Memoirs of a Teacher: Part 8

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What keeps a new teacher stuck in the classroom?

These are the memoirs from my trainee-teacher placement whilst a student at Goldsmiths College; published here for newly qualified teachers and those interested in what keeps teachers stuck in the classroom beyond 5 years … You can read the context in the footer and other parts of the series here. This is part 8.

Reflections Journal:

During the process of writing my second book about teacher-resilience and what keeps teachers ‘in teaching’, I have delved into my teaching practice file to rediscover my reflection journal from a 12-week teaching practice, dating October-to-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 if a certain type of character or resilience is needed for the classroom.

shutterstock_162205595 Tired, stressed male teacher marking books. Isolated image on white background.

Image: Shutterstock

11th October 1996:

9A – Period 5:

This was my first lesson under observation, so I was very nervous to have everything in place and appear organised. As it so happened, I had failed to make available all the resources you would automatically provide to students. For example, paper, books, folders and equipment to work with.

Perhaps next time I should indicate on my lessons plans, how important the simple things are too. However, this didn’t prove too much of a problem and I carried on straight into teaching the lesson.

I introduced the ‘hand-drill’ topic, questioning pupils thinking and discussing the purpose and general use of the tool. After much debate, we then focused onto the type of gearing used, the positions of power transferred through the components and included a few mathematical conclusions into the velocity ratio and power input.

The class managed themselves very well and my time-management was well-organised and sufficient for a 50-minute lesson. It really isn’t much time! The students spent most of their lesson working through the practical aspects of the work, rather than focusing on the theory. I chose not to challenge this, as students would need to complete both sections in order to move forward with their learning. We managed to explore the ‘hand-drill’ and the questions written on the worksheet; there were no problems.

The students were well-behaved and responded to my instructions with respect. I was very happy. There were no major, or even minor problems! As a result, I went about tidying-up into the last 10 minutes; a good starting time for any practical lesson and the students took on their responsibilities too. I made a request for completed homework before dismissing the class in a fashionable manner. If students behave and absorb the work, should I look to challenge them further?

7H – Period 6:

This class were a mixed-ability range of students, some who provide me with a range of problems. Although this was a really easy lesson to plan-by-memory and teach step-by-step, I wrote much of the steps on paper as I was being examined. I wanted to ensure I was super-organised and capable. However, despite the confidence, I found that I was repeating myself a great deal to the students; I counteracted this by stopping the whole class to explain the context to the lesson in much more simpler terms, and to make sure everything was clear.

A minority of pupils were soaring ahead, so they provided problems for me having to create more work available for them. This was not a case of me under-planning or not stretching the students, but a case of students rushing through their work.

When teaching year 7 students, I find they all need extra care and attention. When asked, “who needs help?” I found 5 or 6 kids screaming for me support! It was quite tiring, so I need to learn to encourage students to become more independent, or learn how to adapt my own teaching methods.

I then set about leading ‘a soldering demonstration’, which on reflection, was led far too late into the lesson. I mentioned to the students that my input was brief and that I would be reiterating the content in a follow-up lesson. Apart from it being very short, the demo went well and the students listened carefully. As an impromptu test, I questioned what each component was called – the students seemed to remember them, so it was partly successful. I think in these single 50-minute lessons, I will spend more time carefully planning (strictly) my time schedule so I can include all the learning I want the students to acquire.

I will go over this topic in-depth in the following lesson. It will be good for both of us to re-cap!

End of extract.

You can read the full series here.

shutterstock_119397616 soldering equipment isolated on white

Image: Shutterstock

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 despite 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 …

Do you recall your teacher-training years? What would you say to ensure teachers stay stuck in the classroom beyond 5 years?

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