Finding Your Tribe | Melbourne Instagram Meetup


Hello, teacher friends!

Have you found your tribe? (Or tribes, even, because there can be more than one for everyone?)

I have, and it’s amazing.

Tribes are those likeminded individuals that you find you share a lot in common with. The kind of people who you can chat to and know that they really understand and that they don’t judge you. Good days, bad days. It doesn’t matter, because your Tribe will always have your back.

I wear a lot of (metaphorical) hats, so I have a Tribes to meet those hats, and I had the amazing opportunity to visit with one of those Tribes yesterday at the Melbourne Winter Teachers Instagram Meet-Up.

You may remember a few months ago when I posted about the first Instagram Meet-Up. It was one of those moments that (as Sarah-Jane reminded me yesterday) you really tell your kids and friends not to do: go and meet random strangers whom you met online in a strange place. So many things could go wrong.

I’m happy to say, they didn’t then, and they didn’t yesterday.

The meet up was organised by Laura (from @littleapplelearning), Sarah Jane (from @thepolkadotapple) and Tess (from @misstessclassroom) and held at BangPop, a Thai restaurant in the city. It was spectacular.


Okay, so the weather wasn’t so spectacular. Melbourne sure knows how to throw a rain party right when I want to walk around the city. But it’s all good.


I met up with these lovely ladies: Jem (from Jem’s Bright Buttons) and Paula (from Paula’s Place). I’ve known them for years through Facebook and TPT and I love catching up with them.

We then went down to South Wharf for the meet-up.


Yes, that is a Duplo bar. Could you think of a more perfect place for teachers to meet? Imagine all the things you could in your classroom with a Duplo wall. I’m already thinking of ways to petition for one.


All the tables were beautifully set-up by the lovely organisers who added beautiful little details to EVERYTHING, including a wonderful swag bag of goodies that made the event seem almost like a conference. With better food, drinks and a lot more off-topic conversation.

We’re teachers, right? We know how to talk!


The Photo Booth set-up was super fun and next time I think I just need to drag more people up to it. Of course, that involves being less shy and intimidated by all the amazing people there, but I think I’m getting better.


The ladies did an amazing job organising sponsors to donate items for the swag bags and prizes (I didn’t win anything but it was super-fun getting a peek at what other people got!). As a way of showcasing and thanking the sponsors, I’ve recording an ‘unbagging’ of the swag bag which is below, so if you want to check it out, go for it. I apologise in advance, apparently I can ramble on!


It was such a wonderful experience. I loved catching up with Jem and Paula and the other girls I met at the first meet-up. It was also amazing to meet so many new Instagram friends across all parts of Victoria, and even a few from NSW. Teachers are amazing at banding together – stick a group of teachers in a room and you’ll have plenty to talk about!

There’s such a great feeling of collaboration, respect and understanding that came with yesterday and I had an absolute ball.

I can’t wait to see what everyone gets up to in the upcoming term; I’ll be hanging out on your Instagram accounts for sure!



Thoughtful Thursday – Growth Mindset



This week I (and all of the teachers in my school’s local mini-network) attended a professional development session presented by Maria Roberto, titled:

Embracing the “F” Word
Using FAILURE to build resilience and motivation at school.

I have to say that, from all of these BIG group professional development sessions that have been run, this one was very interesting.

It is based on Carol Dweck’s research into Fixed and Growth Mindsets in students, and I think it has a lot of implications for teachers.

Basically, the premise is that a mindset is a belief system that is specific to each individual person, and is not something we’re born with, but something that we learn. Every mindset has its own set of rules, and is based on what you believe you are and are not capable of achieving.

Dweck’s research into fixed and growth mindsets in students focused on the specific feedback given to students who were given the same basic non-verbal IQ test: praise for intelligence (“You are so smart!”) and praise for effort (“You must have worked really hard.”). She then tracked student results in subsequent (more challenging) tests, where students who were praised for intelligence struggled to answer the harder questions and students who were praised for effort persisted in answering the harder questions even if they weren’t sure of the answers.

