On being eight years old again…

It’s official. I have lost the plot. I’ve been back onto the Core / Foundation block to prepare for Primary placement for nearly two weeks, and I’m going out of my mind! I’ve gone from being the adult at the front of the class, to being an eight-year-old child who likes crocodile rulers and making up songs about spiders.
Just so you know, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying it. In fact, this is just what I need after so many serious weeks. Training for Primary really can brighten up the life of just about anyone, because there’s so much to enjoy! Don’t get me wrong, it’s nothing like first year. I have learned, to my disappointment, that in second year we are now too old to hug trees as part of Core Science. We do much more advanced things these days, like talk about psychological theories of learning and hang weights off bits of kitchen roll (legitimate experiment!). It is all about balance though, and there’s a nice balance of serious learning to go with the fun activities, meaning we come away with loads of ideas for teaching.
As well as teacher training, the Children’s Literature Book Group met again this week, and it was amazing to have a good old natter about a book and think about how children in school would react to it. I can’t wait for the next one, as we’ve chosen one of my favourite children’s books and I’d love to know how others feel about it once they’ve read it.

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And it’s curtains….

Well, that’s my developmental placement over with. You have no idea how much I’m going to miss the place! So far, I think that the hardest thing about teacher training is meeting loads of brilliant people, being welcomed into a team and developing relationships with young people, only to have to say goodbye after a few weeks.

Myself and the other trainee I was placed with had a brilliant final day though. We were asked to help out backstage at a school production and the kids were fantastic. I had goosebumps listening to them all singing at the end, and they were so professional all the way through. Interestingly, some of the young people who were onstage are kids who are notoriously difficult to settle down in class- I guess drama reaches out to some people in a way that other subjects just can’t. The best bit had to be when the kids decided to ‘cream-pie’ the Drama teacher as he thanked the audience for coming. It was all in good spirit and everyone went home with a bit of foam on them, including me!

So I’m about to enjoy a whole week off, after depriving myself of sleep to keep up with planning, preparation, making resources, marking, evaluating lessons, updating my files and everything else that goes with placement. Only trouble is, I can’t think of anything worse than having a week off. Teaching is hard work and nobody considering a career in it should think otherwise, but it isn’t half worth it! I’m taking a shed-load of new learning and some brilliant memories with me as I leave. Roll on next placement!

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Kids say the funniest things…

Teaching practice really is one of the most tiring times and yet one of the most rewarding that I’ve had. The reward is not necessarily because of the warm inner happiness that comes from knowing you’ve shared your knowledge with a young person just starting out on their intellectual journey in life. It’s often just due to the fact that kids, especially kids in secondary school, are hilarious.
So far this week, I’ve been told I’m close to death (roughly translated: over 23 years old), I’m amazing (translation: ‘Miss, can I have an achievement point?’), I’m a Geordie (I’m from St Helens, so have a Lancs/Merseyside accent), and I’m German (I don’t know!)
One of the things I find most difficult during lessons is keeping a straight face when someone says something that’s wildly inappropriate or ridiculously insulting. Retaining the title of teacher and not becoming the class clown myself by joining in, seems to be one of my biggest challenges.
I have had chance to have a bit of a giggle though. Just today, I stirred up some trouble between my class and their rival class (remember the magazines?), by telling the other class that we’re going to beat them with ease. Cue lots of arm-folding and shifting of body weight to one side in order to silently give attitude to Miss. And of course, because I spotted one of my own class in the corridor, I dragged him into the dispute. So now, both classes are pumped up to make the best magazine they possibly can, and I have children from a rival class pounding their fists into their hands when they see me in the corridor, to signify their belief that they are going to win the competition (they’re not going to win- my class are so going to trash them).
It’s all good… 🙂
PS. Have twitter, do follow! @ShellBlake

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OMW! Where did Christmas go? This week I’ve had three, yes THREE, essays due in and lesson planning to do for next week, when I will be wholly completely utterly responsible for the learning of a load of teenagers. Nervous for me?
I will also be responsible for making them behave, and for any potential trainee teachers, I have a tip, which has been handed down to me by an amazing teacher, so I know it’s a gudd’un.
It is simply: …… INTRODUCE YOURSELF!
Apparently, lots of trainees feel a bit uncomfortable putting their stamp on the classroom, but as long as your school agrees, this can really work (I’ll let you know how I get on with it!). What I’m planning to do is create a short PowerPoint to back up what I’m saying to them about who I am, what I respect and what I expect, and what the rewards and consequences are in relation to whether they try or disengage. I’ll basically tell them how they can achieve in my lessons and try to make it a bit fun. I will also introduce a raffle, as in, kids who answer questions or generally show a high level of engagement or enthusiasm, will get a raffle ticket. And then if they win the raffle they get a prize. Apparently, bribery also works wonders.
That’s not the exciting bit though. The exciting bit is that I will be teaching Of Mice And Men and Harlem Renaissance poetry, and making a class magazine. To make it a bit competitive, we’re in competition with another class, who are also making a magazine- it’s going to get a bit cut-throat in the world of journalism at my placement school, I can tell you!

