Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Three reasons i'm glad i'm studying for a Masters in Education


Wales MEP/MYA Cymru



I am now entering the third year of my Masters in Education through Wales MEP and feel it is worth reflecting on why i'm glad i'm still studying on it. 

Having started the MEP at the same time as my NQT year there was a clear split between colleagues who had completed their PGCE and their motivation towards further study. Approximately half were keen to embrace the challenge and the rest were keen to stop studying and simply focus upon their role as a teacher. I would argue that after studying for two years there is no good reason for not embracing the masters if you are able to. That said after my first year in teaching I wrote a post on the lessons learnt in my first year of teaching reflecting that, "the MEP is hard work (really hard)" and it is, there is no getting away from it. It really has been important to prioritise the time spent working on the Masters completing assignments and learning activities. However as stated then the professional development gained from it is good and that brings me on to the first reason why i'm glad i'm still studying.

High Quality CPD

In regular discussions with educational colleagues through professional networks such as #primaryrocks and ATL (other educational chats and unions are available) a lack of high quality CPD is often mentioned. Throughout the Masters I have completed assignments and therefore studied, researched, discussed and evaluated data in schools, barriers to learning, poverty, behaviour, SEN (special educational needs) and the LNF (literacy and numeracy framework. A breadth of issues across education that has led to a greater understanding of my role and a definite improvement in my confidence in approaching these issues within my classroom and the wider school environment.

Collaboration

The MEP has also led to greater opportunity to collaborate with educational professionals across all four key stages. Students on the masters have a greater understanding of where learners are coming from and where they are going as they transition along the path of lifelong learning. Working with a wide range of education professionals has allowed me as an individual to both share ideas and discuss experiences from working in education and therefore learn from others experiences bringing new ideas into my classroom and helping others bring ideas into theirs. The staff in my school have always been keen to read the assignments I have written and share the experience I have gained through the MEP.

Reflective Practice

The MEP is built around the idea of reflective practice and although I have always argued that reflective practice is an ongoing process that takes place in the mind actually having the time and being required to complete reflective practice through writing it down has led to reflection at a much greater level. One way I have continued my reflective practice is through writing a blog and I find this both a good way of keeping track of achievements and learning points from my educational career both reflecting in action and on action a skill learnt through completing the MEP. 


Ultimately the MEP has involved gaining a greater understanding of pedagogical theory through reflecting upon my own classroom practice and bringing about interventions that have had a significant impact on raising standards within my class and the wider school environment. I am very happy that I chose to study for my masters and am looking forward to the new challenges that await as I complete the course this year.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Lessons learnt from 2014/2015 academic year.





Reflection on lessons learnt in 2013/2014



The first lesson I learnt from my first year in teaching was that there is a lot of work to cover. Effective medium term plans allow you as a teacher to have a good idea of what needs to be covered and by when. If learners understand a concept move on if they struggle think of new ways to cover it but efficient teaching is critical.



The second lesson I learnt in 2013/2014 was that Christmas is chaos ultimately a hectic Christmas period is unavoidable but the most effective way I dealt with this last year was by giving learners a clear focus through a project creating their own Christmas Market it made use of the enthusiasm that learners have for Christmas related activities developing global learning and numeracy at the same time.



The third lesson was the effort required to complete assignments for the Masters in Educational Practice. Again the workload on this is always going to be high so embrace it and try to make your assignments both interesting to yourself your school to give it real value. Every assignment I have completed this academic year has achieved a distinction pass and it is because I enjoy what I am studying.



The forth lesson was to join a union and this is clearly increasingly important to ensure you are supported in the classroom should anything go wrong. The experiences and opportunities I have had since joining ATL have been second to none and helped me develop a strong network of education professionals I can call on for advice. 



The final lesson of 2013/2014 was that the summer term is not a breeze with report writing and transition taking up a lot of time alongside the potential for increased behaviour issues as learners get tired and also seize upon the frayed nerves of teaching staff to get emotive reactions. The key to this again is to accept in plan effectively and really focus on strong behaviour management systems and supporting staff.

Midpoint evaluation 2014/2015



Last Christmas I had picked up three further lessons from teaching and these were communicate, routine and collaborate.

Communication is critical in all work places and between all the individuals involved in that workplace and getting it right is a difficult process. Social media has increasingly played a part in more effective home school communication however it needs careful management.

