The Creative Teacher Project

An NQT Bringing Creativity to the Classroom


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Monday Provocation #6

We Learn By Teaching The Creative Teacher Project

Never was this more true than when I when I was a relief teacher for Year 5 maths! Woah Nelly.

 

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New Job Nerves

New Job Nerves The Creative Teacher Project

It’s the tail end of the Easter break, and I have just over a week before I start to teach (for REAL) at my new school.

To be completely honest, the last month or so has been a total roller coaster of emotions, ranging from dancing-down-the-street-with-a-huge-smile happy, to 3am-wake-up-I-don’t-think-I-can-do-this. Right now I feel like I’ve settled into a relatively calm excited-but-a-little-nervous. I can work with that.

I’ve found myself in a reflective mood, and I’ve got to thinking about my time in secondary school. Some of my new students will be gearing up for their exams not long after I start, and I can so clearly remember the emotions of that time. They’re pretty much exactly how I’m feeling now. Change is scary.

New challenges are on the horizon, and if I take a deep breath, relax, and use the time I have to get so organised that I barely recognise myself, then I’ll be fine.On the off chance that any of you out there are about to take exams, I gently recommend you do the same.

Remember – one day, when you’re older and greyer, you’ll look back at this time and think “Hey I’ve done this before, I can do it again”. So let’s do it, bigger and better than ever.

Wish me luck!


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5 Tips for Your First Teaching Interview

5 Tips For Interviews - The Creative Teacher Project

 

I am chuffed to bits to tell you that I have just secured my *first ever* drama teaching job. Hoorah! Delighted dancing around my study (above) occurred, let me tell you.

Most of you will be aware that I trained as a teacher in Australia, but almost immediately after graduating I moved over to the UK to be with my fiancé. This in itself was not a problem, however it added a little niggling feeling of “uh-oh, I don’t know how to do this” to the job application process. I went through some agencies to get work, but at the end of the day, it was still up to me to pull the goods out of the bag.

I thought I would share some tips that helped me prepare and attend my first ever teaching interview. There are so many interview guides out there, as I’m sure you’re aware, but these are 5 things I kept in mind, as a newly qualified teacher.

1. Get in contact with the school

Even though my recruitment agency set up the interview, I emailed the contact I was given, to introduce myself and to ask the world’s most general question – “is there anything I should bring with me?”. It might not be strictly necessary to do this to get the job, but the contact said – quote – it was “very thoughtful” and it paved the way for me to drop a couple more emails through in the coming days when more specific questions came up.

2. Practise Your Interview with Someone Friendly

This tip goes hand in hand with another tip: read the school’s Ofsted report. Just do it. That way, when your friend asks you why you want to work at the school, you can weave “well I read in your latest Ofsted report that the students here feel they can easily come to teachers when they need help, and that’s the kind of environment I want to work in” into your answer. Note: this question didn’t actually come up in my interview, but it was on the tip of my tongue, ready to go if it did. Practising my interview  made me articulate why I thought I was right for the role, which meant I had some familiar responses already in my brain by the time the real thing came around.

3. Check Your Route to the School, Then Check it Again

The timing of my interview meant I didn’t have time to do a practise run to the school, but if I could have, I would have! I had to take the train, so I made sure I got the earlier train just in case Southeastern were having an off day. There is nothing worse than knowing you’re making a bad impression, even when it’s not strictly your fault. I Google Mapped my route on two different devices, then took a screenshot on my phone, in case my internet cut out. Luckily on the day, there was a hoard of students on the train with me, so I just followed them!

4. Plan Two More Activities Than You Need

In contrast to Australian schools, UK schools require you to teach an observed 30 minute lesson. In drama, in fact in most lessons, 30 minutes can whizz by without you realising, so I had to be super on the ball with my timings. To combat my nerves about this, I had a couple of extra activities and drama games up my sleeve that were specific and relevant to my topic (Melodrama), in case it all went to hell. Doing this made me feel confident that a) I could pull the lesson back from the brink if I needed to by swapping in and out some activities and b) there were a few different opportunities for my students to have some fun.

