Term 1 Week 3

Phew!

Week 3 brought an end to the awkward ‘holding class’ phase we endure every year. To those unaware of this torture, we babysit our class from the previous year for about 10 days until numbers solidify, and students and staff can be allotted classes. Although its nice to have some time with the class I was about to leave, its exasperating to ‘waste’ teaching time, unable to begin new content, but needing to fill the time with meaningful learning opportunities.

Week 3 was my first full week with my class of 2016. I will reserve judgement on my class until the honeymoon period is over and I get to know them a bit better. They seem to be a sweet, bright bunch of kids. My class last year on a whole struggled to meet the year outcomes, but these kids seem to be blazing forward. I’m looking forward to the task of extending them throughout the year. No class is without it’s challenges, and I certainly have 2 kids who will be a handful this year, mostly due to a lack of funding despite their individual learning needs. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to the possibilities of a fresh year ahead!

 

 

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Not so new anymore

Week Two Term One

This year I find myself back in the known realm of year one. Same grade, same classroom, some of the same colleagues. I was very happy to find out I had been placed on year one again this year after a year of ‘newness’. 

The thing is that growth never happens in your comfort zone. I don’t want to become one of those teachers who do something a certain way because it has always been that way. I don’t want to get stuck in the proverbial rut. 

I have vowed that I will never do something ‘just because’. Learning time is so precious, and the time I have with my new little chickens is limited. I read a quote last week that said that we should always teach as if we are being observed. With that accountability in our mind. That is my goal for this year. 

What is your goal for this teaching year? 

New class, new school, new commitment!

I have exciting news!

After having to leave my previous special needs position due to a lack of student re-enrollment and therefore the need to downsize the teaching staff (bummer), I have accepted a new position!

I was offered a permanent full time position in a department school (state school for those non-australians) close by to my house, so of course I said yes!

It has meant leaving the relative safety of Autism-specific education, and jumping back into the mainstream pond!

so many exclaimation marks…

 

So with this new class (year one), and new school (which I’m going to nickname NPS), comes a new commitment to the blog. This year I will truely be a beginning teacher! The hope is that amongst the chaos which will ensue, I will keep this blog up-to-date.

Talk to you soon (hopefully).

Week One Reflections

Week one done-phew!

My first three days in my new class are complete. I feel like I (mostly) know whats going on most of the time, and can wing it the rest of the time convincingly.

Meeting my munchkins was daunting, as I knew it was going to take them some time to warm up to me…but low and behold, the majority of them seem to have accepted me at this point, and we will continue to build relationships as we go. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but the foundations have been laid.

What I’ve learnt this week:

1. be specific. Be very specific. My munchkins will always exploit the grey area.

2. don’t change your visual schedule halfway through a session. You will get confused, and your  (cute, but exasperatingly) visual-obsessed student will refuse to complete the task you added, because it wasnt on the schedule.

3. If a kindergartener requests toilet, no matter how much you know they are avoiding the task by requesting toilet, let them go, or forever wish you had (especially while you are bagging up clothing casualties after the accident they are inevitably going to have).

 

 

 

Excitement and Trepidation

So with great excitement and nervousness, I have been given my first permanent teaching position! I have a three day a week position, teaching an early stage one class in a special needs setting.
I am incredibly excited to be finally practicing the craft we work so hard to perfect, but also scared out of my big-girl pants.
You have to wonder, am I ready? Do I know enough? Why are they trusting me with the tiny humans?

I am thankful to be in an incredibly awesome and supportive environment, and also coming into a team teaching setting (two other teachers and an amazing aide), which is my safety net.

And of course to have all of you along for the ride.
They (the internet) says, growth comes at the end of your comfort zone. So let the growth begin. Hopefully.

Nomination for a Liebster Award (Part Two)

I realised that In writing my reply to Katrina’s nomination, the post was getting far too long hehe! Here is part two.

