Settling in a new class – Day 1 of term

Hello stranger!

I won’t apologise for the lack of posts, because quite frankly my life has been uneventful and peaceful with nothing to report. Some times no news is good news, and summer holidays definitely conform to that rule! I have just over one week left before I start my PGCE. ONE WEEK PEOPLE! This has started to terrify me slightly. I’ve been laminating things, buying textbooks and de-cluttering to try and feel as prepared as possible (basically bumbling around, feeling productive but achieving nothing). This has not lessened the stress. The horror stories have started to get to me, and planning an engagement party, looking at flats to buy and thinking about wedding colour schemes isn’t generally the best use of my time during the most hectic year of my life…but hey, I like a challenge.

Anyway, I have done something amazing today. I have conquered what has so far been my biggest teaching fear. I cannot express how much I love teaching, but all along I have had this niggling terror in the back of my mind that one day (hopefully exactly a year from now) I will be left with 30 children I do not know, and all the parents will smile as they wave goodbye and shut the door on me. Leaving me with no where to hide and 30 little faces staring at me. We will have no routine, I will know few names, and I will have to figure out what to do. Ladies and gentlemen I give you the first day dismay. The rest of the school year I think I can grow to manage, even thrive within, but this first day baffles and concerns me. Whats more, I realised a few months ago that most trainees never experience ‘first days’, other then those post-PGCE. By then it would be too late. I did not want to figure out how to settle in a new class on the job. I needed to learn. I needed to feel prepared.

My Plan

To make sure this fear was abolished as quickly as possible, I decided to volunteer at my old place of work for the first few days of term. What a stroke of genius this was! I am no longer a TA there, but who is going to turn down a volunteer? Today was that day, and it felt amazing. The fear has been lifted and I can assure you that it all seems much simpler then I was envisioning in my head.

I shadowed a teacher today who has a few years teaching experience under his belt, and watched as his new year 3’s became settled into their classroom. It was very exciting as I TA’ed this class back during last term when they were just teeny year 2s. So I thought I would document what I have learnt, so that when I have to deal with a brand new class I can reflect on what I’ve witnessed, and hopefully survive the first day!

He said he was going to take a friendly approach to day one, as some of them might be nervous. I had heard lots of jokes about not smiling until christmas, but I was glad this doesn’t seem to ring true. He welcomed his class at the door and directed them to find their peg (all are named) and then take a seat on the carpet. Standard and seamless. Many delighted in seeing the animal picture they had against their name on their peg label and discussing it with forgotten friends they hadn’t seen for weeks. I did a little bit of encouraging to break up the cloakroom crowd after a few minutes and keep the morning moving. In general I was pleasantly surprised to see that behaviour was better then usual, I guess because children were daunted by a new teacher, and wanted to impress.

Once on the carpet the teacher went straight into the register and reading dinner options while a few stragglers joined the classroom. After he explained how we pray in year 3 (this is a faith school so I won’t detail the process, as all schools differ on this)

Once this was out of the way all of the children were asked to find a carpet space next to someone they hadn’t sat next to already. The teacher then handed out a small slip of paper with a numbered question on. There were 30 unique questions, one for every pupil. We listened as the first question was read out. As a class we would then answer it before moving on to the next one. The questions were all typical ones you may ask about class procedure “When can I go to the toilet?” “What happens if my behaviour is very good” and “What should I do if I’m worried?” This got all of the children talking and contributing early on, and I think it was a more enjoyable way of giving them lots of boring information. We’ll see if they retain any of it tomorrow.

Next the teacher took a whiteboard and wrote three facts about himself. “One of these is not true” he told the class. They of course guessed which one, learning a little about their new teacher in the process. The class then collected a whiteboard and went off to a table to write they’re own facts. Each pupil could then test a friend or a teacher to see if we guessed correctly which fact they had lied about.

-Assembly and break time –

Now we were back from break the teacher introduced the next activity, writing about your summer holidays. He told me that he wanted to see where they all were in terms of writing ability and handwriting, so this was an excellent way for him to get an idea of the standard. The teacher modelled a piece of writing for the children, before sending them off to begin their own. This then took us neatly up until lunch time, which was when I departed. I had already planned to just stay a half day, as all of the settling in had occurred in the morning. I would resume this learning experience tomorrow and witness day 2.

My Findings

All in all this was not scary at all. I had a fantastic morning and it felt amazing to be back in the classroom after a summer off. Almost like coming home.

