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!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Breathe... breathe...

Back to school tomorrow (though kids are back Weds) and the panic is well and truly starting to set in. Despite having promised myself yesterday that today would be a completely school work free day, that's not quite happened. I've not really done anything but I did decide to have a little look over the two IEPs (Individual Education Plans for the non-teachers amongst you) for the two SEN (Special Educational Needs) children I have in my class.

I know there are some non-teacher types reading this blog so I'll explain what an IEP is, briefly. Basically, if there is an SEN child who isn't at the same level of ability as his or her peers, you put together an IEP for them. The IEP gives child specific targets like the write numerals 0-10, to sound out all three phonemes in CVC words etc. It also says how we'll go about helping him/her meet them and how we'll know he/she's met them.

For some reason looking at these two IEP set me off into complete and utter blind panic. I started to completely doubt my ability to, well, just about anything! Keep wondering if I can really provide for these SEN children. Doubting my ability to use their IEPs effectively and also to review them and write new ones in November. This led on to full scale freak out! Don't think my nightly dreams about things going wrong at school are helping much! Everything seems so real now and keep wondering if I'm really cut out for it. I don't want to let the school down and most of all I don't want to let the school down. Don't really want to let myself down either! Someone tell me feeling like this is normal?!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Gove and Ofsted

This post is inspired by a link that a fellow teacher friend posted on Facebook this morning to a newspaper article where once again Gove tells us teachers how truly rubbish we are. For anyone interested, here's the article - Bad teachers 'blight children's future', Michael Gove warns.

I don't disagree with the point in theory, a bad teacher does, to some extent, limit a child's education. The problem with that statement is that according to Gove, it seems like we're all bad teachers. Gove seems to be constantly telling as that we're not good enough, that we're not trained enough because we should all have at least a Masters, that our children are under performing and it's all our fault, that we're not willing to play our part and pull our weight... in summary, we're just plain crap.

Now, this got me thinking. What would happen if I turned around to my class of Year 2 children and told them that they just weren't good enough? Not that they needed to improve or then gave them the support to do that, just that they were rubbish, that they weren't pulling their weight, that they weren't achieving well enough, that even though they were working flat out exhausting themselves, they just weren't trying hard enough. What would happen? Well I'd be out on my ear before I could mutter P45. As teachers we know that being negative, critical and generally insulting isn't the way to get the best out of our children, instead we try to be positive, rewarding and supportive, it's just a shame that Ofsted and Gove don't do the same. That attitude and behaviour that would see us out of a job is the very attitude that we see day in day out from Gove and his minions. In my opinion low morale = low performance. Gove says all these things yet wonders why teachers aren't performing well enough? Also how can we perform well enough if the goal posts keep shifting, when satisfactory is no longer satisfactory? May if us teachers didn't have to waste, I mean spend so much of our time jumping through unending hoops just to tick boxes we'd actually be able to spend more time focusing on what really matters, the children, and we'd do a better job.

I'm sick of constantly hearing Michael Gove, who has never been a teacher, who doesn't even have a background in education tell me how rubbish we're all doing. I'm tired of hearing from older teachers about how they wouldn't like to be starting out their career now amongst all of this. Yes it might well be true, we probably know that already, but do I as a fresh faced NQT really want to hear what a bad time it is to become a teacher and that it'll only get worse? No, I really don't. I want to be told stories about children's lives that have been turned around, I want to hear about that P scale Year 2 who finally managed to write her own name, I want to hear about the elective mute in Year 4 who decided that she finally trusted you enough to talk to you, I want to hear about that boy in Year 6 who got a level 4 in his English when he never even dreamed it was possible. Those are the things I want to hear, not what a tough job it is these days.