This week's episode brings you some amazing teacher wellbeing gems with special guest Dan Jackson!
In this chat, Dan shares his thoughts on ways to improve teacher wellbeing and teaching practices, with proposed strategies for teachers, leaders and schools.
Dan and I also chat about his new book "Work Less, Teach More," which is a total wake-up call to all teachers and leaders in education, calling us all to get back to our craft and what really matters!
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Kelly: Hey, everyone, and welcome back to The Learning Network Podcast. Today I have a very special guest and a dear friend of mine. Dan, and I have been really lucky to work with each other in lots of different capacities over the last, I don't know, maybe 10 years or so.
Dan: Yeah, it's been great.
Kelly: It's been awesome. I think I've really loved being on the other side of the classroom, working in professional learning. But thanks so much for joining today. Dan, can you introduce yourself a little bit to our listeners. I'll do a proper bio for you, but a little bit of a background to your experience?
Dan: Yeah, sure. So I have been teaching since about 2006. I've filled in lots of different roles. Throughout that time, from you know, I started off as a basic part-time classroom teacher, and most recently, I was deputy principal at a school. So I've experienced pretty much every role that there is, I've been coordinating lots of different things. But yeah, I think during that time, I really enjoyed what I did. I got a little bit burnt out at one point so I took some time off, started up a business on the side because that's what you do when you're passionate about things. Through my learning from that, I really learned how to be a better teacher by reading and studying how to run a business because all the business books, Kelly, and you know this, as you read business books, they're all about how to be effective, how to be efficient, how to make sure you're really productive and focusing on the things that really matter. And that for me, when I went back to teaching, it just changed the way that I approached teaching, and I think it actually made a much better impact on my students and actually cut back my workload and balanced my life. It was really good in both areas of my life.
Kelly: For those of you that don't know, Dan has written his first book, so "Work Less, Teach More," which I absolutely love the title and when you kind of were tossing around titles for that, I thought, no, that, that really kind of, you know, I think it hits the nail on the head, because we, you know, schools have evolved so much, we have so much technology at our fingertips, but we're still doing things like we were doing, you know, in the 1950s. That really saddens me and I kind of get, you know, on my high horse on my soapbox, about a lot of these things that you have written in your book.
I think, for us to protect our time and wellbeing, which many of my CAFS teachers have heard me say that phrase, to protect their time, but also their wellbeing in the process, is something that I'm very, super passionate about as well. Dan has joined us today to talk about his new book, but also to talk about how teachers like you and I, and Dan and I are in the classroom anymore. But we still really think that we're part of the classroom. Supporting you guys in what you do in your classrooms, and your schools is our core business. So we want to kind of be able to advocate, be advocating for you guys, but also to be able to model and share some practices that we've learned along the way. As many of you guys would know, if you have followed my story, I was there too. I became burnt out as well. I think all of us at some point have a story to share about being burnt out.
Dan, why did you feel the need or calling to write a book, it's a bit of a brave one to go to say 'I'm writing a book,' why did you decide to write this?
Dan: Look, I'd actually planned to write a book about a completely different topic, to be honest.
Kelly: Oh, did you?
Dan: My original plan was to write a book about how to programme really well and do effective teaching in terms of what you do in your classroom. But when I surveyed my teachers at the beginning of this year, I sent out an email to my subscriber listeners to ask them, you know, what's your biggest problem in education? I knew the answer that they gave, but I wasn't, I was just wanting other things. So they all said, you know, 'Time,' we're all busy, we're all overworked, and time is our biggest problem at the moment. I was like, 'Yeah, but you know, what do you need help with in the classroom, what do you need help with, you know, with your, your programming, or, or you're creating assessment tasks?' and that kind of stuff. But the more it sat with me, the more I thought about it, I eventually worked out, but that actually could address this because I had been burned out. But then I went back to school and to teaching and I had the most balanced and happiest process for the next six, seven years after I came back, and that really changed everything for me, I think. I balanced my life, I had two new kids that I actually got to spend time with, I got to spend time with my wife, yeah, I was finished work by quarter past four for pretty much every day unless there was, you know, a parent-teacher meeting or something on. That was me, going from, we were beginning teachers founding a new school. By the time I left, I was the deputy principal.
