Busy Weekend

This week’s post is a bit earlier. Thanks to Niall for reminding me that I wouldn’t get a chance to write a blog post during the weekend.

Today, the university Gaelic Football team sets off for the British University Championships which will take place in Manchester and Birmingham. We’re setting off fairly soon so I have the iPod library updated, movies and another James Rollins book put on the tablet. Hopefully that will be enough to keep me entertained! 

This week in university, all the talk has been either related to this weekend’s championships or to the fact that we are starting placement on Monday! 

Monday’s lecture was notable for it’s bluntness. The lecturer spoke about the potential shark infested water that is otherwise known as a staff room and that if we still had doubts about teaching that now was a good time to call it quits. We then had a workshop to finalise our essay topic for the next assessment. I believe my topic is good to go so I will hopefully be getting the research and reading done over the next few weeks! 

On Tuesday, there was no lectures so I took the opportunity to call back to the last school I was in placement for. I had to collect a Shrek DVD I had left there from previously but I also called in to the classroom in which I had been based. It was nice to see that when I knocked on the door and the pupils looked up, they all sprinted across the room and jumped over tables to come over to say hello. It was reassuring to know that I left a positive mark on the class. With regards a positive mark, do you remember me mentioning previously that I showed the head teacher that photo with the times tables stickers on the stairs? It was done. Here is the proof – 

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On Wednesday I met my tutor for placement. They were most encouraging and told us what areas they will focus on especially, so that was appreciated. With Wednesday afternoon free, I decided to visit the school I am starting in on Monday. Thankfully it’s only about 15 minutes away on the bus so I can’t complain about distance to travel. The teachers I met were all very welcoming and again, I am looking forward to working with them. 

Yesterday (Thursday), we had two workshops with music being particularly funny and using songs is something I will try over the next few weeks, even if I sound like a seagull when I sing. I got a puppet to be my assistant for the next few weeks so I will just tell the kids that it’s the puppet who is a terrible singer and I will use the old excuses of “I’ve a tickle in my throat. The acoustics aren’t right, blah blah blah”.

I’ll have to leave ye there. There is a need to take the aul Shake N Vac to my sports bag and hoover it out. 

Mind yourselves.

G’luck, g’luck, g’luck. 

Late post

This post is coming far later than normal but I have had a very busy day! 

Our university’s Gaelic Football team had a game today (which we won) and there was a soccer tournament between competitor companies so I represented my employers in that tournament today aswell. I was exhausted by the end. Thankfully we got food afterwards so that was much needed and went down well. I’m just after seeing in the last few minutes that I passed the resubmission of that essay I had failed previously so I’m relieved about that! Back to lectures tomorrow but no complaints on how I spent the weekend!

The last week was aimed at getting us prepared for our next placement (which starts tomorrow week) and our next assessment. On Monday we had lectures and workshops aimed at preparing our essays. The group I will be working with shared email addresses and we are each researching individually and then pooling everything together which will be very helpful. We had assistance from a tutor who was fantastic help. He really seemed to enjoy our conversations about our topics and helped us fine tune our questions so that it was focused and ready to start. Everyone left that particular workshop praising this tutor very highly. 

There was no lectures on Tuesday and while I got some research done, I spent a large portion of the time reading another James Rollins book – The Blood Gospel. Honestly, Rollins doesn’t know how to write a boring book. As I said, I was doing research but it was rather annoying when after I ventured in to the library and took out some relevant literature, I wasn’t five minutes back at the flat when I got a recall notice from the Library for the books. Others had requested them so I couldn’t hold on to them for half enough time for this essay. 

On Wednesday we had a lecture about storytelling and the usefulness for building literary skills in children. It was an interesting lecture and I can certainly see how it would be useful with early stages. I will be looking to incorporate that in to my lesson planning for the next few week. 

Thursday we had PE and dance and drama and those classes are always good for a laugh. We learn and try useful activities for each of those subjects and it’s especially useful when it will be so fresh in our minds for the impending return to placement.

