Archive for NQT

Be yourself. As hard as it is not to become a clone of the teacher with whom you are on practice with you need to steal the good things, ditch the bad and find yourself in the middle!

Have confidence. You were chosen for the course for a reason! Looking and listening to many experienced teachers can be disheartening and overwhelming, as you feel there is so much still to learn. There is… but best done in small steps!

Take risks but be able to substantiate them. The first time I used Myst and moved the tables around (aka Tim Rylands) the teacher with whom I was teaching said she had been teaching 17 years and her room was designed so everyone could always see the IWB and stomped around for the rest of the morning. But the buzz from 30 excited children and the subsequent writing results were worth being able to explain that it was done that way for a reason.

Don’t reinvent the wheel! Been there done it – spent hours planning a 10min mental oral starter or a weekend on a 60minute observed lesson. The best I ever taught took the bones of someone elses planning and tweaked it.

Blogging creates global citizens. Look at lots of examples and decide which bits suit you before you create your own.

Love Wallwisher. Children do to.

Create a twitter PLN – its scary at first. I thought I had nothing to contribute, especially with so many far more experienced teachers around. But people are so helpful. When the going gets tough there is always someone out there to offer an encouraging word or another idea to try. Would never have thought I would have found a HT in the far reaches of Scotland who is fast becoming the most amazing online virtual mentor! (no pressure Fiona – HUGE thank you!!) …. all via blogging and twitter!

Remember to thank for the info, help and RTs! Politeness online seems to account for a lot.

Nothing will ever feel ‘right’ until you get your own class but if you dish out bags of enthusiasm children will generally come along for the ride.

Admit mistakes. Children love it when they realise you are learning too! Couple with very firm fairness and I’ve found they don’t take advantage.

I always remind myself – and one of the best things about this profession… is that every day is different – and everyday is a new day. Children are amazingly forgiving. Reflect, learn, adapt and move on! No time for festering!

For all we live in the 21st century and a world of fast moving tech –  READ real books too! Nothing captures a child’s imagination than a well written, well read book. Use picture books ALL the way up through primary education – no matter what anyone says about them being babyish past Year 3. Its bollocks!

Read Alan McLeans “Motivating every Learner” most inspiring book I’ve read in the last 18 months. Teachers Toolkit a close second for dipping in and out of.

Have patience. None of us could run confidently before we could walk!


A quick post to reflect on surviving my first term.

It was certainly a roller coaster – one that currently feels like it has been slowed by ploughing through haze of disorganisation, not to mention a paper mountain!

The GTP route certainly prepared me for classroom life. Having observed different teachers settling classes in last year and being practically aware of various pitfalls it didn’t feel that strange to have my own class. In fact it was a relief.

I am my reflective self’s worst enemy. I am constantly reviewing, mentally improving and changing things. It does mean my mind rarely switches off. I know this affects my work life balance I think to the detriment of my own children. I need to address this.

My archilles heels are my maths teaching (I can do things my own kooky way, but have realised I really struggle to explain them clearly and logically) and the not-always-internal battle of wanting to teach with instinct rather than the constraints of “we’ve always done it that way”. Another blog post on the latter coming soon.

So I may have had my knuckles rapped for my classroom being bright and vibrant and my displays being different from the other Y4 classroom. I know I have been in trouble for having a class blog and for inspiring parents to want to come in and be more involved. I know I haven’t taught any outstanding lessons, have a long way to go to complete a lesson with a perfect plenary and to complete a day having fitted everything in without letting my children out slightly late – but I have formed relationships with all of the children in my class. I could tell you one thing each of them is genuinely good at and one thing that they could manageably aspire to achieve this year. I have watched 4 children who made little or no progress last year open and blossom in 7 weeks – this totally inspires me. The power of being able to make a difference and the realisation of the responsibility of this is mind-blowing.