From what I have seen today I have learnt not to expect too much from day 1 of the school year. There’s is bound to be an assembly, and there is so much information to get across to your pupils that it will most likely just be a day to know get to know each other. However, as always structure is key. A few small activities will break up the day, and it is always best to not keep the children sitting on the carpet for too long – don’t set them up for a behaviour failure!

Having a well organised classroom is a must. The cloakroom was simple to navigate and everything looked inviting and immaculate. This meant that the children pretty much knew what they needed to be doing when they first got into the classroom. It is obvious you need to put your bag on the peg with your name on it, if all the pegs are labelled clearly. If your writing/colouring/pencil sharpening equipment is displayed neatly on each table, no one will need to ask where to find things. Because of this it quickly felt like the children were right at home in their new classroom. This definitely seems self-explanatory when reading it over to myself, but I think sometimes we take for granted the point of classroom organisation because we’re so used to all classrooms being organised in a similar way (at least I do).

It’s important to get all of the necessary information across to the children, but this is long and potentially boring. Doing this in a fun and interactive way is a must for me. This seemed to be very effective, and will be top of my list when planning my future first day. Also, make sure you’re telling the children the right information at the right time. Don’t overload them with things they don’t need to know just yet, like where their exercise books are kept. Are they using them yet? No? Well tell them when the time comes.

Finally I’ve learnt that doing your research is important. Not just into the character of your new pupils, but also into the history of their teachers. Have they had a disruptive previous year? If so their behaviour may be more disruptive as a result. You aren’t going to work miracles on the first days or even weeks of term, but if you are expecting a difficult class then at least your prepared and can plan accordingly to tackle behaviour. This particular class was expected to behave beautifully and they did not disappoint. However another teacher was welcoming a much more challenging class today. She was prepared though and has spoken to many members of staff to get a feel for what areas she should expect to work on.

I hope that was useful to someone. It certainly has been for me! The new term terror has well and truly gone. It will always be incredibly daunting, but I’m glad I’ve had this experience to look back on when the time comes. Now I can enjoy my last few days before my PGCE, finishing the last few pieces of prep work and sleeping. Sleeping I hear is something to be savoured before embarking on a teacher training year!

If you’ve gone back to work this week how did it go? And what are your tips for tackling a new class?

Katie

 

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PVA Overload

Morning,

So firstly I apologise for the lack of teaching/PGCE related posts recently. Of course, it is summer, and therefor it’s difficult to write such posts as I’m no longer working in a school. The only thing I could write is how excited and nervous I am…but that would get old very quickly. I have been working in summer club for the last 2 weeks, but I decided to save you the details as it was just me and 4 other members of staff, entertaining children in the school hall, for 9 hours a day. There really was nothing to report, other then that I really miss the classroom!

It was fun though, and definitely a fantastic opportunity to earn some much needed money. It was also a chance to get a bit crafty, and wipe the cobwebs off my paints. As you may know, if you can so much as draw a cartoon cat you will be known as the arty one in a primary school, and assigned arty jobs. This is something that I relish, and summer club was no exception. The club leader is a senior member of staff at the school and had a few pieces in mind for RE displays. The staff seemed happy with them and the kids loved getting involved in these large scale, quite intricate artworks, so I thought I’d share them with you!

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The first was a ‘stained glass window'(primary school style) of St Joseph and Jesus…so of course it was made of tissue and sugar paper. This was definitely the trickiest of the two, as I soon discovered it was very delicate work and the children struggled to get involved as much as we had hoped. I ended up with only a few helpers who were upper KS2 and had very steady hands. I thought cutting it out with a blunt stanley knife would be the tricky part, but when gluing in the tissue paper we found it VERY easily stuck to the table and tore. Cue hours of me and one child constantly lifting the piece gingerly to wipe the table clean from any glue residue. None the less it was great fun to do, and it turned out better then I expected. The children seemed to enjoy seeing the piece evolve from a sketch, to a big spiderweb, and finally to the above.

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The second piece was a large portrait of the Holy family. This was a breeze compared to the window and so much more fun for the younger children to help with. I sketched the piece and added the halos first using gold paper. Then myself and two helpers created the gold mosaic background. It was then agreed that I would paint the faces myself to ensure the piece was recognisable, and also to make it fair (we can’t have 30 children painting the faces) Once this was out of the way we let the children go wild with collage materials to create the bodies. Colour is important in many religions, and to bring each figures iconic outfit to life we encouraged the children to use a variety of textures and materials in each colour (i.e. blue for Mary). Then finally we added some ‘gems’ to catch the light. This piece was definitely my favourite. Seeing the children make their mark on the piece was fantastic, and the outfits definitely look very eye catching. Great job summer club!

