A Welcome Break

Placement finished and a few days to relax for myself are in order. I am so so tired. That week of continuous was the hardest week of work I’ve ever done. 6am starts and asleep at around midnight; the only time I wasn’t doing anything for teaching was when on the bus or having dinner. Every other minute of the day was spent looking for or making resources, laminating, cutting, printing, writing plans, writing reflections, laminating, cutting, laminating, cutting. I hear the whirr of a laminator when I close my eyes.

Here’s some of the valuable lessons I learned from placement for the early years

  • A noisemaker is a life saver – I used a tambourine to get everyone’s attention – if the kids heard the tambourine – they knew it meant freeze on the spot.
  • Competitions work – I told them it was a competition to see who was quietest person lining up to go for lunch and quietest person walking the line through the school. We had a competition for who was most sensible and quiet when going to wash hands – boys vs girls. We had a competition for who listened best when we were in the gym hall. It worked all the time.
  • 7am is a perfectly acceptable time to be in your classroom getting ready for the day ahead.
  • The puppet is God. Any mention of Benny and every pair of ears were hungry for more info relating to Benny and the magic door he came through for visits. Benny only came through the magic door when everyone was working hard and working nicely with their partners.
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  • The activities you think will take 5 minutes will take 15 and the activities you think will take 15 minutes will take 5.
  • Over-preparation is the best way to avoid the fear of “What do I do with them for the next ten minutes?”
  • The kids will fight over anything. Be vigilant for hints of a dispute – “That’s my rubber!” or “Timmy Joe skipped the line!” or “Sue Ellen said I am not her best friend anymore”. Ignore comments like that and it can explode. [Names are fake, events are not].

My continuous went well. I learned a lot from it and as I said, it was exhausting.

I had two highlights of the week. First, I had a writing lesson with them on Wednesday morning and to spark the children’s imaginations for writing about a jungle adventure, we listened to a 5 minute clip of the noises of a jungle and we used it to think about the different things we might see. At one stage, one of the children decided we were on a boat on the river in the jungle and they started singing “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream” so I added in “Look over there, a bunch of piranhas, now it’s time to scream – AHHHHHHHHHH”. Everyone wrote very imaginative stories and I was very happy with that.

The second highlight of my week was definitely the drama lesson on Thursday. I learned a lot from the week previously and I decided to try my hand at writing a second story for them to tackle dramatically speaking. The story was called Walking In The Jungle and here it is. Please feel free to comment on the quality (or lack thereof) of the story and certainly feel free to use it/alter it and if you do, please let me know how it goes!

 

“Walking through the jungle, what ever will I see?

My jungle hat is ready, will you come with me?

We will see all the birds, flying over trees.

Parrots, toucans and hummingbirds, pretty as can be.

We will see slithering snakes, sliding on their belly

If I see an anaconda, my legs will turn to jelly!

If I see a python, I think that I will run,

A bite from a pythons fangs I know will not be fun!

Don’t forget the spiders, they are everywhere

They could be on your arms or legs, or even in your hair!

Oh no, we can’t see anything in this scary fog

Everyone freeze! A poison yellow frog!

If we move away slowly, he won’t see all of us.

I know we are all really scared, but please don’t make a fuss!

Look up, look up! Can you see the monkeys?

The gorillas, the lemurs and the chimpanzees.

Go around this tree and down the hill,

What have we bumped into? A lion who wants to kill.

But don’t you worry. We haven’t met our doom.

We’ve been using our imaginations…and never left the room!” 

The lowlight of the week was definitely Thursday evening. I had a lesson planned for looking at Victorian games and a music lesson but the children were in a strange humour and I got so disheartened with them not paying a bit of attention but my class teacher told me that they did not pick up that I felt disheartened and even went as far as to praise me for recognising that the Victorian lesson had come to a natural conclusion and I went on to the music. I was pretty disappointed how those lessons went though and I told the class teacher how I felt about it.

