The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Monday, October 24, 2005

My school’s computers won’t let me blog…so sorry for the delay.

I gave my first lesson today (well, that was last week)!! A very well behaved mixed ability year 7 class – and I loved it. I enjoyed the drama and performance side of trying to make what is rather a dull subject – area and perimeter – sound a bit more fun than just length x width. The teachers in my school are so supportive – guiding rather than leading, gently making suggestions and bolstering our egos and confidence all the way. After half term I have four lessons to prepare for my first week for classes ranging from year 8 to 11; the older ones will certainly tax me in that I will need to really know the subject well, I can’t hope to flannel my way through their GCSE’s!

It has been surprising to me what the children DON’T know by say, age 11 or 12 – things that I am sure we were doing when I was in primary – but maybe what is happening is that they do, say, fractions in primary and then again in secondary over and over until the message sticks…perhaps what happened with us was that if we didn’t get it the first time that was our first and last chance?

Anyway, The children are saying hello in the corridor, the teachers haven’t eaten us in the staff room, we have a couple of weeks more of college and then back here again. None of the three student teachers want to go back to college, we all want to stay here and carry on with the children.

Last day of the two week session was an INSET day. Outsiders “those who do not teach” are only aware of these if a) they have children and in ensuing child care hassles or b) they are drivers surprised by the sudden and joyous lack of traffic! It was quite an eye opener – lots of teacher moaning about how boring the lectures were, how they didn’t understand the task, talking about what they were going to do at half term…a familiar pattern?

Back in college today I find that not everyone has had such a well supportive first session in school. I am shocked to hear that some teachers see having the students there as an opportunity to offload the work. In contrast my own mentor is only further overworked by having to molly coddle me! She will no doubt be glad of the break.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Wow! I managed to tell a child off today! I did have to go and hide in the staff room afterwards though to recover and will not be able to carry out the promise to inform the form tutor of the miscreants flaws - what with being blank minded from power shock!

The week started with a flood of red jerseys - so many little people and so many who are actually bigger than me - and all of them know where they are going, where their form room is and what they are doing next period - and I don't!!

We have observed a range of ages and abilities across a variety of subjects and for the most part have been privileged to see some truely inspiring teaching. The ability of some teachers to control a class by creating interesting and engaging lessons has been awe inspiring. An outsider (oh yeah, that's me!) would be left with the impression that these are angelic, well fed children from good, caring and resourceful families - their behaviour being so entirely govered by the skills of their teachers. The reality is that the catchment is extremely varied and includes some areas of quite abject deprivation. I have ongoing and enormous self doubt that i will ever be as good at classroom management as these people. I suspect that it is in large part an act - giving the impression of self belief that you ARE the boss, that they WILL be quiet.

High points - one to one with a child who tells you he "can't DO them" and working with him to show him that sure he can. And him believing it.

Not spending as much time with each child as one does in primary means that it has been hard in just a week to form strong attachments to any individual child. Also, they seem to have more of a pack mentality than they do in primary - there are good ones and attentive ones and sullen ones but they seem to be more interested in each other and less interested in the teacher than they were as baby kids in juniors.

Anyway, next week my first lesson.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

It is the end of our college weeks - next week we go to school for the first time. People are anxious about start times, what to wear and where they will get lunch. Imagine how it must be for a 11 year old moving up from juniors.

I had always had a mental picture of myself as a teacher - the whole, Miss, standing up, teaching, snotty noses, hormonal teenagers, even the pastoral side and the interminable paperwork- but somehow I had never questioned whether I actually had anything to teach. That is, whether I have within my head, education and experience, anything worth passing on.

That is my biggest fear now - that my ability to control a classroom will be limited not by my high pitched squeeky voice or my diminutative size but instead by the fact that I have nothing to say that will interest them. I can control this to some extent by preparing lessons but I am afraid that when they say "But Miss, what's the POINT!" that I may crumble and confess yes, that they are right, they will never find a use for quadratic equations/logarithms/3D trigonometry.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Important observation on teaching no. 17

See the thing with "normal" jobs is, that if you pop round to your new neighbours for a glass of wine that turns into a couple of bottles and wake up feeling decidely second-hand, then you can spend the next morning - after you have turned up to work two hours late because of the "late running trains" - hiding at your desk clearing out your old mail until you feel able to face the world. In many jobs, just once in a while, you could actually have a little sleep at your desk and people would be polite enough not to mention it.

I have this feeling of doom, having dragged myself out of bed for an early lecture this morning, that hangovers and year 9 lowest set maths don't mix.