Our story and the journey from day jobs to the Digital Teacher Planner
Hi. My name is Damian and I thought I'd tell you a little story about myself.
Love for Planning
I'd been teaching for a number of years and a serious health scare culminating in 3 months off work after some serious surgery made me give up teaching back in 2015 - but more of that later.
I've long been a bit of a planner geek, having owned probably around 20 Filofaxes over the years, from mini size, personal, A5 and A4. When I started teaching, I experimented with lots of Filofaxes for my diary, and tried to find inserts to help with lesson planning. I didn't want to carry round both a Filofax AND a lesson planning book. I couldn't find anything in the shops so I decided to create my own pages.
After lots of trial and error, I came up with a format that I liked and worked for me. I spent ages creating the pages every half term, personalising them with my lessons on, then printing them, and cutting them to size to fit in my A5 leather filofax (which I had at the time).
The weight of all of that carrying around was just too much, what with all my text books too (as I didn't have my own classroom, I often taught in 3 or 4 different rooms every day), so weight was a serious issue. This made me start researching if there was anything I could do to reduce the weight but still keep the convenience of the Filofax. I thought I'd try and go paperless.
I'd already bought and tried various 'digital personal organisers' for my diary over the years - from the early days of the Psion organiser, the palm pilot, the Compaq iPAQ, a windows mobile phone with pull out keyboard etc etc. None of them really worked for me. Then Microsoft launched the Surface range of laptops / tablets WITH A PEN so I could still write rather than type. I type very fast, touch typing, but prefer lesson planning with a pen to mind map out my lessons, and make notes and scribbles, doodles and drawings where needed - I'm a very visual learner!
The first range of Surface 'tablets' were huge and heavy, with a rubbish battery life and I ignored them. Then Microsoft launched the Surface Pro 3 and I had to get one. It was expensive, but I thought I'd be able to get rid of the Filofax, and put it all on the computer (using OneNote - one of my favourite pieces of software ever). Not only that, but I (naively) thought I'd be able to get all of my text books in digital format, download them and have them on the computer too.
OneNote & Outlook
Well, for my customised Filofax pages - I managed to 'convert' them so I could use them in OneNote and Outlook. Digital books were not really taking off yet - I found a couple to replace my heavy paper versions, but certainly not all. However, the weight on my shoulder was considerably less than before - the only problem was that the battery on my laptop didn't last all day - half a day at most - so charging became an issue.
Doing lesson planning on my computer with a 'pen' was great - but creating my templates for it (Excel based, with a Word mail merge), uploading them to OneNote, and doing this frequently (at least every half term) was becoming a pain. The time saving I thought I'd get didn't really work out as well as I'd hoped.
This was at the start of the 2014/15 school year, and life was good. Then disaster struck... In January 2015, I started getting stomach pains. It was the week before February half term. I couldn't get a doctor's appointment outside of teaching time, and the pain got really bad, so I went to my local A&E department at the hospital, which had a GP Surgery attached, on a Saturday afternoon. To cut a long story short, they examined me, and I ended up staying in hospital all week with a drip attached to my arm, while they ran all sorts of tests.
I was let out the following week, at the beginning of the half term holiday, and had a week at home in bed, recovering - lots of pain killers and antibiotics to keep me sane! I went back to school for 3 weeks, and the pain came back as soon as the medication stopped. Things got so bad that my head of department forced me to leave one lunch time and go to the doctor's. I did, and was admitted straight to hospital, where I stayed for 2 weeks this time, and had half my colon cut out, following a severe bout of diverticulitis.
When the Camel's Back Broke
The doctors said it was probably a stress related incident that was the last straw that broke the camel's back. I thought back and could pinpoint a particular day at school back in January that was 'probably' the cause.
When I awoke after 8 hours in surgery, and once the drugs had worn off, I thought about what had happened and had a major 're-adjustment' in my life. I made the decision to quit teaching and take a much less stressful job, not wanting to put myself or my family (a lovely wife and three children) through that again. I worked out my notice, and after nearly 3 months off following the operation, did my final half term of teaching and left at the end of summer 2015. It was sad, as I loved the teaching (once the classroom door was shut and it was just me and the students) - it was just everything else that went with the job that was just too much.
A New Beginning
So, I took a less stressful job, and started thinking about what could have helped me prior to the 'incident' to reduce my stress, and free up my time so I could relax a bit more. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that lesson planning & marking took up far too much of my time, mostly due to the fact that there wasn't really a simple process I could follow easily, keeping everything neatly organised. So I decided to create one.
The Digital Teacher Planner is what has come out of that thinking. If I'd had this back in 2014, I honestly think I'd have been a lot less stressed, and have worked out that I'd have probably saved around 3-4 hours a WEEK in getting organised and planning lessons. Those two things combined might just have saved me and I might still be teaching now!
So, I'm hoping that if you're stressed in any way as a teacher, and spend too much time getting organised, staying organised, and planning lessons, then our Digital Teacher Planner could just be what you are looking for, and will reduce your stress, free up a few extra hours a week, and prevent you going through anything remotely like what I went through.
