New Year, New Me? 5 ideas on how to make 2018 more organised

New Year, New Me_5 ideas how to make 2018 more organised

I love creativity and spontaneity – but I believe the best way to exercise a sensible amount of beneficial chaos is to put it first within a framework of a well-organised plan. Today I want to share some of the ideas I’ve practised in 2017 which made my life considerably easier. The reason I chose to write about my personal experiences is due to my work as a teacher trainer – the longer I work with new teachers, the more noticeable it is to me that a lot of teaching-oriented problems stem from poor time management.

After some sessions with my fellow teachers I’ve decided to write down the ideas I use to make my life less chaotic, as it gives me the frameworks of work, development, relaxation and still leaves some time to actually do nothing. Now, according to what some people claim, I may be overly organised, so you don’t really have to follow all my quirks… Like, I’ve been writing lesson plans for each and every class ever since I started teaching (which makes a frightening number of 15 years) – and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. To make things worse, I have three separate diaries: one for work, one for daily planning and one for planning my time to chill out.

And I’m beginning to understand that the last one
is actually the most important…

So even if you’re not into organising your life to the point of planning time to do some planning, you may as well enjoy the confessions of a ridiculously organised teacher!

1 Plan your lessons

I already shared my tactics when it comes to planning lessons here, so just to let you know – I still follow my favourite KISS rule (known either as Keep It Short and Simple, or Keep It Simple, Stupid, choose your own version) and I’m always sure to leave some space for so-called wow activities, be they a new quizziz game, a funny role-play, an interesting boardgame or a new brainstorm idea. I usually come up with wow activities while taking a morning shower, so that’s the area I’m not planning beforehand.

It takes me 30 minutes a month for each group.

2 Plan your daily routine

…and be sure to add half an hour more on the activities you plan to cover! If a workout is supposed to take me 15 minutes (thanks, Mel B.!), I usually plan it for half an hour (preparing for the exercises, going to get some water… you know, delays happen to lazy teachers). I planned to write a blog post in an hour? Yeah, more like three days would sound realistic. I also plan my outfits for the whole week on Friday because I can’t make up my mind right before I leave, so it saves my time.

I also plan dinners for the whole week which is really sensible as you can remember to include some healthy food even if you’re dying for three pizzas a week…

It takes me 30-40 minutes a week. And a week of dying for pizza.

3 Plan your work

Here, I need to divide my prepping into planning for DoS-oriented activities – something I usually do within my working hours and it’s a monthly and weekly schedule of planned duties with a lot of blanks to perform all those save-the-world-now activities that are the joy of being a DoS…

Someone get me a cape, or better a chimichanga
as I’m rather a Deadpool kind of superhero…

The other part is connected with this blog, my FB fanpage, Instagram and plans to start my own webpage, plan some proper workshops and set the whole process of conquering the world in motion. Looking for inspirations and sharing funny bits surprisingly takes time.

It takes me up to 2-3 hours a week.

4 Plan your development

Have your planned your CPD in 2018 yet? I’ve already enrolled in a couple of courses, I’m definitely planning to join IATEFL Poland in Wroclaw in September, thinking of publishing some articles in professional magazines, considering passing DELTA… yeah, well, I certainly have things to do – especially with all those awesome free online courses I share with you every month. Naturally, the only way you can study properly without losing your mind is careful organisation.

This year is the first one I’m planning not only attending courses, but offering some webinars and online meetings on my own… which requires some additional planning, of course. But one thing is certain – if you don’t plan things sensibly, you may end up lost in a world full of webinars, workshops, programs and scholarships!

5 Plan your time off

Last, but not least – time to relax! If you’re focused on teaching, learning, developing, creating etc. it may be quite difficult to make yourself stop and chill out. Now, you may have some rest either by enjoying a quiet evening in (you know, blanket, hot cocoa and a great book) or by climbing snowy mountains – whichever is your preferred way (I believe we all like experiencing a bit of both), it’s very important to plan it – not only because you’ll have something to help you survive even the worst day at work, but you’ll make sure no-one disturbs you then… no essays to correct, no parents to talk to – nothing!

That’s my favourite part to plan – theoretically it doesn’t take much time, but oh, all those pleasant plans I make…

Next week I’m going to celebrate winter holidays (I’ve planned a lot of relaxing!), so the next blog post will be on the 2nd of January – I’ll share some great free courses to enhance that New-Year-Resolutionary mood! Should you miss me, do not hesitate to follow my FB page or my Instagram account, as I will share there various ideas, tips and inspirations.

See you next year 🙂


What school leaders need to know…

is thiswhatwe needto know-

… About Digital Technologies and Social Media – it’s a book by Scott McLeod and Chris Lehmann written with many authorities on the topic on educational technology. Published in 2012 is an interesting read and a source of inspiration.

First of all you may sensibly ask whether a five year old paper book is not obsolete – after all, technological advance speeds up rather frighteningly. My answer is simple: of course, parts of the book are sometimes ridiculous (using RSS readers in the classroom sounds like history, doesn’t it?), but even though some ideas seem rather old-fashioned, it doesn’t mean the whole publication is a waste – quite contrary.

A series of articles touches various aspects of using digital solutions in the classroom, from blogging to online course managing systems. You can read about wikis, webinars, videos, social bookmarking or online mind mapping – but the best thing is that each article focuses not only on a digital tool, but also on its application in the classroom.