I have done very little today apart from clean the flat a little bit while listening to some Tom Jones and watching House of Cards. Tomorrow looks like it will be much the same to be honest. If I find a good fictional book then I will probably stay up half the night reading that. Tuesday will be the day I start this research essay.

I think I will leave it there for now! Hope everyone had a nice weekend. Grand stretch in the evenings now!

P.S. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mammies. To my own Mammy dearest, thanks for everything you’ve ever done for me, which would be a considerable list! About 15 years ago on a Sunday evening like this, you were probably drying your kids hair after their baths and we’d all be watching Glenroe! “Well holy God” as Miley would say.

It’s also the birthday today of someone very important so Happy Birthday to you! 🙂

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TGIF

Wow. This week went well but it was far from easy. It’s not that didn’t enjoy it, it was just tough going. 

My laminator broke at the start of the week. As the placement is with the early years, the laminator is a vital resource. I shouted such a stream of abuse at that laminator. I’ve been using the laminator in the school so it hasn’t been a crisis here but it was a nuisance. My phone broke aswell. Naturally, the only way to fix the phone was to wipe everything off it. That was far from ideal. Oh ya, I also lost my memory stick at the start of the week too. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. Some kind soul sellotaped the memory stick to the wall on Wednesday so I got that back!

On the teaching front, it was a very difficult week but I feel as though I am learning from the challenges but these challenges do come thick and fast. Teaching on St Patrick’s Day was weird. I’d never experienced a school day on St Patrick’s Day and my sister living in a different part of Scotland text me admitting she too felt weird working on St Patrick’s Day. 

On St Patrick’s Day I taught a spelling lesson and a gym lesson. The spelling lesson went well but my timing was a bit off. Not everyone got a chance to try each activity. One of the activities was a noughts & crosses style game with the new spelling words which was a cool idea. It wasn’t mine. The person who came up with that idea I know reads this so I’d like to thank them for that idea! The gym lesson…oh my… The activities, my observing teacher told me, were perfect for a gym lesson. The class’ behaviour was all over the place and the class teacher’s suggestion was to use a whistle next time round. I’ll have to! 

Tuesday I was looking at number bonds and then Victorian schools. The number bond lesson could certainly have gone better. It was planned that I’d do the lesson outside but it rained. Thankfully I had planned for that possibility. Obviously, I am on placement to learn but it is remarkable how many little things you learn and realise during a lesson. You wouldn’t believe how often during the course of the day I say to myself “Jesus, how did I not think of that?”. I write things down on my lesson plans to remind myself and then a child runs up to tell me that their working partner won’t share the eraser and these little things slip my mind. The lesson on Victorian schools was a disaster. I just couldn’t get them to focus. I felt terrible after. I’ve had lows on placement but Tuesday was a new feeling of low. My class teacher spent a while trying to cheer me up and gave me loads of tips to help with the problems I had. I left the school, bought a packet of Skittles, returned to the house and just started planning for Wednesday. I’ve mentioned it before but it sometimes surprises me how well I switch off from school. 

Wednesday went pretty well. I had a writing lesson – we were writing about pirates – yaaaaaaar! I used positive praise very effectively on a class I had struggled with the day before and it worked a treat. The standard of the writing was good and it was particularly difficult to select star writers for the day. I felt elated after going from such a bad day on the Tuesday to the writing lesson going very smoothly. I also took a number bond lesson after and that went well aswell. It was one of the children’s birthdays so I had a cake and candles display to learn about the number bonds of 6. The area where I fell down was I had not considered the different ways they could record what they were learning. I had a worksheet from the day previous but the children were mostly finished those but the teacher told me a few ways to record the learning and consolidate the learning and I appreciated that feedback. 