Students with fixed mindsets often find it difficult to move beyond their comfort zone, for fear of not appearing “smart” or for appearing to “fail.” They’ll go to lengths to hide or conceal mistakes. Students like this are at risk of becoming non-learners because they never take those responsible risks.

Students with growth mindsets engage in problem solving, put in effort and work through tasks despite failure. They push beyond their comfort zones and look at failure as an opportunity to increase learning.

I loved that we were given a list of fixed and growth mindset language choices, because as a teacher it’s super easy to simply (and well-meaningly) tell a student, “Wow, aren’t you clever,” because it’s quicker than, “Wow, I love how you put so much effort into answering your questions today.” But when you praise effort you’re encouraging students to persist even when they’re not super-confident.

I had a perfect example today in the classroom with one of my new little kiddos. They’ve only been at school for 11 days, and today we wrote a shared sentence and I had all the students have a go at copying it down. It was a very short sentence about their art lesson and was primarily used as an example of a complete sentence. One of the little boys sat there the whole time and wouldn’t attempt to copy ANY of it down because he was terrified he would do it wrong. Nothing I could say during the lesson would convince him that all I wanted him to do was have a go because he’d worked himself up so much.

Afterwards I pulled him aside and he’d written down the first three letters from the sentence and I told him that I was really proud of the way he’d had a go at the first few letters (and they were legible and neat, so I was super happy anyway) but we had to have a big chat about taking risks and remembering that it’s not making mistakes that makes teachers sad, it’s when students don’t have a go because mistakes are a learning opportunity, not something to be ashamed of.

At the end of the conversation I think he was considerably happier and was talking about going home and looking at words in his books and having a go at copying them down to practise and get better. (Can you imagine how happy this made me? Especially seeing a much happier expression on his face when he realised he wasn’t in trouble? Gosh!)

But, for the curious the words that you might hear coming from students with a fixed mindset include: must have, always, forever, all the time, every time, should, can’t stand it. (I can’t stand it! I must know the answer.)

Words for a growth mindset: sometimes, often, maybe, may, might, at times, occasionally, for now, frequently, (and the most important one) yet. (Sometimes I have the right answer. Sometimes I make mistakes. I may be able to solve this problem. I can’t solve this problem yet. I don’t know the answer yet.)

All of this is a super simple summary of the hour-long talk that I heard earlier in the week, but if you’re interested in looking in to it, or even being able to download a free .pdf full of lesson activities for using failure to build resilience in students, check out the ReachOut Professionals page – simply sign-up (it’s free) and look under the Professional Development tab for the Embracing the F Word download.

You can also see a TED Talk by Carol Dweck, titled The Power of Believing That You Can Improve.

Obviously, this extends beyond teaching and students, but I think it’s a timely reminder that our words (as teachers) do affect our students. We are very fortunate that we are able to influence and support our students in developing a growth mindset just by changing the way we praise them for their efforts.

Thanks for sticking around for this rather wordy post!

What professional development have you done recently that really inspired you?


Twitter Talk Tuesday

Title-TwitterTalkI don’t know how many of you use Twitter (if you do, leave me your username below!), but I love to use it for professional reading.

It’s similar to how I use teacher blogs to get a peek at what other teachers around the world are doing, or the new ideas they’re trying, or just the good old tips and tricks that work really well for them. I do find on Twitter, though, that teachers tend to post links to articles or blog posts with more of a professional learning spin to them, and I love that.

So, today I’m going to share a couple of the links that I’ve loved reading this week. Hopefully you’ll get as much out of them as I did!

11 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers – I loved this article because it corresponds so much with my own teaching philosophy. There’s not single point in the article that I don’t agree with or think is pertinent to teaching. This is a great article for all teachers to read, but I think it’s especially important for teachers new to the profession, or people considering the profession. Teaching is amazing, but it’s not easy.