My principal, I even gave her a whole term off and took over for a term because she needed a break. Because we all have to look after each other I think. I think it's, it's that kind of thing that drove me to then create this book because teachers are burnt out. They're not taught the kind of things that I mentioned earlier that are in all these business books that are everywhere about how to be more effective by focusing on the things that really matter first and then allowing the things that aren't important, even though they're urgent, we always have these things that are urgent, they get on our list, and we do them and we tick them off, but they're actually not important. So by being able to prioritise what we do, and to actually think about where we're going and make sure that what we're doing aligns with where we want to go, makes a huge difference for what you do in the classroom, it means you have a greater impact on your students. It means you actually have less workload, and you can then spend more time outside of school enjoying your life.
Kelly: When I read your book, I got an early copy of your book, I was really privileged to read it before it came to print. I think so many things that you wrote, I'm like, 'God, I wish I knew that. Like, before I became burnt out,' or 'thank you for actually talking about that out loud.' Um, some of the things I've read, I've been kind of practising even as a young teacher, so the Eisenhower matrix, I actually got taught that matrix, you know, when I was in my first year of teaching, and I literally had it on my desk for years and years and years, I think even before I moved to the Central Coast, I would still use that. Do you want to quickly unpack what the Eisenhower matrix is?
Dan: The Eisenhower matrix is the urgent/important matrix as well. So you basically just have four squares, and you put urgent down one side and important down the other side, essentially. So you've got four squares of urgent and important, which are the things you need to get done that day that are really pressing, you have your urgent not important, which you want to try and reduce as much as possible, or delegate to someone else if it has to be done. Because even though they're urgent, they're actually not important. So generally, it probably doesn't require someone who has, you know, a master's degree in education, who studied teaching and learning, probably doesn't actually require your level of skill. Then there's your earning unimportant and non-urgent quadrant, and that's the quadrant, really, you don't want to be ever, unless it's something that you legally have to do. You don't want to do anything that lands in that quadrant, because they're all just time wasters, essentially. Then the most important quadrant, I think, is the non-urgent but important project, because that's a quadrant that gets neglected because it's not urgent. But because it's urgent, because it's sorry, because it's important, it actually catches up with you.
Kelly, I know, in your story, it caught up with you with your health, as you got shingles because you were getting stressed you were doing so many different roles, you were in lots of leadership positions, and that really wears people down, you weren't getting enough sleep. If you had to prioritise the, you know, that important but not urgent aspect of getting eight hours a night of sleep, you may have actually avoided getting those shingles. But once the shingles get there, suddenly something that was not so urgent suddenly becomes urgent, because it's actually going to impact your health now, and that's when you start to actually look into fixing things up. I think, for teachers, we want to avoid things moving from our important not urgent into our urgent and important, we want to keep them there.
The way you do that is by scheduling out your time and making sure you're actually prioritising and blocking in time to focus on the things that are important but not urgent to get them done beforehand, before they're due, before they become urgent, or even just to look after yourself, to look after others. e.g. To do your research for how you are going to actually approach the student in your class who has autism. And say, how do I address that if it's the first time you've got that, you need to prioritise the important thing of learning how to teach students and to understand that student, spend time interviewing their parents, all that kind of stuff to get to know them really well, so that you can best support them. But if you're already busy during the urgent and not important stuff, then you don't have time. So it's really important to use, that matrix helps you to identify the stuff that you don't need to spend time on, and you can start getting rid of completely or finding someone else who might be able to do it. I apply that not just to school, I apply to all of life. So there's stuff at home that I'm doing that I can quite easily have my eight-year-old son do it, like he can empty and stack a dishwasher, he can change his bed, he can get himself dressed, he can do all kinds of stuff so I can delegate things to him. I can delegate stuff to my four-year-old even. But as they get older, you know, I grew up in a house where I was responsible for making my own lunches, I did my own laundry. I cleaned the kitchen every night, like it was just expected. It's just what we did. That reduced the workload for my parents because they don't have to do that. So even at home, there's lots of things that you can outsource or, and it doesn't have to cost you money, particularly if you got kids to go do this. Otherwise, you know, you don't get stuff.
