Friday, November 30, 2007

PGCE Day 65 - It's almost over - so soon ????

Yeah, I know, I've been moaning about this placement and now that I'm a week away from finishing I'm getting ever so slightly sentimental about it. To be fair, it has been the most knackering time I can remember. But the kids are great, I fit in really well with the staff and it is a shame to be leaving that behind never to return.

This week has been a good week. I had two formal observations. The first was on Monday and it was Spanish. It went well. I am getting my pace sorted out and I am organising the lesson better (even if it does always take me an eternity to plan it out!) but the fact that it was the class teacher observing helped. He is a really sound, laid back guy and makes you feel as relaxed as you can, under the circumstances. I think he is also very kind and lenient!

The second observation was the biggie. It took place on Wednesday and was observed by the SBT (School based Tutor) and the CBT (a tutor from college). It is a bit weird because I had never met my college tutor. We had spoken on the phone briefly to arrange the date but that's all. Anyway, I was getting off the train on Wednesday morning and I spotted a woman getting off further down. I glanced at her and noticed she was wearing a badge which looked like my college logo. Sure enough it was. I thought "I bet you that's her." A closer inspection confirmed my suspicion so I just said to her as we walked down the platform, "Hello Barbara, I'm Carole!" So I got a chance to break the ice as we walked down to the school. She was lovely so that made me feel a bit better. Anyway, my SBT and CBT both waxed lyrical about my lesson, a poetry lesson about surprising, amusing and surreal imagery. Acting on the target to include more ICT in the lesson (we have to entertain children these days) I had a PowerPoint of surreal art - I figured Magritte had good strong images which the children would find easier to appreciate. I was running through what I was doing with Mr B. the class teacher. I was bemoaning the fact that I'd wanted to use the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" to run with it for the surreal feel to the lyrics but I don't have that on CD and that it is unavailable for download (unless you include cover versions by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy?!!!). MR B., bless him, reaches for his iPod and lo and behold rummages through for Sgt Pepper and promptly comes up with the goods! The previous evening His Lordship was cutting up lists of random nouns and adjectives for me and sticking them in envelopes - the idea being that the kids would randomly match up nouns and adjectives as a stimulus to write their own surreal poems. The kids were superb, I was so proud of them. Both observers were highly complimentary generally, so I've been on a bit of a high since.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

PGCE Day 60 - School placement halfway mark

Two weeks into the first block placement. It has felt like the longest two weeks of my life. Getting up at 6:10 and going to bed at midight or beyond is beginning to take its toll. The past two Fridays have consisted of me having a relax on the sofa in front of the TV but before the opening credits of Eastenders, I've been giving it Zs.

School is great. The kids are a delight and already I'm very fond of them. I've found Spanish (my 'specialism', you remember) a nightmare. This school is a centre of excellence for the teaching of Spanish and the specialist teacher who teaches them and the native speaker are superb. But the style is very much rapid fire questioning, games and songs. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I don't do rapid fire - in any language. The cogs of my brain need time to grind around if I am so much as making a cup of tea. I can't do games, 'cos I always forget who had the last go, who scored the points etc. But I like the songs. I am getting there but it is heavy weather. The whole lesson is in target language and it is difficult knowing what Spanish they know in order to communicate with them. It is very much a a matter of learning the cues. The key is that it should be fun and not stressful for them in any way (it is allowed to be stressful for the teacher, though!)

One thing I have discovered is that you never get a proper lesson in primary. There are always kids going out for their peripatetic music lessons, choir, ad-hoc assemblies, hymn practice or transporting Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes to the hall. On Wednesday I was supposed to be doing English and Maths but the 'Legs Akimbo Theatre Company' were in doing a Macbeth workshop. I was supposed to be getting observed doing Spanish yesterday but then I was told that the Fire Brigade were visiting so Year 6 would not be doing lessons before break and after break they were helping move Christmas Fair goods. Part of me was relieved because it took the pressure off. But part of me wanted it over, since it now means I have to do two observations next week and the week after. Also I had spent until 1:00am Friday preparing my Spanish lesson. I could have had an early night! Next Wednesday my tutor from college is coming in to observe me doing literacy.

I find it is best not to be phased by anything and to expect the unexpected. I have been in Facebook contact with a lot of my colleagues and we are all finding it enormously stressful. I think tiredness has a lot to do with it. Many have been in tears at some point. Thankfully I have not been that low. The worst thing is the lack of resources. The thing about teacher training is that you have not built up a bank of resources and lesson plans. There is an expectaction that you spend hours creating your own worksheets/PowerPoints/card games/whatever. There is actually a wealth of stuff on the internet but it takes hours trawling through and invariably it is crap or doesn't do exactly what you want it to. I am also required to do two displays before I finish on 7th December. It matters not that this is one of the 24 tasks that teachers are no longer required to do, we have to put our stamp on the classroom environment.

I feel a bit bad about wishing this time away, since there are actually so many positives regarding the school, the staff and the children, but I'm finding the whole experience so draining.

His Lordship is being an absolute tower of strength and has removed so much from my shoulders to enable me to concentrate on this. I cannot praise him highly enough.

Roll on 3:20 on 7th December.

Monday, November 05, 2007


Forgive my rather aggressive joy. I have finally handed in the first assignment. I had to generate 3500 words loosely connected with the topic of learning theory, evaluating it critically (yeah, right) and drawing on lots of other boring books written by saddos with nothing else to fill their otherwise meaningless lives with. Oh, and my own experience. So which experience would that be, exactly? I am training to be a teacher, that basically means I have very scant experience. But I do have lots of friends and acquaintances who are. With this in mind, I approached couple I know from church with, "So, tell me, as teaching professionals, how does learning theory impact on your practice in the classroom?" They just laughed. OK, so it was a bit of an odd opening gambit, but all in the name of research. The more I thought about it, the less I felt capable of producing anything approaching an argument, critical analysis or anything else, for that matter. Anyway it is handed in now, the heap of poo that it is.

The problem is, forgive me if I bore you, the PGCE now requires Masters Level writing. If you don't get Masters level for all three assignments, the most you can get is a 'Professional level' qualification. I have no problem with having a professional level qualification - that is what the PGCE was until September. What I object to is that if you have a two level qualification, why not let the standard level qualification keep the name PGCE and call the other one something different? The higher one should be optional, new and have a different name. It's like saying, "GCSEs now require A level standard writing. If you fail to achieve
this, we will award you a merit certificate." But what worries me is that in the work place they just won't understand it. They'll think you couldn't get your PGCE therefore you are a poorer quality 'product' than last year's PGCE when it is exactly the same. IT'S JUST NOT FAIR!!!

Anyway, I might have some time for lesson planning now. Next week I start my 4 week block and have to teach a 60% of the timetable, teaching all the core subjects and Spanish. A wee bit scary then, considering I haven't actually taught anything yet.

Anyway, I can't sit here blogging my time away...I have work to do!