Saturday, September 29, 2007

PGCE Day 20 - Getting into the groove

The first week of proper College was quite fun. There seems to be a greater sense of camaraderie on this course than I recollect there being on the Secondary course. Of course, we spend more time together. Each week we have one lecture as a whole group. We have a seminar group which meets for a 2 hour block, a curriculum group which meets for 7 x 2-hour blocks per week and the special interest group which meets for a 2-hour block. This pattern continues from now until two weeks after half term so we will get to know lots of other people quite well. I wanted to keep myself very much to myself, since we will all be competing for the same jobs in a few months' time but already I have broken that vow to myself. I just like people (well, some, anyway).

I did say that people are mostly a bit older but there are one or two who have crept in direct from university. There is this one kid has that cocky self-assuredness. They are big on 'group work' here, so we were doing a little problem solving task in Maths. The problem was (now don't laugh, I'm not mathematically hard-wired so I find this hard!):

If everyone in the room shakes hands with everybody else, how many hand shakes would there be in total?
So, little Miss Cocky-Knickers immediately says "Everyone of us (25 in total) will shake hands with 24 people so (whips mobile phone out to calculate) 25 x 24 is 600. The rest of the group was happy to accept this like docile little sheep. I slowly said, "Is that right, though? Let's think it through - better, let's model it in our small group. I shake hands with the four of you, that's 4, the next person shakes hands with you three, but she has already shaken hands with me and so on, you see that each time the number of handshakes decreases by one...?" The bit we floundered on was turning it into an equation which always works but we finally managed it as a whole class. I can only gather that we didn't have anything vaguely resembling maths specialist among us!

The next day in Science, having established that newspaper rips differently depending on whether you rip it with or against the print, we had to check whether its weight bearing capability was different according to the direction of the stress. There was no guidance given but we were pointed in the direction of a load of equipment which we might find useful (this was apparently how not to do things). I had found myself, again, in the company of little Miss-cocky knickers. Earlier on, we had established that she was a Science (Biology) specialist. She came up with a super definition for Science to which I said, "Hey, she's not bad is she?". She responded with a smug little smile. (The tutor's definition was actually 'SCIENCE IS FUN' - funny really, apparently the definition for History is 'HISTORY IS FUN'. No doubt when Boot Camp starts next semester we will be told 'PE IS FUN', though I may need some convincing of that!) Back to the load bearing quality of newspaper. As far as learning styles go, yeah, I do a bit of kinaesthetic from time to time but I like to keep it as my very private pleasure, so at the instruction to set up apparatus, I decided to sneak off and have a play with the hand-held microscopes and offer advice if I felt it was needed. After all, things were in the safe hands of our Scientist friend. She wanted to use a bulldog clip to attach the paper to the stand. Unfortunately the bulldog clip slipped, so she wanted put sellotape on the paper to add some friction (why not just sellotape the paper to the stand and sellotape the weights to the paper? But then, I'm not a Scientist and you can have too many cooks...) I left them to it and went to look for some weights. When I looked back to the action, I noticed that the square of paper now had sellotape all around its perimiter. The others were standing around like, yeah, you've guessed it, docile sheep, so I was duty bound to say (gently, honest!), "Er, I don't think that's going to work 'cos you can't have the sellotape all around the paper..." Irritated at my interjection, she scowled at me, in a Who-exactly-is-the-Scientist-Around-Here kind of a way and carried on. Again, I interrupted, "Er, do you see that you'll actually just be measuring the strength of the sellotape and not the paper? You only need the sellotaper in the spots where the bulldog clip comes into contact with the paper. She looked up to the sky in just the way that my 14 year-old daughter does, snatched the paper off the stand, threw it down and stomped off to play with the hand-held microscopes leaving me feeling like a real mum!

I start at my first school on Wednesday. We just go in one day a week for the first few weeks. I'm going to be working in KS2 on this placement. It's a bit of a hike to get there but my own locality isn't big on Spanish. Apparently this school is a centre of excellence for the teaching of primary Spanish...PRESSURE!...Or alternatively it is a wonderful learning opportunity (that's my life coach head speaking).

But apart from all that fun, I have been busy reading children's books and swotting up on Piaget and his band of merry Constructivist chums. What with all of these stories of puppies and developmental theories I now have a mild craving for a bit of s*x and violence!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