Kelly: That's right.
Dan: But it, there's a lot there.
Kelly: It sounds like you've trained Charlie and Frida pretty well.
Dan: I do my best.
Kelly: Daniel's very soft with our girls, but I was the same, I grew up with you know, the eldest of four and being the oldest I think, I don't know, you just take on those roles. Me being me, you know, I was doing you know, my hair when I was in Year 2, I was making our lunches in Year 3, I was vacuuming and doing the washing for Mum. My siblings, if they're listening to this, they were very lazy and I did a lot of it for them. But I don't want my girls to be like that. Because I don't know, I think it's so easy these days, especially being a parent. If you're a new parent, you'd probably know this all too well that you can just go yes, you know that just that yes woman or yes man, or mum and dad. I think sometimes we don't want to have those arguments with the kids, but you know, what is that teaching them? They need to be resilient, they need to know how to do this sort of stuff, just for function, I think, in life to be organised.
I love the Eisenhower Matrix, you can Google it, just that four quadrant. I think things like for me, I was like, "This is, to me, this is really urgent, and it needs to be done because I want it to be done," but for me, it's kind of going "No, you don't need to laminate that you know that 20, those posters that you wanted to do, get your admin staff to do that," or, you know, I think just working out, you know, better systems. I think many of us like to tick off the things that are easy to do. I know that, but like you mentioned, I've read quite a few business kind of, you know, effectiveness, books, whatever. But I think we're good at, you know, checking our emails, or, you know, responding to someone else on Sentral, but actually doing our deep work is something that's really missing in schools. I think people hate programming, and I know that we, we love programming, we've had this conversation before, maybe the only two teachers in Australia. But I think we often avoid that deep work because it's hard and it actually takes a little bit of brainpower. Or people write the same assessment tasks year after year after year, because it's hard to actually rewrite an assessment task, it's hard to write, you know, rewrite marking guidelines. So I think many of us, we get sucked in by the easy stuff, so we can tick it off. We feel efficient, done that, yes, I've, you know, call that parent or I'm done. They're so dominating or done, whatever. But I think that deep work is really missing from schools. And I think, you know, we've spoken about what that could look like. But if you, if you were to design your own school, what would it look like? What would it feel like? And what would, what would your, I suppose, your core mission be, you know, as a founding principal of that school?
So I think for a school, I think you start with where you want to go like what you actually want to achieve with a school, I think that's the place to start. I'm always very focused and targeted on preparing students for life outside of school, and that looks different for every student, whether there'll be some that want to go to uni become doctors that we others that just want to drop out in year ten and go and work with their parents, because their parents run a business, it could be a local shop, it could be, you know, auto mechanic or whatever, there's kids that want to go into trades. Our school is generally not catering for that large range of options beyond school. I mean, there's even now students who will take a year off to see if they can make it on Instagram before they then choose what they're going to do next. 10 years ago, that was not a thing, but now, if they make it on Instagram, that they've made it like it's actually a real thing, you know, become a YouTube star, you can actually go and make millions of dollars as a YouTube star. Yes, it requires hard work and research, and, you know, we both understand what's involved in actually building a social media platform. But I think, for me, focusing on developing our students to have them ready means that I'm really going to focus on helping them with their learning skills so that no matter what life throws at them, they can find the solution and work out how to address it. So that's the school kind of focus is to be focusing on helping our students with their learning skills.
