December 05, 2010

Reflections on Week 9

An interesting week. My most depressing by far. Still well ill. Wake up feeling really sick. Missed Tuesday as I was being sick before school, woke up in the early hours with that one starting and was still being sick by 7:30 so just gave up that day. I felt very miserable missing school since I'd planned something good with my Year 10's which the class teacher did instead. I didn't even manage to get work done at home as I was too ill. 

My lessons have gone really downhill with Year 7. My feedback, which is on the 2 stars on a wish form when it's not a formal observation, has barely had half a wish hidden amongst 3 wishes. I see why Jenni told me to balance out my wish with more stars when we peer assessed each others essays. Repeated feedback which effectively told me I was rubbish is horrible to receive. 

My lesson with Year 12 was better, I tried to be more sensitive to their confidence which seemed to work. I had a go at them about their terrible homework efforts (they write out all the questions but only occasionally write the answer after it, there are pages upon pages of questions followed by a gap. Do they expect me to write it in for them!?). Their other 2 teachers have already done this but I did it from a "I've never come across this before, I don't understand how you think you're going to be able to answer these questions in an exam" point of view, before offering to give them another chance to try the homework they were going to hand in today, because they'd get more practice with the concepts in the lesson. Many accepted (how many accepted because they thought I'd get mad at them now but have calmed down by next time, I don't know). One asked to see me Friday lunchtime to go through some stuff, but didn't show. Apparently promises of renewed effort is the response the other teachers got to telling them it wasn't good enough. It didn't work for them. 

I felt incredibly ill on Thursday and would have had the morning off at least if it hadn't been for Peter's visit on Friday (I teach Year 7 on Thursday and collect in homework). I didn't want to be formally observed in a lesson where I hadn't seen them for the lesson before - my success depends on knowing exactly what they pupils know already and how they like to think, so I would have had to start the lesson establishing that and then my plan would be changed based on that. Best avoided for a formal observation! I was rubbish, I just lacked the energy to do anything, and my illness came across to the class, who worked less than usual. The class teacher had a bit of a stern word with me about the importance of hiding illness from a class. Given I felt really ill, had just had a rubbish lesson and was being told to do something that felt impossible, I wanted to cry. I didn't, which is something I suppose.

I maxed out medications to perk myself up from Friday's lesson in order to hide my illness. It was an ok lesson, not my best in terms of thinking on the spot as my brain felt like mush. Some of my explanations were less sharp that usual and I sometimes said the wrong word out loud and had to correct it. I forgot to get everyone to write down the general rule for what we were doing, which would have been nice, and I also forgot my second learning objective (I'm not a learning objective person).

Peter was actually really great in terms of feedback. I was a bit scared as he's not really teaching the PGCE any more (all part of some plan to hand over to Jenni, I think) so I only remembered him from taking his module on teaching 2 years previously where he was a lecturer to many people so we didn't get personal chats. Some stuff he's written has come up for our reading which is what I've based most of my thoughts on. He was very different in person, actually talking about the realities of teaching and lack of time meaning we can't do everything which is a first for a uni tutor! We had a really good chat afterwards and he helped me see things a bit clearer. 

My exit question, for example. I set a question, ask them to do it without help just for me to see what they know all by themselves. I've done these 3 times and immediately after the lesson look through them. I don't mention them to the class next lesson. I chose something for it which is a key point or easy misconception eg one gave 4 triangles with various pairs of sides and angles equal and asked which are isosceles (would they realise the sides and angles have to match up? Would they know which way it has to go?). This time I did one which was far too hard, they had to go way beyond what we did in the lesson (the steps were basic arithmetic, it was the realising they were needed and putting them in the right sequence which was difficult). Everyone managed to start it, the first part needing what we'd done in the lesson. Over half got it right, through unknown methods (guesswork!?!  They had a choice of two answers). 6 of those had figured out the whole, quite sophisticated, method and written it with great clarity. I was unhappy that so many had got it wrong and blamed myself for pitching too high. Peter argued that the question allowed all to access it at some level, all to demonstrate they had met the first learning objective, and stretched some, allowing them to demonstrate just what they could do. In that light, I'm a genius for managing to do all that in one question. I think I'll aim for that with my future questions, especially since I don't go through it afterwards, or tell anyone they got it wrong. 

What was interesting what that Peter and my subject mentor think I'm stressed. I don't know. I didn't think so. I've been stressed before (a lot!). Through my A levels - would I get into Warwick? Such stress. Through almost the entirety of my degree, I felt like I would lose my mind with the stress of it all. This summer I was pretty chilled. I got stressed quite quickly on the PGCE course, the first two weeks with everything being new and not knowing what to do. Browsing the website last thing before bed, and oh, what's this page on reading? 3 chapters for tomorrow?! One available online, ok I'll read that now (shame, I want to sleep now!). 2 in books in the library. Hmmm, early morning start too, oh well. Both books not available!?! Heart attack! Will the tutors get really mad at me? Will they cite some thing I signed at the interview day and question my suitability and dedication to the course? Will they embarrass me infront of everyone by asking me something from it? Will I not be able to follow session? Horribly stressful until the 3rd week, because requested books come in a week later and so I could get ahead of the reading. I haven't felt stressed since then. I thought I would. I was told I'd have a sleepless night before I taught my first lesson. I was fine. I felt nervous for the first week or so in my school, but since then I have about 1 min of nerves at the start of each lesson before it all starts and I can deal with it and all is well. My feedback from many lesson including Friday's formal observation is how calm I sound and I'm no great actress! I really did feel calm. Also, I thought stress is supposed to be a "fight or flight" thing, in which case if I was so stressed before the lesson then I should have gladly grabbed any opportunity not to do it. I was sick during tutor period (ran out and made it to the toilets but abandoned my tutor group to do it) and so Peter offered to rearrange his visit for another day. I could have agreed but I wanted to do the lesson. Is it a subconscious VS conscious fight? Subconscious stressed and wanting to run away, conscious enjoying the challenge and wanting to be the best I can? Perhaps it's the ups and downs - the start of lesson nerves several times a day followed by the calm for the rest of the lesson - which is making me have the symptoms of stress. 


- 2 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Jennifer Ingram

    I hope you feel better soon! It is quite common for PGCE students to get sick around now, better than the first day of the holidays! You’ve been mixing with lots of children – well known for their ability to share illnesses!

    Have you shared your secret formula for the well-designed question with the other pgce-ers?

    05 Dec 2010, 21:12

  2. Thanks Jenni! I had a relatively work free weekend which has helped me get better and I’m going to rest where I can this week.

    It won’t be a secret formula if I share it! In a lesson on fractions of amounts, they’d done finding fractions of amounts when the numerator is 1 and when it isn’t 1. There were a few wordy questions like “1/10 of 11 year old girls own mobile phones. This school has 200 year 1 girls, how many do you expect to have a mobile phone?” but nothing too out of the ordinary. Then the exit question was a coat costing £20. If you buy it in store, you get 1/10 off. If you buy online, you get 1/5 off (we did ordering fractions so they should spot that this is the better deal so far) but you have to pay a £3 delivery charge.

    All managed 1/10 of 20 and 1/5 of 20, so they demonstrated they had met the first learning objective of the lesson. Some more thought to do some subtraction, so well done to them for identifying what “off” required. 6 of 15 in the class managed to write out the full method in a clear logical way, and remembered to compare their answers and tell me which was the cheapest.

    06 Dec 2010, 10:53


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