Mr Blue Sky

I missed last week. I’m sorry. It has been a hectic fortnight. Planning, cutting, planning, laminating, reflecting, planning, researching and planning. And planning.

Last week saw me take on a lot more lessons and a lot less observation. Two issues became prevalent. Noise levels and behaviour. It was strange for me because on my previous school experience, neither were an issue that made their way in to discussions with the class teacher but last week – it was a hot topic.

I found it a struggle. I really did. Part of me questioned whether it was worth it – not in the sense of ‘If I can’t control 5 year olds, what chance have I?’ because that is ridiculous. It was more a case of ‘Am I progressing enough here’.  Both class teachers and I spoke at length about it and while I didn’t come out with ‘I’m shite at this’, I did express my fear that my progress in these areas (noise levels and behaviour management) was poor. They both reassured me and told me to stop being so harsh on myself. I do think I set high standards of myself but everyone wants to do their best, and I’m no different.

Friday eventually came round, as it tends to do and I got home and fell asleep pretty quickly (although I did watch an episode of Cheers beforehand). Saturday and Sunday were entirely dedicated to planning. I took the odd toilet break and dash to the fridge for a bite to eat but I decided I didn’t want to leave the books, laptop or planning folder down for any longer than necessary. I managed to get the three weekends before the continuous weeks off from work and so I took advantage. Working all day Saturday during placement means for me that I don’t really get a good run at the planning until the Sunday and as I find planning for early years difficult – I’m only ever really working towards the next day. By Sunday night, around 10ish – I had planned all the activities and lessons for Monday, Tuesday and the first half of Wednesday.

Monday of this week then, I went in feeling more relaxed than I had ever done before about teaching early stages. I felt ready, I knew I had resources ready, I knew what should happen when for Monday and Tuesday. It was obvious to me and to my class teachers that I was more relaxed. It’s not as though my lessons were flawless, far from it – but I didn’t feel tense about doing them.

A huge success I had this week came from advice I got from the boss was using a table reward scheme with pom poms (the art & craft type). What a success that was. Children who found it difficult to engage with the lessons or activities were all of a sudden trying really hard so they could win some pom poms for their table. The carrot they had in front of them was first choice of activities for free play. Thankfully – getting to play with the sand tray is a huge incentive for the kids to tune in that much more. It’s something I will definitely use for the remainder of my time in the school.

All my lessons up until Wednesday afternoon I felt had gone well. It should have filled me with confidence for my tutor visit on Thursday. I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that things couldn’t possibly run as smoothly for the tutor visit could it? It didn’t. It really didn’t. All the wonderful behaviours and level of engagement I had seen leading up to this point, disappeared when the tutor came in the door. I brought the children up for lunch and went in to my class teacher’s office and told her that I had definitely failed. There was no way I could pass. The tutor came in and could see how frustrated I was and told me that she thought my behaviour management strategies were effective and they thought the main reason why I had problems was because some of the kids were not sufficiently challenged. It was a fair comment and I fully accepted it. We spoke about the need to have an activity a step above what was intended just in case they find it too easy. It was also pointed out to me that I needed to find a way to assess the learning effectively as it was something I was doing in terms of lesson planning, but not assessing for assessment sake. In the end, I passed my inspection, which was a pleasant but completely unexpected surprise.

Another surprise came in the form of the essay results coming out Friday. I didn’t know they were coming out. I passed that too.

I’ll tell you and show you a glimpse of my highlight of the week. I thought I was going to tell you about making bees with toilet roll tubes (which all the kids loved) or the fact that over half the class at some stage this week told me I was the best teacher ever (which is obviously not true but still nice to thing they like having me as a teacher) but the real highlight this week was cycling along the beach yesterday.

 

Not a bad day for taking the bike out.

Not a bad day for taking the bike out.

It was a beautiful day and I cycled up and down the beach. Cycling up I was reflecting on the successes and areas for improvement from this week. On the way back down – I didn’t think about anything. It was nice to do that for the first time in ages.

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Busy Busy Busy

After nearly two months away from a classroom, returning on Monday morning was weird.

I had a fairly restless night’s sleep on the Sunday night and I awoke early Monday morning being very nervous. I noticed a tense feeling in my chest and it was something I would have for the majority of the week. Stepping back in to the classroom and I immediately remembered the table names – Red, Blue and Yellow. The names sprung to mind quickly as it reminded me of the first three Pokemon games (although I sincerely doubt that was the logic behind choosing the names).

I had been in contact with the teachers for the class about what lessons I was to teach for Monday – a PE lesson. I went in Monday with a plan in hand for the PE lesson and observed the teacher in action. They took the time then to ask me about what I had observed and what I’d take from that and if there was anything I’d do a little differently. It was a very helpful conversation and helped calm me somewhat. The PE lesson, rather surprisingly went off without a hitch. I had set out five activities all related to throwing and aiming and had each station numbered to avoid confusion when moving groups from activity to activity. I also had a chat with the other teacher about targets for the placement, organising a visit from a university tutor, and what the areas of focus are for the term. All in all, Monday was busy but a nice start to the first week back. 

