First Week of Early Stages

What a week. Sitting at the computer with a million things to potentially write about but I’ve narrowed it down to a reasonable amount I think. First thing to say – placement is tough but I’d take that over sitting anonymously in a lecture hall; every time. 

Monday was my first day on placement in my new school. I had been out to visit the school the week previously so I knew where I was going but admittedly I was exhausted on the bus out there. The bus journey to Birmingham on the Friday and the return journey were far from ideal preparation for placement. I met one of the class teachers who teaches the class on a Monday. They were very welcoming and gave me loads of little tips to use with early stages and has checked up on my progress during the week which is nice. 

One of the first things I realised is that practically everything is an opportunity to learn for these little kids. They register themselves and then proceed count everyone to see if everyone is in. That doesn’t happen until about 15 minutes after the bell because it takes them that long to get off their jackets and settle in the classroom. It may be the case that that should have been obvious to me but I can assure you I have been on a very steep learning curve this week.

Tuesday was the first day I got to observe the class teacher that will eventually write a report on my progress. Another teacher who is very encouraging and approachable – in that sense – I am very pleased. One of the key things I learned was the incalculable value of laminating sheets. One of the writing exercises involved practising words by looking at words sealed under laminate and then writing over them, wiping out the ink and trying again. I watched each lesson with keen interest and I have a million and one bullet points written in a folder here beside me. The class teacher also had many activities prepared for number bonds. I was to teach the same topic the following day so it’s safe to say there was smoke coming from my pen with all the notes I was taking. After school, I went to a quiet computer room in the university and prepared my lesson and had all my resources ready for Wednesday by the time I landed back in the door. I spent the remainder of the evening writing up observation notes, doing a little bit of research on learning theories (which I am paying close attention to with regards learning theories for the early stages) and I continued with my James Rollins book. Something strange happened that night however – I slept. Sounds silly but I generally don’t sleep well at all. I tend to sleep for an hour or two (max) and then I’m awake for another half hour/hour. I had tried several different techniques to sleep but with the nature of the student lifestyle and the teaching profession (and generally working late nights prior to this university course) I’d tend to up until late on a computer. Tuesday however, I didn’t look at a computer after about 6pm. I woke up on the Wednesday at 6.30am, hopped out of the bed and I don’t think I’ve ever been that bright eyed or bushy tailed! I’m a delight every morning but Wednesday, if you can believe it, I was even more of a delight. That energy was to last throughout the whole day…but…

My lesson on Wednesday was terrible. When typing this, my first instinct was to say that the lesson was a word that begins with ‘s’ and ends in ‘hite’, and that would also be an accurate way to describe how I felt it went. The activities were fine but I kept the children too long on the carpet and I totally forgot to show them how the games worked on the interactive whiteboard (which I had prepared). I started bringing the kids around to each desk to show them the activities and it struck me – my inner monologue went something like this – ‘I’m a gobsh1te’. That was the long and short of it! You have to take those things on the chin though, don’t you? I said to myself and the class teacher afterwards that I wasn’t happy with how that lesson went but I was okay with that in the sense that there was plenty to build on. 

Thursday (yesterday) I took a literacy lesson in which we were practising finishing words by spelling them phonetically, Phonics is a very new thing to me so I’m starting to get to grips with it after a week. Yesterday the lesson went grand, it didn’t set the world alight – solid but unspectacular – for any football fans – I’d say it was a Claude Makelele type performance! Taking the reading groups helped me gauge the literacy levels of the students before I start my continuous and helps inform my planning for next week (which I have started already). 

Friday/Today was a day I was looking forward to – not because it was the weekend, oh no. Today I introduced this guy (pictured below) to the class.

Image

 

His name is Benny and he loves good behaviour! Benny told the kids Goldilocks and the Three Bears and quizzed them on it to make sure they had been paying attention. It was nice for me to take a back seat on that lesson 😛 The lesson went quite well but I got a bit of a shock when the class finished the activities very quickly. I thought I had planned enough activities, at the right level of challenge to keep the kids busy but they flew through the activities. Luckily, the class teacher had left trays out with other activities (unrelated to the lesson) for me to use in such an emergency so that was a crisis averted AND a valuable lesson for me. Plan plenty for them to do, and then double it! Hopefully that should ensure you don’t run out of things to do! 

I’ve a bit of planning to do this evening now for this week, especially with another rather busy weekend coming up! 

I think I’ll let ye go here. Hope everyone is keeping well and enjoy your weekend!

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

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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! 

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!