I always knew I had the most fabulous students ever, but when I got the following from one of my students, I was completely blown away. Make sure to read the spelling of ‘beliebing’ lol
I am the eternal cat lady – pictures of my cats have been known to find their way into my slides…
This one is for the day I completely fainted from heat exhaustion before 9:30am – luckily my fabulous students more more than keen to try out their first aid qualifications!
I am still blown away by these gifts. Most thoughtful gift ever, I think!
Well here I am in my second term of teaching and while it hasn’t always been easy (who am I kidding – it has sometimes been very difficult!) I have recently taken some time to reflect on just how much I love my job.
Reason #1: all the beyond wonderful students that you meet. There are just so many students who just blow you away with their attitude and maturity. Notice I don’t say with their academic capability – there are plenty of those too but the ones that really astonish me and make teaching beyond worthwhile are the ones who are the truly fabulous human beings.
Reason #2: All the new stuff I am learning. Every day I learn something new, even though I might not realise at the time. I was so astonished and excited to realise last week that I have improved since last term. This excites me. It isn’t a massive improvement and I still have a long way to go by any means but it’s good to know that progress is being made, and I love that I have a job that is all about personal growth as well as helping others towards their own personal growth. And I think that’s why teachers stay teaching for so long (in many cases anyway!) – they enjoy making and seeing progress. It’s not just a case of mastering a single skill or set of skills and that’s you’re entire job – it’s new and challenging and fabulous every day.
Reason #3: The fabulous colleagues and other professionals you meet. There isn’t a single person I have met that I haven’t learned something from. Some are truly outstanding and inspiring – from the colleagues that are exemplary teachers and who exhibit the best classroom management techniques, the colleages that come up with the fabulous and inspiring lesson plans and ideas, the colleagues that make learning fun, and the ones that somehow find time in their busy life to make a chocolate cheesecake. AND share it. Yummo.
With school starting up again soon, I have started to think about what exactly I want for my students in the new school year. What do I want them to get from their schooling experience? And what do I want my classroom to look like – me talking and doing all the work, or them actually engaged and making an effort in the learning process?
The issue of needing students to become independent learners was particularly prevalent in my second placement, where I was teaching a class of Year 7 students. Some of the girls were having trouble understanding the concept, and hence, working out the answer to the problem. So their solution was to bug the teacher for the answer. I tried explaining it to them as best I could, but as I was feeling under pressure to attend to 25 students at once as well as to cover the unit, I *may have* cut corners in my explanation. Their response? ‘Miss, you’re not supposed to tell us the answer!’
What did I learn from that experience? Firstly, students want to learn. Providing their basic needs have been met, they actually come to school engaged and motivated, expecting to learn. We cannot crush that. And secondly, in order not to crush their natural enthusiasm for learning, we have to engage them from the beginning. This means that from Day 1 of Year 7, students must be encouraged to find answers for themselves, and perhaps more importantly, think of new questions.
Imagine if your students still couldn’t think for themselves by the time they reach Year 12? How would they survive in the real world?
It might take a little extra effort and planning at the beginning, but planning lessons that encourage students to be independent learners and thinkers is easier and better for both you and your students in the long run.
From my experience on prac, I cannot emphasise the importance of routines and consistency enough. Having a routine for entering and exiting the classroom is particularly important, because students will know what to expect, and hence know when they have done the wrong thing. It also helps prevent potential behaviour management issues for the same reason. If you explicitly teach the rules and routines to the students, you are teaching them how to behave appropriately. It helps enormously if the entire school has the same routines for students in every class and with every teacher, but where this isn’t possible, you can at least implement one in your own classroom for the benefit of yourself and your students.
A possible routine for entry could be students are to get their book (for the lesson), pens and school diary out before they come into the classroom. This essentially means that they are to enter the room prepared to learn – if they have the correct equipment, they should be more likely to enter the room in the right frame of mind. Hopefully.
A possible routine for exit could be chairs behind desks, and stand behind chairs. This should include a general tidy up of the classroom as a courtesy to the next class, and to emphasise the importance of taking pride in their school.
Why is this so important? As teachers, it is crucial that you are seen by your students as being impartial and fair. If you change the routine or change the rules every time you see your class, they will not know what to expect, and they will not have appropriate rules and behaviour routines reinforced. And even more importantly, you need to be consistent and fair with each and every student. Treating a student in a manner that can be correctly perceived as unfair by another student will simply teach that student that there is no point behaving appropriately, or there is no point putting in the effort to learn or complete their classwork.
Remember – students always notice what you don’t want them to notice, remember what you don’t want them to remember, and don’t remember the stuff you do want them to remember! So behave transparently at all times!
It may seem obvious, but one of the skills you have to have as a teacher is how to manage a classroom full of students who are all clamouring for your attention at once. During my first prac, I totally did not anticipate how much attention each student would be demanding at any given time, especially the younger students. So I didn’t come prepared with any strategies to handle their constant demand for attention. It manifests itself in many ways – some students behave inappropriately, some students are generally disruptive, some had genuine questions about their work and needed help in order to progress their understanding. And finally, some just needed reassurance (every 5 seconds!) that they were on the right track.
So how on earth was I going to deal with this problem? During my second prac I improved, and started focusing on the students that were being disruptive. But as I got to know the students, I realised that some were just bored – they needed to be engaged with more difficult work. So I put together a resource folder, and students would work to their own level of achievement during their prac time.
During my third prac, I improved further. For example, I stopped answering every single question that was put to me straight away. Instead, I paid attention to the types of questions being asked, and once they had accumulated, I addressed the class as a group. I also reminded them of the importance of listening in order to know what was being asked of them the first time, if that was the issue. I also prioritised my own attention to the students that were needing it most – and that was usually the ones that were behaving inappropriately. By prioritising managing their behaviour using Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL), I was able to then use the rest of my time more effectively managing and teaching the class.
I still have a long way to go, but managing students’ competing need for attention is a really important issue that needs addressing in the classroom.