That's my story. Thanks for reading, and please do download our sample version of the planner and try it out for yourself for a half term and see what you think. Read our tutorials, watch our videos, and subscribe to our 'lesson planning advice, news, tips and tricks' weekly newsletter. All we want to do is make your life as a teacher just a little more bearable!
In case you're wondering, I now have everything that was in my bulky and heavy Filofax, on my iPad Pro, and I use the Apple Pencil to write on it. It looks like a Filofax on screen, and works like a Filofax - I can click on all the tabs to go to different sections or months, I can click on a date in the planner and it takes me straight to that day's page for my lesson planning, another click and I'm back on the weekly page so I can see at a glance what I'm doing this week. There are literally thousands of hyperlinks built in for navigation, to make your life easier.
I use it on the GoodNotes app which is just awesome. You can however use any note-taking app you want (some work better than others), and you can open it on an android tablet, windows pc or mac, or indeed a non-Pro version of the ipad. I have mine synced on both my ipad and my iphone so I can access it and 'read' it wherever I am. And now most text books are available to download onto the ipad too. One ipad really can replace a diary, a lesson planning book, and all your text books.
Life could be great now as a teacher!
Welcome to the DTP site! My name is Kevin and here's a little bit about me.
My teaching career started in January 2000, after achieving an honours degree in Sport & Exercise Science and a PGCE in Physical Education. I worked in the same school for 18 years, a lovely and successful secondary school with great staff and students. I loved my time there and enjoyed the roles of Head of Year, Second in Department and Acting Head of Department on two occasions.
In May 2015, just as our department was getting ready to host that year's GCSE PE practical exams, I was given the news from the Deputy Head and Headteacher, that my Father had passed away peacefully but suddenly whilst at home. I promptly returned home to be with my family. After subsequently returning back to school to finish the academic year, the 'pull' to return home and be closer to Mum and the rest of my family grew.
At the end of the 2016/17 academic year, the desire to return home was stronger still, but I stuck to my original plan: to stay with my current tutor group until the end of their last year at the school (2018/19) and leave at the same time as them (I couldn't miss their prom). However, through no fault of anyone at the school, Physical Education curriculum time changed, notice of new GCSE courses was made (plus the inevitable changes), money in all schools got tighter due to external 'politics' and we went down to one school mini-bus!
Down A Mini-Bus!
That last piece of information is important! Prior to the 2017/18 academic year, I decided to relinquish my middle management position of Second in Department, purely to give myself a better work-life balance, get back to just teaching the subject that I love and to offer extra-curricular activities to one or two groups of students - in addition to my own groups - whom had been missing out (due to colleagues in middle management positions who, unfortunately, had little time to take some of the remaining groups).
In theory, that little bit of time I gained from not doing a management role should have benefitted those students mentioned above in extra-curricular... but now we come back to the mini-bus! With only one bus, it was impossible to enter and fulfil the amount of competitions and fixtures that we once did. So I found myself with fresh vigour and a wee bit more time to do more clubs and give more opportunities to our students... but I couldn't because of external politics forcing the school's leaders to make pretty tough decisions... on things such as losing a mini-bus!
If I hadn't have lost my Father previously and then had the 'pull' to return home and be nearer to my family, I'm sure I would have successfully surfed the waves of frustration with the ever changing teaching profession and simply got on with things. But the time seemed right for a change. It was instinctive really. I loved my job, I love teaching but the politics that change the teaching profession all too often, took their toll.
I finished at my school in December 2017 and have since become a landlord, worked for a family member's business, uploaded many of my teaching resources on to various online platforms and...
... linked up with Damian to develop our Digital Teacher Planner!
Information technology, including the world of gadgets, is great in order to make life that little bit easier - not to be lazy - but to make the process of doing a task simply more efficient and enjoyable. For years at school, I developed IT based templates and documents to help us within the department, including automated assessment tracking programs for Core and GCSE PE (learning how to properly use Microsoft Excel was great fun). I have continued to develop and improve those latter programs and they exist online today to help all schools teaching Physical Education!
I haven't long been a planner geek like Damian, but when he proposed his idea of developing a digital planner aimed at professionals, including teachers, I was immediately interested. In the process, I have learned several new programs and techniques and the journey so far has been extremely rewarding!
We take the Digital Teacher Planner from strength to strength. Our genuine and overriding aim really is to make teachers' lives easier by improving the efficiency of and simplifying their planning time.
I'm really pleased with the planner in its current form, but we know we have to keep on our toes and seek to regularly improve it as time passes and the expectations of student teachers, established teachers and assistant teachers changes.
It's a journey we are ready for and we'll do out very best to help as many colleagues in the teaching profession as we can... and in other professions too (watch this space for that one)!
Thank you ever so much if you have reached this part of my story - it means you have reached the end... for now!
Don't forget to let others know you have discovered us and the Digital Teacher Planner!
Please get in touch... we are here to help!