so by using noise cancelling headphones I send a message to my colleagues I should only be interrupted if it is urgent. I have explained this to them before, and have not just assumed they will understand! Personal boundaries: To maintain work/life balance I do not check my emails at the weekend and do not have my emails on my personal mobile device. My colleagues know this. My office hours are also clearly communicated on my email auto-signature and out of office message. Professional boundaries: I have a specific social media presence related to teaching theteachingspace on Instagram and martineguernsey on Twitter). Both are professional, I keep my personal life, religious and political views to myself. My Facebook profile is locked down, although I am friends with some colleagues. I am careful what I post. Wrap Up

If you enjoyed the episode, then please consider leaving a positive review on iTunes. This helps more teachers and trainers find the podcast when they search. Thank you.

44. Why Setting Boundaries With Your Learners is Essential and How to do it
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Episode 36 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores why establishing boundaries with learners is essential in educational situations.


In today's episode we're talking boundaries. 

I like to think of boundaries as positive limits. They aren’t huge walls with barbed wire on the top. They are a protective measures. Boundaries can relate relationships, physical elements and emotions.

This week it's about your learners. The next episode will be all about your colleagues.

Why are Boundaries Needed?

There are lots of reasons but as this is a ten-minute episode let’s highlight three:

Each party in the learning relationship understands their role. This also translates well to real life so you are modelling expected behaviour, regardless of the age group you teach. Boundaries define the limits of your role as a teacher - this profoundly influences your workload and ultimately your mental health. Safeguarding reasons (age and location dependent as laws are different). In Guernsey we are bound by the Children Law and so this means learners under 18 are classed as children. One ramification of the law is that if a teacher thinks a child is at risk, they have a duty to report it. Boundaries play an important role in making this clear.

The Teaching Space Podcast is all about YOU, your health and well-being. So this episode will focus on the second reason for setting boundaries I mentioned - setting expectations regarding your role as a teacher.

How to Establish Boundaries

The suggestions I will make work best with older children and adult learners, however, if you teach younger learners, use your experience to adapt these:

Boundaries not rules: rules are often negative, boundaries are positive. For example “do not come and see me in the staff room between 12 and 1 pm” is better explained as “I will be available from X to X am and X and X pm to help you - please come and see me”. Both are clear. In the same way, talk about consequences rather than punishments. This is helpful when preparing younger learners for adulthood and the workplace. Discuss and negotiate: this is effective when working with post-16 learners. Again, don’t talk about rules, say boundaries, or in this case the word expectations might be better. Some things will be negotiable. For example, in an FE environment, when breaks happen, or when they use mobile devices. Learners are more likely to adhere to established expectations/boundaries if they are involved in devising them. Expectations exercise: with my 16-19 and adult learners we always go through an expectations exercise at the start of a course. I split the group in half (or smaller groups as needed). Half of the group are to act as the learners (themselves) and the other half are to pretend to be the teaching team. This relates to the course they are just starting. Using a flip chart and pens each group lists out their expectations of the other party. We then get together, have a group discussion (learner-led but teacher coached), refine the expectations and publish them in an appropriate place. As the learners have devised the rules/expectations, they are far more likely to adhere to them. Group contract: this can become a group contract which all learners sign - you need to sign it too, the expectations are not just for the learners. They will have expectations of you - things like how you deliver feedback, how quickly you turn work around and your punctuality and attitude. Wrap Up

This would be a great topic to discuss in our Facebook group - please pop over and join us!

If you enjoyed the episode, then please consider leaving a positive review on iTunes. This helps more teachers and trainers find the podcast when they search. Thank you.

45. How to Use a To-Do List Properly
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Episode 35 of The Teaching Space Podcast is all about how to use a to-do list PROPERLY! 


We all know I like to geek out on productivity apps - this is not one of those episodes! Well, not entirely.

In today’s show we are focusing on how to use a to-do list properly, regardless of the method you use. OK there might be a bit of app talk, but I will keep it to a minimum.

Let’s get the app talk out the way first…

Do you Need an App?

No. Pen and paper works fine.

But if you want an app, then there are lots of amazing ones on the market.

App advantages:

The ability to re-order your list without re-writing it.  Cross-platform accessibility and portability. Backups. Task or Project Manager?

If you ARE going down the digital route: do you need a task management or project management app? 

To understand your needs, analyse the work you need to organise. 

At a guess: your work is probably project-based rather than task based. Example: if you have a pile of marking to do, the process has multiple tasks (each paper is a task). That means you have a project to complete. Which would suggest you need to go down the project management tool route.

However, you might find a task manager gives you enough flexibility if you set it up to suit your needs.

Test them out - see what you like.

What Goes On the List?

Everything. I repeat, everything.

One of the main ways people fail at using a to-do list is they have tasks stored in multiple places. Examples: your head, your email inbox, sticky notes…

One of the main benefits of using a list is that you have everything in one place. Get things out of your head and inbox and put them on the list.

Once you have a clear idea on everything you need to do, you can start prioritising, planning and get organised.

But What About My Calendar?

Think of your calendar as your to-do list’s partner.

Everything that has a scheduled time should go on your calendar (meetings and appointments). There is no need to put them on your to-do list, as long as you look at your calendar and your list when you plan your day.

Consider allocating time to complete your tasks on your calendar.

Why Can’t I Use my Email Inbox as a To Do List?


You are not in control of incoming items - if you inbox is your to-do list, anyone can add to it at any time. It's hard to see what the actual "to-do" item is without opening the email and spending time reading it. People rarely give their emails descriptive subjects. Your inbox is no longer an effective inbox - treating your email like a to-do list makes an inefficient to-do list, but it also creates an inefficient email inbox. Have a look at this: Inbox Zero blog post.  Ideas and Recommendations: If you are using pen and paper, use a yellow legal pad. It will be easy to spot on your desk. Re-write it daily. Review your to-do list every day - either first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Put EVERYTHING on it (I know I have said this before but it is so important it bears repeating!) Digital Tools I Like:  Workflowy Wunderlist Trello Asana

A non-digital option is bullet journalling.

Summary Pick your tool. Everything goes in it except for events which are on your calendar.  Do not use your email inbox as a to-do list. Create a to-do list and calendar checking routine daily.  Wrap Up

If you enjoyed the episode, then please consider leaving a positive review on iTunes. This helps more teachers and trainers find the podcast when they search. Thank you.

46. Why Audiobooks and Podcasts are Essential CPD
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Episode 34 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores how audiobooks and podcasts can be helpful and perhaps are essential in CPD. 

Here are the show notes for this episode.


I’ve been listening to podcasts and audiobooks since before they were mainstream.

Podcasts came first. I produced my first podcast almost 10 years ago, so I’d been listening to podcasts for a few years before that.

My first podcast listening experience was an amazing knitting podcast called Electric Sheep. Sadly, she is no longer podcasting. But the fact that I could listen to someone talking about knitting, and knit was amazing to me. The division of my attention was so much better than, say, watching TV and knitting. 

I always loved the convenience of audio podcasts and that convinced me to try audiobooks. 

A Word on Multi-Tasking

If you’ve been listening to the show for a while you’ll know my position on multi-tasking. There’s no such thing! It’s called task switching. You will get more done if you focus on doing just one thing. But…

There are exceptions to the rule. The exceptions are when one activity involves very little thought. So, for example, walking and talking (you’ve been walking for years and it is a natural process for you which requires little thought). You can therefore focus on your talking.

Apply this to listening to audiobooks - if you combine the practice with something mindless e.g. going for a walk or doing housework, you can, in most cases, multi-task.

CPD in Your Own Time 

Because you are listening to this podcast, I will assume you are happy to do CPD in your own time.

It’s my belief that teachers should manage their own CPD because (most of the time) they know what their needs are. However, this has to be in complete partnership with their employer. Partnership is key.

The CPD I focus on in my time concerns productivity and pedagogy - by changing things up in the classroom my learners and I both enjoy things more and it improves outcomes.

How to Listen to Audiobooks

My favourite way is through Audible. I have an Audible membership audible.co.uk and it’s convenient. I’ve been a member since 2011. I have an app on my phone. The app has a sleep timer which is handy. They have a no quibble return policy. 

Try your local library - you might be able to borrow audiobooks for free.

Audiobook recommendations (Amazon links provided):

Why Don't Students Like School? by Daniel T Willingham How to Break Up with Your Phone by Catherine Price What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam 168 Hours, You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind by Dana K White How to Listen to Podcasts

Because you are currently listening to a podcast I hope that you know what a podcast is and how to listen to one. 

What you might not know is that there are alternative apps to the native one on your mobile device. Personally I like Overcast. You can add audio to it. It has a sleep timer, and the interface is intuitive.

Podcast recommendations: 

The Cult of Pedagogy Self Care for Teachers Truth for Teachers Managing Input

The convenience of podcasts and audiobooks is incredible. There are minimal downsides. The only one I can think of is the possibility of getting overwhelmed with all the content you are consuming. You can overdo it!

Here’s how I suggest you avoid getting overwhelmed:

Be mindful. Take breaks. Have quiet time. Use your e-reader or a physical book sometimes. Don’t forget fiction! Wrap Up

If you enjoyed the episode, then please consider leaving a positive review on iTunes. This helps more teachers and trainers find the podcast when they search. Thank you.

47. How You and Your Learners Can Work Twice as Fast as Everyone Else
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Episode 33 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores how touch-typing can help both teacher and learner to work much faster. 


Learning to type was probably one of the best things I ever did and this applies to all roles in my life: student, adult, “corporate world me” and teacher.

It enables you to work more efficiently at the computer. You get more done thanks to increased speed and accuracy.

Touch-typing helps me every day with:

Writing my book. Writing podcast outlines. Writing feedback for learners. Communicating by email. Anything that involves communicating using the written word and a computer! 

If you can already type, keep listening, because this is a skill you should pass on to your learners and colleagues. 

What is Touch Typing? Looking at your screen, not your fingers. Using all (or most) of your fingers to type. Technically, specific fingers activate specific keys (if you have been trained correctly).  Who Needs to Learn to Touch Type Simple - everyone who uses a computer to get things done. You - if you don’t already. They should teach children to touch type as soon as they start Googling!  Who Should Teach Touch Typing This is tricky because I am aware my listeners teach lots of different subjects and age groups. But touch typing is a functional skill in the same way maths, English and ICT are. Typing comes under ICT. While you might not have the curriculum space or capacity to teach touch typing, can you bring it into your teaching in other ways? Let’s discuss in our Facebook group. How Can You Learn to Touch Type?

Fair warning - if you have been typing in your own way for many years, it is VERY hard to slow down and unlearn it. But it’s worth it. This is one reason they should teach touch-typing as early in a child’s school experience as possible. But you can do it and it is worth it!

The best way:

Use an online programme. Get through the bulk of the input as quickly as you can (learn your fingers and keys). Make time for deliberate practice for at least 30 minutes a day. Practice outside of this time every time you use your computer (this is the hardest bit). Touch Typing Resources Typing Club BBC Dance Mat (for children) The Typing Cat Mavis Beacon Kaz Wrap Up

If you enjoyed the episode, then please consider leaving a positive review on iTunes. This helps more teachers and trainers find the podcast when they search. Thank you.

48. How to Achieve Inbox Zero (The Podcast Edition)
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Episode 32 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores the steps to take in order achieve Inbox Zero. 

Here are the show notes for this episode.


My blog post about achieving inbox zero is one of my most popular. It’s a long post though, so for those of you who prefer to consume my short podcasts, here you go.

What is Inbox Zero? Not just having an empty inbox. You can do that (delete all/declare email bankruptcy) but that’s faking it. It’s an email management process which leads to your inbox being empty most of the time. If you have a trusted process to deal with your emails, you stop worrying about them. You stop being controlled by them. You free up space in your brain to focus on other things. The Problem With Email It’s not always the best communication method. It creates an urge to respond. It generates more emails. It’s not a task manager. It’s always there. The Big Clean Up First step, clean up your inbox. Set up ARCHIVE/S sub-folder under your inbox (just one). Delete emails that are no longer needed. Drag emails into ARCHIVE/S if you might need to refer back to them later. It will leave you with emails requiring action in your inbox. Make a List

Your email inbox must not be your task manager because:

It’s impossible to prioritise. Anyone can add to it. You have to open the email to work out the required action. You end up with an inefficient email inbox AND an inefficient task manager.

Here’s what you need to do:

Chose your list making method.  Keep it simple. Start with pen and paper (perhaps a yellow notepad so it’s immediately visible on your desk) then consider an app if it works for you. I use Asana but I don’t recommend you start with it as you’d need to learn it. The idea behind this process is to implement it quickly to see results. Tasks in your email inbox which require action go on your list. Email Management Workflow

Set up two more sub-folders: REPLY and WAITING.

REPLY: emails that will take longer than two minutes to deal with go in this folder. For example, an email asking you for your opinion on something (this would require thought). WAITING: emails where you are waiting for a response, or you want to process later, go in this folder. For example, you have delegated a task and you are waiting for an update.

Remember: ARCHIVE is for emails that you don't need now but you might like to refer back to at a later date, go to this folder.

Use the two-minute rule: 

If you receive an email that takes less than two minutes to deal with, deal with it straight away. The idea with the two-minute rule is that it would take almost two minutes to process that email, so deal with it now.

Schedule email time.

Act Set up ARCHIVE/S sub-folder. Delete emails. Send emails to ARCHIVE/S. Set up REPLY and WAITING sub-folders. Add tasks in emails to your to-do list. File remaining emails in REPLY and WAITING. Apply the two-minute rule. Schedule email time. Wrap Up

If you enjoyed the episode, then please consider leaving a positive review on iTunes. This helps more teachers and trainers find the podcast when they search. Thank you.

49. Why Meal Planning is Essential for Teachers and Trainers
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Episode 31 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores the benefits of Meal Planning for both Teachers and Trainers.

Podcast Episode 32 Transcript

Welcome to The Teaching Space Podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Hello and welcome to Episode 31 of The Teaching Space Podcast. It's Martine here. Thank you so much for joining me today. This episode explores why meal planning is absolutely essential for teachers and trainers. I know it sounds really random, but do stick with me.

Summer Break Goals

I'm recording this episode while I'm on my summer break and one of the many goals I'm trying to achieve during this time is to develop a meal planning routine.

You're still wondering what this has got to do with teaching, aren't you? Well, the first thing that goes out the window when I'm busy and I've got a heavy teaching schedule is my eating. My meals aren't good and my health, ultimately, gets affected.

If I'm busy, I'll end up popping to the supermarket on the way home and just picking up something quick and easy for dinner, rather than having a nutritious meal and this affects how much I sleep and, ultimately, how I perform in my day job as a teacher. So, that's the link that I'm making.

Taking Control

As teachers, sometimes, we are so busy that we feel a little bit out of control and that's not something I'd comfortably admit in front of my students, but I'm sure you can relate.

If we can just grab control over this one thing, this meal planning routine, then the knock-on effects are going to be really positive.

I'm convinced that by nailing your meal planning, you can be pretty much better at everything, so I thought this would make quite an interesting podcast topic.

My Suggestions

I'm going to share with you my approach to meal planning in the hope that it will be helpful for you. I am going to say it's focused on dinner preparation and I need to also add that I don't have children, so I am only organizing myself and my husband, so I do appreciate things can change, the bigger your family is.

However, I'm going to share what I do and, hopefully, it will be of some use.

1) Pick a Day

I have six suggestions in total, so we'll start with number one: pick a day. Pick a day to plan your meals. For me, this is a Sunday. And, also, pick a day to do your grocery shopping. This, for me, is a Monday.

In the interest of forming a habit, ideally you will pick a specific time too and do this consistently.

You also might want to consider a day in the week to replenish your fresh items, like milk and bread. So there's no planning needed here. It's just, on a Thursday, for example, you nip to the supermarket and get the bits that you need to get, kind of thing.

2) Use Your Calendar

Number two: use your calendar. Put these specific points in your week in your calendar. If after last week's episode, which was about Google Calendar, you are indeed a Google Calendar convert, I recommend you add a reminder. Add a new color code to these events in your Google Calendar as well.

Obviously, paper calendars are absolutely fine. Maybe get your highlighter pen out, so you can see the reminder really easily. 

3) Get Your Systems in Place

Number three: get your systems in place. This means your shopping list and your meal plan.

For my shopping list, I use an app called Bring! Bring! is a game changer. You can add your partner or family members to the list so they can contribute, as well. For example, if somebody uses the last toilet roll, it's their responsibility to add it to the Bring! app. This is fantastic.

For my meal plan, I simply use Google Calendar and I alluded to this in last week's episode, which you'll find at theteachingspace.com/30. So, for example, we normally eat dinner around seven, eight o'clock, something like that, so I'll pop an appointment in the calendar and I will have a note of what the meal is going to be and, often, I'll have a link to the recipe, if it's an online recipe.

If you're looking for a slightly more powerful meal planning and recipe manager type tool, then Paprika app is really worth a look. It is a paid app, but it's quite powerful and there's some great stuff going on there. 

Clearly, pen and paper work perfectly well. My preference would be those nice magnetic pads that you can attach to your fridge door. I'd have a separate for a shopping list and a separate one for weekly meal plans.

Paperchase does some beautiful pads like this, so if you're in the UK, do pop to your local Paperchase and have a look or visit their website.

4) Identify Your Go-To Meals

Number four: identify your go-to meals. Have a selection of go-to recipes or meals and have them accessible, so if you do all your planning online, on your computer, maybe have a Google Drive with a list of your recipes and links and things like that. Rotate those go-to meals.

You do not have to reinvent the wheel every time you produce dinner. If you want to keep your repertoire fresh, then maybe challenge yourself to try one new meal or one new recipe a week and, if that's a success, it can become a go-to meal.

5) Consider Batch Cooking

Number five: consider batch cooking. When you're super busy, it's really helpful to have a stock of meals in your freezer. You can do this really easily by making a double quantity of things that are going to be okay in the freezer.

Also, try to make things occasionally that you can turn into lots of other meals. A great example would be a chili because this can only be a chili, it could be a filling for a jacket potato, or you could make it into nachos, or something like that.

6) Rinse, Repeat and Review

Number six and this, to an extent, is the most important one: rinse, repeat, and review.By this, I mean try this for a week and then repeat and repeat and repeat, until it becomes a habit. Then, when things go wrong because they will, because we're all extremely busy people.

We're teachers and trainers. We have so much to do. Review why things have gone wrong. Try to identify the triggers that have disrupted your system and then put measures in place to prevent them happening in the future.

So, my most important point here is rinse, repeat, and review.

What Do You Do?

That's what I do. That is how I am working on getting my meal planning nailed, so I feel much more organized in other aspects of my life.

What do you do? Do you plan your meals or are you more of a kind of "fly by the seat of your pants" kind of teacher? I would really love to know. I'd also like to start some conversation around other aspects of home life that, perhaps, we can work together to systematize.

I think this would be a great thing to talk about in our Facebook group, The Teaching Group Staff Room, so do hop over there and let's start some conversation. 

Wrap Up

Right, I think that's it from me for this episode, Number 31.

All that remains to be said is if you enjoyed this episode or any previous episode of The Teaching Space Podcast, then please consider leaving a positive iTunes review. I would be so very grateful.

Thanks for tuning in. See you next time.

50. 7 Reasons Why All Teachers Should Use Google Calendar
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Episode 30 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores the benefits of using Google Calendar for teachers.

Podcast Episode 30 Transcript

Welcome to The Teaching Space Podcast. Coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Hello, it's Martine here and welcome to Episode 30 of The Teaching Space Podcast. Today I will be sharing with you Seven Reasons Why All Teachers Should Use Google Calendar.

If you've been using Google Calendar for a while, you'll be aware that this year, it's had a bit of a makeover. I found a really good walk-through video on YouTube that I'll make sure I share in the show notes. 

Actually if you don't normally look at the show notes, I'm going to really recommend you do it for this episode because I'm going to share lots of videos to help you understand the seven reasons I'm going to tell you in a second, a little better.

So do hop over to theteachingspace.com/30, it will be worth it, I promise.

1. Co-ordinating with Your Family/Partner

Let's get started then. Number one, an amazing reason for using Google Calendar is to coordinate lives with your partner/family.

Because of the way Google shared calendars work, it is really easy for you to keep an eye on what your ... in my case husband, is up to. I mean that in a very positive, healthy way incidentally. We both have really busy lives so it's really important that we know who's home in the evening, who's looking after the dog at lunchtime. All those sorts of household things.

So one of the best reasons to use Google Calendar and this applies to anyone, teacher or not, is to coordinate with your partner or family, whatever suits your specific arrangement.

2. Arranging Appointments with Parents

Number two, something a bit more teaching oriented now. Arranging appointments with parents.

So a good example is a parents evening. If you are a G-Suite for Education user, you will have access to a function called Appointment Slots. So you are able to offer up a number of slots to your parents and when one person takes a slot then it disappears so you can't end up double booking yourself. Which is so handy. I don't know about you but in the past parents evenings have taken an age to organise. So this is a fantastic function.

I found a great video on YouTube showing you how to use it, so please check out the show notes for that.

Just to reiterate, if you aren't a G-Suite for Education or indeed G-Suite for Business user, you will not have access to this tool.

3. Encouraging Speedy Meetings

Number three, encouraging speedy meetings.

What you can do is if you go into your settings in Google Calendar you can tick 'Speedy Meetings'. And what this is is ... for example if your default meeting length is 30 minutes and you set up a 30 minute meeting, it will automatically adjust it to finish five minutes early. For longer meetings it will adjust your meeting length to finish 10 minutes early.

And over previous podcasts I've mentioned something called Parkinson's Law, in relation to meetings, that they expand to fill the time allotted to them. Well if you allot a little bit less than you think you need, this has got to be a good thing. So I really like Speedy Meetings.

4. Colour Coding

Number four, colour coding, because well, colour coding, come on, we've known each other a while now, you know how I feel about colour coding. I find colour coding really useful.

In Google Calendar you can colour code various calendars, so for example shared calendars you have access to. But also events. So I really recommend that you setup some sort of key ... I'll give you an example, any red events in my calendar are urgent, they will get my attention straight away, that's just a small example.

If you perhaps teach different groups you might have one colour for group one, one colour for group two, one colour for group three, something like that. So at a glance, it makes it a lot easier for you to see what's going on on your calendar.

5. Automatically Adding Events From Gmail

Number five, automatically adding events from Gmail. This is something you can adjust under settings.

What this means is if you use Gmail as your email provider and for example you book a flight, your Google Calendar will notice this and take the details from your email and put the flights in your Google Calendar. Isn't that amazing! It doesn't just work for flights, it works for other events as well.

So Google Calendar takes the info from Gmail and it adds what you've been talking about event wise to your calendar. I find that a bit scary, but I tell you what, it is so handy.

So definitely have a go with that. Obviously it only works if you use Google Calendar and Gmail.

6. Adding Hangouts to Appointments

Number six, adding hangouts to appointments. Google Hangouts are brilliant, but sometimes they're a little bit complicated to arrange. I get a bit confused sometimes, which link I need to share with the person joining the hangout and all that sort of thing.

Now, you can add a hangout to a calendar appointment. So if you go into your Google Calendar and you setup an appointment and you invite someone to the appointment, you can add a Google Hangout directly to that appointment.

So rather than sharing a link just before the hangout's about to start, as long as you invited that person and they have accepted via their Google Calendar, both parties can go into the calendar, their Google Calendar, open the appointment and access the Google Hangout from in the appointment.

This is so useful, I use this all the time and I really recommend you give it a go. Again I found a great YouTube video you can watch below.

7. Organising Session Plans

Number seven, organising session plans. Now I'll be honest, this reason wasn't on my original list, but while I was mooching around YouTube to find videos to illustrate the other six reasons, I came across this idea of using your Google Calendar to organise your session plans. And it was largely down to Alice Keeler, who's a brilliant Google Certified Innovator I think and she shares loads of Google resources.

There are two videos from Alice, part one and part two. And it demonstrates how if you create your session plans in Google Drive, you can attach your session plans to appointments in your Google Calendar. And it's a really nice visual, chronological way to stay organised.

This isn't something I've done before, but I am really tempted to do it because what you can do, is setup a separate calendar for each group that you teach and work like that. So I'm kind of excited about it and really interested in giving it a go when I get my next new group. 

Are You Convinced?

Have I convinced you yet, are you still not sure?

If you're on the fence then why not try using a Google Calendar for your own personal diary commitments. The app for IOS is excellent. I can't speak for the Android version as I don't have it, but the IOS app is brilliant. It's really easy to share your calendars with your partner, your family, that sort of thing.

Give it a go, maybe do some meal planning on your Google Calendar. Hold that thought because that's what I'm talking about next week. I thought this was a teaching podcast, I hear you shout. Do bear with me, next weeks podcast is going to be a good one.

Wrap Up

Okay, I think that's it for me today. Thank you so much for tuning in. Don't forget to hop over to Facebook and join our closed Facebook group, The Teaching Space Staffroom. It will be really nice to chat to you in there.

Also, if you are enjoying the podcast, then please consider leaving a positive iTunes review because it helps other teachers find The Teaching Space. I'd be really grateful too.

Thanks so much for tuning in, see you next week.

51. Helping Learners To Use Images Legally
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Episode 29 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores how learners can and should use images legally in the content that they produce. 

Podcast Episode 29 Transcript

Welcome to The Teaching Space Podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands. 

Hello, it's Martine here. Welcome to Episode 29 of The Teaching Space Podcast. Today we're talking about how to help learners use images online legally.

Let's start with the why and then move onto the how.

Why Is It Important?

So, why is it important that we help learners use images online legally?

Now, more than ever, we are asking our learners to produce content, often as evidence for assessment, and this content could easily be online. For example, things like blogs, presentations, leaflets, posters, that sort of thing.

This type of content is usually enhanced by the use of images, so we should definitely be encouraging our learners to use images, but they need to use them correctly, in the same way that we teach our learners not to plagiarize. And with good reason, they need to use images in a legal way.

You could argue that your school or college is a closed environment, in other words, things are not likely to get onto the actual real-life internet, but I would counter that argument with the fact that we are trying to prepare our learners for the real world, so let's set them up with good habits and good practices now.

How Can We Help Our Learners?

How do we go about helping our learners then? 

