Favourite blogs for Dr Steve's blog - the chronicles of survival during a GTP teacher training year

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May 17, 2011

AP3 comment

Recent trainee comment in AP3, read 'em and weep!

I feel that I have had a very successful year in training. I have tried very hard to reflect and develop my teaching and ultimately I have been rewarded. I work very hard to build up an effective and meaningful student-teacher relationship with the majority of the pupils that I teach and therefore have been rewarded with some fantastic comments from pupils who are inspired to achieve in my lessons. I have found a natural ease in teaching and thoroughly enjoy delivering lessons. I have become quicker and more adept at planning and now have a greater array of activities to choose from; however there are still some areas of improvement in regard to this. Sometimes in lessons I will play it safe simply because I am unfamiliar with the group dynamics mainly or concerned about behaviour but am trying to implement more adventurous and risky activities. One of the greatest qualities I have gained from this year is being able to take and respond to feedback. Whatever the style and type of lesson there will always be feedback and it has been really insightful to get a professional judgment on how things could be adjusted or shaped differently. Therefore, I strive to act upon all advice and feedback where possible and look for ways to improve the quality of my teaching. I feel that I also manage behaviour well and have had no major problems throughout my training, anything that has presented as a challenge I have dealt with, with the right people and the correct procedures. I feel that as a practitioner I have gained the skills to be able to know how to respond directly to the changing nature and pace of the lesson and can adapt my lessons ‘on the hoof’ accordingly. I also feel that I take on board other teachers styles and try to incorporate effective activities for example into my teaching and accordingly share my resources around to ensure collaborative working.

I feel that areas for development are to try and create a personalised routine for all my classes for next year so as to enforce and sustain the high expectations that I have of those who I teach. Once I get myself within that routine it will be easier to manage the learning environment. Also there were times within my training that I have fallen a bit short on some areas of subject knowledge. By and large this has been not with course content but being in response to questions that pupils ask during lessons that aren’t directly from the lesson. Having in depth subject knowledge will assist this and prepare me for many eventualities. I have also been very self critical from time to time during my training, whilst essentially this is good to be able to reflect I don’t see the things that I am getting right in lessons as they always seem to be overshadowed but the improvements. Therefore, it is important that I reflect positively on lessons more, which may even consist of making a list of areas that really worked well within the lesson before the areas of improvement are addressed. I also have to be systematic with my approach to chasing up homework and missing classwork to ensure that all pupils are up to date. This will bode well if in my NQT I have some exam classes with coursework.

February 18, 2011


Feeling somewhat frustrated by the prospect of a single day's compulsory EAL experience in order to pass the course when I had taught English as a second language for a whole academic year, I was pleasantly surprised by my visit to The Birmingham International School. Whilst I had used many of the strategies for working with EAL pupils before, I did learn a lot about the way in which schools deal with the ever increasing influx of EAL pupils, how they are assessed on arrival and the support which is put in place for them. Simple ideas such as using a 'buddy' (who, if possible, speaks their 'home' language) and a visual timetable seemed really interestign from a pastoral point of view.

January 20, 2011

Complimentary Placement

Well hello, been a long time.

Can't believe how fast the Xmas holidays went. So here I am now in my complimentary placement and about half way through it already!! The school is very impressive and the facilities are very good for the students although they don;t realise half of what they have. I think the more technology you give pupils the more they take it for granted. I have had quite an experience already here.

Firstly, I enjoyed my day of pupils tracking a lovely year 7 girl who I would eventually end up teaching. I followed the class around for most of the day and it was great to observe some other lessons outside of the Humanities faculty. However, generally (I'm going to sound really pretentious here) I was not impressed with the standard of teaching :( For a school that is due to be Ofsteded any time now you would think that the teachers would be on their toes and trying out good lessons. What I was surprised at is how unconcered some teachers were with the fact that I was observing lessons which were not particularly inspiring. Generally they all stuck to the formula of sharing learning outcomes, and achieving those which was excellent for me to observe and learn from. But, I think they just lack a bit of interest to keep pupils engaged. Some teachers however, are particularly brilliant and it is only observing them can I comment on how the rest of the teachers teach.

