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 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!

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