Then throughout the school, I would be making sure, essentially, that there are rooms for my teachers, where they can go be by themselves. Doesn't mean you know, I'm probably not going to be a rich school, so let's not say that every teacher gets their own little office, right, but I'll have spaces that are dedicated to quiet work. We've kind of lost that a bit because schools have really reduced down their libraries, because books are not as big anymore, everyone wants to go and google instead. But libraries used to have, and probably some of them still do, all those study rooms that used to exist. So I'd create lots of those for both students and teachers all over the school where they can just go be quiet places, and you can put more than one teacher in there, if they're quiet and focus on their work. And then that allows the hard work to get done that you were talking about, that deep work that getting your programming, marking those assessment tasks. English teachers sit down, and they've got 120 kids worth of essays that they've got to mark, and some schools give them, you know, one week or two weeks to get through that. That's ridiculous for a teacher to have to push through that in that amount of time. So setting them up with places where they can go to be focused to do that, giving them a bit more time for how long it takes them to actually get through that marking.
I think having that flexibility within how the school is designed, I think is really important. But also, just making sure that as the principal, right, if I'm the principal school, I'm actually setting up really great expectations. I was very fortunate to have my last principal setup really good expectations from the beginning. I loved her for that, because she was very clear. I mean, it was a unique school, with the teachers all had work mobile phone, that the students had the number too, and they could, they could call us. It was a senior school was very, very different. But she was very adamant that that phone was off at four o'clock, no kid was to be calling you after that time, you know, didn't turn it on until eight, you weren't expected to reply to emails, you know, late at night, and all that kind of stuff. And so it just set that culture and that expectation. By doing that, I think it's a principle of just going "You know, what, guys, when we send an email, we only need you to respond to that during work time". If you are free, and you feel like you want to work at eight o'clock at night, or whatever, and send a few emails, that's okay. But we don't expect that to be though. And no one should be expected to reply to that." Okay, really keep our work during whether it be eight or four, whatever, that some kind of roughly eight-hour workday, actually, to try and try and focus teachers in.
But obviously, a lot of these will say that's not possible for you to keep our work to into an eight hour day. But that then requires things like reducing your load. So that, yes, you're teaching, but you also have time to do all that prep work that is required to do that well, so that you can create really good engaging dynamic lessons. I would actually find that extra time by how I allocate tasks because I'm going to get rid of you know, we talk about all the admin work that teachers have that really, I think teachers should not be doing admin tasks, if you've got to book busses, and do risk assessments, and submit variations to routines, that really is not a teacher's job. Like if you've gone to university and done qualifications, you've done your practicums, and then you go into a classroom, and you've been teaching for 10 years, you've got all this experience, and you're like, but here I am spending half my day filling in stuff, chasing up kids for notes to go to an excursion that I want to go to that I still have to book the buses for, and the venues for, and it's just that kind of stuff teachers are not trained in to start with. So it actually takes them 2, 3, 4 times as long as it should.
Where as, if I hired well, at my school, I would hire event management, because schools have so many events on all the time and I would actually hire someone who's like your job is to organise all the events. So you're going to organise the camps, you can organise all of our big school assemblies and our school, open days and all that stuff, rather than it falling on, you know, principals, deputies, headteachers, and then all your other teachers who get wrangled into it, I can actually delegate most of the big tasks to the Event Manager. Then they can then forward down to other people, if you're going to be at the carnival at that open pay, then I can send you your email that says, here's what you need to know and come.
We talk about too many meetings and stuff as well at schools, I think, at a school, if you can communicate it in any other way, use that other way. You can make a video that makes the announcement, you can send an email, you can just write a memo. But I don't mind if it's old fashioned, if it's a letter that's put on my desk, I don't mind. As long as I'm not drawn into a meeting, where I have to sit there while you talk about it and add more to it than I need to know. Then when I have to sit through other people's questions where I already know the answer to it, or even getting teachers to attend meetings that actually have nothing to do with them. I think at a school, if you're having a meeting, there should be a really clear process for that meeting, there should be a very clear agenda for that meeting and that agenda normally should come with some kind of information that teachers pre-digest. Because during the meeting, the only reason I think a meeting should be called is if everyone who's there needs to contribute. So that really means you can't do whole school meetings because you're not going to get everyone contributing in that kind of size, you need to separate that into smaller meetings so everyone can actually contribute.