Routine is again an important factor alongside a role that is always changing and always has different challenges. Having regular staff meetings in to communication and setting yourself regular hours 8am – 6pm for me helps with the work/life balance.

Collaboration can be really effective and this can be as simple as attending CPD events and socialising. ATL has been very effective in allowing me to achieve high quality CPD through collaboration and #primaryrocks is also a pain free way of connecting with other schools. I have increasingly focussed upon global learning in the classroom and am part of GLPWales as well as engaging in a number of Etwinning projects. Practical collaboration (sharing resources) though is perhaps one lesson to look at for the year ahead.

2014/2015 Lessons Learnt

Lesson 1 - Collaborate



As identified at Christmas and previously in this post effective collaboration is an important way in which learning opportunities can be maximised. In a small school with a limited budget it is always difficult to provide high quality resources however through collaboration with other schools resources can be shared and expertise brought in from different areas. This year I discovered a sports based cluster that provides exciting competitions in a number of different sports and that has helped me to provide increased opportunities for the learners in my class.
Lesson 2 – Simplify Planning



Planning can be an area of debate and I understand that there will be individual differences in opinion into how best to plan and how effective and important it is. Personally I have discovered this year that the most effective way of planning is to have A4 landscape planning sheets for year, half term and week I am also flirting with the idea of creating and using a daily one. This is manageable and if it’s manageable it is effective. Evaluating your weekly lesson plan is also an important part of developing as a teacher simply writing down what went well and what to improve is important in learning from experience.

Lesson 3 – Manage Behaviour



Towards the summer term there was an unexpected increase in poor behaviour being displayed by the learners in the class and this identified some weaknesses in my behaviour management toolkit. It is important that there are both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards for displaying correct behaviour however the most important area of behaviour management is developing positive working relationships with the learners and being able to explain why it is in their best interests to behave in a positive way.

Lesson 4 – Give 100% to applications or don’t bother.



My personal career plan was based on leaving my current school after two years and moving to a larger more diverse school in North Wales to hone my teaching skills and complete my masters before moving to London to experience what I see as the cutting edge of education in the UK. However next year’s year 6 are a group I feel will need a lot of support perhaps the least able class we have had in the school for a while and I am keen to see them through transition into secondary. With this mind-set I applied for jobs but did not put enough effort in to my applications and therefore any effort I did put in was wasted. Competition for teaching places is tough and giving schools the opportunity to notice you is difficult it requires much more effort than I put in and I feel the lesson learnt is that is more important to produce a few strong applications rather than lots of weak ones.



Lesson 5 – Enjoy the circus.

Working in education throws unexpected problems into your path almost every day and the key is to not let this phase you. Quick thinking and patience are important in adapting to an ever changing environments and group dynamics. It is always worth considering whether an unexpected event can provide an exciting learning opportunity for the class and having a good Plan B in case Plan A goes awry is a necessity.

Goals for 2015/2016



My goals for 2014/2015 were to set up an eTwinning opportunity with at least one other school, run an adventure club and introduce new ICT opportunities for learners and all of those goals were met by December. I then revaluated and hoped to continue the eTwinning project by putting together a video made by the learners about our school and putting it on to our school website. Increase the amount of collaborative feedback and give learners an opportunity to suggest how they would like to learn and hoped that the work covered in Year 2 of my Masters in Educational Practice would lead to exciting learning opportunities for the learners I teach all of these goals were achieved. 

Therefore the goals I am setting for 2015/2016 are as follows,

1)  Make better use of the cluster networks through sharing resources.
2)  Host a CPD event (on use of twitter and sharing best practice if allowed by SLT).
3)  Utilise the teaching assistants within the school more effectively (small group work and different interventions including utilising the school garden).
4)  Focus on spelling.

5)  Run more lunchtime clubs that have a clear focus (e.g. news group and competition prep).


Saturday, 11 July 2015

5 key components of effective behaviour management



Behaviour in my current school had been fantastic for 18 months but as we close towards the end of this academic year a few members of the class have started testing the boundaries and pushing staff into the limits of their capability. This post deals through reflection on my current practice with what I feel are the five key components of effective behaviour management.

Communication

Every aspect of education is linked to communication and behaviour management is no different. Communication between staff, parents and pupils is the lynchpin of a good behaviour management system.

In terms of communication with staff it is vital to spend time discussing and agreeing a behaviour management system that all staff understand. It is also important that staff are able to communicate in practical situations within the classroom use the behaviour management system as agreed and evaluating together its effectiveness.

