Monday, 29 October 2012

Autumn Term... take 2!

Half term was last week, I can't believe how quickly those 7 weeks went or how quickly those 7 days off went! A 3 day trip away to Amsterdam with the boy combined with moving house (from where I now have a 90 mile round trip commute each day!) made for a very busy and not so relaxing half term. At the same time it was still a break from school and teaching, which was nice. Though I have to admit, sitting there taking the register this morning and seeing some of the cheeky grins of some of the monkeys in my class made it nice to be back.

It's been a crazy half term, such an intense learning curve. The thing that I've realised, more than anything else, is that I can do this. It's not been an easy half term but I've not given up and I'm getting better at things, quicker and far more confident. I'm not saying I don't ever have doubts anymore but those feelings of complete inadequacy and overwhelmingness have started to ebb away.

First day back today and I spent the afternoon out of class on a Maths for NQTs training session. In all honesty, I didn't have very high expectations. I thought it would end up covering a bit of subject knowledge and things like that and as someone who is pretty good and confident with maths, I wasn't sure what I was going to get from it but I went along with an open mind. I was pleasantly surprised and actually found it quite useful. Some of the things that we talked about, like how the Primary Framework works wasn't overly useful as it's something I'm quite familiar with. I came away feeling reassured about some of the things that I do, with some ideas for some things I could do and the realisation that there are some things that I need to improve on.

So, what am I doing well?

  • Using physical aids and resources in my lessons
  • Giving children the opportunity to ask questions
  • Giving children the opportunity to and encouraging them to use mathematical language
  • Differentiation
What do I need to do better and how will I do it?
  • Take charge of my TA! I dont' share my plans with her, I don't really get feedback from her either and I don't use her effectively in my lessons. I don't feel like I really get the opportunity to though to be honest. There are times when she's been sat doing something on the computer all through my teaching input and then come and asked me what we're doing just as we split into groups. So, what am I going to do about it?
    • Give her my weekly plan at the start of the week
    • Put on that plan what I want her to do
    • Ask her to work with an individual group during the oral and mental starter who may have struggled with something the day before
    • Ask her to make a few notes on the plan or something and give these to me as well as some verbal feedback at the end of each lesson or whenever is next possible
I don't really like taking charge like that, especially when she's such an experienced TA but I think that I need to. After all it's my class and at the end of the day, I'm the one who is ultimately responsible for them, their learning and their progression. I should have done this quite a while ago really.
  • Plenaries... I've never really been overly sure on what makes a good plenary, combine that with generally running out of time and I often don't do them but I should. So what will I do?
    • Make sure that I leave time at the end of each lesson for even a short 5 minute plenary, even if it means cutting activities short before they're finished
    • I'm going to ask to buy a giant foam dice with plastic pockets. In each pocket will be a question that we'll answer for the plenary, such as 'What have I learned today?' or 'How do I need to improve?'
    • I'm going to work on having challenging plenaries too that build on the lesson. This will be a more difficult one though I think, it's difficult to pitch it right when it's the whole class
So they're my two current targets/focuses for myself at the moment. I'll update you on how I do with them. Parents evening tomorrow, better go get things sorted. Eek!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Pupil Progress Meetings - Hello Rock... Hello Hard Place!

Staff meeting this morning, just what I love for a Friday morning! We were told that pupil progress meetings are next week. For the non-teachery types who read my blog, a pupil progress meeting is where I meet with my headteacher and the deputy head (my mentor) to talk about the progress that each child is making. 

It all involves looking at the levels that they were given at the end of the summer and the levels that I gave them a week or two ago. Out of 30 children, I gave 12 children a lower level in Maths, mostly just by one sub level, though some dropped two but I gave 21 out of 30 lower levels in Writing!! Now, here lies the problem. There are a few children who, having had a few more weeks, I can see didn't do their best in that writing task however quite a few, at least 10, I disagree with their summer levels on completely. As an NQT I don't really feel able to say that though, after all the teacher who leveled them is an experienced teacher, what do I know? The thing is, I moderated all of those writing tasks with my mentor and we agreed the levels so it's not just my opinion as an inexperienced NQT, it's the opinion of an experienced member of the SLT too. I really don't want to sit there and say that I think that someone else leveled children wrong but I don't want to set myself up for a fail by not making 3 sub levels of progress from a level where children weren't in the first place. Biggest problem is that the teach who had them 3 days a week last year is involved in teaching them this year and so will be in that pupil progress meeting too. Think I'm going to ask to have it separately though. 