The first thing I recommend is that you lead by example. You demonstrate best practice, ensure that your resources, your presentations, your handouts all show images that are attributed correctly. Images that don't have copyright, watermarks on. Lead by example.

Next, I would teach learners about image licensing and copyright as soon as is age appropriate. I really recommend getting very familiar with Creative Commons Licensing in particular. If you're looking for photography to use in presentations and other types of resources then this is definitely the way to go.

Creative Commons Licensing

You can read up on Creative Commons licensing on their website, Creativecommons.org/licenses, and then transmit this information to your learners.

You could recommend your learners focus on using Creative Commons zero licensed images; this is like the lowest level of licensing and doesn't require users to attribute the work to the producer of the work, the photographer.

I think it's great when people are getting started, however, you might want to draw your learners' attention to other licenses, those that require users of images to attribute the work to the owner. 

Bibliographies and Citations

The reason I'm saying this is it gets them in a good habit of citing their sources, so if they're going to be moving on to writing lengthy assignments you can then start talking about bibliographies and citations, and things like that, so there's a really nice link.

This will be very dependent on the type of learners you work with, but be aware that there is this range of licensing options and there are different requirements. If you get nice and familiar with them you can help your learners cite their sources appropriately. 

Photography Resources

If you're on the lookout for some good free photography resources for teachers and trainers I've written a blog post on this very topic.

The websites that I share are mostly Creative Commons zero licensed images, but always check before you use any of the images from these websites. You want to be 100% sure. You might want to get into the habit of attributing the image to the photographer anyway, even if it's not a requirement. This is you leading by example, demonstration best practice to your learners.

You can find the link here.

Encourage Your Learners To Produce Their Own!

While I do think it's really important to spend some time explaining copyright and image licensing to your learners, there is another option, and that is for you to empower your learners to make their own images, diagrams, illustrations, whatever it is they need for the piece of work they're producing.

I'm going to share some ideas with you on this topic now. 


If your learners need diagrams to illustrate a point they're trying to make, then actually, creating doodles can be really effective, and it can get your learners to explore their creativity.

Particularly if it's in a not obviously creative subject, actually bringing in a bit of doodling, a bit of art can be a very positive thing and might help you engage with learners who aren't otherwise engaged in the subject.

Electronic Tools

Obviously, pen and paper are fantastic. You can, if you need to, scan them. Tidy them up using various editing tools, and then pop them into whatever it is the learner's creating, a presentation, or a handout, or whatever.

Learners can also produce diagrams and doodles electronically; you can use tools like Google Drawing, Adobe Spark, or Canva. 


Don't forget the humble digital camera, or in this day and age I guess it's your mobile device. This is dependent on the age of your learners of course.

Encourage your learners to use their mobile devices to take photographs so that they can illustrate the work they are doing with their own photos. You might even get them to credit the photographs to themselves as they are indeed the photographer. 

Using Google Image Search Correctly

Another important skill to teach your learners in terms of using images legally is to get them using Google Image search in the correct way.

I've got a nice short video on my YouTube channel, which shows you how to do this. This is a video you can share with your learners and get them to look at independently.

So, as well as focusing on the Creative Commons licensing stuff, using Google Image search is a great way to find pictures that could be used in student work.

Buying Images

My final suggestion is that you could consider buying images, but I don't know many schools and colleges that have enough budget available for this.

If it is something you want to look into then I recommend Depositphotos.com. Buying photos isn't cheap. However if you're interested in Deposit Photos I have a top tip for you. Join the email list for a website called APPSUMO.com, that's A.P.P.S.U.M.O., as they often have really interesting deals on things like stock photography.

I've picked up 100 credits for Depositphotos for a super cheap price on APPSUMO, so it's worth keeping an eye out.

Wrap Up

Okay, that's it for today's episode. I'd be really interested to hear if helping learners use images legally is something that you've struggled with in the past. Or, is it something that perhaps your colleagues need to get their heads around?

If I'm being really honest I have seen quite a few teachers, often senior managers as well, delivering PowerPoint presentations or Google Slide presentations and they have included copyrighted images. I mean, there's a watermark across the entire image, and this is not good, we really can't have this going on. 

Do let me know what you think. I'd love to hear your experience. You can do this in The Teaching Space Staffroom which is our Facebook group.

Please hop over to Facebook and find The Teaching Space Staffroom and ask to join. I would love to chat to you in there. Okay, right, that's it from me today.

Thank you so much for listening, and I hope you'll tune in next time. 


52. How Teachers Can Become Google Certified
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Episode 28 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores how teachers can become Google certified and the positive effect this can have. 

Podcast Episode 28 Transcript

Welcome to The Teaching Space podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Hello and welcome to Episode 28 of The Teaching Space Podcast. It's Martine here. Thank you so much for joining me. Today's episode is about How Teachers Can Become Google Certified.

Now, if you've been listening to the podcast for a while, you'll be aware that I am a Google certified trainer, and I think I've probably mentioned on the show in the past what a positive effect becoming a Google certified trainer has had on my practice and also my career. I've been working as an educational technology coach for a time now, and it's been a very, very positive experience.

The Four Levels of Google Certification

So in this episode, I'm going to take you through the four levels of Google certification. If this peaks your interest and you'd like to deep dive into it further, I really recommend you either read the interview I did with the Society for Education and Training, or you have a listen to it, because we did an audio version as well (find the link on the show notes at theteachingspace.com/28).

So today's episode is going to be just kind of touching on the surface of the qualification levels. You can find out more in the Society for Education and Training interview. 

Level One of Certification

Let's get started then. The first level of certification you can achieve with Google is Google Certified Educator Level 1.

Now, this qualification is designed for educators and classroom teachers who wish to demonstrate proficiency in using Google for educational tools, or rather, G Suite for Education tools. The Level 1 status indicates that an educator is able to successfully implement G Suite for Education into their teaching practice in order to enhance teaching and learning.

How To Achieve Level One Certification Status

To achieve your Level 1 Google Certified Educator status you need to successfully complete an exam; it's an online exam. You have a maximum of 180 minutes, and you're not allowed to have any breaks during that time, it's a continuous time slot. There's a fee of $10, and your qualification is valid for three years.

You are required to re-certify after three years. In order to get yourself ready for this exam, Google has some fantastic online resources, so I recommend you go through the online resources and you take the exam after that.

If you are already a competent G Suite for Education user, it might be that you feel you can go straight into the exam. I think there are some mock exam options available, so if it was me, and I was feeling confident, I'd probably do a mock first.

With all of the G-suite qualifications, there are online training courses you can go through, and the training resources are free, it's just the exams you need to pay for. I actually paid for my Google exams out of my own pocket, and then I got them reimbursed by my college just via petty cash.

Level Two of Certification

Once you've got your Google Certified Educator Level 1 qualification, you can then move up to Level 2. The Level 2 status indicates that an educator is able to successfully integrate a wider range of G Suite for Education tools and other technologies in order to transform their teaching practice. Whereas the Level 1 qualification focuses on the basic G Suite for Education tools, Level 2 expands the range somewhat.

Very similar to Level 1, you have a 180-minute exam with no pauses. The fee is slightly higher, it's $25, and again, like Level 1 it's valid for three years and you will need to re-certify after that time.

Level Three: Google Certified Trainer

The next level is a Google Certified Trainer, and this is the level that I hold. There's a big leap from Google Certified Educator Level 2 to Google Certified Trainer, and when I take you through the various things you have to do in order to achieve this status, you'll start to get a sense of this.

Google Certified Trainers are passionate and driven educational professionals with a desire to help others transform classrooms with technology, and that's a really important point. Whereas Google Certified Educator Level 1 and Level 2 people are focused on their own classrooms and their own practice, becoming a Certified Trainer is expanding that to include other people. So you might be your school's go-to technologist, stellar classroom teacher, or an enterprising consultant, anyone is welcome to apply for membership in the program.

What Do You Need To Do?

So what do you need to do to become a Google Certified Trainer? Well, this is what I've done, and it worked, and I achieved this status.

So you have to do six things. First, you need to complete the Certified Trainer course, that's a free online course.

Then you have to do a skills assessment exam. Now, this is separate from any other exam; it's $15. You have to make sure you have achieved Google Certified Educator Level 1; you also have to achieve Google Certified Educator Level 2.

You then need to produce a trainer video. This is a short video split into two parts. You have to do a little tutorial to show your Google skills, and you also have to do a piece to camera where you explain what makes you Google-y. That is not as easy as it sounds, take my word for it.

After that there is a detailed application to complete, and this includes case studies and essentially evidence that you are really using your Google skills in a transformative way.

Once you've achieved your Google Certified Trainer status you are required to re-certify every year. So whereas the Educator Level 1 and Level 2 qualifications are every three years, Google Certified Trainers have to re-certify every year, and you need to do an exam to re-certify.

You also are required to log 12 training sessions related to G Suite for Education products, you log that on a specific platform they provide you with access to, and you have to supply some Google resources to a database which is shared with other Google Certified Trainers.

It Is Worth It!

Woo, it's quite hefty, isn't it? But it really is worth it if you fit into that bracket of your school's go-to technologist, or somebody who is in a professional development role working with other teachers and trainers to help them up their game in the technology for learning department.

The Final Stage

As I said, I'm a Google Certified Trainer. The final stage is to become a Google Certified Innovator, and that's what I'm headed towards next.

It's very different to the three levels that I've just talked you through. It's designed for education thought leaders who create new and innovative projects using Google for education tools or rather G Suite for Education tools. There is an exam, and you need to go through the Innovation Academy. The application process is at set times during the year, and you have to work on a project.

So it's very much a research and development type approach to G Suite for Education. You're coming up with something new and exciting.

So that's Google Certified Innovator, I will keep you updated on my progress with that.

Wrap Up

And that's it. What do you think? If you are using G Suite for Education in your college or school, please consider doing your Level 1 or Level 2 Google Certified Educator qualifications as a minimum.

It really has been transformative for me and for many of my colleagues.

Right, that's it from me today, I hope you enjoyed the episode, and I hope you will tune in next time. Thanks for listening.

53. 5 Amazing Books Teachers Will Love
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Description: Podcast Episode 27 Transcript

Welcome to The Teaching Space podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Hello and welcome to Episode 27 of The Teaching Space Podcast. This show is all about books. I will be sharing five amazing books teachers will love.

I recorded a similar episode right at the start of the podcast which was Episode 3. You'll find that here.

Summer Break

Before I start recommending books, however, I have a little bit of housekeeping to share with you. The Teachings Space is a term time only podcast and I am just about to start my summer break. So this will be the last episode until Friday the 7th of September, 2018. So there's going to be a bit of a break but do not fret.

Over the summer break, I am going to be doing some very exciting research and prep for the next lot of episodes when we start the new academic year.

I'm also going to be spending plenty of time in The Teaching Space Facebook group. I'm planning to do lots of live videos and also launch a couple of challenges. These will have a productivity theme and also be kind of focused on having a really good year come September.

In addition to that, I will still be very much active on Twitter and Instagram, so please do give me a follow over there. Okay, that's your housekeeping, let's crack on with the episode.

The Books

I'm going to share five amazing books teachers will love. You will find links to each of these books on Amazon here in the show notes.

Fair warning, there isn't a traditional teaching book on this list. Controversially, they are all about you. We spend our entire careers focused on our learners and rightly so, but we do have to remember to look after ourselves too. These books are about productivity, success, health and well-being.

(1) How To Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind By Dana K. White

Dana blogs at aslobcomesclean.com. I love the strapline to this blog, it's reality-based cleaning and organising.

Through her self-described de-slobification process, she has learnt what it takes to bring a home out of disaster status, which habits make the biggest and most lasting impact and how to keep clutter under control.

Now, why have I chosen this book? Well, teachers are the busiest people I know and it's very easy to let the home management aspect of life slide when you're super busy at work. I have used this book to help me keep my home under control so I thought it'd be a really good one to recommend to you.

My top takeaway from this book was The Container concept and I mentioned this in Episode 26. The idea behind it is that everything has a container and your staff should fit into the designated container. If it does not, you need to get rid of stuff. One in, one out.

She goes into a lot more detail in the book and also in her other book, Decluttering at the Speed of Life. So, both of these books, in fact, are highly recommended.

(2) What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast By Laura Vanderkam.

This is a powerful book about high productivity from best-selling author Laura Vanderkam. She blends stories of fascinating people with cutting-edge scientific research to show us how to maximise our valuable mornings, make the most out of our working hours and enjoy the results with deeply satisfying weekends.

My top takeaway from this book was the fact that I waste my early mornings and I made some major changes to my morning routine off the back of this book. And also reading this got me to read Laura Vanderkam's other book, 168 Hours.

(3) 168 Hours By Laura Vanderkam

It's no coincidence then that recommendation number three of this list is 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam. That magic number, 168 refers to the number of hours you have in the week. The book is all about where time really goes and how we can use it better.

My top takeaway from this book was that I did a time study. This essentially means keeping track of every 15 minutes of your day and noting down what you're doing in each 15-minute block.

And I learned so much from this process. It was off the back of the time study that I created a really good productive morning routine, which includes going to the gym and getting loads of stuff done.

(4) The 5 Second Rule By Mel Robbins

Let me tell you about the book. According to Robbins, it takes just five seconds to become more confident, break the habit of procrastination and self-doubt, beat fear and uncertainty, stop worrying and feel happier and share your ideas with courage.

The 5 Second Rule is a simple one-size-fits-all solution to the problem we all face and that is that we hold ourselves back.

My top takeaway from this book was interesting actually because I thought it was going to be just far too woo-woo for me. But Mel Robbins's narration on the audiobook is excellent. She just doesn't have that, how can I put this, woo-woo tone to her voice at all. She's very, very motivating and sounds like somebody you could really enjoy a drink with.

I got the fundamental message from Mel Robbins that quick decisions are good in lots of different scenarios. Action is key and that's what I took away from The 5 Second Rule.

(5) The Four Pillar Plan By Dr. Rangan Chatterjee.

This book is about the fact that everyday health revolves around Dr. Chatterjee's four pillars.

These pillars are relaxation, food, sleep and movement. By making small achievable changes in each of these key areas, you can create and maintain good health and avoid illness.

My top takeaway from this book was balance. There are four pillars and you need to spend time on each of them. It's no good saying, I am just going to focus on food now or I'm just going to focus on exercise. That's not okay. The fact that there are four pillars means you have to spend time in each of the pillars. And so that was a really big takeaway for me. And this book is highly recommended, in particular the audiobook is excellent.

They Are Books Focused on You!

And there you have it, five amazing books that teachers will love that aren't about teaching at all. These books as I said at the start are focused on you. Your productivity, your success, your health and your well-being.

I really hope you enjoyed hearing about those five books and that you might give one a try. Hop over to theteachingspace.com/27 to grab links to each of these books.

Wrap Up

And that brings me to the end of the show. As I said, I will be taking a break over summer and will be back at my microphone on Friday the 7th of September, 2018.

Please come and join the Facebook group, which is called The Teaching Space Staff Roomso we can hang out over the summer. You can join in some challenges, you can participate in some live video chats. Let's have some fun on Facebook, it would be great to see you there.

Also, don't forget we have 27 episodes for your listening pleasure. Do re-listen to the back catalogue if that's something you'd like to do.

Also, hop over to theteachingspace.com/blog as I hopefully will be sharing some blog posts over the summer as well. Thank you so much for tuning in and I hope you'll join me for the next episode in September.

54. Do You Need A Digital Declutter?
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Episode 26 of The Teaching Space Podcast helps you prepare for a digital declutter to boost your productivity. 

Podcast Episode 26 Transcript

Welcome to The Teaching Space podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Hello, it's Martine here. Welcome to Episode 26 of The Teaching Space Podcast. In today's episode, I'm asking the question, do you need a digital declutter? I'm going to put myself out there and say I think you probably do. As such, in this episode, I plan to share some strategies to help you declutter and detox your digital space.


Let's get thinking about clutter. On the face of it, digital clutter seems very different from physical clutter. There's a great example of this on a blog I like to follow called The Minimalists. If you go to theminimalists.com/digital, you'll find this example. Let me share an extract with you.

Try to move 2,000 books to a new residence. Box up the physical books taking them off their shelves one by one, labelling each box with its appropriate label, self-help, literary fiction, Cambodian interpretive dance etc. Then, carry them to your vehicle, box by box, being careful not to drop them. Then, haul them to your new home. Carry them inside, carefully unpack each box and reshelve each individual book until every last book is sort of back where it was before you started this tedious exercise. Then, next time you move, grab your Kindle with all 2,000 titles instead, toss it in your bag and be on your way.

Using this great example and rationale, the fact that digital clutter is hidden makes it less of a problem, right? Maybe not. If you spend hours a day on your computer struggling to find the files you need, then it's not really hidden, is it? If you always have your email program open and feel overwhelmed every time you see your inbox, this is actually a rather intrusive issue.

An Infinite Amount of Space

Don't get me wrong; I love having an almost infinite amount of space to store digital files. It's enabled me to pare down my book and music collection, keep a constant stream of photo and video memories and run a virtually paperless home office and classroom. I love that, but when it comes down to it, clutter is clutter. That's why I think the answer to the question, do you need a digital declutter, is a resounding yes.

The Container Concept

Let me just share a quick side note on physical clutter. That's not what this episode is about, but I think this might be of interest anyway. Lately, I've been working on reducing the physical clutter in my home. I use Dana K. White's Container Concept. I'm going to talk about her book in our next episode, so make sure you tune in to Episode 27.

An example of this Container Concept is that I have one shelf available for cookbooks. That's the cookbook container, and I'm talking about physical cookbooks here. If I have more cookbooks than I can fit on the shelf, then the stuff, the cookbooks, have outgrown their container and that's not okay.

It is not a case of buying a bigger shelf. What I need to do is pare down the cookbooks, so that what remains are the ones that I really like and there is space on the shelf.

If I buy a new cookbook, I use the one in, one out rule. New one in, old one out. That is the Container Concept, and it is brilliant for physical clutter. Because, as I mentioned before, the spaces we have for digital clutter are so huge, you can't use the Container Concept.

What I've got for you are a number of suggestions, six in total, to help you make a start at having a digital declutter. Here we go.

1. Practice Inbox Zero

I've mentioned Inbox Zero on several podcast episodes now I'm sure. Rather than take you through the entire process, please hop over to the blog and have a look at the lengthy blog post I've written all about Inbox Zero.

It isn't a myth. It is doable. Once you've spent a little bit of time setting yourself up for Inbox Zero, it doesn't take a lot of time to maintain it afterwards.

Hop over to theteachingspace.com, and you could use the search function at the bottom of the website and look for Inbox Zero.  

If you're willing to put a bit of time into setting Inbox Zero up, I guarantee it will improve your life dramatically. You will be less stressed, you will have less clutter and you will be more productive, so do check out that blog post.

2. File Storage

I'm just thinking about places such as Google Drive or your desktop or your computer's hard drive or Dropbox or anywhere you save digital files. Make sure you have a really well thought out folder structure and all of your files, your singular documents, are in folders.

If you have a structure where at the top level, you've got a few folders but lots and lots and lots of files, that's a little bit like having a physical filing cabinet and just throwing paper on the top of it. You need to file your digital files in folders in the same way that you would do that with physical paper and paper folders.

My main online document storage area is Google Drive. I've got my folders set up in such a way that I know exactly what goes where. I have them named very clearly. I also use Emoji to give myself a visual cue as to what goes in each folder, and they're colour-coded.

If you want to set your folders up in Google Drive so that they're colour-coded and have Emoji on them, then I have a video explaining how to do that on my YouTube channel. Be really, really structured with your folders and your files, and make sure you do your filing.

3. Rethink The Purpose of Your Desktop On Your Computer or Your Laptop

It's not a dumping ground. Yes, I get that you can occasionally store things there because they're temporary. That is a quick and easy place to put them. You shouldn't have permanent files and folders there. That's not what it's for. Did you know you can have tools, like Hazel for Mac, to automate cleaning up your desktop?

I also use Hazel, incidentally, to clear out my downloads folder on my Mac. I think it's every 24 hours or so, Hazel goes in and just deletes everything from there. Using automation tools like this can be super helpful for digital decluttering. 

4. Photos

How many photos do you have on your mobile device right now? Is it 500, 3,000, 10,000? Have a look. Then, have a think about how many of those pictures you'd actually put in a physical photo album if that was something that you did. I reckon it would be a very small percentage.

This means there's a massive amount of digital clutter on your mobile device in the form of photos. I'd like you to rethink your camera roll.

If you start treating it as a photo album, you can delete the images that you don't want.

Say, you've taken a really nice landscape and it took about 30 attempts to get that final photo, that means you can delete 29 pictures. It's quick and easy to do that on your mobile. Treat your camera roll as a photo album, delete the pictures you don't need.

5. Social Media

It's time to do a friend audit on Facebook. All of that input in your timeline is digital clutter. Look at Twitter, look at Instagram, there are mass unfollow apps you can use, many of which are free, to start reducing your social media clutter.

6. Let's Think About The Digital Clutter That is Email Newsletters

Look at your inbox, how many have you got? Because you're going to be doing Inbox Zero, then hopefully you'll be able to start getting all of those email newsletters under control.

While you're getting ready to do that, I highly recommend Unroll.Me, which you can find at unroll.me. It's a mass unsubscribe system. It does several things. It allows you to unsubscribe quickly, but it also will roll up the newsletters you want to read into one daily digest.

If you don't fancy using this system, then another option is to set up a separate Gmail email account simply for subscribing to email newsletters. Then, you have a separate inbox so you can, for example, set yourself a diary note to check once a week in your newsletter inbox. That is a far better use of your time and will, ultimately, help you declutter all of those emails.

Wrap Up

Of course, there is one email newsletter that you won't want to roll up and you won't want to have to go in a separate inbox, and that, friends, is The Teaching Space fortnightly newsletter. Sign up at theteachingspace.com/VIP.

Okay, folks, that's all from me today. I really hope you've enjoyed this episode. I hope you'll tune in next time.

55. The Power of a Morning Routine for Teachers
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Episode 25 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores how powerful a morning routine can be for teachers.

Podcast Episode 25 Transcript 

Welcome to The Teaching Space podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands. 

Hello. It's Martine here and welcome to Episode 25 of The Teaching Space Podcast. Today we're talking about the power of a morning routine for teachers.

Now, I'm not talking about the morning routine that happens with your learners in your classroom. I'm talking about you. Today's episode is all about you. The routine that happens from the moment you wake up until you arrive in your classroom.

Today's episode, I repeat, is all about you.


I'll give you a bit of backstory. Up until fairly recently, my morning routine was nonexistent. There was nothing resembling a routine for me in the mornings. I'd get up at different times every day. Sometimes I'd have breakfast, sometimes not. Sometimes I'd go to work early and do emails; sometimes I'd arrive exactly on time and start my day in a completely different way. There was no consistency.

For many people, this is absolutely fine. But I started to realise it wasn't okay. When I made the decision to start going to the gym regularly, I looked at my day and tried to work out when I could fit going to the gym in and I really couldn't work it out. I had a little bit of an inkling that the morning would be the best possible time for me but I wasn't sure, so I needed some help.

What Inspired Me 

It was at this point I read "168 Hours" by Laura Vanderkam. You absolutely have to read this book. The significance of the 168 number is that's how many hours you have in an entire week. 

After reading this book, I did something called a time study. It's something that the author encourages you to do. So, for an entire week, I logged what I did every 15 minutes. I had a spreadsheet sectioned up into 15 minute chunks, and I logged everything I did. Then I analysed how I spent my time.

The biggest thing for me was identifying how much time I was wasting in the morning. It was this exercise that made me realise I could fit in going to the gym in the morning and a routine would be the thing to really help me with that. 

My Morning Routine

I'd now like to tell you what my morning routine looks like and I should let you know, full disclosure here, I've been doing this for a few months now. I think a few months is probably long enough to establish a habit.

I am definitely not the guru of morning routines. However, I have experienced many benefits from establishing this routine, and that's why I want to share it with you because I believe all teachers and trainers could benefit from having a morning routine. This is how my mine goes.

Wake Up!

I wake up at 6:00 a.m. Often I actually wake up five minutes or so before my alarm, and that's one of the things that made me realise that my routine is now sticking.

As soon as I get up, I take my medication with a large glass of water because I want to be hydrated for going to the gym later. I have coffee. I will usually have a breakfast bar, something very quick and easy to eat that's going to give me a little bit of an energy boost for the gym. I steer clear of the high sugar breakfast bars. I go for something quite natural.

Journal Time

Then, I can't believe I'm going to say this; I'm really not this girl, I write in my journal. I use Day One app, and I've talked about this on the podcast before. (You can find a link to the previous podcast episode on journalling here.) 

But I spend probably three minutes writing in my journal. I just have a couple of prompts. I set an intention or a goal for the day. I record how I'm feeling. I know it sounds really [woo-woo 00:04:35], but it's a really nice part of my routine. I do that.

It takes no time at all because I use a tool called text expander, so I type in a little code and my prompts just come up automatically, so that's a top tip there. I write in my journal.

Gym and Me Time

Then I drive to the gym and I arrive at the gym just after 6:30 a.m. It opens at 6:30, so I'm there within 10 minutes of it opening. I do 30 minutes cardio and some stretching. 

Now, this was a bit of a big thing for me to work out. Going to the gym doesn't mean you have to spend an hour there. In my head, I'd just come up with this thing that if you go to the gym, you've got to spend an hour there for it to be worthwhile. Well, I go to the gym every weekday, so 30 minutes is all right. 

I should also add one of the reasons I only do 30 minutes is I have a bad back, I have a couple of slipped discs, so I have to be really careful with what I do. But 30 minutes of cardio every day and some stretching and probably some sit-ups and things like that and some back strengthening exercises, that's a heck of a lot more than I've been doing beforehand. I've been doing nothing beforehand, so 30 minutes is a big deal.

If you can only go to the gym and do 20 minutes, that's totally fine as well. It's a really important thing to do for yourself. 

The gym isn't for everyone. The point of this episode is not to bang on about the gym. It's about having a little bit of time for yourself and doing something that is a healthy practice. Remember, of course, going to the gym was one of the things that sparked me into working out a morning routine for myself. 

