Sunday, 21 June 2015

Nine Signs I’m Officially Ready to Start My Teaching Career

It is approaching four years since writing my first blog on ‘Transparent ICT’ when I first started the BEd with ICT. In reflection, over this busy time of teaching placements, lectures and day to day student life I really have no regrets about everything I been involved with. Plymouth University you have been a dream.

Since finishing final assignments I decided to top up my practise (and student bank balance…) by supplying around Plymouth, which has been an invaluable experience. Yet, from September I am fortunate enough to be teaching at an amazing inner city school in Bristol and I can't wait.

Nine Signs I’m Officially Ready to Start My Teaching Career:

1. New Found Confidence

'Be a hammer not a nail' was advice given to me by a very special lecturer during my first weeks of university and has remained in my twitter bio until recently. At the time it opened my eyes to my time at school and sixth form, doing the bare minimum required and slipping under the surface. Now, amongst other things, my confidence has grown enabling me to get involved, share my opinions and make lots of contributions.

2. Own Perspectives on Education

Over the course I have found my own ideas on what I perceive education and schools should look like. In fact this is the very basis of what made me love the school that I will be working in from September. I guess it comes down to ethos as for me educational environments should allow children to feel special, welcome and cared for. Then through this they will learn, achieve and be able to explore creatively.

3. Pinterest

Lately Pinterest has become part of my daily routine, permanently on the lookout for resources, activities, organisation and new behaviour management ideas.

4. Vast Amounts of Experience

From overhearing staffroom conversations I sometimes think that people forget how much experience NQTs have (especially from a BEd). Through teaching placements, interviews and supply I have taught in twelve schools on more than one occasion. True, the majority of these have been in the South West, however that has still shown me so much variety of children, teaching styles, classroom set ups and assessment methods. Last week I began supply in a secondary school and when I move to Bristol my school environment will open my eyes to whole new experience.

World Book Day
5. 2:1

I have realised that although a degree is all about being academic, I'm never going to be the most critical writer and that is okay. I am so happy to have achieved a high 2:1, but for me my focus has always been on my teaching as my biggest success over the BEd have been achieving outstanding on my final practice.

6. University Has Been The Best

Another sign I’m ready to start my teaching career is because of all the fun, exciting and amazing things I have done whilst being a student; meeting lifelong friends and a very lovely BEd boy to move to Bristol with, regular ice creams and barbecues on Plymouth Hoe, ciders in the SU, teaching in the Czech Republic, organising TeachMeets, attending events, completely overcoming my fear of public speaking and so many seminars with inspiring lecturers.

7. Continuous Learning

I think I will also be in that four year old child, forever asking questions, frame of mind. I am ready to start my career because that doesn’t mean I will stop learning and just teach, it means my desire to ask questions, learn and understand will continue and hopefully reflect positively onto those children I teach.

8. Do What Makes You Happy

A cliché but something I really do agree with. Everything I have stuck with during my teacher training has made me happy, those things that haven’t were tried and given lesser priority. If you're doing what makes you happy, then others will follow suit.

One of my favourite quotes. Roald Dahl in The Twits: ‘If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.’

9. Being Involved

Carrying on from signs one and six, being involved in university life has also prepared me for my NQT year in September. From being part of the EdSoc committee during my four years at uni to being in close contact with lecturers (as Tyla Elworthy also mentioned) involvement has been key to my successes. If it was not for these extra things I most likely would have just focussed on the end result of being a qualified teacher, than on the journey itself.

PELeCON 2012

My university experience has been fun, memorable and unique. Despite the length of the course I have been fortunate to not doubt becoming a teacher, but instead have continued to learn and grow and although I still have a lot more to learn and more experiences to gain I feel as ready as I could to officially start my career.

Over the next few weeks I will continue to supply teach, get to grips with some reading to prepare for September (any recommendations welcome – particularly regarding EAL), attend the WEICT conference and meet my year three class. A lot to look forward to!

Please check out Megan Douglas’ and Tyla Elworthy’s fantastic blogs.