On Thursday I took the class for a drama lesson and a follow up lesson on Victorian schools. The Victorian schools lesson went well according to my class teacher but oddly, I felt it could have gone better. I think if I was to identify one area of my planning that needs particular development – it’s judging how much activities are needed and how long they take. That will only come with experience though so I just have to keep plugging away. The drama lesson was an interesting one, and one I learned a lot from. I wrote a short story about a Pirate called Pete. It went like this – 

Pirate Pete sailed on the sea. His boots were filled with sand.

When he looked through his telescope, he was looking for the land.

He wanted to stop and fix his ship. It needed a coat of paint.

Pirate Pete felt so tired, he thought that he would faint!

When Pirate Pete stopped on land, he found a treasure map.

He got his ship ready to sail, and put on his pirate cap.

Pirate Pete needed help. His helper’s name was Casper.

They found a treasure chest full of gold, and lived happily ever after. 

I had come up with a drama lesson in which we would do actions for some of the story. I thought it would be helpful to scaffold the lesson a little by coming up with some actions to go with the drama but I focused too much on that. The class teacher pointed this out to me and when they said it – I was bitterly disappointed. I had worked hard on coming up with an enjoyable story and I ruined the lesson by structuring it too much. I was proud of the story I had written and I will look to write more short stories for lessons but I will certainly be taking care not to make the same mistake with regards the drama lesson. It’s only after dawning on me now that I know someone who teaches drama to young kids on Saturdays so I really should contact them to bounce ideas off them for drama! How have I only thought of that now?

Today went well. I forgot one or two things with a lesson on patterns, but again, it’s an experience I will learn from. When I make these mistakes, and I normally recognise it myself when I do, it’s always a little kick in the teeth but I do feel wiser from these. The teacher told me that I did well today and this week and I’m moving in the right direction so that is encouraging! 

I’ll leave ye there lads. I won’t lie, I’m going to return to a Criminal Minds binge. Unconfirmed reports of apple crumble and raspberry ice cream in the vicinity but as I said, unconfirmed reports. 

 

G’luck, g’luck, g’luck!

Fireside

I had a great start to the week. I managed to get my team promoted again in Football Manager. There was also the little matter of getting that 5000 word essay done, which was a cinch!

Oddly, Monday’s workshop was on the topic about the essay we had just done. Maybe it’s just me but I find it strange that they didn’t choose to do this BEFORE the essay to help people out. The tutor started off with a quote up on the whiteboard that suggested bad behaviour was a result of bad teaching. He looked at us and asked – ‘Who agrees?’. I disagreed. I told him I disagreed. I said that while sometimes, bad behaviour could be the result of boring lessons or inefficient behaviour management; you could not say that about every case. It’s too easy to blame the teacher for everything but surely their behaviour and attitude starts at home? We had a lecture Monday afternoon introducing us to the essay we will be doing in 2014! The lecturer told us that the essay was going to be based on something ‘people would be interested in’. One witty member of the audience asked ‘So will you be giving us the topics in good time or just before we go on placement like the last essay?’. The room burst in to laughter. It was a bone of contention among the student teachers but this person’s quip cut the tension with a knife. Perfectly timed.

Tuesday was art day. Art is always good craic. The lecturer/tutor explains and demonstrates what we are doing and after that just leaves us to be creative. We were working with ink and printing. I successfully managed to cut out a paper peace symbol, just the right size to fit on a roller. Here is my result – Image

I know what you are thinking – “Is this person wasted training to be a teacher? Surely they are a contemporary artiste extraordinaire?” The answer of course, is yes. I am supremely talented. I did not win the Credit Union Under 8’s art competition by chance.

Thursday we had PE/Dance, Drama and Maths. We witnessed some incredible dance moves, from one person in particular. Drama was about basic sign language. I know two of my sisters are learning sign language at home and that is definitely something I want to do. I think it could and should be something we all learn. The maths workshop was about problem solving. This was right up my street, they were all very similar to the riddles I had given the kids when I was on placement. On the topic of riddles actually – my girlfriend’s aunts were reading some of the riddles that I mentioned in previous posts. I received a text asking for the answers quick because they were close to a ‘pistols at sundown’ style showdown over the answers! We averted that crisis thankfully.