Friday in ICT we were playing with Beebots but the workshop was meant to be two hours long when a half an hour would have sufficed. The Science workshop was about friction so it was a throwback to my childhood when we were making ramps for Matchbox cars to zip down. It came at a perfect time because the night before I was talking with a friend about watching the Power Rangers as a kid and how my poor mother had to get up at 7am to record them on the video recorder so we could watch them at 8am with breakfast before school. (Thanks Mammy!) Playing with those Matchbox cars solidified my desire to get my hands on a Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Megazord again. I had one as a kid and I lost it. I don’t think I ever got over that loss. 

Again, I feel as though I don’t have a whole lot to say this week. I can’t put in to words how excited I am for placement to start. That has to be a good sign, right? I was initially quite worried about working with early stages. I feared it wouldn’t suit me. While that might prove to be true, I’m no longer worried about that. I’m looking forward to teaching again. If my love of the Power Rangers is anything to go by, I should be well able to relate to the younger kids. 

Tomorrow night is the #edchatie debate so hopefully I remember to keep an eye out for it on Twitter this week. I forgot about it last week and I was quite annoyed with myself. 

Apologies about the briefness of this post. As I’ve said before, there is a vast difference between lectures and placement in terms of how much I can/want to write about. When I’m back on placement, I will have lots to say. 

Hope you all enjoyed the weekend and enjoy the week ahead.

 

Bye bye, bye. Bye. Bye bye bye bye bye bye bye bye bye bye bye! 

Counting down

Another week done and one week closer to probationary year! A fellow student teacher told me this week that there was just over 5 weeks left of lectures and the rest of the time on the course is either holidays or placement. That sounds good to me!

I’d like to thank the Degree Source website for listing me as one of the top 10 influential student bloggers. It was a pleasant surprise and once again, I feel honoured that people read this and think it is worth reading. That was certainly a highlight of the week.

http://www.degreesource.com/top-10-influential-student-bloggers/

This week flew by pretty quickly. 

Monday’s focus was the next assessment. Another 5,000 words. This time it’s a topic of your choosing (well kind of, you choose a topic and then you have to get the university’s permission to research it) so my approved topic is collaborative learning and it’s effect on engagement with numeracy in the early stages. If any kind soul happens to have related literature or feel as though they can send me a few nuggets of wisdom/info on such a topic, or one closely related, please feel free to email me at spellingitoutblog@gmail.com.

Tuesday we had our second of two language workshops. Those two workshops were probably the best organised and most engaging we’ve had thus far. While the tutor was focusing on French in the classroom with the early stages – they passed on truly practical skills, materials and suggestions. We used an application called Sock Puppets to create funny videos of sock puppets with cartoon voices speaking in French. Everyone left with a smile on their face and everyone also recognised that what we had learned over the last hour or so was not only a fantastic way to teach French but also, you could utilise this in your classroom in any subject area.

Wednesday seemed to fly particularly quickly. We had a lecture at 9am in which we sang nursery rhymes and then had a two hour workshop on the usefulness of those nursery rhymes for building literacy skills. It was interesting to see how the nursery rhymes you sang along to as a child can be looked at through the lens of a teacher and see the benefits for building literacy skills.

On Thursday, we were brought up to a building far away from the rest of the buildings and then left there to engage with materials on computers with no sound. There was an instruction to bring headphones but we didn’t see the instructions until we got there! Thursday I also found out who my placement tutor is for next placement so that was a relief to find that out. I was one of very few who didn’t know. The tutor is very highly regarded by the students for being polite, approachable and helpful so I am looking forward to meeting them and getting an idea of what they are looking for from us on placement.

I knew in advance that there was no lectures on Friday so I offered to do a few hours for my employer. I thoroughly enjoyed working Friday. It was a nice change of pace before the weekend and meant I did not have a million emails to look at when I went in to work Saturday! Grand job.

Today I am supposed to be Skype-calling my good friend who returned home to India a few weeks ago. He swears in an Irish accent but that has nothing to do with me! 

I mentioned being listed as one of the most influential bloggers was a highlight this week. Another highlight was the #edchatie debate last Monday night. I’ve mentioned it before but Twitter is an incredible tool for student teachers and qualified teachers (or anyone with an interest in education). The #edchatie debate was on the use of the Irish language in schools. I ended up writing/typing/speaking Irish for the first time in six or seven years and while my grammar was slack, it was remarkable how much of the vocabulary comes back to you. I miss speaking Irish. I really miss it. I didn’t think I’d ever say that as a gasúr doing the Junior Cert but here we are!

