This term I’m coming back fighting!

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So I’ve decided that it’s time for the old me to come back. The old me who was positive, happy, stress free, the eternal optimist- because this week I realised that somehow teaching had crushed my spirit and turned me into one of those people that I have always hated- the moaner. It hit home this week when a friend came around for a catch up and asked me ‘how’s the job going?’ I didn’t even answer at first, I just let out a huge sigh, I felt my shoulders slump and I just said ‘it’s so stressful. I don’t even know how to begin to explain how stressful it is.’ I couldn’t believe it- I had turned into that friend who you want to avoid because nothing happy ever comes out of their mouth, they sap your energy and they just drag you down.

Well no more. I am back. 

This term I am coming back fighting. I am banning the word stress/ stressed from my vocabulary. Even just saying the ‘S’ word puts you in a negative frame of mind. I’m not going to let the new government requirements let me feel like I require improvement- I am outstanding in my own right. I love my class, I want them to do well and they are progressing. That means I am doing an outstanding job. I challenge Mr Gove to come and work in a deprived area of Yorkshire with a class of 30 children (28 EAL), and prepare 5 sets of differentiated work for 5 subjects, 5 sessions a day for 5 days a week. I do this on 6hrs sleep a night. Therefore I don’t need you to grade me. I will grade myself. I am outstanding.

This term I will work like a bi*ch. I will do work every night, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. And I will do it because I want to. If I want to that means that I will have no resentment towards my job. I want to do this work, which means I have made that choice, which ultimately means that you will not dictate to me what work I have to do outside of the school hours. I will decide. 

I am also going to get ‘dressed’ every morning. This past term I really let myself go. One teacher even said, ‘I’ve never noticed it before- but your complexion is quite grey.’ No, you hadn’t noticed it before- because I used to have a healthy glow, but since September, that glow has slowly, but surely been replaced. Well, screw you grey complexion, there’s foundation for you. As well as eye shadow, mascara and blusher. In fact I am going to put a full face of make up on every day. I am adamant that I will stick by this. I will also wear nice clothes, heels, make sure my nails and hair are done because as they say, if you look fabulous on the outside, eventually you’ll feel fabulous on the inside. Fake it, ’till you make it, right?

I am going to become super organised. My work will be marked that day. I will plan my lessons vigiously for the next day so that I know what I am doing and I will put 150% into my lesson observations. I am going to cheat. For that one lesson I will do what the government feels is best, I will tick their coffin boxes, I will kill creativity with lessons that cover all of the ludicrous standards. Then the next day I will go back to being a teacher who teaches my children in a way that truly is best for them. I will no longer feel I require improvement because some rich middle class t*at who has never stepped foot in a class room like mine is dictating how best to run my class. Are we as teachers actually allowing this is happen?!

Anyway, tomorrow is the start of a new term BRING IT ON!

Do teachers really get a half term?

Do teachers really get a half term?

That’s something that I always asked on placements during my PGCE. And the honest answer is yes and no. I have one more day left of half term and as I look back I have actually done quite a lot and had a lovely half term; I have-

  • Been out for a romantic meal with the fella.
  • Went out clubbing (yes, teachers still go clubbing- the pics just don’t appear on Fb!)
  • Met up for lunch with the girls.
  • Baby sat my baby nephew all day.
  • Been shopping (and spent way too much money on clothes I  do not need).
  • Done some DIY in my house.
  • Finally started to sort out my wardrobe.
  • Stayed up late watching the Sex and the City box sets (just gets better every time).
  • Had friends round for a cuppa and a gossip.
  • Caught up on sleep.
  • And done most  of my planning…

Ah, there it is. The planning. Resource making. Marking. No matter what you do over half term, no matter how much fun you have- there is always this little niggle at the back of your mind. ‘I should be marking this…’ ‘I could be laminating those…’, for me that constant guilt reminds me that I can’t get too relaxed during my week off. And personally, that’s due to me. I was so exhausted at the start of half term, that I ‘wasted’ the beginning just napping, resting and recharging my batteries. But that was something that I desperately needed to do. I could have (should have) done my planning during the first weekend of half term, but like I’ve always done since the age of 11, I have left my homework until the last minute. I work better that way. Working under pressure motivates me. 