Sunday, 30 June 2013

Teaching in Czech

Teaching English as a Foreign Language

I have now finished my three weeks of teaching at an elementary school in Plzen, Základní škola Plzeň, Západní 18, and it has been a really amazing experience, giving me a completely different insight into how learning happens in another country. There were so many differences to schools within the UK but they seemed to suit the learning and teaching styles here really well.

For my time at the school I was seen as an English teacher so I taught a variety of grades, from 7 year olds to even teaching some secondary school aged children too. As it was the last three weeks of term I think it was slightly more relaxed than it would have been normally, at least for the younger classes. Therefore this gave me the opportunity to teach using songs, games and fun activities which was lovely. 

One song which I had seen in my recent school placement was the Gorilla Snot Song. In my year 3 class it had always been an activity that they had found hilarious and because of the lyrics repetition I thought it might work well in my English teaching. Each time I introduced it to a new class I gave everyone the words printed out, and then would slowly go through the pronunciation as they read and repeated after me (this was slightly different depending on age and ability). Once they had got the main words we would all go through it again together, I would then sing the song to the class to give them the tune and then gradually I would add the game element to it. 

It became a regular activity in my teaching as both the teachers and children loved it. It was great to see the words become more clearly pronounced, accents become more defined and the understanding of what the song meant increase.

This video was only from the second time this Grade 3 class had a go but the teacher's enthusiasm for English seemed to really benefit and further their learning.

Gradually I built up a collection of activities that I could use in my teaching of English. It was so interesting to see that applying the language and actually speaking showed the most effective improvements to their confidence. 

Teaching the secondary school was quite a different experience from the younger grades. It reminded me a lot of how I was taught GCSE French because the lessons revolved around textbook activities. So when teaching these ages I always had to use this as the fundamental tool, but fortunately the teachers were still keen for me to apply this learning to some games and activities too. The confidence in using the language seemed so different from the younger years but perhaps that came from their age and the fear of making mistakes or embarrassing themselves in front of peers. 

General Differences from Czech to England

The school day was the first noticeable difference. In my particular school the day varied in length starting at either 7.30am (when they had swimming on Tuesdays) or 8am which would then finish between 11.50am and 12.35pm. 

At the beginning of the school day the children would come into the school at anytime to get settled but the class teacher would not enter until 8am. It was really nice to see that the children didn't have to be watched every second of the day and could easily be trusted to keep themselves occupied. This was also the case at the many breaks through the day. After each lesson the class had either a 10 or 20 minute break where they stayed in the classroom and had snacks, then the teacher would also go off to one of the many staff rooms and do the same. This seemed to give the children time to relax and regain concentration for the next lesson, however I still find it strange how they never go outside to play. From this I imagined that the class would be similar to one in the UK after a wet break, although it was rarely like that and the children seemed settled into the routine.  

Physical differences in my Czech school were the non-uniform and indoor shoes. The lack of uniform didn't seem to make any difference to the teaching, learning or the children's attitudes. In fact I don't think I even saw it being mentioned or remotely discussed between the pupils, it was just the way things were and part of the relaxed attitudes that surrounded this school. (The teachers dressed similarly and were called by their first names too). Indoor shoes was a concept that just comes from the hygiene of not wanting to sit on a floor that is regularly walked on dirty shoes I think, and is something that I have seen in the homes of Czech people too. So many Crocs around that I seemed like the weird one for not wearing them!

The last week of term, before the school broke up for the summer holidays, was another big difference. I was aware that they were all 'off timetable' for the week but at the time I had thought that meant that more relaxed activities would take place and that pupils stayed in their own classrooms for these (rather than moving around like some had done for lessons previously). However, I assumed incorrectly! For the majority of the week the children were just left in the classroom to entertain themselves really. Some children brought in board games, others played on their phones or iPads and others just chatted their way through the week. The lovely class teacher was busy preparing things for the next school year, and clearing out the classroom to be redecorated so only popped in occasionally to get things.

This seemed to be the format throughout the school but again the children were trusted enough to get on with things and enjoy their last week. Despite all of this, the atmosphere within the classroom was calm and there was a lack of the restlessness that you might expect. On two occasions the teacher led activities, once was when she needed file boxes painted for a next class so everyone joined in with that and then on Thursday we all spent the day outside playing games such as handball, skipping and tug of war.

