There’s never enough time in the day.

It has to be the number one issue that faces us NQTs. Time management. How do you conquer the pile of marking and planning whilst also making room for staff meetings, paperwork, teaching and a personal life? Here’s how I’m trying to do it. It might not be perfect, but it is working for me?

 

1) In terms of weekly planning, I only have guided reading, numeracy and literacy to do. All the plans for the afternoon lessons were completed before the beginning of term, so I’m not getting bogged down with unneccesary planning. I use my PPA time on a Thursday to plan for the following week, and use my NQT time to finish anything off which I haven’t planned. For example, last week that was my literacy planning for the Friday.

 

2) When planning, I try to balance it so that if there is marking required in literacy, the activities for numeracy are hands on and don’t require marking. And vice versa. Sometimes that doesn’t work, and those are the days when I just have to suck it up and spend a few hours marking. For example, today children were ordering numbers with up to decimal places. This required marking. In literacy, children were refering back to the text, and brainstorming questions to ask the character at the end of the lesson. One of these lessons required formal marking, the other didn’t. But both involved children learning, and meeting their learning objective.

 

3) Mark whenever you can. Once the children had been set off on their literacy task this morning, they were so engaged that I was able to get half of the numeracy books marked. Whilst the children were doing their extended writing task in silence last Friday, I was able to get all of their numeracy books marked… this meant I didn’t have maths books to mark this weekend. Literacy is a little bit more difficult, as I find it takes longer to mark. I have taken advice from a more experienced colleague for marking the extended writing task –  mark 7 books every evening. As the children won’t read or respond to that feedback until the following week, it doesn’t make any sense to break my back marking them all that first night.

 

4) Turn your lights off. This is probably school dependent, however I work in a larger than average primary school with lots of lovely friendly staff. Unfortunately, that means there are more people who I can be distracted by. At university I learnt that I was naturally quite lazy, and so had to purposefully push myself and not allow myself to be distracted, else I might procrastinate. So… I turn the lights in my classroom off after school. This tricks colleagues into thinking I am no longer there, thus allowing me to crack on with marking/planning/preparing resources undisturbed. Unfortunately, this led to me being locked in school one evening last week… but I did get ALL of my marking done that night before going home, giving me a welcome break midweek.

 

5) Get in early, stay late. This was always my mantra at university, and it worked so well that I decided to keep on with it. Every morning, except Monday when I have a lie in, I get up early and go in to school for around 7am. Every evening, unless I’ve had one of those days, I stay until around 6pm. For me this works excellently, as I don’t have child care issues or any other commitments to rush away for after school. This allows me to get an hour and half of concentrated work done before school, and 3 hours after school. Whilst I still have to take the odd bits home (usually some literacy marking) I often manage to get a lot of my work done in that time.

 

6) Be prepared. Ok, so this one is a strange one which my mentor suggested and which I think works perfectly. The first thing I do after school; before I have a cup of tea; before I do any marking; before I go to the photocopier; I write tomorrow’s date and WALT for literacy and numeracy on the board. I have one of those wonderfully old school rotating boards, with 3 possible screens. One has permanent lines on it, another has permanent squares on it, and the final one is blank. So… I write the literacy WALT, the numeracy WALT, and then I write a list of my absolute musts for the next teaching day on the blank board. Then, one by one, I work through my list of musts, and I know that, no matter what, my date and WALT are done for the following day. I then ready my resources with clear labels on, just in case I’m hit by a car and someone has to cover my lessons, and then I get on with any other jobs.

 

Anyway, a lot of those things are probably common sense. But I thought I’d share them with you all anyway, if not for my own sanity. Perhaps I’ll remind myself to look back at this post in the run up to Christmas when I am undoubtedly more stressed and less clear headed about time management. For me, one thing is really clear: I am being paid to be a teacher. Children deserve the best they can get, and part of that is a teacher who isn’t dead and tired. And so, every evening without fail, I switch off my brain and computer by 9pm. This not only allows me time to rest, but also gives me time with my husband.

 

And it is my husband who supports me; my husband who helps me to be the best I can be.

