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WIN when you’re under pressure

Under the leadership of Larry Gelwix, the Highland High School rugby team achieved an incredible 418 wins and only 10 losses over a 36 year period. Now that's consistency! That whole time, Larry espoused one prominent motto… WIN!

But this wasn't some try-hard inspirational slogan, it was actually a call for prioritisation. WIN is an acronym, it's a mnemonic to remind us to ask a very important question when we're feeling under the pump. That question is, ‘What's Important Now?'

A new school year, a sick kid, a promotion, or an upcoming presentation. There are many reasons why we might be feeling under pressure. But the common thread through all these scenarios is that we're likely facing a to-do list containing a collection of tasks that would require more time than what we have available.The tendency when we're feeling overwhelmed is to try to do everything. To buckle up and churn through it. To burn the midnight oil. To just suck it up.But there is another way. It's to re-frame that to-do list as a set of options and to judiciously ask, ‘What's Important Now?'Whilst I first came across the WIN acronym (and the above story about Larry Gelwix) in Greg McKeown's excellent book, Essentialism, Gwyn Ap Harri also shared an equivalent idea during Education Research Reading Room Podcast Episode 70. Gwyn called it ‘Impactivity', couching his new phrase in the following terms:

‘We shouldn’t be aiming for productivity, which is getting lots of stuff done. We should focus on impactivity, doing less but having more impact.'

A few weeks after the release of ERRR Ep. 70, a friend of mine let me know that, following Gwyn's suggestion, she'd started to see her to-do list as a list of options rather than a list of musts. She found that after a few weeks, many of the items on the list would simply lose relevance, and she'd end up just deleting them rather than doing them.Asking ‘What's important now?', especially when we're struggling to keep up with life, is a fantastic way to keep our heads above water. To prioritise when there doesn't even seem to be the time to do that!

The ability to choose cannot be taken away, or even given away. It can only be forgotten.' – Greg McKeown

Good luck WINning next week!


You are reading an instalment 134 of Teacher Ollie's Takeaways, an (aspirationally) weekly email in which I share some personal thoughts on teaching and learning, as well as great resources from others.

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NEW PODCAST OUT NOW: ERRR #075. Musumeci, McClements & Plunkett on The Challis Way

Sometimes a school just really knocks my socks off, and my visit to Challis Community Primary School in December of 2022 was one of those occasions!

It isn't often that I come across a school which is doing so many things – culture, instruction, co-curricular, pastoral care, behaviour management – right! This is because excelling in all of these areas simultaneously is extremely hard and takes a phenomenal amount of time, commitment, resourcefulness and ingenuity.

As such, the Challis story is a truly inspiring one to me, and well worth hearing about in the most recent ERRR podcast here.

It was an absolute pleasure to interview Lee, Mark, and Kelly for this episode. They're a wonderful leadership team and their students and community are so lucky to have them and all the staff at Challis!

Announcements and Opportunities

  • There are only 15 tickets left for the Steplab Instructional Coaching Intensive on March 6th (will try to find a bigger venue… : s ) Secure your place to see Josh Goodrich and Peps Mccrea in action and learn about the most up-to-date and impactful approaches to Instructional Coaching asap! More info on the event page, and make sure you check out the most recent ERRR podcast on Instructional Coaching if you're keen to know what the hype is all about!

  • The Science of Learning Leadership Accelerator is happening in Perth on March 9th-10th. This will be a fantastic 2 days of connecting with movers and shakers who are bringing the Science of Learning to the fore in Australia. I'm particularly looking forward to the keynote from Tom Rees who heads up Ambition Institute in the UK. Find out more here.

  • Dr. Mark Dowley and I are doing a re-run of our Practical Classroom Management course by popular demand! This one is online and coming up in a few weeks. This is an exciting partnership with LaTrobe University! Info here.

This week in Ollie's Learning (Takeaways)

  • A summary of seminal papers in educational psychology, from Paul Kirschner.

  • Story of a Research Program, a nice introduction to the origins of Cognitive Load Theory

  • Is Growth Mindset a hoax?

  • @mfordhamhistory on teaching ‘the scientific method'. Link.

  • One for the curriculum and resource design nerds: This is quite a technical piece on the design of instruction and curriculum resources. It summarises Siegfried Engelmann's Theory of Instruction, which is widely considered both the most complex, and the most comprehensive tome on how to design faultless communications. Accessible on the Athabasca University website here.

  • Quote:

    • ‘The trajectory of your life bends in the direction of your habits' – James Clear

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