Time For Work

I get home by 7:30 at the latest. At that point, I have a shower, I get ready. Because I'm a wonderful wife to my husband, I tend to bring him a cup of fresh coffee. Then I travel to work and I'm at work by 8:30 at the latest. I officially start at 9:00. 8:30 gives me plenty of time to get ready for my day. That's my morning routine. 

What Are The Benefits Of A Morning Routine?

But I know what you want to find out. What are the benefits of having a morning routine? Why is having a morning routine such a powerful thing for teachers? I can really only speak for myself, but let me tell you a bit about the benefits I've experienced. 

Time To Think

Going to the gym every weekday, for me, has been a big deal. I have a back injury and I've noticed improvements in my pain levels through exercise. It's also wonderful me time. I have my headphones on, so I'm usually listening to a book or listening to a podcast or sometimes I'll go completely headphone-less, usually, to be fair, when the Bluetooth isn't connecting or they've run out of charge, but then it's just thinking time, and that is really important, too.

I find the thinking time a bit more difficult, but I'm working on that. If, like me, you struggle with the motivation to exercise, get it done in the morning. It is more likely to get done. So, getting my exercise out of the way in the morning is definitely a benefit of having a morning routine.

Increased Energy Levels

I've also noticed, and this benefit kicked in very quickly, that I had way more energy throughout the day, and I didn't expect this. I know they say exercise releases endorphins and all that jazz, but I just didn't really believe it. But I definitely have more energy when I've exercised in the morning. 

Consistent Sleeping Pattern

I'm also observing a more consistent bedtime because I know I'm up at 6:00 a.m., so I'm always in bed before 10:00 a.m. 10:00 a.m.? That would be weird. 10:00 p.m. I'm sleeping better and I'm finding the journaling process, the fact that its part of my routine, is doing wonderful things for my mental health. I feel really good about noting something in my journal every day. 

Better At My Job!

Do you know what? The upshot of all of this? I think having a morning routine is making me better at my job. I think I'm really focused on achieving good things and it's making me a better teacher.

Gosh, does that sound cheesy? Well, it's true. I really believe it. That's why I think having a morning routine can be a really powerful practice for teachers. 

What About You?

Tell me about you. What do your mornings look like? Are they what mine used to be or do you want to get a morning routine? Tell me. I'd love to hear from you. One of the best things you can do is join our Facebook group and we'll have a chat in there. So, hop over to Facebook and join The Teaching Space Staff Room.

Wrap Up

While I'm asking you to do things, because I'm cheeky, if you can find the time, I would love it if you left a positive review on iTunes for the podcast because it will make The Teaching Space podcast easier for teachers and trainers to find and listen to. 

Thank you so much. I hope you've enjoyed this episode and I hope you'll tune in next time.

56. Managing Your Teaching Workload With Asana
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Description: Podcast Episode 24 Transcript

Welcome to The Teaching Space podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Hello, it's Martine here, and welcome to Episode 24 of The Teaching Space podcast. Today I'd like to talk about how I use Asana to manage my teaching workload.

Asana and Trello

Actually, I'm not just going to talk about my teaching workload. I use Asana to manage my entire life. I use it in combination with some other apps, but ultimately Asana is the hub of everything. So I've tried pretty much every task and project management tool out there.

After lots of trial and error, I settled on Asana. But I must give an extra special runner-up style shout-out to Trello. Trello is a really good project management tool. I think Asana is a little bit more complex, but also a bit more powerful. So if you're looking for something slightly more simple then go with Trello, it's very visual and does similar things but in a different way.

Asana - A Brief Overview

In this episode I want to talk about a few of the principles I use to manage both my teaching and home workload, even though Asana is my tool of choice, these principles could be applied to any project management tool quite easily.

But I will just tell you a bit about Asana in case you've wondered what it is and how it works. This is a very brief overview. You can find Asana at Asana.com;it is a web and app-based freemium project management.

When I say freemium I mean there is a free version and you can pay to get additional features. Have to say, the free version is excellent. The paid version has some nice features, but they are the sort of features that might appeal to somebody with a large team of staff and a large business.

So for a teacher or trainer, even if you are self-employed, the free version of Asana is likely to do the vast majority of things you need. For example, I work with a virtual assistant. and she's part of one of my Asana projects for the podcast, and I assign a task to her via Asana in that way. 

Virtual and Physical Workspaces

So you can, with the free version, work with a team if you want to. You can set up multiple workspaces with Asana.

So I have a workspace set up for home and that covers everything from my meal planning to my business activities that I do when I'm not in my day job, my teaching job, and then I have a different workspace for my teaching job. For me, those two separate really nicely.

They're about my physical location, so when I'm physically at home I'm doing things that are like meal planning and doing the podcast and that sort of thing, and then when I'm physically in my day job office, I use my other workspace. I hope that makes sense. I don't think I explained that particularly well. But my workspaces are essentially based on my physical location.

You might find it works better for you to have just one workspace, and I can totally understand that, because if you have one workspace you can get a very big picture overview of what your commitments are.

Asana's Organisation 

Depending on how your Asana is set up, everything is separated into projects, tasks, and sub-tasks. If you have an email address that's your own domain, for example, I have @theteachingspace.com, so my email address is hello@theteachingspace.com. If you have that setup you can get an extra layer of organization, which is teams. So it goes: teams, projects, tasks, sub-tasks. You can't see this, but while recording the audio I'm doing some quite vigorous hand gestures just to really explain to you what I mean.

Calendar Integration 

As I mentioned just before, one of the great things about Asana is, you can work with colleagues, staff, whatever your setup is, and delegating tasks is nice and easy. Asana also integrates with your Google calendar. That integration isn't as good as I'd like it to be, but I do have a workaround, which I'll mention to you in a moment. 

You can also view your tasks within Asana in a calendar view, which again, can be nice and helpful. For me, the best view on Asana is called My Tasks, and what that is is an overview of all your projects, and your tasks are pulled in to that particular view with due dates, and you can reorganize them in there. That's the thing that I am constantly looking at.

So that's my very brief overview of Asana. I understand it's quite a visual thing. You can find the video at theteachingspace.com/24.

My Seven Tips 

These are my seven tips for managing your workload through Asana or an alternative project management tool.

1. Everything Goes In Asana

If something's not in Asana, it doesn't exist, it does not happen. One of the main reasons people fail with project manage tools is they simply don't use them properly. If you don't put every task you have to do into your project management tool, things aren't going to work properly.

A question I'm often asked, and it's related to this principle, is, "What do I do with events? Do I put events into my project management tool?" The answer is no, all of my events, meetings, appointments, that sort of thing, they go into my Google Calendar. If there is work to be done in preparation for those events, then I will create a project or a task, whatever's appropriate, in Asana, and I will tie in the due date to the date of my appointment.

But my rule of thumb is, events go in Google Calendar, tasks go in Asana.

2. Always Have Asana Open To Update And Check

Always have Asana or your web based project management platform open in your browser, constantly update and check it.

In the same way that if you don't book your tasks into your project management tool, if you're not checking it regularly and ticking things off, it's not going to work. It should be the place that you go first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and you're constantly checking in throughout the day.

3. Use My Tasks To Organise Your Day

Number three is an Asana specific one, use the My Tasks view to organize your day and to overview what you've got coming up in the near future and the distant future. This is an underutilized view in Asana by a lot of users. So if you already do use it, check out My Tasks and make sure you're using it in the most efficient way possible.

4. Create Workflows and Templates For Frequently Repeated Processes.

This is going to work for any project management tool. I used to do this in Trello, I do this in Asana.

I'm going to give you an example. When I create a podcast episode there are lots and lots of different steps, and some of those steps are done by me and some of them are done by my virtual assistant. So what I do is I create a long list broken up into subheadings of each task that needs to be done, and every time I'm dealing with a podcast episode, I copy and paste that process into a new task. This saves so much time. So be thinking about whether there are any processes that you repeat that could benefit from having a workflow or a template like this.

5. Facebook Groups

Number five is a little bit controversial, but bear with me. There are lots of Facebook groups dedicated to specific project management tools and techniques. It's a great idea to join some of these in order to get tips and tricks on how to use your chosen tool as effectively as possible.

6. Say "No" More Often

By having all of your tasks in your project management tool, you have a really good idea of what needs to be done today, over the next week, and in the future, and you should have a good idea of how long these things are going to take. Because they're all in one place, when someone asks you to do something and you can see you simply don't have time, it becomes a lot easier to say no.

Practice with me now, come on, "No." It is a word I don't say often enough, but I'm working on that, I am learning. That is definitely a benefit of using a tool like Asana.

7.  Use Asana or Your Project Management Tool of Choice With Other Tools

Trello is a great example, it integrates beautifully with other tools.

Asana I'm currently using in conjunction with HourStack, which you'll find a hourstack.io. HourStack enables me to use the time blocking technique for managing my workload. I'm trialing it at the moment. It is a paid product, it's about $6 a month, something like that, but I'll make sure there's a link on the show notes, if you would like to check it out.

So integrate your project management tool with other tools to make it even more powerful.

Your Project Management Tools

I'm really interested to hear from you if you use Asana or if you use a different project management tool, or if you don't use a project management tool but you really want to.

I'm giving serious thought to putting a course together aimed at teachers and trainers probably about Asana, but I do have the experience of Trello as well, so that's an option too. But if it's something you might be interested in, then drop me a line, I'd love to hear from you.

Probably the easiest place to chat to me is in our Facebook group, that's The Teaching Space Staff Room, it would be great to see you in there.

Wrap Up

Right, that's all from me today. I hope you've enjoyed the episode. Before I go, pretty please could I ask you to consider leaving a positive review on iTunes about the podcast? Because what that does is, it enables more teachers and trainers to find The Teaching Space podcast, and I would be forever grateful.

Thank you so much for tuning in. I hope you'll join me next time.

57. Seven Ways Teachers Can Rethink Meetings
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Episode 23 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores seven ways that teachers can rethink their approach to meetings.

Podcast Episode 23 Transcript

Welcome to The Teaching Space Podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands. 

Hello, it's Martine here. Welcome to Episode 23 of The Teaching Space Podcast. It's wonderful to have you here with me.

Today's episode is all about meetings. I'm going to share seven ways teachers can make a start at rethinking their approach to meetings, but why are we talking about meetings? What's the problem with meetings? Well, I'm going to be blunt. They suck up an inordinate amount of teacher's precious non-contact time, and that is simply not okay.

What makes it worse is that many of the meetings we teachers attend don't actually need to be meetings. There is usually a more efficient way to handle the things discussed in the meeting.

Meeting Strategies

Now I appreciate you might not be responsible for setting your school's overall meeting strategy. By the way, that is a thing, a meeting strategy. Nevertheless, you can make a difference with the meetings that you organise. You can demonstrate best practice to your colleagues with meetings that you have to organise.

You can also, if you're feeling brave, propose a meeting strategy to your senior leadership team. It is a thing. People have them. I think it would be really easy to go, "You know what, Martine? I don't have an impact on this sort of thing. I've got plenty of other stuff to handle," but you really can make a difference with this. 

I'm going to try and convince you with the following seven suggestions.

1. Is The Meeting Necessary?

Think very carefully about why you are calling a meeting. Is it necessary? Are you simply communicating information? If that is the case, do you need a face-to-face meeting? Perhaps email would be more appropriate?

If you need to have a discussion and decisions need to be made, then perhaps a meeting is necessary, but ask the question why am I calling a meeting? If your reason for calling a meeting is that it's a regular weekly meeting, for example, that's not a good enough reason. There has to be a better reason than we have one every Monday.

2. Consider Who Needs to Attend

Think carefully about who needs to be there. Does everybody on the list need to be there? What is their role in the meeting? What position do they take? Are they going to contribute something that will move the meeting along? How are you expecting the attendees to participate?

3. Time Allocation

How much time do you need for this meeting? How much time are you going to allocate? What I find tends to happen is that if you are organizing your meeting using Outlook meeting requests, if you've got it set up so that your default meeting slot is an hour, you will schedule an hour-long meeting, but you might not need that hour.

It might be okay to have a 20-minute meeting, but if you block out an hour, it will take an hour. According to Parkinson's law, activities expand to fill the time allotted to them. What's wrong with having a 22-minute meeting if you've calculated that that's the time you need? Schedule a 22-minute meeting.

Remember Parkinson's law. With this in mind, why not use a timer? We all have a timer in our pocket. There's a timer on your mobile device. Use it. It will seem novel at first and some might find it a little intrusive, but you've all got limited time. Use a tool to help you stick to the time you've got allotted. Also, again with this in mind, start the meeting on time.

The more you do this, the more punctual your meeting attendees will be.

4. Meeting Organisation

Give consideration to how you organise the meeting. I mentioned Outlook meeting invites earlier in a slightly negative light, but actually it's a great tool and it's absolutely essential to ensure that everyone has the meeting on their calendar. They're a great thing. They just need to be used correctly.

The other thing you could do if you use Outlook, and you can do all of this with Google Calendar and other tools as well, is you can share calendars with each other. When you are trying to set up a meeting, you can have a look to see who's available when.

This is going to cut down on a lot of email traffic when you're organising your meeting. Make meeting organisation simple.

5. Using Technology For A More Efficient Process

Can you use technology to make the whole meeting process more efficient? Here are a few examples. It might be that in the meeting somebody types up the minutes in real time. You could use a Google Doc and share it with all of the meeting attendees there and then so there's no need to email the minutes out afterwards. You've got no one sitting there with a notepad and then typing them up afterwards. Taking minutes in real time speeds things up really well.

Another example of how you could use technology to make a meeting more efficient would be to use a Google Hangout rather than an in-person meeting. You still get that face-to-face interaction. You can still feed off each other's body language and that sort of thing, but what you do is you remove the time it takes to get to the meeting. If you are for example split across different campuses, different locations, then this can make things far more efficient.

6. Agenda

I have three words for you, agenda, agenda, agenda. Never have a meeting without an agenda. It's like going into a teaching session without a session plan.

Okay, maybe a bad example, but you take my point. You are going to waste time if you do not have a plan. If you don't have an agenda, you can't work out how long you need to allocate for the meeting. It is not possible to have an efficient meeting without an agenda. Spend more time here on the agenda to waste less time in the meeting.

7. The Format of The Meeting

Finally, number seven, vary your approach to meetings. You might have a standup meeting. You might try a walking meeting. These are just two ways you can change things up a bit and hopefully make your meeting more efficient.

Funny story. I used to watch The West Wing, and they had lots of walking meetings and they looked really efficient.

I have tried them on multiple occasions. I will just say that if you have anything confidential to discuss, a walking meeting isn't always the best option. However, a walking meeting could be a great option if you're coming up with creative ideas for a new project or something like that.

Wrap Up

Those are my seven ways teachers can rethink meetings. What do you think? Have you experienced this frustration with meetings in your organisation? Does your organization do something different with meetings? How do you handle meetings? I would love to hear from you.

The best way to start a conversation about meetings in education is to hop over to The Teaching Space Staff Room, which is our closed Facebook group. Just ask to join the group and I will approve you ASAP.

Right. That's all from me today. I hope this has been handy, and I thank you for tuning in. I hope you'll join me next time. 

58. Your G Suite for Education Secret Weapon
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Episode 22 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores how Google Keep is your G Suite for Education secret weapon.

Podcast Episode 22 Transcript

Welcome to the Teaching Space Podcast coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Hello. It's Martine here and welcome to Episode 22 of the Teaching Space Podcast. Today's Episode is called is Your G Suite for Education Secret Weapon. And I should add that if your school or college isn't a G Suite for Education organisation you can still make use of this secret weapon as long as you have a Gmail email account.

What is the Secret Weapon?

So what is it? I know you're dying to ask. It's Google Keep.

People talk all the time about Google Docs and Google Sheets and Google Classroom and rightly so. They are amazing tools.

Nobody seems to be mentioning Google Keep and I just can't understand why. Google Keep is part of the Google apps suite you get with G Suite for Education and G Suite Basic and all other types of G Suite.

It's web-based and available across different platforms with apps and actually there's a Chrome extension as well so Google Keep is very accessible and if you use Google Keep on one device it syncs to your other device. So it's a traditional Google app in that sense.

What Does It Do?

But what does it do? Google Keep is for note-taking. It is a brilliant way to take digital notes and these can be Post-It sized notes to long notes from meetings and things like that.

You can also it to create checklists so to do lists or shopping lists, that sort of thing and you can check them off.

You can create reminders in Google Keep which is a brilliant feature. These reminders can be based on time or even more amazingly location. You can utilise GPS so that reminder will go off when you reach a certain location. That's amazing.

You can also create notes using images or drawings. If you just want to doodle a concept down and you're on your mobile device you can do that with a finger which is great. And you can take audio notes which again, on a mobile device is really useful.

Organisation and Google Tools

When you open Google Keep it can look a bit overwhelming 'cause you've just got notes everywhere. But it's easy to get organized. You can use labels or hashtags for organisation. You can also colour code which for me ticks a lot of boxes, I do like to colour code.

Other nice features include the fact that you can copy the content from a Google Keep note directly to Google Docs.

Obviously, because it's a Google tool it plays beautifully with any other apps in the Google suite of apps.

You can open Google Keep directly within Google Docs as well. And I'll explain in a bit why that can be handy.

As with all Google tools, collaboration is very simple in Google Keep and another nifty feature is the grab image text option in your notes. If you put an image of some typed text and if it's linear you can turn it into editable text which is really clever. It doesn't work very well with handwriting but with typed linear text, you can convert that image into actual editable text. This is a really interesting feature.

Google Keep on an Audio Podcast

It's a bit tricky for me to explain how you use Google Keep on an audio podcast. It's definitely something that's far better explained in a video.

I've found a fantastic video on YouTube that goes through the best ways to use Google Keep and shows you everything you need to know as a teacher. You can find this below. 

How To Find It 

How do you find this magical, secret weapon then? Well, the easiest way is to fire up your Google Chrome browser and go to keep.google.com or you can use what we Google trainers like to call the waffle which is your shortcut menu to all of your apps.

Google Keep for Teachers

Now you know Google Keep is awesome, let's talk about ways teachers can use Google Keep. I've done a quick brain dump and I've come up with the following ideas.

You could use Google Keep for planning, storing useful website links, storing research, comment banks, I'll come back to that, whiteboard image capturing and read it later article capturing. Let me just elaborate on two of those.

Comment Banks

When I say comment banks, what I mean is when you're giving electronic feedback on assignments which are created in Google Docs, if you find there are feedback comments that you are repeating on a regular basis, then you can store them in Google Keep and you can go into Google Docs and you can open up the Keep notepad from within Google Docs then you can copy and paste from Google Keep directly into Google Docs. And that's a really good way of saving time when writing feedback on assignments.

Now just to be super clear, I am not suggesting that all of your feedback comments on assignments should be templated. That's not appropriate. However, there are always going to be comments you use on a regular basis.

So why not set up a comment bank or feedback comment bank in Google Keep? Then you can open your Google Keep up within Google Docs, copy and paste across.

Article Capture

When I mentioned earlier read it later article capture what I meant was if you are online looking at interesting education articles for example and you come across a few that you think I'd really like to take some time to read those articles later, what you can do is you can send the articles directly to your Google Keep is you make use of the Google Keep Chrome extension.

So this is using your Google Keep in a similar way to how apps like Pocket on Instapaper work. It's a really nice way to manage your time so you don't get kind of lost in that internet bubble where you're just browsing for something specific and you find something else that's interesting and something else. If you send those things to Google Keep, you can read them later.

Google Keep as a Tool for Students

The other thing to mention of course is that Google Keep can be a really handy tool for students. I'm thinking things like planning assignments, writing lists of things they need to remember, writing deadlines. But the reminder function could be particularly useful for them.

So once you've mastered Google Keep then why not contemplate helping your students be more productive by using this really cool tool?

Alternative Note-Taking Apps

If Google Keep isn't for you there are lots of alternative note-taking apps available. A really popular one if Evernote but there is a cost attached to the full version of Evernote.

For Microsoft users, there's OneNote. And there are some others on the market, for example, Bear is a really nice looking app for taking notes. I use Notability sometimes for storing PDFs that I want to annotate so I kind of class that as a note taking tool as well because you can create document and type notes.

Wrap Up

All of that said, if you are looking for simplicity and you are already in the Google ecosystem then you can't do much better than Google Keep in my opinion.

And those are my thoughts on Google Keep. Like I said, I think it's one of Google's best-kept secrets. I really don't know why there aren't more people raving about it.

So tell me, do you use Google Keep? Do your students use Google Keep? If you don't, will you consider having a go? I'd love to know. Please consider hopping into the Teaching Space staffroom which is our closed Facebook group and tell me what you think. I'd love to hear from you.

Right, so that's it from me today. Thank you so much for tuning in and I hope you'll join me next time.

59. Excellent Exit Tickets for Assessment and Evaluation
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Episode 21 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores the use of exit tickets for assessment and evaluation with learners. 

Podcast Episode 21 Transcript

Welcome to The Teaching Space podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Hello, it's Martine here. Welcome to Episode 21 of The Teaching Space podcast. It's great to have you with me. Today's episode is called Excellent Exit Tickets For Assessment And Evaluation.

What's an Exit Ticket?

So what's an exit ticket? Well, typically it's a short assessment or evaluation activity that your students would complete before they leave the classroom. Often it will be a slip of paper which might be pre-printed to look like a ticket, or could be just a scrap of paper from your shredding bin.

It could be an online exit ticket. You might use a Google Form or a Padlet or something similar.

Whatever you use, the idea behind an exit ticket is that your student will complete it before they leave the session, and if they don't complete it they don't leave the session. That's the idea, at any rate.

I've found that exit tickets tend to be used with young children, but I only teach adults and have had some success using them. So perhaps rethink how you're using exit tickets. They can definitely work with older learners.

Some examples of exit tickets can be found on theteachingspace.com/21

Exit Tickets for Formative Assessment

There are lots of ways to use an exit ticket.

Personally, I find they're most useful for formative assessment. Here are some ideas on how you could use an exit ticket for formative assessment.

To Answer a Question

You might ask one important question from the session. So your learner has to write the answer to the question on the ticket before they leave. That's a really good way to gauge whether the main point in the session has been understood.

To Summarize The Session

Alternatively, you could ask your learners on the exit ticket to summarize the key points of the session. If you do this, it might be a good idea to put some bullet points, maybe three bullet points on there, so they know the sort of level of detail you're asking them to go into.

Big Learning Moment and What They Need Help With 

One of my favourites is to ask learners to explain one key takeaway from the session, their big learning moment that they had, and one thing that they're still a little bit hazy about and need a little bit more help with.

I should add that when you do this it's really essential that you go through the exit tickets when everyone's left and make a big list of anything that learners are still hazy about, and then you follow that up. Otherwise there's not much point in doing the exit ticket exercise.

Exit Tickets as Reflective Tools

If you're encouraging a culture of reflection in your class, then why not use an exit ticket as a reflective tool. You can prompt your learners in the direction you'd like them to reflect. This works really well.

Don't forget that you can incorporate stretch and challenge into the use of exit tickets, because not everybody needs to have the same ticket. If you've got some learners who have achieved mastery in the session and need to be stretched a little further, then give them a more challenging exit ticket, there are definite opportunities for differentiation within the use of exit tickets.

Exit Tickets for Evaluation

They're not just an assessment tool though. You can use exit tickets for evaluation; you can use them to check the quality of your session.

I find that pre-printed exit tickets work best for this purpose. You might have a "What went well? Even better if ..." type exit ticket. So you might have WWW and then EBI on a different line, and ask for some feedback in that way. If you're dealing with young learners, then maybe a smiley face type scale could be an alternative.

Using Prompts

While it's perfectly fine to just use a blank sheet of paper for your exit ticket, I've found that prompts tend to give you a better quality of response.

So the sort of prompts you could include on your exit ticket might be: "Write one thing you learned today." Or, "Write one thing you'd like more help to understand."

These prompts also work really well in the first person. So you might have something like: "Today I enjoyed ..." "Today I found it confusing when ..." Or, "Please explain more about ..."

How Do You Make an Exit Ticket?

Let's talk about how you make an exit ticket. I think there are three options here.

1. Verbal Exit Ticket

You could take the path of least resistance and simply have a verbal exit ticket. This would work best with younger learners, I think. So you would stand at the door to your classroom, you would issue a question to the group, give them some thinking time, get them to line up at the door, and answer the question on the way out. So that would be your simple option for a verbal exit ticket.

2. Paper Exit Ticket

The mid-level option would be a paper exit ticket. It could be a scrap of plain paper, you put a question on the board and they write the answer. Or you could take the next step up and have a pre-printed ticket with prompts, and that would be what I recommend in the first instance, because I think it's best for the learner.

These pre-printed exit tickets could be created in Microsoft Word or Google Docs. What I've found is the easiest thing to do is just to create a table, a two column table, questions on the left and space for an answer on the right. That works very nicely.

3. Online Exit Ticket

If you want to take a tech approach, then I highly recommend using Google Forms. But this is really only going to work if your learners are on a computer at the end of the session. You know, if they've put their technology away or they're not allowed to use mobile phones for whatever reason, this isn't going to be the best format.

Certainly for my adult learners I've found that Google Forms work really well. If you create a QR code with the link to the Google Form that makes things even easier as well.

I like to get my learners using their devices, scanning the code, completing the exit ticket, and then going.

If it's appropriate, with a Google Form you can have the responses in a Google sheet on your board as people leave. It might not be appropriate to share what everyone else is putting in the exit ticket, but you never know, it might be.

My Preference

Now, I have a confession to make, even though I am a very tech-orientated teacher, I am a Google certified trainer so I love Google tools, the best way to do exit tickets, in my opinion, is the pre-printed slip. It's nice and easy. You've made it once, you can print it as many times as you like. It's very quick for you to see the responses. I really like a pre-printed exit ticket.

Template Exit Ticket

With this in mind, I have a little gift for you. I have a template exit ticket that you're very welcome to use in your classroom.

Here will find links to two options for the exit ticket, I've got a PDF version, which you can simply print out, I've also got a Google Doc template version for you. So when you click on the link what's going to happen is, Google will ask you if you want to make a copy of my template document, and you will answer, "Yes", and it will save in your Google Drive. Pop over to theteachingspace.com/21 to grab these.

So you've got a PDF option and you've got a Google Doc template option. You don't have to opt-in to any newsletter or anything like that to get these freebies. They are just there for you to use.