Once I start my course I am very excited to write more teaching orientated posts, but until then I hope you’re enjoying these. Let me know what you think of our artworks, and if you’ve ever tackled a large art piece with your students I would certainly love to see it!

Have a lovely day

Katie aka the arty one

 

An Emotional Rollercoaster

All week I have been desperate to blog and share my end of term emotions, but I have put it off until today…the final day. It is now officially summer, and I’m sure there are many teachers out there looking forward to a well deserved rest. Good for you, teachers of the world! I salute you.

After today, I feel like an emotional wreck. I’m not sure how teachers do it every year to be honest. Especially year 6 teachers that are saying goodbye to their class, as they embark on the adventure that is secondary school. This week for me has been particularly emotional as I have now left my school. Today was my last day, hopefully ever, as a teaching assistant. Saying goodbye to so many amazing children, all of which I would love to continue working with was incredibly hard. However one thing is for sure, this has been one of the best things I have ever done in my entire life. I cannot sum up my thanks and appreciation for the opportunities I have been given at my school. Everyday has been fantastic, and the team were always so kind, helpful and patient.

I was completely spoilt by the school, something I did not expect. I received so many cards and lovely presents, and couldn’t help but wonder how I can deserve so much for doing a job that already feels like a gift. What was particularly amazing though was all of the sentimental gifts I received from the children. Nursery and year 2 both put together beautiful scrapbooks (obviously with lots of help from very lovely teachers), filled with notes and handprints, for me to remember all of the children by. I am so excited to have such wonderful mementos from each of the little individuals in the classes!

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I won’t bore you with a play by play of the day. I’m sure you can all imagine how it went. But I feel that today has been so monumental for me, that I wanted to share it with you all. I now feel even more ready to start my PGCE, and a little bit closer to having my own class. I am absolutely raring to go, and cannot wait for the day when I meet my future flock! It’s a long way off, but it now feels much more real.

This feels like a terribly rambly post, so I apologise! Its been a hectic day, so rambles are all I can muster.

My closing thought is that life is a funny thing. It wasn’t all that long ago that I was working in a completely different industry, worrying about what people expect of me and feeling absolutely miserable. A leap of faith has led me to a career that I truly love and I couldn’t be happier or more grateful. If you’re worrying whether to take a chance and follow a passion of yours, please do it. Give yourself the chance to live the life you deserve. Nothing ventured, nothing gained eh?

Well that’s me signing off for today. I hope that you all had a lovely week!

Miss H

This is a drawing of me, obviously. Could you not tell?

This is a drawing of me, obviously. Could you not tell?

Baking Bread and Uni Work

Hello guys,

I hope you’re all enjoying a lovely Sunday. I’ve spent today being surprisingly productive, and I’m actually feeling quite pleased with myself. I did however indulge in my guiltiest pleasure…baking! I find baking so relaxing and enjoyable, and recently purchased a new baking book. So armed with my scales and my hand mixer, I spend today whipping up some banana bread and a wholemeal loaf.

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I’ve never made bread before, and I’m not ashamed to say how proud I am of this mighty loaf!

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I would definitely recommend this book if you or someone you know is looking to learn to make bread. Lovely design, easy to follow instructions and more recipes then a beginner will ever need!

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Banana bread using The Hummingbird Bakery’s recipe.

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So aside from making and photographing baked goods, I have been making some progress with my university prep work. One thing I have learnt about myself is that I am very unknowledgeable when it comes to grammar terms. Subordinate clauses, prepositions, fronted adverbials, and determiners are making my head spin! It’s often difficult to admit that you’re not very good at something, especially something you thought you were generally ok at! So I’m trying to embrace this discovery as a huge positive, as I can now improve my grammar knowledge. Improving this will definitely be my target for next week or so. Watch this space! If you happen to be reading this, and can recommend a website or textbook that would be useful for improving my grammar terminology, please let me know!

For the rest of the afternoon I’m going to watch The Lorax, and yes it does count as PGCE prep work 🙂 ! Part of our recommended reading was to read a children’s text and watch a recent film adaptation of it. It has taken me a while to find a book/film that felt right for me, but I’m happy with my choice and interested to watch the film and compare it to the book. The book has a wonderful message that I can see being translated into lessons easily so I’m hoping the film is just as inspiring.