Last night, myself and my girlfriend went to visit my sister and her boyfriend. We had not yet seen the bbq hut my sister’s boyfriend had built. He’s a joiner. He made the most amazing bbq hut – here’s the fire we sat beside until about 10.30 last night – Image

The door of the hut splits in two so we opened the top half of the door, chatted and chilled out. We didn’t cook a bbq with it, yet.

Last week of university starts tomorrow so looking forward to finishing and going home for a few weeks. We’re travelling home the Thursday so not long to wait.

Hi ho, hi ho, soon off to home I go!

Spreading The Word

First week of continuous placement done and I am certainly glad the week is over! I’m working tomorrow but I’m not too worried about that. I can’t wait to sleep in on Sunday though. I’m drained, rather than exhausted if that makes sense?

Monday, thankfully was a peaceful enough day. All I had to do with them was PE. Naturally I chose this time to spread the word – that Gaelic Football and Hurling are the GREATEST sports in the world. I think the majority have been converted – to the Gospel of Mayo football. I showed them clips of both and they couldn’t believe that these sports aren’t big all around the world! For PE – I introduced them to some of the simple skills in football. We did the pick up, the solo and the handpass.

Wednesday was the start of my continuous. I thought I would have been a nervous wreck but I was fine. I felt like it was the same as every other day apart from the fact we had snow. I introduced the class to the idea of film studies – and they thoroughly enjoyed watching Shrek and looking out for important scenes and important quotes and discussing these. We discussed how Donkey is the only one who doesn’t judge a book by it’s cover, how Lord Farquad is kinda like Hitler (which one of the students suggested, I was pleased with that comparison) and we discussed why it’s wrong for us to judge someone based on their appearance or beliefs. I was delighted with how that lesson went. Unfortunately, it all went downhill from there – incredible misbehaviour ensued. Part of me felt like it was my fault but after speaking to the class teacher – they assured me that this type of behaviour has been ongoing since October and progressively getting worse. It’s not like I would bring the disappointment home with me, or lose sleep over it, but I did feel better knowing it wasn’t just my mismanagement of a particular situation – it’s happening every day since early October. My concern with that however, is that those that want to learn get zero attention when they should get all of it. For selfish reasons, I am concerned that I won’t get a chance to teach a lesson without wasting half my time telling one student to stop standing on the table, or to stop throwing metal pencil sharpeners or stop threatening your classmates but I suppose “That’s life, that’s what all the people say”. 

Thursday was mostly spent with the problems mentioned above but they were even worse.

Today, Friday. End of the week. End of my patience? Nope. A few people have said it to me before, and I hadn’t thought of it too much until this week but I never let things get me down to any great extent. I’m not claiming that my placement is more difficult or easier than anyone else’s but when I walk out the door of the school – I stop thinking about it. Having the memory of a goldfish is a blessing in this case I think.

What happened today then, I hear you ask? The main lesson today was ICT and that was going swimmingly until neither the printers, or the pen drives would work. Everyone’s work was lost, and they all seemed frustrated with it. I broke out in to what is fast becoming one of my favourite songs – giving them the first few lines of ‘That’s Life’, the song made famous by Sinatra. They all laughed and told me I was crazy and forgot that they had lost their work. I don’t mind. I know they did it, they know they did it. Job done.

My observation is coming up next week so I’ll have to rise that challenge – I’ll do it MYYYYYYYYY WAAAAAAAAAAAAY!

More important than my observation next week – The Late Late Toy Show is on next Friday. Can’t wait. Two and a half hours of product placement and Christmas jumpers. The Late Late Toy Show is when the countdown to Christmas truly starts for any self-respecting Irish person.