Communication with parents can be difficult as parents can refuse to listen to what staff say however it is equally true that staff can be guilty of sending more information than they receive. It is therefore important that when discussing the behaviour of a child all sides are comfortable in the discussion and it is clear throughout that the behvaviour management system is there to aid and not restrict or indeed punish the learner.

Although a behaviour management system may be created to cater for one child and indeed it may be important to have personalised behaviour management systems to take account of individual differences between children the system or systems will effect every learner in the class and also depending upon size impact upon the whole school. A rewards based system can seem unfair to learners who consistently try their best in class and do not achieve as many rewards.

Patience

Patience is a key factor as poor behaviour can be very upsetting to staff especially as is the case in my current workplace they are not used to it. An element of patience is the ability to not get emotionally involved and this may mean allowing learners to have the last word or giving the learner longer to respond to a request. It is better to spread out warnings and give the learner the opportunity to process the information they are receiving.

Reward

Unfortunately even with good communication and high levels of patience learners can refuse to follow correct behaviour protocols and it is our role as educators to deliver an education. In order to encourage learners to commit to the behaviour that will ensure a positive climate for learning it can be necessary to offer rewards. 

As mentioned earlier the administration of these needs to be well considered. It is important to use rewards as part of praising good behaviour and also important that other learners are not distracted or confused by why a learner who normally displays poor behaviour gets better rewards. In the past few weeks a learner in my class has been rewarded regularly for good behaviour by being given time on the computer (learner selection of reward is critical) a reward that is not available for the rest of the class. The fact that this learner missed the school trip will probably not be evident to other learners and it is therefore important that the extra rewards the learner receives are not evident either.

Relationship

Good communication, patience and a well thought out reward system can help develop the relationship between staff and learners and this is an important next step in the development in the learner of more positive behaviour. If a learner has a good relationship with a member of staff they will be less likely to display behaviour that inconveniences them and more likely to display behaviour that will gain the approval of staff members. This ideal though of course goes back to patience it may take years to achieve this and it may not ever happen but it is our duty as educators to put strategies in place to attempt to achieve this.

Understanding

Clear communication, high levels of patience, effective rewards and a strong working relationship will lead to a level of mutual understanding. This echoes the point made about relationship but understanding is also important within school and returns to the area of communication. Staff, parents and even outside agencies need to accept that behaviour management strategies take time to implement and that it is through working together and effective evaluation that the behaviour of individuals can be changed for the better.


The Past Week.

Star – The levels of engagement shown by two recently disengaged boys in Year 6 when designing and making a new sport.



Wish – To have communicated better with staff a new behaviour management strategy that I implemented midweek.

The past week has primarily involved learners designing and promoting a new sport in small groups. Overall this has been achieved very successfully and learners showed a good level of engagement throughout the week. We also had a trip to Llangollen which went very well and was a good reminder of how well behaved our learners can be.

The Week Ahead.

The last week of the 2014/2015 academic year and a chance to wish year 6 well as they move on towards the secondary education. This year will be a more difficult goodbye than last year as I have had two years to get to know these children and developed some really strong working relationships. A summer party is being planned to give the week a celebratory feel.




Monday, 29 June 2015

What are the best kind of displays? #primaryrocks



I'm not sure what it says about me as a person and my social life but #primaryrocks is fast becoming one of the highlights of my week! Last week I posed the question, what are the best kind of displays? This question was based on my own interest in whether displays that are too "busy" are a hindrance to learning.

Following the discussion on twitter I was keen to have a look in more detail and this blog post looks at the response from the #primaryrocks community.

In favour of immersive displays.
 
One of the most vocal contributors to my question was @primarydrama who clearly feels that displays should be very visual and even 3D. I'm not sure I have ever produced a 3D display but have seen some fantastic ones on school visits. I do feel however that 3D displays can be annoying and can get in the way as I make my way around the classroom trying to utilise all available space
 
 
A mix of both clean and simple and big and dramatic
 
Perhaps then the answer lies in a compromise @mrheadcomputing tweeted that he likes to have clean and simple displays for literacy and numeracy and then have something special for his topic displays. This is an idea that I particularly like and it buys into my idea that all work in schools should be manageable. Having one awesome topic display alongside a really good topic introduction could really help generate interest in an area you are studying.

Can they be too busy?


