Wednesday, 6 November 2019

What's a teaching philosophy, and why does it matter?

Why do you teach the way you do? How do your personal and professional values align with what's going on in your teaching practice? How can you tell?

Teaching philosophies are commonplace in primary and secondary education and are becoming more so in higher education. I've even started to hear about them being used as part of the job interview process.

Participants on the postgraduate certificate course, graduate teaching assistant course and for those applying for a Fellowship of Advance HE via the open route at my institution are required to write one.

@omgitsyeshi -

Why write one?
  • It helps us to make decisions about our behaviour, the tools and activities we use and the way we interact with those we teach
  • It helps us be consistent in those decisions and choices
  • Being self-aware and being able to articulate our reasons provides us with confidence
  • Confidence will provide authority 
  • Cognitive dissonance and the resulting burnout will reduce as what we believe and what we do will be in alignment
  • It will help us make career choices - are our values and philosophies supported or hindered by our environment, colleagues and institution

What goes in a teaching philosophy?

Ask yourself questions such as:
  • What do I mean by teaching?
  • What do I mean by learning?
  • What drives me and keeps me motivated?
  • What are my personal and professional values?
  • how do they show up in my practice?
  • What actually happens in my classroom?

My own teaching philosophy is centred around my belief that everyone should have the opportunity to develop their potential and that if people could improve what they do, even if just by 10%, then this would improve the world we live in. I create space for the honing of skills such as critical thinking, independent learning and teamwork. This space helps to form connections; connections between ideas and social connections between peers. I give my time to students: I am prepared and enthusiastic; I am the first one in the door welcoming my students and the last one out saying goodbye. My materials and activities are carefully thought out and planned. This shows I take myself and my students seriously and value their precious time. 

What does your look like? I'd love to know so feel free to leave a comment.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Writing an educational autobiography

How did your experiences as a learner define the way you now teach?

We all remember the really good and the bad teachers at school but we don’t often stop and think about the impact it made. As people now responsible for creating those memories, it can be helpful to step back and consider this carefully.

The participants on the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice course are required to do just this. It takes the form of a 500 word educational autobiography outlining one or two experiences of being a learner which has shaped their practice.

Some questions to ask yourself when writing one: 
  • What happened? Describe the event.
  • How did this make you feel at the time? 
  • How did it help or hinder your learning? 
  • What aspect of this is reflected in the way you now teach? 
Mapping the educational journey -
For example, I had a physics teacher for five years at school. Most of the lessons were spent copying verbatim out of a textbook. It was incredibly dull. As I left school for the last time, I said goodbye to him. He didn't recognise me and didn’t know my name. I can empathise to some extent as I'm not great at remembering names but after five years of seeing this person weekly, c'mon! It made me feel the subject was pointless. I couldn’t see any relevance to it and I remember nothing of value from that time. It also made me feel insignificant.

This contrasts massively with an English teacher I had who was passionate, engaged and who encouraged us to discuss and debate in class. In her class it was safe to voice an opinion. She was interested in what everyone had to say. I felt she was the one person in my life who understood my love of reading. It’s no surprise I went on to read English at university.

As a result, in my own teaching and coaching, I do my best to connect with the people in the room. I am always there first, well-prepared and I welcome them as they enter the room. I encourage conversation and the sharing of experiences and stories. I create a safe environment and set ground rules of respectful enquiry so everyone can feel seen and heard. I encourage participants to make notes using their own words and take pictures of their creations from the activities they participate in.

Have you done this exercise before? What experiences did you have as a learner that shaped where you are today and the behaviour you exhibit? How would you like your teaching to be remembered?

Friday, 27 September 2019

How I stay organised.

There has recently been lots of discussion on LinkedIn and Twitter about how to stay organised. I suspect it is because of the perfect storm that September brings: a new and busy term; new students; new modules and, possibly, new stationery.

Some people buy new clothes in September or a new pencil case. As I’m conscious of the environment and try to lead a fairly uncluttered existence (apart from my books, which is a different story – pun not intended), the only new item I purchase is a Leuchtterm 1917 dotted hardback journal* in a bright colour. This year’s is yellow.

I used to be all about the tech. I still am to some extent (I have a hybrid approach) but then I discovered the Bullet Journal. I’ve been using this method for about four years now since I returned to work after my first maternity leave. I don’t know if this was a coincidence or I just felt the need to physically write more.

The process: 

I started with an old Moleskine* I’d picked up from a conference to try out the method. You don’t need to go out and buy something new – I suspect many of you have many, many notebooks lying around. I’ve tried various habit trackers and layouts and have decided that simple is best. No beautiful, intricate drawings of weather formations for me sadly. Purely utilitarian with the occasional hint of washi tape when I’m feeling fancy. I think that’s why I like the bright colours as a compromise.

My notebook contains:
  • A contents list 
  • A future log (a layout of the 12 calendar months across two pages) 
  • Numbered pages (Moleskine didn’t have these and there is no way I am going to number all the pages)

Each month has: 
  • A gratitude list – I list one thing I’m grateful for each day (proven to improve happiness) 
  • An overarching big to-do list
  • A week plan which I create every Friday afternoon
  • An end of month reflection where I ask myself questions such as – what was the most memorable part of this month, what were the three biggest lessons, how am I different this month compared to last, what am I grateful for and three things to improve (these questions were taken from the Passion Planner* pdf)

Each week has: 
  • My overarching roles and goals so I can ensure I do something, no matter how small, towards them each week (this idea was taken from Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of effective people*) 
  • My meetings transferred from Outlook 
  • The tasks I want to work on 
  • My favourite thing this week (this definitely helps when I think I’ve had a rubbish week)
At the end of the week, I will review it and plan the next one. I won’t plan any further than that if I can help it. Although recurring appointments do go in my Outlook. Longer term plans go on a separate page or in the Future Log. I use pages as I go along to take notes in meetings or collect ideas around a particular topic and make sure I log them all in the contents page. That’s what I like about the bullet journal – it’s so much more flexible and personal than any other type.

Some other organisation tools I use:

Evernote (I’ve gone down to the basic option now I use my bullet journal).
I use this to draft blog posts and capture the odd random thought that I have when I don’t have my bullet journal with me

Twitter Likes/Favourites 

If I see something I might come back to then I will ‘like’ it. It will be sent by IFTTT to Evernote where I will go through them periodically and categorise them.


I’m signed up to blog posts on education, yoga, coaching and smallholding and can catch up with most of the posts in one place. As more people move towards sending newsletters this has become trickier and I find I am using it less.

LinkedIn and Facebook saved articles

I occasionally see something here and save it but often forget about it. Luckily it will often pop up somewhere else too!

iPhone calendar

I’ve just set up a shared calendar with my husband now that my eldest has started school. This lets us share when appointments are happening, when I am working from home so I can pick him up or vice versa, and general events happening. It means we don’t need to talk to each other as much. Just kidding, sort of!


This is great for when I’m working from home. It also means that when the laptop dies everything is still available from whatever device I am using. It’s also been useful in the past for sharing documents but I don’t need to do this very often now.


Inspired by Cathy Mazak, the Academic Writing Coach, I have started to log my Performance Development goals as projects. I hope to use it to help me write more too. I’ll let you know how it goes.

This currently works for me. When or if it stops I will gravitate towards something else. Just because something works for one person doesn't mean it will necessarily work for you but there's no harm in giving it a go.

How do you stay organised?

*affiliate link to keep me in chocolate and to see if this whole coaching academics and writing about it might bring new opportunities. I only recommend what I use and like.