The Creative Teacher Project

An NQT Bringing Creativity to the Classroom


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Summer 2016

Creative Teacher Project on Holiday

The six week break in the middle of the year is a pretty sweet perk of being a teacher. I’ve just spent two weeks in Portugal, several days of which were sitting in the very deckchairs you see pictured here. It was awesome.

It is to the chagrin of many of my fellow teachers that we are constantly teased by non-teaching friends about how easy we have it, and how many holidays we get. To them I say – we just happened to do 12 months of work in 10 months!

Plus, even though I might not be teaching, it’s not as if I haven’t been working. As I’m currently child-free and my husband works full time, and all of my friends are still at work, I found myself twiddling my thumbs on more than one occasion, until I felt the pull of work too strong to resist….

I want this coming year to be an improvement on my last. Every teacher I’ve spoken to assures me that I will never forget my first class, and of that I am certain – I was luckier than most in my very first class, they were truly delightful. But as a new teacher I made many mistakes, and I want to be a better version of myself this year for my new class.

So I am going against my nature and getting organised. I am a typical Virgo (even though I don’t believe in this stuff) but I thrive in an organised environment, and find mess stressful to be around. I have also classic Libra tendencies, and am attracted to balance…..a balance of stacks of paper teetering on the edge of my desk.

To tell you the truth I have been spending a lot of time this summer working on the systems I need to be seamlessly organised and efficient this year. I have told everyone within earshot that I am ‘turning over a new leaf’ in the hopes that the potential shame of not doing so will keep me on the straight and narrow.

I’ve seen many memes over the break about how teachers dread the return of the school year. While I can’t admit that I’m looking forward to the long hours again, I can’t deny that my overriding feelings towards the new school year are ones of excitement!

New year, new me!

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Classroom Expectations

I’m all for setting up a positive learning environment. Not only does it help the students to feel safe and prepared for getting outside their comfort zones, it also helps me to enjoy the teaching process much more.

I’m going into the 2015/16 Academic year with just four rules or expectations I have of my students’ behaviour.

Classroom Expectations - The Creative Teacher Project

Now, in keeping with these rules, I confess I can’t take total responsibility for these – I saw them on Mrs Wilson’s Frog-Tastic Website! She’s a very experienced Year 4 teacher from the US, who has posted loads of resources that I’ve found helpful in planning this year.

What I particularly liked about these expectations is that they’re so easily linked to, when behavioural or other issues inevitably crop up. Forgot to tuck in your chair and someone tripped? Number 2 and 4 – be safe and take responsibility. Chatting while I’m giving instructions? Remember number 1 – Be respectful!

These expectations aren’t just for my students. They’re for me as well, and I hope my students hold me accountable! I always strive to treat my students with respect and ensure their safety. I take responsibility by planning my lessons thoroughly and that in itself is hard work!

We shall see how these take shape over the coming year. I’ll report back and let you know. Do you have any classroom or home expectations that you’ve discussed with kids? I’d love to know about it in the comments if so!


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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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Learning Difficulties and Disabilities

One of my core units this semester is Teaching in Diverse Australian Schools, which I thought sounded absolutely fantastic – but then again, I’m into that sort of thing! We have only had two lectures so far, but today’s was really incredible. Dr Lorraine Hammond came in and gave a really fantastic lecture on students with learning difficulties and those with disabilities, and gave us some core definitions to help us try and distinguish between the two.

Learning difficulties: refers to students who experience significant difficulties in learning and making progress in school, but who do not have a documented disability such as an intellectual disability. Graham, L., & Bailey, J. (2007). Learning disabilities and difficulties: an Australian conspectus ‐ introduction to the special series. Journal of Learning Disabilities. 40 (5), 386‐391.

Learning disabilities: a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.

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Have you ever had a lecture where you are just completely fascinated by what they have to say? Where they know their content and their presentation so well that everything just flows? It was like that. I was absolutely captivated by the topic – one which I have to say has really scared me in the past. I always imagined swindling my teaching load somehow so that I would only ever have to teach extremely talented, high achieving kids with a passion for drama.