“It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to…”

Today marks the first day of crying in my NQT year. Having read umpteen posts on TES and other blogs, it seems that noone is safe from tears during the dreaded first year of teaching. Somehow though, I thought I would be stronger for longer. Afterall, I managed to get through my final block without crying TOO much; I am used to hard work; I am a confident young women, with good support networks outside of work; and I love my job.

 

A reality check today, though, as I had a crisis of confidence. A somewhat complex bundle of emotions enveloped me, as I know that I am doing a fine job, yet feel as though I’m still not doing it right. Every day I am hearing tales of woe from other NQTs online, and yet I hadn’t experienced it. I’ve been working diligently, following a marking timetable and planning the rest of my day to make best use of my time. I’m enjoying teaching my class, and I feel prepared every day. All of this has had me feeling very calm, and yet, from reading stresses of others, I found myself believing that I’m doing it wrong.

 

And so yes, it is my party. And I will cry if I want to. Especially if it makes me feel better. But until things actually start going wrong, I’m going to choose to keep my head high and just dance to the music.

And breeeeeathe…!

I wanted to really write a post yesterday, at the end of my first day as a teacher. But no sooner had I arrived home, my husband whisked me out for dinner to celebrate the end of my first day. As I wrote on Facebook, I was getting the work-life balance right from the start. And so, it is the end of day 2, and I find myself writing this blog. I tried to work out what I should write about, finally realising that I should probably just describe how I feel.

 

I feel like breathing. Obviously, I am breathing and haven’t stopped for any reason. However, I can’t seem to get enough air at this moment in time. I’m more exhausted than I’ve been before in my life; my mind is overflowing with all the information I have gleaned from the last 2 days in the classroom; I’ve still got 31 literacy books to mark; and I’m no closer to working out how to plan my literacy and numeracy in a way that is pleasing for my school. It’s interesting, because you spend the first 2 years of ITT looking forward to the day when you’re a class teacher because then you can teach what you want, when you want and how you want… and then you spend the final year realising that you will never do that, because you just bow to however your school run things. For me, that is my number 1 priority. I also need to rifle through last year’s literacy/numeracy books to make sure I am marking them correctly. Oh, and I need to sort out my classroom cupboard. And I need to finish off my planning for guided reading. And tomorrow I need to teach 32 children how to write a letter about themselves, to their future selves.

First things first though, I need to breathe. I need to remember that I am a human, who has finite power to do things. I need to remember that I have wonderful colleagues who are there to help. I need to remember the children in my class deserve the best version of me. I need to remember that I am trusted, because I am good. If I can keep hold of those things, that and the thought of my PPA tomorrow, I know I can breathe. I know I can survive.

The calm before the storm…

It’s here. The big day. My first day with responsibility for an entire class of children.

 

It has happened so quickly. I feel so unready and yet, at the same time, I have never felt so prepared for anything in my life. It is possibly the strangest feeling, this calm before the storm. I am so aware that I have trained HARD for this, and that I am already a teacher. As a colleague put it earlier, ‘you’ve trained for years…!’. But still, no amount of training can possibly prepare you for this day.

 

This is the day when I have a legal responsibility, a moral responsibility, to the wellbeing and progress of 32 children. This is the day when I have to plan, present, evaluate and refine… and then do it again, for 4 hours, and then every day after that. This is the day when I become a teacher.

 

And that is why I’m equally excited, challenged and privileged.

 

This is the day when I join children on their learning journey. This is the day when I engage 32 children in a multitude of subjects, opening their minds to worlds of discovery. This is the day when I become a teacher.

New National Curriculum – Good, Bad, or Ugly?

This week really my view of the National Curriculum has dramatically changed. Why? Because I’ve realised that it was scare-mongering on the part of the various voices of education which had given me my original opinion, and not the actual curriculum. Normally, I’m not one to be swayed by popular opinion, so I am not too sure what happened with this one.

 

I cannot go into the NC subject by subject, but I will say one thing. Society has changed. When I was at school, it was very rare to have been to as many schools as I or other Armed Forces’ children. Today there are more children than ever growing up in care, and families are more accepting of the socio-economic need to move for a job. Reflecting upon my own disjointed education, I would not wish it on anyone. Of course, it has shaped me into the person I am today… I love to travel and experience new things. I find it easy to settle in and to hit the ground running. However, I also learned about the Tudors and Stuarts 2 years in a row, whilst not covering the topic of ‘time’ until year 6.

