3 mantras to teach by (and live by).

Updated: Nov 8, 2018

Over my 20 plus years of teaching I have found three mantras support me in my teaching and life: work smart not hard, 3 strikes and you are out and it’s not personal. I will explore each over the next few weeks and how they shape my teaching.


The first mantra is to work ‘smarter not harder’. This is about being efficient, effective and not necessarily easy. This mantra began during my studies as a teacher as I created or bought resources and had to write up assignments and reflect on my teaching.


When I made or bought a resource, I decided it had to have more than one use to be of value in my teaching and I still use this today. A good example is the recent purchase of Going on a bear hunt, sticker book. I bought it as I could see the book had many possibilities.


Story spoons made from the stickers in the bookk


Before I invest in a resource, I think about how may possible ways I can use it. For instance, the sticker and activity book for ‘Were going on a bear hunt’. I have the and yes, I could photocopy and create story spoons, story stones or story disks but this book has enough stickers at the right size to make all 3 now or at any time.




Story disk or stones I could choose to make from the book.

Today I also consider time versus cost as I often feel time poor (and need to consider my art talents or lack off). So, I need to weigh up my time and skill. Can I paint them, no but if you could how much time would it take? If you aren’t time poor and love painting, then paint and let me know as I or other teachers may want to buy them.


Next, I think about the learning opportunities and how it connects to interests and the children. I know the children will love them and that there are language, math, science and metacognitive opportunities with them. Now to think of all the possibilities with the book or props I could make with the stickers. Small world play, imaginative play, sensory walk, sensory bag etc. So, the book has enough opportunities and it is worth the investment. It is a smart choice with enough opportunities that I do not have to work hard.


Small world play with the story spoons.

I then create invitations and provocations, I notice, recognise and respond to learner agency. Now what? This is where the working smart not hard really kicks in. Assessment. The black hole of teaching today and for some the rabbit hole. Either way you get lost. During my studies I came up with a ‘cheat sheet’ and have been using this technique ever since.


In its basic form it is a place where I store or collate references or theorists or my understanding of terms / tikanga and pedagogy to name some of the sheets I have created over the years.


After the exploration of the invitation or provocation you will write a learning story and reflect but here is where you can work smart and not hard. At the same time, you note evidence to write a teaching story (if you can do it at the same time) and include links to the standards for registration and practicing certificate. Adding the hashtags of the standards to return to later makes the collection of evidence easier.


I create a 'cheat sheet' or it could be called a cross reference sheet and on it i have hashtags or a code to keep track of how I've met different standards (you can use the 'find' to search them in your document). I insert them on my copy of the learning story or create a margin and note them there. Remembering that one piece of evidence could meet more than one standard ( working smart not hard here too). This really is working smarter not harder as it is more efficient. Once you can do this with ease or feel confident you can add Te Whaarki, Taataiako and Te Whatu Pookeka.


These additions require a deeper understanding of the terms, practices and tikanga which comes with time and reflection. Discussion with other teachers about these are vital and staff meetings are a good time to do this.


Using this technique helps to make learning (rather than the invitation or provocation) visible and by doing it this way not only is your analysis about tracking the child’s learning but also yours.



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