November 06, 2011

Doors; they are a literal barrier to my learning

So, we're back into the swing of things at school after half-term. As usual I had good intentions to blast through my first masters assignment and portfolio assignment and lesson planning and organising my folders and marking books and marking end of unit test papers, completing my QTS skills test, oh, and playing netball, eating, sleeping and catching up with friends. But yep, you guessed it, it didn't happen. I tried, honestly I did. I got quite a bit of reading done for my masters assignment and I completed (a VERY rough) A4 plan for the research project. I took AND PASSED my QTS skills test (pats on the back welcome). I did mark the books and test papers and get my lessons planned for the next week. I did play netball and I did eat...... ALOT. I enjoyed a fabby day mixing with giraffes and lemurs at West Midlands Safari Park. I tried my hand at being a dental nurse for a day. I enjoyed a couple of lie-ins. I cleaned the flat and it stayed clean for all of 2 days. Essentially, it was a jam-packed, fun-filled week of joy, but it was nowhere near enough! So I'm back at school and that literature review hasn't written itself, the research questionnaire is just a flickering glimmer of light at the end of the brain tunnel, the third portfolio assignment has made it to my 'To Do' list which is more than can be said for the fresh pile of books sitting on my table, next week's lessons plans refuse to wait for me to catch up on my other jobs, oh and I had to bake cakes for a netball club fundraising stall this weekend. Luckily, Betty Crocker is only a car drive away in the local Sainsburys.

So, despite my ever-growing 'To Do' list (I haven't even got the essentials such as 'wake up', 'go to the loo', 'get dressed' on my list and it's still massive) I'm feeling fairly up-beat about my first week back after the half-term. By christmas I need to be teaching 10 hours a week and I'm currently teaching about 5, so I will be taking one extra lesson a week until christmas. I've been told that I've cracked the basic skills such as organisation of tasks, control of students entering the classroom and use of voice and body language. My classroom management and levelling still need some tweaking but I'm heading in the right direction. The big aim at the moment is questioning and using Bloom's Taxonomy to guide me with higher level questioning and directing the right questions at the correct ability. This week I had my beloved year 7s who were PERFECT as per usual. I had a bottom set year 9 class who I really enjoy working with because there is a whole range of difficulties going on in that class but they're a really nice bunch of kids who really want to do well but just aren't sure how to go about it. I did testing reaction times with that class and predicted I would have to dodge the light saber rulers. They didn't disappoint. Unfortunately I had to issue quite a few red-marks in this lesson for continual chatting and shouting out but I think they realised that I mean business now so hopefully I won't have to repeat all the red-marks in the next lesson. I experienced my first Think-On-Your-Feet lesson with a year 8 class that I had planned to do testing pulse rates with, only to find out they had already done it with their other science teacher. They had also done my back-up lesson (testing breathing rates). So I ended up making up my own pulse rate practical where they were split into groups and each group had to do a different exercise for one minute (e.g. star jumps, running on the spot, sit ups etc.). They were surprisingly reluctant to exercise. It was the last lesson so I figured they would love to let off steam a bit, but on suggesting my idea for the practical I was suddenly inundated with mysterious illnesses which prevented the majority of the girls from leaving the comfort of their stools. But the stern teacher voice emerged and told them to 'just get on with it'! There were no fatalities so I'm sure it didn't do them too much harm. By far my most favourite lesson of the week was the heart dissection with a bottom set year 8 class. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every minute of it. This is what real biology is about; the gruesome, gory, stinky, bloody side of biology. I practised the day before because I hadn't dissected a heart since school and I wanted to make sure that I knew exactly what I was doing in the actual lesson as there was alot that I had to cover in an hour. The kids seemed really engaged in the dissection and were desperate to have a good poke and squeeze but unfortunately we didn't have enough gloves, which I thought was a real shame because I was really pleased that the kids were so keen to have a feel. I was a bit dubious as to how much they had actually taken in, in the lesson, as when we came to label a diagram of the heart later there were some very dodgy, anatomically incorrect heart diagrams floating round the classroom. But later in the week we labelled a different heart diagram as a starter and the kids did really well and were able to label the arteries, veins, valves, left and right side and arrows to show the direction of flow of blood. The more able kids knew the names ventricles and atria and most were able to explain why the left side of the heart is bigger than the right. A select few could explain, simply, what happens when the coronary artery becomes blocked and that fat is laid down around the organs if too much saturated fat is eaten regularly. All in all, a massive confidence boost for Miss J Roberts. Needless to say, I had a mars bar when I got home that evening.

So next week I've got density with one year 7 class and combustion with another year 7 class, a lung dissection (:-D) and finding lung volumes with my bottom set year 8 class. I'm repeating my reaction times lesson with a lower-set year 9 class and a lesson with year 10s researching salt mining. I've also got my graduation next week (:-D) and a big family get-together at the weekend, so any lesson planning for the following week will need to be done by Friday at the latest. Last week I did my day's work experience at a primary school (it has been confirmed, secondary was the definitely the right choice for me, they're just so little in primary school, they're almost invisible) so now I can get cracking with my third portfolio task. Sorry, did I say 'get cracking'? I meant 'get panicking'. I also spoke to the SEN department last week and feel I can 'get panicking' about the questionnaire I need to prepare for my research project now. So, another jam-packed week ahead. But hey, I can't complain, I knew that 'having no social life' was exchanged for a teaching certificate when I signed up for this teaching malarkey. And to say I'm enjoying it would be a massive understatement. Luckily, I like to be busy!

So, let me briefly explain the reason behind this blog's title before I leave you lovely people to go clean my flat. Again.

The hardest thing I have had to deal with since starting this course is not the countless assignments, or endless lesson planning and book marking, or the difficult kids, or the infinite observations and mentor meetings, or there being one photocopier and printer in the whole school that is working, or the lack of gluesticks or the numerous diary, equipment and uniform checks that need to be done (and now recorded. why, I ask, whhyyyyy????) or that it's taken me over an hour to write this blog, or that the school needs to be at absolute zero before the heating is turned on, or that I can't access my school email account at school because the own school website is blocked (!). Nope, I can take all those things in my stride. The hardest thing that I have had to deal with since starting this course is........................ THE DAMNED DOORS!!!!!

This week I received lab keys for the lab that I work (and live) in, a mere 8 weeks into the school year. Finally I am able to get into the lab early and set up for my lessons without having to scour the school for a real-life science teacher with a set of keys. At least, that was what I thought. But my school thought 'no, that's far too easy, let's make life a little difficult...'

All the external doors have been fitted with automatic locking systems which you need a fob to open. Fantastic idea! Except I don't have a fob. A little, black plastic triangle of freedom. And I don't have one :-( I am permanently locked out of EVERYWHERE. I feel like Neville longbottom when he lost his list of passwords. Luckily, the kids haven't clocked onto this yet but I'm awaiting the day when I have to put up with the old "I can't hear what you're saying" mime from the other side of the door, whilst I'm stood outside in the rain asking the kids to press the green button which opens the doors from the inside, and the little blighters will be stood in the warm, snuggly area of happiness known as Indoors.

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