 

Good luck lads. G’luck, g’luck, g’luck!

Brief – A Reflection

This week was tough. Not tough in any sense that you feel you’ve developed in a personal or professional sense. This week was tough because it felt like you were going backwards. I really struggled to write this week’s blog.

I have not hid my disapproval of series of lectures to ‘help’ you become a teacher and this week a lot of people spoke of the same feeling. When I say a lot, I mean nearly everyone. They all had the same rhetorical questions that I had – ‘Would it not be better to be in class?’; ‘Does anyone else think this is a waste of time?’. That is not a ringing endorsement of the way things are done. There is quite a high level of disgruntlement across the group and it merely confirms what I have thought for a long time. University is not the place to train to be a teacher; the classroom is. 

Monday morning we had our first workshop and we were left to our own devices for the majority of the time. The lecturer/tutor turned up in the second hour but we were all already in conversation about our experiences, swapping horror stories and success stories and tips. These conversations would take place over most of the week, and would be the highlight of the week. I always feel like I learn loads and I get plenty food for thought when the student teachers share experiences collectively. The second workshop towards the end of the day, we soon found out would not be attended by a lecturer/tutor so we all signed an attendance sheet, stayed for a half hour and scooted off. You would think that one your first day back to the university that lecturers/tutors would be eager to interact with the student-teachers… 

Another area of discussion during the week was the second essay topic. We have to come up with an area of research that interests us and research it. I’ve had a few ideas floating around my head. I was told to avoid my first choice (deeper integration of ICT in early stages) so I have been looking at two other areas recently – cooperative learning strategies and positive reinforcement. As my next placement is with early stages, the research will be focused on that. Any hints/tips/suggestions would be taken on board and greatly appreciated. 

On Thursday I had a meeting to discuss the essay I had failed. The tutor was very patient and went through everything with me – areas to improve, areas to pay specific attention to but what was most appreciated is the fact that the first thing they said to me was ‘Failing an essay doesn’t mean you’ll be a bad teacher’. Everyone had said that to me and even when I felt bitter about failing, that was the train of thought I had taken but it was nice for the tutor to say it and I made sure to tell them that after. I have the failed essay rewritten and resubmitted online and I have to submit a paper copy of the new draft tomorrow morning also but that is ready to roll and in my school bag. 

Friday in ICT we looked at making Powerpoints/Prezis more interactive and it is certainly something I had not previously considered but will look to weave in to my practice as an extra tool. 

I do apologise about the briefness of this week’s post. It reflects a week that was brief in what we learned about our future careers as teachers. The weeks I am on placement, I work hard to summarise my thoughts and reflections as much as possible to prevent a stream of consciousness; James Joyce I am not. The weeks of lectures and workshops, I mostly reflect on what the other student teachers and I talk about. A few of the student teachers mentioned the apprenticeship idea I had written about a few months ago on this – https://spellingitoutblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/the-university-process/ and all I have spoken with agree that this would be a far more productive way to train to be a teacher.

This coming week, I plan to start getting a mind map together for my essay so if I make a bit of progress with that, or even if I don’t – I’ll let you know how I get on.

 

Right so.

Bye bye. Bye. Bye bye bye bye bye bye. Bye. 

Some Things Are More Important

Well that’s placement done for a few weeks now. I’ll admit, I’ll miss the school I was placed in. I enjoyed it so much. All the staff were so helpful and encouraging so I made sure to thank them for that. 

I started the week in with a younger class as the teachers wanted me to experience the younger stages as they knew that my next placement is with a P1 class. Monday and Tuesday was spent with a younger group and it is certainly a far different environment than the one I had experienced for the last few weeks. It will certainly be an interesting challenge. If there are any teachers reading this who work with younger stages, I may need some help when I start my placement! 