In keeping with the rules of the award, I need to nominate 10 of my favourite blogs with less than 300 followers. This was hard, not because there aren’t any good blogs out there, but because I had been stuck in my own little bubble, and had not taken the time to explore the other blogs out there. After doing so, and in no particular order, here is my top 10:

Adventures Of An Auckland BT
Printscreenteaching
Life Of A Student Teacher
The Coping Co-op
Abandon All Hope: Adventures In Student Teaching
Whatonomy
What Does Czwangeloh Mean?
Educational Resources & Beyond
Special Ed Is Effing Bonkers
Technology

And the ten questions I would like to ask them:

1. What message would you like your blog to portray?

2. What motivates you to blog?

3. What professional goal would you like to achieve in the next year?

4. Where do you blog? (Kitchen, in the bath, on the train etc)

5. If you could give your 18 year old self one piece of advice, what would it be?

6. How do you spend your sundays? Is this how you would like to spend your Sundays?

7. Who inspires you the most, and why?

8. Name a time where you felt you made a difference in someone’s life. How did you achieve this?

9. Are you a writer or a typer?

10. If you could write a random post about anything you like, what would the title be?

I look forward to reading your answers!

J

Nomination for a Liebster Award! (Part One)

I have been very naughty in the last couple of months, and being on uni holidays, (and school holidays), have neglected to check/update this blog for far too long! So imagine my surprise, when I get notified of a post which says that Katrina from ‘Teaching and Learning in the Primary Classroom’ had nominated little old me for a Liebster Award!

Thankyou so much Katrina! Considering that I had assumed no one was reading my random ramblings, it came with both surprise and a secret little feeling of pride for my little blog. Anyone who would like to know what a Liebster award is should go check out Katrina’s 2 posts on the subject, she does an excellent job of explaining it, which I won’t attempt to duplicate.

There are some rules which go along with a nomination. They are:

1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog 2. Answer the 10 questions sent to you as part of the nomination. 3. Nominate 10 blogs with 300 followers or less. 4. Give your nominees 10 questions to answer. **5: You can’t nominate the blogger that nominated you! ;)

I seem to have taken care of rule number one. Now onto rule 2, answering the questions…

1) Why did you start your blog?

I started my blog as a means of recording, and sorting my ideas around teaching, the profession I was entering, the workplace, and anything else I could think of. My friends (most of whom have picked professions other than teaching) were sick of hearing my views and philosophies on teaching and learning, so I vowed to find an audience who wanted to hear about it. At the same time, I know being a pre-service teacher can be a little lonely sometimes, and Its nice to have some validation that there are others who are in the same boat as you, and are thinking the same thing.

2) At what point did you decide to become a teacher?

I would love to answer this question by saying that I have always wanted to be a teacher, but that simply would not be true. I spent the first 12 or so years of my life dead-set on being a secretary. I had decided this was a glamorous job. It wasnt until a teacher early on in highschool explained to be that I had the intelligence to be whatever I wanted, that I settled on wanting to become a psychologist. I love the brain, Its quirks and I love learning how it works.
The problem with this plan was that I did not get into a bachelor of psychology after school (I proved my year 7 teacher wrong didnt I haha). I settled instead, on completing a double degree in psychology and teaching (which had a lower entrance score, crazily enough). I havent looked back since.

3) What is one of your talents?

Hmmm, I can eat a whole block of chocolate in one sitting?

In all seriousness, I feel my talent is organisation. I love organising, streamlining, colour-coding, sorting, and anything that may involve coloured baskets, post-its and stationary!

4) Did/Do you have a favourite teacher? What were they like?

I had a LOT of teachers, owing to the fact I attended quite a few different primary schools. I can’t say I have one particular teacher in mind, although they all shared common traits: an affinity and respect for their students, a sense of humor, and the ability to demand respect from their students whilst still maintaining a balanced, non-authoritarian classroom. Seems impossible I know.

5) What is your best memory of school? (Can be either past or present)

If Im honest, I didn’t particularly enjoy school. I know what you’re thinking; why make it my profession? I hated all aspects of socialising (yes I have ASD tendencies, a post for another time). I however really liked the idea that I could gain knowledge, that it was something almost tangible and always accessible for me. I guess learning is my best memory then?

6) If the sky’s the limit, what would you like to do next?

Assuming no monetary limit either, I would love to open a school for special needs in an underserviced (perhaps low SES) area, and work on improving community awareness of people with disabilities. Although I feel the majority of Australia ( I cant speak for other countries) have grown tremendously in their support and general mindset over people who have different abilities, there are still areas where there is work to be done.

7) What is a piece of advice you would like to share?

