This made me laugh. Taken at a recent rehearsal for Avenue Q! So spoilt, I know.
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!
Back to reality for me! After finishing my practicum, I had four glorious weeks of holiday, three of which were spent back in the UK with my lovely chap…..who is now my lovely fiance! Colour me delighted. While I knew (hoped) that marriage was on the cards for us at some point in the future, I had no idea it was coming at the time! It was a lovely, private proposal in the lounge room of the house we have both lovingly made our home.
This is us in Canterbury, UK last year, just so you can have a little snoop!
So, now that the terribly exciting brand new news is out of the way, we can get straight back on to the real work here. This semester is the final part of my Graduate Diploma in secondary teaching. It’s so exciting, I can almost feel my new class out there somewhere, but also reality is hitting home. Not quite sure I feel ready to be responsible for little minds, and even more so for some people’s entire approach to the arts! Too late now to be scared I guess…
This semester my core units are on Diversity in Australian Schools (which I assume will be in most part applicable to diversity in international schools!) and Becoming an Exemplary Teacher. Both units I understand have gone through a sizeable overhaul since the last time they ran at Edith Cowan University, and so I feel confident that these will be as up to date as possible on the current school climates. Yesterday’s class looked at what it meant to be exemplary, and how some practitioners believe that the vast majority of teachers are ‘socialised to mediocrity’ (Barrie Bennett). So what can we do to supersede this and excel personally and professionally in our jobs? I am really interested to find out, and will be striving to keep this blog regularly updated with my findings.
A little further on that note, I must say that I’ve found it so useful already to look at what resources are online for pre-service teachers, connecting online with other educators. I had a really interesting practicum experience, and so if anybody is reading this would like to discuss their experience or would like some prac tips, I’d be happy to get together and chat about it – you can also shoot an email over to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastly – Black Swan State Theatre Company in Western Australia have a great pre-service teacher scheme at the moment, offering 2 free tickets to some of their performances for soon-to-be drama teachers, to encourage them to continue to go to the theatre with their classes. I’ve signed up and I’ve heard there are a few more memberships available, so if you’re keen, let them know.
It’s great to be back!
Image Source – a dance concert at my old school!
Heading into a school to teach Drama this year has really stretched me. It’s been a great kind of stretch – the professional equivalent of restarting a yoga habit long since abandoned. My grasp of the content of a modern drama course is a little looser than I would like, but immersion is doing wonderful things – I find myself reading drama textbooks in bed, and looking forward to a rare free hour to read Beckett plays. I’m enjoying the ache of reusing old muscles.
A long, long time ago, however, in a galaxy that seems very far away, I used to be quite the little dancer. I managed to keep dancing even after puberty happened, and then when adolescence happened I found a dance teacher to whom I became absolutely devoted. The high pony-tailed wonder woman that was Mrs Stewart, the holistic dance teacher at my college. I adored her, and would have done anything for Mrs Stewart, but sadly, they didn’t offer TEE dance at my school, and so by year 11 and 12, my dancing was starting to slowly tail off.
It was a bit of a shock to find that even after a ten year absence, the only minor I was able to select for my Dip Ed was dance! To say that I was slightly….anxious about it was a bit of an understatement. The last time I attended regular dance classes was when Shakira was big in the charts. For real! I’ve struggled with the reality of it, but I guess that’s just it – the reality is that I will be a dance teacher. It’s a brain stretch that doesn’t feel quite so nice.
I am tremendously out of my comfort zone here. I am having to work hard to get my head around the content, and (something even more difficult) get my confidence up to a point where I’m not scared of a 13 year old saying “In my dance class we don’t do it like that…..”. I’ve decided to head back to dance classes myself – partly so that I can be the best darn dance teacher I can be (despite my initial reluctance), but maybe also a tiny to see whether dance is still a part of me. I have a feeling it might be, no matter how much of a stretch it is!
My very first drama lesson happened – a momentous occasion!
It was a lovely and actually quite talented Year 8 class, with whom I’ll be covering improvisation. The lesson went…..okay. I was nervous, and although I feel like I covered the nerves relatively well, my face was definitely a little red for most of the class! The warm-up did not start well. I chose The Clapping Circle (seen on The Drama Teacher’s Network), and not only did they not really get the concept, they thought it was boring and hurt their knees kneeling down! Sometimes you just can’t win. So I definitely didn’t pitch my warmup very well! I guess it happens…
The main exercises of the class were learning to accept offers, and then trying to block and offer, but provide an alternative and keep the improv moving along. They absolutely whizzed through the material, and I felt that I hadn’t planned enough. I then chucked in 3 rounds of Fortunately/Unfortunately to make up the time! They were hesitant, but eventually got into it, thank god!
Looking back though, I think I was more in control than I (and possibly some of the students) realised at the time! I felt as though I knew what I was doing, although my weakness was definitely not knowing how long certain tasks would take. I have a feeling I will become married to the clock in the drama room; by keeping a close eye on the time, I should be able to extend or shorten activities as necessary. I raced a bit this time, and as a result, felt a little bit stranded towards the end!