Wrap Up

I'd love to know your thoughts on exit tickets and whether you have a chance to try out my templates that I've provided. The best way to chat about this sort of thing is to join The Teaching Space Staff Room, that's our closed Facebook group, I'll pop a link in the show notes for you.

Right, that's all from me today. I hope you enjoyed the episode and I hope you'll join me next time.

60. Nine Classroom Backchannel Tools You Can Start Using Today
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Episode 20 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores nine classroom backchannel tools that can be used for communication between learners.

Podcast Episode 20 Transcript

Welcome to The Teaching Space Podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Hello, it's Martine here. Welcome to Episode 20 of The Teaching Space Podcast. Today's episode is all about backchannel tools. If you've not come across the phrase backchannel before, I will explain it to you.

What is a Backchannel?

A backchannel is a way for learners to have an on-topic conversation during a teaching session, this could be anything from learners in your class to delegates on a corporate course. Whoever they are, this is a way for them to either talk during the session and maybe submit questions, or even continue the conversation afterwards.

The main reason for this episode is that I recently found out one of my favourite backchannel tools, TodaysMeet is closing its doors in June 2018. This, therefore, seemed like the ideal opportunity to look at some alternatives.

I have nine classroom backchannel tools for you to try.

1. Mentimeter

Mentimeter allows you to create interactive presentations, so the backchannel bit is the ability to pose questions and get votes from your audience. It's a freemium tool, which means you have a free version with limited options, and there are paid options as well. A few of the tools I'm going to mention are freemium.

2. GoSoapBox

GoSoapBox allows you to create digital events. An event is a space on the internet where you can interact with your learners, and you can have polls and discussions, question and answers, that sort of thing.

A nice feature of GoSoapBox is it includes a confusion barometer, which you can use to gauge understanding. GoSoapBox is free for classes of up to 30 students, so this could be a really exciting tool for teachers to experiment with.

3. AnswerGarden

AnswerGarden is a minimalist feedback tool. It's good for creative brainstorming, very simple Q&A, and feedback gathering. You could only provide short answers as a participant using AnswerGarden. And good news, it's free.

4. Google Classroom

Full disclosure here, as a Google certified trainer this is my main backchannel tool, and I love it. So Google Classroom is part of the G Suite for Education set of apps, and it's an online classroom for storing resources, issuing assignments, asking questions, and that sort of thing.

But an element of it that is sometimes overlooked is the stream. When you go into a classroom, it's the first thing you come to. And this can be really effectively used as a backchannel because there could be chat there. So if you're already a Google Classroom user, don't overlook it as a possible backchannel tool.

And of course, as it's G Suite for Education, it's free.

5. Google Slides

You might be thinking, why are you including Google Slides on a backchannel list? Well, there's a good reason, let me explain. Before I do, I'll tell you that Google Slides is essentially the Google version of Microsoft PowerPoint, it's a presentation tool.

But there is one particular area where it's way better than PowerPoint, and that is it's got a Q&A option attached to it. You have audience participation elements built into Google Slides, and this is what makes it a backchannel tool, essentially.

You can do a presentation and your audience members can pose questions, and then you can project the question on the board, and you can answer questions, so that there's a backchannel element going on. Participants can also upvote popular questions. It's really worth having a play with.

Here is the video about how to use the audience participation aspect of Google Slides.

6. Twitter

Using Twitter as a backchannel can be great, particularly if you work with adult learners. You're going to find a lot of your learners are on Twitter already, and they'll have an understanding of what a hashtag is, which is handy because you can use a hashtag to group  tweets under a certain conversation.

It might not be the most appropriate tool for younger learners, but certainly, in my experience, the simplicity of Twitter makes it a great backchannel.

It's free; there's an element of forced brevity because tweets can only be up to 280 characters. You can share images, and that sort of thing as well. So you can rethink how you use Twitter, it can be an effective backchannel.

7. Backchannel Chat

This is a free chatroom designed with teachers in mind. It's really easy to set up; you don't need to get your learners to log in. It's freemium, but I happened to notice that the full paid program is just $15 a year, so that might be worth looking into.

I've not played with Backchannel Chat as much as I'd like, but it's certainly on my list of things to experiment with.

8. Padlet

I talked about Padlet in Episode 15 of The Teaching Space Podcast. If you hop over to theteachingspace.com/15 then you can hear or read my comments on Padlet.

Essentially, it's an online bulletin board, like a notice board. And what I really like about it, is there is a backchannel layout which you can select.

Padlet's had a bit of a hard time recently because they've just changed their charging model. Now you can have just a limited number of Padlets for free, and then you have to pay to have sort of more options, so it's a freemium model.

I can understand the backlash, I get it, I really do, and as teachers, we don't have a budget to spend on tools like this. However, I also understand that as a business they need to find a way to be sustainable, so I kind of get why they've done it.

Whatever you think about that, Padlet is a really great tool, so I recommend you give it a try.

9. Tozzl

That's T-O-Z-Z-L. What a lovely word. I like this tool on the basis of its name alone.

Tozzl is a digital pin board, message board, type thing. It's password protected, and as a teacher that makes me feel nice and comfortable. There's that nice extra layer of security.

It's free, which also makes my heart sing. It's quite a new tool for me, so I've not had a chance to dig into it quite as much as I'd like. However, I found a great video on YouTube that explains everything about Tozzl which you can find just above. 

Our Community

There you have it, nine classroom backchannel tools you can start using today. I would love to know if you try one or some, or all of these tools.

The best way to start a conversation about backchannels, or anything technology for learning related, is to join The Teaching Space Staff Room which is our closed Facebook group. It's a small group at the moment, a little quiet, I'd love to see a bit more conversation going on in there.

If you've not had a chance to join, please, please, please, please do so.; You will need to request to join, it's not an automatic thing, but I will do my best to accept your request as soon as possible.

Wrap Up

Okay, I think that's all from me today. Thank you so much for listening to this short and sweet, but hopefully valuable episode, and I hope you'll join me next time.

61. Teachers and Social Media - The Low Down
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Episode 19 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores how teachers use social media for personal and professional development and networking.

Podcast Episode 19 Transcript

Welcome to the Teaching Space Podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Hello, it's Martine here. Welcome to Episode 19 of the Teaching Space Podcast.

Today I'm going to be giving you the lowdown on teachers and social media. Well, I say lowdown. This is a 10-minute episode, so it's quite difficult to give you the lowdown in 10 minutes, but I'm going to try.

Q and A 

I'm focusing on teachers using social media for personal and professional development and networking, not to connect with students. And I thought the easiest way to do this episode would be a Q and A format, so essentially I'm going to interview myself. I hope this works well. Anyway, let's give it a try.

Question: Are you against using social media with students then?

Answer: In principle, no, I'm not, assuming the students are of an appropriate age. I've seen many cases where teachers have used social media to communicate with their learners, and have also used it as an opportunity to teach learners about being safe online. However, for me, and this is very much a personal view, I believe it's safer to use school or college provided channels for communication. This is about me being safe, my professional identity.


So I'll give you some examples. My adult learners, I teach initial teacher training. They're in an evening class and a Saturday morning class, and also some bespoke classes. We have a Google classroom, and my students download the Google Classroom app on their mobile device, and every time I post something in there, they get a notification, so that works really well.

Other schools and colleges might have their own internal social media-like platform. We have one, which is called GCFE Connect, and it's a little bit like Twitter, a little bit like Facebook, but it is only for members of the college, so it's locked down and it's safe.

That's how I feel about using social media with students.

Question: But if you really do want to use social media with students, should you have a separate profile?

Answer: Yes, if the platform allows it. It's easy to do on Twitter. You can have as many Twitter accounts as you like as long as you have a separate email address associated, but last time I looked, having two Facebook profiles is against the rules.

That being said, if Facebook is your platform of choice, you can safely use Facebook Groups, because you don't have to be friends with your students to do that. If you are going to use Facebook, lock down your privacy settings, and don't use it or any other social media platform to connect directly with individual students.

Absolutely check your school or college's policies and good practice guides on social media use, when it comes to this sort of thing. Don't just take my word for it.

Question: What platforms do you use professionally?

Answer: I use Facebook for The Teaching Space Staff Room, which is our closed Facebook group. I also am a member of some other educational Facebook groups, like the Society for Education and Training group and a few others.

I don't use Facebook for many other things, to be honest. I use Twitter (you can find TTS Twitter here) for connecting with teachers mostly, and for getting lots of CPD and links to really interesting stuff.

I also use Instagram with a focus on Instagram Stories. I'm also on LinkedIn, but I don't really do anything with LinkedIn, other than push content to it, so I really can't speak with any authority whatsoever about LinkedIn. However feel free to take a look at my LinkedIn here.

Question: What are your top tips for using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?

Answer: Facebook, I would recommend you stick to using Facebook Groups because it's the safest way, I think, to protect your professional identity, and there are some great people to connect with on Facebook. However, it is a very distracting platform, so if you are spending time on Facebook for professional reasons, chances are you're going to spend a lot of time on there looking at Tom Hiddleston gifs and cat videos if you're anything like me.

I also recommend you have your privacy settings on Facebook locked down and you check them regularly. Personally, I have a very small number of friends on Facebook. I tend to use it to keep in touch with people who perhaps don't live on Guernsey, and I want to catch up with them from time to time. Facebook isn't my favourite social platform if I'm really honest.


Let's talk about Twitter. As far as teachers are concerned, I genuinely think Twitter is where it's at. There are lots of teachers on Twitter, and you can really get some great information from there.

My top tips for using Twitter as a teacher, start conversations, talk to people, post regularly, share content, share your own stuff, but also share other people's stuff as well. Re-tweet great content. Ask questions and get a conversation going. Twitter's an amazing platform. I love the forced brevity of whatever it is, 280 characters. You can just get straight to the point, and share really great stuff, so Twitter, definitely a place that teachers should be.


If you look at my Instagram account, you'll know that from a teaching space perspective, I am no expert on Instagram. I'm struggling a bit with being somebody who likes to take creative photographs.

My Instagram aesthetic for the teaching space isn't quite right. However, what I am loving are Instagram Stories. I love being able to talk to camera, and share snippets of my day, so at the moment I'm tending to do on my main Instagram feed, I'm tending to share quotes and links to the latest podcast episodes, and things like that. That's not terribly exciting from an Instagram user's perspective, but Instagram Stories are amazing, so I really recommend you have a go at Instagram Stories and start connecting with other teachers on Instagram that way.

Top Tips for Social Media

In terms of general top tips for social media use, don't feel you have to be on every single platform. Use the ones you enjoy. Use the ones where you can find your people.

Don't post anything that negatively reflects on you or your profession. I really hope that's a no-brainer, but I thought I should mention it anyway.

And finally, and this is the big takeaway, I would really love it if you took this onboard, and that is start creating your own content, and sharing and talking about it on social, whether it's a blog or a podcast or a YouTube channel.

Content Curation v Creation

If you can start creating your own content, you are going to have plenty to talk about on social media, and you're giving something back to those people on social who already give so much, and I think that is, of all the things you can do as a teacher on social media, creating your own content and sharing it, and talking about it online is going to help you develop personally and professionally in the most amazing way.

Content curation is fabulous, and you will learn a lot from that, but content creation is going to be even better.

The Low Down and Feedback 

Okay, so that's the lowdown, except it wasn't really a very big lowdown. It was like a little lowdown, but I hope it was useful to get you thinking about the benefits of social media from a personal and professional development perspective.

I'd love to hear about your thoughts on this. Are you on social? Have you been frightened to go on social media? Is it something your school or college doesn't really encourage?

Wrap Up

Come and chat to me in the Facebook group. I would love to hear from you. I think it's a discussion that we need to have, and I can't wait to hear what you've got to say.

And that's all from me today. I hope you've enjoyed the episode, and I hope you'll tune in next time.

62. Digital Natives - An Education Myth?
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Description: Podcast Episode 18 Transcript

Welcome to The Teaching Space podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Hello and welcome to Episode 18 of The Teaching Space podcast. It's Martine here. Thank you so much for joining me.

In this episode, I want to encourage you to question the idea of digital natives. I hear a lot about digital natives versus digital immigrants when the topic of ed tech comes up in my staff room and other staff rooms that I have the privilege of visiting.

Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants

Before we get into the discussion about whether digital natives and digital immigrants are even a thing, let's rewind a little bit and, I'll tell you about when these terms were first used.

Back in 2001, Marc Prensky wrote an essay, which coined the term digital natives and digital immigrants. He was getting at the fact that our students are digital natives and the teachers, most of the teachers, tend to be digital immigrants. This is a direct quote from the essay regarding Prensky's description of our students.

 "Our students today are all native speakers of the digital language of computers, video games, and the internet."

In other words, our students have been brought up with technology. That's what they know. They get technology naturally and, they have this innate ability to multitask when it comes to tech. They can be watching a YouTube video and typing up an assignment at the same time. Allegedly. 

Marc Prensky's Essay

Digital immigrants, on the other hand, are people who have not necessarily grown up with technology and have had to learn how to use everything and adopt new ways of working as a result.

Incidentally, here is a link to Prensky's essay.

In his essay, Prensky, (it's not very easy to say) Prensky goes on to explain that because teachers tend to be digital immigrants and students tend to be digital natives, they are speaking totally different languages. The result of this is that teachers really need to adapt the way they teach to the learners.

A Different Language?

At this point, I want to remind you that the reason for this very short episode is to get you to start challenging the idea that our students are digital natives, so hold that thought for just a minute.

While I believe that, in many cases, teachers speak a different language to their learners, I believe assuming our learners are digital natives can be quite dangerous.

I want to question why we assume that they are something different to us. Is it because we're worried that they know more than us? Is that a genuine fear that teachers have?

I'm only talking, of course, when it comes to technology here. Question it though.

Online Safety

Your learners might be able to intuitively use things like the latest iPhone and navigate apps like Snapchat, but often they don't have a clue about being safe online or using technology for anything other than social interactions. Really are these interactions social? Chances are, they don't have a clue about their digital footprint. 


As a quick aside, have you ever tried to use Snapchat? I'm not even joking when I say it's impossible. Yet, give it to a 15-year-old and they instantly know how to use it. It's fascinating.

I don't question the fact that young people's brains are wired differently today. That I can agree with. What I can't agree with is that these kids that we're teaching know all there is to know about tech because they certainly don't.


And that's where this multitasking thing, study after study, proves that there is no such thing as multitasking.

What learners are doing if they are looking at Twitter, and writing an assignment, and listening to Spotify, and watching a YouTube video, they aren't concentrating on all of those things at the same time. Our brains aren't wired to do that.

What we're doing is switching between tasks. When you switch between tasks really quickly, you're unable to get into a state of flow, a really deep state of concentration. So, you're only ever taking in information at a sort of surface level. 

If you're interested in exploring this concept a little bit further, you might want to listen to one of my previous episodes about the Pomodoro Technique and, you can find that at TheTeachingSpace.com/12. 

Modern-Day Student

I'm not questioning the fact that kids today are different to kids 20 years ago. I mean, they are overstimulated with all of the information and the distractions out there, and I think that creates a huge number of challenges for them.

Learners today are different but they're only different in the way that every single learner you teach is different and always has been. When you teach a class of 20 people, they are 20 individuals and that has always been the case.

If we go back to one of the fundamental things you learn when you do your teacher training, the first stage of the teaching, learning, and assessment cycle is identifying the needs of your learners.

Off the back of that, you plan the learning, and then you facilitate the learning, and then you assess the learning, and so on, and so forth.

The Fundamentals of Teaching Haven't Changed

Even though there is clearly a difference with today's learners, we can almost approach it in a similar way. As long as we identify the needs of our learners and accommodate those needs, then surely we are going to create the learning experience we want to.

We need to identify our learners' needs, get to know them really well, and work with them to understand how they learn best. We need to find ways to help them avoid multitasking, and that's really challenging. Again, I recommend you check out the Pomodoro Technique in Episode 12. 

Sharing Strategies

We also need to be really careful we don't make assumptions about our learners' functional level of online literacy. It's very difficult to delve into this important topic in just 10 minutes.

What I wanted to do with this episode is just maybe spark a few thoughts for you, and I'd really love it if we could carry on the discussion in The Teaching Space Staffroom, which is our closed Facebook group.

There is a mild irony of having a chat about all this stuff on a social media platform where are loads of distractions but just go with me there. It would be really great to hear your thoughts on this.

I'd love to know about challenges that you're facing in your classroom. Whether you've found you've had to adapt your practice over, say, the last 5 or 10 years. It would be great if you co could share some strategies for helping our learners navigate this very complicated tech-heavy world that we live in today.


I read quite a few interesting articles in preparation for this episode, such as this from Quartz which challenges the idea of the Digital Native being the child, and is interesting to read beside this article about the Myth of the Digital Native

Another article to check out is this one from The Teacher Toolkit, which not only looks briefly at the Myth of the Digital Native but eleven other the best ‘worst’ research myths and legends.

Wrap Up

Okay, it's time for me to wrap things up, but before I go, I have a cheeky favour to ask. If you've enjoyed this episode or any previous episodes of The Teaching Space podcast, please consider leaving a positive review on iTunes. It's really helpful for when other teachers are searching for education podcasts.

If The Teaching Space has lots of positive reviews, then we go straight to the top of the search results. If you'd be kind enough to consider leaving a positive review, I'd be really grateful. 

Okay, that's it. I'll see in the Facebook group and I hope you'll tune in to the next episode.

Thanks for listening.

63. How to Set Up Your Mobile Phone for Maximum Efficiency
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Episode 17 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores how you can set up your mobile phone for maximum efficiency.

Podcast Episode 17 Transcript

Welcome to the Teaching Space podcast. Coming to you from Guernsey in The Channel Islands. 

Hello and welcome to Episode 17 of the Teaching Space Podcast. It's Martine here. Thank you so much for joining me.

In this episode, I'm going to talk to you about a subject very dear to my heart and that's productivity.

Companion Video

In particular, we are going to focus on how you can set up your mobile phone so you are the boss of it and you use it on your terms and it isn't the constant distraction that I suspect it probably is for you right now.

Teaching is such a busy job and I think it can become easier to manage if we are in charge of our time. And I think managing your mobile phone in an appropriate way very much forms part of that.

Incidentally, talking to you about my mobile phone setup is quite a visual thing so I have also recorded a companion video for this podcast episode which you can find here.

Wallpaper and Screensaver Image

Just to give you a bit of context I use an iPhone. I have at the moment an iPhone 7 Plus so it's quite big but that doesn't make a great deal of difference to how I've got it set up.

The first thing I would recommend you do is to select a wallpaper and a screensaver image that when you look at it makes you feel relaxed.

So for me, that's something very plain, lots of white space. My current picture is a pen and a clipboard if I remember correctly.

Choose your screensaver image and your wallpaper image really carefully. What I tend to do is use one of my favourite free photo websites. These are photographs you can use without attributing the photo to the photographer. So something like unsplash.com. If you hop over there and have a look you'll find a photo you'll really like and use the same one for your wallpaper and your screensaver.

Home Screen

The next step is to remove all of your apps from your home screen. Send them to your second screen. Yes, you heard me right. No apps on your home screen.

You've got a little bar along the bottom of your iPhone where you can keep a few frequently used apps so you can keep that.

For me, I've got there my Gmail app, my Google Chrome browser, my phone app and my Google calendar.

So they are along the bottom but otherwise nothing on that home screen.

When you pick up the phone you just see that beautiful image and a couple of apps along the bottom.

Screen Two

On that second screen, so when you swipe to see the next screen, set up one folder and put all of your apps in there. While you're putting your apps in there, delete those you don't use very often. Take this opportunity to have a bit of clear out.

I appreciate that I'm explaining my process in relation to iPhone but it's my understanding that other devices work in a similar way.

Set up one folder for all of your apps. If you're on the iPhone then you can search for apps by swiping down and just type in the name of the app so therefore having everything all in the same folder makes a lot of sense to me rather than having various folders for different types of apps. 


The next step is a slightly scary one for some people but when you think it through, really it's a no-brainer. And that is turn notifications off. Don't have notifications on apps. It's not good for your mental health.

I'll give you the example of your email app. For example, if you've got your Gmail app and this little red circle and it says, 5,000 because you've got 5,000 emails in there, that is not good for you to be constantly reminded of that.

Turn notifications off on the vast majority of your apps. Don't have pings to your phone telling you something's happened and you need to look at it. That goes for social media and everything. Get rid of these notifications, just use your phone on your terms.

My Apps

If you have a look at the companion video you'll see that there are one or two apps that I have little reminders on but next to nothing.

I have a reminder on my journal app because that is the one thing I am trying to get into a daily practice with so I get a little ping every day to remind me to journal. (Check out Episode 14 on The Power of Journalling for Teachers here )

Also any software updates I need to do on my watch or on my phone I get notified of those but that's it. No other notifications. 

To see the notifications if have like me one or two, in your apps folder if you're on an iPhone, all you need to do is a long press. And again, you'll see this on the video companion to this podcast episode.

Frequent Apps

Outside of that apps folder, I suggest you have no more than five to seven apps. I have my frequently used apps outside of the apps folder.

For example, Slack I use regularly to communicate with team members and accountability partners and that sort of thing. I also have Notability outside of my apps folder because it is an app that I use every single day for taking notes and annotating PDFs and that sort of thing. Finally, I have Asana, my project management app outside of my apps folder as well and that's it. 

Use Your Phone on Your Terms

That's how I set my phone up for maximum productivity. And I think the key thing to remember is use your phone on your terms. Ultimately if you're doing that you're going to be spending more time, more focused time on the work you're doing which has deadlines and then your phone can be something you do during your break.

For example if you use the Pomodoro technique to get your work done, and I've talked about that in a previous episode. But when you take your Pomodoro break you can look at your phone and you're doing so on your terms.

Self-Control and Avoiding Distraction

Try not to have your phone in your eye line. Stick it in your bag, hide it, turn it over. Even though you don't have the distraction of notifications you still might want to pick it up when you're not supposed to be looking at it. It's all about self-control.

You might be thinking Martine; I'm an adult, I don't have to do this sort of thing. I'll do what I like. The point of me explaining to you how to maximize your phone for absolute efficiency is that you're probably also the person who is saying, "Martine I don't have time to do stuff."

Trust me when I say if you can take charge of your mobile device you are going to generate more time to focus on the stuff you really want to get done.

Try It!

Why don't you give it a go? Have a look at the video. Try it for a week. Try it for a month if you're feeling brave. And then let me know how you get on. I would love to hear from you.

If you'd like to chat about mobile phone setup and productivity for teachers generally then one of the best places to do that is in our closed Facebook group called The Teaching Space Staffroom. If you hop over to Facebook, search for The Teaching Space Staffroom, ask to join the group and I will approve you as soon as possible. And once you're in, let's talk teacher productivity. As I said at the start, it's one of my favourite subjects.

Go on. Give it a try. You know you want to have a minimalist mobile phone, I can just feel it.

Wrap Up

Right. So that's all for me in today's short and sweet episode. I really hope you enjoyed it. Don't forget to check out the companion video,  and join us in the closed Facebook group The Teaching Space Staffroom.

Thank you so much for listening and I hope you'll join me next time. 

64. Reflections on Attending the Google Summit London
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Description: Podcast Episode 16 Transcript

Welcome to The Teaching Space Podcast coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Hello and welcome to Episode 16 of The Teaching Space Podcast. It's Martine here. Thanks for joining me.

Today's episode is not going to be in the usual format. It is taking the format of an audio diary.

Let me tell you why....

On the 23rd, 24th, and 25th of March, there was a Google Summit in London, and I was lucky enough to be asked to speak at the event. This is my first time speaking at an event like this as an educator and a Google Certified Trainer, and it was quite nerve-racking, I have to say. I thought it would be a nice idea for the podcast to record some audio snippets from the event and share them with you, so what follows is an audio diary covering my experience. I hope you enjoy it.

Ooh, before I forget, I should mention the audio I recorded was on my mobile device, so if the quality isn't as good as normal, that's the reason. Okay, let's go.

The French College

Hello, it's Martine here. I thought I'd record an audio diary of my experience of the London Google Summit. I've just arrived at the Lycee International de Londres. Please excuse my pronunciation.

Well, it was a bit awkward getting in. I had to speak to the security guard, and they checked my name, and it wasn't on the list, and it wasn't on the list, and then it was on the list, so that was interesting, but I'm here now, and I appear to be the only one. My obsessive approach to punctuality was paying off there as usual.

I'm in a gorgeous classroom, and there is coffee, and there are croissants because it's a French college, so I'm going to help myself.

I shall check in later and let you know how my sessions go and what I learn from the sessions I attend.

Delivering My First Session

Hello. It's Martine here.

Okay, so I have just done my first session, and it was called How to Mark Smarter and Faster With Google.

This was a session I was delivering. When I said I've done my first session, I mean I've delivered my first session. It was an hour long, and it went really well. It was well attended, and we did about half an hour's sort of chit-chat and demonstration and a bit of presentation from me, and then we had half an hour for people to basically have a play with the tools that I taught them about. 

Tool One: Loom

The three tools that I shared were Loom, which is a Chrome extension for recording your screen.

Tool Two: Google Keep

I also showed the learners how to open up Google Keep in Google Docs and, essentially, store your frequently used feedback comments in Google Keep on a sort of digital Post-It Note and then open that up within Google Docs and then put your comments into comments on Google Docs, if that makes sense.

I will share a video explaining that in a bit more detail. I promise I did a better job in the session that I delivered. 

Tool Three: Google Forms

I also shared how to use Google Forms with the quiz option enabled, and this allows you to create self-grading forms or quizzes, and that can be really useful for formative feedback because you can input a variety of different types of comment based on whether the learner has got the answer right or wrong. So if someone's got an answer wrong, you can then maybe signpost them to extra resources like a video or something like that.

If you were doing a quiz on English punctuation, and someone did an apostrophe wrong then selected the wrong answer, then you could maybe direct them to a video about apostrophes. 

Summary Of Session One

Those are the three things I covered.

Link: How to Mark Faster and Smarter with Google Presentation . You will be able to jump into that presentation and see lots of other links. I hope that's useful to you, and I will try my very best to record a little sound bite after I've done my next session.