And because of this fact, I will now be spending my entire Saturday night finishing off medium term plans and preparing for my lessons next week. But that’s ok. I am ok with that, because it meant that I was able to have fun doing all of the things that I mentioned above. I will probley be kicking myself at 9pm tonight when I am still typing up plans, but I have prepared myself for that because I am adamant that I will have all of Sunday off, and I mean really off, without any of that niggling guilt in the background.

Tomorrow really is another day!

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So I’m not going to lie. Last night I seriously thought that I had made a mistake. I wasn’t good enough, I was so tired, tired of being an NQT and I was feeling a little down. In fact the whole school was, from the head of KS2 to the learning mentor. Morale was low. I had the negative observation looming over me and those two days until Friday Half Term seemed like two decades. I went to bed with a heavy heart and thought how my bubbly, optimistic personality was being slowly erroded.

Fast forward 12hrs and I have a huge grin on my face. I am tucked up in bed, in my onsie, laptop on, completing my MTP plans for next term, while buying summer dresses from Asos. As the picture I uploaded shows- I am working from home and I have never been so happy in my life!

The answer. The mental british weather. 

I arrived at school this morning to see everyone waiting outside the main entrance. When I asked what was wrong everyone pointed. Last night a huge tree was uprooted and was thrown into the school building. No one was hurt. Once this was established I allowed myself a HUGE grin and a HUGE thank you to the big guy upstairs. There is a God! Because He knows just how much I have needed time out, a boost, a recharge. And that is exactly what these extra two days prior to half term will give me. I can get all my planning done before the half term. Wait a minute, I might actually get a half term! Tonight I can go to bed stress free without having to worry about if my lesson is differentiated enough. I can have 8, maybe 9 hrs sleep tonight and just repair my body and mind. 

And I know this weather is horrendous, here in Yorkshire there has been loads of damage and I shouldn’t be this happy but you should have seen, no corrected, you should have felt the joy radiating from all the teachers this morning. We were so happy! It has just come at the perfect time. I’m actually enjoying doing my planning because the weight off my shoulder has been lifted. 

What a great early Valentine’s present xxxx

Lesson observations are Sh*t. Just Sh*t.

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Excuse my language, but lesson observations are shit. Just shit. And I’ve had two in the past three days and now I feel shit. Just shit.

Firstly, my first two observations were fine. Not outstanding, but fine, I was on the right path. Then the Headmistress decided that she wanted to come in and watch a lesson with my mentor and absolutely just slaughtered it. My mentor was in a panic as it was obvious that she got slated too and was putting her stress on to me, as to be fair, when i went to the Headmistress about my worries, she was actually really great, saying that she understands the pressure of teaching now, and how she couldn’t be a teacher in the classroom now.

So I had this term’s observation with my mentor three days ago and the pressure beforehand was unbelievable. I couldn’t sleep, I was worrying and I couldn’t relax. I just kept thinking how this observation HAD to be better than last time and that I didn’t know what I would do if it wasn’t. So straight after the lesson, my mentor said it was great, gave the thumbs up and said I had actioned the things I should have done, my behaviour management is amazing (at least something’s working) and that I was using my TA more. So why then, did I come out as Requires Improvement? I hate this new term. What actually was wrong with satisfactory, really? Anyway, there were 6 boxes with good and I think around 9 with Requires Improvement, so majority wins. But I was pleased with her feedback and the fact that she said I was improving all the time. I slept great that night.

Roll on yesterday. School paid for an OFSTED inspector to inspect me, the other new NQT and another member of staff that missed the last OFSTED. And I got my feedback. And it was rubbish. Well, the inspector said ‘the lesson started off as good, but the children didn’t know what they were doing at the tables.’ He then went on to say, ‘but there was nothing more you could have done as the teaching was all there.’ So…..? He then said that the higher ability children didn’t get what they had to do- but when I marked the books, all the children got everything correct. So….?