PGCE Day 14 - The Return of Goat Woman

I am trying desperately hard not to like any of the people on this course. After all, we will all be competing for the same few jobs in a few months time. But I am a relational creature and I do find it incredibly hard to keep up the aloof pretence. I start off well enough but then my facade crumbles pretty rapidly. So despite my best efforts, I now know a few people and have exchanged pleasantries with a number of different people/groups. So there is 'T', an Irish girl with strong opinions and a good sense of humour. "I get the impression you might have a bit of a struggle on your hands playing the game here", I joked to her. She agreed but said she was going to try to put her best diplomatic foot forward. There was something about her that reminded me of me. We agreed it was a case of jumping through the hoops for a few months just to get through the course. I broke my vow to myself regarding telling anyone that I had been there before. In the end I thought, do I tell people about my 'chequered' PGCE past and give myself a bit of colour or do I just keep making knowing comments about how they do things at the 'university' and come across as a know-it-all smartass with no justification? I decided to go with the former.
We have been given homework for next week's seminar - we have been split into groups and charged with the task of researching a psychologist and his contribution to learning theory. We have to come up with five points to sell our man and his theory to the rest of the group via a PowerPoint presentation. We were told that our man is Piaget to which somebody threw up a cheer!?? When Alison listed the psychologists, sadly "none of the above because it's all psycho-babble-bollocks" was not an option. So we have dutifully exchanged emails - well, everyone else in the group did, I just said, "someone e-mail and copy everyone and I'll pick up the other addresses from the message". It was as if someone had switched on a light in a dark room! We have agreed to meet on two occasions before the next seminar to show what good collaborators we are.
I lunched with 'S' a lovely girl, a real sweetie. We were comparing notes on the interview process. I asked her when she'd had her interview and she said February or March. I said I'd had mine on February 14th - I remembered 'cos it was Valentine's Day. She said she'd hers then, too. I was chuckling about the surreal experience of the girl with the goat under her arm when she said, "That was me!" Oh, how we laughed! "So you are Goat Woman?". Seems she didn't have to pay for it on the bus! I just have to track down Rainbow Fish Woman now.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ahoy there! It be Esther McVey. Shiver me timbers.

Here be my token gesture to 'Talk like a pirate day'. Speaking of pirates, just had a visit from the Conservative Action Team on behalf of our local Tory party prospective parliamentary candidate, Esther McVey. You know Esther, she is the cutesy, blonde, former TV presenter turned politician. No I don't mean that to sound like some kind of a blonde joke, she is, I'm sure a higly intelligent and competent politician (she couldn't be any worse than the rest of 'em!) but she does have a slightly more glam appearance than say, for instance, Leon Britten. Anyhoo, her 'special envoy' was here to ask me (and everyone else on his round tonight) about what I felt were the big issues, politically speaking. So, ever eager to ensure that my interests were covered, I expressed my concern over the lack of NHS dentists. Dentists don't just blithely fill every tooth in your head with toxic mercury amalgam for nothing, you know, they also help spot early cases of cancers and other nasties in the mouth region. And as I am an impoverished student now and can't afford to pay monthly plans to private dentists, I need an NHS dentist.

I didn't want him to think he was going to get off lightly so I swiftly manoevred into my irritation at the state of the education system. Not missing an opportunity to slag off the egocentricities of politicians (no offence to the delightful Ms McVey!) I blamed them for using the education job as a stepping stone to greater things, implementing new stuff then flitting off to a new job leaving everyone else to pick up the pieces and not a thought for the poor little mites who should be being nurtured to fulfil their potential as well-rounded human beings! I could tell I was speaking his language now and we quickly used the conversation as a vehicle to slag off the whole of the public services. Our man from the Conservative Action Team instantly seized the opportunity to ask, if there were a general election tomorrow, could Esther be assured of my vote (here be dragons!). I couldn't say yes because my poor old, late-lamented dad would turn in his grave. So I muttered something about a general lack of confidence in politicians and categorised myself as 'undecided'.

PGCE - Day 12 in the Big Teacher House

I am really itching to get going but there is a real sense of 'the calm before the storm' at the moment. Turned up for a 10.00am lecture this morning on the theme of student services. The previous PGCE Secondary lecture overran, so we were subject to 3 rapid fire PowerPoint presentations. As the Pro-Vice Chancellor was finishing, the woman who was on next had whipped off the final slide of his presentation before any of us had even had a chance to jot down a vital phone number and web page. She was clearly in a hurry to be elsewhere because she spoke at a rate of knots and shot out as soon as she had finished her bit. I could barely follow what she was saying so Lord help any non-native English speakers among us. At the end, we impoverished and malnourished students were chivvied out quickly, past an appetising array of cream cakes and a plethora of tea cups which were awaiting a party of big wigs attending some sort of event in the lecture theatre after us. Presumably my £3070 fees were subsidising the catering! So, in all, I had struggled in for less than an hour (barely half an hour in real terms). Same thing yesterday - it took me less than 45 mins to have my qualifications verified and my student ID card issued. Tomorrow I am timetabled from 9.00am until 3.00pm with an hour for lunch. I have two-hour library induction (why? I know the library of old, it's rubbish - very pretty building and about 3 books!). The best is Friday - I am only there from 3.00 until 5.00 for an ICT induction. GET THIS GUYS, I DON'T EVEN WANT TO USE YOUR CRUDDY ICT - I PREFER TO USE MY OWN COMPUTER!! I have had a look at the Primary Strategy stuff on DVD-ROM that I was given on Monday. I can't figure out what we're supposed to do with them and didn't want to waste too much time. Hopefully our Seminar Tutor, Alison, will be able to offer some guidance on that one.

