Sunday, 27 October 2013

Year 2: Back in the Habit

Well here I am, the eve of the first half term of the school year and what a half term it has been! Much like the sequel to the popular film 'Sister Act' I am now well and truly 'back in the habit' and as my absence from blogging indicates I've been a very busy Mr Collins indeed. It seems like an age since I was writing my blog post about my new classroom and the set-up for the start of the year and now, 7 and a half weeks down the line, it feels like the Summer period never happened. Here are my reflections on the past half term...

As you will know from reading previous posts I have started teaching back at the school I once worked as a cover supervisor. It was 2 years ago this school year that I left to go and do my GTP and then subsequently my NQT year at 2 different schools in the local area. I've just received my 'induction' certificate from last year and with this came the realisation of what has perhaps been missing this half term...the teacher training meetings and ongoing evidence collecting. Now, don't get me wrong, the evidence collating I am more than happy to have disappeared from my weekly tasks, but I can't help but miss the weekly/fortnightly CPD that trainee teachers receive. I'm particularly talking here about those CPD events that are held externally, whether they be part of your Universities training programme or events held at local schools that your school have partnerships with. I like these days away from the classroom where you get to reflect on your teaching, meet colleagues that are in the same position as you, learn new techniques, ideas and gather teaching resources and essentially keep learning. I've noticed that without these sessions this year it really is just about getting down to it and getting on with the job of teaching. However, there may be something new on the horizon, which I'll write about at a later date.

So, without the trainee teacher element of my job what's changed? The main thing is the timetable...and all experienced teachers will know exactly where I'm about to go with teaching time has rocketed! Last year I had my NQT time,which allowed me at least 6 free periods a week in a 25 period week. This year, without the luxury of the NQT time, I have only 3 free periods a week and this has made a sizable difference in my teaching time, planning time and (of course) marking time. Couple with that the challenges of starting a new school (albeit a school I know very well) and it's no wonder I've not been able to keep up with the blogging!

Now, I know my school very well having held my previous post as a cover supervisor for 2 years. However, in the time where I have been gone learning how to teach at other schools a lot has changed. Also, as I worked as a cover supervisor before and not a teacher, all the procedures that teachers are expected to follow and I suppose all those little things that differ between schools have had to be learnt, remembered and followed through. For instance, the behaviour policy and procedures are far 'tighter' than the schools I have previously worked at, and this is all for the better in terms of the teaching and learning that takes place in the school. This means that now, unlike in the past, there are behaviour points to log, reward points to log, phone calls to log, warnings to log, postcards to write, uniform letters to send etc etc. All these little things that are different take a while to embed in your daily routines.
The easiest part of being back at the school I previously worked at is the relationships I have with the kids and my colleagues. I am lucky that the classes I have in KS4 all knew me before I walked into our new classroom. This has allowed me to pick up on relationships I had already built up and take it from there. I have some fantastic classes to teach and this has made the 'settling in' period easier than I could have hoped for.

The one thing that has taken a while to sort out this half term has been the ICT in my classroom. I have persevered over the past 7 and a half weeks with trying to get everything the way I have had it in previous years. This has mainly centred around getting my interactive (SMART) whiteboard working. Now, by no means would I say that I have become dependent on my SMART board, but as I have made so many resources using the SMART notebook software it did have an affect on my teaching in the first few weeks of term. I had to find other resources to teach from, it took me longer to plan my lessons and I didn't feel as confident as perhaps I would have done. It also frustrated me as the IWB was there, but wasn't usable. I even started referring to it as the 'potentially interactive whiteboard to the kids'. However, all good things come to those who wait, and with the help of the ICT team after week 6 we were able to get the software working with the new Windows 7 laptop I had been given to 'trial' as a new member of staff. I even purchased myself some new SMART board pens/eraser to fill the gaps that were previously homed by a glue stick, board pen, blue tack and pen. Here they are in all their glory...

 For the past week or so I have been enjoying having the use of the SMARTboard back and I feel loads more confident, I can use all my resources I spent the time creating last year and the reaction from the kids is brilliant. I don't actually think there are many other working SMARTboards in the rest of the school that teachers use. This, for me, makes my proficiency with the IWB a tool I can use to my advantage as everything seems new for my students. When I first wrote on the board they seemed shocked, when I drag objects across the screen it feels like magic and as for the trick of rubbing out a circle and then tapping in the middle to erase everything inside the circle...I've become the new Dynamo! The only thing I then needed was some there were no speakers in my room I got some of those too and now I can use YouTube videos (from my channel or otherwise), the Chris Moyles Quiz Night videos for short starter tasks - my current students have loved these the past week, and of course...and yet to be introduced to my new students...Maths DJing :)

The above goes some way to summing up the challenges and differences of starting at a 'new' school this year. In addition to this there have been a few events that I have helped out with this half term. The biggest of these were the school's Open Evening and the Y6 Problem Solving Day. The school's Open Evening was fantastic and was one of those events that I was looking forward to. The reason behind this is that I love the school I work at, I went to the school as a kid and having worked there previously and now being back, I couldn't be happier. So, I'm keen to make sure that future students, our local primaries and our community see all the good things that I have and do at the school. So, at open evening I helped the Mathematics department ensure we displayed all the good work our Year 7s had been doing in the first 3/4 weeks of term (something the department have always done). Then in a separate classroom we had two activities running, one that the department have done in past involving measuring arm span and height and seeing the 'Mathematical perfectness' of a person. The other was an idea my colleague and I came up with and was to have the good ol' horse race probability task big scale on the class floor.
We created a 12 by 6 grid out of masking tape, had my numbered tiles in the 'starting squares' for each 'horse' (Y5/6 child, parent, uncle, aunt, Y9 prefect etc), we had the Y9 prefects rolling my large foam dice and encouraged visiting parents and children to take part in the horse race. For each race we explained the rules of rolling the dice to generate the numbered horse who would then advance down the grid. The winner being the first horse to reach the 'finish' square. The activity was a great success with children and adults taking part, healthy competition building between relatives and (of course) some good mathematical reasoning, language and logic being applied. It is something that we will look to do in future evenings.

Then, another idea I have for future evenings came about after speaking to my HoD about other tasks we could have going on around the room whilst the 2 main activities were going on. I suggested doing the 'frogs problem' and then said it'd be great to have a large version of that too and if only we had some large frogs! I have of course done this in the past using the students and chairs, but wanted something tangible for the children to pick up and move/leap. Cue my HoD's knowledge of another of our colleagues whose hobby of knitting stuffed animals could come in handy. She is brilliant and 5 more of the below little beauts will be made after she has finished knitting Christmas presents for her nieces and nephews...

How cool is he! I've named him Freddo.

As for the Y6 Problem Solving Day I'll be writing about that in a separate post as there's far more I'd like to say about that and resources to link.

Finally, a list of other notable events/things that have occurred this half term...

the staff vs staff football match against a local school (we won 1-0, undeservedly so)
the strike day, school was open for Y11, I was there
3 INSET days
Y9 'enterprise day', the less said about this the better
5 of my Y11 top set being entered in Nov and getting them prepared
regular staff football on Fridays (I've missed this)
Y11 invitation only parents' evening
the Y7 Fresher's Ball (I was the DJ)

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