The last day was very different too. The school only come in for the first period 8am to 8.45am and were all dressed in party clothes, all with a present in hand for the teacher. Then each child is called to the front of the classroom to be given their grades and certificate, and they then handed over their presents. My class teacher, Misa, received sooo many flowers that they filled a whole box on the floor. Once every child had been awarded their grades she cracked open a few bottles of child friendly champagne and we toasted 'Na zdravi!'.

My time at the school was a great experience; teaching English as a foreign language for the first time, building relationships with the children, teaching a variety of ages and seeing a very different perspective to learning. I now have a week off, and then start teaching English in a summer school program for another three weeks... exciting!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Reflect... BEd Year Two

Looking back through the blogs I have written during this year of uni I surprised to see that I had actually only written two, and in both cases they were produced after assigned tasks during my ICT module.

Despite finding writing the two useful for my understanding of the topic I suppose the 'set task' format of them kind of put me off writing in my usual style about what I had been learning in general. So I thought it might be good to reflect now on my second year of the BEd, my recent placement and plans for the summer.

Second year of the BEd genuinely seems to have flown by... lots of involvement in the Plymouth Education Society as treasurer and events secretary, plenty of lovely normal student life and then a huge variation in the types of modules looked at, with a big focus on assignments that led me to think about content of these in an applied approach and how they relate to teaching, planning or policy. 

For my second year Placement, I was in Exeter at an inner city type school within a year three class. Despite its fair share of behavioural issues and children from a range of backgrounds I would class it as a pretty normal school (or maybe that is just based on my own school experience?). I think it did have a slight reputation around Exeter, but my host family accommodation was in a 'better off' area of the city so their opinion was probably a bit bias. I really enjoyed my time at the school and as always when on teaching placement seemed to learn lots and experience a range of new things.

One thing that I had a chance to get better at during the six weeks was my understanding and use of differentiation. My class contained quite a vast range of levels and each of the ability groups were completely different (and then again within these too). At first... actually make that the whole time I was there... I found the most time consuming part of my planning was deciding how to take the class input into the group activities, pitching at such a range. It was so easy to plan an activity at home in the evenings (without the class teachers' guidance) that took the higher ability group 10 minutes, whilst the lowest ability group would struggle to get their heads round what the task actually was. Through my time at the school, with plenty of advice from the two teachers that shared the class, I became more confident at getting the learning right for each child and also using staff effectively to support or guide the ability groups.

There were lots of other interesting things about the school. Extracurricular opportunities available were set up and run by children (very different in comparison to my first year placement school where every night of the week different staff ran at least three after school clubs). Another was the great range of teaching styles I was able to observe, from teachers the head teacher identified as satisfactory to others which were constantly seen to be outstanding. 

Third year placement gets under way after 4 weeks of being back at Uni in the autumn term which is exciting, but seeing as its May that seems like a long way away! 

My focus right now is that I am off teaching in the Czech Republic on Wednesday, for seven weeks. I have never really had this opportunity before, but for once this trip was reasonably affordable so I managed to save up the money myself. I am really looking forward to whole thing... first a bit of Praque, then teaching in a 6 - 15 year old school in Plzen and once their schools have broken up for summer I'm off to teach English in a summer school too so quite a variety! No idea what to expect but just hoping to learn and experience lots about learning and teaching in a different culture. 

Definitely could have reflected on a million other things from my second year on the BEd but constrained it to this so you weren't reading for years, perhaps another blog post in a few weeks time once I've got my head round Czech life!


Sunday, 17 February 2013

How Does Perception Affect Learning?

Researching this question was definitely a challenge for me. I don't think I even fully understood the definition of the word 'perception', let alone that in relation to learning. Looking at the theorists and theories involved, such as Gibson, Gestalt and Gregory, seemed to confuse me more as I couldn't really gather their main points. After some more perseverance with the ideas I have used this blog post to summarise and give myself a clearer understanding on what is involved in the concept.

Hulse, Deese and Egeth (1975) define perception as a general term that refers to awareness of objects, qualities or events that stimulate organs, and can also refer to a person's experience of the world. Therefore, when someone perceives something through their environment, they learn it and then try to put it into practice. 