For example, the first article (Blogs by Kristin Hokanson and Christian Long) not only explains what blogs are and what is their educational rationale, but also introduces the Alice Project which turned out to be more than encouraging children to write a blog. We can read about technical steps and framing the whole process as well as after-project reflections – I found this really inspirational, because there’s nothing better than learning from someone else’s experience.

Apart from personal experience, each chapter mentions some potential uses of various tools that may still be useful – like a lot of ways you may use open source software, a full list of ideas on how to use digital videos to make your classes more interesting, etc.

Moreover, you can find tips that will make you think before you decide to implement a particular digital solution – like the three Rs, vital when it comes to including instructional video games in the class (repetition, reward and reason, useful not only in this case).

One of the things that caught my eye, however, was not connected to digital technology as a useful tool – it is a matter of responsibility, something we should teach our students along with technological solutions. We are going to read about responsible blogging, free open source software, protecting the school image etc.

To sum up, while I found some parts of the book a little bit outdated, the majority of the articles shed new light on some of the digital tools I’ve been using for a while. If you want to read a book that gives you a moment of reflection on your technological approach – that’s a great book for you.

You may also consider this book a nice gift for a fellow teacher (or a principal) who is not really up to date with technological tools in the classroom – quite often teachers feel awkward to start with a new solution, especially when they realise their students have a far greater knowledge on this topic. This book may be a good start on a journey, pointing out some basics and guiding through more problematic issues connected with using technology (responsibility, classroom management etc.).


What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media

Scott McLeod (Editor), Chris Lehmann (Editor), David F. Warlick (Foreword by)
ISBN: 978-1-118-02224-5
224 pages
November 2011, Jossey-Bass

7 free online courses in December

7free onlinecoursesin December

Today, I feel pretty much like Santa, bringing you a fresh batch of free online courses you may enjoy during the December break, so that “New Year, New Me” spirit will have a solid background of December-learning. This time I’ve focused more on self-paced courses, as with the holidays preparation on our heads, we may be too busy to seriously focus on learning.

1 Teaching for Success: Practices for English Language Teaching by the British Council

Start: flexible

Duration: each course takes 4 weeks

This program is more than a mere course – it consists of three courses that can be taken in any order, and will equip you with the tools you need to take responsibility for your own CPD. Each course will look at four professional practices, explain their importance and offer a range of practical advice and suggestions in three areas: Lessons and Teaching, Learning and Learners, The Classroom and the World. Recommended for fresh teachers, but also those who want to connect with teaching buddies around the world.

2 Game Theory by Stanford University, The University of British Columbia

Start: 4th of December

Duration: 8 weeks

Game theory is getting more and more popular in everyday life – and the course will provide the basics: representing games and strategies, the extensive form (which computer scientists call game trees), Bayesian games (modelling things like auctions), repeated and stochastic games, and more. The good thing is that this course is designed for beginners, so no extensive knowledge of maths is required (you should be familiar with basic probability theory though, and some very light calculus would be helpful).

3 Working in Teams: A Practical Guide by the University of Queensland

Start: self-paced

Duration: 4 weeks

This course is an introduction to teamwork skills that will help you improve your own performance and that of your team. It covers why teams are important, the roles of individuals in a team, systems and processes for effective teamwork and communication, and methods for addressing team conflict. I would recommend it to everyone who manages classrooms to improve teamwork, as throughout the course you will be provided with a range of tools and templates that you will be able to use with any team.

4 Blended Learning series by Relay Graduate School of Education

Start: self-paced

Duration: flexible

This, again, is more than a course – a set of four modules that will teach you about blended and personalised learning as a whole. You’ll learn the how and why of “blended” and how blended/personalised learning is changing the face of teaching and learning. You’ll leave this course with four blended “recipes” you can implement in your classroom immediately. You’ll leave this course knowing why your blended practice should be grounded in instructional challenges/student needs and how you can leverage technology to address those challenges, so you can teach each student in a more personalised manner.

5 21st Century Learning by Grainne Conole

Start: self-paced

Duration: 6 weeks

This MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) will introduce you to 21st century learning tools and practices. You will examine how they can facilitate learning and teaching, and evaluate your own digital literacies, create your own personal learning environment, find open educational resources, explore virtual worlds and more. Recommended to fresh teachers or those who feel the pressure of using technology in the classroom but are somewhat shy to start.

6 Educational Technology by Georgia Tech

Start: self-paced

Duration: 16 weeks

This is a proper university course (you can read its detailed description and requirements here) for those who want to focus on educational technology for real – maybe in order to help with their MA or PhD, maybe because this is something they want to do in their lives. This class is built on a number of pedagogical strategies, including project-based learning, authenticity, and apprenticeship. The ultimate goal, supported by these strategies, is that through this class you will make an actual contribution to the field of educational research, and start a project that could be continued even after the semester is over.

7 The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture by Smithsonian

Start: self-paced

Duration: 6 weeks

Can you imagine a course with Stan Lee as one of instructors? Well – here we are! You’ll learn about how cultural myths, world events, and personal experiences shaped the first superheroes, you will apply these frameworks to create your own superhero– or you can choose to do a deeper analysis on existing comic book heroes. At last, fans, students and seekers of knowledge have the opportunity to enrol in the ultimate comic book course – so this may be a great idea not only for you, but also for your students of EFL!

I guess I found something I want to study this month…

I hope you’ll feel inspired and together we’ll have fun picking the best course of the month!