All entries for Saturday 08 October 2011

October 08, 2011

Observation Week – Friday

Lessons one to four today were spent shadowing a teacher. The school tried to make sure that we could see outside of our own department, and also that we were placed with teachers who were not very long out of training. I suppose the latter point was designed to give us another chance to talk to someone about what we are going through now and over the next year or two. I don't know about other people in my group, but I didn't really have a chance!

From the beginning of lesson one it was pretty much all go. The first period, incidentally, was Maths, being covered by the English teacher I was unceremoniously dumped on this morning. Although it was relatively basic prime factors, my general mathematical incompetency made me feel more than a little useless for the lesson, which was with a slightly troublesome year 11 class. It was still interesting to see a teacher cope with both behavioural problems and a lesson outside of their specialism. As a History teacher, I'm positive I'll be teaching many more subjects than History, no matter what the school.

The second lesson was also interesting, with a year 8 class who were really struggling with effective communication with each other. This was obviously a behavioural issue, because they often talked over each other and their teacher. At the same time it was detrimental to their learning, not only because they missed things, but because they would be having assessments on Speaking and Listening. Their teacher had decided to tackle the issue early, and devoted an entire lesson to an activity based around communication skills. I have to say that even with a difficult class, it seemed to work for the majority. They came up with ideas of what made up effective communication, which the teacher then pointed to whenever these 'rules' were broken.

Lessons 3 and 4 were a double devoted to Macbeth - yay, Shakespeare! - in particular, the scene where Macbeth has his doubts about killing Duncan and Lady Macbeth attacks his masculinity with manipulative and merciless efficiency. It's one of my favourite scenes from Shakespeare (you may have guessed I slightly idolise his work), so I really enjoyed those lessons. As with yesterday, I began to wonder if I was teaching the right subject...

Both today, and this whole week, has been extremely useful. Several people in my group have agreed that it's the most useful thing we've done so far. Most of all we all appreciated just how much the school has done for us. The effort involved in accommodating our needs has been fantastic and hasn't gone unnoticed! I have a feeling I'll keep coming back to this week over the next few seminars...


Observation Week – Thursday

This morning was spent shadowing a student. I know that some of us were a little apprehensive about it, thinking that it might be a little awkward to follow a student around all day while they were working or talking to their friends. Luckily we were given absolutely lovely students, which helped a lot! They were chosen from across the school, and my tour guide for the day was from year 10. I took the approach of treating the shadowing as an opportunity to see how the timetable worked and look in different departments. The latter didn't work out quite as well as I'd hoped; it turned out she had double history. I was interested to be seeing a science lesson, but it ended up being about the discovery of penecillin (more Medicine Through Time than I was hoping). But I also got to see English, which I really enjoyed. To be honest I'd really love to have a go at teaching it! I sat there reading through their GCSE poetry anthology while they worked on their presentations on Duffy's "Valentine" and realised just how much I miss my A-Level Literature days. I rarely have the brainpower or the time to sit and read these days, and I used to love it. Who knows, though? I've applied to be a tutor for a Looked-After Child and put English down as a possible subject, so it may not be the last I hear of Shakespeare!

As I went through the lessons, the same pupils kept cropping up. And it may not have been a fair representation of the year, but my god, what a year! Some of the teachers really struggled to keep them quiet and get them engaged, and excellent teachers at that. It certainly got me thinking. And being grateful for the time to sit back and see how they coped with it! I noticed that the older the pupils, the more prevalent the tactical ignoring technique was for managing behaviour. And sometimes it worked. Note to self: what never worked was shouting.

I had a lot of time today to sit back and watch and think. Taking extensive notes and working my way through the observation book, it really hit me exactly how much you have to think about when you're taking a lesson, from how you ask questions to the order you ask them in, from how you use your voice to how you check that the students are up to speed. We were told in one of our early lectures that teaching is a bit like learning to drive. At that, my ears metaphorically pricked up. I'd spent most of the summer learning and had passed my test about a week previously.

Just like with driving, there is a lot to think about. When you start teaching it will feel overwhelming, and you will forget things. Concentrate on learning to walk before you can run (i.e. learn changing gear before you try dual carriageways). The basics will become natural, and then you can work on everything else. I'll let you know...


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  • Love this post! Also love that you still have a passion for Shakespeare and English in general, afte… by Polly on this entry

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