My highlights have been –

  • My Greenhouse display (children made flowers with their own wishes for this year on petals, then parents and I added a leaf each to their flowers, each with a wish) As I put them up on the display some of the messages made me cry. It inspired me to do the best I can for each of those children this year. Will post a photo soon.
  • Maths Activity time – planning the extra, differentiated activities takes time and would be far easier not to do. But children love the 10mins hands on time, it gives me a good opportunity for assessment and I hope by the end of the year their basic skills will have improved.
  • Setting up house groups – having four mixed ability groups has made it easy to change tasks to suit working collaboratively where possible. Children are learning to take roles and work well within these groups. I see these as vitally important life skills worth nurturing this year.
  • My hands on habitats lesson.
  • Learning logs – this deserves and will get its own blog post. The flip side to this success is that because the other class doesn’t do them, I have to keep them ‘secret’ and can’t share them with parents at parents evening.
  • The children in my class starting to log on, comment and start to feel a sense of ownership of their class blog as well as their growing sense of that they are part of a global community.
  • A guided reading session with my more able pupil using a short story I found on the internet. Reading and discussing it together was like unlocking doors to creative wonder.
  • Finding time to read, relax and laugh with my class – I have not been the ‘don’t smile til Christmas’ type of teacher. I believe I am firm and fair but I am human and we certainly feel like an “us” rather than a “me and them” type of classroom. That to me, and my instinct, feels like a pretty good foundation on which to continue building this year.

So as half term creeps on towards me, I have a mountain of marking to complete, next terms planning to sort, a classroom to tidy (I really did walk out tonight at 6 and leave a mess behind), I hope that I find some time to slow down a bit without getting sick!

Today I slowed the rollercoaster using a pinch of bravery and a dose of gut instinct.

I changed the order of the day around (TT only works 4 days a week, so have sneaky opportunity to do so). Picked apart Abacus plan the night before and prepared for my maths lesson, making a few quick Notebook slides to ensure it moved logically (for me at least!). It worked – 15 minutes on the carpet with plenty of TPS and then a hands-on activity for my MAG, everyone achieved and I even managed a decent plenary.

We shifted all the furniture and made a circle of chairs and had a P4C session using Say Hello by Jack and Michael Foreman (superbly simple book with layers of richness to be unearthed under the surface), a question on loneliness ended up as a discussion about homelessness – am always surprised how these sessions work themselves around! Still not everyone taking part, but its only the 3rd time.

But the biggest success was feeling that some hands on creative learning was required to help understand the concepts of habitats and start to contemplate food chains. Dare I even admit – there wasn’t even really a plan. I just knew I wanted to pass this all back to the children and see what they could come up with. The potential for chaos and disaster felt huge!

But I took a leaf out of the early years book – and raided all their resources!! Year 4 was filled with tough spots, trays, plastic bugs, animals and even some fake snow! After a short session modelling and talking using snow and arctic animals. I just gave each house group (mixed ability) a selection of creatures and laid out all the other resources at the front of the classroom…. and let them go for it.

Creativeness ensued. Everyone worked collaboratively. Every child was engaged. No one fell out. Not one child came to me and moaned about another child’s behaviour.

When children came up to me saying “We need water for a river” the answer they got was  – “we are in a school, what could you use? – its up to you.” They went and found blue paper and cut a river and a pond, others went outside to gather more bits they felt they needed. Another group went around and raided all the pot plants and created a jungle. I listened in on conversations about how certain creatures couldn’t live there ‘because it can’t eat’, we stood on chairs to get “birds eye” views of our habitats and understand the purpose of camouflage. Adjustments were made. Learning happened. And when we had tidied up, they didn’t want to stop – they wanted to know about food chains and how they are drawn. Result!! – next weeks lesson has an interest already!! I can feel the post-its, skipping ropes and seal-acting skills coming out before we start to record anything!

I am starting to let children use the ipad during carpet sessions to find out stuff we don’t know – and want to know now! …it’s working but that’s another post! But we all learnt that badgers are omnivores and eat hedgehogs as well as roots and berries.

Whilst I didn’t ‘teach’ and I gave the children a reasonable amount of freedom. I did circulate, question and take photos! Next time, I would rather like to take a leaf of Oliver Quinlan’s thought book and really step back and ‘just’ observe. I wonder what else I’d notice?