Now, my next session is The Life-Changing Magic of Electronic Filing. My audience was a bit quiet this morning, so I'm not entirely sure how that's going to go down with them, but let's see. Over and out.

Second Session

It's me. I just finished my second session, which was The Life-Changing Magic of Electronic Filing. It wasn't as well attended as the first, I have to say, but I kind of, on the fly, converted it into a very informal sit around the table and talked about Google Drive, and that actually ended up working really well, so I'm really pleased.

Final Reflection

Hello. It's me again.

I thought I'd record a final reflection on the whole experience. Just to give you a bit of background which I should probably have done this at the start.

The reason I knew about these Google Summits was that the company that organizes them, AppsEvents, came to Guernsey and did a Google Summit, and it was really good, very well organised great speakers, and all that stuff.

I attended the summit and kind of sat there thinking, "This is awesome, but I could probably speaking because I know some stuff too as a Google certified trainer," so it was going to the initial summit that kind of made me have the confidence to pitch myself as a speaker for this London event. The fact that it was in London and it wasn't too difficult to get to, it was a quick flight, also made it really appealing.


I find it really hard pitching myself for things. When I was 20, I think I would have had no problem pitching myself at all, which is really ironic, as I knew a heck of a lot less when I was 20, but I think, as I get older, I get a little bit more anxious about things like that. Anyway, I pitched myself. They wanted me to do the summit, and that was all fine and dandy.

Networking Perspective

Reflecting on the whole experience of being a teacher and a speaker at these type of events, I can honestly say it was brilliant.

I had some great conversations with people who I'm really hoping will end up listening to The Teaching Space Podcast as a result.

Met some amazing teacher folks and education folks who I'm really hoping that I'll have further contact with and they'll be sort of people I can share ideas with in the future, so just simply from a networking perspective, it was fantastic.

Personal Development

From a personal development perspective, I've pushed myself outside of my comfort zone by pitching myself for an event and being anxious about it. The two sessions I ran went very well.

On reflection, the second one was not pitched at a high enough level for the group, but then I didn't really know that until I got there, so that was a useful learning experience. It looks like most people who attend these events tend to be on the more advanced side, so I know that for future, which is brilliant. That being said, the people that I worked with had a great time, so I'm really happy.


The feedback came in, and the feedback on my sessions was really good, excellent, in fact, so I'm thrilled about that. I am hoping that AppsEvents will want me to work with them again, so sort of major reflection on it being pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is a really good thing. It's been a confidence boost.

If you ever, dear listener, get an opportunity to speak at an event of this nature, then I really encourage you to go for it. It is nerve-racking. It is, like I said, pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, but I think the learning I got from it far outweighed the anxiety I initially felt, as it usually does when you put yourself outside your comfort zone.

Learning Perspective

From a learning perspective, I didn't attend too many sessions because I was kind of wanting to balance my energy on the day. That was another sort of positive move on my part, I feel. I didn't go to all of the sessions in between mine. I very carefully picked what I attended.

One of the highlights for me was I attending a session on Google Apps Script, which was a programming session to enable you to create extensions and things like that. Yes, it was as geeky as it sounds, I can promise you that, but while I didn't sort of, during the session, create my own extension or anything like that, I got a sort of foundational understanding of what Google Apps Script is all about, and it certainly made me interested in exploring that more. 

All in All...

All in all, a fantastic weekend. I'm really grateful to the people who supported me throughout it. I must give a shout out to my friend Gemma, although she won't be listening, but she put me up for the weekend. We had a lovely time, so that was excellent.

Like I said, if you get a similar opportunity, I really recommend you push yourself outside of that comfort zone and give it a go. That's me, over and out.

If you're a brand-new listener to The Teaching Space Podcast, then this is not the regular format, as I said at the start of the show, but a lot of my listeners were very supportive and keen to hear about how the event went, so in response to that, I wanted to share just a few thoughts and a few snippets, not particularly coherently, but it was kind of captured in the moment, so I hope that works for you. 

Wrap Up

I'm going to wrap things up now, but just before I go, if you are not a member of The Teaching Space Facebook group, it's called The Teaching Space Staff Room, then it would be great to have you there. We've had some good conversation going on recently.

It's a great place to network and share ideas and talk to other teachers in confidence, so hop over to Facebook and look for The Teaching Space Staff Room, and you can ask to join the group.

Thanks for tuning in to this episode, and I hope you'll join me next time. 

65. Two Edtech Tools To Try This Week
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Episode 15 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores two edtech tTools to try this week.

***04/04/18: since recording this episode, Padlet has introduced a new pricing structure - the free option only allows you 3 walls. While this is a bit disappointing, Padlet is still a great tool and I very much recommend it.***

Podcast Episode 15 Transcript

Welcome to The Teaching Space Podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Hello, it's Martine here. Welcome to Episode 15 of The Teaching Space podcast. Thanks so much for joining me.

In this episode, I'm going to share two ed tech tools that I think you're going to want to try this week or indeed next week.

What is Padlet?

The first tool is Padlet, and it can be found at padlet.com

What is Padlet? Well, it's kind of an online bulletin board or notice board. That's how they describe it on the website, but actually, it's so much more than that.

I really think of it as a collaborative online space. You can share all sorts of different things on a Padlet, for example, written notes, photographs, web links, all sorts of stuff. Teachers can sign in using their Google credentials, so if you are a G Suite for Education establishment, then this is really convenient.

Students don't require an account to use a Padlet. However, there are some benefits from them signing up for an account. For example, you can see the username of the person who is posting on the Padlet, and sometimes that's useful, particularly for assessment purposes. But, again, your learner can use their Google credentials, so it's nice and easy.

What I love about Padlet is its accessibility. It's so easy to use, so even the most nervous tech users will feel quite confident using a Padlet. It looks great, too. 

My Experience Using Padlet

Padlet is web-based, but there are also a number of different apps and browser extensions you can use with Padlet. I've been thinking about use cases for Padlet, and there are so many.

The first time I used Padlet was ... it was quite a few years ago, to be fair, but it was to gather ideas from a group of students. We were planning an event, and we were coming up with different ideas for different types of events. So, I set up a Padlet and the students just put all of their ideas for events on to the Padlet, then we organized it and narrowed it down to our chosen event. That's just one way you can use a Padlet. 

I'm also using Padlet at the moment as an experiment for The Teaching Space Book Club. Incidentally, if you are interested in our book club, hop over to theteachingspace.com/book-club to find out more.

Using Padlet for the book club is still a bit of an experiment and I will report back to you on how that goes, but essentially the setup is simple. There's a column layout and I share a variety of different questions about the book, and then participants can post underneath the questions. So, it's a nice simple layout. I'm thinking it's gonna work quite well, but I will report back. 


Padlet can make a really good backchannel. For example, if you're teaching a session to a large group of people and you want somewhere they can go online to make a note of questions for you to deal with, perhaps after the session or in a second session or something like that, then use Padlet as a backchannel.

They have got a fairly new backchannel layout feature. I've given it a try once. From my point of view, there were a few things missing but I suspect Padlet will be ironing out those little hiccoughs because it's such a new feature. It's definitely worth exploring.

Online Portfolios

Padlets can also work as online portfolios because ultimately you're using it as a space to bring lots of different links and pieces of work together.

It could be fun to do as an exit ticket, so perhaps at the end of a session you ask learners to share one thing that they've taken away from that session on the Padlet and then you can perhaps look at the Padlet in the next session and use it as a recap. 

Padlet and Parental Communication

It might be a nice tool for parental communication. Now, I've not tried this, because I deal with adults. I teach adults on a daily basis. Communicating with parents isn't something I have to do. However, I do know a lot of people have used Padlet for things like class newsletters. That might be worth exploring.

Here is a link to a great blog post I found, called 30 Creative Ways to Use Padlet for Teachers and Students

How Much Is Padlet?

On to pricing. Now, Padlet is a free tool, and the free version of Padlet is fantastic.

There are premium options and I've upgraded to the lowest level of premium option, just 'cause it gives me a couple of extra features that are handy for my book club setup. I'd say that most people wouldn't need to upgrade, though.

My upgrade has cost me $34 a year, and that's worth it just for the book club side of things.

What is Flipgrid?

Next up is Flipgrid. Everyone seems to be talking about Flipgrid at the moment, so I apologise for jumping on the bandwagon, but it is a really good tool. It's a video discussion tool.

So, what happens is, the teacher creates a grid, then a topic, and generates a grid code. If you've used Kahoot before, this is very similar to how students would join a Kahoot. They get the app on their phone or in their browser and they just put in the code and then they join.

So, this means that learners don't have to have a specially set up account, which is usually quite handy.

How Does It Work?

On that topic grid, then, the teacher could, for example, pose a question and that involves the teacher recording a quick video on their mobile device, for example, or via their laptop. And, students can respond with videos themselves. So, it's a video-to-video collection area. All of the videos are presented in a grid, and it's really easy for students to watch each others' video.

That's quite a complicated explanation to really get to grips with Flipgrid, is. If you can see it in action, I highly recommend it. There'll be some decent videos on YouTube, I'm sure, to show it in action.

Flipgrid Feedback

There are many good things about Flipgrid. I've had great feedback from the learners that I've used it with.

Another great thing is it talks to Google, so teachers can sign in using their Google credentials, and the mobile device apps are excellent.

Most people who have used Flipgrids I've set up have recorded their video on their mobile devices, because you download the free app, you put in the grid code and you hit record. It is as simple as that.

The App and Nervous Students

Flipgrid is fantastic for giving a voice to students who perhaps wouldn't speak up in class. Then you might be thinking, well, if they don't speak up in class, then they aren't going to fancy recording a video of themselves, but you'd be surprised. A lot of colleagues I know who have used it with young people have found that even the shyest learner is okay with recording a video.

Now, interestingly, I used Flipgrid with adults and I suspect I had more issues with adults being nervous about videoing themselves compared to the younger students.

I predict a very bright future for Flipgrid. It's an innovative tool, which gives a voice to students who might not ordinarily have one, and that's amazing.

The Only Downside

There is one thing that I wasn't so keen on with Flipgrid, which I'll mention now. I'm hoping it's something they might improve later on, and that is the ability for students to give feedback to each other and also teacher feedback, both video and written.

They encourage video feedback from the teacher. That's kind of built in, but you have to invest in the paid option to get more sophisticated feedback options.

I think there need to be some improvements there. But, don't let that put you off giving Flipgrid a try. It's fantastic. As I mentioned, it's a web-based tool and there are apps available for all devices.

Case Ideas

I have a few use case ideas for you. Flipgrid is great for simple Q and A formative assessment type activity. You could use a Flipgrid for feedback on an event, like a CPD event, get staff to record videos of their feedback on the event.

I, personally, have used Flipgrid for a group research project lately, and the forced brevity, you're only allowed, I think, 90 seconds for your video on the free version. That forced brevity really helped my learners, working on their ability to summarize lots of information.

How Much Does it Cost?

So, that's Flipgrid. Let me talk to you about pricing. It's free for learners, but there is a premium option and that is $65 a year, and as with Padlet, the premium option just gives you a few extra features.

I haven't invested in the premium option yet, but it might be something I do in the future, I'm not sure. Watch this space. 

Wrap Up

Those are my two tools, my two ed tech tools that I'd like you to think about giving a try this week or next week. That's Padlet and Flipgrid.

If you aren't already subscribed to the show, you might want to know that every fortnight I send an email to my email subscribers and I let them know that episodes are live. I also share lots of other interesting bits and bobs. So, it's worth being on my email list if you're not already. You can find the signup form at theteachingspace.com/vip. 

It's time to sign off. Thanks so much for joining me. I hope you'll tune in to my next episode.

66. The Power of Journaling for Teachers
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Episode 14 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores the Power of Journaling for Teachers.

Podcast Episode 14 Transcript

Welcome to the Teaching Space Podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Hello and welcome to Episode 14 of The Teaching Space Podcast. It's Martine here, thank you so much for joining me. Today's episode is all about The Power of Journaling for Teachers.

Well, I say for teachers, this podcast is aimed at teachers and trainers so there is going to definitely be a teaching training angle to the show. However, what I've learned over the past month or so is that journaling is very good for all aspects of your life and career.

So, while there is going to be a bit of teaching stuff, I'm also going to talk about journaling in a more general sense.

Let's get started then.

What is Journaling?

I found a really good definition, on a website called lonerwolf.com and I'm going to read that out to you because I think it explains the process really well:

"Journaling is the practice of writing down your thoughts, and feelings, for the purpose of self-analysis, self-discovery and self-reflection. As one of the oldest forms of self-help in the world, journaling is about exploring one's own thoughts, feelings, impulses, memories, goals and hidden desires through the written word. As such, journaling is often prescribed by therapists, counsellors and spiritual mentors as a powerful way of developing more self understanding and compassion." How Journaling Helped Me

Well crikey, that sounds a little bit woo-woo, doesn't it? All this talk of feelings and self discovery, I have to be honest, it's not really my bag. But, I love to write and lately I have fallen off the wagon a little, with my daily writing schedule. Many of you will know I'm currently writing a book, and I've been struggling to work on it on a daily basis.

It occurred to me that if I could get a daily writing habit back by keeping a journal then maybe that would help my writing towards my book. And, I've been journaling for just over a month now and, funnily enough, my writing habit has returned. Not only am I journaling daily, but I'm also working on my book daily. For me, journaling has already proven its power, in terms of getting me back to writing my book.

How Can it Help You?

But what about you, fellow teacher friend? Why is journaling a powerful tool for teachers?

Sadly, my teaching colleagues are some of the most stressed people I know. Our workloads are enormous and they're currently growing as budgets are cut more and more tasks are being handed to teachers, usually for no extra pay. And, it's making achieving a work-life balance even more difficult.

Keeping a journal is a good way to reflect on, and analyse, how you're spending your time. And, it's also a great place to log the activities you do for yourself, for your mental health, for your physical health, all of those sorts of things.

This is one of the ways I think journaling can be powerful for teachers because you get a real reality check on how you're spending your day, and how much stuff you do just for you that's not work-related.

The other thing it's great for is reflecting on your teaching practice and noting things that have worked well. You can also note things that simply haven't worked and ended up being a complete waste of time. Therefore you don't need to repeat them. And, ultimately, that is going to save you time.

These are just a few reasons why journaling is incredibly powerful for teachers, but how do you do it? 

How to Keep a Journal

Are pen and paper okay? The answer is yes, of course, you have to journal using a format that works for you and, if you're the sort of person who loves stationery, I totally get it, grab yourself the nicest notebook or journal you can afford, get a really great pen and just start.

I'm a tech girl, so pen and paper weren't going to cut it for me. I have been using Day One app for my journaling and I love it.

I have to be honest; if I hadn't found this app, I wonder if I would have stuck at the journaling thing. It just makes journaling such a pleasure.

Let me tell you about what I am journaling about, using Day One app. The first thing about the app that I love is you can have multiple journals, so I've set up four. One's for my business, one's creative, one is personal and one is teaching.

You can view the contents of all four journals all at once, or you can view them separately. And you can also tag every entry. This is a huge benefit of journaling electronically as opposed to using pen and paper.

The sort of things I write in my four journals include, what I'm doing creatively speaking, usually my creative practice is my downtime and it's not necessarily related to my teaching. So, this might be photos, or updates on projects that I'm working on. 

I note food-related stuff such as recipes I've tried and enjoyed and also a wine that I like and want to buy again. This is usually accompanied by a photograph of the wine label. I make a note of my yoga practice. And, on the business side of things, I write about various achievements within my business, it might be sales, it might be events I'm going to attend. All sorts of things like that.

On the relaxation side of things, it's a case of noting perhaps, TV series' I want to watch, or things I've enjoyed, or books I want to read.

You can journal about anything you like; there are no rules here. Just journal about what you want. On the teaching side of things, mainly I journal about things that have gone well in sessions, but also areas for development and things I want to try.

Benefits of the Day One App

I've not done it yet, but I will be writing about things I want to read, research I'm interested in, articles that I might need to refer back to at a later date, that sort of thing.

As I said, there are many benefits to using Day One app for your journal. One of the greatest things, apart from the tagging and the multiple journals, is that it's across platform app. So there is an app for your computer, I can use it on my iPad, on my phone. That makes it really user-friendly for me.

Day One app is free; you get basic functions for nothing. But I've opted to go for the premium, which is 35 dollars a year, so it's a subscription model. And I get some extra functionality for that, which is ... it's worth paying for, for me.

Why Not Give It A Try...

Those are just a few of my thoughts on the Power of Journaling for Teachers, trainers and for anyone, really.

Believe me when I say I never thought I would be extolling the virtues of journaling to anyone, let alone recording a podcast about it. I've really surprised myself. If you're a bit like me and you've always thought, journaling is a bit woo-woo, it's not for you, why don't you be open-minded? Why don't you give it a try? I'd say you need to do at least a couple of weeks or a month, to work out if it's for you or not.

Wrap Up

That's today's episode folks before I go, I want to remind you that the Teaching Space Staff Room is a free Facebook group and we'd love to have you in there to start a little bit of conversation. Perhaps we can talk journaling.

Also, if you've enjoyed the episode, please consider leaving a positive iTunes review as it helps more people find the podcast and hopefully enjoy it too.

Thanks for tuning in, I hope you'll tune in next time.

67. Why it's Time to Get to Know Your School Librarian, An Interview With Elizabeth Hutchinson
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Episode 13 of The Teaching Space Podcast is an interview with Elizabeth Hutchinson from the Schools' Library Service in Guernsey.

Podcast Episode 13 Transcript

Welcome to The Teaching Space podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands. 

Hello, and welcome to Episode 13 of The Teaching Space Podcast. It's Martine here, thank you so much for joining me.

In today's episode, I'm interviewing Elizabeth Hutchinson from the Schools' Library Service in Guernsey. 

Martine: Welcome, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth: Hello there, nice to be here.

Martine: Lovely to have you here. Rather than me do the introductions, I'm going to kick off with a question to you. Who are you and what do you do?

Elizabeth: Okay. I'm Head of the Schools' Library Service in Guernsey. I'm a librarian, and I support the school libraries across the Bailiwick of Guernsey. We look after and support all primary schools, all secondary schools, and we even fly across to Alderney to support them too.

Martine: Fantastic. It's a busy job then, by the sounds of things.

Elizabeth: It is. I've got a nice little team, which is good. We sort of share the schools between us. We each allocate, I allocate schools to individual librarians so that schools expect to see the same person most of the time. Of course we're sharing across our resources too, so it's a bit of an unusual role for us to play because it's a support service that we offer, but we work very closely with schools and teachers, which is our aim really.

Martine: What do people think the role of the school librarian is, and what is it really? Two questions in one there.

Elizabeth: Okay, well our service is slightly different, we are providing the professional school librarian role. Throughout the years that I've worked at Schools' Library Service, there is a very clear misconception on what a school librarian does.

There are two people that you would see within a school library, one is a library assistant whose job is to issue the books and look after the day to day running of the school library. The other one is the professional school librarian, and their role is very different from what most people think a librarian does.

Our role as a school librarian is just to work alongside the teachers and the curriculum.

Our role is to support information literacy, which is the ability for anyone to find access, evaluate, give credit, and use good quality information. We provide resources and support in accessing those resources.

There are the book loans from the Schools' Library Service that you can get from your own school library, but there's also the online resources. Our role is to support the students in using those effectively. What we find is that students are very good at doing that Google search, that question into Google and hoping that the answer's going to pop out.

As you progress through your academic schooling you need to be using better quality academic resources or be very highly skilled in evaluating the resources that you're finding. We work with them to make sure that they understand a keyword search, that they understand that in any academic source you cannot type a question, that you have to think about what you're looking for, and actually how you tweak those keywords to actually find what you need.

The more students look online for information, the less skilled they get at actually finding what they really need.

That's where we're sort of, our main aim at the moment is, is to support that. Is that the new Guernsey curriculum has changed incredibly recently to look at the skillset. This is what school librarians have always done, the skill of research. We are now in a brilliant position to be able to go, well the skills that we have are the skills that we can teach your students, and what you've highlighted that you need at the moment. It's interesting times for a school librarian I think.

Martine: It strikes me that the role of the school librarian has changed dramatically over the past sort of 20 years or so, but ultimately as you said, it comes down to research and helping students learn how to research properly. I guess it's not the sort of fundamentals of the role that's changed, it's where you're looking for the information has changed a little bit perhaps.

Elizabeth: Oh absolutely. If you think about when we were back at school. Our research was probably the school library, but it was books. You could always copy and paste, but you'd actually have to hand write it. The chances of you being caught for doing that was quite unlikely unless the teacher was probably going down to the library to check the books that you were copying from.

We live in a world now where information is really freely available and really easy to access. It's even easier to plagiarise but even easier to get caught.

It's those skills, that skillset that has suddenly become very usable and shareable and people want them. It's a much wider world out there, and actually far more opportunities. Our skillset has had to adapt and change, but it has in a very exciting way, opened doors that I couldn't have imagined at the beginning of my career.

Martine: It's a good time to be a school librarian, is what you're saying?

Elizabeth: Absolutely, really exciting. Do you know, just the opportunity to share ideas on social media, talk to experts in our profession in a way that was just not possible before, has up-skilled all of us in a way that just wasn't possible.

Having a personal learning network on social media has not only helped me to understand my role a bit more, but also helped me learn about things that I can then share with the students that I teach and the teachers that I work with. The worlds of research has really opened up in the last sort of few years and it is exciting times, yeah. I love it.

Martine: It's really interesting to hear you talking about social media in that way as well, because I'm in huge agreement with you there, in that I get a massive amount of my CPD directly from Twitter because of all the links people share, and the Twitter chats that go on, and things like that. Technology is really exciting right now and it's great to hear about how the role of the school librarian has adapted to accommodate.

Elizabeth: I think as well is that as part of learning and teaching research, I think it's important that we do include these technologies or these tools, because like you said, I too get a lot of my professional development from Twitter, but it's that digital literacy that is also around in school today that we're teaching.

Actually if we can help students navigate resources like Twitter within the classroom, it then becomes less of a problem outside.

Martine: Definitely.

Elizabeth: So instead of us shying away from it, we need to be confident in using it ourselves as teachers to be able to then help the students navigate it.

I think I was talking to somebody recently about the negativity, and the bullying, and the trolling that goes on, but actually if we had more people on social media that were brave enough to say, "Hey, that's not a nice thing to say." We drowned out the negatives with the positive then it would be a much better place to be. You can only learn those skills through usage.

Actually, if we can learn to use it in a safer environment within the classroom then it would stand the students in better stead for the future I think.

Martine: I'm in complete agreement with what you just said, and it almost leads onto a discussion about a topic I want to cover in a future podcast episode, which is this misconception that young people today are digital natives.

Everyone seems to think, particularly amongst certain teachers I come across, that the kids today, they all know how to do anything online and they're very comfortable with technology. Yes, in terms of navigating an iPhone or some sort of smartphone, they can do that very easily, but they aren't particularly savvy when it comes to social media, and using technology and social media and things like that professionally. It's all about social. Is that something you've come across in your role at all?

Elizabeth: Oh yeah, without a doubt. You know? Even to the extent of just good research, there's a lack of understanding amongst teachers that it is important that they check where their sources are coming from.

The only way that that can happen is if we encourage teachers to insist on referencing.

I know it sounds boring, do you know? I've had one teacher tell me that it stops the flow of the essay or the research -

Martine: Really?

Elizabeth: It spoils it, you know? For the understanding that actually where your information is coming from is important to the teacher makes the child then understand the importance for themselves.

Once you learn how to reference, it doesn't take that long. If you collect your references as you go through, it is part and parcel of academic writing. Whether you like it or not, that's what we're doing at school, we are writing academically.

Even the youngest of students, none of them are generally writing for pleasure. You can create the opportunity to write for pleasure alongside doing the research correctly and it should all just flow into it. You find that international baccalaureate students generally tend to be really good at their referencing because it's an essential part of the course.

Teachers who teach GCSE and A Level, it's not. A lot of these students are spoon fed, and I get it, I do understand. Teachers are in a very difficult position that they are judged by their outcomes and teaching to the test and all of this, I get it. I do. But we're not doing our children any favours if we are not helping them to take responsibility for where their information's coming from.

We talk about recently the fake news and you live in an internet bubble. I find that really interesting, it's something that I'm particularly interested in myself is that we go back to the social media question, is that we tend to follow the people who have the same ideas as us, share the same views, and reinforce what we believe to be true.

That's a really dangerous position to put yourself into, that it's safe because you're not going to read anything that you disagree with, but actually, if we don't teach and encourage our students to actually look beyond that immediate understanding to get a more rounded view, then we are going to ...

We're in a very scary position where we can be manipulated into believing that this is the only way for the world to work, or this religion is right, or that political party is correct.

Actually, you can only get a full view of the world if you actually understand how you can actually access other sources of information that are going to give you a slightly different view. I find it, that to prevent students or not encourage students to actually go beyond that question into Google, we're opening a huge chasm that we might not ever be able to shut.

Actually now is the time to take responsibility and start saying, "This is a serious situation and we as teachers and educators need to actually do something about it when we can," and we can do something about it, you know?

Teach them to reference, understand plagiarism, understand the fact that you need to give credit for somebody else's work. All of this is about looking at how we behave online and how we gather our information for our own learning. It has to come and start in a school setting.

Martine: The idea of living in an internet bubble, as you described it, is just absolutely terrifying. I mean if you don't ever have to challenge what you see, what you read, what you hear, how are you ever going to learn? It's very, very worrying.

Elizabeth: Yeah, it is interesting because I think people forget. I think if you don't live in an information world where you're teaching people to find information, I think it's very easy to forget that ... I think we've had recently, sort of Facebook have tried to change it, but where they were feeding you the things that you want to find rather than what you chose to find. I think you need to be a little bit savvy about ... Or understanding that that is actually what goes on.

Martine: Definitely. What you said about referencing and how if you do it as you go along, it's not difficult, that is so true.

I'm a Google Certified Trainer, and so I use Google Docs for most academic writing activities with my learners, and it is so easy to reference in Google Docs. It really is straightforward. I shared a video on social a couple of days ago that showed how to do it in about 90 seconds. It was a demonstration that took that long, you know? It is easy, simple and straightforward. As long as you know how to do it, then I don't really understand why people wouldn't be doing it, particularly in Google Docs.

