Sunday, 27 October 2013

Languages show live, parents evening and the end of the first half term.

This weekend marked the end of my first half term in school and 10 weeks on the School Direct programme if we include the two weeks worth of summer school.  In many ways it has been a long half term, and in others the last 8 weeks have just flown by.  Until now I have been teaching four hours a week on my own and observing and helping out in 6 others.  I've been taking bits and pieces of starters, plenaries and half lessons in years 7, 8, 9 and 10, some French and some Spanish.

A week or so ago now another MFL trainee and I went to the Languages Show Live at Olympia.  It meant losing the usual weekend lie in and getting on the train nice and early in the morning and making our way across to Olympia, with the usual barriers that Transport for London like to throw in for good measure!  There were loads of stalls and so as well as attending talks on using the target language in the classroom and the new national curriculum for 2014 we managed to spend quite a lot of money...!  We justified it by saying that we're investing in our future by helping ourselves to do better this year, at least that's what we've convinced ourselves of anyway!

As I've been teaching year 7 on my own for a few weeks now they are my classes and so I took the lead in talking to the parents on parents evening this week.  Although I went to year 11 parents evening a few weeks ago I didn't really participate other than to add a couple of comments so this was quite a big step up.  At first it was quite scary sitting on the other side of the table and telling parents how their children were getting on in my lessons but by the end of the evening I realised I was actually quite enjoying it.  It was really interesting to get to meet the parents and hopefully I'll be able to see the effects of some of the things we talked about when we're back in the classroom after half term.

Unfortunately this half term break is not going to be that relaxing.  I've had a weekend off but work starts tomorrow as I not only have 6 hours of lessons to plan for the first week back but a 4000 word assignment for the PGCE and I'd really like to get at least a first draft done.  I might even have to pop into school at some point to help plan the primary link we are starting in November.  Hopefully I'll get it all done, but it'll be nice to not have to get up quite so early every day in any case.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Busy, busy, busy!

Since my last blog post around three weeks ago a lot has been going on and it's all gone past in a blur!  I've taken my first whole lessons with my two year seven classes, taken starters and plenaries with year ten, helped out with year eight, nine and eleven and been assigned a tutor group to help out with.  The anonymous buddy system we have at school is making things better though - we've been assigned someone that we can leave notes and buy little gifts for.  My buddy has bought me chocolate and biscuits so far - I think they've got me sussed - and they've left me notes like 'eat away the stress' and 'share these and make everyone love you'.  Just the sort of thing you want to see at the end of a busy week.

Reality is finally beginning to set in as I arrive at school at 7.45 and leave for my 45 minute journey home at 17.30/18.00.  I'm forcing myself to take time for myself at the moment as I'm more than aware that if I don't set aside this time now when my workload is comparatively light, there is no way I'll be able to do it later in the year.  I'm doing something I really enjoy and going to the adult music school at my old secondary school once a week and something I enjoy considerably less - exercising at the gym. My ex-headteacher used to tell me that she played in the band as her 'Wednesday night music therapy' and I can see why she did it now (and still does), it's something that I have to keep up/

I've been getting involved as much as I can at school at the moment, especially whilst my timetable is light enough to allow me to.  This meant that last week I went to year eleven parents evening and shadowed my mentor.  She only has one year eleven class and I'm in with them once a week as well as their GCSE speaking interventions after school so I've got to know them a little bit which was useful.  A couple of weeks ago we all spent the day off timetable for what was called 'Shaping the Future Day'.  Each form was competing in a variety of tasks as part of their college (the school is spilt into 3 colleges [houses]) for a trophy.  These tasks were intended to represent the school values of commitment, respect, self-belief, excellence and strength.  The school also has a system of rewarding these values for points for each college and prizes for students.  This has only just relaunched so I'm yet to see quite how well this works, but I like the look of it.  There was also a presentation for each college where all year sevens and new members of staff in the college were called up to the stage to be welcomed into the Academy.  I must admit that I was sceptical to begin with but it was actually quite a nice session.  I spent Shaping the Future day with the form of one of the MFL teachers but I've now been assigned to another form which is really nice as I'm getting to know another group of students and learning about the role the form tutor plays.

I'm starting to get used to school policies and the way things are done.  For example I know that I need to wrack my brains for a good word before staff briefing on a Friday as we have a toy dog that gets thrown around to decide the word of the week.  We've had things like punctuality and confidence so far, but my mind goes blank every time!  Another policy I'm getting to grips with is the marking policy... I won't go into it, but lets just say it's time consuming for me at the moment!

In terms of my training I am still going to other schools every week for Professional Studies days, the most useful one that we've had before was on behaviour management and inclusion.  Three students with different Special Educational Needs came to speak to us, we were all very impressed with how brave they were to come along and speak to 26 trainee teachers!  There was one blind boy, a girl with dyslexia and a boy on the autistic spectrum.  They told us about how they find school, how their teachers help them and most importantly what LSAs do for them.  All three of them told us that they couldn't get on in school without the LSAs that help them.  It was really good for us to hear from the students themselves rather than the theory of it all the time.

My focus at the moment with one class is classroom management and with another is the use of the target language.  I'm using Class Dojo to help with both of these things.  Class Dojo assigns each student a little avatar and then you can reward certain behaviours and give red marks against others.  I'm using it to keep track of when students spontaneously use the target language.  I've helped them along with this by providing target language prompt sheets with questions like 'est-ce que je peux enlever ma veste?' and 'puedo abrir la ventana?", just the sorts of questions that they would ask during the lesson but that they can easily say in French/Spanish.  I'm also using it to reward hard work, team work and listening to instructions as well as warnings for talking out of turn and not being on task.  I've only used it for one lesson with each class so far but I'll be keeping an eye on how it goes.

So now it's Saturday and I'm sat in front of the X Factor writing this blog at the first opportunity I've had.  I know everyone told me I'd have no social life this year and I knew it was going to be hard work but reality has hit now.  How long until half term?