Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Confidant or Collaborator?

Another educator who is learning to be a coach asked me- “So am I still a classroom teacher? It’s like I don’t fit in like I use to. “

I explained that I know exactly how she feels and that I struggle with this everyday. I’m no longer viewed as a classroom teacher, a leader, or part of a team. Although, I view building the capacity of others is a form of leadership. Others have also recently shared that by being out of the classroom, I should be concerned about my credibility. I wonder who determines your credibility? 

Working independently as a professional learning coach, confidentiality is a vital component. And yet, I’m very much a collaborator. I can work on my own but my best work and ideas comes from bouncing ideas off others. I can push myself out of my comfort zone but I much prefer to contribute to a team and grow and learn together. I enjoy working with people and receiving real time feedback. As an extravert, my energy and edu-mojo comes from interacting with others. The one part of my role I really wrestle with is the isolation. The one-on-one conversations provide an opportunity to contribute and build the capacity of others. Coaching relies on trust and I would never share a coaching conversation. That, in itself is isolating. Moving from a learning environment where you share, seek second opinions, and gain others' point of view, to the world of coaching, takes some adjustment. I'm fortunate to have a network of coaches from other schools and even other countries. 

So coach, you're not alone... I know exactly how you feel.   


Monday, 13 February 2017

Experts within the classroom

Teacher's Voice
Recently I read Charlotte Pezaro’s passionate article, Specialist science and maths teachers in primary schools are not the solution’. Following this, I watched Paul Browning talking about killing creativity on abc newsBy sharing their thoughts and convictions, educators are given a voice, which promotes and provides an authentic view of the teaching profession. To combat the deprofessionalisation of teachers, more educators should share their thoughts and opinions through various mediums. Deprofessionalisation is defined as removing professional control, influence and discrediting the professional status. It's time for educators to have more influence and control over decisions made regarding education.

Professional Autonomy
Model of "best use" of a textbook?
A tweet (right) showing textbooks as a doorstop recently reminded me of a paper I wrote over 10 years ago. The topic was about mandated math textbooks in California. My views are from a primary perspective. Textbooks may be mandated for equitable reasons, so all students are provided with the same content for the standardised test. However, when teachers are provided with a textbook or program to follow (without choice), I believe it undermines their professionalism. While some may find teaching maths by 'page number' a more simple approach, I would find it not only uncomfortable but a little condescending. It appears standardised tests and accountability is influencing learning activities. If given no choice and told to use a textbook or particular program to improve students’ outcomes, teacher autonomy is lost which may decrease self-efficacy. Does the textbook or program build the teachers’ capacity? With a strong interest and to build my capacity to teach maths, I completed my masters in education. From a primary teaching perspective, I believe in using various resources to create a positive learning environment for all students. Literature books, music, games, songs, dance, and technology can be used to help students learn mathematical concepts. Being trained in Primary Connections program (science) provided an opportunity to train other educators, which built their capacity for programming and teaching science, while providing them with choice and a voice. If a program or textbook is mandated, it should facilitate differentiation and provide opportunities for teacher input. Could a teacher create successful individualised learning experiences using one program or one textbook? I once worked with a colleague who had only taught using textbooks and after one year of mentoring, she embraced and developed her ability to use various strategies, tools and resources to teach maths.

Contexts Make a Difference
Teachers are told what research indicates or suggests, but I think it’s vital for all of us to recognise that each country, state or territory and school is unique. Similarly, each student arrives with various beliefs and abilities. In my opinion, 'context' is not given enough recognition in education. Some students come to school having been read to since they were 6 months old, while some students do not speak English when they walk into their classroom. When I attend TeachMeets or converse with educators on Twitter, I learn about other contexts, which fascinates me. How can we possibly standardise education when students, teachers, and contexts are not standardised? According to an article written in TeachThoughtteachers make 1500 decisions a day and many of our decisions are dependent on our context, and our students’ immediate responses, engagement, questions and actions. Receiving feedback means making decisions which may generate adaptations and change.

Magic in the Moment
Much magic happens when teachers apply their knowledge and skills in the moment. That moment when students’ curiosity is captured, when they’re eagerly engaged and when their love for learning is evident. Teachers make decisions each day in their classroom but it is time to have more influence and control over decisions made regarding education. We need to recognise and acknowledge that the 'Experts are within the classroom!"