Even if you want everyone to contribute, and you want the whole school to come back to you., you do that in smaller size meetings where everyone feels comfortable to contribute, where it can all be collated and brought back to you. It's way more effective, it's a lot more efficient, as well, but I think one of the biggest things for teachers is just that sitting in meetings all the time. You were saying just before today, I was chatting to you about sitting in meetings where the principal's going "Well the meeting goes until four o'clock and it's currently 3:30, so we're going to just stay here and see, does anyone have anything else to say until four o'clock?' I was chatting to one of my friends yesterday who was telling me the exact same thing. He works a bit higher up for the DET and they were having a big meeting and he was saying he was saying the meeting was over in five minutes, but it was an hour meeting, and they just kept asking "Does anyone have anything else to say? Anyone have anything else to contribute?" You know, "I want you all to know this is a safe space to share stuff". Everyone is sitting in that meeting going, can you just let us go so we can do the work that we're been paid to do, the work that you actually want us to do, rather than trying to justify your meaning that you've called together that really should have been done in an email. Because if you can get it done in five minutes, there's no need for a meeting that takes five minutes.
So I think there's so much within a school that I would redesign, from the layout of it and how many periods you get, what you're doing in your downtime, you should only be doing, you know, teacher-focused things are focused on education, not things that are focused on administration. I do think there are things like, we're both PE teachers, so coaching sports scenes and stuff, I actually think that is important, even for teachers, even if you're not into sport, just because it allows you to be in that context where you can just have fun with kids. And you don't have to be a classroom kind of teacher. I mean you still have to look at safety and stuff but it's a different context. And so it doesn't have to be coaching, it can be any of those extracurricular things. But I would limit teachers and say, you can only pick, you know, one, one of those that you're doing every year, that's your thing for the year for you to connect with students, and to spend time with them and all that kind of stuff. I would pay someone else to do your lunchtime duties because you do not need a teacher to do lunchtime duties. You just need someone who's an adult, and who knows first aid. Put them out there, they can watch the students, students need to be watched. And I know that there's an element of playground duty where teachers like to be there, to chat with kids and connect with them. But if you were freed up from that, you could still go out during recess or lunch and sit down and eat in public, like you would actually not feel stressed. So that you could, you would feel that you had the time to actually go, "You know what I'm going to go and sit in the quadrangle, and have my lunch and chat to any kids that will pass and whatever else." And you can actually make some proper connections where you're not forced to be there with the kids, and you can just enjoy stuff and if you decide I've had enough, you can leave and go back.
Even things like I would give every faculty an administrative assistant so that the faculty can be doing all this work. And I know your teachers, suddenly that faculty is got an excursion coming up, okay, pass the details on to your administrative assistant, they're gonna write up all your notes to go home to the parents chase all that up, they are doing your printing for you for your classrooms, they're gonna cut things out, laminate them, whatever you need, right, you get an administrative assistant that does that. Even proofreading all your reports, right, there should be someone who is actually trained in that. English teachers might be able to do that, but for a lot of other teachers, we don't, we're not trained in particular grammar, syntax, or anything like that and every school, I've found, everyone I've been at has required a different format and different type of how you spell this word or where you use this comma. And so it's hard like as a new teacher, you learn it at one school and you change schools, you have to learn it all again because it just changes the way that, it's about how the school wants it really and so having administrative teachers who always do that and always format it correctly and always get things you know, because that's what they do. That saves you so much time I think as a teacher and even entering your, your marks right. If you mark all your classes work to then go okay, here's the pile that I marked, the kids actual tasks and then let them go through and enter the data add it all up, put it into the report system put it into the system, put it into the system that sends the marks to the students and their parents. Yeah, all that kind of stuff can, that's, that's not tasks that I need to pay a teacher to do to enter data that's, that's an administration job.
Kelly: Mm, this sounds like a great school Dan, when are you building it?
Dan: I’ll start it up next year Kelly, you can come and found it with me.
Kelly: [laughs] Okay good.
