Assignment Stress

The success of finishing our first placement was short lived, as we all faced our first assignment hand in. Months ago we had all laughed at the thought of leaving the work to the last minute…who would do that? Who would be so stupid…us, of course. Despite coming into the library on several Saturdays, there simply wasn’t time to get on top of the assignment until the week before the deadline.

So, that’s how we found ourselves spending (what felt like) every minute in the library for 5 days straight, completing our presentations. An incredibly stressful week was however, made much better by fantastic company (you really do make amazing friends on a PGCE course) and we all successfully handed in our assignment summaries on time, at the end of the week. We then had the weekend to practice our presentations before giving them early the following week.

All seemed to go to plan, however it is so hard to tell if you’ve actually spent your 15 minutes giving a coherent academic presentation, or just mumbling and sweating like a complete idiot (I definitely did a little of both). Either way I was relieved to have it over with.

The rest of the week was a strange mixture of days off (thank goodness), a football training day, and a visit to the school we’ll be working with for enrichment week.

Being back in the swing of university life was a strange adjustment, but its been fantastic. I have a suspicion that time is will fly by though, which is a horrible thought. After easter its time for our final placement, and then the end of the course. Being qualified will be such an achievement, but I’ll miss our seminars, workshops and all the time spent panicking in the library. A bitter sweet realisation has hit that the end will reach us all too soon.

Sadness aside, what can I learn from these two weeks? Sometimes all the organisation in the world can’t prevent you from doing things last minute. It seems to just be the nature of the job.

 

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Placement WKS 9, 10 & 11: The End

I’ve been an absolutely useless blogger these past 3 weeks. I can’t express how busy I’ve been, but now that this placement has finished I can finally give an update on how it ended. Hooray!

So, rather then go into too much detail and have this be extremely long, here are a few key moments from the end of my first placement…

  • I had my final meeting with my visiting tutor. She gave me an outstanding for that lesson and graded me good overall. I was completely thrilled.
  • I FINALLY finished evidencing…although I didn’t manage to tie all the loose ends. I have plenty for this placement, but I have definitely learnt that there will always be more I could/should be doing.
  • I taught a series of lessons on rapping. I’ll let you think about how that may have gone…
  • I worked until 11pm every night, and was in work before 8am every morning (and my to list was NEVER finished)
  • I taught my first PE lesson. This terrified me but I did it!
  • I dyed my hair, much to the excitement of the year 5’s “Can you dye it blue before the end of term Miss?!”
  • I had a ferocious cough that resulted in one sick day and one day of teaching through embarrassing coughing fits.
  • I sat in on parents evening and learnt that it really isn’t all that scary…if you’re prepared.
  • I started to feel like I finally understand the paperwork that I have been completing for this placement…so I’m now confident that placement 2 will be better and more organised.
  • I bought a baby giant african land snail. I’m going to grow him up into a fantastic pet for my future classroom.
  • I agreed with my mentor that I need to work on differentiation in my lessons, particularly for EAL children, and teaching Maths. My subject knowledge is strong (I didn’t believe it either, but apparently so) but I struggle with the pedagogy.
  • And finally… I said goodbye to 30 fantastic young people who I will truly miss. My class were (and still are) hilarious, extremely intelligent and so inquisitive. I feel very lucky to have taught all of them…I think I may be a KS2 teacher 🙂

I finished this placement with a really clear understanding of where I am and how I need to progress now, which is a fantastic feeling. I feel like I have progressed so quickly during these last 12 weeks that often my understanding of what I needed to do was more developed than my ability to put that into practice. This just makes me more excited for my next placement where I can get on top of everything quicker, and spend more time working on those standards that I’m lacking in. In general though I’m thrilled I came away with a solid “good” throughout my practice. I think that’s a great place to be in now, and I can work from that towards an outstanding in my second placement (hopefully)

This weekend I’m enjoying some romance with my other half (who hasn’t really seen me properly for weeks) and I’m getting back into the swing of uni work. I have about a week and a half to finish my first assignment. I had the best intentions of doing this early, but placement took over and now I am facing a week of living in the library.

So around 5 months into my PGCE, things are going well! So far so good. Now to pass this assignment, and apply for a job…

Katie

Placement Week Two

Week two has ended and week has three begun (but we’ll ignore that and pretend I’m on top of my updates!) When people say this year flies by they aren’t exaggerating. Next week we actually have two days in uni talking about applying for jobs. I still feel like I’m starting out with no clue what I’m doing…who would want to give me a teaching job!?