Most definitely stuck between a rock and a hard place! Any advice?

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Dragon Happenings

Been a bit quiet on here lately but things have been really busy with school and moving house and I've not had a huge amount to say really. Classroom is now finally all set up properly, displays of children's work etc. are all up. People keep saying how lovely my classroom looks which is really nice to hear, will take a few photos to update on here tomorrow.

My school works to a creative curriculum so the majority of my teaching is all based on a theme - Turrets and Tiaras. So that's all things castles, dragons, princes, princesses and the like. I have to say this week has completely convinced me that a creative curriculum is worth while. We kicked off with a trip to Warwick Castle and have been doing some information writing all about castles but things got really exciting last week when we found a mysterious egg in our classroom on Monday morning!

Of course I knew absolutely nothing about the egg or where it came from... I HADN'T made it from paper mache the day before and only finished painting it that morning... The kids absolutely loved it and got so excited about it, though I did have to spend about 5 minutes convincing one boy that I hadn't made it because I don't know how to paper mache though his response was that of course I know how because I'm a grown up. We didn't know what the egg was, where it came from, how it got there and so we had a morning of brainstorming different ideas. Here they are...

As you can see, I have some lively imaginations in my class, though I think the best ideas were ones that we shared verbally rather than wrote down. I think my favourite idea was that a volcano must have erupted somewhere and that the egg was resting inside to keep warm and got blown in the air when the volcano erupted, it flew all the way over here and landed in our classroom, coming in through the window. It was a really good activity to do because it got them thinking and coming up with ideas but also reasons why. Anytime they shared an idea they had to say 'I think... because...' and not just 'I think'. 

So we looked after the egg, making sure that we kept it warm, dry and safe. On Thursday morning we went off to assembly and came back to find this...


The egg was gone! It was time to do some detective work. There were footprints, from that we decided that the egg must have cracked and then whatever it was climbed up onto our storage unit and stood in the paint, then it jumped from table to table and went out into the corridor. I must have forgotten to shut the door and it went outside. There were no footprints outside so we knew it was something that could fly. There was also some burnt paper on the table, that's when we knew it was a dragon because nothing else breathes fire! The children were so ridiculously excited but so disappointed that the egg and dragon were gone.

We spent the next few days writing a care guide all about how to look after a dragon in case anyone finds it or it comes back. This morning I shared a very exciting news report that I 'saw on the news last night'....

The kids of course went absolutely crazy with excitement! They came up with all kinds of fantastic theories. I explained that the news station wanted us to write some newspaper articles about what happened and suddenly they all thought they were going to become famous! We spent the entire morning working on these newspaper articles and I have to say, they're absolutely fantastic. There are some of the children that I've really struggled to get decent work out of since I started and some of those children did some absolutely amazing work today and they worked mostly independently. It really seemed to grab the interest of the boys, going to really milk this over the next couple of weeks before half term! If I had any doubts about a creative curriculum, they're gone now. I love my job, teaching is the best job in the world!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Three weeks down

Three weeks have gone already, how's that happened?! Can't believe how quickly it's gone, scary really.

Pretty settled in now, know my routine, know where things are, the kids names and personalities, who to go to for what but I don't really feel like I've been that good a teacher at the moment. So many of my lessons have been absolutely god awful. If I'd been observed by my mentor or worse, Ofsted, I know I wouldn't have even scraped a satisfactory. It's just so difficult. I don't really know the kids that well in terms of what they do or don't know or what they can or can't do and that affects my lessons massively. There've been times I've assumed they'd know certain things and they haven't, like an RE lesson looking at the symbols for the 6 main religions... they didn't even know what Christianity was let alone any of the others! Other times I've gone in and made work too easy or too difficult, particularly with Maths. Need to work out how to really challenge my highers, in Maths especially, there are a few that are beyond higher ability, they're classed as Gifted & Talented.