5. Remember – They Want You To Succeed

The first time I heard this, it was really a revelation. How powerful is it to realise that they’re actually sitting there, watching & judging you, and wishing you the best? That they want  you to be the right person for the job. It totally changed my outlook on interviews. Instead of it being me vs The Big Scary School, it was more of a structured get-to-know-you session, where I could demonstrate a skill set I was confident of. Reminding myself of this throughout the morning made it easier to make some jokes, let my true personality shine through (uh-oh) and have a relatively relaxed chat with the other candidate. It didn’t totally take away the nerves, but it let me realise that the school wasn’t trying to catch me out. They were on my side.

~

I hope you find these tips useful! If you have any other teaching interview tips that you would like to share, please let me know in the comments. Also: if you’ve just got a new job, join the party here and say so! I will woot woot on your behalf!


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The National Theatre Drama Teacher’s Conference 2015: Day Two Recap

Creative Teacher Project - NT Drama Conference 1
Creative Teacher Project - NT Drama Conference 2
Creative Teacher Project - NT Drama Conference 3
Creative Teacher Project - NT Drama Conference 4

Creative Teacher Project - NT Drama Conference 5

That’s Leonard (the puppet) and I!

 

My brain was more prepared on Day 2 and I remembered to take some pictures of my sessions! Well, one of them at least!

I was supposed to be taking a session on using the NT Archive on day 2, but it was undersubscribed. Luckily, I got to sneak into the puppetry session led by Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié of the newly formed Gyre and Gimble, who worked on Warhorse (!!!!). We were taken through some of their previous works, which was distinctly mind-blowing. They also worked on The Light Princess, a musical by Tori Amos. Incidentally I was lucky enough to be at the performance of The Light Princess on the NT’s 50th Anniversary – whoop! The puppetry in that production was truly amazing, so I was thrilled to be able to hear more about behind the scenes from Caldwell and Olié.

We were then allowed to get our hands dirty, proverbially speaking. They presented us with a drama teacher’s dream – a whole roll of brown paper! It doesn’t take much when you’ve got a room full of people with amazing imaginations. They took us through a basic puppetry making workshop, focussing on the three things that make puppets come alive:

  • Breath
  • Focus/eyeline
  • Weight

We separated into groups and made our puppets, then improvised a scene where we focussed on one of the above. It was excellent fun.

I’ve worked in puppetry a bit before, and was privileged to be taught by Philip Mitchell of Spare Parts Puppet Theatre in Western Australia. Having said that, it has been years since I have properly invested time in it, and I had become so rusty, that I truthfully would have avoided puppetry in my classes. So this workshop was an excellent reminder for me of the fundamentals. I found it really sparked my imagination, and I felt immediately that lots of slightly buried information was coming back to me, along with a spot of confidence. A really worthwhile couple of hours!

The second and final masterclass of the day was a voice workshop, facilitated by NT head of voice Jeanette Nelson. She used some young actors from the current NT Production of Dara to demonstrate a series of exercises we could use in class when helping our students with vocal technique. This was exactly the sort of thing I had come to the NT hoping to participate in. It was pitched perfectly, and Nelson’s knowledge of the mechanics of our voice was second to none. It was really incredible to be able to participate in a lesson taught, not only by the best in the area, nor the country, but someone who is at the top of her field in the world. Truly amazing!

My only reflection on the voice session was that it would have been great to have a handout. Like the puppetry workshop, I have done a lot of vocal work before, but I’d be the first to admit that I haven’t practiced any of it in at least 5 years, so anything I can take away with me to refresh my brain is much appreciated.

After the class, we had a debrief about the two days and what we wanted to see more of from the NT in the future. I was glad to be able to say thank you to the team that organised the conference, as I cam away more invigorated by my new profession than I have been for a long time. It was two days well spent, in my opinion, and I will be glad to attend future events!

