Memoirs of a Teacher: Part 7 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 the memoirs from my trainee-teacher placement. You can read the context in the footer and other parts of the series here. This is part 7.

This is a blog for newly qualified teachers and those interested in what keeps teachers stuck in the classroom beyond 5 years …

Reflections Journal:

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 dating October-December 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.

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8th October 1996:

8A – Period 1+2:

I thought I had prepared well for this lesson. Unfortunately not! I confused most of the terminology and students will probably get most of their homework incorrect. I feel quite guilty! Teaching is so strange. One day you can be confident and really enthusiastic – the next, hating it and feeling as if you know nothing. A demonstration with styrene and the vacuum former is quite a basic demonstration to do for technology teachers. There really is no excuse for a 4th year BAEd student to confuse different materials and characteristics. I mentioned that the plastic under heat ‘melts’. In fact, we allow it ‘soften’ so that it can mould easily. Therefore, this error will show in their homework – and it is my fault!

These errors are inexcusable. I should research my subject knowledge thoroughly.

9B – Period 5:

Quite a polite group who are enthusiastic to work. I introduced the topic of a ‘hand-drill’ with a visual aid and proceeded to ask the group questions. The students listened attentively and responded well. The whole lesson ran according to plan and it was useful to have prepared work on the blackboard previously. I learned to do this strategy from day 1. It is always a bonus to refer to everything on the board, rather than clog your mind with useless information when you are more concerned with what information is to be imparted.

No problems with this group. We have a very good rapport. I try to relate to the students and their interests outside of school. This is providing me with some respect.

9F – Period 6:

This is by far the worst group I have ever encountered in my entire teaching experiences so far! And I know there will be worse. J.P. a teacher here for 40 years, someone with a great deal of experience told me later that he didn’t even know what to do! It took them quite a while to settle before I was introduced to the group. I then began to explain the process of orthographic projection. J.P. congratulated me for holding their attention quietly for 10 minutes. I knew even then it was going to be difficult.

However, I proceeded through the stages and then supplied equipment to each student. To my disgust, the lesson became so bad that most nonsense had to be ignored. Occasionally I had to interrupt; obviously if ‘set-squares’ and ‘compasses’ are being thrown. I have never had so much chat-back, plus students were ignoring me so much. I was really hard work.

A couple of the students die manage to attempt some work. To my surprise, others blatantly refused to educate themselves. I seriously reprimanded a couple of students and will write home to their parents for a signed confirmation of their intolerable behaviour. I need to seek advice as to what happens at the next stage and what I can expect as a student teacher. I really thought hard in my mind throughout the lesson about what I could do or say. I seriously began to run dry of ideas. The only significant thing I could think of, was to realise that most of the group will not listen to me; they will not complete the work and will take no interest in the work. So, all I can think of is to change my strategy. This could involve some of the following ideas:

  • Re-arrange the class seating plan
  • Enforce exam conditions
  • Prepare intrinsic, mind-boggling worksheets or alternative delivery.
  • Relate lessons to pupils interests (e.g. music, football etc.)
  • Seek advice from other staff/tutor.

They really are a tough group with a great lack of drive in their work. They seem like a lost cause which is a real shame. I’d like to spend some lengthy time with them to relate to get to know them better. I left the lesson with painful headache, sore throat and a sudden desire for peace and quiet!

End of extract.

You can read the full series here.

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These are the memoirs of my trainee-teacher placement from 1996.

This diary is taken from the 4th school that I was placed in during my 4-year BAEd Design and Technology with Secondary Education (11-18) degree at Goldsmiths College, University of London. This placement was at a comprehensive school in Hextable, near Dartford in Kent. I believe the school is now an Oasis Academy, Hextable. This was a 12-week school experience.

In my school-placement 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 … and also via this blog.

Contact me if you would like to read the full-digital memoirs. You can read more about my teaching memoirs in my forthcoming book, released in the autumn of 2015. Click to pre-order …

What would you say to ensure teachers stay stuck in the classroom beyond 5 years?

@TeacherToolkit Book Vitruvian Teacher Man Resilience Version 2



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