Anyway, I’ve now settled into my school and have fallen in love with my class. The days are passing smoothly, and I’m starting to feel at ease in our classroom. I’m still terrified that I’m not doing enough paperwork, or haven’t started collecting enough evidence yet, but this week has definitely been easier. It will all come together and I know enough for right now. I may not know everything, but that’s fine. 

The big news this week was that I taught my first lesson on placement. I made it clear to my mentor that behaviour leadership was a worry to me, having spent very little time with upper KS2 (I was sure they would walk all over me). Because of these worries my mentor let me teach a lesson using her planning, so that all I had to focus on was the delivery and behaviour. I knew this was a brilliant idea, but I was terrified. The friday before I’d led a whole class spelling test and wasn’t prepared for the low level disruption across the room. I made silly mistakes like talking over the class, and not waiting until they were silent before continuing.

My mentor gave me some tips before hand and I psyched myself up like I was going into battle…whatever happened I would not accept being ignored or spoken over. I have great respect for everyone in the class, but I would demand the same in return. 

The lesson came (it was on hieroglyphics) and thankfully the class listened. They stopped talking when I tried to get their attention, they had lots to say when I asked questions and they stayed on task. I was thrilled. I even experienced the “shhhhhh she’s waiting for us!” panic moment when the class start to notice you’re standing there waiting silently for their attention…less is definitely more with class control! 

We did have a pencil throwing incident, and I had to move 2 children to different seats but that is to be expected. They had a new teacher and they’re only human. What’s important is that I dealt with it. 

The feedback my mentor gave me left me feeling fantastic and I now have very manageable targets to tackle next time I plan, so I know I’ll only continue to get better. 

This week won’t be so easy as It’s my first assessed week and I’ll be teaching 3 whole class lessons. Once again the fear is setting in, but after the triumph I’ve had, I’m feeling much more positive.

Leading by Example

One of my biggest classroom fears has always been behaviour leadership and management. I’m a self confessed push over at times, and have even been told by a year 6 student in the past that “if you’re going to have a class of your own, then you can’t be so nice!”. That’s not to say that classrooms descend into anarchy in my presence, but I certainly know that my current behaviour skills leave a lot to be desired.

We’ve now had our seminar on behaviour leadership and thankfully I already feel much better. We’ve been given some very useful advice, tackled misconceptions about shouting and tried our hand at responding to given scenarios. I now feel like I have an armoury of top behaviour leaderships tips that I can pull out on placement…and will hopefully work!

  • A calm voice is often more effective (and more chilling) then a loud one. Children are likely to hear shouting at home. Don’t add to that!
  • Pick your battles! Being in control doesn’t mean that you squash every ounce of negative behaviour in your classroom. Sometimes an all guns blazing approach just creates more problems. Get to know your pupils and asses whether something is worth dealing with.
  • Have respect for your pupils. Starting with a trusting relationship will show them you care and don’t assume the worst in them. This will (hopefully) encourage a positive relationship between yourself and your pupils and in turn create a better classroom atmosphere.
  • Never stop listening. Before allowing low level disruptions to annoy you, think about why that child may be behaving in that way.
  • Give them a choice. We’ve all heard of those ultimatums disguised as choices “do this or else you’ll miss your break time. It’s your choice!” Well that is not a good way to deal with an issue. It’s negative, aggressive and leaves you with no other options if they still refuse. Give your pupils a real choice if they feel they can’t work in their current situation. Allow them to read a book in another class or move seats. Sometimes being listened to and understood is all they need.
  • Be consistent. If you allow children to call out one minute and then not the next you cannot expect consistent behaviour from them. Set clear expectations and stick to them from the get go.

I know it’s easier to write these ideas down then it is to actually put them into practice, but everyone has to start somewhere! I now have one week left until I start my first placement. One week does not feel like enough time at all, but placement is coming whether I’m ready or not!

Wish me luck.

Katie

 

My future self

Until this point everything has felt manageable. I’d even go as far to say easier then I anticipated, or was warned at least. That was until this week. The wall is now in sight and we are all aware of its inevitability. The only way I know to cope with the mountain of work we are now facing is to remember that it has been done before. I’m sure countless people have had this same feeling of dread and have come out the other side. One week at time is definitely the only way we’ll get through!

Yesterday began with that feeling of being overwhelmed. I was at a point where I didn’t really know if I was ahead or behind with my work anymore. That was until I had a tutorial. We were all talking about our coping strategies, how we were feeling…you know how it works. Then one person chimed in with such an insightful way to look at things. She said…

“I’m not stressed because I know my future self will deal”.