I have been spoilt really like so many other trainees in the fact that I have come from a really good school with a great department into another school with an equally very good department. Thus I could not really understand why I was placed in this school as I was under the impression that it had to be a contrast to our normal one, in fact they are pretty much the same. Most of the pupils that attend my complimentary school live in the same catchment area for my normal school.

My first observation was with the Year 7 group mentioned. Here they do 'Opening Minds' which is a mixture of Geography, HIstory, RE, Citizenship and PLTS's. This I found quite challenging as I was completely out of my comfort zone. Not only in th fact that I am in a new school, but I am teaching a non-history element of Opening Minds and the fact that the first lesson I take over I asked to be observed!! I'm crazy, add onto that it was one lesson of three that day so I ended up being observed for the whole of the three lessons. It was like being in intensive care only not so relaxing!!! I jest, it was fine, I showed real professionalism and promise, (their words not mine) and they were generally impressed with me.

I am taking over a year 9 and year 10 group today, the year 10 I have extensively planned for. This is a proper observation so I went to town planning for it. I was really brave and am testing out a market place style lesson.The first time I've tried it and the first time that I am teaching the year 10!! Again, fell like I enjoy putting myself under pressure!! I am confident in the lesson, but concerned that they won't finish what I want them to do as the lessons here are only 50 minutes. I also don't want the lesson to fall apart as I have spent so much time planning and preparing the resources. However, I won't be too upset if that happens, hopefully the constructive feedback that I will have can point me in the right direction if I get it wrong. It is an interesting topic: the Vietnam war American Tactics and I aim to win them over by doing something a bit different with them. Well this is what teaching is all about.

The thing I find hard about this placement is that I am so used to the rules and procedures of my normal school that I am at a bit of loss in what to do in certain circumstances. I find as well that by the time that I get used to all these classes and feel settled with them I will be time for me to leave. Although haveing said that there was one piece of advice that I have had from my mentor that has proved to be invaluable: the idea of linking learning outcomes to the NC and specifically using the words within them so that the pupils can relate at all times to where they are heading in relation to the NC levels.

Oh and this school is also getting a History PGCE student as well, looking forward to sharing some banter with them and see how the training styles will differ in practice. Hopefully, we will be able to learn from each other. SO will have to wait until tomorrow to find out who they are!!

Oh also mention of teaching A-level- Edexcel changing nature of warfare looking at the Boer War!!! OMG!! Definately need to increase my subject knowledge around this. Thus again highlighting another pressure from these complimentary placements; I have to learn a whole new scheme of work for KS3 and KS4!! THere are overlaps which is nice, but by the time I have an adequate view of the whole course I will, again have to leave!! OH dear! Well I am off to teach in 7 mins now, my very well prepared US tactics lesson. GO CRAIG!!!!!

January 17, 2011

Back in the Game

So first day back and I was starting school all over again, along with all the hazards one faces in such situations: 1) Not being able to get my car into one of the teeny tiny spaces in the car park; 2) Trying desperately to remember people's names; 3) Learning the secret staff room dynamics including, most importantly, which mugs can be used for that much needed coffee; 4) Figuring out the totally illogical room numbering system without the aid of a map; 5) Receiving and decoding my timetable.    

My placement school had been fantastic in designing a basic timetable which covered everything I needed to cover and gave me opportunities to pick and choose other classes as I wished. Along with a top set year 8 class and the very weak year 7 'Nurture group' (12 pupils), I was given several year 10 and 11 classes. I'd had limited prior experience with KS4 so it's an excellent opportunity to observe and teach them, particularly as my timetable includes two 'Study Plus' classes for year 11 pupils, which are designed to give additional English support to pupils who need help crossing that C/D borderline at GCSE. 

I've also had my first experience of AS and A level English Lit and Lang. Having never studied English language at A level or degree level, I felt a bit out of my depth in the first couple of lessons but by fourth lesson I felt so much more confident and the students were so welcoming that I even taught my first A level class today. It was a great success and my mentor was particularly impressed with my appropriate teaching style and the resources I'd created. I get to teach them again on Wednesday and am really looking forward to it. Teaching KS4&5 already seems more fulfilling than KS3, perhaps because I feel I can really use my subject knowledge to explore deeper concepts rather than skimming the surface whilst years 7 & 8 get used to them. Perhaps I should take into account whether schools teach A level when applying for jobs over the next couple of months. 