Learning is often viewed as gaining knowledge or skills through experience, practice or study. Therefore, the two concepts together seem to form ideas of our responses to the world around us, through this gaining knowledge and understanding.

There are lots of different types of perceptions that are argued to affect learning, such as kinaesthetic, visual and auditory. Kinaesthetic perception is important in many areas of early childhood learning, but as children grow older, most of their learning will take place through visual and auditory perception (Illumine, no date). Moreover, another way these perceptions can affect learners is through the visual aspects and the related skills. Gibson (1966) saw an importance in visual perceptions in his study of optics, textured gradients and affordance. However, he only went as far as to explain 'seeing' but little into assigning meaning and did not look in depth at learning or memory.

Gregory also studied perception. He argues that the topic involves making inferences about what we see and trying to make a best guess. His ideas relate to learning in the classroom as he also found that prior knowledge and past experience are crucial. Therefore, when we visually look at something we are developing a perceptual hypothesis that is not just based on what is in front of us, but relies upon prior knowledge as well.

Apologies for any confusing points I may have made in this...

...but we do have seminar time to go through everyone's blogs tomorrow (on perceptual theories in learning) so hopefully I will gain a further understanding there in the discussions, and possibly be able to add more clarity to my writing here!


Sunday, 25 November 2012

Integrated E-Safety

So we have just started a new mini project in our ICT seminars about e-safety. The task is to make an informative presentation on the topic, which can show other trainee teachers how to teach the idea in the classroom. Our group got to work researching various resources through looking at sites such as VITAL, NAACE and swgfl where we found that a lot give the facts of what internet is and tips of things to be careful of but very little guidance of how to incorporate these into the classroom. After all, shouldn't e-safety be central to ensure that children fully understand safe practice of the devices that they are using to explore or learn from?

As a group, we became slightly stuck as where to take this project... Should we look at how to teach a good e-safety lesson? Doesn't that just involve giving the children tips? Which technologies should we focus on? What is the most effective way of doing this?

Probably my favourite e-safety site that I came across in the research - simple and to the point tips for children about using a varity of technologies safely
After a discussion, we agreed that we thought that at a time where devices are constantly being used in the classroom to support learning and where children have a wide range of them to use at home that e-safety shouldn't just be a standalone lesson but generally integrated throughout all teaching.

I began to research exactly that and googled 'integrated e-safety' with very little success. There were very few ideas of how to put this into place and no examples which really surprised us as it seemed like the best way for children to have all the knowledge they needed to stay safe when using technology. When writing previous ICT assignments it has always shocked me how little e-safety is mentioned in technology based text books, often given a paragraphs space at the end of the final chapter. It is great to be able to use so much new ICT in the classroom to support learning, so I feel that children need to also be taught common sense on how to use the huge variety without putting themselves in danger. In an assignment that I have just finished I referenced Ofsted's 'safe use of new technologies' document because it suggests that e-safety in outstanding schools was taught across the curriculum... through 'assemblies, tutorial time, personal, social, health and education lessons'.

Towards the end of our seminar we decided that although separate e-safety lessons can be useful, it should really be embedded into the curriculum as much as possible. Over the next few weeks, as we develop this resource/presentation, we're going take a 'how to' approach to the task and hopefully make something that demonstrates and teaches how to integrate e-safety into the primary curriculum.

I would be interested to hear how other people have seen e-safety taught in school, any integration seen/carried out or opinions on the best ways to teach children how the use the internet safely!


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Building Learning Power

So I have just finished my first year summer teaching placement and it has been an invaluable experience; from huge behavioural challenges that have developed my confidence in the classroom to learning new ideas and concepts that the school follows which improve the children's learning.

One of the main strategies that my placement school, HV, has implemented has become integral to every part of the school day, building learning power (BLP).  Just to add that this is my only experience of the idea so it might be different to how it works in other places or people might just disagree with it altogether.

From my first day it was apparent that in action BLP was a part of every aspect of the classroom through the language of the teachers and the way the children went about learning. In short Guy Claxton's idea of BLP is about helping young people to become better learners, in and out of school. He believes that pupils who are more confident of their learning ability, learn faster and learn better. Then once they have developed this, their confidence, capability and passion can be built up.