My thoughts on whether displays can be too busy is based on a visit to a school in Rhyl that had been awarded outstanding for it's use of space after stripping down the walls and really going for a minimalist approach throughout the whole school. @rachelrossiter drew attention during the #primaryrocks conversation to the idea that busy classrooms can cause sensory overload. This idea also draws us into a separate idea on how classroom resources are managed throughout the day and how orderly a classroom is kept. 


The value of working walls


 



Both @leah_moo and @goodman_ang discussed the value of working walls that are regularly being updated by the learners. One good aspect of a learning wall is that it can be managed by the class itself giving it more status for the learners who have ownership of it and also taking some of the display preparation work away from school staff. 
 
 How often to change?
 
An interesting and justified statement from @primarydrama was that displays become "invisible" to children after a while, so need to make the effort to keep them fresh. I am pleased with all the displays in my classroom this year apart from one that is due to be changed after an upcoming project week but how often should we change displays and is changing displays multiple times a year manageable?
 
Personal to children and classroom
 
 
Ultimately it is up to the teacher themselves to plan how best to use displays. My personal favourite is a numeracy one that has pictures of all of my class displaying the numeracy statements. The children often refer to it when completing work, it has a section for work of the week and it is interactive as it has extension challenges.
 
 

 A statement from @MissSMerrill concludes my own feelings following my more indepth look at displays in the classroom. Displays are personal to the class they are being used by, an all singing and dancing display would not be sensible in a class with children unable to cope with it likewise if children are disengaged an exciting display could be one way to inspire them.
 
 
 


The Past Week

Star: - There have been some good comments in class recently that have helped me feel like I'm making a difference. The best of these was on Friday afternoon when a learner filled with pride and some surprise stated simply "I've made a game!"


 

Wish: - To have brought in the new behaviour sheet earlier in the term as behaviour has clearly improved with it's introduction. 


The Week Ahead

Last time I reflected in a blog I wanted to bring back more exciting lessons into the classroom and recently I feel that I have been achieving that. What I am looking to do now is to bring extracurricular opportunities to school and that starts with planning an exciting school trip for next term.


Friday, 15 May 2015

The power of the red pen!


As a teacher I value pupil voice and understand the importance of quality feedback which needs to be more of a conversation than a statement. In practice though it can be difficult to achieve this without it becoming unmanageable. One change to my teaching practice this week has really made a difference to the quality of the feedback between myself and my class. The red pen!

End of the red pen as a teacher's weapon

Under guidance from GwE our school dropped our use of the red pen this year and switched to green. I have never really appreciated the negative connotations of the red pen and believe that if you switch colour any negative connotations pupils do have towards one colour pen will simply be switched to the new colour. As a result of our switching we had a stock of red pens going spare in the store cupboard.

Reintroduction of the red pen for pupil voice

Red is naturally a prominent colour that stands out and it stands to reason that as a teacher you want to hear the learners voices as loudly and clearly as possible. Giving learners ownership of the red pens in order to make comments on their own work has really made the thoughts of the learners obvious within their exercise books and highlighted any changes they make to their work as part of the editing process following completion of draft pieces of work.


The result of red pen revival


Since using the red pen learners have really thought about what the good points of their work are and also been keen to show that they know how to improve. As a teacher this saves me from making suggestions for improvements that they can make for themselves and instead focus on the more subtle ways that they can raise the quality of their work. It is such a simple and effective idea that I can't understand why I didn't think of it earlier.

Viva la red pen!




The Past Week

Star: - The amount of learners who had positive things to say on Friday afternoon relating to lessons they had enjoyed throughout the week.

Wish: - That I could focus on quality educational experiences all the time and not be weighed down by testing and evidence!


The Week Ahead

I normally pride myself in delivering at least one top quality lesson per day. Recently too much of my teaching has focused on test preparation and this has led to a decline in the enjoyment that I and the learners in my class have working and learning together on exciting ideas. With one week to go before half term it's time to return to lessons that are memorable, make use of a variety of learning styles and are most importantly fun! 


Friday, 3 April 2015

Top Tweets ATL Conference 2015

Having returned from ATL conference and Wednesday and enforcing 24 hours rest, i felt it would be advantageous to look back on the event through the medium of twitter and combine what i felt were the top tweets into a blog post.


@ATLFutureUK and @ColletteATL did another fantastic job welcoming new delegates to conference and straight away getting them standing up and sharing their views. It is key to get as many new educational professionals as possible involved in ATL to ensure that we have a strong voice that reflects the views of those at the coalface. 