But roll on a few more creative days like that!

Not quite sure which theme park my roller coaster belongs to. Mostly it seems to have been steady undulations, tiredness and a sense of overwhelming lack of knowledge forming the dips, with the odd high from a child’s comment, piece of work or the marking actually done before I’ve left for the day.

I’m pretty exhausted, my mouth is full of ulcers, I rarely work less than 15 hours a day, I don’t think I’ve finished a cup of tea since the beginning of September and my posterior definitely hasn’t placed itself on a seat in the staffroom… is this the point where the but comes in with a glowing positive statement about how I love the job anyway and I wouldn’t change a thing?

The rollercoaster appears to have shifted theme parks.  The primary gradients aren’t caused by emotions of the NQT life – those I can deal with, but it is the uncontrollable speed of the learning (or lack of) ride that my class and I seem to be on that is distressing me at the moment.

I am discovering the pitfalls of Abacus and team teaching amongst other things. I’ve realised I need to compromise. I have lowered my expectations of myself, and what I can achieve but I am reluctant to lower my expectations of the children. Therein lies my biggest issue.

There never seems to be enough time! We lurch from one lesson to another, constantly building up a pile of unfinished work. I always feel one step behind my team teacher. The standards of presentation and quality are an added issue – but there is no time planned in to spend a lesson teaching and practicing the expectations. There doesn’t seem time to breathe, let alone stop and smell some enjoyment. We haven’t found time to read our class book or do any sharing for a week. I feel like I am losing a grip on all the things I love and want to share about learning, reading, thinking, exploring and instead am chasing a curriculum that isn’t taking into account that we are human, let alone individuals.

As soon as the lightbulbs of understanding just start to flicker, we move on. Half my class didn’t understand division after 2 days, but I was told we need to move on, we will visit it again for 2 more days later in the year. A third of my class don’t know their number bonds to 10 – so how can we securely start to understand number pairs to 100 or 1000? Why can’t I slow down (or even better – get off!) and find some creative ways to secure the basics before tackling more complex concepts. I’m a visual hands on learner, but find the Abacus process very dry. Even the books are hard for many children to access. Why can’t we spend one lesson a week making something that will aid our learning?  I have incorporated 10 minutes most afternoon for maths activities which are mostly hands on. They are great when we do them, but I haven’t had the time to set them up properly in a ‘tumbleboard’ fashion.

I was gutted this week to be moved on from a literacy unit after reading, talking, acting and drawing – to a point that I felt we could write, only to be told that we needed to move onto another unit so we could ‘time’ our first of the month assessment writing correctly!

Our topic is dry – I’m bored with it. The children have written three comparisons and watched a dull video. I want to draw a line and start again. Lets go back to picture books – why can’t I try Made in China as a starting point. Lets all pack a bag and pretend we are going to China (we’ll need to research to know what sort of things to bring!), lets follow the paper butterflies journey, lets document our findings in a travel scrapbook. We can work out how much money we will need, different groups can go and explore different attractions then we’ll ‘meet’ to discuss, we can share a celebration meal. I know I am capable of more but I’m not enjoying the shackles I find myself bound with at the moment. Frustration abounds.

It’s a game. Not just the learning game in class, but a game in the corridors as well. I’m struggling with the time, the desire to be creative, but not stand on toes, the balance between enthusing children, trying new things and getting the basics right in a traditional manner. I want to be accountable to my children and their learning, not always to the policies of ‘we’ve always done it that way’.

And I really want to learn how to help children learn – not how to ‘teach’. Another post.

I wonder at what point ones brain just spontaneously combusts?

I guess I will end with the message I got from a parent this week – and cling onto some thread that I must be doing something right, even though it feels like I’ve hardly started on the things I want to do.

“Don’t know what you’ve done but A came home last night, picked up a pencil and wrote an A4 sheet …… We were amazed. He has done more in the last couple of weeks than all of last year. Thank you.”