Rome wasn’t built in a day. You cant become the most amazing teacher in a day. Your students won’t learn everything in a day. You cant change an entire behavioural problem in a day. But days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months and months turn into a school year. Just keep swimming.

8) If you have some spare time, what do you do?

Read, watch youtube videos, plan holidays, pick through pintrest. (I really am from the IT generation, notice none of my hobbies include contact with the outside world?)

9) How do you see yourself: planner or spontaneous?

I am most definitely a planner. Now and always.

10. By this time, next year, where do you hope to be? What do you want to have accomplished?

By this time next year, I hope to be finished university, have a permanent/semipermanent job in the education world, and be working towards my special education accreditation.

More Reflections and keeping your mind open

Wow its been a while!

So since I last wrote, I have started and completed a whole second semester practicum!

And wow it was interesting. My second semester prac was in a school for students with special needs. I wont go into the specifics, due to social media and confidentiality restrictions, but the school is for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. For those of you who have not heard of this group of disorders before, it basically covers everything from what is called ‘typical’ autism (Kids with severe communicative and social impairments) right through to Asperger’s, which is generally differentiated as these kids have less language delays, but still have a variety of social deficits.

This school had mostly kids that i would say had moderate to severe autism, or what we would call moderate to low functioning. This is mostly because students who have high functioning autism (such as most kids with Asperger’s) tend to get integrated into mainstream if its possible, due to the social benefits (or thats how I see it anyway).

Okay, so thats all for the background information. Phew!

So not only was I a prac student with little experience, I was thrown into an environment I knew little about. I was apprehensive, mostly because I felt like I wasnt really qualified for this type of work.

By the end of my time there (I did a couple of days a week for a term) I didn’t want to leave. I found that this style of education really suited my teaching philosophy and how I like to approach the classroom (more on that in a new post soon!) I Think this was because the class sizes are much smaller so you spend much more time getting to know the kids and their needs and building relationships. Plus I have always struggled with whole class management, which is a lot easier with 7 kids instead of 30!

Anyways, the point of this rambling post was to point out that you never know which way your career is going to take you, and to keep your mind open to these possibilities! You might find your place somewhere unexpected, you never know!

Reflections

Tomorrow is my last day with my current class. Next semester will bring a new class, in a new school, with a new teacher.

Now feels like a good time to reflect on my time this semester, and what I have learnt. I thought i would share a couple with you.

1. It is much easier to be firm with your students to begin with, and soften as they learn your style. I started too soft and spent the rest of the term attempting to reassert my authority. (this isnt to say be a dragon/robot/ogre, but let your expectations be known and be consistent with those expectations)

2. Your students are a wealth of information. Use them and what they know!

3. The informal teaching moments are sometimes the best. For example, after discovering that my students thought bread grew on trees, I had the opportunity to actually make bread with them, so they could see first hand!

4. Use your colleagues and your school! As a student/beginning teacher i feel about 10000 steps behind everyone else all the time. Ask questions, watch how others do things, ask to see resources (dont steal without asking!!), and generally absorb everything around you. I learnt so much in this practicum, not just from my supervising teacher but from her colleagues and the school at large, just by being observant of what was around me

5 Have fun! teaching is what i love to do, something i occasionally lost sight of. When you remind yourself about how amazing these tiny humans are, it all seems to fit into place.

Do you have any other words of wisdom you would like to share?

The Role of Background Knowledge and Culture

Before i start this story, i need to give you some background knowledge. The school i am currently teaching at is in a suburb where the majority of the students live in very low income families, with roughly half of them coming from language backgrounds other than standard english. This equates to a colourful classroom in terms of cultural background. It also however means that i share relatively little background knowledge with the students i teach (because although my family has never been rich, we grew up in a much more comfortable economic situation than my class).

It wasnt something that i particularly gave another thought until it became glaringly apparent. We were having a discussion around the sense of touch, and i had brought in some household items to use as examples of different textures. One of which was a loofah (used like a sponge for washing oneself). My students had no idea what this item was, yet it was something i just assumed. Another example that another teacher shared with me is that while watching a video of some people jogging through a park during their lunchbreak, the students asked innocently “why are those people running? who is chasing them? have they done something wrong?”

The idea that some people jogged for exercise was totally foreign to these students.

So next time you step into a classroom, have a think-am i relying on my students’ background knowledge? and what exactly is that knowledge?