I appreciate your opinions & please share any blogs that highlight the teacher's voice. @stringer_andrea

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

A role model remembered

Today I attended the funeral of our friend, Jack Giddy. I wrote a blog post a few years ago about Jack who affected and influenced many lives. While listening to his eulogy today, I thought of his fruitful 92 years of life. Everyone chatted afterwards about his numerous accomplishments and achievements, and how no one knew all of them. A few may have been aware that he never spoke of his war experience. Some knew he trained the Sydney Swans from 1986-1990. Many laughed when they heard he was disappointed Mel Gibson chose Hollywood over professional running.😀  Most knew that Jack coached athletics, but not all were aware about his involvement in modern pentathlon, rugby league, swimming, beach sprinters and more.

Highly respected, Jack was an utter gentleman who was widely loved. I remember talking to him once about telling his story and sharing his training knowledge. He said that someone once asked to write a book about him, but he never felt comfortable doing that. This disappointed me for his experience, knowledge and wisdom may eventually be lost. I compared how oral traditions are diluted with time with some facts and details forgotten. Yet today, people might not remember all that he did, but they remember how he made them feel.

Before Christmas, I went over to cut Jack’s hair, as he was unwell. He was so appreciative and grateful, I actually felt a little embarrassed. He complimented me on the haircut and said that my husband, Andrew was so fortunate to have me in his life. Jack and his wife, Snow always made you feel special and loved. Snow rang me later that day to tell me that Jack enjoyed the Snickerdoodles I’d baked and requested the recipe. How could something that took such little time and effort equate to Jack’s level of gratitude and appreciation?

Jack was a wonderful role model and there were many lessons I learnt from him.
  • Be diverse in your adventures
  • Accept and try new things with an open mind
  • Share your knowledge, expertise and wisdom
  • Be grateful and appreciative as it takes no effort
  • Be kind and give compliments…it can make someone’s day!

Surround yourself with role models who inspire and make you a better person.'s never ending

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Marinate the Mind

My word for 2017 is Marinate.

To marinate is to think about something, have time to reflect or to wait for something to happen.

Sometimes you need to be still or stay the course to deepen your knowledge and your expertise.

16 years of studying, learning, teaching, questioning, reading, connecting, listening, conversing, and researching are the combined ingredients of this marinade, with my professional learning network being the seasoning.

"Happy New Year" &
Thank You #PLN


Tuesday, 13 December 2016


I have been wondering why I'm struggling to reflect on 2016. Unexpectedly, Yong Zhao came to mind. He mentions how we tend to focus more on what the student hasn't achieved, met, accomplished, or is still developing. We should build upon their identified strengths. I am questioning why I focus more on what I didn't achieve or accomplish or why I don't feel content or satisfied....The deficit model of professional learning.

If you asked your students to label their strengths, could they? Are they comfortable identifying their strengths? With 2017 on the horizon, I'm sure many are thinking of goals based on challenges or identified 'areas for improvement' but have you ever had a goal based on your strengths? Education typically focuses on identifying shortcomings and challenges and what is needed to improve (NAPLAN, PISA). I suggest we often forget to balance working on areas for improvement with strengths. These are my self-identified strengths.
  1. Present - Being truly present when interacting with someone.
  2. Generous - If you ask me to do something, I majority of time, I deliver. 
  3. Passionate - I'm passionate about education. I have even apologised for that in the past.

Let's celebrate being in education and identify your strengths. Name 3 of your strengths.

Be positive and proud! 

 Please use the hashtag #3strengths

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Disneyland, Differentiation & Self-Determined Learning
Have you ever been to ‘The Most Magical Place on Earth’? I remember arriving at opening time and being one of the last to leave Mickey’s Magical Kingdom. I experienced a new level of excitement and enthusiasm for exploring. But I know what may be exciting and engaging for one, may not be felt by others.