 @Louiseatkinson14 made a great point reflecting the shambolic state of affairs of education within the current government. @NickyMorgan01 not present to take account of the damage done by Michael Gove and not showing an interest in listening to the hundreds of educational professionals making their voice heard at ATL conference this year.



Thankfully this man @TristramHuntMP did attend and stated that he would attend again next year. It remains to be seen whether there is substance behind the confident front cover that he projects. He talked about creativity, a practical curriculum and listening to educational professionals. Not enough was said on OFSTED although he did state it was beginning to strangle the profession.

A satirical comment from @Rodbissett reflected the first big debate of ATL conference 2015 on zero hours contracts. Some professionals believe their can be a use for these contracts (retired teachers looking to supplement their pension) however almost everyone agreed that educational professionals needs effective employment rights and achieving these on a zero hours contract remains difficult.


ATL is a union that listens to the views of it's members and this tweet reflects that as well as the lighthearted side that remains key to a successful conference. Thankfully this tweet was posted onto the main screen at conference alongside some more educational and important ones!



 @DBryant_79 highlights the importance that ATL places on Support Staff and again shows the lighthearted indeed comical side of conference. The Graffiti Wall was a fantastic addition and one that i hope to see at #ATLConf2016 and could even become an addition in a corner of my classroom! Support staff are an essential part of education in all establishments allowing learners with ALN to access the mainstream curriculum as well as supporting teachers in the delivery of effective lessons. They are highly valued by teaching staff and need to be valued higher by the UK Government.

@MattMugan brought attention to outside audiences of the emphasis placed on mental health and disabilities at this year's conference. An ATL event featuring @Musicmind in Manchester last year also demonstrated ATL's commitment to making sure that learners and staff are supported mentally and physically within their workplace. 


My smiling face reflecting the happiness i have in teaching especially when thinking about what I most like about teaching. The variety and helping children to reach their personal best is the reason I love my job and the increasing desire by those above for evidence with no impact on children's learning is what i most want to change!



No ATL Conference would be complete without high quality CPD and a number of sessions were run throughout the 3 days. This particular tweet focuses on Expeditionary Learning whereby learners make small suggestions that can lead to a dramatic improvement in outcome. Alongside formal CPD though it is fantastic to share ideas with other delegates and their are many take home ideas that can be gleamed through attendance. Take home message for me comes from @realdcameron "without wonder there is no hope!"


Representing Wales as the ATL Future steering group member for Waless was a fantastic experience this year and it was heartening to see a larger number of delegates from Wales and more Welsh spoken on stage. ATL is a UK wide union and it is important that the views of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are both considered and valued. This year that appeared to be increasingly evident.


Conference 2015 is now all said and done,
Attendee's would admit it's been tremendous fun.
Important motions that display our diversity
Inspiring talks that have inspired creativity

Debates that at times really got heated,
Most motion's carried some lost and defeated.
Contrasting views are at the heart of what we do,
Best way to investigate idea is to have it debated with you.

Alongside motions the CPD and networking's been great,
Attending conference dinner, socialising, avoiding being late.
Conference rose to give Mary Bousted deserved ovation
All ATL's education professionals have shaped education. 





Friday, 27 February 2015

Save our school!




Shortly before half term the local county council sent a proposal to our staff to close our school. I feel the timing was not coincidental and indeed feel that the council are doing everything in their power to try and force the closure with as little resistance as possible. Unfortunately for the council small schools are made up of an incredibly close knit community that will do anything to ensure that a high level of education in an inclusive and caring environment continues.

This post focuses on some initial ideas as part of our response to the threat of closure.


Listen to the community

The council has displayed no interest in listening to the views of the community, the staff or pupils regarding whether their decision is the correct one. A questionnaire that was not easily accessible until we as a school sent out a clear link has been created by the council however how they are going to use the data collected from this is questionable. The council met with parents on an individual basis which put undue pressure on parents and undoubtedly led to some views not being heard. As a school we have been part of an open dialogue both online and within school and are listening to everyone's views and opinions as should be expected. 

Publicise our plight

It is difficult to put into words the injustice we feel in the proposal to close our school. We feel it is important to increase exposure to our cause as closing our school will lead to a gap in the provision of education in our county. Our headteacher and a classroom teacher recently went down to London to meet the prime minister as we were recently voted the highest performing school in the constituency. 