Elizabeth: Well exactly. If you are a person who uses Word, there's a referencing tab in Word, which is equally as quick, do you know? When you think back to the dissertations we used to write and you'd spend three or four days putting in your references, literally if you're collecting them as you go along, it's a less than 10-second job to create your bibliography.

Why would you not use that, you know?

Martine: Exactly.

Elizabeth: It is so simple these days.

Martine: Talking about things being speedy, how can your school librarian save you time? This is a question on behalf of the teachers, how can your school librarian save you time?

Elizabeth: That's an interesting question because I had a discussion with somebody the other day and the things that I thought teachers would understand was time-saving. Turns out to be not so.

Martine: Right.

Elizabeth H.: Let me explain. Schools' Library Service provides what we call project loans. Teachers can email us and say, "I'm doing Victorians next term with my year six students. I have three or four higher learners and I have about two that will need lower level books." We put together a nice little box, we deliver it to the school, which then lands in their library and they go and collect it and they start using it. That is time-saving.

Martine: Yes, I would think so, yeah.

Elizabeth: If you are a teacher who sends an email ... So this is what was pointed out to me, if you are a teacher that sends an email once a term and this box magically appears, you forget that actually, it takes time to curate those resources and put what you need into a box and issue it and get it out to you. There is a little bit of lack of understanding of what you are getting on the basic level from a school library, you know?

Martine: Okay, yeah.

Elizabeth: Obviously we're talking about the fact that we're Schools' Library Service and we have a centralized collection. If your school library itself has the resources that you need you could just ask your school librarian to do the same thing. I understand that there are people probably listening to your podcast that don't have a Schools' Library Service or do have a librarian in their library but had not ever thought to have that conversation.

So please do. If you want resources for your classroom, then start with your school librarian or contact your Schools' Library Service and books will magically appear and save you time, because then you don't have to go and look for them.

Martine: Which is fabulous.

Elizabeth: It is. Other time-saving initiatives that we've looked at and started doing recently is helping teachers and classes connect with other students in classes across the world. The Guernsey curriculum is all about outside, and we're learning outside the classroom, and learning from experts beyond the walls of your classroom.

A lot of teachers don't have time to find those connections and those collaborations, and it is one of the things that Schools' Library Service has worked hard at, at building up our contacts and opening the doors of the classroom.

For instance, in the last few years, we have connected our students with students in India who were doing an Indian topic. They were able to talk to and ask questions of Indian students who are the same age as them.

They were able to share the information about what Guernsey is like to those same students. It sort of puts a different perspective on what creating a good question looks like.

For me as a librarian, my role is not only to connect these students, but it's also to make sure that the skillset is right, so going back to that information literacy role for this particular Indian collaboration we made sure that the children understood what made a good question.

Them being able to ask those questions directly to somebody else changes your understanding of what makes a good question.

What we found interesting was that some of the questions weren't so good and they got a very poor response or a poor answer. Actually, as the session went on you could see the children were changing the questions as they carried on. Their questioning got better, so it's about learning real ... What is it called? Real-world learning, and it does make a difference.

Martine: What a fantastic learning experience for them. I bet there'll remember that for the rest of their lives, that session where they talked to kids in India. I mean that's great.

Elizabeth: Yeah, and it's learning on all sorts of different levels. We had a class locally talking to experts on African penguins, and they were taken around a nature reserve via Skype. It was, again, so different from that experience of reading the information from a book or online, you know?

We save teachers' time by creating and generating these connections and collaborations, and enabling them to have innovative lessons in a way that they wouldn't have done before, you know?

I think for me our role has changed, you wouldn't automatically think that a school librarian is about collaboration, but anybody that you collaborate with is a learning opportunity, and librarians are about learning and finding information.

If finding information is found via a person, then that's just as good as finding it in a book or online, do you know? It's all-encompassing.

Martine: That's fantastic. I'm really starting to get a feel for how that role has developed. I'm certainly sensing from you the passion you have for sharing your experience of it. I'm also getting a real technology vibe from you too.

I work very closely with our librarian at the College of Further Education and she's very, very tech savvy, and that's what we work closely on, technology for learning. I've always been amazed at how if you go for the kind of old, as we've identified, misconception of the school librarian ... I mean our librarian, Rachel, is the exact opposite of that. She's really techy, and she's always looking for the latest innovation to enhance learning. I've always been really impressed with that.

I mean clearly with what you've been describing, you're a massive advocate for technology for learning as well, but how else do you work with teachers to enhance their understanding of technology for learning and sort of bring new tools to them and things like that? How do you work with teachers in that way?

Elizabeth: Our big aim over the last couple of years is to make sure that we understand the tools because unless you understand the tools you can't then help and support teachers to use them. Through our connections online, so usually via Twitter, we have been listening and hearing about what other librarians have been using with their teachers.

The latest tools that we have really used widely across the schools is Padlet and Flipgrid.

Martine: I love both of those.

Elizabeth: Just really useful tools. It's not about how the tool can engage the learner, it's about how it can enhance the teaching. The two together work well in partnership. It's not about providing a piece of innovation or tool that ticks the box that you've actually used technology, it's about how it's going to enhance your learning.

Martine: Absolutely, I couldn't agree more.

Elizabeth: For one example, we run book groups in our schools, so the librarian goes along, sometimes it's part of a lesson, other times it's a book group that is run at a lunchtime. Usually what we try and do is get them to read the same book so that then there's a book discussion.

I've got two examples of Padlet enhancing what we were doing, one in primary and one in secondary. In the primary setting we had an author visiting, so Caroline Lawrence, she writes The Roman Mysteries. She had come as one of our Book Week authors last year.

Our book group then decided that they were going to read one of her books and I then approached her, because she had been here, to say, "Do you know our students are reading your book, would you mind talking to them about it?"

After a bit of a discussion and agreement that she would, we decided that we were going to use Padlet as our platform.

Now Padlet is, for those of you that don't know, is like a post-it board online. Basically, you click a plus button and you can add a comment. It also allows other people to comment on your post-it. What we'd agreed with this book ground was that we were going to write questions for Caroline and look back the next week and see what she responded.

I happened to manage to get in touch with Caroline just on the day that we were going to be doing the Padlet and told her what time we were going to be on and sent her the link. She appeared during that Padlet session.

Martine: That's so cool.

Elizabeth: The students were typing the questions and she was responding real time. Martine: I love it. Well, you cannot imagine the excitement of these students.

You know, we sometimes worry, don't we, that if you allow something to happen live, we're at risk of students being silly or something going badly wrong, but I do believe genuinely that if you give students the opportunity and you've talked to them about the fact that you're going online and everybody could see, they genuinely behave in a way that is suitable. It's a brilliant learning, there were some amazing questions from that Padlet that we couldn't have got had she not answered real time, because one question led to another, to another.

She was brilliant, she responded to as many of those questions as she could. Initially, we had lots of, "You're here. Ooh, exciting." You know?

That is part and parcel of expressing how you're feeling about it, not something that's bad because you've been set a task to ask a question. It's about monitoring it and allowing it to happen naturally.

Martine: It's just so memorable, like the example earlier with the Indian students, those students will remember that forever.

Elizabeth: Of course they will. Of course, they will.

Martine: So good.

Elizabeth: They have come back and they've wanted to read more Caroline Lawrence books. The impact of that session was not just the fact that they ended up creating brilliant questions, but they were also engaged enough to sort want to continue and read more, and that's what it's all about, reading for pleasure.

Okay, so the second example is a book called Wonder that has had international acclaim over the last few months and has actually been made into a book.

For those of you that don't know, it's a story about a little boy who has severe facial disfigurements and it's written from several perspectives throughout the book, so it's written from his own perspective, his sister's, his friend's. It's about bullying, friendship, it's about understanding, empathy.

It's gone down really well across the schools.

We had planned to read the book with our book group in one of our secondary schools. I have a librarian friend who lives in Arkansaw. He is a librarian in a secondary school, so I said that we were going to read this book, did he fancy running a book club on Padlet.

We agreed that this would be good, we set up the Padlet, the students themselves discussed the book across Padlet. When I look at the understanding that these children had and their shared ideas, and the variation of voices, it just gives me a tingle when I look at it, you know?

We've got children from Nebraska, we've got children from Arkansaw, we've got children from Guernsey all talking about understanding and the importance of empathy. It doesn't matter whether you're from America or from England, those messages are all the same and show the students how people aren't any different.

There may be different cultures and different ways of living, but actually, our friendships and our understanding of each other is all very similar. If that's what sharing an online book group is all about, then let's do more of it.

Martine: Absolutely. I mean that's just such a great example of how technology for learning is so much more than simply getting learners engaged. I think a lot of people think, like you said, "Oh, we've got to tick a box, we've got to use technology. We've been told we have to." That's kind of one level that I think some people go to.

Then the next level is, "Oh well, you know they're always on their phone, so let's use them in sessions and that will engage them." But it is so much more than that.

Elizabeth: It is, yeah.

Martine: That's exactly what you've just described. I love Flipgrid by the way.

Elizabeth: Yeah, me too.

Martine: I used it with my adult learners quite recently, because I teach our initial teacher training program at the College of Further Education, and we have one little bit of research that we have to do that isn't terribly exciting, they have to research a couple of different pieces of legislation that affect the role of the teacher. It's really not that exciting.

Normally I get them to do it, a written approach to it and so on. This time I allocated the laws and codes of practice and regulations out to various members of the group and I sent them away to do their research. Of course, they noted their sources, so very important.

Elizabeth: Good, good.

Martine: Essential, as one of them was doing the copyright law so ... So yeah, they went away and they researched and they recorded a 90-second summary video on our Flipgrid sharing what they'd found out. It was so good, it went so well.

Normally when they come to do that part of the assignment when they do it on their own, it's very challenging for them because it's just not the exciting subject that they want to be writing about, they want to be writing about the fun stuff of teaching.

They did such a great job of it and it was because of the Flipgrid approach to research that we did. They were all quite nervous about using it, interestingly.

Elizabeth: Yeah, people don't like having themselves videoed do they?

Martine: No.

Elizabeth: Actually, that is a skill in itself.

Martine: Oh yes.

Elizabeth: Condensing what you want to say in 90 seconds.

Martine: Exactly.

Elizabeth: It's a bit like learning on Twitter, that you have to say it in 140 characters, although I think it's a bit more now isn't it?

Martine: It's 280 now I think.

Elizabeth: 280, yeah. Actually, those are interesting skills in themselves. If you are anything like me, I'm a bit of a waffler when I write, and actually being made to restrict myself means that you learn to make sure you take the important bits rather than the bits that aren't important. That's where it does help.

We also used Flipgrid to, again, talk about ... Again, it was, Wonder was a great book for us.

The students in America asked the students in Guernsey what five words could they use to describe the book.

We got lots of videos where the students are literally sitting in front of the camera giving five words. The work that's gone into that is far more than those 25 seconds that it takes them to say the words because they've actually had to think about which five words they wanted to choose, and why they were important, and how that was going to sound when they recorded it. They worked really hard at finding those five words.

If we had set them a topic where we had just asked them and they were just going to write them down, I don't think you would've got the same engagement, but because they were going to share those with the world, they were then very careful about which five they chose, you know? It does add that extra element, it does add the audience that the children don't have in a school setting very often.

Martine: I think for Guernsey students this becomes particularly important because we are living on a very small island and our community isn't as multicultural as perhaps we would like it to be, so students aren't exposed to perhaps as much diversity as students in other parts of the world would be exposed to.

By opening the world up to them via technology or social media or whatever, I think it can do nothing but add value.

Elizabeth: I've got another example that I'd love to share is that we do a lot of Google Hangouts. There's a thing called Mystery Hangouts where the librarians work together to find a school that would like to connect. You then organise it with the teachers. The teachers know where the other school is, but the students aren't told. The game is that they have to ... They can only ask questions that have a yes or a no answer, and they have to find the other school before they are found.

Martine: I love it.

Elizabeth: We ran this with Saint Anne's in Alderney, a year 10 group. It was all very exciting.

Just to put it in perspective, normally when I used to go to Saint Anne's as the school librarian, I was the school librarian, nobody took any notice of me whatsoever as I walked down the corridors. I went in, I did my job, I worked with the teachers. It was all very similar to what it normally was.

This day that I arrived in Alderney there was a buzz about the school, the whole school had heard that this game was going to take place. Everybody wanted to know what was going on. I was a little bit scared because it was actually our first attempt and wasn't sure that everything was going to work, but it thankfully worked beautifully.

The game itself gave them good communication skills, it gave them research skills because they had to look at maps and atlases, and think about the questions that they were asking. The big deal for me from that one session was at the end where they were asked to share some information about where they lived, and the American students were very used to doing this kind of thing. They've never done it internationally before, but they'd obviously done Mystery Hangouts with other states in the US.

These students had written lists of information about where they lived. We hadn't prepared our students that way. I did worry at that moment where there were lots of arms crossing and there's nothing to tell you about Alderney here. I thought, "Oh dear," you know? "This is where it all falls flat." Until one American student asked the Alderney students what they did after school.

Their response was very negative, but it was, "We just go to the beach." They were the perfect words because again it was Arkansaw, they are 13 hours away from any beach.

Martine: Oh wow.

Elizabeth: They were just so amazed that Alderney students had a beach on their doorstep. The opportunity to pick up the laptop and take the laptop to the window and show the Arkansaw students the beach just suddenly made the Alderney students understand that they had a place in the world. Understand that they had something worth sharing.

Martine: And how lucky they are to live in such a beautiful place.

Elizabeth: Absolutely. Absolutely. It was a pivotal moment in my understanding of why we do what we do.

Martine: Wow.

Elizabeth: If I do nothing else in my career, it was a turning point, it was this is why this is so important.

We live on a small island, you're right, Alderney is even smaller, but there are children who live in villages, there are children who live in cities, and actually seeing how other children live and it's a way of learning, it has huge potential, doesn't it?

It is just an opportunity for us to open the world to them without them having to leave their classrooms, and to share their understanding of their place in the world is something that's really important.

The more I can do with that the better as far as I'm concerned.

Martine: Brilliant. The working title for this episode and I think I've just decided I'm going to stick with it, is Why It's Time to Get to Know Your School Librarian, and there it is. That's why it's time to get to know your school librarian because your school librarian can help you make amazing learning happen.

Thank you, Elizabeth for sharing all of the things you've shared in this episode. That's been fab. Where can people find you online?


Schools' Library Service, Guernsey Schools' Library Service Blog Elizabeth on Twitter Elizabeth's blog

Martine: Thank you so much, Elizabeth, that was excellent. You are welcome back on the show anytime.

Elizabeth: Thank you, I really enjoyed it.

68. Why The Pomodoro Technique is the Perfect Productivity Tool for Teachers
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Episode 12 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores the Pomodoro Technique and why it is the perfect productivity tool for teachers.

Podcast Episode 12 Transcript

Welcome to The Teaching Space podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands. 

Hello, and welcome to Episode 12 of The Teaching Space Podcast. It's Martine here, thank you so much for joining me.

In today's episode, I'm going to talk to you about why I believe the Pomodoro Technique is the perfect productivity tool for teachers.

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

If you've not come across the Pomodoro Technique before, it is a time management method developed by a chap called Francesco Cirillo in the late 80s.

The technique involves using a timer to break work down into intervals. And traditionally, those intervals are 25 minutes in length, and a 25-minute chunk of work is called a Pomodoro.

Why Pomodoro?

It's called a Pomodoro because Mr. Cirillo used to use a kitchen timer that was shaped like a tomato, and I believe, correct me if I'm wrong, pomodoro is Italian for the word tomato.

Now, I'm going to have to double check that on Google. One second. Phew. According to Google, I am indeed correct. That is why the Pomodoro technique is named as such.

How Does it Work?

You're chunking up work into 25-minute slots and after you've done your 25 minutes of work, you have a five-minute break.

Just to outline really clearly how the Pomodoro technique works:

You select a task that you need to complete, then you work out how many Pomodoros you're going to need in order to complete that task. Personally, I class the Pomodoro as 30 minutes because five minutes of that is your break. Say you've got a job that's going to take an hour and a half, that means you're going to need three Pomodoros.

What you do is you set your kitchen timer or your timer on your mobile device for 25 minutes and then for 25 minutes you work uninterrupted, 100% focused on the task in hand.

When your alarm goes, you then take a five-minute break. Your five-minute break is best spent doing something very different to the task in hand.

For example, if you're doing computer-based work, spend five minutes getting a breath of fresh air or moving away from your computer to get a cup of coffee or something along those lines. Put the timer on for the five minutes, though, because that five-minute slot needs to be managed with the same care as the 25-minute slot.

Then it's a case of rinse and repeat.

For every four Pomodoros you do, you should take a slightly longer break. It's recommended that you take, say, 20 or 30 minutes after you've done four Pomodoros, which is two hours work.


As I mentioned, this method was invented in the 80s where we didn't use smartphones, so Francesco Cirillo used a kitchen timer. A simple kitchen timer. And, of course, you can perform the Pomodoro technique in exactly the same way.

Personally, I tend to use the alarm on my mobile device. There are a number of apps that are set up for use with the Pomodoro technique and a very, very quick search for Pomodoro on the iOS app store comes up with a load.

There is Focus Keeper, which is a free app that I've used and it's really good. Be Focused, rel="noopener" data-cke-saved-href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/workflow-timer/id733300214?mt=8">Workflow Timer and a number of other options. Flat Tomato is not one I've tried, but I rather like the name of it.

There are a variety of apps that can help you utilize the Pomodoro technique.

Perfect for Teachers

Why am I telling you that the Pomodoro technique is a great productivity tool? In fact, the perfect productivity tool for teachers? Good question.

I think one of the biggest shocks for me moving from private sector to public sector and working as a teacher was working to a timetable. I haven't worked to a timetable since being at school. It was quite overwhelming initially.

I really enjoyed the structure of it, but what I found very, very challenging was the fact that non-contact time seemed to be very short, snatched moments of time between lessons, and because of that day structure, because teachers often don't have long stretches of time to do focused work, the Pomodoro technique works brilliantly for us.

When you work in short bursts and they are timed, you get into a state of flow much more quickly. You train yourself to get in the zone, and you are less inclined to be distracted. The Pomodoro technique makes you focus more, and for that reason alone I think it can revolutionise the way teachers deal with their non-contact times, so the time that they are not in the classroom.

Your task might be marking, it might be preparation, anything like that. If you break it into Pomodoros and you do that really focused work, you'll get into flow more quickly and you will ultimately get more done.

Parkinson's Law Parkinson's Law suggests that activities will expand to fill the time allotted to them.

Meetings are an amazing example. If you set an hour for a meeting, it's going to take an hour, even if you only needed 20 minutes for that meeting.

By using small chunks of time, 25-minute slots, you get to be more in control of the time it takes to complete a task. And the other thing you end up doing is more accurately estimating how long something is going to take you. If you have a pile of assignments to mark, you have a really good look at that pile, and you get better and better at estimating how long that's going to take.

I really believe that Pomodoro technique is the ideal productivity tool for teachers. Why don't you give it a go?

I'd love it if you let me know how you're getting on or perhaps you use the technique already, perhaps you're already Pomodoroing. I don't think that's even a thing, but let's go with it.

Do let me know, I'd love to hear from you.

The Teaching Space Staff Room

The best way to chat about productivity tips for teachers is to join my Facebook group, The Teaching Space Staff Room.

Wrap Up

Okay, that's all from me today. I hope you enjoyed this episode.

If you did, please consider leaving a positive iTunes review for the podcast, because that way the show can be found by more people and I'd really love that. I'd like to speak to as many teachers and people working in education as possible.

Thanks for listening, and I hope you'll join me next time.

69. Circle of Influence and Circle of Concern for Teachers
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Episode 11 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores Covey's circle of influence and circle of concern.

Podcast Episode 11 Transcript

Welcome to The Teaching Space podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands. 

Today we're going to be talking about understanding your circle of influence and circle of concern. This concept comes from Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

I'm not one of these people who stands by absolutely everything in that book, but there is one thing that I find myself using in my teaching role all the time, and it's having an awareness of my circle of influence and circle of concern. 

That's why I thought it would be a really good topic to cover in isolation for an episode.

Having an awareness of my circles is really helpful for working out where to focus my effort and energy. It allows me to prioritise effectively.

For those of you who've not come across the circle of influence and circle of concern, let me explain what they mean.

Circle of Influence, Circle of Concern

It would be far easier if I had a video podcast because I would have a flip chart at this point and be drawing circles on them, so please just use your imagination for now. 

Circle of Concern

Your circle of concern is a big circle that contains everything you are worried or concerned about at the moment.

It could be a couple of learners in your group, your class. It could be something health-related. You may be worried about your finances or the finances of a member of your family. You might be concerned about the environment or something political going on right now.

Anything that you're concerned about goes into your circle of concern.

Circle of Influence

Your circle of influence contains some of those things from your circle of concern because it's all the things you are worried about that you can actually change. It the things you can influence; the problems you can do something about. 

Your circle of concern, generally speaking, is far bigger than your circle of influence.

I imagine the circle of influence inside the circle of concern.

Your circle of influence and circle of concern can dictate whether you are a proactive person or a reactive person. I suspect that most of us want to be proactive in our professional and personal lives.

Proactive People

Proactive people tend to focus on things in their circle of influence, things they can actually do something about. That's where their energy goes and as a result, they see success, and that success ultimately means that their circle of influence gets bigger.

Reactive People

Reactive people tend not to focus on things that are in their circle of influence. They look at things that are broader and in their circle of concern. In other words, things that they might not have the power to change. As a result, their circle of influence can shrink.

Design Your Life

The idea behind all of this really is that you design your own life and it's far better to focus your time and your energy on things that you can do something about.

When you start dealing with young people in an educational environment you want to really make a difference.

In many cases we do, but sometimes you need to make a decision where you focus your energy, and I think the circle of influence and circle of concern can be really helpful for working that out. It can also be really helpful when you're working out how to manage the enormous workload that we have as teachers.


I think one of the reasons why the circle of influence and circle of concern thing works so well for me is that I'm very motivated by wins. I don't mean that I'm competitive. What I mean is that if I focus my time and energy on something and I am able to influence it and I get a result, a positive result, that motivates me to move onto something else and something else and something else.

The reason why your circle of influence grows is in this situation is that the more wins you get, the more confident you get, and the more influential you will appear to people around you in your organisation.

It's a really, really simple concept, but one which many, many people can relate to.

Take Action

Over the next week when you're dealing with prioritising, when you're dealing with difficult situations, think to yourself, "Is this in my circle of influence or my circle of concern?" And handle it accordingly.

Time for a Quote?

I wanted to sum up this episode with a profound thought-provoking quote. I've been looking around online and actually what I came up with, this kind of surprised me a little bit. I'm going to read a tiny bit of Reinhold Niebuhr's famous Serenity Prayer.

Regardless of your religious persuasion, this isn't something that's going to happen regularly, by the way. I'm not going to read prayers on the podcast. It's just not how I roll. This really sums up the circle of influence and circle of concern. It goes something like this:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. 

Isn't that fab?

Wrap Up

This has been a really short and sweet episode. I just wanted to introduce you to this fantastic theory from Stephen Covey and it is one that definitely, it plays a part in my day on a regular basis, and that's the reason I wanted to share it with you.

That's all from me today. I hope you've enjoyed episode 11 of The Teaching Space podcast. If you have please consider hopping over to iTunes and leaving a positive review. By doing so, you make it far easier for teachers to find the podcast. If people are searching for an education podcast the more people who leave a positive review for The Teaching Space the more people who will find it, so please consider doing that.

Thank you very much and I hope you'll tune in to the next episode.

70. 10 Things You Must Do When Attending an Education Conference
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Episode 10 of The Teaching Space Podcast shares 10 things you must do before, during and after an education conference.

Podcast Episode 10 Transcript Introduction

Hello and welcome to episode ten of the Teaching Space Podcast. It's Martine here. In today's episode, I want to share with you ten things you must do before, during and after attending an education conference.

Bett Show 2018

These ten things are based on recent experience. In January, I attended the Bett Show, which takes place in London. And it's a large education technology show at the ExCel Centre.

Now, I'm based in Guernsey, so the reality of attending a show at the ExCel Centre looks something like this:

The Journey

I take the red-eye flight, which is the seven a.m. flight from Guernsey to London Gatwick. We used to be able to fly directly to London City, which was a lot more convenient if you know London geography, but alas, that's not possible anymore. So I'm on the red-eye flight at seven a.m. I like to be at the airport an hour before, so I'm there at six a.m., which means I'm up at around five a.m., so that's not a great start to a travel day now really, is it?

The flight thankfully got off on time, around seven a.m., so I got into London sometime after 8. By the time I got to the ExCel Centre, it was probably about half-past ten.

This experience of travelling to London and going to Bett, made me start thinking about what I need to do slightly better when I go again.

I have been to Bett a couple of times, but normally I go overnight. And on this occasion, I went for the day, so I was in on the first flight and out on the last flight, which must have been half seven, eight o'clock in the evening, maybe even a bit later actually.

Next Year's Plan

Next year I will definitely do an overnight stay, because going for a day, including my travel, just simply wasn't enough.

The substance of this podcast really is the things I'm going do better next time, so ten things that I believe you should do in preparation for an education conference (and also a few things to do during and after). So here we go.

1. Make a Plan

Look at who's going to be at the event you're going to and plan out your day or days. The Bett Show is brilliant because they have an app, which you can download, and you can favourite any of the stands or speakers that you want to see. So make a plan. And make a plan in advance of your trip. Don't do it on the flight or on the train.

2. Pre-Arrange Meetings

While you're planning, arrange meetings, put them on your calendar. Now, this was a mistake I made for Bett; I arranged my meetings while I was there via Twitter direct message. The wifi at the Bett Show was appalling, so I ended up missing a couple of meeting, which I was really disappointed about. Arrange any meetings in advance, pop them in your calendar.

3. Pack All the Things

When you're packing for the event, include your phone charger. If like me you are going to somewhere international (to me, the UK is international) you might need a data SIM card for internet. 

At Bett, I was totally reliant on wifi, and the connection was terrible. It was the reason that I missed several meetings. Also, I wanted a live stream while I was there and I was unable to do that. I did it once or twice, but it was pretty poor, so if you need to take a sort of spare SIM card, or you know a battery pack or whatever it is you need to enable you to be digitally connected the whole time, make sure you pack that.