Thursday and Friday were challenging in a positive way. The class teacher came in Thursday morning but was feeling ill so I offered to take them for the day. The class teacher was delighted I had offered and I was happy to do it. It was strange to begin with. I had come in thinking I was observing so I had only a few minutes to prepare to teach. It was great to see the class came in as normal and didn’t see it as a relaxing day because their class teacher was off. “Mr. _______ are you teaching us today?” was the only question posed! The head teacher came in and asked if I’d like for them to come in every so often to see how I was getting on. I said I was happy for them to call in but that I was fine with taking the class and I had no fears that the group would run amok. 

Thursday was the day the class were due to go down to the lower stages and teach them science so I had to assist them all to get ready for that. Thankfully that went off very successfully but I was very amused to see them all so quiet when we returned to the class with about half an hour left in the day. I asked them to put their hands up if they felt either stressed, exhausted or frustrated. Everyone put their hand up so I asked them what they found stressful, exhausting or frustrating. Here are a sample of the answers I got –

“We had to prepare so much for that hour”

“We didn’t have enough resources”

Student A -“They wouldn’t listen, it was so unfair”

Student B – “Ya, we worked really hard for them and they were just messing about”

Naturally, I found this fantastic. When everyone had vented their spleens, I said to them

“If you found that last hour frustrating, imagine how your class teacher feels when they are preparing lessons and resources for you to learn throughout the whole day AND some people then interrupt them or don’t listen because they are too busy messing!”

Silence. I’m not sure if the message sank in fully but I can tell you that Friday was probably the best I had seen them behaved. Even in music, a class they get a specialist teaching them but they traditionally spend messing, they listened intently, engaged, and ignored the pupils misbehaving from the other class. If that message DID sink in then I’d like to think it will be a very valuable lesson for them!

Leaving the school Friday was bittersweet. As I’ve said, I will miss the place and the people I was learning from. However, I leave that school with my head held high and proud of myself for working diligently and learning a lot.

I am very close to finishing my second version of my essay so I should have that done now soon. I’ll probably have to turn off the music I am playing at the minute. I don’t think I’ll concentrate sufficiently on the essay nor will the neighbours appreciate me too much  if I am singing/screeching Joe Dolan songs at the top of my lungs – “OH ME, OH MY YOU MAKE ME SIGH, YOU’RE SUCH A GOOD LOOKING WOOOMAN”.

Finally, I took a call from a friend during the week. As you do, I asked “How are you?”. They said they were fine but they didn’t convince me so I asked were they sure. The person burst in to tears and told me they weren’t in a great place. We chatted for well over an hour and I don’t think they ever really stopped crying until the last 15 minutes or so of the call. This friend admitted a lot of fears and stresses they’ve felt for the last few months and at one stage criticised themselves for being weak and admitting these things to me. I told this person, and I’d say the same thing to anyone – bottling up fears, stresses and problems is too easy to do. Talking about them is a sign of strength. It reminded me of Tony Soprano in his psychiatrist’s office ironically asking – “What ever happened to Gary Cooper…the strong silent type?”. Why should silence be a preferred option? It shouldn’t. Ever. My friend and I talked about ways to properly address the stresses and fears they had bottled up but they agreed that they already felt better for sharing how they felt with me. A problem shared is a problem halved. My friend reads this blog every week (thank you for that) but I want to tell you that I am so proud of you for making the decision to share your problems with me. To everyone else – if ever you are feeling low – talk to someone. If you know me then you would know how to contact me and I’d be happy to chat any time of day. Some things are more important.

 If I don’t know you then I’d still be happy to talk to you. I’ve just set up an email address for the blog – spellingitoutblog.gmail.com – this is set up so I’ll receive these emails to my phone. I may not ever receive an email to it but if I do, I’ll reply. 

Anyways, I’d say it’s about time to turn off Joe Dolan before I do harm to the neighbours’ ears. This essay would want to get done too.

Right so lads. G’luck!

Continuous Done

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I’m typing this listening to the Mayo-Kildare match on Midwest Radio. It’s proving difficult and further proves that I can’t multitask.

