The Creative Teacher Project

An NQT Bringing Creativity to the Classroom


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On Becoming A Teacher

on becoming a teacher

This is my last week of practicum. There has been a small, almost imperceptible change over the last two weeks where I’ve become less and less of a student teacher, and increasingly more of a….teacher teacher. I will become a qualified teacher at approximately 3:31 WST on Friday 28 November 2014. Woah.

In my final week on prac I’ve noticed how much my rapport with the girls has changed from my early, hesitant days. Somehow by acting as if I knew what I was doing, I managed to get them to believe that I did. Never, until now, did it cross my mind that, hey, I might just actually know what I’m doing. I’ll take all the fleeting moments of feeling competent that I can get right now, as I am well aware of the fresh challenges that my first year of teaching will bring.

2014 has been a year of huge change in my life; I’ve been living on the other side of the world to my partner, I’ve been dealing with obtaining EU citizenship and on top of that have studied full time and prepared to totally change career. I haven’t had much spare brain power to consider how I will feel when I achieve my goals, especially of making that transition from student teacher to a qualified professional. Now that I have space to do that, I’m filled with the cautious pride of a job well done. There is a time and a place for modesty, and there is an equal but oft-neglected space to celebrate our own achievements, and hey even our own survival through difficult times. I actually made it through, and I only cried once!

I have tried to bring a fresh perspective and a creative outlook to my work this year, and it was in this mindset that I set out to create this here humble blog. I looked for the posts I wanted to read as a student, and when I couldn’t find them (although I am sure that they’re out there), I decided to write them myself. The Creative Teacher Project was never intended to be a space that was primarily about educational strategies, it was always my intention to write about my experience. I’ve tried to write posts I think are relevant to others, but with my own personality in each word, and I like to think that’s come across. I’ve met some lovely people through the blog and through my teaching Twitter account – follow me @createteachproj if you would like to connect there – and that has reaffirmed my belief that writing about my experience is worthwhile.

I’ve struggled to reconcile the idea of creative teaching I had at the beginning of the year with the workload of this year, and I’ve come out the other side of teacher training with a whole new perspective on the ways in which creativity intersects with education. I’m less focussed on my own creative practice now, which may change, but instead I’m even more interested in igniting the creativity and joy of learning in my students. This is a mammoth task, and however noble my intention it is not always to be achieved in a whole career, let alone a 7 week placement in a school!

This placement has given me exactly what I needed – an opportunity to take a long hard look at myself and teaching as a career, and a chance to pull myself together and really feel ready to take on teaching in 2015. I’m so looking forward to it – I hope you’ll stick around next year as I blog about my first year on the job!

Thank you to everyone who has read this blog, commented or given me advice during my studies. I’m eternally grateful for the help I’ve received. If you’ve thought about reaching out – please do. The more creative teachers out there the better!
Sam

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5 Things University Doesn’t Tell You About Your Final Prac

5 things

Hey guys. So I missed my weekly round-up for weeks 3 & 4 of my prac, and so instead of delving deep into the past I thought I would do a list instead of some of the things I have learnt so far. These would have been great to know a few months ago!

1) You need to cancel your life

Teaching is really tiring. Like, the most tiring thing you’ve ever done (assuming you have no kids). You’re constantly answering questions, reminding students not to call out, putting on your best ‘teacher voice’ for your mentor teacher and planning a week’s worth of lessons for students you hardly know. On top of that, you have more work to do when you get home. Cut yourself some slack, and clear your diary for the next seven weeks. Your friends will totally understand, and that way you can avoid being a total flake when you wake up realising there is no way in God’s green earth you can face getting out of bed today. You can thank me later.

2) You will feel like a total fraud – and that’s ok

Believe it or not, you’re kind of supposed to feel like a fish out of water. Practicum isn’t just about impressing your supervisor and getting a great mark, let alone practicing teaching. It’s a sink or swim test. You’re in totally new circumstances, with kids who aren’t really even your students, with other staff members who can be either totally lovely or kind of cold, and you have to somehow work out how to do this. It’s ok to cry after your IT induction, I promise. If teaching is for you, you’ll get into the classroom and it will feel like home. All the other stuff, the planning and the remembering of a million names, will come.

3) Students misbehave for real teachers too

Being employed in a school does not necessarily mean students cease to muck around (I mean this with a lot of love, of course!). Classroom management strategies are amazing, but at the same time, feel free to chuck them out the window if thinking about constantly incorporating them is causing you heaps of stress. What you need to focus on here is surviving. These kids don’t know you, and they may have had a prac teacher earlier in the year too. They’re tired and they don’t always want to invest in someone who won’t be there next year. Don’t take it personally, but do try and get through each lesson calmly. You will come good eventually!