And if you're gonna rock it old school: take some business cards too.

4. Get Social

Is there a hashtag? Can you follow people who are going to be exhibiting at the event? Get some conversation going on social media, and you will have a richer experience at your event.

5. Target Yourself to Connect

As part of your planning, target yourself with people that you want to connect with. This is a special shout out really for the introverts out there attending these type of events. When it comes to this sort of thing, I'm quite introverted, and I find the hugeness and the noise of an event like the Bett Show quite overwhelming. So this time I made a real point of targeting myself to visit certain stands and speak to certain people. And I achieved some of those targets. Not all of them, but I achieved some, so I recommend as number five you target yourself with certain things to do and certain people to see.

6. Get a Good Night's Sleep

Get a good night's sleep before the event. These events are exhausting, especially if you have to do a great deal of travel to attend, so get a good night's sleep.

Now we're talking about on the day.

7. Wear Comfortable Shoes and Clothes

This is kind of a no-brainer, but I felt I had to put it on here: wear comfortable shoes and clothes. While I was walking around the Bett Show, I saw a lady who was wearing, I swear, five-inch heels and I was just like "How on earth can you be walking around wearing those shoes?" I have a pedometer on my watch, and I did close to 17,000 steps on that day. How could you do that in five-inch heels? Crazy stuff.

8. A 30-Minute Orientation 

When you arrive at the show, and this is number eight, when you arrive at the show, give yourself a good half an hour or so just to get familiar with your surroundings. Finding a map is a good idea at this point as well, and comparing the map with your list of places you want to go and people you want to see. Do that within your first half an hour and adjust to where you are.

9. Eat Lunch at an Odd Time

Number nine, this is going to sound like a really strange one, but go with me, eat lunch at a really odd time. Ideally, take snacks with you, so you can eat lunch late. And the reason I say this is at the Bett Show, the ExCel Centre was heaving.

It was so busy, that it took me three-quarters of an hour to queue for a salad and that was around one o'clock. Now had I gone at 11 or half two, three o'clock, I think I would have been fine, but given that I had so little time there, that three-quarters of an hour that I spent queuing for my lunch, could have been spent doing far more interesting things.

10. Follow Up

And finally, number ten, follow up any interesting conversations or meetings that you had while you were at the event. Give it a couple of days and then put an email in and carry the conversation on.

This is something that I did post-Bett. I was trying to arrange a meeting while I was there on Twitter, thank you terrible wifi for ruining that, but I wanted to meet with an event organiser who does a variety of summits for Google. I was quite keen to try to get involved with this company and hopefully find a way to do some work with them.

While I missed the meeting thanks to the terrible wifi and arranging it via Twitter, I followed up afterwards, and I'm really excited to say I am going to be speaking at the London Google Summit in March.

So follow up any opportunities that crop up at the event that you're attending. I did that and something really exciting has come of it.

Wrap Up

So those are my top ten tips for things you should do in preparation for and while attending and indeed after attending an education conference. Of course, this goes for any type of conference that you're going to attend, but as my listeners are mainly teachers and people working in education, I focused on education conferences.

I hope this has been useful.

As I mentioned, Bett is an educational technology conference, and if ed tech is something of interest to you, then please check out my email course 30 EdTech Tools in 30 Days.

Okay, that's all from me today, thank you so much for listening, and I hope you'll join me for episode 11.

71. Supporting Learners With ADHD An Interview With Soli Lazarus
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Episode 9 of The Teaching Space podcast is an interview with ADHD expert Soli Lazarus. 

Martine: Hello, it's Martine here. Welcome to the Teaching Space Podcast. Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Soli Lazarus. Now, rather than tell you all about Soli, I'm going to ask her to introduce herself. Soli, welcome to the show.

Soli: Hello, Martine. Thank you so much for inviting me. It's lovely to be here today.

Martine: It's great to have you here. Why don't you tell us a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?

Soli: Right. Yes, my name is Soli. I'm, at the moment, an assistant SENCO in a large primary school in London. I do that part-time. The rest of my time, I run my own consultancy, Yellow Sun. I support families with children with autism and ADHD. I support them on a one-to-one basis within a support group. We have a great Facebook group. I have an online training course and I've got so many other things in the pipeline. My head's buzzing with ideas. But I'm super, super passionate about particularly ADHD.

Soli: My son has ADHD. He's nearly 30. As a parent, I really struggled to get support and help and it's very, very isolating as a parent with a child with any kind of difficulties. It's not the life you signed up for. It's sad. It can be lonely. You feel really isolated and don't know where to turn. This was my may name of Yellow Sun, is just really to empower parents and give support to parents and just give simple tweaks that can really change how a child feels about themselves. One of my plans, also, is to go into schools.

Soli: We just need to get the word out there that if we change a little bit of a child with ADHD, change a bit of their environment and our reaction to a child, it can just make all the difference. I'm super passionate, super fired up. Yeah, that's me.

Martine: That's fantastic. Actually, I think one of the best ways to make a difference in these types of areas is through education, isn't it? Ultimately, by educating people about what ADHD actually is and those small changes that you mentioned, then you can really make a difference. In the simplest of terms, what exactly is ADHD? Can you tell me?

Soli: Yep. First of all, what it's not is bad parenting. It's a real condition. It's a biologically proven condition that is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It's real. That's not to say good parenting can make a difference. Similarly, bad parenting can make the situation worse. But it certainly does not cause ADHD. In a nutshell, we all know these children in our class because they're the one who is constantly fidgeting and on the move. Or they might be incredibly impulsive. They just do not have those brakes for them to stop before they think. They can be very inattentive unless it's something highly, highly motivating. The three aspects are inattention, impulsive, and hyperactive.

Martine: Excellent. That really explains it well. Like you say, so many of us can relate to having these kids in our class or these kids in our lives generally. Personally, I teach adults. I can connect with that slightly less. Nevertheless, I do understand that ADHD is a very real thing in adults, as well. We'll touch on that in a minute. But even with children, I come into contact with through my family and things like that, it's quite easy to spot. Is it that a child will usually get a diagnosis of ADHD? What happens when a parent or a teacher suspects that a child might have ADHD? What, generally, is the process there?

Soli: Well, that's a good question because it's quite a sticky point. There's no blood test. There are no scans, at the moment, to show this discrepancy in brain function. It's really just by observation and reports, reports from parents. Yes, it's all these behaviours that I've spoken about. Generally, I would say to parents, "If your child is behaving in that same way in whatever environment they're at, if when they're at Granny or if they're in an afterschool club or if you're shopping or at the cinema or a birthday party and at school and at home, if in all those different environments they're still more or less showing that same kind of behavior, then it's almost certainly something like ADHD."

Soli: There are lots of other conditions that go alongside ADHD, such as dyslexia, sensory processing disorders. Sometimes there are other things going alongside. I'm of the mindset, though, I'm not really that bothered about a diagnosis. I'm more bothered about how we react to a behaviour. However, we label that behaviour, we have to do something about it. We have to change something up or react differently. Although I'm not saying don't get a diagnosis because that does help. It helps frame how we react. That child might even need medication. Some children really react very well being on a medication.

Soli: My son, personally, was diagnosed by a great consultant. I think the way forward, if you really suspect or school really suspect that it could be ADHD, you do need to get some consultant to actually do the diagnosis. You need to go down the route of going to the GP and get referred to a consultant. Some children, yes, as I said, do react very well to being on medication. My son was diagnosed when he was eight and he was put on Ritalin. It was amazing. Ritalin is a very short-acting medication. It stays in the system for about three hours. He would take it and he would go from almost climbing the walls to then being very, I would say, subdued.

Soli: But he actually said to me, and I will never, ever forget, he said, "My eyes are keeping still and I can now see the words." It meant that, at eight years old, he couldn't read. He started to read. He was able to focus on his work. But he hated the feeling. When he was 16, and it was actually the day before his first GCSE, he said, "I'm not taking it anymore."

Soli: Obviously, there was nothing I could do about it 'cause he really hated it. But for some children and adults, I know medication really, really works. Actually, my son is 30 now and I do keep saying to him, "Please pop back to the doctor and just see if there's anything else. There might be other things now that all those years ago were not available." But it's not his thing. But I'm not saying it's not for everybody because there are some people, adults and children, who work really well with medication. But it goes alongside. Medication is not the answer. The most important thing is for us to change our reaction to a child and an adult and help them and support them so that their lives can be much calmer and happier.

Martine: That's so interesting. What you're saying, from a teacher perspective, is that regardless of whether there is a diagnosis or not, if you spot these behaviors in your learners, regardless of the label that that child has been given, you can implement changes to make things better for them and generally make things better for the whole class.

Soli: 100%. We'll probably talk about it a little later, the actual specifics of things that a teacher can do, but I can guarantee you do some of these strategies and it will help this child with ADHD, but it will also those other children who've got undiagnosed things or other learning difficulties or English is an additional language or a child who's had just a really bad, chaotic home life and can't focus. We've got all sorts of learners from all sorts of backgrounds, all sorts of things going on at home, that at any one time some children just need that extra little bit of something different just to help them.

Martine: Brilliant. We hear a lot about ADHD in kids and, obviously, that's when if there is a diagnosis, that's when it will tend to happen. But what does ADHD look like in adults? You said your son is 30. If you want to use him as an example, you can. Personally, I teach mainly adults. Very rare I teach children. Selfishly, I'm quite interested in it from my own perspective. But hopefully, listeners will be interested in it, too.

Soli: ADHD doesn't go away. Let me say, as well, it's not a life sentence. It's just a different type of behaviour. There are all sorts of very famous, successful people with ADHD. Rory Bremner is one who goes very popular with his condition.

Martine: I did not know that. That's really interesting.

Soli: Oh, yeah. There's a really incredible documentary. I think you can get it on Catch Up on BBC. You can hear how his brain is working. It's firing from all different angles. Oh, I think will.i.am, as well.

Soli: Adults and children are amazingly creative. They've got a zillion thoughts wandering around their head, which it shows up more in our school system because our school system is so rubbish that we expect children just to sit quietly, line up, sit on the carpet, be passive. Whereas, our people with ADHD, that's the complete opposite of what they need to be.

Soli: Going again back to your question, an adult with ADHD will put themselves into a situation where their natural abilities and their natural skills and their natural way of behaving won't be a conflict. You're not gonna get somebody going working in a very quiet atmosphere of an office. They will do something a little bit louder and zanier. My son is a hairdresser.

Soli: It's because he is creative. He can wander around. He can chat when he wants. He can more or less go and eat when he wants. There's loud music, which helps him concentrate. As an adult, you'll put yourself into the environment that suits you. The other thing is they're very disorganized. Again, as an adult, you can find those ways. You'll write yourself lists, have Post-It notes, do things on your phone to remind you, have alarms. You'll create a world around the things that you find difficult. It does affect adults, too, and adults do need help and support with organisation with going for lots of movement breaks and doing things in very short, sharp chunks and changing things up so they don't get bored very easily. Yes, we do have to still be considerate of adults with ADHD because it still exists.

Martine: That's super interesting. I think a lot of teachers could really up their teaching game just generally by ensuring that they chunk things up into really small, attention-grabbing sections and supporting learners of all ages with their organization skills. There's a lesson in that, regardless of whether any of your learners have ADHD or not. We could learn a lot from just implementing those strategies as standard.

Soli: Yes, yes. Some people just need help. "There's too much content here. I can't read it all." It needs to be in chunks. We need to realize what people's learning styles are. I'm an incredible visual learner and I need things being very, very clear with pictures and underline and bold. Those strategies really help our children with concentration difficulties. They can't just have a whole great, big chunk of writing or seven instructions or a page of 20 sums. It's too much. We have to chunk it up. Cut up a piece of paper so they only see one little part of an instruction or just give five sums.

Soli: We use something called "red cup, green cup" in primary school. It's literally having two cups on your table, stacked, and if the green cup is showing, "I'm okay, that's fine, I don't need any help." If the red cup is showing, you stack it the other way, it just signals to an adult. It saves somebody having to put their hand up for 20 minutes. It's great. Something we haven't spoken about, which is the number one thing and, really, I should have said it right at the top, is our children with ADHD, their self-esteem is on the floor. Unless you get an amazing teacher who understands them, their life at school, they'll be labelled as naughty. They'll be the ones in the staffroom that everybody says, "Oh, watch out for this one. He'll cause trouble."

Soli: Already, teachers have very negative expectations. The other children will see them as the one who is always being told off. Classically, they're the ones who do something just for that extra little bit of time. They'll get noticed. But the smart, clever ones will stop before the adult comes in. The child with ADHD will be the one always in trouble. Social relationships are nonexistent, really. My son has very, very limited friendships even now. New Year's Eve, he had to go out with his little sister because he didn't have friends. Birthdays, he never got invited to birthday parties. Never invited to play dates. The self-esteem of our children with ADHD is horrendous. We need to do everything we can just to build them up.

Soli: Just going back to that red cup, green cup, that is such a subtle way of saying, "I need help." Nobody even needs to notice. The teacher then just goes over quietly and then just supports and helps the child.

Martine: In terms of supporting learners with ADHD, clearly working with them on their self-esteem is really important. Through the discussions that we've had, I suspect that teachers getting to know their learners really well and anticipating issues is important, too. I would expect that.

Soli: Yes. Yes. It's vital, really, because a lot of our children with ADHD want to learn. They're very creative. They've got great ideas. But they just probably need to learn in a different way. As we've said before, they really need help with organization. Visuals are great to use. Visual timetables, visual schedules, so they know the order of a day or an order of a session and they don't get overwhelmed. They might have real difficulty keeping still. There are some great resources that you can use. There are some wobble cushions, which sounds bizarre, but they're inflatable cushions that sit on the chair and it keeps children still. I don't know what the magic is behind it, but it's to do with their sensory equilibrium being balanced.

Soli: You know the yoga bands, the stretchy yoga bands? You put those on the chair legs and the bottom and then a child can just keep kicking them and pressing their feet against them. All these things are aiding concentration because instead of them fiddling and squirming and disrupting and disturbing other people, these other little strategies can actually help them focus and concentrate. But saying that, if a child works better by kicking off their shoes and laying on the floor on a cushion to do their writing, I would say, "Why not?" If it suits your classroom, if it suits the environment, and he or she is going to be focused, not disturbing everybody else, might not be able to sit on a chair for 20 minutes. Might be able to do it for 10 and then as long as he's asking permission and just, "Would you mind if I just go and finish the rest on the floor?" Fine, if he gets the work done.

Soli: Also, fiddle toys. A lot of our children do need to fiddle. I know we had the fidget spinners, which were banned. I think it was such a shame 'cause they're so great for our ADHD children. But I do understand why they were banned, 'cause they were a little bit dangerous. But it was great for our self-esteem of our children because, all of a sudden, they had a gadget that everybody else wanted and it made them feel really special. That was, for me, a win-win. But there are some great fiddle toys. There's one that's lots of little colored blocks on an elastic string. They're £1.50 and children can fiddle with those and they're silent. They don't disrupt or disturb anybody else.

Soli: I say to my children, "If it disturbs you and makes you lose focus, you're not having it. If it disrupts anybody else around you, you're not having it." If they can quietly fiddle, or Blu Tack is also very good if it makes them concentrate then fine. Let them have it. It's really not a problem. The other thing, our children are very impulsive. Quite often, it's very hard for them if the teacher is saying something and they just are desperate to call it out, they'll call it out because they don't have the brakes to, "Do you know what? I'll just wait my turn." If you give a child a whiteboard or pen and paper so that they can write their answer and then almost show it up to the teacher so that she can see and just do a silent thumbs up and a smile, quite often that's enough.

Soli: I keep saying "he" because a lot of our children with ADHD are boys, or more boys are diagnosed. Girls tend to not have the hyperactive element, so are quiet. They're ADD without the hyperactive. But most of them are boys. All they want to do is know that they've been seen and they've been heard. If you do this whiteboard thing and hold up their answer and smile and thumbs up, quite often that sort of thing is enough. You could try recording in different ways. If they find writing difficult, then maybe a laptop or speech to text software or using a little sound button. Sound buttons are great, actually. I don't know if you've come across them, Martine.

Soli: They come in all different guises, but basically it's little recording device. It could either be something that looks like a giant Smartie and then you press it and you can record a message for, say, 30 seconds. What an assistant could do, what the teacher could do, could record the instructions. "Do five sums and then come and see me," or "Do five sums and show me your red cup." The child then just keeps listening to the instruction or they could use it for if a child forgets what their sentences they need to write, or forgets a plan that they need to do, or needs to use it to remind themselves of a job that they need to do. They're also really great. If you Google "sound buttons," they're really good. They're in the SEN bit of catalogues. They're really, really good. I recommend them, as well.

Soli: Yeah, there's just so many. Visuals, visuals are always great just to remind our children what to do and to keep on track. As I said before with a lot of these things, so many of the other children in the class can also benefit. Who wouldn't want to kick off their shoes if it makes them feel comfortable or sit on a wobble cushion if it helps them or have their work chunked up or use visuals? Also, who wouldn't want to be made to feel special? These techniques really work for our children with ADHD, but other children, as well. I think the underlying things is that as adults, we must just look and understand the behaviour and change our reaction to a behaviour and don't always be so quick to tell off or to say, "Why did you do that? Weren't you thinking?"

Soli: Quite often, our children are not thinking. That's part of the difficulty. Try to really understand the behaviour and react to it differently and just make our little children just feel special and valued and listen to their opinions.

Martine: There are some great strategies there, Soli. As an adult learner, who doesn't want to feel valued? You're absolutely right. I think, ultimately, as teachers, it's our jobs to facilitate an environment where everybody has an equal opportunity to learn. By employing these strategies, we are really going to create a fantastic environment for our children, for our adults, for our learners, whoever it is you have responsibility for. Thank you for sharing those strategies. I think they've been really helpful. I hope that everyone listening has taken away all sorts from your wise words.

Soli: Yeah, well, thank you. I'm so super passionate about changing things up. It's so simple. As teachers, we've got these little people's worlds in our hands, their futures, without being too dramatic. We can change the way these children feel about themselves. It's so easy to do. We can make them feel successful and valued. No child gets up in the morning and just thinks, "I really hope I'm shouted at today. I really hope I'm kept in at playtime. I really hope nobody plays with me." Everybody gets up in the morning and wants to have a good day. I think it's up to us educators to make all our little people have a good day.

Martine: Definitely. I quite agree with that. Well, thank you, Soli. I have one final question for you and it's an important one. Where can people find you online?

Soli: Well, go to my website, which is Soli-Lazarus.com. That is a lovely hub for all my other bits and bobs that I do. As I say, I've got some training online videos that are free to watch. One is how to stop the rudeness. One is how to build up self-esteem. One is blowing wide open the myths surrounding ADHD. Those are free to watch. Also, there are links to my mentoring program and my blog. I write a regular blog and I've got a fabulous Facebook group, which is just full of lovely, lovely parents who are just trying to get some answers to some questions and we give each other support. I offer some great free resources. Pop along to that website and you'll find my links there.

Martine: That's brilliant. Thanks, Soli, and thank you so much for your time. It's been a pleasure speaking with you.

72. What's the Difference Between Coaching and Teaching?
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Episode 8 of The Teaching Space Podcast asks and (hopefully) answers the question "what's the difference between coaching and teaching?"

Podcast Episode 8 Transcript

Welcome to episode 8 of The Teaching Space Podcast.

Today's episode asks the question "what is the difference between coaching and teaching?" This question arose out of a discussion in The Teaching Space Staff Room Facebook group. One of the members suggested this would be a good topic to cover in a podcast, so I am responding to that.

Incidentally, if you aren't a member of the Facebook group, it would be great to have you in there because, as you can see, you can influence the topics I cover on the show.


The terms teaching or training and coaching are often used interchangeably but actually, there is a distinct difference between the two, and that's what we're about to explore. 

What is Teaching?

Teaching is concerned with the acquisition of new knowledge. A teacher uses their own knowledge and experience, as they are a subject expert, to help learners learn and ultimately become more knowledgeable in their subjects.

Teaching is focused on learning, and the ownership of change lies predominately with the teacher.

Let's compare that to coaching.

What is Coaching?

The role of the coach is to help you refine and develop the skill that you have learned.

Coaches help people to help themselves.

It's assumed that if you're being coached, you have the knowledge you need already. The way a coach helps you is by asking questions and working with you to tease out that knowledge. Coaching is focused on development. 

There is a bit of a misconception that coaching is very fluffy and all about emotions and things like that. But it's not that at all. It's highly structured and it gives the ownership of change to the individual.

And that's very different teaching where the ownership of change rests with the teacher. 

The Coaching Continuum

An interesting way to think about teaching and coaching is called the coaching continuum.  There is a diagram at the end of this post. 

Just imagine a line one end has an arrow pointing to the left and one to one end has an arrow pointing to the right. So the two arrows are pointing away from each other.

One end is directive or push. And this is where the teacher is directing the conversation, knows the answer and pushes the coachee/learner towards the knowledge they need. So this is push.

The other end is non-directive or known as pull, where the coach assumes the coachee has the answer already. They might not know it yet. They just need help pulling those solutions out or bringing that knowledge out of them. 

So teaching is more push, and coaching is more pull. 

Teaching is directive. Coaching is non-directive


Let's put this into context by giving you an example that you can relate to. Let's use a technology for learning staff development situation.

A teacher might deliver a staff development session showing fellow colleagues how to use Google Drive. The teacher has the prior experience of Google Drive and they are going to impart their knowledge and experience to their colleagues, who are the learners in this situation.

In a coaching situation, you might have a technology for learning coach working with a colleague who would like to transform their teaching practice. They want to explore differentiation by using technology.

So what the coach would do is help that colleague analyze how they're using tech at the moment, look at what their aims are, and gradually, through a process of effective questioning, extract the way forward from their coachee and enable that colleague to develop their use of technology for learning.

I hope those examples have explained the difference between coaching and teaching clearly. 

Teacher or Coach?

So what are you, a teacher or a coach, or are you a combination of the two?

I genuinely believe that good teaching is a combination of teaching and coaching.

Gone are the days when the teacher was a content delivery mechanism. If your learners want to know how to do something they don't need you to tell them, they need you to create an environment in which they can learn.

If you are going to just tell them they may as well Google it. They may as well go to YouTube and find a video to show them how to do stuff.

The role of the teacher is to facilitate learning and by becoming a facilitator, surely you are taking on the mantle of the coach on many occasions?


I think this could be a really interesting conversation for us to have in our Facebook group, so if you aren't a member please join us.

Let's talk about the fact that I don't see many teachers being trained to be better coaches. Surely coaching should form a really big part of our teacher training qualifications? This is definitely a good conversation to be had.  

Wrap Up

Please consider leaving a positive iTunes review for the podcast. By doing this you will ensure that the podcast is presented to people who search for teaching podcasts. And that means that we can get more teachers and trainers listening to the show. Thank you so much for doing that.

Thank you for joining me. I hope you enjoyed episode 8 and that you'll tune in next time. 

73. Why Medium is my New Favourite Social Media Platform
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Episode 7 of The Teaching Space Podcast investigates Medium, the popular blogging and social media tool.

Podcast Episode 7 Transcript

Welcome to episode 7 of The Teaching Space Podcast.

Before, we start, if you can hear any weird crunching sounds in the background, I'm afraid that's my dog. She's joining me for recording today.

In this episode, I am going to introduce you to an exciting social media platform from which I get a fantastic wealth of content related to teaching and training.

That platform is Medium.

About Medium

So let me tell you a bit about Medium.

It was created by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams in 2012. The idea behind it was that people would be allowed to share more in-depth articles than the 140 characters they shared on Twitter (which is, of course, now a lot longer than that, but at the time it was a hundred and forty characters).

According to Medium's website:

"Medium taps into the brains of the world's most insightful writers, thinkers and storytellers, to bring you the smartest takes on topics that matter. So whatever your interests, you can always find fresh thinking and unique perspectives." 

And there are some great education thought leaders on Medium. 

But is it Social Media, Really?

Well, I would tend to refer to it as social journalism.

It's more of a blogging platform than a traditional social media platform like Twitter or Facebook.

That being said, the manner in which quality writing rises to the top is social interaction. So if you read an article that you like you can 'clap' it. That means you upvote that article. And that's how they quality control.

Medium Lingo

To explain a little Medium lingo:

[Blog] posts are called 'stories' and they are tagged according to subject or theme.

'Publications' on Medium are distributing hosts that carry articles and blog posts like a newspaper or a magazine. The articles published or saved on it can be assigned editors and can be saved as drafts.

If you've got a publication you can also share 'letters' on Medium.

A letter is a way of connecting with your publication's followers and starting a conversation. A letter is delivered to the inboxes of all the people who follow your publication. It's also a post in its own right so it can be recommended, highlighted built upon, and indeed have something of a life of its own.

Membership Model

From what I can tell, Medium used to be totally free but they now run on a membership model.

As a member of Medium, you get access to exclusive content as well as audio options.

This is why Medium is now my new favourite content location of choice - the audio option!

In previous episodes, I've mentioned that I'm an audiobook fan and I consume a massive amount of content that way. So the idea of having ready access to excellent articles in an audio format really ticks my boxes.  

The fees for becoming a member of Medium, at the time of writing, are either 5 dollars a month or 50 dollars a year.

Another added bonus of being a member of Medium is that you get a much better bookmark section.

My Favourite Categories

I keep an eye on art, education, teaching, learning and education technology. There are some fantastic articles available on those tags.

A favourite article I've read recently has been about reorganising your smartphone so you are less dependent on it and less distracted by it. And I totally changed my smartphone usage off the back of this one single article. Here it is: Beautility.

Sharing Your Content on Medium

Now clearly I focus on using Medium to consume content. 

But you can share your own content on Medium as well, you can become a blogger on Medium.

I have my own blog at theteachingspace.com/blog (as you know).

But part of my blogging process now involves sometimes cross-posting my content to Medium.

Start Your Own Blog

If you've ever thought about starting your own education blog, but you've been a bit nervous about the technology (you don't want to set up your own website or anything like that) then you could do a lot worse than starting your blog on Medium.

There is a real emphasis on high-quality storytelling on Medium. The words are way more important than the tech.

