Welcome to my Professional Learning blog.
My name is Matt Nicoll and I am a high school teacher in New Zealand, interested in improving the classroom experience for my students. I am open to trialing new approaches and hope to use this blog to reflect on my ideas and practices.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Setting Relief

If you look at the time-stamp for this post, you would be excused for thinking that I am either skiving off in class (or on a non-contact), or maybe I haven't gone to school today. I would like to assure you that it is the latter...

I used to dread needing a day off for illness. It was bad enough going away for Tournament Week or even for Professional Development Days, but at least I had time to prepare meaningful relief lessons in those cases because I could be organised and set them up the previous week. Illness just doesn't always give you the same warning... I have lost count of the number of days when I have gone to work when I should have stayed at home to get better. The time and effort required to set meaningful relief work used to mean that I would only take a day off if things were dire. Ironically, in many cases things would never have been dire if I had taken just one day off sooner.

So, when I realised last night that I was not going to be able to come to work today, I got that age-old pang of dread. Then I realised that there are a multitude of tools at my disposal to make today's lessons meaningful and to avoid me spending all night preparing these lessons instead of getting the sleep I need to get better.

Khan Academy

I am lucky that I teach Science. There are wonderful video tutorials on Khan Academy for most of the topics I am teaching. For today's lessons, there are some gems. So, I have embedded the applicable videos into my respective classes' Moodle courses.

It is worth mentioning that one video did not completely satisfy my needs for one of the lessons. In this case, I made my own video and uploaded it to YouTube. I just used some felt-tip pens, A3 paper and my cellphone to do this - things I have at home anyway.

It is also worth noting that this class has a very active Class Blog (http://l2chem2013.blogspot.co.nz/), so I did create a blog post for them as well. I wouldn't always do this, but this class are particularly diligent and lovely... Seriously though, I would not go to the effort to do a blog post if setting relief on the actual day that it was needed; I would do it when I felt a bit better or would get a student to do it as part of the relief work.

10 minutes of searching for videos and checking their suitability. 10 minutes for embedding into Moodle. Half an hour for making and uploading my own video (I did the tasks below while waiting for the video to upload). Three lessons nearly completed...


As I just eluded to above, I put the applicable resources into my Moodle courses. I also set online tasks (assignments) for all of my classes today. I can see (in real time if I want to) if my students are doing the work and check on the quality of their work. I can get a feel for their understanding before tomorrow's lesson to see how much of a recap I will need to do.

My classes are already in the routine of having an assignment on Moodle every week, so this is nothing new to them; it is just novel to do it in class.

5 minutes to set up each assignment for each class. Only two things to do now...


We are not yet a one-to-one computing school (we are working on that, though). So while I am doing the above tasks, I am switching to and from our school's online booking site. I am booking netbooks or computer suites for my classes as I complete each class's lesson. Without this online booking system, all of the above work would be wasted.


Just to make sure my students know what is required, I follow up the email to The Man (who arranges relief teachers etc.) with an email to my students explaining that they should bring their laptops and headphones to class if they have them and what they will be doing in class today.

In total, I spent an hour setting this relief. It took about 10 minutes to set up one class's relief so if I found I was ill in the morning, I could do the Period One relief immediately, then use the next hour to set the remaining lessons. Then, I could sleep/recover! I don't think I dread setting relief quite so much any more...

1 comment:

  1. When I had an organised day off - Oxfam Trailwalker - I set up a blog post with an activity for the class to work on and post comments to - I then spent a lot of the day checking in and replying back to their comments!

    I know on the odd occasion I have taken a sick day (I agree - usually I just can't face the hassle of organising relief work) my body might feel sick but sometimes my brain just gets so bored and posting the work on the blog and commenting back to my students during the day is quite easy from my bed!