Things not going so well, or at least not as well as the levels of standards that I set for myself, really knocked my confidence. There were a number of days when I wondered whether this is really what I'm meant to do, if I'm cut out for it. I'm not perfect and I know that but the thing is, I'm working on it. I'm talking to my mentor about how to challenge my higher ability children. I've met with the SEN lady about how to differentiate for my SEN child who can't do anything without support and even then struggles with most things. I'm looking at bad lessons and deciding why they didn't go well and how I can improve. Really, that's what it's about. It's about seeing where my weaknesses are and working on whatever I need to to be able to improve. So maybe I'm not where I want to be right now but I'm doing my damnedest to get there and I know that I will. I just need to remember that I'm an NQT, this is my first class, I shouldn't be so hard on myself!

It's not all been bad though, I'm good at some things! I've got to submit levels for the children by the end of the month so we did an independent writing task on Friday and I spent lunchtime and the start of the afternoon leveling them all. Sat with my mentor to look at the levels expecting her to change most of them but actually she gave them all the same level except for one which she gave a sub-level higher, which I'd debated about but erred on the side of caution. This really helped with my confidence as she said how well I'd done and that I have absolutely nothing to worry about when it comes to moderation. Made me think that maybe I can do this teaching malarky, I'm getting there!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Verdict

Well I made it through my first full week (including a class trip) alive, I call that a success! I have had my first massive mystery bruise though, about 3 inches across and absolutely no recollection of doing anything to cause it. Probably walked into the annoying knee height tables that you get in KS1, seem to do that constantly! I've had enough time to settle into the school and class now and form opinions about it all, so here's the verdict.

My class are, on the whole, a really lovely class. They're a chatty bunch but other than that, they're actually really well behaved. Though I did have a mystery person put hand soap in two water bottles this week, the whole class had to have a bit of a telling off for that. The one thing that absolutely drives me mad about them is their lack of ability to be quiet. I'll do my clapping, they'll stop, repeat and be quiet for a few seconds but then they'll start to do things and talk before I'm finished talking. I'm having to come down quiet hard on them, I've been clapping again and telling them that it's disrespectful (one of the rules they wanted is to respect everyone) to talk over me and not listen (another one of their rules!) and just refusing to talk over them. If there have been any particularly bad offenders then they've had to miss some of their play time. I'm also making them redo things if they don't do them right the first time, like moving to line up, sit on the carpet/at tables etc. I think they're starting to get a bit better, we'll get there!

What have I learnt this past week and a bit?
* Whilst a zone board might be a great idea, it just doesn't work in practice. It's too much faffing and hassle so I've not been using it, just my sticker chart. I may take it down and put up a traffic light instead as I think it's still a good thing for my warning system - one warning before the school policy of time out. No names this time, just laminate it and use a board pen to write the name on.
* I've also learnt that it's bloody hard work! Especially at the start of the year but that if you keep on, it does get better.
* Another thing that I've learnt is that although I totally dismissed the idea of carpet or seating charts, I think they might well be needed!
* Always have a back up plan in case something can't happen for one reason or another
* Make sure you know when assemblies are so that the head doesn't have to come and get you!
* Don't let one child use an electric pencil sharpener, suddenly they all want a go!
* Stop stressing so much, in wise words of Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - Everything will be alright in the end, if it is not alright it is not the end.

The staff at the school are genuinely probably the nicest lot I've ever worked with. Everyone is so helpful, they constantly tell me that if I need help with anything just to ask, they ask how I am, how I'm getting on etc. The head teacher is great, there are times when I'll ask a question and she'll send me to my induction mentor as it's up to her to deal with those things, which is completely understandable and I'd expect it really (still getting used to who I go to for what!) but she always shows an interest in me and how I'm getting on. My induction mentor is well, amazing really. I've had so many questions this past week I'm amazed that she's not got sick of me! Yet she always finds the time to help and answer questions and always tells me to come and ask if ever I need anything. They've also booked me onto a number of training courses which is great. It all makes me really not want to leave at Christmas, let's hope they don't manage to recruit someone to be the KS1 leader!

I'm starting to get used to the school and the way things work now. Guided Reading still is a bit of a hazy area for me though, first session next week so hopefully it'll just take a few goes to get into it all. My mind is still bordering on that fence about whether I think I can do this or not. There's been so many times this week where I know I haven't been great, where the children haven't learned what I wanted, where I've pitched too high or too low. Though there's been other times when things have gone really well, it's certainly not all bad. Maybe I'm being too hard on myself, maybe that's all part of settling in and getting used to the children and that things will soon get better with those things. I'm hoping so anyway!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Catch Up

This will be a fairly short post tonight, it might only be 8pm but I'm SHATTERED! Waking up at 5.15am the last 2 days has broken me.

