All entries for October 2011

October 31, 2011

A pleasant bottle of red with a fruity kick and some oaky undertones.

It has been a while since I last blogged. But that doesn’t been I have not been reflecting (reflection-in-action has been the flavour of the last fortnight, and rightly so). To be quite honest, I have had an exceedingly large volume of things to chew over in the last couple of weeks and I have only just got round to chewing everything into enough bite-sized chunks to finally swallow all the information and face the blog. Reflection for me can often feel like a right effort; any attempt to make coherent sense of my thoughts just makes my head hurt , so I prefer to let my ponderings rest and mature like a fine wine in the hope that they will eventually be pleasant to taste, with a fruity kick and a hint of oaky wisdom.

So here’s the pleasant, tasteful stuff:

I love learning. I have just spent Reading Week poring over intelligent articles written by intelligent people, and I have even momentarily let myself think I may be able to join the ‘clever club’ if I do well enough with this MA assignment. There is a sense that we are joining a real, living, ongoing discussion about the future of education, and that we might just stumble across something that makes a real difference to pupil’s progress. Exciting, huh? And I get to keep learning for the rest of my life. Huzzah for life-long learning!

I have also really enjoyed getting to know the pupils and staff at my PP1 school. There have only been three orientation days so far, but I have already got a good feel for the place and managed to get myself involved with the school musical (Beauty and the Beast). I now wish to be known as ‘Miss Payne, Choreographer Extraordinaire’. The staff are all extremely hard working and have done a lot in the last few years to improve the school. I join the school at a very interesting time, when they are looking to sustain the improvement that has been made and become an outstanding school. The teachers in the Performing Arts department are just brilliant and will be excellent models for me to learn from.

The fruity kick:

I am already in week eight of the most defining year of my life so far. I have learnt more about myself in this eight week period than I could possibly have hoped for. And it will only get more enlightening as I storm heart-first into PP1. This course is shining a big powerful torch on my passions, my prejudices, my priorities and my pitfalls. Admittedly, I am daunted. But when I take a step outside of myself and remove the critical parrot on my shoulder that squawks “You’ll never make a very good teacher”, I realise that I am really enjoying the process. I put this down to the fact that, all moaning aside, I love a challenge, and this PGCE course top trumps any challenge I have ever faced before.

The last couple of weeks have also marked the beginnings of my battle with data. The focus on progression and improvement at my PP1 school has meant the staff are extremely focussed on pupil data. This comes from a very rational place: they need to know they are meeting targets and ensuring progression for every pupil. All sounds good so far, but I take issue with an over-reliance on data: pupils are humans, not numbers to be crunched into a huge data base in year 7 and spat out in year 11 having achieved or not achieved FFT targets. This data then goes on to form the school’s GCSE pass rate percentage and turned into impressive bar charts, pie charts and scatter graphs to show Ofsted, parents, and future GCSE cohorts. Perhaps I take issue with the fact that I have seen the pupils’ data before I have had chance to properly meet the pupils. For me, this just turns young people into a list of levels. My quarrels with data aside, I want to know my pupils well enough to encourage each of them to develop a real passion for learning and to be the best they can be. If I can acheive such an ideal vision of teaching and learning, come data collection day, I'll be laughing.

The oaky wisdom:

I wish to finish my blog this week with an honest confession about how much I am missing home , especially the people there. Going home during Reading Week has only confirmed my desire to be closer to those people. I am happy to admit that coming to Warwick University has been about getting the best training possible, not about relocating my life. At the end of this year I’ll be packing my things into my car and driving home to a fabulous NQT job nearer to the people I love. This has caused me to think about the saying ‘home is where the heart is’. My heart is in teaching. During this phase of my life, teaching is to be found here, in Coventry, so I’m happy to call it home for now.

My heart is most definitely still in it. Power on Miss Payne.

October 11, 2011

With great power comes great responsibility

Some pupils have already experienced more trauma in their young lives than I will ever know.

Some pupils are our future leaders.

Some pupils have been in a wheelchair all their lives.

Some pupils will distrust me as soon as I walk through the door, simply because I’m an adult.

Some pupils make the room light up with one suggestion.

Some pupils don’t know a word of English when they join Secondary School.

Some pupils will blow you away with their contributions.

Some pupils have been badly let down by the very people who are supposed to be their role models.

Some pupils will reform our society.

Most pupils know the importance of learning and education.

Most pupils will respect you if you respect them.

Most pupils will make you laugh.

Most pupils love to learn if you engage them.

Most pupils enjoy school and are happy to be with their peers in a safe environment.

All pupils are full of life and energy.

All pupils are humans, not simply research specimens or pieces of data.

All pupils have opinions and need space to express these opinions.

All pupils need consistency, boundaries and support.

All pupils are precious and worth fighting for.

These are little lives we are dealing with, lives that have already experienced so much by the time they come into our classrooms. As teachers we have been put in an extremely powerful position, a position we can either use or abuse. It is our job to provide young people with an education. Education provides them with knowledge, knowledge provides them with choices, choices provide them with a future. It is a great responsibility and it needs to be taken seriously.

October 05, 2011

Random Reflections, Marvellous Musings and Poetic Ponderings

The focus of last week’s Professional Studies was BfL (Behaviour for Learning) and AfL (Asessment for Learning). We discussed practical tips for assessing the pupil learning that has happened before, during and after a lesson. I now have a new exciting ‘AfL toolkit’... basically just a box brimming with crafty gimmicks that can be used in the classroom for formatively assessing pupil progress. So I’m stocked up on post-it notes, string, pegs, raffle tickets, stickers, mini white-boards and lolly pop sticks. This was my try-hard attempt to feel more like a teacher. Do I feel more like a teacher as a result? Not just yet.

I also bought myself a personal laminator and some laminating sleeves: potentially the single most invigorating way I could have spent my Saturday afternoon. One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind (or something along those lines).

But on a more serious note, I feel like more things are going in and staying in. I am absorbing information with much more efficiency whilst developing a strong sense of self-efficacy. I am constantly intrigued by the new things I am learning. Teaching is most certainly NOT mutually exclusive of learning.

During our Subject Studies sessions this week we have witnessed some priceless examples of good drama teaching by a certain Mr Jonothan Neelands (KS3 Hamlet) and Miss Rachel Dickinson (KS2 The Conquerers). These workshops were unforgettable examples of how to make learning experiential. This is something I have been constantly challenged by during the course so far: how do we make learning a memorable experience for our pupils, whilst also controlling behaviour, assessing progress and monitoring improvement? Food for thought.

But for now, a cheeky little poem:

I have a trendy jacket; I bought some shiny shoes,

I swotted up on APP, but still I’m left confused.

I’m happy with observing, I take notes like a pro,

But when it comes to teaching kids there’s so much more to know.

I know about assessment, I know about tool kits,

But just the thought of marking work gives me sweaty pits.

“She’s very well behaved”, my teachers always said,

But when it comes to BfL I’m filled with anxious dread.

I like to think I’m clever; I have a posh degree,

But neither helps when scary kids are shouting things at me.

I’d love to be outstanding, be great at what I teach,

But still my wish to be the best feels slightly out of reach. 

I don’t know why I’m rhyming, it doesn’t make much sense,

I find it helps me shape my thoughts when I’m feeling tense.

October 2011

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