Reflections on a Well Deserved Holiday

I don't think I've ever appreciated a school holiday as much as I appreciated the first few days of Christmas. I was exhausted and as a self proclaimed organisation obsessive it was nearly killing me to see all the paperwork spilling out of the files which lay haphazardly over nearly every surface of the house. Taking advantage of my time off (and the snow = great excuse to stay in) I spent several days doing nothing... before peeling myself from the duvet and conquering the paperwork mountain. Files were tidied, recycling box was overflowing and it felt good. Really good. Back to the duvet, DVDs and the comfort of my sofa. 

Apart from taking a well deserved break I decided that the focus of my holiday training should be my subject knowledge file and, whilst I'd regard my subject knowledge as being pretty good, I knew that I needed to refresh in some areas and collect evidence for the rest. It was a good choice actually because it provided the perfect excuse to chill out and read a lot of books. Some of my holiday reading included: 'The Garbage King', 'Tins', 'River Boy', 'Unique', 'Frankenstein', 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and 'Lord of the Flies'. 

I made summary sheets for all of the above, and several other KS3 and 4 texts, and wrote down a list of activities I could use in conjunction with each text. I also went through all of my teaching and training files pulling out notes and worksheets I'd made to support them. 

Subject knowledge is a bit of a funny one when it comes to providing evidence, especially in English when it would never be possible to read every single play, poem, novel or article ever written, but having a beautifully organised folder to add to the growing collection on my, now beautiful, book shelf was really quite satisfying for a filing freak like me!

December 07, 2010

Parents Evening Made Me Mute!

To round off yet another busy week, Thursday night was year 8 Parents Evening. Despite some pre-meeting nerves and surreptitious shoe change in the hall (snow boots were definitely more weather appropriate than parent meeting appropriate) it actually went really well. I enjoyed meeting everyone and all of the parents were really supportive, even when I did have to reveal a few 'home truths' about homework standards and the behaviour of one or two pupils. Even though I'd worried that it would be glaringly obvious that I was merely a trainee teacher, everyone treated me like a professional. 

All that talking however had taken its toll on my voice and I woke up on Friday to find I was losing my voice. By the afternoon it was reduced to barely a whisper so I was thankful I was in Uni and not trying to teach. I'd assumed all would be back to normal after the weekend but by Monday I still couldn't talk properly and had to struggle through my lessons with a variety of whispers and mime actions. I think the novelty of it all similarly stunned the class into near silence, and they were really very sweet reading out instructions etc on my behalf. Insane as they might drive me sometimes, I do love my year 7 and 8s at times like these.  

November 17, 2010

Skills Tests x 3…DONE!

I passed my third and final skills test this week: numeracy. It was the one I, and I think probably most people, was dreading the most but once I got in there the test was much easier than expected. This was despite technical issues with the headphones blasting out at top volume which took two blokes several minutes to sort out and meant missing the first three mental arithmetic questions because they refused to re-set the test...Hmm!  

Other than that I have had a fairly stress free week in work and even got to listen to an insightful talk from Paul Dowswell, author of Auslander, when he came into school to speak to year 9. I think the librarian is keen to get me involved in as much as possible and I've even been invited along to Solihull Children's Book Awards next year.

November 10, 2010

A Double Dose of KS4

Finally I'm actually teaching KS4 and taught my first lesson starter on Monday; manipulating complex sentences in a discursive text in preparation for a year 10 controlled assessment based on genetic engineering and cloning. Although it was more of a grammar orientated activity, I managed to track down and display a picture of that hairless mouse with a human ear growing on its back...just to provoke some kind of response from the somewhat lacklustre class. 

I don't know if it was the picture, or just my teaching, but it seemed to go down well and my mentor gave me some really good feedback. I felt completely relaxed and confident but still have my usual difficulty to combat: pace! Perhaps I'm just over cautious and always want to make sure every pupil fully understands everything I've taught them but tasks almost always seem to take longer than I've intended. 

