Memoirs of a Teacher: Part 3 by @TeacherToolkit

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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These are memoirs of my trainee-teacher placement from 1996. This is part 3.

During the process of writing my second book about teacher-resilience and what keeps teachers stuck in the classroom, I have delved into my teaching practice file to rediscover my reflection journal from a 12-week teaching practice in 1996. I am reading the notes to see what issues have changed (if any) in teaching over the past 20 years. I am also keen to understand if there are any indicators in my own memoirs to suggest a certain type of character or resilience is needed for the classroom.

Reflections Journal:

These memoirs are taken from the 4th school that I was placed in during my BAEd at Goldsmiths College, University of London. This was a comprehensive school in Hextable, near Dartford in Kent. I believe the school is now an Oasis Academy.

In my journal there are over 20 handwritten pages that I kept as part of my teacher training. My tutor regularly asked me to write my reflections after a very long commute home; what I was totally ignorant of, was that during my 4-year teacher-training degree, I was laying the foundations for me to become a reflective teacher; something that I still (thankfully) withhold today …

These are my memoirs.

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1st October 1996:

7G – Period 3: A very enjoyable (quiet) lesson in which one of the department teachers observed me. One thing he did point out, was that he noticed I said ‘okay’ 37 times in 15 minutes. This made me laugh and I was very astonished that this was relevant to my teaching: so, now I am very conscious of this. I noticed throughout the rest of the day when I was saying it, and tried to change it. He pointed out that I could be known as ‘Mr Okay’. I should try to vary my words and monotone. Again a problem I have encountered each teaching practice, is that I lack confidence until I become comfortable with the pupils.

My introduction in the lesson was basic and straight to the point. Perhaps I should have prepared a more detailed approach and questioned the pupils? I tend to rush my input because I have always been lacking in confidence when teaching electronics. However, it seemed to be pleasant and the pupils understood everything I said, providing plenty of feedback and providing answers to my questions.

I made sure I walked continuously around the class, checking the progress of each individual. I thought it was a clever tactic to read student names on their desk/ book work before I spoke to them. They found this alarming! Most of the class were very co-operative and there were no major problems. A new girl entered the group too. She needed paper and a new book. But guess what? I had forgotten the most basic and essential part of the preparation for any lesson. A supply of paper!

I should also have used the blackboard to emphasise student problems. This would have aided the group and diverted attention elsewhere, arousing interest. I was rather monotonous keeping information limited to visual and verbal aid. Besides this and minor problems that are typical, the group is very quiet and hardworking. I have learnt here in my first week of teaching – once more – to be prepared and ready for anything. Stay one step ahead of the pupils!

shutterstock A business man holding a paper in front of his face with the message always one step ahead

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8D – Period 5: In this lesson, I led a graphics input which I thoroughly enjoyed. This lesson is my subject-strength, so I walked in with an air of confidence. After spending 10 minutes setting up I explained a drawing that I had previously prepared to the pupils. The task was to complete an orthographic drawing of a ‘truck’ design the students had already started making. I took the class through various steps explaining techniques and problems; taking time-out to walk around the class answering questions.

There were a few problems concerning discipline. I had to break a minor fight and reprimand a pupil. I talked to him and he wrote a comment home to his parents after the lesson. Once he was sitting on his own, he caused me even more problems seeking attention in his work. He just wouldn’t listen – so I eventually lost my patience with his futile questions. I am sure he is quite capable. He just wasn’t listening.

The group worked fast than expected and I had problems keeping the mixed ability class focused. It seems my input on techniques worked as it was evident in their graphics – although most of my time in this lesson is spent correcting their work – they seem to lack a little confidence in their work. I will bring in my graphics portfolio in to class to stimulate their enthusiasm.

9E – Period 6: Well I suppose one group like this has to come along. A tough group of 14-year-old which have so little discipline and manners. I think I suspected misbehaviour when the ‘real’ teacher taught the lesson. I was thrown in at the deep end not knowing what I was really teaching. I eventually found out that they had started the work already. I was repeating myself and thinking of strategies to waste lesson time. Not ideal, but what else can you do when you lack experience and planning?

I lost count of how many reprimands I made and how often I needed to shout. I will definitely go away from this lesson planning thoroughly and revising strategies and disciplines. I even had to keep a girl behind to reprimand her off for her behaviour and lack of respect to me as a new teacher. I told her that I didn’t want us to get off to a bad start. I wanted the lesson to be meaningful to her and that I didn’t want her to do this again, or I would take further action.

This definitely was a learning experience. I have 3 other groups who are similar. But then, I guess it is my final teaching practice. It’s suppose to be this tough, isn’t it?

After school I helped out with year 7 soccer practice for 1 hour before helping select a year 11 + 12 soccer team for a future fixture. I got used to my first after school hours participation and I was very tired. I didn’t arrive home until 7pm. Part and parcel of the job!

shutterstock Relaxing after work sitting chair man tie shirt scruffy

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End of extract.

You can read more about my teaching memoirs in my forthcoming book, released in the autumn of 2015.


4 thoughts on “Memoirs of a Teacher: Part 3 by @TeacherToolkit

  1. Did you publish the book? I would like to read it. I was a pupil at Hextable School in the 90s and I am now myself, a teacher.

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