Kelly: I don't know how much time wasting, but also so much money wasting that happens in schools, you think we've just spent $45,000 on a bronze statue, this happened at a school that I knew. I'm like, hello, that could be someone that is literally employed to do all of their admin at the school for a particular task. Or that could be like a new building or new section of something that's, you know, developed rather than a statue or rather than new whatever's. There's so much time wasting that happens in schools and so much money, that's just such a waste. You think this is valuable like this is, you know, even if you're working in the public system, there's so much money that you know, it gets allocated to a school, if you don't use it up, then you don't get it back.
I think the schools waste so much money on, well, let's just quickly use our budget up because we won't get it back next year. But if you actually planned it out properly, you know, faculties or teachers can kind of go okay, well, this is what I really want to be, you know, doing with that money. I think, you know, I think we've mentioned to each other before, schools are like businesses now, but they're not acting like businesses. They're still stuck, you know, in the 1950s or 60s. It's not a factory anymore. You know, we don't kind of, you know, push kids out and go alright, here you go, here's a typical student. They are, so, I don't know, there's so much to them. But, you know, not working efficiently is something that's missing.
Okay, so I've got a couple more questions for you if that's okay. One is around, you kind of mentioned this, around what it would look like, I suppose physically, sound like, that sort of thing. What do you think leaders in schools, and you've been, you've had a couple of leadership positions before, prior to, you know, in your career, what do you think teachers, sorry, leaders can really do to support teachers wellbeing?
Dan: This is actually something I was guilty of in leadership as well. But I think leaders, what we tend to do is because we suddenly get more involved in the research, we suddenly bring in new things. But as soon as we roll out one new thing, we tend to move on to the next new thing. I think, for a lot of teachers, that that causes a lot of stress and a lot of extra work for them as well. Because if you roll out, let's say you decide that your school is going do flip learning, and so we're going to train everyone in flip learning, we're going to do Flipped Learning. Then, oh, we're also going to train you in formative assessment, we'll do that next year. There's this big formative assessment thing. You need to actually allow teachers a chance to learn it, implement it, reflect on it. Give them a couple of years before you actually go "Okay, you've got your flip learning stuff going really well. Now, let's move on to the formative assessment. Now, let's move on to..." Actually give them space between those kinds of changes, because there's just constant changes I find within schools.
Yeah, I remember, I did it a couple of times, and my principal used to always say, "Dan, Dan, you need to cut it back, cut it back and you know, remember that they're, they're not, they're not on top of it as fast." Because, you know, I didn't have a class at the time. Yeah, there was always other stuff. Yeah, yeah, that's right. That's right, I got it, I've got to really, and so I think, as leaders, if we remember that, we don't need to be doing lots and lots of stuff to be progressing our teachers, we actually need to spend more time supporting our teachers. That can be things like just getting alongside them doing classroom observations and co-teaching stuff with them, going and sending them a more professional development that they choose that they're passionate about, giving them a few extra periods off when you can.
But I think ultimately, as a leader, your job is to support your staff, right? You switch from a role where you're all focused on students to actually now you should be focused on the teachers. Some of the issues come up when leaders focus so much on the students, and not on the teachers. But the reality is that if you look after the teachers, they will look after the students in a much better, better way, than what you're going to do anyway, if you kind of skip over them. So setting teachers up, and I interviewed my principal recently about all the stuff that she did, and she was talking a lot about the idea of making sure you actually give teachers responsibility, but also some freedom within their role to say, "You're actually a professional, you've got your university training, you've got experience, you've come into this school, we will support you in the things that you're after. But, you know, we trust you to make your own decisions, you know, and when you make your decisions, as long as you can justify them and reason them with us, we're quite supportive. And we'll go with that." And she was really good at putting that into practice. Because I know when I was there, I had a lot of freedom. She let me travel to Adelaide to go and attend professional developments. She didn't pay for it, right? Because the school was brand new, it was very struggling with money. But she gave me that week off to go and do that. And she organised my class, I think she even covered it at some point. Because she was about letting me be autonomous, I guess in a way, in what I was doing. When I wanted to change a few things in my class, I wanted to give kids some extra breaks or I wanted to try a different approach. She was more than willing to go, "Okay, let's try it. What do you need for me? What support can I give?" And then we would try it and we will reflect on it. And that kind of support and care, I think that comes down once you allow a professional to be respected and to just give them that freedom.