After my year 10 success on Monday, I spent the whole of the following day with the same year group on my very first Immersion Day. These are used to deliver the Citizenship and PSHE aspects of the curriculum to the whole school. KS3 and 4 are taken off timetable and spend morning and afternoon sessions doing alternative activities. I was in charge of delivering the Interview Skills programme to year 10 in preparation for mock interviews and work experience later in the year. We kicked off the session with a rather cheesy DVD of ill-prepared interview candidates and identified their mistakes. Pupils then had opportunities to design a suitable interview outfit, plan what they would need to bring, plan their route to an interview and, most importantly, plan their answers to potential interview questions. All in all both morning and afternoon sessions were successful and I found it beneficial to spend time with and get to know pupils I hadn't met before. The experience wasn't half as daunting as I'd expected it might be and I feel more prepared for teaching year 10 again next week. 

October 20, 2010

The Art of Persuasion

I've been planning my year 8 persuasive writing unit and am beginning to realise that the teaching profession requires a lot of persuasion; persuading your pupils to really engage with a text, persuading your department to let you try out a new idea on your class and, most importantly of all, persuading yourself that at 9pm taking time out to watch The Apprentice really isn't all that bad (and probably well deserved). 

All this hard work did pay off on Monday when I experienced my first Warwick observation (eek!), closely followed by a lesson observation from my subject mentor that afternoon. All went well however and I finished the day on a high. Almost all of the comments were positive and the only thing I really need to focus on is giving myself a bit of a rest and letting the pupils take charge once in a while. I attribute this to my semi-control freak nature, but am intending to loosen up the reins a bit after half term with a host of exciting interactive activities. 

One half term down...bring on the break!

Ok, so I'm not a Pro Blogger

Hmmm, having never blogged before, I've only just realised that all but one of my entries was set to "private". Having now corrected this, the whole words is open to read about the thrills and spills of my GTP year. Sorted!

October 15, 2010

My First Big Moan

There was a great cheer from year 7 at the end of yesterday's lesson when I announced that another week of tests had finally come to an end. I also let out a sigh of relief as I entered their reading scores into the school datatbase, knowing that at least half of the tests were marked and out of the way before the weekend.

Meanwhile, year 8 have been playing Estate Agents. We've been preparing for their first non-fiction assessment piece, which will involve writing a brochure to advertise a house for sale. I was beginning to worry about year 8s commitment to the subject but my first big teacher moan, 10 minutes at the start of Tuesday's lesson expressing my concerns about book presentation and completion of work, seemed to pay off. Taking in their books that evening demonstrated a dramatic improvement and offered lots of opportunities to award credits in time for a far more positive start to Wednesday's lesson. Let's just hope it continues.

October 07, 2010

Managing the APP Marking Mountain

So my year 7 class had come to the end of their Transition unit, which meant only one thing...assessment, assessment, assessment - I felt a bit sorry for them really, with a reading test and Blackwell spelling test in their first week, followed by their reading and writing assessments this week and, little do they know, baseline testing next week, involving another 3 hours for completing old SATs papers - Well, I DID feel sorry for them, until I took on the mammoth task of marking! While I was familiar with the APP grid, it was the first time I was faced with more than 60 pieces requiring formal marking according to six AF points, and the first few books seemed to take hours...literally. 

Giving back the assessments today, during what I can only really call an "admin" lesson, was a whole other game in itself. Who'd have thought that glueing a sheet into the back of a book and writing two numbers in a grid could cause so much drama and send the classroom into chaos. 

At least I don't have to plan any lessons for year 7 next week but I will, of course, have 120 SATs papers to mark... and that should keep me well and truly busy!

September 30, 2010

Meet the Parents

A bit early in the year to be meeting parents already, but thankfully I survived 'Year 7 at Home' evening which, despite the rather misleading title, was a chance for parents of new year 7 pupils to come into school and "put names to faces". Lots of enthusiastic hand-shaking later, and reassuring parents that in the three weeks I've known their little darlings they seem to be settling in and really aren't doomed to fail, all was over and I could breathe a sigh of relief.

Also conducted my first year 7 assessment today and hauled home a full bag of assessment booklets for some exciting weekend marking. At least we're moving on to poetry next week and I'm looking forward to trying out some of my plans for all-singing all-dancing poetry lessons. Exactly what does depend upon a red wheelbarrow??