Top 3 Podcasts for Teacher Professional Learning – I’m a public transport user, and I love listening to things on my ipod/iphone when I’m travelling. This year one of my goals is to get back into listening to podcasts because I do love to listen to people talk about things they’re passionate about. This blog post has links to 3 podcasts for teachers and I think this is also a wonderful way to get in some extra professional development without having to set aside time or money to do it. Listen to them in the car, put them on while you’re doing housework, etc!

What Is The Best Thing You Can Do To Prepare Your Child For Learning The Alphabet? – I bet if you’re a teacher you can answer this one straight away, but as a Prep/Foundation/Kindergarten teacher articles like this really stick with me because it seems like such a simple answer, but not everyone knows how to support their pre-readers. This is a great (short) article for parents.

You Are What You Wear – This one’s not a teaching-related article, but it’s certainly something that teachers need to be aware of. How does society typecast boys and girls, based on clothing? Parents and teachers know that toys are very rarely enjoyed just by the gender that they are designed for, and the same holds true for clothing. Well worth a read, if you’re up for it!

15 Mistakes New Teachers Make (and What I Learnt Making Them) – Another really fabulous article, and one I can definitely relate to. Teaching is a steep learning curve, and all of the points here are incredibly valid. Have a read and share with any new teachers you might know.

I hope everyone’s had a wonderful start to the week. Leave your Twitter username below, or follow me @stefgalvin. And if you’ve read anything that’s resonated with you this week, I’d love for you to drop the link to it in a comment!




PD opportunities!

I’m rather excited this evening.

I’ve been booked in to Primary English Teaching Association Australia’s (otherwise known as PETAA) 2013 Melbourne Conference!

It’s entitled Teaching Language and Literacy through Literature and is addressing the new Australian National Curriculum.

There’s a couple of really interesting plenary sessions, but I’m really interested in attending a workshop entitled Writing is not rocket science: when teachers model writing. I love teaching writing, but I’m convinced I could be doing a better job and this session sounds great.

And the best part of attending this conference is that my school is paying for it! (Means I can save up for other PD opportunities… amongst other things!)


Anyway, if anyone else (in Melbourne) is attending, let me know!

How is your week going?

Celebrating Art and Books

The Children’s Book Council of Australia host Book Week every year, here in the lovely land of Oz!

It is, hands-down, my favourite event in the school calendar.

Books are nominated, short-listed and finally selected in a range of categories, and schools are encouraged to read and celebrate these books with their classes.

In my school, we have a week-long (although, honestly, it goes on for much longer than a week!) celebration across every year level, where students read these fabulous examples of Australian literature and make beautiful art pieces to go along with them. (Along with regular book responses, of course!)

Each year has a theme, and this year the theme is Reading Across the Universe.

Here in Melbourne we have a great school art supplier, Zart Art. Every year, Zart runs workshops for Book Week, selecting up to 12 books from the Book Week shortlist to provide teachers with art ideas and inspiration. This is the second time I’ve attended (the first being in 2010, my first year of teaching) and it is nothing short of AMAZING!

(Zart Art’s Book Week art activities guide)

Picture this – 28 teachers, 5.5 hours and 8 art pieces created. Each. It is so much fun!

Here’s what we created:

1. Animal Masks (based on The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog)

2. Wire Tanglewood (based on Tanglewood)

3. An Iceberg (based on Sophie Scott Goes South) – this is really cool, it’s a model of an iceberg field on the way to Antarctica, and the tiny little orange dot is the Aurora Australis, and it’s designed to highlight the fact that we only see 1/10 of an iceberg above the water!

4. The Rocket (based on The Terrible Suitcase) – if you squint you might be able to see the tiny, pink suitcase hidden inside the rocket!

5. Aerial View Jigsaw (based on Herman and Rosie) – please excuse the poor quality of this piece; as my Dad commented upon seeing it – I’ve got NO spacial awareness! That said, this is probably my FAVOURITE story from the list so far.

