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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Three Teaching Ghosts

The Ghost of class past:

I have been teaching for a long time ...... However, last academic year was my first ever in KS1. I taught a year 2 class of 34 children, 22 boys and 12 girls. I approached the year as I always do with a mixture of excitement and anticipation. It was a new challenge and that is something I always enjoy.

As it turned out it really was a challenge! They were a full on, hectic, noisy but absolutely lovable class. Due partly to the size of the class (34 is not that large in KS2 but it certainly is in KS1) also due to the high number of boys, together with a relatively small classroom resulted in quite a noisy year. 

We already have in place a behaviour system based upon the sunshine, rainbow and cloud but each teacher then runs their own reward system to compliment this.  It was clear pretty early on that I was going to need a reward system that would match the needs of this particular class. They needed something to keep them on task, motivated and quiet! I also felt that it was important that some sort of a reward should be awarded at the end of each day. I  was then, thankfully, introduced to the joys of The Great Behaviour Game by my, experienced in KS1, T.A.

Once you have registered it works by continually adding points to each pupils name, unless otherwise paused. It also has the facility for you to add additional points for whatever you choose. The game is displayed on the Whiteboard for all to see and the children quickly became enthralled by it. The reward for 'winning; the Great Behaviour Game was two fold. Firstly a postcard home to their adult and secondly a class wrist band allowing them access to the schools adventure playground equipment. Two much coveted prizes which resulted in a much happier, calmer class, pupils, T.A. and teacher! The parents really enjoyed receiving the postcards too.

Teaching year 2 has been a challenge but I loved it that much in the end I begged and pleaded to do it again! We had lots of fun and learned a lot together. I have had lots of experience of year 6 Sats but this was my first dip into KS1 Sats. I am glad to say that on the whole the experience for the children and for me was quite a painless one (even I cannot believe how well they all did!) The KS1 Sats are delivered a lot more discretely but are still very strictly implemented and assessed to ensure data which presents as true a reflection of the pupils attainment as possible. 

I have throughout my teaching career moved year groups regularly, due to circumstances in each of the schools I have taught in as well as to my requests. I have always seen changing year groups as a way to keep learning, keep things fresh and to improve my skills as a teacher. It is great professional development! After teaching for 16 years I really I have gained so much from moving regularly, my experience is vast. However, I also think it is important to have at least two years, preferably three,  in a year group before moving on. This provides an opportunity for real reflection: What worked well? Why? What didn't work so well? Why? And where there is reflection there is learning.

The Ghost of class present:

No I haven't been teaching summer school! Or have I? During the summer holidays this year I have had the opportunity to spend lots of time with my six year old grandson. All teachers know that even during the holidays school is definitely not out. Wherever we go, the beach, the museum, the pictures, anywhere, even a wet day at home ... there is always an opportunity to teach. I cant help myself, everything presents itself to me as a teaching and learning opportunity. This year has been a great one for that, my grandson has just completed year 1 and will be going into year 2. The very year group I have just taught and will be teaching next year. Great! Well for me at least, I'm not so sure he would agree.  

I would describe my grandson as very active, inquisitive, interested, interesting yet a very, very reluctant learner. I have to approach any formal work with great caution and go to great lengths to avoid anything formal. This is easy when it comes to science experiments, rock pooling, collecting shells, sticks, treasures, mini beast hunts,  counting, painting, drawing, making our own Lego movies etc.  All of which we have both thoroughly enjoyed and all of which he has with out a doubt learned a lot from. 

The tricky part has been the more formal learning specifically writing. He has been reading regularly with his Mummy and actually is really beginning to enjoy it, well I hope so anyway. Writing however is another matter. He is a very reluctant writer and thankfully as I had taught a year 2 class last year I know he is most definitely not alone. I have taught lots of boys who are reluctant writers from every year group in KS2 but year 2 reluctant writers are really a completely different breed. They will do and do do anything to avoid writing. It is as if it is actually painful to them, similar to sitting still, which for lots of boys is genuinely painful, well it appears writing is the same.

I had a core group of reluctant writers last year but by the end of the year they were all much improved and finding the whole process a lot less painful. This gave me some hope, perhaps foolishly, that I could achieve this with my grandson. Any teachers who are parents will understand that teaching your own children is not quite the same. To them you are Mum, Dad, Grandma etc not their teacher. They do not therefore behave the way a pupil would towards you. 

Nevertheless as my grandson had homework to complete for his new teacher and his Mummy and I did not want him to go back to school having not written at all I had to have a go.
It has been like pulling teeth! With short, sharp periods of writing spread out over the holiday he has actually made progress. Oh no I cant believe I just uttered the dreaded word progress! and about my own flesh and blood and during the holidays! I really have lost the plot. But progress he has made. I can see a distinct improvement in his handwriting (on the line and legible) and he was able to write about three sentences before having a total meltdown. 

All of this has presented another opportunity for reflection about teaching and education. Why are lots of boys such reluctant writers? Is homework worth the stress it causes parents? Do we begin formal education much too soon in England? 

The ghost of class yet to be:

Year 2 2014/2015 rapidly approaches. Due to the time to do it I feel like have prepared more this year than any other. My classroom looks amazing, I have completed a long term plan for the year, a medium term plan for the first half term and two weeks short term planning! I have hammered Pinterest and Twitter in search of new inspiration and have done lots of reflecting upon last year. What worked? What will I change? What will stay the same? What new thing s will I introduce?

I am poised and ready to pounce! I love seeing my new class on the first day all shiny shoes and new haircuts. I love listening to the buzz in the classroom as they return to see each other after the long break and share their stories of summer. It is always a time of great anticipation and a huge sense of the task ahead. It is an honour but also a great responsibility to be a teacher. A whole class of different personalities, backgrounds, home lives, abilities, expectations but all with the right to a teacher that believes in them and will lead them on the learning journey ahead. 

Oh no I've gone all soppy!! It is because of all of this though that teaching really is a full time job a true vocation that takes over your life. But a job I know I am good at and in the dark, hard days when every one wants a piece of me, I need to try to remember the three little ghost and why I do it in the first place!