In a way, teaching drama to teenagers is not unlike being an actor myself. The lesson planning and preparation beforehand are akin to learning my lines; developing my character is working out what sort of classroom manager I will be: strict or permissive or some inexplicable combination of the two! Lastly, taking the actual lesson is like one bug improvisation in front of an audience. I’ve got to be flexible with whatever happens on stage, otherwise I’ll falter! The audience (depending on your class, I suppose), will either be alert, receptive and want to see you succeed with a great lesson, or they will want to see you crash and burn so that they can have fun with the wreckage. Sometimes those improv crowds are brutal 🙂
I’m happy to say that the class was mostly the former – they do want to learn, but they also want to test me to see how much they can get away with…in that respect I suspect I am more permissive than I should be!
So. Today we were introduced to programming a term of drama classes. I’d discussed programming in another of my uni classes, but we hadn’t gone into too much detail. In view of this, and of the fact that I feel overwhelmed choosing content for one lesson, the thought of choosing a whole term’s lessons was (is?)really daunting.
My drama tutor, C, is the loveliest woman I have ever had the privilege of working with, and she just has that air of calm competence, that I hope comes to me over time. She knows exactly what she’s talking about, and her lesson made me think of three key things to keep in mind when programming. So here goes:
- Don’t forget the Sports Carnival – for Pete’s sake, do not forget the bloomin’ sports carnival. Same goes for swimming carnivals, excursions, rally days, and oh yeah, the three bank holidays that fall in term three. Get a wall planner and circle those babies in red marker. Know how much real teaching time you have to play with. There’s nothing worse (I’m told) then planning an assessment, only to be told the week before by a precocious student that no one will be at school that day.
- Know what and when you’re assessing – Whilst you might not immediately know the ins and outs of the assessments you have planned, it’s likely that you will have at least one performance assessment each term. Don’t put this in the last week of term, because you know (you just know, okay?) that those students who struggle with getting their assessments in on time won’t be there for the last week. One, or maybe even two weeks before is a good time to assess, especially if you have reports to complete. Throw in a couple of lesson reflections as well. Students hate doing journals (I speak from experience), and in lower class you can get away with only a couple of formal reflections each term. Lastly, if you’re able to, speak to other learning areas to see when their big assessments are scheduled. You will be really helping your students if you avoid piling them high with assessments at the exact same time that Maths and English are.
- Refer back to your Scope and Sequence documents – this may be very new to some, and I believe these documents are coming in with the new changes to the curriculum in 2015. These scope and sequence documents take the topics from the outline, and give brief but effective examples of what sort of activity you can do, to ensure you’re meeting the required content. You can take a look at the ACARA review of the Australian Curriculum here. These scope and sequence documents gave me more ‘aha!’ moments, and took away some of that anxiety about “I know what I need to teach, but what do I actually do in class to teach them!” They were a nice little springboard for me to focus my research on the content areas.
Also, I was given a hot tip: bribe your students with the promise of a mini class party on the last lesson of term. That way they’ll make sure they’re there. No one wants to miss out on free cakes, and as C said, we can dose them up on chips and coke and send them off to Maths high as kites. Thus ensuring our long-lasting popularity with certain other staff members. (This is a joke PS. I don’t really recommend you do that).
So all in all, I think it was a really useful lesson. Obviously there is a mountain of things I still don’t know about programming, and things I will never learn without repeatedly doing it and getting it wrong! But I found the class so helpful, and that panic about actually being responsible for students’ learning was quelled, just a little.
I’d love to hear about anyone else’s experience of programming – especially for the first time!
Thanks for stopping in. My name is Sam and I’m currently splitting my time between Perth, Western Australia and Kent, UK. In March this year, I started my initial teacher training course. I have a Bachelor of Contemporary Arts, majoring in Performance, and will be a qualified Drama teacher later this year, once my Graduate Diploma has been completed!
It’s all very exciting, and that’s part of the reason I wanted to start this blog. I really love hearing the stories of teachers online, and there is a wealth of information and experience out there in the online education community. The voices I’ve missed, however, are from those emerging teachers who are like me! I’m ready to get stuck in and get my grubby hands on a class of teenagers, but the process of learning how to teach has been overwhelming at times. Learning how to plan a lesson, how to program a syllabus and how, exactly, I am supposed to deal with a stroppy teen who won’t listen to anything I say, is some pretty hard graft. I salute all those who have come before me!
Daily creativity is important to me. So important in fact, that I left my job in finance to start all over again, in a brand new career. Terrifying, yes, but not quite so terrifying as spending the rest of my life in a job where I felt unfulfilled. My content area will allow me to structure lessons in a totally different way to many teachers, but fundamentally I believe that it is possible to keep creativity at the core of any lesson, and almost any class. This is my project: to keep creativity at the heart of my teaching. To be a creative teacher, in what ever format that might be.
So here we are, friends, and let’s get stuck in!