If you were interested in starting a blog, I would really recommend Medium as a starting point.

I would, however, include the caveat that eventually you want to build your blog on your own turf i.e. create your own website to retain more control over your content.

If you are going to start with Medium, find a way to get the email addresses of the people who follow you on Medium so that if you decided to move from Medium you'll be able to contact followers and let them know.

When it comes to blogging, generally building your blog on someone else's turf isn't recommended. However, with Medium, you have such a good audience ready and waiting for your content. I think it is a really valid and recommended starting point for education bloggers.

So What do You Think? 

Are you a Medium user already?

Do you share content there now or do you use it to consume content?

I am a new user, so this episode is certainly not the ultimate guide to using Medium. It's just what I've picked up over the past month or so that I've been using the platform.

All I can say is so far I like it a lot. The content is extremely interesting and it's high quality as well.

So it gets a massive thumbs up from me.

Let me know what you think.

Wrap Up

I'm keen that The Teaching Space podcast is discovered by as many teachers and trainers as possible and you can help me with this.

If you enjoyed the episode please consider leaving a positive iTunes review and that way the show will be served up to more people when they search for teaching podcasts.

Thank you in advance for that. And thank you very much for joining me for Episode 7.

74. 5 Easy Ways Teachers Can Mark Faster and Smarter
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Episode 6 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores 5 ways teachers can mark or grade faster and smarter.

Podcast Episode 6 Transcript

Welcome to episode 6 of The Teaching Space Podcast.

In the last episode, I promised we would be delving into ways teachers can mark or grade faster and smarter. And that's what we're going to talk about today.

1. Feedback Abbreviations;

My first top tip is to come up with abbreviations for your feedback. Make a note of any feedback comments you seem to be repeating and then abbreviate them and provide learners with a key to your abbreviations.

Here's an example. You have a learner who has made a spelling, punctuation or grammar error, for example, they've missed out an apostrophe.

Rather than typing or writing "please can you check your spelling here, there seems to be an apostrophe error." You might put "P-A". (Punctuation-Apostrophe).

Put these abbreviations in a spreadsheet and have your spreadsheet open by your side when you are marking. Also, provide your learners with a link to your abbreviation spreadsheet so they can understand what you mean.

This also works for marking by hand. You don't have to mark electronically to use abbreviations.

2. Feedback Database

Expanding on the idea of marking abbreviations you could create a database of feedback comments and then copy and paste them into your learner's assignments. So rather than abbreviating the comments, have the comments in full but make use of copy and paste.

I find this works well if you are using a google sheet for your database of comments and if you are copying and pasting those comments into comments on Google Docs.

This, unfortunately, doesn't work if you are marking by hand.

An alternative for creating your database of feedback comments in Google Sheets would be to use the Chrome Extension called Permanent Clipboard.

3. Use Rubrics

According to UC Denver:

A rubric is a scoring guide that helps teachers evaluate student performance based on a range of criteria. A rubric lists the criteria or characteristics that student work should exhibit and describes specific quality levels for those criteria.

Rubrics are typically presented in a table format. You'd have the criteria down one side and the various levels of achievement or quality across the other side and then the evidence that you're looking for would be in the blocks is in between. 

Here's an example from the excellent Cult of Pedagogy.

Using a rubric saves time and allows you to mark faster and smarter because it cuts out a lot of thinking time for you.

It also brings a degree of consistency and fairness to your marking.

And it's really easy for learners to understand from a rubric where they've gone wrong or what they need to do in order to achieve certain grades or criteria.

Rubrics are also very useful for peer and self-assessment. We're going to delve into that in a minute.

4. Peer and Self Assessment

Peer-assessment is, of course, when peers check each other's work and give each other constructive feedback before handing in.

Self-assessment is when learners check their own work against set criteria. 

This is where rubrics can come in handy if your learners clearly understand the rubric and what it is for.

Of these two methods, for the qualifications I teach, I favour self-assessment pre-hand in. I would usually do this by supplying learners with a checklist of criteria and some additional notes to illustrate what I'll be looking for. I expect them to take on the teacher role and self-assess the work using my checklist with the criteria and the notes to make sure that they've done everything they can to meet the criteria. I'd expect them to mark their assignments with the relevant criteria numbers to show where the evidence is. 

They are doing exactly what I would do as a teacher marking their work.

Involving learners in the assessment process is powerful and allows them to take responsibility for their own learning.

If they fully understand what they are being assessed on they are far more likely to achieve and work to their highest potential.

The fact that it streamlines your marking process and takes the pressure off you a bit is an added bonus!

5. Video Feedback

This can be a brilliant timesaver if you like marking electronically but you're not a particularly fast typist. 

Ordinarily, video feedback would be a bit of a slog. Also, the files created from recording a video of someone's document are going to take up a lot of space. If you're not using a cloud-based solution like Google Drive it can all be a bit of a pain.

However, I have found an amazing Chrome Extension that makes all of this really simple. That extension is called Loom. I've written a blog post about Loom here.

What's really amazing about Loom is once you've recorded your screen you don't have to worry about saving the file anywhere. Loom hosts your file and it automatically generates a link which it places on your clipboard. So there's a link to the video and you can then just paste that into a comment on a Google Doc or email.

Video feedback is highly personalised and if you make use of the nice little feature Loom has where you can have your face in the bottom right or left-hand side of the screen.  

Wrap Up

I'm very keen that The Teaching Space podcast is discovered by as many teachers and trainers as possible and you can help me with this.

If you enjoyed the episode please consider leaving a positive iTunes review and that way the show will be served up to more people when they search for teaching podcasts.

Thank you in advance for that. And thank you very much for joining me for Episode 6.


75. Save Time With These 10 Simple Strategies for Teachers
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Episode 5 of The Teaching Space Podcast shares 10 simple strategies to help teachers and trainers save time.

Podcast Episode 5 Transcript

Welcome to episode 5 of The Teaching Space Podcast.

Today I'm going to share 10 simple timesaving strategies with you.

My First Book

The reason I chose this topic for today's episode is that I'm currently writing a book. It's my first book which is very exciting, and the book is all about being a productive teacher or trainer.

That's why I thought it would be a great idea to tease some of the contents of the book with this episode.

So without further ado, here are my top ten simple strategies for saving time.

1. Inbox Zero

Inbox Zero probably isn't what you think it is. There's a lot more to it than just having an empty inbox.

I've written a lengthy blog post all about how to achieve Inbox Zero. I highly recommend you check it out.

2. Stop Being a Perfectionist

We, teachers, have a tough time when it comes to perfectionism. We are under a lot of pressure to constantly model best practice and to be perfect in every way.

However, that will take its toll, and it isn't possible. We all need to develop. We all should have a growth mindset. And if you are striving for perfection all the time is impossible to grow.

I talked about this in episode 1 of the podcast.

Stopping being a perfectionist is absolutely one of the best time-saving strategies you can implement.

3. Schedule Everything

I use a Google Calendar and that works brilliantly for me because I can see everything on my mobile devices as well as when I'm at my computer. And I have all of my teaching sessions in there. I have any marking time outlined and I schedule lunch. Yes, you heard that correctly I schedule lunch.

Everything is on my calendar and accounted for.

By giving yourself that level of structure, you can identify any gaps in your schedule, and you can plan things far more realistically.

One of the other reasons scheduling is so powerful is that Parkinson's Law dictates that events will expand to fill the time allotted. Meetings are a brilliant example. If you put an hour aside for a meeting, that meeting will take an hour. Even if it only needed 15 minutes.

So by scheduling everything you create constraints within which you need to complete tasks. Then if Parkinson's Law is indeed correct, and whatever you've planned to do can only take a certain amount of time, you are going to end up saving time. 

And what should you do with that saved time?

4. Schedule and Take Breaks

Taking breaks will keep you mentally sharp and make you work more efficiently, thus saving you time again.

I'd also recommend setting an alarm on your phone for home time if you tend to work late. The likelihood of you doing good quality work after hours is pretty slim.

5. Batch Your Tasks

Batching refers to the practice of collecting similar types of tasks and dealing with them all at the same time.

So you could, for example, batch your emails. Rather than just having your email program open and responding to emails as they come in, you could allocate one hour a day maybe at the start of the day or the end of the day to deal with all of your e-mails at once. 

The reason batching works is it reduces start up and slow down time. For example, the time it takes to open your email inbox and to receive said email might seem like a tiny tiny fraction of time, but it will add up as the day goes on.

Even worse is the mental delay it takes to switch from doing one type of task to another.

It also improves your focus because you're working for longer on a task so you can enter a state of flow as you work.

Batching is a fantastic approach to productivity.

6. Identify Your Most Important Task of the Day...

... and do it first.

If this strategy is of interest to you, I highly recommend Brian Tracy's book Eat That Frog.

7. Ask For Help

Number seven is probably the most difficult strategy on this list. Ask for help.

Ask your colleague your line manager. Ask anyone to help you.

8. Go Paperless 

Put all of your handouts on Google Classroom or in Google Drive and share those with your learners.

Not having to photocopy, staple and hole-punch handouts has revolutionised my lesson prep. I estimate I've cut it down by half.

9. Streamline Your Marking Process

I'm going to delve into this in a bit more detail in episode 6 of the teaching space podcast, so please keep an eye out for that one.

There are many different ways you can streamline your marking process. For this list of 10 simple strategies, I'm going to suggest that you come up with codes for marking. You can provide your learners with a marking key that explains all of the acronyms you're using. 

But just by putting letters rather than sentences you are going to save a lot of time.

10. Segment Your To-Do List

I use the following segments:

today upcoming, and later. 

I use Asana as my project management tool of choice, but you could easily set up a today, upcoming, and later segment system in Trello or Workflowy. I've used both of those systems as well and I highly recommend them.

Wrap Up

Those are my 10 simple strategies for saving time for teachers and trainers. As I mentioned, I am currently writing a productivity book and will be delving into the strategies and others in a lot more detail.

Please consider leaving a positive review for the podcast on iTunes.

I hope you enjoyed the episode, and I hope you'll join me next time. 

76. How to Cure Teachers' Fear of the Cloud for Good
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Episode 4 of The Teaching Space podcast busts cloud myths for concerned teachers. 

Podcast Episode 4 Transcript

Welcome to Episode 4 of The Teaching Space podcast.

In this episode, we are talking about how to cure teachers' fear of the cloud. Let me just give you a bit of background on this topic.


As well as teaching trainee teachers, I also work with experienced teachers to help them use technology in the classroom more. A couple of years ago, my college "went Google". In other words, we use G Suite for Education as our preferred main tech tool.

I mentioned my experience of transitioning to a paperless classroom in episode 2 of the podcast.

We use Google Drive for document storage, and collaboration and we also encourage the use of Google Classroom as an online learning portal.

We officially went Google two years ago, and we opted for a gentle transition. In other words, we didn't switch off network storage for files on a set date, and we also provided plenty of optional staff development opportunities. 

Our party line was that Google education products were the supported option at my college. People are welcome to use other products and other different types of tech, but Google was the supported option.

On Reflection

On reflection, I'm still not entirely sure whether that gentle transition was the right route or not. There are pros and cons with being gentle or being more aggressive with your approach. But we went gentle, and that's what we're working with right now.

Embracing Change

Some staff embraced the change. They embraced moving to the cloud and they got excited about. There were lots of other lecturers, like me, who did their Google Certified Educator qualifications to find out more about what we can offer.

Other colleagues were terrified her the prospect of switching to a cloud-based document storage solution. The idea of using Google Classroom on top of that was just too much.

Top Three Fears

In my technology role, I have come across a lot of fear about the cloud. Here are the top three reasons:

Security Lack of knowledge and understanding Lack of control

I'd like to dive a bit deeper into those fears in this episode and perhaps come up with some strategies you can use if you have a colleague who has some genuine cloud fear.

Everything that follows relates specifically to G Suite for Education.

Fear 1: Security

If I have a colleague who tells me they are very anxious about switching to G Suite for Education because of the lack of security in the cloud I tend to ask them this question:

What's more secure, an unencrypted USB stick or Google's servers? 

What do you think?

Of course, the USB stick is not a secure option. It's so easy to lose or break a USB stick. Chances are the person that you're talking to about cloud security is a USB stick user.

After we've had this conversation, I'd probably go on to explain that:

Google will not sell or share any data that educational establishments place on their servers. If you are a G Suite for Education user, whatever goes into your Google Drive stays there. And it is not owned by Google. Furthermore, Google will not advertise to G Suite for Education users.

More information on G Suite for Education security

77. 7 Books That Have Made Me a Better Teacher
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Description: Podcast Episode 3 Transcript

Welcome to Episode 3 of The Teaching Space podcast.

Today I'd like to share with you seven books that have made me a better teacher.

My Reading Habit

I should add, at this point, that I read between 2 and 4 books a month.

I'm an avid reader but I wouldn't be able to read this much if I didn't listen to audiobooks. I consume all books via audio, with the exception of maybe one or 2 a year. It's an extremely efficient way to read.

The downside of this is that there aren't many decent teaching books on Audible which is where I get my audiobooks from. So the books that I'm going to share with you today are about general personal development. I hope you find them interesting. 

Here goes:

(1) Finish by Jon Acuff

My first book is Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff.

I struggle to finish things. I'm a chronic starter so this book really appealed to me.

While Jon Acuff's book is actually aimed at entrepreneurs rather than teachers, it includes some highly relevant, sometimes surprising strategies, for actually getting stuff finished. 

The biggest takeaway for me from this book was the fact that perfectionism is one of the main barriers to finishing anything.

We explore perfectionism in teachers and trainers in episode one of the podcast.

(2) Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo

Next up is Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo.

Teaching is, of course, far more than simply presenting. But we could do a lot worse than following the example of top TED speakers like Sir Ken Robinson.

This book shares the public speaking and presentation secrets of many of the world's best TED speakers. It's definitely worth a read or listen. 

(3) How to be a Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott

My next book is How to be a Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott.

Teachers and trainers are some of the busiest people I know, so this is a must-read.

I'm going to read you out the blurb from Amazon because it captures the book perfectly:

"In the age of information overload, traditional time management techniques simply don’t cut it when it comes to overflowing inboxes, ever-expanding to-do lists and endless, pointless meetings. Thankfully there is a better way: The Way of the Productivity Ninja.

Using techniques including Ruthlessness, Mindfulness, Zen-like Calm and Stealth & Camouflage you will get your inbox down to zero, make the most of your attention, beat procrastination and learn to work smarter, not harder."

(4) Presence by Amy Cuddy

Book choice 4 is Presence by Amy Cuddy.

If you have not watched Amy Cuddy's famous TED Talk "Your body language may shape who you are", you absolutely must!

Following on from this talk, in her book, Cuddy shows us we need to stop worrying about the impression we are making on others and instead change the impression we make on ourselves.

Cutting-edge science reveals that if we adopt behaviours reflecting power and strength we liberate ourselves from the fears and doubts that obstruct us. So by redirecting our thoughts actions and even our physiology, we are freeing ourselves to be our very best.

This is powerful stuff and really useful for working with students as well as working on your own self-confidence.

(5) Out of our Minds by Sir Ken Robinson

Book number 5 is Out of Our Minds by Sir Ken Robinson (one of my personal heroes!)

I'm going to sum up the book with a quote from Sir Ken. He's so eloquent that it's all I really need to read to convince you to read this book:

"It is often said that education and training are the keys to the future. They are, but a key can be turned in two directions. Turn it one way and you lock resources away, even from those they belong to. Turn it the other way and you release resources and give people back to themselves. To realize our true creative potential—in our organizations, in our schools and in our communities—we need to think differently about ourselves and to act differently towards each other. We must learn to be creative." - Sir Ken Robinson (6) Getting Things Done With Work Life Balance by David Allen

Next up is Getting Things Done With Work Life Balance by David Allen.

This book contains a detailed explanation of Allen's GTD system.

One of the biggest takeaways for me was the idea of having one trusted place to put all of your ideas and your to-do items so you don't have them scattered around in various apps and on scraps of paper. 

While I don't follow the entire system of GTD there are elements of it that I still use today in my own approach to productivity. This is a very interesting read.

(7) Mindset: the New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dwek

My final book is Mindset: the New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dwek.

In this brilliant book, Dwek shows how success in school, work, sports and the arts, and almost every area of human endeavour, can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. In other words, our mindset.

This book (Mindset by Carol S. Dweck) is transformative for teachers and learners alike.

There you have it. Those are seven books that I believe have made me a better teacher. I hope they are of interest to you too. 

Book Club?

I have been thinking about starting a book club in my private Facebook group The Teaching Space Staff Room.

Wrap Up

That's it for me today. I hope I've given you something to think about.

78. The Paperless Classroom Challenge: What Happened?
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Episode 2 of The Teaching Space podcast is all about the reality of a paperless classroom.

Podcast Episode 2 Transcript

Hello and welcome to episode 2 of The Teaching Space podcast. I'm Martine, your host. Thank you for joining me today.

In episode one, I mentioned that part of my role is a digital lead. I am responsible for working with my teaching colleagues to help them use technology in the classroom more effectively.

Going Paperless Keen to lead by example, last year, I decided to go predominately paperless in my classroom. What's Online?

All assignments were produced online. All of my handouts were saved in Google Drive and accessible via Google Classroom.

What's Paper?

In terms of what didn't make it online, we still do several starter activities that are simply better on paper.

If we have a discussion activity we get the flip charts and pens out. However, I photograph the flip charts and upload the photos to Google Classroom (via the Google Drive app) so I'm classing that as partially digital.

Some learners prefer to have assignment briefs printed on paper so to accommodate their needs I also do that. However, the assignment briefs are accessible in a digital format.

Today's Episode

In this episode, I'd like to report back to you and explain what went well and the areas for development. I've based all that follows on learning feedback as well as my own observations.

What Went Well? Assignments The vast majority of my learners have expressed a preference for completing and submitting assignments via Google Classroom.

I should mention that I teach adults. If I was teaching 16 to 19-year-old learners they would have used Google classroom at school. So my group has a considerable learning curve to conquer in order to get comfortable with Google Classroom.

Feedback and Marking Being able to leave specific feedback as comments within Google Docs has been a massive benefit to learners. It's also sped up my marking workflow.  Chromebooks

We operate a bring your own device policy at college but not everyone has a laptop. So I provide Chomebooks to people who need them. I have noticed is there is a preference for my adult learners to go for the larger Chomebooks rather than the teeny tiny ones. 

No Photocopying!

A great benefit of going paperless is that you don't do any more photocopying. I used to spend ages and ages photocopying so it's a revelation not having to do any of that.

All teaching resources live in Google Classroom.

Catching Up Absent Students

If I have a student who's off sick it's a lot easier for them to review what was covered in the lesson and then I will make a point of seeing them before the next session. However, I don't have to spend quite as much time catching them up as I would have if I hadn't put things in Google Classroom.


While we still do some paper-based tasks in sessions. We do some based on the Chromebooks as well or laptops depending what people are using. I don't put those tasks through Google Classroom. 

Instead, I create a template and then I generate a link that forces everyone to make their own copy into their own Google Drive.

Here's how it's done.

Independent Learners The biggest benefit I have found going paperless is that my learners have become far more independent and self-directed because I'm not handing everything to them on a plate.

In other words, they're not getting a package of all the handouts and having everything done for them. They're having to work a little bit harder and this has had a really positive impact on the flow of sessions and also me giving feedback.

The whole experience has without a doubt been improved by taking this paperless approach. 

Areas for Development

But what about areas for development? I hear you ask. I mentioned earlier that the vast majority of my adult learners got on really well with classroom and our paperless approach. 

However, some didn't some found Google Classroom clunky and certainly not intuitive and they got frustrated and thought that it wasn't going to work for them.

I'm pleased to report in the end it did. But the journey getting there was more complicated than it needed to be.

Google Classroom Onboarding

This tells me I need to do more work onboarding new students to the paperless approach. I need to help them navigate Google Classroom better and really understand the benefits of going paperless.

I think this is something I'm going to do during my induction process. It is certainly an area for development.

Barriers to Communication

The other interesting point which was picked up in a recent lesson observation I had and that was people sitting behind laptops have a barrier between them and me and it is, of course, the laptop screen.

I had a really interesting chat with my lesson observer about this.

We talked about the benefits of having screen 'downtime'. I think this is really important and it's something I'm working on.

It is a good reminder of the fact that you need to break your sessions up and get learners up and moving around and talking to each other rather than just being glued to a computer screen the whole time. That's not good for anybody.

Initial Assessment

My final area for development relates to initial assessment.

Before learners joined my course I conduct a rigorous initial assessment to find out all about them and their particular needs. However, I think I need to emphasise the paperless classroom/ I.T. side of things a little bit more.  

Other Areas for Development?

It's been approximately a year that I've been paperless so I'm still trying to identify areas for development. I'm sure there are more than I've mentioned already but that gives you a bit of an idea of how the past year has gone. I hope this has been interesting to you.

Will I Ever Go 100% Paperless? 

I'll wrap today's episode up with the big question:

Will I ever be 100% paperless?

Honestly, right now, I think the answer has to be no. Sometimes paper and pen are the right tools for the job.

I don't believe in using technology for technology's sake. 

But what do you think?. I would love to hear your views on this topic and it would be great if you could share your experiences of going paperless either in the comments.

Wrap Up

That's it for me today. I hope I've given you something to think about.

Please join The Teaching Space Staff Room on Facebook by clicking this link.

79. You Need to Stop Being a Perfectionist Teacher Right Now
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Episode one of The Teaching Space podcast explores why teachers and trainers often have a perfectionist streak and how to overcome it.

Podcast Episode 1 Transcript

Hello and welcome to the first episode of The Teaching Space podcast. I'm your host Martine, and it's great to have you here with me.

Because it's the first episode I thought it might be a good idea to give you a bit of background on me and tell you what my intentions for the show are.

About Me

So, as I said my name's Martine, and I work at a Further Education College in Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

I'm a teacher trainer; I work with people in various industries to help them get into teaching. I'm also a Google Certified Trainer. Part of my role is to work with more experienced teachers and help them use technology in the classroom more effectively.

About the Podcast

I've been wanting to start a teaching podcast for a very long time and specifically I wanted to aim the show at teachers or trainers.

I believe there is an enormous crossover between teaching and training and I didn't want to specifically aim at perhaps people in further education. I want to look at teaching as a whole. That's why I intend to do with this show.

My plan is for episodes to be short so you can listen to a few episodes on a commute or during a break at work.

The show will be weekly. However, I will be taking breaks over school holidays. I appreciate that, depending on where you live in the world, our school holidays might not be the same, but I will let you know when there is going to be an episode and when that isn't. So, that's the plan.

Let's get to the meat of the episode.

Perfectionist Teachers and Trainers

Today's show is called You Need to Stop Being a Perfectionist Teacher right now.

It's not surprising that most teachers and trainers have a perfectionist streak.

We are under a lot of pressure. We're under pressure from all learners to know everything. There's also pressure from colleagues senior managers. If you teach young children, then there's pressure from parents.

It's a tough job.

Positive and Negative Perfectionism 

There are, of course, good and bad aspects of being a perfectionist.

Regarding the good aspects, everyone should strive to be as good as they possibly can be.

However, the bad aspects of perfectionism often outweigh the good, and they can very quickly lead to stress and burn out. My Journey to Perfectionism

If I reflect on my journey to perfectionism, I am reminded of a time when I was a young student in a maths lesson. I'll be honest; I really didn't get on very well with maths. I had a genuine fear of my time's tables.

I can remember completing my homework in a yellow maths exercise book. If I made a mistake in the book, rather than cross out the mistake, I would rip the page of the exercise book out and start again.

This was a problem because schools don't like it when you waste resources.

I can remember my maths teacher putting a comment on my book saying "this exercise book appears to have gone on a diet; see me".

That's my first memory of my perfectionist streak.

Today's Perfectionism 

Lately, I've worked out that trying to be a perfectionist in teaching is, well, impossible. We've always got areas for development. We've always got something we can improve on.

Furthermore, what sort of message does it send to your learners; probably not a great one.

The other aspect of this, of course, is the effect trying to be perfect has on your mental health.

I have four suggestions to help you try and overcome your perfectionism. It would be great if you could try one of them over the coming week and let me know how you get on.

Four Suggestions for Overcoming Perfectionism 1. Delegate Classroom Tasks

You don't have to do everything yourself!

Here's an example:

I need to supply a number of Chromebooks to learners in my introduction to teaching session. The sessions occur for me twice a week, and usually, I need to supply for between five and seven Chromebooks. Everyone else brings their own devices.

The Chromebooks are actually quite heavy, and unfortunately, we don't have a supply very close to the classrooms that I work in.

Rather than lug those Chromebooks to and from the classroom I ask the learners to help me. They are more than willing to help out. This cuts approximately 10 minutes off my preparation for each session.

While I appreciate that not all jobs can be delegated, there are certainly a couple that can be. You simply do not have to do everything yourself!

2. Set Time Limits For Everything You Do Parkinson's Law suggests that activities expand to fill the time allocated to them. Meetings are a fantastic example.

If you set yourself a time limit to complete a task then once that time is up the task has to be done. It might not be perfect, but it's done.

If this sounds like something that could help you, then explore the Pomodoro Technique.

3. Don't Reinvent The Wheel; Collaborate With Colleagues

Share resources. It makes no sense for you to create a brand new session from scratch teaching something that somebody has already taught.

Yes, you should absolutely put your own spin on it, but if something else exists, you should start there.

4. Reframe Perfectionism Perfectionism is not a positive trait. Perfectionism doesn't encourage growth. We all need to grow in our roles as teachers and trainers. Therefore, perfectionism isn't a good thing.

There are tons of resources online all about growth mindset, and if you've not read Carol Dweck's book, Mindset, I highly recommend it. I have listened to it as an audiobook, and it's really a very important piece of reading for teachers and trainers.

We tend to focus our growth mindset approach on our learners, but actually, we need to focus it on ourselves as well. It's time to revisit growth mindset.

Wrap Up

That's it for me today. I hope I've given you something to think about.

I hope you've enjoyed this first episode of The Teaching Space podcast and I hope you'll join me next time.

Join The Teaching Space Facebook Group here.

80. The Teaching Space Podcast Promo
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Please feel free to share this audio promo with anyone you think might enjoy the show. They can find out more at theteachingspacepodcast.com. Thank you.