There were other silly things that I was kicking myself for, I forgot to give the children an extension activity, I sat too long with the lower ability children etc. But the worse thing about it all is that the other NQT got outstanding, which just makes me feel like an absolute failure. I hate that this career just encourages low morale, chips away at your self confidence and leaves you doubting your ability. I’ve realised that I probley wont ever be an outstanding teacher; because 1. I want a life and i am not prepared to work 10hr days and then stay up until 2am creating fantastic resources and 2. I don’t think I could live with the pressure of being classed an an outstanding teacher. At least the only good thing about being in the requires improvement category is that now, the only way is up. Silver lining, and all that.

So now, it’s bed time. A chat to the best friend (who is also an unhappy teacher lol), a hot water bottle and a bar of Galaxy chocolate should do the trick. After all, tomorrow is a new day 🙂

The things that I changed this week to improve behaviour.

Like I said in my previous post- I was bringing in the Trunchbull this week and it definitely seemed to work. I had a terrible lesson observation before Christmas but my observation for this term was two days ago and the first thing she said was ‘excellent behaviour management, you’ve really got them under control now’. I didn’t dare tell her how they were last week. But by changing a few things, there has definitely been an improvement. And I understand that every class/ school/ teacher/ NQT is different, so read over the tips below and tweak them to your own needs and class.

1. No smiling. I’m a naturally smiling person and so this probley had the biggest impact because the children are so used to seeing my smiling. When I started with the serious face on Monday, they knew instantly I meant business. It shows the children that you are not to be messed with and what you say needs to be done. The serious face also sets the ‘tone’, they know now is a time to listen and behave- it’s not laughing and joking time.

2. Names on the board. This was so simple and effective and I wished I had started it earlier. I simply drew a sad face in the corner of the board and when someone wasn’t listening or had not done as I had asked. I would slowly go and get my whiteboard pen and slowly walk over to the board with a disappointed face (the key to this is the ‘acting’ the drama. Dragging out the process.) The slow walk over to the board also got everyone’s attention ‘who’s name am i going to write?’ I then wrote a name on the board and said oh dear, how disappointing. Now when anyone walks into the room they will see your name on the board. You better try and improve your behaviour so I can wipe your name off the board. I would not want Mrs E. (Headmistress) to walk into this class and see you name.’ Don’t shout, but do look cross and disappointed. The best thing about this is that the names on the board don’t mean anything but the children hated seeing thier name and would ask me if I would wipe it off if they did x or z.

3. Set line places. Again, I don’t know why I didn’t do this from September. Lining up and walking through the school was always a problem because children would be pushing in, there would be shouts of ‘Miss, he pushed in!’, then children would end up with thier friends and that would mean laughing and joking walking to assembly and talking throughout. Now they have set line places, all that has been cut out. Some teachers like boy, girl, boy, girl in the line, but by doing set, specific places, you can really take control of the situation and spilt troublesome partners right up by putting them far away from each other and the biggest help for me, was stopping all the fussing when it was lining up time. They just went to thier places, and surprisingly, they remembered their places quicker than me.

4. Refusing to talk over anyone. I knew I had to do something, when i was increasingly finding myself talking over children on the carpet when I was teaching. Some children were blatantly not listening. They were having their own merry time and I just felt like a failing comedian who was slowly loosing his audience at a rowdy working men’s club. They were being disrespectful. But what I have realised is; children will only get away with what you let them. So the zero tolerance approach was brought in. I refused to talk over any noise- that included shuffling chairs. I would stand and wait, then slowly walk over to the board and write a name. Eventually the children knew that they could no longer talk on the carper.

5. The 5 dash rule. I explained to the children that every time I had to wait for them, I would put a ‘dash’ on the white board, if I got to 5 dashes, they were missing their play. They had wasted my time and so I was wasting theirs. It’s quite a harsh one and i only use it as a last resort. The key is to not let them become blasé about it. As the dashes increase, you can see the panic set in if someone is not behaving ‘James! Ssssh! Miss is going to put a dash on the board!’

