A hectic weekend

Starting the weekend without my usual 2 hour dog walk, coffee and sonoma toast routine really threw me Saturday morning. I was actually less productive in the time I set aside to get started on assignments and prac work than I would have been had I ventured out. I blame Twitter.

Yes I have finally joined the alternate universe which is Twitter. And now I am an addict. I completely blame my master teacher for introducing me to all these fantastic ways of connecting with people (edmodo, blogging, twitter), and opening up a world of opportunity to connect my classroom with classrooms all over the world (quite exciting really!). When I say ‘blame’ of course I mean ‘thank’.

So now, I spent the weekend procrastinating on these web tools instead of completing a legal studies assignment (which is frankly quite boring) and starting an English assessment.

After completing my first worksheets and sending them off to my master teacher for feedback, I was surprised that I didn’t get told to start again. Only a few things needed editing! Sigh of relief. Got that sorted first thing on Monday morning via a whispered conversation during a yr 11 exam. Teacher skill-using time wisely: tick!

Monday was interesting, I observed “circle time” with yr 9-such a miracle that you can get 30 kids sitting on the floor listening intently to their peers experiences and sharing their own. Definitely a great way to introduce a PBL focus unit!

We also decided to turn the new PBL units into a game, with teams, leaderboards and prizes to motivate the students to complete individual and group tasks. A great way to utilise all the masculine energy we have in the classroom!

I was also able to observe a different style of teaching, one which was based around yelling, issuing confusing instructions, not being enthusiastic about the work and not listening to the students. Needless to say, this teacher is quite unpopular with the kids. It really demonstrated to me the importance of laying down the ground rules with students and ensuring students understand them before issuing punishments; these students were genuinely confused about what they were supposed to be doing, why they had been given detention, and most of all they felt like they had been jipped. I felt really sympathetic; how could they concentrate on learning when they wanted a question answered but the teacher wouldn’t listen to them.

Reading a novel aloud in class-sounds relatively simple. But the teacher managed to make it ultra boring. No expression, no voice projection, no varying of her tone, pitch or volume. She tried to get other students to read, but no one showed any interest-and why would they when her attitude indicated it was the most boring thing in the world. I almost fell asleep. When I read Animal Farm to the yr 9 students later that day, I paid very close attention to the way I used my voice. I spoke in an animated way, and even used a distinguished mock-English voice in Major’s speech. And I didn’t even wuss out on the song!

I think what I learnt NOT to do today was just as valuable as the tips I found useful to incorporate into my own practice. Am slightly anxious as Thursday approaches-my first lesson! Thankfully it is with yr 11-a good class for the most part. No doubt Thursday night’s blog will offer a chance to reflect upon the experience.


Day Two

Day two of my practical placement saw me supervising NAPLAN, my first experience of an unmotivated year 10 class, and the sharing of many exciting plans for the next term of teaching. 

After witnessing not one but two car accidents on the way to school in the morning (bad omen anyone?) I encountered George Orwell’s essays at 7:30am (a nice dose of sarcasm for breakfast!) and then was summoned to NAPLAN supervision. While the other teachers busied themselves with collecting the right papers in the right order, I was able to meet my fellow prac student, who has fewer days and a different Master teacher. She seemed very timid and quiet-perhaps this was what I was supposed to be like? And instead I had just marched on into the school and started talking to everyone in the staffroom. Oops!

Before lunch, my Master teacher had a delightful year 10 class which I observed. They were mildly interested in the book they were reading (The Catcher in the Rye), even if only to criticise all the swearing, but none of them had completed (or even started!) their homework. Whilst supervising them during lunch time (while they were doing their homework detention style), I encountered my first behavioural issue. After talking about it in the staffroom later, I discovered that the best strategy was to placate the student lest he start throwing things at me. Gulp!

All in all though, it was another positive day! It gave rise to many goals and ideas to work on for PBL units throughout Terms 2 and 3. As a result, I suggested collaboration with some of my university colleagues and networks from previous studies-an idea which my Education Lecturer was absolutely thrilled with! 

And so, this weekend will involve much preparation and agonising over my first lessons to be taught to year 9 and year 11 on Thursday. Wait with bated breath!

On your marks, get set…..

Day One of blogging!

I have decided to start blogging to map my journey from student to teacher, and also to record many of the things I learn during my practical experience for others to share.It is, after all, an experience which us student teachers don’t really get the chance to debrief about. Hopefully many of the experienced teachers out there who read this will also be able to contribute to this blog, offer advice or even take some of the ideas for your own classroom use.  It is the perfect platform on which to share resources with other teachers and student teachers, and perhaps it will motivate some of you to start sharing your resources online with those across the world.

As someone who has been at university for what feels like forever, I was of course chomping at the bit to get started on my practical experience in a school. After some considerable delay (I’m sure many of you share my frustration with university administration systems!!) one of the most efficient, dedicated and motivated people I have ever met introduced me to another extremely efficient, dedicated and motivated person in the form of my practical teacher, bhewes (some of you may know her blog).

My first contact with my practical teacher sent me into a whirlwind of excitement and sheer unadulterated panic. Her organisation was out of this world; before the day was over she had allocated me classes, she had given me a run down of the units of work each of her classes was teaching, she had introduced me to something called PBL, directed me to her blog – and all via one email. And she had managed to sound chirpy about having a student teacher practically forced upon her!

Monday morning found me making my way to my first class at 7:30am, and being greeted by Yr 11 students who were surprising alert for that hour of the morning. I was thrilled at the choice of text the class (soon to be my class!) as it was based upon a case I had previously studied in a law degree, and involves a (tragically realistic) view of humanity which sends shivers down my spine. Overall, I felt blessed to have been allocated such an enthusiastic class; they worked well together as a unit and seemed seriously engaged by the text and in the task.

I was introduced to ‘edmodo’ (fantastic teaching tool!!!) which I can already see making my teaching life incredibly less stressful by being able to organise assessment, worksheet, monitor student participation and incorporate technology into the classroom (those of you out there who aren’t on it-organise it!), and was taken on a tour of the school grounds. The tour of the school brought back memories of my old high school, which really impressed upon me the vision the Wyndam scheme had for high school students. The staff I met on my first day were lovely-and even agreed to put up with me observing the behavioural intervention programs.

The encounter with my future year 9 class did not go so swimmingly though. Off task behaviour was rife; students were procrastinating, complaining and even zoning out. I was partially relieved when I saw that my teacher was also stressed about the situation, as I just couldn’t conceive of myself teaching these poor kids anything if they couldn’t even concentrate on an engaging task which was modelled and scaffolded appropriately.

After such a jam-packed day, I went home at a loose end: how could I ever match my master teacher’s teaching? I was so grateful I had been given such a fantastic role model, but the PBL style of teaching was so radically different to anything I had witnessed before, including on previous practical experiences, that I coundn’t picture myself mastering it. This feeling of complete inadequacy was compounded the next day when I went to uni and discovered I had been awarded a Credit for an assignment I worked tirelessly on (I am strictly a HD student).

Yesterday when I received an email from my master teacher though, my spirits perked up immediately. She had used a resource I recommended (so surely my suggestion couldn’t have been that hopeless!) and she directed me to her blog where I witnessed her also at a loss as to what to do with the Year 9 class. Thank god! She assured me that she was restructing the yr 9 unit programs and perhaps even reshuffling the classes to suit a PBL style which would work with the students, and counselled me not to worry. Exhale.

My next day at the school is tomorrow (another observation day), so stay tuned for the next post.