4) Teaching is just like every other job

Staff politics? Check. Difficult personalities? Check. Kooky and wonderful colleagues? Check. Unreasonable expectations? Check. Loads of boring paperwork? Check. Teachers are not magical fairy beings, they’re real people (believe it or not) and the same issues come up in a school staffroom that come up in every staffroom in every industry in every country. Be prepared for it to feel surprisingly familiar…

5) Teaching is unlike any other job

See what I did there? Yep, teaching is ‘hella awesome’ (to use the technical term) and it is different to almost any other industry I have had the pleasure to work in. University doesn’t prepare you for that. It sure as hell doesn’t prepare you for standing in the wings on Variety Night, watching your gorgeous year 7 girls absolutely smash their Grease Tribute Act. No one tells you to prepare for your heart to swell with pride for girls you hardly know, and for you to feel that same rush of adrenaline for their performance, that you once felt for your own. Being a part of children’s lives is a huge privilege, one that I have been reminded of each time a student has said ‘Hi Ms Froudist’ as I’ve walked by. It’s pretty darn great.

I’d love to hear about your prac experience, whether you’re a seasoned teacher or a newbie like me! Did you enjoy yourself? Was teaching in the real world totally different to your practicum? Let me know in the comments if you can.


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My Final Prac: Week 2

Goodbye Year 12

Flower Day

Week 2 flew by barely giving me a chance to register it had been and gone. It’s that time of the school year in Australia, where the year 12s (equivalent to sixth form) are leaving school, with some study time before they sit their leaving exams.

This week I enjoyed

Getting to know the students a little better. I’ve mastered the names of most of my classes, which is a boon, and makes giving production notes a lot easier! My face has obviously become a lot more familiar to them as well, as I’ve been invited to sit with some girls for a chat, which has made me feel quite cool. I know as a teacher you are supposed to rise above the school politics, but I guess it doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s nice to be liked, and nice to have people to talk to! The upper school girls also went on an excursion this week, so I joined them and then helped them workshop some Variety Night scenes. It was so much fun! Teenagers, believe it or not, are often quite delightful.

This week challenged me because

It was the week of my first meeting with my university supervisor, and the key with meeting your US is be so prepared that through the strategic thrusting of documents into their face you confuse them into thinking you’re amazing. It’s quite simple, once you master the paper thrusting technique…but honestly, meeting someone who will assess you is very intimidating, and because I’m not teaching yet I almost feel as though I don’t know what to show her. I haven’t yet come totally to grips with what I’ll be sharing with my classes (particularly my year 10s) and so I feel a little apprehensive about the whole situation. I think that’s normal though…I’m pretty sure that’s normal….

Something I found interesting totally bloomin’ lovely

My placement school is big on traditions, not particularly in an ‘establishment’ sort of way, but more in the vein of ritual. This week, being the last week for year 12 was full of commemorative assemblies, meetings and lunches, and most touchingly, Flower day. On Flower day, parents and the younger students bring in flowers for the year 12 students that they know, or whom to they look up to, as a thank you for their time at school. It was a touching gathering, where I had to look away for a few moments, because *ahem* I Had Something In My Eye. I don’t even know the year 12s at all, but there I was, trying my best not to blub. I remember that time of my life so well. It’s scary, sad and terribly exciting.

There was also an assembly to announce the student council for next year, where the graduating council welcomed the new members onstage, and dressed them in their new council blazers. It can seem stupid, sentimental and silly sometimes, but I could clearly see how much these traditions meant to the girls, and how much they contribute to the atmosphere in the school. It has been a truly lovely week.

 


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Practicum: Week One

Slightly fatigued after my first week!

 

It’s Friday afternoon, my mentor teacher has gone for the week and I’m sitting at what is my desk for the period and looking out over an expansive oval outside my window. It’s been a pretty great week.

I was apprehensive about starting practicum as I didn’t feel as prepared as I would have liked. Luckily day 1 was a staff PD day, which was a great introduction to the school without the pressure of being chucked straight into classes. I’ve been allocated 5 classes to teach and participate in: 1 year 7 class (age 12), 2 year 8 classes (13 years) and 2 year 10 classes (15). They are all rehearsing for an upcoming variety night showcase, and so I wont get to get my teeth fully into teaching them for another two/three weeks.

So far I have enjoyed:

Being welcomed to the school by the Principal on Day 1. Being introduced to staff members and having other staff introduce themselves to me out of the blue. It might sound like a tiny thing, but as a prac student, I am definitely on the back foot and it’s the sum total of these tiny acts that make me feel included and welcome at the school.

I’ve definitely enjoyed being around the students. This is a girl’s school, something I’ve never experienced before, and to be honest I was worried that they might be a little aloof. I couldn’t have been more wrong. These kids are not only totally delightful, but passionate about drama and so want to be there! It feels like such a treat.