If you attended the NT Conference I would be so glad to hear from you – even if we disagree! Please make yourself known in the comments.


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The National Theatre Drama Teacher’s Conference 2015: Day One Recap

The Creative Teacher Project: The National Theatre

Image Source: The National Theatre

I was lucky enough to spend Thursday and Friday last week attending the inaugural Drama Teacher’s Conference at the National Theatre in London. You may have seen me mention this once of twice on the blog before, but the NT truly is one of my favourite London attractions, not only as a teacher, but as an arts and theatre lover. Their £5 tickets for the under-26 was an amazing offer of which I took full advantage for many years!

Details of the conference were brought to my attention by the wonderful Karla of The Drama Teacher’s Network – a fabulous drama blog, that I encourage you to start reading immediately if you do not already. Karla had been contacted by the NT with a special offer, and so I found myself lucky again, and was able to attend the conference at a reduced rate. Woohoo! So far so good.

I arrived early at the NT on Thursday, to be greeted by Andy Pritchard, who works in Education and Learning at the NT, and possibly the *best* delegate pack I have ever had the fortune to be allocated! Seriously, the packs were so thoughtfully created – water, a notebook, a pencil and pen, as well as outlines for the two days and our schedules stuck on the front. Boom. It’s a great way of making your delegates feel welcome and prepared to learn.

There were so many sessions I would have loved to attend, but as I was a late registration many of them were fully booked! My sessions on Day 1 were on the following:

  • Theatre Design with Tom Scutt
  • Reviewing Live Theatre with Kate Basset and Catherine Love
  • Panel Discussion: Careers

On the whole, I found the careers session the most valuable. While I found Tom Scutt’s work and the discussions with Kate and Catherine fascinating, there was also a bit of disconnect between what they do in the industry, and what we’re required to do in classrooms. It was in that respect that I could tell this was the first conference the NT had run – these sessions weren’t exactly tailored to what I need as a teacher, and as such I wasn’t able to come away with them with new ideas to implement immediately, although I enjoyed them immensely!

The careers session was absolutely wonderful, in a slightly angry way, which I know is confusing! We had a panel between the Head of Production, the Head of Apprenticeships and Head of Marketing all at the NT. Their main advice was to tell our students to get out there and do as much theatre work (even for free) as they can, if they want a career in the arts. It was actually helpful to know that this is still what most industry professionals are giving as advice; but frustrating because telling our students (and their parents) that they need to slog it out for next to no pay for 10 years doesn’t help us legitimise the arts as a profession. I came away from the session, however, feeling invigorated by the work ahead; it became clear that there is a real need for a stronger partnership between educators and professionals to create stronger pathways into the arts for all young people, not just those at either end of the socio-economic scales.

To tell you the truth, I was absolutely exhausted by the end of the first day, but I was really excited to return on Friday for more workshops. I feel so lucky to be a train ride away from such a wonderful resource: this sort of event is part of my answer when people ask me why I moved to rainy Britain!


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Back in the Saddle

It’s been a while, no? About a month ago, I went from this:

Australia - The Creative Teacher Project

To this:

England - The Creative Teacher Project

 

Hot summer’s days in Perth to a rather more frosty atmosphere in Kent, England. I’m currently waiting for some last minute paperwork to come through before I can start teaching, so there’s not much to report!

Apart from the fact that tomorrow, I will be attending the National Theatre’s Drama Teacher Conference in London, something I am extremely excited about. I’ve got a couple of sessions booked in, and I’m hoping to meet some friendly faces, learn about theatre and teaching drama in a British context, and have a whole lotta fun!

Many thanks got to Karla at the Drama Teacher’s Network, who brought the conference to my attention on her wonderful blog! I’ll be tweeting throughout the day on @createteachproj, so please check in with me there.

Hope you have all had a great start to 2015, and that your school year is progressing well!


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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