Thankfully this picture made the front page of the local paper this week as the public struggles to conceive why the council would close such a successful school. Today our school council wrote a letter to the prime minister sharing their thoughts which are both lovely to read but at the same time very sad.



Write a response that clearly states why the decision is wrong 

Research is already being carried out to ensure that our official response to the proposal from the council is clear, concise and correct unlike many aspects of the proposal itself. We are under no illusions that we are in a David vs Goliath situation but by working professionally on our official response we really do hope that the council see sense and leave our very successful school alone.

Understandably i do not wish to go into further details until after our official response. As the council are far better at political gamesmanship than ourselves. The problem is that if they win everybody loses.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Adaptability



Thursday 29th January 2015 was no ordinary day it was another day where an ability to juggle plates was very much needed! Although a certain amount of adaptability is needed in a variety of careers and situations I believe it is a crucial skill in primary school teaching especially in small schools.

8:45am - Arrive at school.
I would have preferred to be in earlier but also like to read and exercise before work and don't want to get up earlier than 6am! I noticed as i pulled in to the car park that the Year 3/4 teachers car wasn't there which reminded me that I was teaching all four year groups.

9:00am - Banging headache
For no reason I can really think of I had a splitting headache which always makes teaching children extra tricky. I thought about giving the learners a heads up but decided it would be better to give them tasks that would keep them busy and hopefully quiet!

10:30am - Meeting with football team
The day before I had heard about a football tournament in a week's time so I was keen to discuss the plan for this with the players at break time. Unfortunately having scheduled the meeting I forgot that I was on duty and so the meeting had to take place with one eye on supervising the yard.

12:00pm - Countdown
Last year i set up a catch up club at lunch time for my LA learners but more recently I had realised that it would be worthwhile to set up something similar for my HA learners. So we have started playing Countdown at lunch and while I and hopefully they value the session it is another thing to think about and more time where I am motivating and hopefully educating during my non contact time.

12:49pm - Last minute cover
Literally minutes before the children were due to return to class after lunch i was asked if I could stay teaching the juniors in the afternoon over my PPA as the Year 3/4 teacher was not well. Of course this was ok but I was due to meet my masters tutor at 1pm.

13:00pm - Masters tutor arrives
Conscious of trying to make a good impression I spoke to my masters tutor and tried to explain the situation. Thankfully he was very understanding having worked in education for many years. I managed to find an activity that a teaching assistant could lead for 20 minutes before the football coach was due to arrive.

13:20pm - Football coach arrives
While in mid flow conversation the door bell rang heralding the arrival of the football coach. I apologised to my tutor and asked if I could have 5 minutes to sort out the transition of half the class to PE and explain a quick activity for the remaining half that they could complete while i finished my conversation.

13:40pm - Snow
Having dispatched my masters tutor it was time to take the other half of the class out for hockey. Of course i didn't realise I was teaching PE so it was a case of tie off and sleeves up! A couple of drills later and the heavens opened with a downpour of snow forcing us back into the classroom.

14:20pm - The disappearing clipboard
Things calmed down for a while but then I could not see a clipboard which I was pretty sure should be on my desk. I eventually found it but the planning for the football tournament had been replaced with an angry face drawing! Annoyed that one of my class had thrown away my planning I asked who had done the drawing to a sea of blank faces. Thankfully the culprit has since owned up.

15:15pm - Sending the children home
Following the dismissal of the children I was left to get on with the pile of my marking I had created for myself.

18:10pm - Late finish
Completing my everyday after school tasks seemed to take longer (probably because I had twice as many books to mark) and this was the latest finish on a normal school day with no clubs so far in my teaching career.

That day is probably not dissimilar to one's experienced by many of my colleagues in education but hopefully shows the need to be quickly adaptable and juggle many plates. 


Saturday, 17 January 2015

Early lessons learnt from teaching the infants.



With the start of 2015 comes more work in the form of teaching the infants in the afternoon. I actively seek challenges and working with a class of 2 and a half year old's to 7 year old's when I am junior trained certainly is one! In all seriousness I was conscious last year that I had a lack of experience in the foundation phase and so when the opportunity arose I was quick to volunteer to cover the class. That experience last year limited as it was set me in good stead for covering the class this term and although still learning every day I do now feel comfortable teaching in the foundation phase.