6. Elephant Mobile (based on Too Many Elephants in this House) – we had to make 4 elephants, exactly the same, and trade 3 with people on our table. The red elephant is mine!

7. Lest We Forget Medal (based on A Day to Remember) – an ANZAC story, very beautiful and moving.

8. The Flying Coat (based on The Coat) – the quote reads “If we create from the heart nearly everything works, if from the head almost nothing.” (Marc Chagall) I think this is my new favourite quote!

All that art-making and we still had time for morning tea and lunch AND I went shopping for art supplies for my classroom!

My goodies: Supertac (like PVA/Elmer’s glue only thicker, so it doesn’t run and it sticks EVERYTHING!), poster colours in warm, cool and fluro colours, an assortment of tissue paper (in block colours AND animal prints!), giant crayons, paper bags with a gusset, boarder roll in silver and gold, 2 packets of Paper Magiclay (we used it for the icebergs, but it’s so handy!).

I also got 2 free pencil rolls! (Cue my happy face!)

Two really great tips from today:

  • When modelling creations for students, do your second-best work – it’s ok to be a little bit different and NOT perfect!
  • When folding a page and cutting for 2 exact images, tell the kids to hold the fold!

So that was my very exciting day.

What are your favourite book crafts? Feel free to leave links so I can visit your blog and pin ideas!

Teaching the Teacher

or  A Reflection on Professional Development

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Recently we had a curriculum day with a focus on Numeracy professional development for the staff. In combination with many of the voluntary online webinars I’ve been attending recently, it prompted me to reflect on my opinion of professional development for teachers.

I’ve always believed that teachers are lifelong learners. I wouldn’t be in the profession if I thought otherwise. The students I teach in my classroom now do not necessarily learn in the same way I learnt when I was their age, and they certainly don’t learn in the same way that my parents did. As such, teaching has adapted and changed, and while the fundamental principals are still very similar, our approach to teaching and learning is in a constant state of change based on the needs of our students.

The same should be said for teacher learning, although I don’t necessarily know if it is.

All throughout my teacher training (yes, all four years of it!), I had one philosophy when it came to my uni lectures/seminars and any extra professional development I participated in: it’s all a learning experience.

I don’t believe in “bad” PD, as many people around me have sometimes called their experiences. I approach everything as a new learning experience, and even if I come out of something with the simple realisation that I’m not going to use that strategy or I disagreed with a philosophy or implementation approach… I’ve still learnt something. Sometimes I come out greatly inspired and raring to try a new approach, and that’s fantastic. But I just can’t bring myself to call something “bad.”

Now, that’s not to say that sometimes I attend PDs where the presenters are sometimes difficult to listen to. Not every one IS easy to listen to, or comfortable talking in front of groups, or easily able to present information. I try to look beyond that, because they’re trying to convey a message or point and that’s why I’m sitting in the room – I’m not there to judge the person.

As teachers we should all be able to critically reflect on ideas and concepts of teaching – and that includes our own professional judgement. It is just as powerful to say “I disagree with that” or “After listening to that approach, I don’t think that’s suitable for my situation” as it is to say, “I am absolutely going to run with that brilliant idea!”

Which brings me to my recent discovery of online webinars. Now I know they’ve been around for a while, but they’re new to me and I think they’re brilliant.

My experiences started with RSCON3 this year, and has led me to SimpleK12’s webinar series as well. I’ve never shied away from opting in to PD in my free time, so for me this is just an inspiring option to having to search high and low for PD that is appealing and relevant to me and my teaching.

And yes, there have been webinars I’ve experienced that I’ve walked away from going “That was interesting, but not really suited to me.” I don’t count those as wasted experiences.

But, just like my students, I’m happy to be a sponge – ready to absorb all sorts of knowledge! After all, you never know where it might take you!

Do you have a philosophy on professional development/learning?

Have you had an overly positive and/or negative professional development experience?