Still hold them responsible, if they make a bad decision they should be held responsible for that because it was their decision but what you find is that the more you actually let them make their own decisions, they actually step up. Like you do with kids, as soon as you get those senior students, you're like "I'm going to let you be more responsible." I see so many schools go, "Oh, you're now seniors, we're gonna give you all this stuff," but they don't, they still get treated like they were kindergarten kids. They're not allowed to go across the road to the shops at all, how dare they? How dare they go and mingle in this particular area, you've got to make sure you're dressed a particular way still, and everything's tucked in and you just think that, that's not letting kids be, you're actually still enforcing a lot of the rules on them that now that they're adults, or pretty much right, I sure hope my son is an adult by that time. [laughs]
But we so focus on that bad kid and make all the rules for the bad kid, rather than actually going, you know what most of you are fine, let's just set rules for most of you, and when that bad kid happens, I can deal with the bad kid. Like that's, that's a much better way to approach it and a much better way to approach teachers, because a lot of our admin stuff even is brought in because there was a teacher who wasn't doing the right thing, right. And we put in 1000 risk assessments, probably because some teacher decided it was great to go and do Tough Mudder with a bunch of six-year-olds, and we'll just send them through and they'll get cut with barbed wire, or something. There's so much that just happens, that then influences everyone, because we've got to look after the teachers doing the wrong thing and make sure that they can't possibly do the wrong thing. But I think, yes, supporting and looking after teachers is really important for getting them to do, be impactful, and for them in their satisfaction at work.
Kelly: I think you hit the nail on the head when you said about giving responsibility and autonomy, and that trust, like, we're professionals will be okay, like, we've got a university degree. I think, too many times, you know, in schools things have changed just because of one person, we have to change our meeting structure, or we have to change this structure, this template, because that one person just couldn't do the job. But you know, they will be the person who always tries to do the, you know, the wrong thing, they will always try to push the boundaries, you know. We teach kids like this, they'll always be some kids who will try to push us and there are many teachers who are still like that, but why do we have to change the whole process? And anyway, but I suppose it's another conversation about trust in schools. And I think, you know, like, you sound like you had an amazing principal who was so supportive.
Okay, last two questions for you. The first one is around if you're a new teacher, so I support many new CAFS teachers, if you're new, what would be three top tips, or even if you are experienced, three top tips to look after yourself in 2022?
Right. So the first thing you've got to do is say no to everything except for teaching. But, because one of the things that schools do to their new teachers is they go out, you're young, you're energetic, I want to get you involved in everything, you're the one who's going on the Duke of Ed hikes, going on year nine camps, you're the ones who are going to be staying late doing whatever other activities are going on at the school, whether it be musicals, and all that kind of stuff. But I think for new teachers particularly they need to say no to all that stuff and really focus on their teaching and their learning and their classrooms. How to get their programming done really well, how to create really great assessments. Because yes, they've learned a lot of this at university but it's not until you move into a school when you've got to actually apply it in that context and adjust things according to policies and procedures that exist and I think, giving them a mentor to help them with that process and just go right this year, all you're doing is teaching. Like this is your first year of teaching, you're just teaching, you have this person who is a really good teacher who's going to be with you the whole time, ask them any questions you like, you know, make sure you really match people up well for that too, make sure you pick, not just someone who's a good teacher, but someone who actually is caring and empathetic as well. I've seen mistakes like that made before where a teacher who was new was paired with someone who was experienced but the experienced person didn't care. They weren't empathetic, they're just like, well, I had to do all this, so you should have to do all this. And yeah, that creates that cyclical culture that we have of, well, I had to earn my badges, therefore, you have to earn your badges. And that's not the best approach to getting these young ones in and looking after them.