At HV I definitely felt part of the school through the welcoming of the staff and their support in challenging me to become a great teacher. A main factor in this was that the head teacher made time to look at each of our trainee teacher files every week to provide feedback. The week that she asked me to look into building learning power in the school gave me the chance to go more in depth about it's use in the classroom but also behind this in how it has effected the school and it's learning.

The most apparent way that building learning power was used in the classroom at my placement school was through the teacher's language. When discussing with the class teacher she explained to me that this was a main benefit of BLP as it gave staff a vocabulary to speak to the children in which promoted positive behaviour reinforcement and motivated them to learn more. Examples of this were phrases such as...

"Manage your distractions"
"Intelligent interruption"
"Brain ache questions"
"I've spotted something..." - children walk out from where they are sitting to come and point something out

The learning tree featured in every classroom (containing the four R's) - when a child feels they have been a resourceful learner, for example, they put a picture of their face on that part of tree.

Other noticeable ways...
Everything the pupils do being referred to as 'learning' rather than 'work' to come away from all the negative connotations of 'work'.... eg: home learning
Talk partners and collaboration are used in all lessons
Recognition of perseverance in a child's learning
Extending with 'challenges'

There is also a huge focus on independent learning and for the children to be in control of this. Through this the class feel even bigger positive benefits from their achievements in and outside of the classroom with understanding of the challenges they overcome. At the time before the school got into BLP they were struggling with the problem that they had great teachers but the children weren't learning well enough and when they came across this it appeared to be their solution and they have been using it since.

The whole concept of BLP obviously goes deeper than this but I thought it would be beneficial to blog about what I saw and how it worked in the classroom. The main part I liked was the focussing in on 'learning' and how the enjoyment for that really got the children motivated to challenge themselves. My view on how building learning power works is only from this one perspective though so I'm still very interested to find out why others don't like it, or maybe how it works in other schools, so feel free to comment!


Friday, 20 April 2012

#pelc12 PELeCON

Pelecon 2012 has come to an end and I have had such an amazing experience as a student volunteer! I think I've heard some of best speakers of my entire first year at the university, that have definitely inspired and interested me. Stories of the great work they are doing within education from @deputymitchell @theheadsoffice @courosa @stevebunce @heloukee @mberry @gravesle, just to name a few of the people I have managed to see whilst helping out.

The evening of the first day became #tmpelecon, a teach meet in the students union with some fantastic speakers sharing experiences and ideas. The main challenge of the night, well for me at least, came later. Despite being fairly comfortable at the front of the classroom teaching, the thought of speaking in front of an audience of professionals and students terrifies me. So I quickly hid my head when the presentations were finished and @terryfreedman asked if any student teacher bloggers would share their thoughts on the benefits of it.

Even though I vaguely heard someone say my name behind me I just pretended to write something down in my notebook! So my lecturer, Pete - @ethinking, decided to volunteer me much to my surprise. About five minutes later, and from lots of lovely encouragement from a fellow BEd student @amyparkinbed, I was up at the front talking about my recent experiences of blogging.

Sitting back down I realised that I probably hadn't made a lot of sense in what I was saying, and had spoken too quickly but I had definitely challenged myself to overcome a fear. What helped more was the really kind encouragement I received after the teach meet, on twitter and over the next two days as it really helped me with my confidence levels if I'm to do anything similar again. Over the three days of pelecon the word 'failures' has come up a lot and the way we can learn from these, in the confession booth too ( It's amazing to see how I've learnt already from the help of others persuading me to face my fears and talk and in pushing myself to get up there!

Alec Couros's (@courosa) talk the next day said that putting things out there before they are perfect is an important part of learning. This put into perspective for me that my skill to speak in public didn't need to be perfected before I did it, but I just needed to put myself out there to practice and learn from the experience. (And maybe from that people learnt or had an incite into student teacher blogging too)

There is so much else to talk about regarding #pelc12 but for now I'll leave it on my perspective of the event and how I learnt and began to overcome a fear.