Memoirs of a Teacher: Part 10

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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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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 Memoirs of a Teacher series.

This is part 10.

Reflection 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.

Tuesday 15th October 1996:

Year 7G – Period 3:

Last night, in and amongst the lesson planning, I had a brief look through the pupils work beforehand to stimulate my perceptions of their learning. I noticed that most of the students’ work was untidy or unattached to their folders. So today, I incorporated a ‘let’s-get-organised’ activity into the lesson. The pre-thought proved to be very useful.

shutterstock_133106732 Files stacking up in a messy order isolated on white background.

Image: Shutterstock

Again, teaching the same project, twice a week to four different classes (in the same year) can become a little monotonous; however, each time a little easier. Each time, I am more prepared and can pre-empt what problems I will encounter. As with any single lesson lasting 45 minutes, when explaining the task and setting up equipment – the pupils hardly had any chance to do anything!

With hindsight, pupils showed what grasp of the topic they could retain, but due to my inability and lack of time, their learning remained confused with the limited-lesson content I had set. So, how did I approach the delivery? I stopped on several occasions to re-cap and explain in detail exactly what was required, but after the lesson, I realised delivery is not enough. What teachers need, is content, method of delivery and in particular, clarity.

It was a significant moment for me to understand that content alone is not enough. How you intend to impart knowledge and skills – the ‘why and how’ – is far more important that the ‘what?’

Year 8 – Period 4:

In terms of pupils showing a great deal of enthusiasm, this lesson was a good lesson, but pupils sadly lacked the initiative to get on with the task in hand. Was it me or the lesson content?

So, what went wrong?

This was clearly an enjoyable lesson in graphics, although at one stage I failed to explain the rules of orthographic projection and noticed the pupils’ confusion! Before I had the time to correct myself, [qualified teacher] intervened and explained the process much more succinctly, modifying any of my verbal errors.

I was grateful, but disappointed in myself. How on earth did [they] do it?

The reason for my error, was due to the way I was taught at school and how I learned this specific graphic technique. This school in particular uses a slightly alternate methods which I failed to recognise. There is a difference between 1st and 3rd angle projection (with I using the latter). This caused the confusion – and without the experience – caused the class to lose focus.

Perhaps I should have looked into the way this school develops their drawings techniques? In particular, before I planned to teach the students my methods? Either way, it was a learning curve and I was grateful for [qualified teacher] support.

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Image: Shutterstock

I must adapt to the school’s policy and environments to meet the needs of the students – not my own. This was an important learning experience for me …

[End of extract]

Do you recall your teacher-training years? What would you say to ensure teachers stay stuck in the classroom beyond 5 years? You can read the full series here.

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 12-week placement at a comprehensive school in Hextable, near Dartford in Kent. I believe the school is now an Oasis Academy, Hextable.

In my school-placement journal, there are over 20 handwritten pages that I have 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 – a trait required in all teachers – a quality that I still withhold today in my classroom and 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 new book.


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One thought on “Memoirs of a Teacher: Part 10

  1. The massive step in reflective learning for me was to realise ‘educate’ is from the Latin root ‘to draw out’. So teaching Physics by having the students develop learning and understanding rather than me try to push the knowledge in … A subtle change, a massive difference in outcome.

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