Don’t laugh – I was imagining best case scenario! The further I come along with studying education the more I begin to realise how silly that fantasy was. Not just how separate it was from reality, but I have come to realise that I am actually looking forward to teaching disengaged kids, or students who have a hard time learning.

Something Dr Hammond said really struck a chord with me – in a classroom, the squeaky wheel needs the oil. But they don’t always get it. A significant amount of misbehaviour will occur because the students aren’t coping with the work or have some difficulty paying attention. To paraphrase the lecture, in a typical primary school classroom, 20 – 30% of students will need systematic, explicit and supportive instruction with intensive opportunities to learn. 30 percent! That’s huge. There is no way I currently have the skills to address those needs. I am just beginning to realise how vital it is that I get them!

I’ve said this before, but I truly believe that I am lucky to have drama as my content area – it’s a chance for kids to get up out of their seats and do some kinaesthetic learning, to muck around (a bit) and to approach learning in non-traditional ways. Our curriculum encourages it! That is absolutely wonderful in my book. While I’m upskilling in that area, it’s also key to remember how many other skills I will need to develop over time to be a truly creative (and effective!) teacher.

Some resources care of Dr Hammond which you may find useful if you’re interested in further research of learning difficulties and disabilities:

The Dyslexia Speld Foundation – WA based

AUSPELD – Australia wide foundation

Speech Pathology Australia

Learning Difficulties Online

Have a good one

Sam


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Pro…..crastin….ation

How do you get past it?

The scene of my current crimes of procrastination

The scene of my current crimes of procrastination

 

Over the break I settled into a lovely routine of notdoingverymuchthankyou and I have to say I quite enjoyed it. Now I’m back in the real world, I’ve got to get with the program and actually start working to achieve the diploma! Shocking, I know. I have found myself staring blankly at my readings for ten  minutes, scanning the same paragraph over and over again, and I find myself wondering why? It’s not that I don’t find the content interesting – quite the opposite in fact! Is it something to do with commitment? If I actually start reading now, does this mean that I am accepting that I need to commit to the torrent of work that is heading my way this semester? Please say no.

I often wonder if my behaviour is unique. Instinct says no, but one glance around my lecture this morning terrified me – I am surrounded by competent people! Surely they don’t faff around just like me? Who knows.

My technique currently is putting things off for a while, but then knuckling down and just getting on and doing it. I’d love to spring out of bed every morning and be enthusiastic about work, but right now, I guess that’s just not my reality. What about you? Do you struggle with procrastination? I’d be grateful to hear of anyone else’s strategies for overcoming it!


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My First Ever Link Pack!

Here’s my sweep of things I found interesting on the internet this week. These aren’t all education based, but they are all linked to creativity, so I think have their place here.

I’ve enjoyed trawling through the archives on Karla’s blog, the Drama Teacher’s Network, which has some great warmups and other resources for drama teachers. I can see myself using this a lot over the next year or so! Thanks Karla.

Rochelle over at Lucky Lucille is one of my favourite sewing bloggers (not-so-secretly, I love to sew!), but her recent post about overcommitting and too much enthusiasm really struck a chord with me. My last year in the UK, balancing a demanding job with the many creative projects I had on the side was just madness, and because I’d said ‘yes’ to so many things, I ended up letting many people down. Rochelle’s post reminded me to pause, and think hard about what extra activities I commit to.

I’ve also been poking around Share My Lesson  this week, a website where teachers from all over the world can upload their lesson plans, presentations and assessments. While I don’t think  I would lift an entire lesson from there, I can see this is a great way to inspire my own planning.

This one may not be news to any of you, but if you’re looking to do some basic photo editing, and don’t want to stump up for Photoshop straight from the get-go, I’ve had some great success with Pixlr this week. I’m using it as a way to teach myself some skills, before I commit financially to Photoshop.

I hope you find some of these links interesting! Please let your own recommendations fly forth. Have a great weekend everyone.