 

Whilst some might describe this new curriculum as too heavily prescriptive, I like to see it as a challenge. Not only is it a challenge, it also allows all children, regardless of where they live in England, access to the same basic subject coverage at around the same time. I believe this takes us one step in the right direction, that is towards an education system which is less and less a postcode lottery. I hope that myself and my peers will tackle the curriculum head on, striving for the same engaging and creative lessons possible with the old NC… and I hope the children of this country will benefit greatly from that.

National Curriculum (2014) – Modern Foreign Languages

“Liberation from insularity.”

“Provides an opening to other cultures.”

“Deepen understanding of the world.”

These are things that I am delighted to see included in the MFL section of the National Curriculum (2014). Mainly, though, I’m just happy that MFL is finally statutory from KS2 – that is from age 7, for all those who aren’t from the UK. Although I’d prefer to see languages offered from a younger age, I am glad they are now available for children across the country.

The Department for Education states that some of the aims are: to foster pupils’ curiosity; for children to communicate in speech and writing; and to discover and develop an appreciation for language and culture. This last one is interesting, because it gives the impression that the government aren’t in favour of rote learning. Whilst, generally, the curriculum is good and seems to be based on current good practice models in language teaching and learning, there are just two problems I have with it.

1) Children will read great literature in the original language
What is great literature? Do the government really think that our children, who aren’t learning languages through immersion, will be reading ‘great literature’ by age 11? Do many of our children read great literature in English by age 11? What is great literature???

2) Children will have a continuing development of pronunciation
Will they? Doesn’t this require their teachers to have good pronunciation and speak with the correct intonations and accents? I know that, from my teaching trip to Germany this summer, one of the girls I travelled with spoke German with a strong Lancastrian accent. As such, much of the pronunciation was wrong and she felt that many people struggled to understand what she was saying. She had this accent because her teacher at secondary school was from Preston, as she was too. So, does this development of pronunciation and accuracy require specialist teachers? If so, is that wise? What message does it send to children, if their class teacher doesn’t teach them particular subjects? Will they think that those subjects are as important?

Now… the good stuff.

There is so much that the government have got right with this provision of MFL. For example, almost 60% of the focus is on practical communication skills – speaking and listening. Schools can offer ANY modern foreign language, OR an ancient foreign language. This is excellent because, as the curriculum says, learning an ancient language can: provide a linguistic foundation for reading comprehension; develop an appreciation of classical civilisation; lay the grammatical foundation for learning a modern foreign language at KS3 (age 11+). Schools will no longer provide a random mixture of several different languages, but focus on one language. For children, this means that they are more likely to make substantial progress. Of course, the progress of children in these languages will depend very much on their school’s priorities – something I will be looking at in my small scale research project at university.

I truly believe that learning a language does ‘liberate you from insularity’, and also ‘provides an opening to other cultures’. These are things which are needed now, more than ever, as we live in multi-cultural communities and interaction with other cultures is made easier with the ever expanding technologies of the 21st Century. Will children who have teachers who value languages and are fairly proficient do better? I think so, but it is probably too soon to tell.

Voices in Education

Isn’t it fascinating, that there are so many different voices in education?

Children. Parents. Ofsted. Campaigners. Business. Education Practitioners. League Tables. News Editors. Unions. Governors. Local council. Charities. Celebrities. Communities.

People.

So who contributes to educational policy and direction?

It is easy to assume that the government only listens to themselves… but do  they? The following video would have you believe that Michael Gove doesn’t listen to anyone but himself.

I’m not going to lie, I love this video. It shows how wrong Mr Gove has been on so many issues. But does he really just make things up as he goes along? I don’t think so.

Of course, he has ignored many voices on different issues. But don’t all politicians? And hasn’t he listened to voices over aspects of the new National Curriculum? E.g. backtracking on the initial withdrawal of Sp&L from English PoS.

So… who does contribute to educational policy and direction?

Me. You. Us.

We all have a voice. Let’s not waste them.