Lorax

So that’s this Miss over and out for today! Next week is the last week of term and my final ever (hopefully) week as a teaching assistant. It’s a scary but exciting prospect, and this calming Sunday will hopefully prepare me for the emotional ups and downs that I have to come throughout the week. I feel so lucky to have worked at my school, and beyond excited for the year ahead, but I am sad to leave not only the team, but every little person I have had the pleasure of working with!

What do you do to make your day relaxing?

Katie

 

Flying the Nest

*Prepare for rambles*

Today in my county it was transition day, where essentially all primary students go and try out their new teacher and classroom for the morning. As I am usually based in Nursery, our little ones were off to Reception for an hour. Some were excited, many were nervous, and I think the vast majority were a little clueless. We didn’t have the new nursery class joining us, not that it would matter much if I met them, as I won’t be returning in September. Because of this, I followed my flock into their new class, where some serious heart melting moments ensued.

We began by sitting in a circle, and introducing ourselves. Each of us (both pupils and teachers) said our name, and what activity we liked best in school. The personalities of each of the students couldn’t have been clearer during that small introduction. Some spoke clearly and confidently, others muttered, one chewed her t-shirt so we couldn’t make much sense of what she was saying, while another shouting excitedly over everyone else. We had a real mixture of answers to the “what do you like doing in school” question. The answers started off pretty average. We had “lego” “reading” and “drawing”, but after a third of the group had spoken we began getting “I love my paddling pool” and one child even answered “I love eating bread” I beamed with pride for the uniqueness of each of their little personalities. I love that they don’t all follow the crowd, and each has their own little quirks.

After that they went off and explored their new classroom. The excitement over the new toys, and never before seen dressing up clothes was immense. I stole a few minutes to talk the teacher through anyone she should look out for. I pointed out our more challenging individuals, the ones who are silly when sitting next to each other, the worriers and those who need a little extra care now and then. I was surprised and how well I knew each of those little people, and felt like I was suddenly handing over my class. Of course they aren’t my class at all, I’m just a TA, and not even a TA hoping to work in early years! It’s funny how quickly you can build a strong relationship with any child, regardless of their age.

The hour was over as quickly as it began, and we returned to the carpet to share our favourite thing we had done during our transition morning. Again the answers started pouring in, all fairly standard. But, before long, one or two began answering “I loved Miss H” I’m not sure they realise myself and their new class aren’t a package deal, but luckily 4 year olds move on pretty quick. As heart melting as it was to hear their fondness for me, I’m sure I’ll have been forgotten by September.

I’ve since then even had an invitation to go round to one little boys house to play. I politely declined, explaining I was a teacher friend that they just saw in school. He cleverly replied “Ok, well when your not at school…” I can’t help but let these little moments really make my day. This was followed by a little girl inspecting my bare but usually painted finger nails, and requesting they be blue tomorrow. Of course I’m typing this with a pastel blue manicure…when a 4 year old gives you beauty advice, it’s probably wise to go with it 🙂

Miss H

4 year olds and Castles

Hello internet friends!

This week has been a whirlwind of end of term activities, trips and assemblies. However we are slowly but surely getting through everything with our sanity intact. This week nursery had a very successful trip to a Norman castle and village, and by successful I mean no one was lost, no accidents happened and there were minimal tears 🙂 I thought I would share a few photos of our lovely day with you.

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Quote of the day: Teacher “Children we are going to be visiting a castle today!”
Child “Will it be bouncy?”


 

I hope your week is going well. Anyone that says the last few weeks of the school year are a breeze is definitely lying!

As the days go by I am getting more and more excited about September and starting my PGCE. In fact only…

…not that I’m counting!

Katie

A Teacher Must Have?

This is just a quick one from me, but I couldn’t help sharing this amazing mug I have stumbled upon. I think this is a must for my teaching career, and by putting it on here I am secretly hoping I may receive it for my birthday (I’m sure I’ll end up buying it myself however) Without further ado…

It’s available from http://www.theliterarygiftcompany.com along with other grammar grumbling mugs. I am definitely obsessed. Is this the point in my life where I realise I’m a bit of a loser? Who cares! I’m happy 🙂

Let me know if you’ll be buying this mug for anyone special if your life.

Katie