Had a great first week at school, really enjoyed it. Starting to get to know the kids quite well, they're starting to get the hang of my behaviour strategies, hopefully they'll fully get used to them soon. I've not really been using the zone board though, it seems to be a bit much effort. I have been using it if I've needed to give someone a warning though, which I've only had to do once. So I might change it just to a laminated traffic light maybe, amber is first warning, red is a time out.

Had my very first school trip where I was in charge today. I was so worried I'd lose or break at least one kid but they all came back and with all limbs in tact, no-one was sick either, win!

Starting to get my head around planning at last! The feeling of pure fear is starting to fade away and be replaced by a feeling of actual confidence in myself! Starting to think that maybe I can do it after all.

I've decided to start a little thing on here that I shall call 'Comment of the Week'. Each week I'm going to post the best comment that I've had from a child (or even staff) for all of your amusement. This week it has to be 'Miss I'm tired, I've worked so hard, can I have a little rest?' said at 9.20 in the morning after the boy had been in class for about 5 minutes after having assembly and had drawn me a circle, triangle, square and rectangle. It's tiring stuff don't you know!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

First day and the dreaded O word!

I survived! My first day of having the kids back is over and actually went surprisingly well. My dreams weren't premonitions and were just dreams after all. The children didn't run riot, the TA didn't completely change my activities, I didn't royally cock it up! I actually had an amazing first day and though I'm utterly exhausted, I definitely feel like I've made the right choice in life. All those doubts about whether I could possibly do it have melted away and I know I'm doing what is right for me and what I love.

My class are absolutely lovely, I'm already their 'very best ever and loveliest teacher ever ever' already for some of them apparently! There are a few characters in the class that I've got to spot. Like the one girl who just won't be quiet, she always has something to say! Lovely girl but constantly calls out and interrupts. We had to vote on School Council members today and bless them they were so sweet. It was the first time they've had to do it so they had to nominate themselves, give a little speech and then we voted. Each of the children cam up and told me their vote and towards the end of the class was one little girl who was one of the 'candidates' and she asked whether she could vote for herself. I have to say it made me chuckle and as she was the first person to ask I thought that I'd say yes. She missed out by one vote in the end but I made her the Eco Warrior for our Eco Committee instead so she was happy enough.

I had to learn some tough lessons today though too. I'm the kind of person that likes to please people and keep the peace. I hate talking about things face to face with people, feel so uncomfortable about it! I'd planned out my whole timetable including what I wanted the teacher covering my PPA and NQT times to do - Guided Reading, PE and Science. I thought this would be ok but it turned out that she doesn't have a TA for any of those afternoons so wanted me to change it all. I have swapped Guided Reading round because that does need a TA really to get through it all and I thought I should do it anyway really, so I've given her Music and PSHE, still a big sacrifice for me to give up Music but it's the only way I could do it. So then I was trying to find some kind of solution for Science but I just can't. There were three possible options but one I wasn't prepared to do because it was a subject I specialised in at uni and enjoy (though it's her specialism too) and have also already planned until Christmas and the other two just weren't feasible, though she thought they might be. I spoke to my mentor about it all because I didn't know whether I was being harsh telling her she needed to do Science but she reassured me that it's my classroom so it's my decision and that it was a perfectly acceptable decision to make. So I've got to tell her tomorrow that she's just going to have to do Science by herself. I don't think she'll be happy but I haven't really got much choice! It's so difficult being the person 'in charge' so to speak, I don't like it! I just need to remember that it's my class though and so I shouldn't/can't be a push over!

So, the dreaded O word... Ofsted! The school got a 'good' in it's last Ofsted inspection in 2011 which means that it shouldn't get another inspection for 3 years but... there's always a but! Despite numerous interventions, extra booster groups and all the support in the world our Year 6 class didn't get the results hoped for last year and we've missed our targets by a fair chunk. Our head told us this afternoon in our staff meeting that this means that it could trigger another inspection by Ofsted. I thought I was safe this year, just the mention of the O word has put the fear of god in me! Seriously hope that it doesn't trigger one, not sure I'd cope!

Off to bed now, absolutely exhausted... I'm just not used to seeing 6.30 in the morning anymore!