6. Praise positive behaviour. ‘Wow! Just look how Nina is sitting on the carpet.’ All the children look and then instantly sit propley on the carpet. ‘I love how Ali was the first person to put his pencil down and listen.’ This means you don’t have to address the children who haven’t put thier pen down and bring in a negative atmosphere, because they will instantly know what is expected of them and do the same.

6. The thinking spot. I’m not the biggest fan of this, but it definitely works. But I only use it for a child who really needs to know who is boss in the classroom, not for behaviour that is actually quite low disrupting. It is a small round mat from Ikea, and when a child has been warned repeatedly, I get it out and make them sit on it for 5minutes. I explain that I have to get the Thinking Spot out and how it is from the nursery, but some children are acting like they are still there. They have to sit on it for 5 minutes and think about what they have done. They hate this one as well, because they are separated from the class and they are exposed. Like I said, it shuldn’t be used all the time as I don’t believe in embarrassing children, but sometimes certain behaviours need to be nipped in the bud and children need to know what is and is not acceptable in the class.

7. Get your TA on board. The last thing why I believe last week was so successful is that myself and my TA worked together. I told her what i was doing, she also backed me up, ‘Goodness, you do not want your name on the board.’ She acted disappointed with the children and reinforced all of my expectations- and I felt more confident. As they say, there’s safety in numbers!

Behaviour management is a biggie- OFSTED rate all teachers on it and it makes a difference to how well you feel you are teaching and getting through to your class. Sometimes though, no matter how much you do, you still have a bad day- but take it for what it is, a bad day. Go home, have a glass of wine, a long hot soak and a talk with a loved one and remember, we’re doing the best that we can. Teaching is a difficult, difficult job and we’re still doing it- so we’re stronger than most! 

Behaviour Management- bring in The Trunchbull.

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I have 30 children in my class and sometimes that’s hard to deal with. I have 30 children and 12 of them have very strong personalities. These 12 distract the others in the class and sometimes I find my blood pressure increasing just because it’s taking me 15minutes to do the register. 

Now behaviour hasn’t been bad, it’s just not good, it’s not outstanding and it’s something that has slowly but surely been getting slightly worse. Some of the children have been getting a little bit too comfortable, ‘God, this is boring’, one gifted and talented 6 year old said the other day. Speechless . I would find myself having to repeat instructions 5 times before even half the class were listening. The final straw came last week when an 18yr old first year BA student observed in my class and said at the end of a very ‘shouty’ lesson, ‘aw, do you want a hug?’ She then went on to give me behaviour management tips. I smiled calmly and said ‘thank you for your advice. Don’t hug me.’ My TA then came up to me at the end of the week and said that for the first time since September, she was embarrassed to be with the class. Now this is exactly what I needed to hear. I trust my TA, she is honest and has years of experience, to see her face and hear her say that just made me sit up and listen. She said we had to get on top of behaviour and stop being so soft.

And I have been too soft. I smile a lot, I am cheerful and bubbly. I show an interest in the children and I indulge certain behaviour that i would never tolerate with my own future children, let alone my class. At uni they told us ‘don’t smile until Christmas’ and with hindsight, I realise that this was a tip that should have been followed in my situation. So after many talks with other teachers, advice from a past Head, they all lead to the same conclusion. This week I am going to be Mrs Trunchbull.

Today was day 1 and guess what…. IT WORKED! Behaviour was not outstanding- but it was better than good. I would go so far as to say it was excellent. 

The children came in and I didn’t smile once. I did’t reply to any of their excited chatter about the weekend, (this was very difficult and made me feel bad inside!), I introduced the ‘thinking spot’, names were written on the board and positive behaviour was overly praised. I will be posting exactly what I did that was so successful in another post; but for the first time, in a long time we had a pe lesson in the gym without a word during the warm up. Normally, the children are running around, wild and excited and I have to talk over them. But not today. No, today was perfect and just goes to show that children really do need boundaries, discipline  and structure. Why has it taken me so long?!

NQT 1: Kids 0