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Things I Learned This Week – #42

I’m just going to place a slightly NSFW warning at the top of these posts every week now. Makes life easier.

Offline this week I learned that it pays to have (certain aspects of) your mid-life crisis early, the power of actually writing rather than typing, and how to ‘take afternoon tea’ like a gentleman. Kind of. :-p

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Things I Learned This Week – #41

Warning for Americans/Puritans: Some NSFW language/links in this week’s post! :-p

Stormy Days

Offline this week I learned not to travel on CrossCountry trains if I want to be productive (no wifi and 3G blocked), that this gapingvoid cartoon is 99% true, and that my SAD begins in October. Gah.

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Things I Learned This Week – #40

Offline this week I learned to check I’m on the correct train before insisting someone’s in my seat, not to eat jam doughnuts when I’m in a rush, and that it’s still OK to buy paper books even though I’ve got a Kindle… 😉
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#uppingyourgame: finished and now on sale!

I often say “I’m delighted to announce…” but it’s rarely been more true than today.

Over the course of the last ten months I’ve been developing a new publishing model called OpenBeta. The idea behind it is to gain readers from the beginning of the process who can give feedback and watch the book as it progresses. I’m pleased to say that 49 people joined in with the first OpenBeta project: #uppingyourgame: a practical guide to personal productivity.

It’s available as a paperback (via Lulu) or as a PDF over at a new site I’ve put together: dougbelshaw.com/ebooks. There’s also an affiliate scheme you can get involved with and instructions for converting from PDF to ePub/Kindle formats. Check it out! 😀

Add to Cart
eBook (£7.99)

Want a free copy of #uppingyourgame? Tweet the following and if you’re number 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 or 42 to do so I’ll get in touch for your details!

Checking out @dajbelshaw’s new eBook – #uppingyourgame: a practical guide to personal productivity – http://bit.ly/dougsebooks

3 reasons teachers should smile

This is a response to an article in SecEd by Margaret Adams entitled Have You Smiled Yet? I was asked to write a response after expressing disbelief on Twitter that someone would still be advocating the ‘Don’t smile until Christmas’ mantra.

Seven years ago I entered my first teaching job in a deprived area of Nottinghamshire. Two schools, literally next door to one another, merged at the beginning of my NQT year. The department in which I was based was located in the roughest part of the school that was taken over. It would have otherwise been closed after failing to come out of Special Measures.

The pupils in front of me were a mixed bag. I had children who didn’t even register on the CAT scale for literacy with such horrendous homelives that it was a wonder that they owned a uniform and came to school. In a recent episode of SecEd Margaret Adams suggested that the traditional advice ‘not to smile before Christmas’ was defensible. I’d like to argue otherwise. Did I smile before Christmas in that first term as an NQT despite it being the hardest of my life? You bet. Here’s three reasons why whether new to the profession or vastly experienced you should ignore Margaret Adams’ exhortations and smile away.

First, as a teacher you are in loco parentis when with the young people in your classroom. At that moment, in the eyes of the law, you are standing in place of their parents. Can you imagine a parent who withheld smiles for a number of months from their offspring? How would that make them feel? Imagine being an apprehensive 11 year-old Year 7 pupil this term. How would you react to a teacher who refused to show any human warmth or positive emotion? Or one who blanked you when you called out a cheery ‘good morning’? If you’re not aware of the backgrounds of the children in front of you, ask them! You might be surprised at what you find out. Good teaching is all about relationships and bridges to learning.

Second, it’s important to smile for your own mental health. The best advice I ever received in terms of how to act in the classroom was to be an ‘enlarged version of yourself’. Trying to be two different people inside and outside the classroom is not a recipe for long-term stability, happiness or positive learning and teaching situations. Smiling is one of the most natural and spontaneous things we can do. So many unexpected things have made me smile over the past few years in the classroom that I’ve lost count. Teaching can be a long, hard slog – and especially during the Autumn term when Christmas seems a distant prospect. But ‘smile and the world smiles with you’ my dear old Grandma used to say, ‘frown and you frown alone’.

That’s not to say that new teachers should just ‘grin and bear it’, however. Smiling at everyone and everything can be as much an example of not being yourself as refusing to smile. Let your positive and negative emotions and reactions mean something to pupils. Let them know where they stand. If you haven’t read ‘The One Minute Manager’, buy or borrow it. Let other people be able to react to you as a human being, not as a machine implementing policies and spurious ‘wisdom’ from those more experienced in the profession.

Third, and finally, we have a responsibility to others in the workplace. An organisation – a school, a university, a business – is made up of the people it contains. Workplace cultures are not imposed, they are created and shaped by everyone – even those new to the profession. Not only will a well-placed smile cheer up colleagues who might be having a hard time, but they will hear from pupils how much they enjoy learning with you. That makes school a positive place to work and better for you in the long-run.

In conclusion, then, smile! Be positive. Let that be your default position and be an enlarged version of yourself. Find ways to make your classroom a positive, vibrant environment for learning. Use displays of emotion such as smiling to connect with those around you and forge meaningful relationships. Contrary to what Margaret Adams may think, it’s possible to be serious about learning and teaching whilst having fun – and smiling – along the way.

Doug on Productivity – Episode 1

I’ve been wanting to do more video stuff for a while. That’s why I’ve decided to begin two new projects, the first of which is a series called Doug on Productivity which I’ll try to get out every Monday morning (GMT).

In this first episode I answer three productivity-related questions about email, motivation and “writer’s block”.

Got some questions for Episode 2? Add them to the comments either here (below) or over at the YouTube page. 😀

Things I Learned This Week – #38

Offline this week I learned that even reorganizing a shared drive can be made entertaining, that looking after a 3 year-old single-handedly for a weekend involves pretty much every skill I possess, and that I should have moved my study downstairs a long time ago. Surround sound FTW! 😀
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Things I Learned This Week – #37

Offline this week I learned that conference coffee is always bad, some of the worst people to sit in front of on trains are old, talkative women who lead boring lives, and that there was a reason my parents moved away from Nottingham when I was four… :-p
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Things I Learned This Week – #36

Offline this week I learned the proper way to put up and take down a tent (more trial and error and observing others than anything else), that 3 year olds, Talking Carl and public spaces don’t mix, and not to take my iPhone or my contact lens case to the beach (will I ever learn?!) :-p
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Things I Learned This Week – #35

Offline this week I learned how dead the world of Higher education is over the summer, that there was a reason I was heavily discouraged to take GCSE Art, and that trying to run after a takeaway curry the night before is a non-starter… :-p
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