This week has challenged me because:

I feel like a bit of a fraud, and it seems like all of my drama knowledge has evaporated out of the window, and I don’t know what to teach. As I sat in our IT induction I had to remind myself that everyone feels out of their depth, and that everyone feels like they don’t know what they’re doing (at least) half the time. Deep breaths, Sam. It will come. I just have to stay calm and be ready to do some research. No biggie.

I have also struggled with a bit of shyness this first week, although again, I think that’s pretty normal. Just have to pluck up my courage and talk. I learned a great strategy from my mother’s partner, who said that people really actually want to talk about themselves, so if I ask a lot of questions, then it wont be long before people open up and chat my ear off! it seems to be working….mwah hah hah…

Something I’ve found interesting:

Early in the week I found myself circulating around groups in class because I felt as though I had to, but then about Thursday morning I realised that I wasn’t taking the opportunity that was right in front of me! When I’m observing a class, I don’t need to be the one that is making sure they’re getting on with their work, I should take the opportunity to learn more about the student! I should ask what work they like doing, what work they absolutely hate, and what they like about their teacher’s strategies. Use it as a time for market research! It’s a great opportunity to workshop ideas as well, and see if I can’t come up with a few week’s worth of lessons that they will find engaging.

 

All in all, it’s been possibly the best week I could have hoped for. I’m sure there will be difficult days ahead, and that not all lessons will go to plan, but hey, that’s life. I’m just relieved that it has gone so well so far.  I’ll keep in touch!


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Au Revoir University, Bonjour Practicum!

Just a short and sweet post today. I’ve handed in my last assignment ever for my graduate diploma, said goodbye to some truly amazing lecturers and fellow student teachers. It’s done and dusted, I’ve learned all the theory I’m ever going to learn at university, and now’s it’s time for some practical work. Tomorrow is the BIG DAY when I’ll be starting my longest and final prac placement. I’m apprehensive but excited, and am spending today brushing up on my low key responses and doing the all important laundry, making sure all my teacher-appropriate clothes are clean!

For any of you out there about to start their placements, I wish you the best of luck, the funniest students and the most supportive mentor teachers. This year has whizzed by, It’s hard to believe. I’ll be updating the blog throughout the next 7 weeks, and hopefully some of you will find my experiences helpful, or at least in some way relatable.

What a year. Wish me luck for the last part!


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Mind Blown: Assessments and Embarrassment

I’m having a bit of a moment.  A revelatory one.

You see, I’m writing a paper on formative assessment, its impact on students and the implications for teachers. I’m loving it – this type of development focussed assessing is right up my alley and I cannot wait to get stuck in with my own (future) class. It’s all about high quality feedback, specifically addressing misconceptions but also giving more abstract indications to students about the direction they need to go in to really succeed. Formative assessment happens throughout a course of study, not just a test right at the end, you know, when it’s kind of too late to correct students if their wrong.

But this is where a lightbulb went DING DING DING in my brain. Testing and assessing is not a trick we play on students. We’re not supposed to be tripping them up, trying to ask questions that they don’t know the answer to to prove their not smart enough. Tests aren’t supposed to be too difficult for students. We’re supposed to assess students to find out how much they’ve learned. If they’re failing tests it’s because their not learning. That’s our responsibility!

There’s also no inherent value judgement in assessments. Woah Nelly, did I just say that? You don’t have to be embarrassed if you don’t know something! If only I had realised this in school – I could have asked so many more questions! I wish I had known this at Uni the first time around! Think about how much we could learn if we weren’t afraid of looking stupid by asking questions.

As teachers, we want our students to succeed. We want them to learn and build their own knowledge. Doing well in an essay is not the goal here (mind blown AGAIN). The essay is just the vehicle through which we can see what our students have learned. We need to structure our assessments so that our students can do well but more importantly, we need to use the information from our students assessments to really think about how and what we’re teaching them.

I think I need a little lie down now. My poor brain.

Hit me up in the comments if you’ve ever had a moment like this!


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Monday Provocation

Because I’m a bit of a hippy, I’ve signed up to a daily provocation called Notes from the Universe, which is a daily email from “The Universe” with a little message of positivity for the day. I know. I am that sort of Drama Teacher – sorry not sorry. This is one I received last week, and thought I would share:

When you understand, Sam, that what most people really, really want is simply to feel good about themselves, and when you realize that with just a few well-chosen words you can help virtually anyone on the planet instantly achieve this, you begin to realize just how simple life is, how powerful you are, and that love is the key.

I thought it was really pertinent to me as a teacher. What would happen to our students if we made it a priority to make them feel good about themselves? Would it make them achieve more, or even more significantly, be better people? I think it just might.