The week went well so I was happy with the two weeks continuous overall when I walked out the school door on Friday evening. The picture above is how I left the room. You can see the Chinese Lanterns that we had made to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

Monday and Tuesday passed by quite uneventfully, there was no behaviour management issues really and they seemed to learn their lesson from the previous week, bar one. There was one child who did not like not getting their way and proceeded to throw an almighty tantrum – one they repeated each day of the week but that issue was dealt with Friday when I discussed the issue with their parent. It was the first time I ever had to do that so while I was nervous, I felt it was the right thing to do so hopefully we see a big improvement on the tantrums tomorrow.

Wednesday morning started with a listening exercise in which the kids were challenged to write down as many details as possible from the news stories they had listened to. I was very pleased with the standard of the work and how engaged everyone was. We then went on to make a display of the Eightfold path for Buddhism. I had given the children homework to research the Eightfold path but rather annoyingly, most of them didn’t do the homework. This is something I’ll expand on a bit later.

Thursday was a fantastically uneventful day. I can’t stress how grateful I am for the fact that Thursday was uneventful. It was the first time I had been put in charge of a class outing. I was assisted by the class teacher but she told me that it was me that was leading this so I had to make sure everything went well. We went on a trip to a university in the city so it was about a half hour bus journey. The bus journey was grand, the whole day in the university was grand and the journey back was peaceful. Everyone behaved themselves (I had them warned) and engaged with the work they did in the university.

Friday. As I had mentioned, Friday we celebrated the Chinese New Year by decorating our classroom with Chinese Lanterns (thank you to @zoe_m68 for helping me with finding that one). We also wrote letters to the people who invited us to the university to thank them for a fantastic day out. Everyone behaved themselves Friday to earn the last few minutes they needed to get a full golden time allocation. It was great to see them try much harder to do nice acts to earn the minutes they needed. Pupils who normally do the opposite you ask them to do – holding doors open, sitting quietly when their instinct would normally lead them to running around and causing havoc, etc.

The homework not being done annoyed me. They all heard me instruct them to write their instructions down into their homework copy/jotter. I repeated the instructions before they went Monday, repeated it Tuesday as a reminder and yet by Wednesday, only three or four had it done. The attitude difference between Ireland and Scotland is unreal regarding homework. The primary school I went to, (and I don’t think the policy has changed greatly recently, my sister is a primary teacher in Ireland), from an early age we got homework to do every evening Monday-Thursday. If I am lucky enough to have anyone reading this, and if you happen to be a teacher based in Ireland – is this still the same? While I may have cursed the homework on a fine September or April/May evening when I had a plastic football to be kicking off the roof of the house and neighbours to visit and other important things like that; I learned a lot from it. We all did. Here though, from everyone I have spoken to and everything I have experienced, it seems to be the norm to get one piece of homework to do during the week and they get a few days to finish it and most of them don’t even do it. Here is where I am going to sound about 105 years old but nowadays kids go home and play on video games ALL evening. Quite literally. I have asked the kids – they say they play video games as soon as they go home until bed time. What hope is there for retention of information and learning if everything the child has learned from the day is lost to Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto by the time they get home? Rant over. I feel like I aged admitting that.

I’ll love ye and leave ye there – I’ve this essay to get back to lads so I’ll be chatting to ye.

G’luck, g’luck, g’luck!

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

What a week – talk about highs and lows! I think the order I’ll take on this one will be the bad, the good and the ugly – it’s the order I encountered each!

The Bad – Monday. The 20th. Blue Monday. I didn’t hear about Blue Monday until lunchtime but I wouldn’t have needed to be told. I had a pretty terrible day at the office. No matter what lesson I did and no matter what behaviour management strategy I used, the children would just not listen or do what I had asked. I found it so frustrating but at no stage did I doubt whether this was the right line of work for me. By the end of the day I just sat down in the classroom and stared in to space and thought to myself “That couldn’t have gone much worse”. My class teacher came in and could tell by the look on my face how my first day of continuous had gone so we chatted for a while about the issues that needed addressing. I suggested a solution. Normally, every week, every student in the class (and the school) starts off with 60 minutes worth of ‘golden time’ so they can attend the club they are involved with on a Friday. All the students love it. Misbehaviour however, would normally result in a loss of some of that 60 minutes. The more serious the misbehaviour or the more frequent you misbehave, the more time you lose. Some of them however see the 60 minutes as a currency they can spend – “I’ve only lost 5 minutes so I can get away with a bit more messing yet”. I turned it on it’s head and suggested that I’d make them earn their ‘golden time’. Which leads me on to 