So why am I remembering the excitement level of Disneyland? I have been fortunate to work with a teacher who candidly shares her level excitement about teaching regularly. She proudly says, "I just love my job!" It is not only her words that display her excitement but also her actions and reactions to her students and their learning. Her passion is evident. Hattie (2012) maintains that teachers’ beliefs and commitments are the greatest influence on student achievement over which we can have some control. According to Steele (2009), passion relates to the level of enthusiasm that the teacher shows, the extent of commitment to each student, to learning, and to teaching itself. When teachers talk about student learning, their passion is evident and as a coach, I'm fortunate to be privy to this passion. According to Hargreaves and Fullan, (2012) the level of enthusiasm and passion largely depends on the school community in which that teacher operates. Coaches dedicate themselves to the cascading effect of enhancing others, which results in the progression of student learning (Costa, Garmston, Hayes & Elison, 2016, p. 5).

It would be unrealistic to expect all students to be passionate and excited about everything they are learning, but the long-term goal is for them to be excited, engaged, and vocal about their learning. Simply put, we want them to love learning! Students are located at different points on the learning continuum regardless of the subject. So teachers differentiate accordingly. We all have our strengths and challenges and it’s important for us as educators to recognise and accommodate through differentiation. So how well do we differentiate teacher learning?
We know differentiation is essential in the classroom and it is also essential in the staffroom. Teachers' professional learning needs to be personalised and self-determined. Wiliam (2016, p. 3) states that the major contribution for improving teacher quality must come from improving the quality of teachers already working in our schools. We use the viewpoint that 'one size does not fit all' for our students and this is applicable to our teachers too. Substantial evidence indicates that the typical kinds of professional development being provided to teachers are known to be ineffective (Darling-Hammond, Wei, Andree, Richardson & Orphanos, 2009). Coaching values self-directed learning and what is vital in this professional learning approach is self-reflection and goal setting. We encourage students to hold ownership of their learning, by promoting metacognition (thinking about thinking), reflection and goal setting. These skills are also applicable to teachers.

To sustain their passion and excitement for learning and teaching, it is vital to respect teachers as professionals and provide ownership of their learning. According to Hattie (2012), school leaders and teachers need to create schools, staffrooms and classrooms environments where errors are welcomed as a learning opportunity. Additionally, teachers should feel safe to learn, re-learn and explore knowledge and understanding. As a coach, my goal is to sustain that passion for teaching, by supporting and promoting self-directed learners and leaders with the disposition for continuous, lifelong learning.


Costa, A., Garmston, R., Hayes, C., & Ellison, H. (2015). Cognitive coaching. Victoria: Hawker Brownlow

Darling-Hammond, L., Wei, R., Andree, A., Richardson, N., & Orphanos, S. (2009). Professional Learning in the Learning Profession: A Status Report on Teacher Development in the United States and Abroad. National Staff Development Council. Retrieved from

Hargreaves, A., & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional capital. New York: Teachers College Press.

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers. London: Routledge.

Steele, C. (2009). The inspired teacher. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wiliam, D. (2016). Leadership [for] teacher learning. Victoria: Hawker Brownlow

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Women Role Models

I grew up in an era when some mums worked part time while their children were at school. They were always there when you left and there upon your return. And somewhere in between they managed to cook, iron, clean, sew, shop and the list goes on. Times were changing as women were permitted to work but also expected to keep house & raise a family too.

Yet there were those who believed that women should be at home during the day to make sure everything was 'just right' when the husband returned home from work. I remember hearing someone say that women don't know how to look after their husbands anymore.

Years ago, I met with a male leader in an education system to inquire about a PhD scholarship. He responded by saying, "But you have 3 children and a husband, don't you think you should just do a masters?" Clearly, he hadn't taken the time to read my CV and I wondered if a male would have received the same response.

October is Women’s History Month in Canada where they recognise the contributions of women. On social media they are using the hashtag #BecauseOfHer to show how extraordinary women, both past and present have great influence. 

When I listen to Michelle Obama, this week and Malala and Women Leaders in previous times, I am confident that gender equity is progressing. Do you have role models or mentors in your life? Role models don't have to be famous; they don't necessarily need a platform, but their voices need to be heard. We are moving forward but is it fast enough and are we ALL contributing? 

I do believe my daughters have a more equitable future because women are projecting their voices, challenging the norm, and slowly being heard.

Please feel free to list your role models or mentors in the comments box.