Sometimes you hear something that just turns your whole way of thinking on it’s head. I don’t think I give my future self enough credit because I spend my time planning for every eventuality and making sure I’m ahead. I’m not sure what I think will happen or what disaster I’m planning to avoid, but I’m certainly not a “It will be alright on the night” kind of person. But, this did put my stress into perspective. I will deal too. If my past self is anything to go by, my future self will be able to tackle whatever is thrown at her.

This realisation doesn’t mean that I’ll be slacking because my future self will pick up the pieces at some point. I still need to continue doing what I’m doing and making sure everything is put in place for the future, but I don’t need to know how I’ll achieve everything. I don’t need to know how one day I’ll tackle organising a Christmas play, or plan for every individual in my class, or even how I’ll cope with that one child who will inevitably test my patience and behaviour leadership skills beyond belief. My future self will just deal with it.

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Katie

 

Phonics Week

Monday

Today we were in Year 1, with a teacher who was an NQT last year. It’s always inspiring to meet people that have recently  completed the challenges I have in front of me…it is possible! She answered any questions we had and explained how she teaches phonics, when they do their sessions and what phonics schemes she uses. After a very daunting phonics lecture last week it was so reassuring to hear that we won’t ever need to tell the children what a triphthong is (don’t ask).

She has one pupil in her class who is Romanian, and doesn’t yet speak any english. I immediately felt for this little girl who looked completely lost, despite the efforts of her pupils and teachers. The teacher was given no extra support for her, so was making do as best as she could. To make matters worse, where she is from she wouldn’t have started school until she was 7. Because of this the little girl was not only unable to speak the English, but was also not able to do things that we may expect a children of 5 to do. I’ve been asking myself what I would do if this were my class? Quite frankly, I have no idea, and that terrifies me. I need to have something in place in case I every have an EAL pupil in my class. I felt awful not being able to communicate with her, and I hope it isn’t long before she feels at home here.

Tuesday

Today was jam packed with intervention after intervention. We got to see lots of small phonics lessons and I’m starting to understand the pace now. The lessons are short and the pace is quick with lost lots of small activities packed in. We’ve also learnt a little bit more about the phases today. We have already covered this in seminars, but seeing it all in schools makes it much more relevant to us.

I think I need to start collecting phonics resources and games to build up my own phonics bible, complete with information about the phases. All the teachers and TAs I’ve seen so far have been prepared and inventive with their resources.

Also today I’ve found out that I’ll be doing my first main placement at this school with year 5! I am thrilled. I feel extremely lucky to have already visited the school and started to learnt the layout and meet the staff, this should make for a much easier first day with my main placement rolls around.

Wednesday

Today was much the same as yesterday, but that’s not a bad thing. I’m still enjoying seeing the small sessions and noting the format and structure. The big revelation today was that we will be teaching our own phonics session tomorrow or Friday. I had seen this on our timetable, but had assumed that at this stage in our training we’d be given the planning…nope! We will be revisiting the learning from the sessions on Monday, Tuesday and today, so we’ll be consolidating work done phonemes/graphemes J V and W. Thankfully we do have something to go on. I’m not sure I could cope with planning and delivering something from scratch at this stage.

20 minutes is suddenly seeming like a very long time! Quite frankly I’m terrified, but I’m quite pleased that I’m being forced to dive head first into teaching early on. The sooner the better. I’ve got a long way to go this year, so I’ve got no time to hang around.

Wish me luck!

Thursday

Today I found out that I will be doing my teaching tomorrow (one more day to prepare hooray!) Therefor the person I am on placement with had her turn to teach today. It is always fantastic seeing other people teach, and proves a great time to magpie ideas and reflect. It does make me more nervous about my session though. Seeing a different approach to something can make you question yourself, but I know that I just need to give my plan a go and see what happens.

We also got to have a rummage around in the phonics resources today. Wow! Box after box of different ideas to adapt and use in our practice. Here are a few things we liked:

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One thing that has become clear is that some of the simplest resources are the most useful (i.e. dice, or foam letters). It’s all about the creativity of the teacher!

We finished today by asking the English Subject Lead at the school a few questions. She raised a very interesting point about how spelling is taught in schools today. She has found that a large portion of children she is teaching struggle with spelling due to the local accent, and poor vocabulary. Children are simply having to spell words that they haven’t used before, or cannot sound out due to their pronunciation. This issue has definitely made me question whether rote learning is best when it comes to spelling, or is does this fail to provide children with the tools to tackle unfamiliar words in the future?

Friday

The children were all incredibly hyped up today as it is the last day of half term, and was non uniform day. What a good day to teach my first phonics lesson. All day I was very nervous but clung to the knowledge that even if this lesson failed completely, at least it would be a good learning experience!