I do hear teachers in primary state that they are afraid or lack confidence teaching in the foundation phase when they are primarily junior teachers and vice-versa however I also feel that embracing the challenge of teaching lower down or further up the school can help you develop as a teacher.

I have now taught/covered lessons/coached learners from two and a half through to nineteen across all four key stages in the six and a half years I have worked in education. This has led to a wealth of experience and an ability to adapt to learners needs that is vital throughout education. I am also sure that I made the right choice a few years ago changing my focus from secondary to primary education.

Teaching in the foundation phase is great fun and I feel I am making a real difference to learners education something that I didn’t feel i was doing as much when working in secondary. It is lovely to work full time and be able to spend some time teaching every learner in the school.

Although I have only been teaching in the foundation phase a couple of weeks I feel I have already learnt a few lessons that impact upon my practice.

1  Lesson 1 - Keeping learner’s attention in the foundation phase is hard!

In the staff room yesterday a colleague told me that you often feel the learners in the foundation phase are about to switch off and stop concentrating when you are talking to them. This is certainly true and therefore it is important to have strategies to get them engaged, keep them engaged and to be concise and easy to understand when they are engaged.  One fun and effective stratergy I picked up working in a SEN resource was bad sitting. When the teacher calls bad sitting learners are required to sit in a variety of silly ways until the teacher calls good sitting they are then required to sit in the correct manner. The learners in the foundation phase I have been working with really took to this and although some still need prompting to listen it has helped with their attention.
    
    Lesson 2 - Learners in the foundation phase tell it like it is!

Although the learners I teach in KS2 will show signs of disengagement I have found that learners in the foundation phase have no problem telling me that what they are doing is boring or “not fun”. This honest feedback is useful though as it means you can adapt your lessons to try to make them more engaging sometimes on the spot. Thankfully this honesty is counterbalanced by a great desire to please and learner in the foundation phase seem to be great at paying compliments (a boy in year 2 said thank you to me for teaching him!) which is good for morale!
    
    Lesson 3 - Photo’s are important for showing what work learners have done.

We have recently bought a new floor book for the foundation phase and it is quickly becoming a useful resource in collecting evidence of learning especially practical activities. I am keen on photo collage’s something I saw in a foundation phase moderation meeting while on training practice as an effective and interesting way of displaying practical work. I do however feel that the floor book requires greater involvement from the learner, perhaps words and pictures they associate with the learning along with clearly displayed learning objectives.




I am thoroughly enjoying teaching in the foundation phase and I hope that I can spend plenty of time teaching in that phase in the future.  



Friday, 2 January 2015

Lessons learnt in 2014, aspirations for 2015




2014 has come to an end and 2015 begins so I thought it worth reflecting on the lessons learnt in 2014 and how I can use what I have learnt to improve my practice in 2015.

Lesson 1 - Communicate

As I develop as an educational practitioner I am increasingly aware of the need for good communication both up and down the command line. The more people aware of the direction you wish to head and the more aware you are of the direction that others wish to head the more chance of getting to the planned destination successfully. Like most young teachers I am filled with ambition and have joined the teaching profession to attempt to make a real positive difference to children's lives. I am full of ideas of how we can maximize learning opportunities for the children but now better understand that these ideas come to fruition much easier if everyone is aware of what the ideas are and the benefits to them.

Christmas Market an idea that came to fruition!


Lesson 2 - Routine

Having a good routine for non-contact time before and after school is imperative for keeping on top of planning, preparation and assessment. Although there are incidents where it may be impossible to keep your routine returning back to it as soon as possible helps keep you on top of the workload. The best routine I have had is arriving half an hour before school and spending 15 minutes talking to staff, 15 minutes preparing the classroom. After school I have all the books open ready to be marked, write down a quick evaluation (what went well? what could we improve?), tidy the classroom and if possible plan the following weeks lessons at least in rough. When I am able to keep that routine I feel on top of the workload and the learners can see and discuss their feedback in the next lesson. 

Lesson 3 - Collaborate

This goes back towards communication however collaboration is a good way of making the most of resources and experience from other educational professionals. One of the best and certainly most exciting learning experiences that the learners in my class had last year was when @davidleighevans came in to do some STEM work.

STEM work, creative designs using gears and levers.


I am also a newly converted fan of online forums on twitter such as @edchat and @primaryrocks. Although initially apprehensive about joining in a chat on twitter especially after 6pm I have found it to be a good community to share ideas while lounging on the sofa with a cup of coffee, sometimes even with the football on!