What’s next?

Thursday marked the end of my practical teaching placement, and though I was sad to leave my wonderful classes and the friendly staff, I can’t help being excited about what comes next.

After learning so much from the students I taught, and developing such good relationships with them, I have come away with the sense that I am so lucky to have found something I love doing. The rewards of teaching are immeasurable, every day I have countless stories, have laughed many many times, and am guaranteed to have learnt something about knowledge, the students, learning and teaching, or even myself.

I am thrilled to bits to be moving to a rural school, and have my fingers crossed that they will allow me to develop some of the skills I have been “hazed” into, namely technology in the classroom and Project based learning.

There is part of me which is chomping at the bit, raring to go, asking, What’s the next challenge?


How can we teach them all they need to learn?

I am currently struggling as I plan my lessons for a Yr 9 Shakespeare unit. I feel as though there is no possible way to cram all that the students need to know (and would want to know) into 5 weeks. I could spend a year on this unit alone!

This has made me realise that one of the skills I personally need to work on in my teaching is selecting the most important material and most important skills and accept that they may not get the whole picture. Not ideal, but when you see a class only 4 times a week, there just isn’t enough time to analyse every sonnet, to profile every character and to understand every dramatic technique. Now that I’ve accepted that, all I have to do is agonise over WHICH sonnet, WHICH character, WHICH technique…. Sigh!

Living in the dark ages

Not that I doubt the truth of what she says, but I couldn’t believe so many people could be opposed to the brilliant work bhewes (@BiancaH80) is doing with PBL in her classroom.

I knew it wasn’t an approach which other staff members were eagerly taking up at her school, but I just honestly couldn’t see any valid reasons for not implementing more student centred styles of learning in the classroom. Except for the fact that it might involve more work for those teachers who are used to just standing out the front dictating notes to their class.

And then I experienced some of those negative vibes firsthand.

Someone associated with the university I am completing my preservice training at is coming to supervise a lesson of mine next week. In her instructions to me, she advised me that I needed to make sure I was “actually teaching”. When I enquired as to what she meant by this, she said, that she wanted to see me teaching them something, not just “setting them a task and walking around helping them”.

I then explained to her that my master teachers classes were run according to PBL. The supervisor dropped the second bombshell, “what’s PBL?” When told it was a more student centred approach to knowledge, involving students in inquiry and giving them freedom to determine the direction of their own learning, she made a noise which sounded like a stifled groan.

Again, she reinforced that I was to be doing actual teaching the day she came (as opposed to what I usually do, which is clearly NOT actual teaching).

I saw red when I got off the phone. How DARE the university relentlessly shovel the phrase “student centred” down our throats, and then completely chicken out when it comes time to endorse it in practice?

As someone who is yet to even start a career in teaching, I am already astounded by the politics which plague the profession. The way any form of change is resisted is ludicrous, especially when this change is so obviously beneficial for student development of all the skills we apparently value so highly.

I can only imagine the enormity of the battle ahead, and completely admire those pioneers who have gone, or as in the case of many of you, continue to go, before me in the challenge of chalk and talk.

Preservice teachers: unprepared? Unrealistic expectations?…

For those who started following this blog, you may have shared the enthusiasm I first felt about writing it. Since then I have felt an immense amount of guilt about not updating it as regularly as I had hoped, and thus not using it as thre reflective journal as I had first hoped it would be.

In truth, I now spend every waking moment (and even some sleeping moments) in education world. I have decided that doing a uni load of 6 subjects plus a 2 day a week practical placement in one semester is not a wise move. Now being down to my final two university assessments, I now actually have time to reflect upon what I have been learning over the last five or so weeks, beginning with the realisation of just how unrealistic the expectations of pre service teachers about entering the profession actually are.

I gave up a legal career for a teaching career, with one of the considerations being that it was simply impossible for me to maintain the workload and work hours expected of a lawyer. 16 hour days just weren’t for me. The reaction I faced from many people when I told them about the career change I was making was one of shock. Many people were convinced that teaching was a much better “lifestyle”.

I would now like to dispel that myth. The exposure I have had to the teachers I’m working with over the last 5 weeks has taught me that teaching is all consuming. These people work damn hard for their students before school, during school, after school, late into the night and on weekends. So if you are looking for a work life balance, this probably isn’t the career for you.

Not that this is a problem for me, i really enjoy the satisfaction of putting together a lesson students enjoy or take something away from, and I’ve always been the person who pushes myself to go that extra mile. And I happen to be a geek, who thoroughly enjoys the pursuit of knowledge for it’s own sake.

What I do have an issue with, however, is the way in which teaching is “sold” as a career choice to younger people. Universities and teaching bodies promote it as a viable option for those who need work life balance, and who are after a workload which will allow them to put their family first. Unfortunately, this picture of teaching is so far removed from how involved and consumed in their teaching the good teachers are, that it could be either setting us pre service teachers up to fail (hence the high drop out rate within the first 3 years) or promoting a standard of teaching which isn’t consummate with the way in which students deserve to be taught. If we were a little more realistic in the workload which a good teacher will take on, the hours they will dedicate to lesson planning, assessment planning and marking, and unit programming, perhaps we would ensure the teaching profession attracts only those who are willing to take on this workload.

Maybe then people would stop telling me that I chose the right profession “because I get to knock off at 3:00”. If only they knew….

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.