The Good – Tuesday morning I walked in to the classroom and however lame this may sound – the mantra I was repeating in my head was “You won’t allow another day like yesterday”. The kids came in, I sat them down and I expressed my serious disappointment with the behaviour of a lot of the pupils. I told them that their behaviour was so poor that I had decided to change the rules about golden time. I explained how they now had to EARN their right to go to their golden time club by – doing what they were told to do, kind gestures (holding doors open, offering to help others, etc), putting in the effort during lessons and showing wisdom. We discussed what I meant by wisdom – it was things like walking away from arguments and choosing not to get involved in others misbehaviour. It worked. That’s the best synopsis I can give of the result of that chat. Behaviour improved greatly and it was wonderful to see the children who would normally be happy to lose 5 minutes here and there, being happy having gained 5 minutes for listening to my instructions or trying hard. 

Tuesday I also showed the head teacher a tweet I had seen online – here’s the snapshot of it – Image

I believe that credit is due to @JasonElsom for both the photo/tweet and the idea.

The head teacher liked it so much that he challenged me to find a company that could do something similar for “our school”. I found a local company who would do it. It’s been measured and priced, and is penciled in to be done in two weeks time I’m told. I’m very happy that something like this will be done based on my suggestion (which again was inspired by @JasonElsom). It’s nice to think that even though I’m student, I still have a voice in the school. 

On Thursday, I happened to stumble across a fantastic behaviour management strategy for the class. I’ve no doubt but that I’m not the first person to have tried this but I never thought of it as something I could use in the placement I’m in. The class and I were learning about Buddhism and my eyes were drawn to the word ‘meditation’. I said to myself, “give it a shot, see how it goes”. It went down a treat. I told them before we started that this was in no way intended as a form of prayer, merely an opportunity to sit on the floor and switch off. I played relaxing music and they all closed their eyes and just sat in the serenity of the classroom. Everyone wrote down how they felt afterwards and the comments were all similar – ‘I feel relaxed’; ‘Calm’; ‘Can we do this everyday?’; ‘I don’t feel stressed now’, and other comments of a similar nature. I am going to persist with it and give them the opportunity to sit quietly after they come in from break and lunch. I thought they were the best times because normally the first five minutes after break and lunch is spent splitting up verbal arguments over a football or someone making faces at someone’s sister’s friend’s mother’s friend’s daughter. 

When I left school on Friday evening, I was feeling very good about the week. I felt like I had learned so much that I can carry forward. What could possibly bring me down after that week? I’m sure you can tell what’s coming next.

The Ugly – As soon as I returned to my flat on Friday, my phone was buzzing with emails coming in. I saw an email entitled ‘Re-submission’ from the university and I thought to myself that it was an email sent to everyone so I clicked on it to have a look but as it was loading I could see ‘Sent to: My name’ and that was all. My heart sank. So yes, I failed my assessment – the essay from before Christmas. I failed it ‘comfortably’ shall we say. It’s my own fault, I can accept that. Having read the feedback I can see that I completely misinterpreted the question and ended up with an essay that was a million miles away from where it should have gone and about as useful as a hole in a bag.

I know I have mentioned on a few occasions that I don’t like lectures but love the placement/practical side of it and how I think student teachers should be apprentices and not in university BUT the reality of it is – if I want to do this as a career, then I simply have to get on with it. Hopefully I can do myself justice on the second attempt and then move on from it. It has certainly knocked the wind out of my sails but nobody said the course was easy so…it has to be done. That’s the long and short of it.

Now, I must go planning for lessons for next week and planning for this second shot at this essay.

Right so lads, bye bye! Bye bye bye bye! Bye. Bye bye bye bye bye bye!

P.S. One of the best friends I’ve made since I moved to Scotland is returning home to India soon and I know he reads this so I’d like to wish him the very best of luck with it. I’m gutted he’s leaving but as someone who lives away from home (although not as far away from home as he does) I’m delighted for him at the same time. It gives me a great excuse to go to India now!