Meanwhile, plodding on with the plans and evaluations and meetings, and more plans and more evaluations. This week seems to have gone so much quicker than the last couple have done, but that's probably a good sign that I'm settled at school and getting into a routine. Oh, and it's my first pay day too and that's never a bad thing! 

September 28, 2010

First few weeks of training

Well, as I exist on Warwick's system now I can finally write my blog!

The first few weeks have been particularly smooth in school. The first week consisted mainly of industion sessions to the school and training on new school policies and procedures. As it turned out many of the veteraned staff memebers also had to get used to the new Behaviour for Learning policy as well so we are all in the same boat. It seemed like quite alot of information to get used to at first but steadily I'm getting used to the amount of paperwork being sent my way. As Myton is a specialist training school as well, they offer great support when it comes to the actual training as well as support from the staff members. It was very daunting on the first day of term to see all the staff members as a collective body! However, they soon made all the new staff members feel welcome and helped out where they could.

The second week was still a week full of inductions and the like and we were still getting used to the school. However, it felt as if we had been here a lot longer! The second week I started teaching my first group. A top set year seven that I have resposibility over. Surprisingly, I wasn' t very nervous at all (I mean they're only year 7!) and the lesson went really smoothly, I had fun! However, the next lesson was a mess! I hadn't prepared with enough time and so I was still fiddling around with my resources at the beginning of the lesson for a starter activity. It was then that I realised that with those types of activities you really need to plan well in advance and have the resources prepared well in advance and on hand. Warwick sessions on Friday's I found particularly useful with Paul Evans and the other GTP's seem eager to get involved with the activities.

Teaching from the Third week was increased, I now team teach a few lessons of year 10 GCSE. I found this particularly daunting as I am not used to teaching GCSE. However, because I had decent subject knowledge and good ideas I was able to impliment them into a plan. However, as their regular teacher pointed out to me, no matter what part of the lesson I take I should always do a lesson plan. It became apparent that my structure was a little rough around the edges! Also in the third week I shadowed a year 7 pupil for the day. This was very insightful. He is registered as having Emotional and Behavioural difficulties and is in a low set for pretty much every subject. However, he was a joy to follow all day. It soon became apparent that he was working most of the time beyond the abilities of the rest of the class and often finished exercises and activities with relative ease. He was very eager to get involved in all the lessons by putting his hand up and engaging with the teacher. At times when he looked bored or lathargic it soon became apparent that he was actually paying attention and that he was listening to the teachers' instructions. This experience was particularly useful as well considering that I will be taking over the class at some stage. I got to see the key pupils with behaviour problems as well as the ones which can work at a decent pace. It was a warming experience in the last lesson of Drama to see that the pupil was fully engaged and had really good drama skills! I decided to take him aside at the end of the day to commend him not only for good behaviour but also for his work ethic and attitude. To me he seems to be held back by being in that class, he's not being tested enough and so in the future if he remains in that group he may become disruptive.

Just a word for my mentor as well: AMAZING! I'm sure that she will give even more outstanding advice and support as the year goes by.

Thats all folks

September 24, 2010

Not enough hours in the day!

This week has been the busiest so far and, sadly, my social life has well and truly ground to a halt. On Monday my Head of Department observed a lesson with my year 8 class for the first time and I was determined to feel fully prepared with an active and engaging lesson. Despite some initial IT issues and thinking on my feet in order to get the lesson started without the aid of my interactive whiteboard, I think the lesson went well and my Head of Department was impressed. I attribute much of the success of the lesson to feeling well prepared and cofident about my subject knowledge in this area.

In contrast, I have decided to review my approach to group work with year 8 after a somewhat 'interesting' lesson on Tuesday. What should have been quite a fun, comparing features in a recipe, task proved less constructive than I'd hoped and showed that the class probably need more practice with the practical side of working in groups before I attempt a similar activity. Time to bring out the PLTS I think.

I also attended school open evening on Wednesday, which was a fantastic opportunity to visit the other departments, speak to departmental staff and watch pupils in alternative environments. I was particularly impressed by the hands-on approach demonstarted by art, music and history and will endeavour to incorporate hands-on learning with my lesson plans. I definitely need to get to grips with all the fancy things interactive whiteboards can offer to get my year 7 and 8s really involved.