For teachers, seeking out ongoing education can make a huge difference to your success. These days, this can take many different forms. From professional development courses to mentorships and workshops, there are no shortage of ways to continue your learning. But in a time where as many as 70% of Australian teachers say their workload is a constant challenge, many teachers are getting creative when it comes to seeking out further education that works around their busy schedules.
One popular resource for educators around Australia and beyond is the Teacher Takeaway Podcast. Hosted by Aaron Johnston, Alice Vigors, Rebecca West and James Gray, the podcast aims to share ideas that teachers can easily implement in their classrooms, no matter where they teach.
We sat down with Aaron to learn more about the vision behind the podcast, hear how he balances it with his role as an Assistant Principal on the NSW Central Coast, and get his tips for other educators on managing their workload as we head into term two.
Hi Aaron. Tell us a bit about your background.
I’ve been teaching for 14 years, working across years K-6 as a classroom teacher as well as in a variety of learning support and wellbeing roles.
We’re big fans of the podcast. How did it come to be?
Alice, Bec and I had talked about doing a podcast for quite a while, but it never really got off the ground. James reached out to Bec about the idea as well, and finally got us moving. From then on, the Teacher Takeaway Podcast was finally born.
We wanted to create a podcast that not only talked about the “big ideas” and current research in education but gave listeners practical ideas and strategies that they could take away from listening and implement in their next lesson.
The four of us really enjoy recording the podcast together and look forward to it. We are all working in leadership positions in our current schools and have worked across a range of school systems and contexts which brings a huge wealth of experiences and skills/knowledge to the podcast which we are all eager to share with our audience each week.
One of the topics you covered on the podcast this week was organisation and time management, which is obviously something very important for educators. Can you share any of your own tips with us?
One of the keys to being organised is being intentional and strategic with your time and energy. We talk a lot about to do lists and using timetables in the podcast to help us stay on top of things. It’s about being flexible and learning to adapt as situations change, whilst making sure we prioritise tasks and our time because we can never do it all, so we’ve got to learn to let some things go at times and that’s ok.
It seems like a wide range of listeners tune into the podcast. What sort of educator would benefit most from it?
We really aim to make the podcast relevant to all educators, no matter their level, experience or role. It’s about providing listeners with practical examples of best practice and current research and chatting with guests who are specialists in their educational fields so we can all continue to grow as educators and contribute to further learning.
One of your fellow hosts, Bec West, was shortlisted as one of the 10 best educators in the Global Teacher Prize last year. That’s a big deal! What sort of impact has that had on the podcast?
Bec is a phenomenal educator and leader who we are so lucky to have hosting the podcast and learning from. Bec has been a great support to so many in the digital education space which has really helped us get the podcast out to so many educators and build a community of listeners who support one another.
You and your fellow hosts all have amazing things you are working on to help educators outside of the classroom. Can you share some of these with us?
As I mentioned previously each of us hold leadership positions within our schools and are helping drive change and promoting best practice in our schools. Alice has built an amazing website called Thinking Pathways which is full of resources and professional learning to support teachers with developing inquiry learning, visible thinking routines and critical thinking.
Bec hosts two amazing YouTube channels, Talkin Chalk and Clever Pickles which feature a range of short instructional videos for teachers and students. I’ve also created Mr J’s Learning Space as a platform to share free teaching resources and examples of practice from my journey as a teacher.
We recently shared the results of a survey of thousands of educators around the country that found that 48% of educators where planning on leaving the industry in the next five years, citing workload as an example. Do you have any tips for our readers on how they can manage this?
I really believe in education and the power it has to change our society and planet in the future. Reading these kinds of statistics really makes me sad because our students now and into the future need great teachers, but let’s be honest, teaching is hard. I think it’s time for us to rethink and reshape what education is and needs to be in the future and how we support teachers to do the best job they can, but it’s never going to be perfect.
For me, I acknowledge the challenges and as a leader I try to find solutions, but it all comes back to the “why”. Yes, it’s hard, yes, I’ve thought about moving on but for me I always come back to the reason I became a teacher and that is what keeps me going. When it’s hard, remember your “why” and don’t go it alone. Seek support and make yourself a priority because the best thing you’ll ever give your students is a healthy and happy teacher.
Another key finding was that one of the top challenges for educators is meeting student needs. Do you have any tips on this?
When it comes to meeting student needs and differentiating learning it all starts with relationships and working together. Spend time getting to know your students and where they’re at and use the experience, expertise and knowledge of your colleagues. You don’t have to know it all and you don’t have to do it alone. Find out what has worked previously for your students and then look for ways to work smarter, not harder. Find or design tasks that are open-ended or easy to adapt using different resources rather than coming up with separate activities for a million groups of students. Make it a goal for yourself and seek out professional learning to help you in this area. Last year I launched a course with the Relief Teacher Association called creating differentiated classrooms so feel free to check that out if you’re an RTA member.
Can you give us a sneak peek of what’s coming up on the podcast?
We’ve got some great episodes planned on writing, literacy and mathematics as well as some special guests joining us for a special Reconciliation Week episode. Stay tuned but in the meantime feel free to check out some of our most popular episodes on assessment, explicit teaching and classroom management.