I think it’s time to turn off this laptop and chill out. I’m still reading The Noah’s Ark Quest by Boyd Morrisson – which seems very good so far. I’m up to date with The Walking Dead and Homeland on TV. I’m hoping to go to the new Hunger Games movie next week at some stage – big fan of those books.

I’ll do that real work tomorrow evening. Hopefully those Milky Moos will have arrived by then.

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Riddle Me This

Now that was quite a week! I certainly won’t need convincing to go to sleep tonight.

Monday morning saw us return to school for our first 4 week block of teaching placement. I was eager to get back all last week and I had a very enjoyable week in which I learned a lot. First thing I learned was that the students missed me. How do I know? The first question I was asked was – “What’s today’s riddle?” Here it is – Image

The instruction was that they had to fill in the box/complete the sentence but it had to make sense. If you want a chance to attempt it, I’ll put the answers to the riddles at the end of the post. A lot of the kids had done some research at the weekend to have riddles for me when I returned.

For our first week, we were instructed to take a maths group lesson each day. It was nice to finally start teaching after listening to lecturers talk about teaching for the last few weeks. Monday was assisting the middle ability group but myself and the class teacher decided that it be more challenging (and more beneficial) to work with the lesser able group. Tuesday, I took the less able group and we worked on two and three digit addition. I had seen this group struggle individually the previous day so I thought it would be a good idea to start with harder questions as a group and move on to the slightly easier questions as individuals – to boost confidence. I was pleasantly surprised with the results. To start with, there was quite a gap in understanding but the group worked through these. We practiced on difficult questions and I praised everyone for not just getting the right answer but also for neat work, correct methods and overcoming difficulties. When I asked them were they ready to work with the textbook alone – they took one look at the page and tore in to the questions. All of them were delighted when they got all the answers correct. One thing I noticed Tuesday which I felt could be a major obstacle for me, was one student’s serious behaviour problems. This student walked away before the lesson and decided to walk around the room rubbing out other people’s answers. On the Wednesday, this particular group went out for extra support lessons and so I worked with the middle ability group.

Yesterday (Thursday) I stumbled across what may be a strategy for dealing with the student with the behavioural issues. This student loves to break every rule put in front of him – so I used a little bit of reverse psychology. I told this student that they could not do maths today because of their behaviour. Two minutes later – the student sits down with rest of the group with the textbook and copy/jotter and asks what page we are on (This strategy could have been a once off but it worked again today so I will keep using it if/when appropriate). Yesterday however, we weren’t working from the textbook. We were playing Maths Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – the rules were fairly simple – i) all questions were subtraction questions (which is what we were covering) ii)The whole group were playing in the same game iii) We could only move on to next question when everyone had answered the questions correctly. iv) Unlimited use of ‘phone a friend’ but they couldn’t ‘phone’ the same friend every time. The group enjoyed this so much that when the lunch bell went – they said “One more question…”. I wouldn’t have ever volunteered to stay in a minute longer than necessary on my lunch hour when I was a primary school student – and nothing had changed as a teacher, I said “I’ve better things to do” and walked out. Joking, obviously not. I was delighted with the enthusiasm and we did the extra question, which took the group about 5 minutes to complete. They were delighted as they got to the end of the ‘show’ with £250,000 won so far. Regarding the misbehaving child – how did he get on? He was the quickest answering the questions and volunteered to assist those that were struggling. Not only that – but he asked me to write him a Who Wants To Be A Millionaire question sheet with even harder questions to do at home! Today, the same group chose to finish Who Wants To Be A Millionaire rather than go to a school assembly which would have meant an afternoon of doing nothing on a Friday.