Tuesday did not go as well. I taught a writing lesson which I thought I had prepared sufficiently for but I had underestimated the length of time and the amount of instruction that was needed and suffice to say, I was very disappointed with it. I left the school on Tuesday rather annoyed with myself but went in to the university to use the IT facilities to prepare for what I wanted to be a great lesson on subtraction. I prepared a game on Powerpoint using hyperlinks with subtraction questions, making an effort to use some of the different words for subtraction – take away, minus, subtract, less. I was, in a sense, cautious of relying too much on a memory stick for  what I thought was a good method of teaching subtraction and so I made sure to save the Powerpoint on my memory stick, Google Drive and printed out the slides – just in case.

I was hoping the lesson on subtraction would go well on Wednesday and beforehand, that now familiar tense feeling was present. Thankfully, the Powerpoint game worked perfectly. It opened from my memory stick with no problems and the children loved the smiley face that popped up if they selected the right answer. Smiles all around and as a result – the tension dissipated for the day. The teacher told me they were very impressed with the use of the different words for subtraction as it was important that the children become familiar with them early on. 

Thursday I used a similar game as the subtraction lesson for a lesson on ‘br’, ‘cr’, and ‘dr’ words. I thought it had worked well but there appeared to be a little confusion on mixing up the ‘br’ and ‘dr’ words so I spoke to the teacher about this afterwards and they assured me that the lesson went well and that the confusion didn’t mean the lesson was the cause of confusion but just a sign that more work was needed in that area. I also took a mental maths lesson in which the focus was on counting backwards from 20. I used a large number line to count backwards with them first time round and then blocked the number line from view. We then played a number game show in which I would hold up a card with a number and they had to tell me the number before the one displayed. They loved it and I was pleasantly surprised to see some of the class’ quieter characters put their hand up to join in on the game show. To finish off, we sang Ten Green Bottles. I won’t lie, I found that terrifying! Obviously, I can give a virtuoso performance of Blame It On The Boogie and other similar classics when I’m singing into the shower head but I felt terrified by singing in front of an early years class. What made it even scarier for me was the class teacher returned in to the classroom when there was 8 of the bottles still on the wall! ‘Oh sweet Jesus’ I thought when I saw the teacher walk in. Thankfully, after hearing that another green bottle had accidentally fallen, they joined in with the class singing the story of the final seven bottles. The children loved singing the song and I think I’ll be more ready to sing in a class again. 

Friday I was taking another writing lesson and another PE lesson. Both lessons went very well and when the class teacher and I were discussing them afterwards, they told me that they thought the lessons had went well but gave me an area for improvement. They told me that they felt the class sometimes gets too noisy. We agreed that a noise-ometer would be an appropriate way to lower the volume in the classroom. All in all, I thought the week had gone well and so I relaxed sufficiently to allow myself a game of pool or two with a friend from work on the Friday evening and an episode or two of Scandal when I got home. 

I have a nice bit of work to do now for today, including a noise-ometer to make! One of the lessons i’m currently planning involved using A Bug’s Life (as gardens and mini-beasts is the topic for the term) to inspire us to write our own story for Flik. Admittedly, I’m looking forward to that lesson particularly. 

Anywho. That’s all my news I think for this week. so I’ll post this and close the tab, maybe share the post on Twitter and then return to planning for the week ahead. Busy busy busy. 

G’luck!

Calm Before The Storm

5 weeks of placement start tomorrow so I’d like to wish everyone starting placement the very best of luck. There’s a tough slog ahead but I’m ready to knuckle down and get some serious work done over the next few weeks. 

There is not a whole lot to report for the week before placement. We had one day of workshops during the week which were enjoyable but in terms of lectures, very little happened.

The workshop day started with a speech from David Cameron (@realdcameron) which was incredible. He spoke passionately about inspiring pupils which captivated his audience. The Real David Cameron told us that the most important thing for a teacher to do is to inspire a future for a child, not a destiny. That really hit home for me. It’s a theme I touched upon in my interview for the course over a year ago – I had told the interviewer that I didn’t want to become a teacher to inspire everyone to be doctors or rocket scientists but to inspire them to pursue their own dream, not someone else’s. He also showed us how we could use websites such as pedagoo.org to inform our practice and that is something I will be looking to do over the next few weeks. Mr Cameron and another guest speaker told us the best advice they can give us is to take our time at the beginning of our probationary year to get to know the children – what they like and dislike and use their strengths to inform lessons. The other guest speaker also advised us to get involved in absolutely everything you possibly can because everything is an opportunity to add a feather to your cap. Hopefully I’ll be organised enough over the next year to do that!

I also attended a guest lecture from a group of students who were part of an ASN group in a school. They told us about all the things they have done with the school that have changed their lives. It was incredible to see these students stand up and speak to us about how they used to be nervous in crowds and didn’t like to talk and here they were, talking to a room of about 30 adults. Incredible. The teachers involved spoke of their pride for what the group had achieved collectively and individually and I think those teachers should feel very proud of themselves for being involved with the group. 

I think it’s time for me to finish preparing this school experience folder and then put my feet up for half an hour to chill out and calm myself before what will be a whirlwind 5 weeks. I’ve no doubt there will be plenty to write about over the next few weeks so hopefully I’ll have my first week’s worth of reflections up for your perusal by Friday evening. 

Until then amigos. 

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! 🙂

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.

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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. 

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. 

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!