I decided to keep the session simple and model what I had seen teachers do, rather then bring in too many creative ideas. I wanted to get the teaching part of it right, and make sure I was hitting the learning objective, rather then worry about making my session exciting and engaging…hopefully my delivery would achieve engagement (that was the plan anyway).

So I started my asking the children to help me remember what phonemes they had been looking at this week. We practiced the pronunciation with the children copying me, and then practiced our air writing. We wrote on the ceiling, floor, on our hands and on our partners shoulder. This was something I had seen done in another school and was keen to try it out myself. The children seemed very engaged by it, and especially liked the frantic rubbing out of the imaginary letters before the head teacher came (something else I had seen done). However I don’t think I’ve got enough experience yet to know if air writing actually benefits children’s handwriting.

I then followed this by a game of trash and treasure words, telling the children I was going to try and catch them out. I segmented the word and had the children blend it, before asking them to tell me whether it was an alien/trash word and there for needed to be placed in our bin, or a treasure word. The children were very good at this, and in hindsight I think I could have challenged the class more. However, it’s difficult to do this without the prior knowledge of the class, or much experience.

Finally I had the children write their own sentence  on their whiteboards, using the treasure words we had found. I modelled a sentence on the board, purposefully making a mistake (no capital letter) allowing the children to pull me up on it. This was something I watched the class teacher do throughout the week and it seemed like a fantastic idea of encouraging children to question what they see, and to understand that our writing is always a work in progress that we can check and improve. I was hoping my sentence writing with them was going to be my way of challenging my higher attainers, however I think I could have done this better by setting some of them the challenge of using a connective/time connective.

Overall I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself. It wasn’t ground breaking but I planned it, stood up and delivered it and managed to get what I had wanted from the class. I think for a first attempt that is something to be proud of 🙂

 

Planning to Fail?

After weeks of learning about theory, creative ideas and subject knowledge we can avoid it no longer…it’s time for lesson planning. As daunting as this seemed, I was looking forward to hopefully coming away feeling like this was something I could do. Lesson planning is such a large part of teaching (and a very important part) that I wanted to feel as though I could tackle it (maybe). After this week I certainly have an all new respect for teachers. I don’t think non-teachers fully understand what goes into planning, especially for a trainee when you need to plan much more thoroughly.

We were all given the book ‘Something Else’ by Kathryn Cave, and asked in pairs to plan a PHSE lesson for the age group of our choice. Freedom is a wonderful thing, but when you are a nervous, inexperienced PGCE student it’s terrifying. Although this seemed like a simple book at first, there are actually so many different angles you could use for a lesson. We had to ensure we didn’t over complicate our plan by trying to include more then one key idea.

After much deliberation we decided to plan an upper KS2 lesson, focussing on cultural diversity. This would be the first in a series of lessons and we would start by looking at the differences in what we eat, compared to another country. The two main characters in the book look very different and eat different lunches, so we thought this would be a nice link. In our minds it just made sense that the book would be read at the start of the lesson, providing a platform for discussion around the topic and leading into the activities. It wasn’t until our tutor questioned whether having the book at the beginning of the lesson actually brought anything to it that we realised it really didn’t.

We rearranged our plan so that the book could be read at the end, allowing the class to come together and use their knowledge learnt to question what the animals may have been eating for lunch, because of their differences in appearance. Instead we started with a hook to grab the children’s attention. We would begin with 3 brown paper bags (just like the lunch bags in the story) and ask the children to guess what’s inside, before revealing 3 different food items. They children would use their senses to inspect the new foods, before we revealed that these were all breakfast food. Hopefully (allergies permitting) they could even taste the foods to help them compare the experience to their own breakfast.

We decided the bulk of our lesson would then be the children researching the typical meals of a country in pairs. Depending on the class we could keep this quite structured by giving them a country, or we could allow them to choose their own. This research could then be used to create work in the next lesson (i.e a poster comparing the differences between our food and the food in France).

This lesson plan is still a long way off being ‘done’, if there is such a thing at this stage. My partner and I will be coming together to look at where we can add in assessment throughout, and think about how we will handle the transition times during the lesson (moving from one activity to another). However for a first go we felt pretty proud. It certainly isn’t the best, but it links with the book and all ties in together fairly logically. Definitely a mini success.

Considering this took us the best part of a day, lesson planning is still a very daunting prospect. I’m trying to believe the tutors when they tell us that it will get easier, but right now that feels like a long way off. I think our uncertainty means we over question everything, resulting in it taking twice as long.

Next week we’re all back in school for a week looking at phonics learning!

Katie