If you're a senior, more experienced teacher, you still may benefit from saying no to a bunch of stuff, which you've probably been dumped with a lot of stuff. Because now that you're experienced, they're like you can handle more admin, you can handle more welfare. And honestly, teachers are not trained in welfare. We always, like we've got all these people who are doing welfare and they go and do professional development and courses, but a lot of welfare really needs to be dealt with by real professionals, particularly when I was deputy and then when I was acting principal for a term, the amount of welfare stuff that lands in your lap, and you're like, this is, this is very full-on. Like you're involving police, you're involving external people coming into assess situations at the school, and that should not, like a principal should be involved in that and know what's going on, but actually dealing with the students and stuff in there, you need people who are trained really well to be looking after our students in those contexts. And I think it's, it's just so hard for schools to really balance a lot of stuff that's going on.
But I think experienced teachers particularly, find ways to, if you get that Eisenhower matrix out and you do that for your entire role, you'll find, "Alright, I can get rid of all this." Just get rid of as much stuff as you can, shrink things down to the essentials of what really is important that you're doing. What things do you have to do and everything else just slide to the side and let it just sit there because it really, if it's not important, then it's probably not impactful. Things that are important are things that actually have an impact on your students in your classroom, and the things that you legally have to do so that you don't get the school in trouble or don't get yourself in trouble. You know, as much as I don't like marking rolls all the time, if it's a requirement legally for your school, which it is to do at least once a day, then do that. But it is only once a day, that's a legal requirement, right? So you don't then have to mark the roll every single class. But your school probably has a policy that says that they do, because kids might skip a class and they want to know what they're missing and all that kind of stuff. Yeah, I think that's at least something that teachers can do as they go into next year is just get as much stuff off their plate and then they can start looking at prioritising those personal effectiveness things, things that actually look after yourself, getting your sleep, getting exercise, eating well. We all know that when you get stressed, you eat poorly, when you're tired, you make bad decisions, and then that cycles itself around.
Kelly: Some good advice. So I've been ending my podcast interviews on a question about what advice you would give your younger self. So this can be in general in life, or in teaching. So what advice would you give your younger self?
Dan: I think I would tell my younger self, I mean, I fell into teaching, because I needed money at some point. I was younger and I was struggling with money and I knew that a casual teacher at that time got paid about $400. I'm like that I can do one day of that and earn as much as I was earning in my three days of work over here. And so I enrolled and all that kind of stuff. But it took me a while before I actually committed to it. You know, I did, I started off as actually part-time teaching and I was always thinking "Well, I don't necessarily want to be here, I want to be somewhere else." But it wasn't until I really committed, I think I would tell my younger teacher self, at least you know, that this is what you're going to be, and you're actually gonna be really good at it. So just commit to it earlier, and get yourself up there faster. Because when you're younger, you do have the energy. I remember, in my first year of teaching, my first couple of years, actually, I was doing two university degrees part-time and teaching part-time for one of those years and full time the year after. But I was young, I was married, and I had no kids and I could fit all that in. And I think if I had of changed that and just gone, you know what if teaching is where I'm going, I could easily do my master's in education, I could have dived into a whole bunch of books around education a lot earlier, which I think would have had a better impact on some of the things I did earlier my life, some of the mistakes that I made. I think we've all made pretty big mistakes. I'd tell myself, you know, kids are not your friends, you're their teacher. A good thing for 21-year-old teachers to know.
Kelly: Some good advice. Thanks so much, Dan, you know that I always love chatting to you. And we are both self-confessed nerds. But you know, the more that we kind of read and listen, and look, I think you know, I'm 40 this year, and I think that's a bit scary, but I think you know, you learn so much about education by talking to other people and connecting with others. So you know, that I always love a good chat with you, so thanks for joining our podcast today. Where can our listeners find you if they want to learn more about your book, which is super exciting, but also about, you know, what you have to offer for teachers?
Dan: If you just head to teachersPD.net, that's probably the best place to head to get information about me and the book is right there on the front page of that when you land there. Because it's currently up and it's on sale until the end of Wednesday, this week, so there's a whole bunch of stuff you can go check it all out there.
Kelly: Awesome. Thanks so much, Dan.
Dan: Thanks Kelly.
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