It feels like only yesterday I was writing to you about this year's classroom. Blink, and the first term is over! It's been a term of all kinds of progress, both for myself and the children! Our school has recently moved to using the Cornerstones products: a cross curricular, thematic approach built around exciting topics. They give lesson suggestions, supplementary texts that could be included, all sorts! It's safe to say that our team have really enjoyed engaging with our first topic in Year 6 - Darwin's Delights! We've applied so many of our skills to different contexts and we are so pleased with the children's start to the year!
DT, Art, great links with our Science topic, Geography and a few History skills too. I wanted to share their work so far this year. It is my intention to share their learning each term. Almost like an online moderation exercise. All feedback is welcome!
We've tracked Darwin's journey, written in role from the HMS Beagle, explored the Galapagos, sketched the tortoises... Alongside the topic, we read Sky Hawk by Gill Lewis. The text inspired much of our writing. I'll share our English and Maths books in a couple of weeks too if you like?
Looking back now, the mistakes were clear:
All considered, I'm so pleased it happened. It was a necessary step in my journey that I most certainly learnt from. All mistakes are.
When browsing through various feeds that we so happily gorge on, likely torturing ourselves, please remember that it might not be all you see. They too would have had a bad day, a terrible lesson. Their airy-fairy quotes and wise tweets may have got a tonne of likes, but they still have a pile of marking they're ignoring, or are nervous about a meeting tomorrow.
We all have imperfections.
Just this week, undeniably the prompt for this post, I came to the haunting realisation that I was trying to cover too much, too soon. For those in the know, I've gone to Year 6, from Year 5. It's a blessing and a curse, because you're aware of the exact coverage of the previous year: often a topic of contention for the new teacher. However, it became clear to both my Year Partner and I, that we have expected far too much in the first two and a half weeks of our time together. An extensive list of Success Criteria for our first pieces of writing, should have at least been revision on the itemised features first, before any expected application. I fear I've skimmed some important steps. I actually sat my class down to apologise for the pace at which we have been moving, finally taking note of their panicked expressions. This isn't to say, however, that they haven't risen to the challenges set. I still believe in high expectations, and have been exceptionally proud of their efforts. It was a lapse in judgement as I moved away from my fundamental beliefs around teaching in a stepwise, specific manner to ensure understanding over an obsession with coverage. Process over performance always.
The fourth year of teachmrn.com is upon us, so it's time to show you my classroom! Due to some back end programming, last year's post never reached you, but you can catch the previous years here and here.
The finished product (although is a classroom EVER really complete?) is below. But one question remains, how long will the desk stay tidy?
Delivering my recent lectures has cast me down a long memory lane, only this time I was standing on the opposite side of the lectern, trying not to play with the laser on the back of the remote. Before I begin, thank you for the kind faces, well-timed laughs and generous feedback, I really enjoyed speaking with you and I'm excited to do it again soon. If you're interested in hearing anymore, get in contact!
I wanted to share my top five tips for surviving school-based placement.
In the first instance, before I even begin, you need to know we are a possessive breed, and giving up our class to you isn't easy. These 5 pointers, are written from experience with both perspectives; as a student teacher, and a class teacher. Get ready...
This is the time to learn. You will likely hear (and if you haven't, consider yourself now TOLD) there is a frequent disconnect between training and practice. This isn't necessarily a fault, but it can lead to difficulties. Use everything you have learnt while at university and try out new things after a discussion with the class teacher. You will always be trialing something anyway (I maintain the view that if there was a perfect way to teach, someone would have found it by now), so use this to your benefit.
Bear in mind that, upon your departure, the class are still the responsibility of the teacher, and we have ambitious goals to achieve. All of our work up until your arrival is in place to get them there. With your presence, work hard to aid the teacher with the children's journey. You are part of it! Talk about planning, bounce ideas, take in as much as you can. Deal with the fact that you'll be busy. During my own placements, I was teaching an increasing percentage of the timetable (with all the pro-formas and reflections you could imagine) working a part-time job to help pay for my studies, completing the research and writing the relevant assignments, while also trying to be social and sleep. Some students are parents, carers, all sorts; it's a busy time, but put the work in and you'll be golden.
3. Be seen
From experience, this is something I found difficult. One of my placements was in a Year One class, where the teacher simply told me to 'work harder.' The trigger for this was the revamp of the role-play area. I was caught in this strange place between not wanting to step on people's toes, but also wanting to succeed. Her comment crushed me, and is largely the fire that burns inside me now. The compromise that I would suggest to you? Suggest and offer. Then you can't say you didn't try.
Get ready for the most wayward comment you might ever read; some feedback is useless. But you should still listen to it. There will be people you meet during training, and indeed your entire career, who you should feel you should listen to - either due to their status or professional standing - but understand now that the best feedback can come from a wide range of places. Listen to it all, critically. Discuss with those close to you, and decide what needs acting on.
Realise that, although you won't feel like it, you have the most to offer. We have been in this game a long time and we have the (often misused) advantage of experience on our side. However, that can often serve as a blind spot. We are either too wrapped up in our own opinions or too busy to be aware of a really good strategy. Fresh out of training, I am counting on YOU to let me know of something great I'm missing. I promise I'll do the same for you too.
Best of luck! I'm so grateful for you taking on teacher training. We need you!
Certainly when I was at school, I had burning questions for my teachers. So, for this reason, I gave my students the chance to do the same. They were surprisingly brave in their demands; you can catch up on Part One HERE, and Part Two HERE.
1. Set the standard.
While this will extend outside of the first week, remember that you never get this first week back. It's important that you rehearse routines, and I mean that in the most literal sense. Get up, show them where you want them to go, and repeat. The likelihood is that they'll be performing many of these routines on a daily basis, and you don't want to keep explaining it.
2. Find the standard.
Yes, you'll have been given some kind of data towards the end of last year about the class being sent your way. But it's important to find out what your starting point is for the year. I've learnt to never assume, and I've discovered the importance of creating common ground, even when it comes to the basics. I think there's great power in being able to refer to 'the lesson you taught them that thing', even if it's supposed to have been done before.
3. Be flexible.
On one hand, there's a safety in over-planning the first few days, it means that there's always something to do. But sticking too rigidly to what you assumed was possible, means you end up with 4 incomplete projects, rather than 2 or 3 suitably crafted products. Be prepared to change what you had envisaged - and don't forget to take time to talk with your students.
4. Be equal.
Not only is this a great time to set standards and routines with your class, it's also a good time to do it with yourself. Decide, when possible, what you'll get done and when. Overtime, you'll learn to prioritise, and it all takes experimentation. Consider at what points in the week you need certain books, and match that with when you're going to mark them. Additionally, think about the order in which you plan your lessons; preparation takes time, and there are only so many hours in the day.
5. Don't hide.
It was a few days into my NQT year, during a lunchtime, when I vividly remember eating at one of the children's desks. Alone. Likely feeling overwhelmed, or too scared of the staffroom. A couple of teachers came looking for me, and told me to stop being so ridiculous. Of course, it's different if I had been using that time productively - but I wasn't. Your colleagues are important, the only ones that really know what your day is like. Take time to talk - doesn't have to be lunchtime - and get to know one another. It's a family.