Already the rumour machine is in full swing - not only did one of the Seminar Tutors give everyone their preliminary attachment folders back and told them to redo them (these are the ones we are 'peer assessing' tomorrow) but apparently the PE sessions are like boot camp. I am just waiting for someone to hand me a marker pen, ask me to 'act as scribe for the group' and then 'feed back' to the class - I will have to use all my powers of self control to stop myself hitting them! But I shall try not to get carried along with mass hysteria - I keep telling myself "just play the game". The good bits of the day? I bumped into 'C' and 'L', two 'old boys' from my former workplace who are now training to be secondary school teachers. A couple of success stories, methinks.

Monday, September 17, 2007

PGCE Day 11 - The nightmare begins...

I spent Thursday and Friday of last week at my old place of work (which I left in July, if you recall) looking at Year 7 classes. It was very interesting to see some of the teachers in action. I have to say that I was very impressed - objectives shared, starters, plenaries, lots of ICT - anyone would think I was an OFSTED inspector! A huge thank you to all of the teachers who allowed me into their space, it was a privilege. What was really great was to see all of my friends. They gave me a very warm welcome and left me feeling very loved. There were one or two that I didn't get a chance to catch up with, which is a shame. Perhaps there will be another opportunity.
So today was the first day of college. I took in my Preliminary Attachment folder to submit, thinking "That should make a bit of room in my bag!" Of course, no surprises, I got rid of one thing and came away with lots of other things: Profile of Professional Development, Course Handbook, Professional Standards for Teachers booklet, phonics teacher's pack, Primary National Strategy Professional Development Resource Pack on DVD ROM and last but not least Primary Framework for Literacy and Mathematics DVD ROM!!!! I don't even manage to get rid of the Preliminary Attachment folder permanently - we get them back on Thursday when we do a bit of peer assessment (yawn!)
The most useful piece of information is the day by day breakdown of the course. It is useful to know when we are in college and when we are in school, especially since it is not as straightforward as the PGCE Secondary. The placements for primary seem to follow the pattern of serial attachments of 1 day per week in school followed by a block attachment of a number of weeks. Also I found out the dates of the Seville placement - we fly on 11th January (though school doesn't start until 14th - the flight to Seville is on the Friday) until 8th February. So at least now I can update the diary and calendar!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

PGCE Day 8 - Parting is such sweet sorrow...yet again!!

Well today I finished my 6 day stint at the primary school. It is so sad to leave. The staff were sound, the kids were lovely...where will I ever find another school like it? God alone knows where the college will place me - well, technically the placement organiser knows, too, but that is not the point! I was even starting to get my head around all the Arabic names. Now the difficult part comes when I go to college on Monday. I do still have two days at my old workplace to look at Year 7 but I could virtually do the whole write up on that now. I am looking on that as a social excursion, seeing all my old mates.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

PGCE Day 3 - La Rentrée

Off to a primary school today. I had chosen it (a) because it was one of the only two schools which responded to my request and (b) I thought that being a downtown school it would be a nice contrast to anything I've experienced so far. But I was surprised in more ways than one. Firstly, it is actually a lovely school - a nice modern building. Secondly, the children were delightfully well-behaved. Thirdly, it is a very multi-cultural school with a large Bangladeshi contingent as well as a couple of Chinese children and one Polish boy. I have always thought of the Wirral as being peculiarly monocultural so it was really bizarre to hear the teachers saying to the class, "If you want to fast at Ramadan, you have to get your parents to sign this permission slip."

It was a good experience generally but being the first day back for the kids after the summer break, there was a lot of admin to sort out and not a great deal of teaching being done.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

PGCE Day2 Parting is such sweet sorrow...again!

Completed my first 2 days in the nursery and it was lovely. I didn't bother resisting the tiny ones clambering on my knee and felt much more relaxed. I was surprised to see little 'D' from church there. It was nice to have a little chat with him. But it is so sad to say 'bye-bye' even after a short time. The staff were lovely, too, and so welcoming. I just have to get my head around the paperwork now!

The quote which will stay with me from my time there is "Ella! Take your hands out of your knickers now and go and wash them!" I don't recall anyone making a deal out of such matters at the boys' secondary!

Monday, September 03, 2007

PGCE Day 1

Well I may not make it to college for another 2 weeks but today was the first day of my PGCE. The college, in their infinite wisdom, decided that we should fit in a 2-week placement , to take place in exactly the 2 weeks before attending college. Of course, they did not take into account the fact that virtually every school in this part of the world is doing INSET today (except, apparently some in Wigan, though not all - fine, just let me check into a Travel Lodge!) So I have two days in a private day nursery looking at Foundation Stage. Aah! Sweet little babes! I still feel very apprehensive about children getting too close to me - all this child protection only serves to make us paranoid and act in an unnatural way. But what can you do when a sweet little tot clambers on to your knee? Push them away? They are little darlings but I'm not sure I could work with them on a permanent basis. The nursery is local and is in a beautiful setting overlooking open farmland and a paddock with horses in it. Now all I have to do is fathom out exactly what the college is looking for from the observations, which is easier said than done. No surprises there, though.