All entries for Monday 27 September 2010

September 27, 2010

Pre–reading scandal!

The pre-reading for tomorrow has changed since last night! Very unexpected. I have proof it changed because I printed the page in order to ask various people where on earth I find the non-internet ones. There were two journals, one I eventually tracked for a forgotten corner of the library, and one from 1989 which the library didn't have. My workload for tonight is pretty manageable so I'm not begrudging the extra reading, it was pretty interesting actually and I expect I'll look at those journals (Micromath) again. The reading has been replaced by a lovely little video I found pretty interesting (and light "reading"). 

Reflections on Week 51

The end of my first week of my PGCE. Quite a new experience. I spent the week before in schools (Mon/Tue in a Primary and Wed-Fri in a Secondary school) to study the transition pupils face between schools. It's something I can relate to since I am in the process of the toughest transition of my life so far! I want to record how hard it is for this time next year when I'm an NQT struggling to keep up with my basic duties: I feel like that right now! 

This is tough. Really tough. I've felt overwhelmed at times. But it's ok. Firstly, I just have to look around and see the faces of people who look like I feel. I'm less scared of failure than I was during my maths degree, as here I actually understand what I'm being told. It all makes sense. But there is a lot of it. There are longer university hours, and I have to be active in those hours instead of passively writing. The fact that they all are compulsory makes me scared of being ill or burning out, which is something that happened every term as an undergraduate and was only fixed by taking time out. No longer an option which adds to the stress levels. 

I'm absolutely positive I'll get through the course. I'm thinking of it as an endurance test which has really helped me keep going. I've discovered I can work well enough even when tired. I've got into doing each day's reading at 7am that day (all the better to have it fresh in my mind, last minute isn't my style at all!) and even though I'm sleepy, I take it in. Doing maths at degree level required a certain mind set which was hard to attain. I've written my first essay while at my most rested and relaxed, but day to day stuff can be done while I feel tired or stressed. This is good, it means I don't need to worry about getting in that state, just ride it through. I'll never quit in any case, it's just not in my nature.

Advice to me for when I start going into schools: discover priorities. I'm having trouble distinguishing these at the moment and it's highlighted just how vital they are! At the moment, all work is given equal, and high, priority and so I've worked insanely hard on some things that I should have taken less time on. Also in this, and personal to me, is to avoid my perfectionist tendencies. These are great for one long term piece of work, such as the master's essays we have to write. But this approach holds me back when I have to create large volumes of work, I want to write the most perfect lesson plan and have the most perfect resources to use in it. I've read some wonderful books which contain practical advice rather than theoretical info. One says "don't reinvent the wheel", all the resources you need are out there somewhere, don't spend ages making your own!. I need to remember that. 

The other thing that's going to make or break me is handling conflict. I hate conflict. I've often let someone mistreat me rather than confront them about what they are doing. This had issues in my personal life, but also now, my professional one. There is inevitable conflict between teachers and pupils and I have to get used to jumping into it! I worked on this during my initial placement. The teacher had left the room and a boy threw a paper aeroplane across the room to his friend. I got it off the friend, by saying "give that to me" in a firm voice rather than the pitiful "give that to me?" which threatened to come out. I then told them in the same voice to get back to work. An instruction! That's just asking for trouble, what if they don't? Then it's a big deal and I must react again. But this is not my classroom and I don't have a clue what to do next. But they did, and it was over. 

I'm going to have real trouble on placements talking to the classes. It's insane really, I confidently circulate any classroom and dive into any question I'm given. I didn't realise this was unusual until teachers told me that people observing usually hide at the back and avoid interacting with pupils. I'm happy with individuals or pairs or groups. Even relatively large groups. I can stand at the front of a class, and when observing, I prefer to do this as it implies teamwork with the teacher, I can see everyone, and I can quickly help the teacher when they ask for it. But stand me in front of a class and get me to speakand suddenly I'm petrified. Once I was explaining some sheet work to a perfectly nice class and my hands were shaking holding the sheets. I'm sure my nervousness is reflected in my body language and voice and it's not good! I've been thinking about ways to overcome this and I've found some excellent books dealing with the problems I worry about. Things like hiding nervousness will hopefully come with practice. I've seen someone go from PGCE student (while I did the Student Associates Scheme at the same school) with a lot to learn, to NQT (some voluntary work at the same school the following September) struggling to keep up, to teacher (initial placement) who is effective, and most importantly, incredibly happy. She's quite a lot like me so I'm just going to assume she's been through all the times I'll be struggling with and that I'll get through them and end up just as good at my job and happy with my life as she is. 

It's been interesting to consider how we must do lessons which appeal to all our pupils. I've been reflecting on my time at school as well as my learning experience on the PGCE and it's already changed how I was thinking. One thing is that I like time to think. I'm a thinker and a reflector and I like to think carefully for as long as I want before I do something. This is probably why I never leave anything to the last minute, I like to allow ample time just in case I need it. I've been finding it hard to work to tight schedules in the seminar sessions, it's been stressful at times to be give x minutes to complete a task, and I find myself rushing at the start where possible, to create spare time at the end. This is especially the case when we have to report back to the class. It's tapped into something I thought was long dead (probably because it was never tested throughout my degree), my hatred of answering questions in class and fear of saying something wrong. It's so bad in fact, that at times when we've been asked a series of questions I really don't want to answer, that I can't learn anything at all because I'm too worried about not being able to answer. This is made worse by sitting near the back of the room, I feel so disconnected with everything happening. 

I've rediscovered sides of my personality that I'd forgotten were really there. I love to read, I've done all the required reading plus loads more! I can't stop! I'm also more sociable that I realised. I love being alone and quiet, which is easy on a maths degree. But I also love to meet new people and share ideas. That's been really great. I have lots more to add but it's late now and the priorities thing is kicking in. I've written plenty and I have a long week about to start! 

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