Next week I have to look after the Literacy/English lessons – it’s supposed to be just work with one group but the class teacher and I agreed it would be worthwhile trying a whole class lesson for at least Tuesday (no school Monday) to see how it goes so again, naively, I’m excited by the prospect of this. I have a fair idea of my plans for these lessons. I also know that week 3 we will be watching (at least some of) Shrek to open up a discussion about stereotypes and treating people differently because of the way they look, what they believe, what they eat, how they dress, etc. Week 4 – we are going doing comic strips. I overheard a student talk about how he was going to spend the weekend reading comics and I asked him would he like to make one in school. He said he’d love to. I could immediately see the potential for it – I am going to give them a theme – e.g. bullying. They are going to pick the context. They will have to use organisation skills, art skills, literacy skills and social skills – to make sure they get their comics to press by the deadline!

Thankfully, I didn’t hear myself utter too many cliches over the course of this week – apart from “I didn’t come down in the last shower”. When I heard those words come out of my mouth – a little part of me died inside.

The other riddles that featured this week –

Tuesday – Finish this sequence M, T, W, T… (Answer – F, S, S – as in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc)

Wednesday – Finish this sequence e, o, e, r, e…(Answer – it’s the last letter of the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8..etc)

Thursday – If you give me food I will live, give me water I will die, what am I? (Fire)

Today’s – What begins with p, ends with e and has thousands of letters in it (Post Office)

AND FINALLY, the answer to the riddle in the photo is four.

Friday evening is finally upon us so I might just take an hour or two more to myself and do a bit of reading.

Right so, good bye! Bye, bye, bye, bye bye bye bye bye bye!

 

 

 

There may be trouble ahead…

No school today and reading week next week, lovely. Of course, things can’t run that smoothly. This week we also happened to be given one of our two big assignments for the year. A 5000 word essay – no problemo.

Unfortunately, that match I mentioned last week, the Scottish gaelic football championship final – didn’t go as we planned. Lost by two. You have to take these defeats on the chin I suppose and  learn from it. It gives us a great reason to train harder next year and make sure that in 12 months time – we have that trophy in our possession.

On Monday we had our first (and supposedly only?) lecture dedicated solely to lesson planning. It was quite interesting and (obviously) very important for us to see the format of the lesson plans that are expected of us for when we return to the schools for our placements. I know the placements will be stressful and a big work load to get through but I’m really looking forward to it. Am I naive? Probably. However, I feel that the real learning is just a few weeks away and I’ve never been shy of hard work so I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves! On Monday we also had a look at Continuing Professional Development with a particular focus on how a teacher can develop professionally just as much from a chat at the photocopier as a full day course dedicated to CPD. I like that idea.

Tuesday was great fun. We had Art & Design again. The tutor/lecturer for this is fantastic. When we first stepped in to the art room a few weeks back, there was a few people uncertain at the thought of “learning about art” but everyone seems to have a smile on their face during Art & Design. Would you like to see what we made? Well tough, you’ve no choice.Image

Our group decided to do a farm so in the above picture you will see a Massey moving bales of hay in to the hay shed.

We also had a house and a jeep and a field to go with it. One of the members was assigned to making the animals so he made a cow, a pig, a sheep and ducks for a pond. We all let our creative side out on Tuesday.

Wednesday was an unfortunate day. This fool got up an hour earlier than necessary and was outside a lecture theatre an hour before it was due to start. Luckily, I’m a morning person but if I wasn’t…it wouldn’t have been a pretty sight. I’m actually one of those annoying people you hear about and would love to punch if you met me first thing in the morning. When the alarm goes off, that’s me awake – bright eyed and bushy tailed.

Thursday we had the last of our religion lectures and workshops in which we had an interesting discussion about religious assemblies in school – do they have a place or not? A lot of different views were expressed and the majority seemed to think there should be time for whole school assemblies but many questioned if they should be orientated around religion or not.

So this assignment… a lot of people seem very panicked about it but without trying to be patronising – I don’t get that. Obviously it’s going to be tough but we’re all in this course because we are good enough to be here so bring it on.

“Let’s face the music and dance”  

Hopefully I can make this dance look as effortless as Fred Astaire did.