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Back to School

I’m leading a double life, as are all trainee teachers. One day I’m a diligent student, putting my hand up in class, worrying about deadlines and exams and attempting to guilt-trip tutors into letting us go for an early break by feigning caffeine withdrawal symptoms… and the next day, I’m leading a class, telling over-eager kids to put their hands up, under-eager kids to put their hands up, and the ones that answer everything to put their hands down.

I’ve decided that this requires a certain amount of skill. for example, you must be able to be both a student and a teacher, a leader and a follower. You must be able to complain about teachers being unjustifiably authoritarian (for example if your tutor is the type to want to carry on forever when you need a coffee or a quick chocolate fix), and yet be able to hypocritically swallow that belief when keeping in Year Eight at break because they just would not stop swinging on their seats and shouting. I should point out that I have never yet had to keep in Year Eight at break, but I can feel it coming and it’s weighing on my mind.

It’s an interesting predicament to be in, and one that I think trainee teachers should attempt to use to their advantage. We all have our off days, where it’s just impossible to be as highly motivated as we need to be. Next time you have one, if you happen to be in a lesson or a lecture, think about what it might be like to be fifteen and experiencing the same thing. Notice your desperate need to fidget, your desire to scribble all over your notes and/or books that may or may not belong to you. Notice yourself watching the clock. When is it going to be BREAK TIME? I think this is a great exercise for trainee teachers, because you can now rest assured that their restlessness is not necessarily your fault, just as your restlessness is probably down to you having an off-day rather than your tutor (ego boost), and you can maybe think about giving over-worked kids a bit of a brain break, helping you to get back on track and helping them to recover the will to live.

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One FINE Day… Oh yes, dear reader, I did just write that…

I’m becoming a little bit worried about myself. Others have expressed their concerns over the years but now even I am beginning to worry. Yesterday I – yes, me!- actually made a ‘whoop’ sound and grinned like a Cheshire Cat at being invited to extra training. I was at my placement school at the time and I can honestly say that the others in the room looked at me as though I’d just landed in a purple spacecraft with pink glitter glue spots on. Apparently, it’s not the done thing to be so enthusiastic about training days once you’re qualified. I wish I had known! For the record, the people there were, in my opinion, secretly very excited about extra training too, they’re actually very enthusiastic and committed people, but I suppose wholehearted passion about training days probably isn’t all that cool….

Much more exciting than my bonus training day, I got to meet ANNE FINE, as in ANNE FINE, as in THE VERY NICE LADY WHO WROTE SOME AMAZING BOOKS, today. (If you don’t know her name, think Flour Babies, Madame Doubtfire, Up on Cloud 9, The Tulip Touch, Diary of a Killer Cat… the list could carry on). Not only does she write books that children just want to eat because they can’t digest them quickly enough to satisfy their hunger for her stories, she’s also a very witty and entertaining person as it turns out. Loads of schoolkids descended upon Edge Hill’s Rose theatre to listen to her and she had them captivated by her discussion and her answers to their questions. Children aside, the students who attended got so much out of her visit. It’s lovely to see the way that someone as often published as Anne Fine still has to make drafts and re-drafts, and scribbles on her paper and secretly puts members of her family into her writing. I now have an even longer list of children’s books that I want to read though… oh well, at least I enjoy them. One of the best things about teacher training is that you have an excuse to be a big kid every now and again!

Here’s what Anne has to say about one of her amazing books:


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All go in KS 2/3!

It’s all go in Edge Hill land! Although it’s a busy course, I have to say I love being on the KS 2/3 Programme. Last week was the first meeting of the Children’s Literature Reading Group, which got off to a flying start. I’ve been involved in the student steering group for this and I think that the Reading Group is set to become a useful example of how students can get together with people from other courses to pool their knowledge and ideas, and further improve their ability in their subjects (plus there’s the added bonus of having an excuse for reading excellent and entertaining books that are aimed at children- even if you’re not on an Education course I recommend reading a children’s book every now and again, it’s good for you!).

 What was really good about the group was the fact that there are so many people wanting to talk about these brilliant books that are available for children and the interesting, exciting characters contained within them. The group was so well attended that we even had people sitting on the floor! At the end all of the people who came to the group were let into a little secret about something happening right here at Edge Hill next week, details of which I will very much enjoy posting about here.

 As I said though, there’s so much going on. Next week I’m also in Secondary school, part of the preparation for my long placement in the New Year. I’ve been to the school before and am getting to know some of the names and characters, so I’m very much looking forward to going back and getting stuck in to planning English work for them.

 So there’s exciting things afoot next week, plus placement, plus an upcoming exam, essay preparation, Christmas shopping, all sorts to do. From my conversations with teachers, I think that being so busy is definitely good preparation for a teaching career, but once you’re in class you can see why it’s worth the work.

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