The Creative Teacher Project

An NQT Bringing Creativity to the Classroom


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So I Guess I’m a Primary Teacher Now?

School Newspaper - The Creative Teacher Project

We’re well and truly in the business end of the school year. Term 6 is well under way and I have but 3 and a half weeks left of this academic year. It seemed as good a time as any to reflect on my first year of Primary Teaching. What a year it has been!

  • I have worked an average of 60 hours a week all year.
  • I have got tendonitis in my elbow from too much marking.
  • I have become, rather sadly, entirely dependent on caffeine.

On the plus side, I have also:

  • Taught, quite literally, the loveliest class on Earth. I could not have made it this far without them.
  • Become far and away a better teacher in the last 6 months than in the previous two years.
  • Discovered a new talent of staple gun wielding.
  • Developed a signature ‘Teacher’ look. You know the one. It’s the ‘I-am-not-impressed-right-now’ look. Easily confused with the ‘I’ll-just-wait-here-until-you’re-all-ready-don’t-mind-me-it’s-your-time-you’re-wasting’ look.

I am going to really admit something. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Drama teaching is challenging, extremely challenging in fact, especially when you’re trying to manage and engage 30-odd 14 year olds. But I really had no idea of the rigour required of Primary teachers. The day in, day out grind of their huge workload.

I am just at the beginning of my career. I by no means have the whole ‘teaching’ thing down pat. But I do know this – I have never felt more engaged, more inspired, or more excited by a job that I am by teaching. No job I have tried yet has a better combination of what interests me, what is expected of me, and what I get paid (I am used to working in the arts, so yes, a teacher’s salary is amazing compared to that!).

But….there is still so far to go. I still sometimes struggle to get in all the feedback I want to. I don’t feel like I’ve yet discovered how to delve deeply enough into a topic in a short space of time. It’s still not perfect – but I’m still learning. I’ll always be learning, and perhaps that’s the best part of it all.

I’ve just signed up for the 12 month productivity course The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. I’ve spoken about Angela Watson before, and honestly, her Monday morning podcasts have been the thing that has got me through the more challenging parts of my first year as a primary teacher. I’m ready to commit to changing the way I work, in order to improve my workload, and student outcomes. It should be really interesting. It should also be fun!

I’m looking forward to it, which probably says it all about how I feel about being a primary teacher! I’ve well and truly gone over to the dark side….


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In Praise of: Systems

Marking - The Creative Teacher Project

I had an observation not too long ago, and some of the feedback I received was that I need better systems for keeping on top of my marking. I like to think (in fact I hope and pray) that I am not alone here! Sometimes the hardest thing about feedback is it has the tendency to be absolute spot on. #Ouch.

As we headed into the last few weeks of term, I was determined to make some changes if only to make my own life easier! My headteacher has often said that to be a teacher is to feel guilty – while true, it’s not a state I want to encourage!

So last week I made a commitment to myself, and therefore to my class that I would up the ante in the marking department, and I am happy to report that every single student had at least one developmental comment last week.

I used every darn moment I had spare to mark, but a moment spent at school is one I have free at home. Win/win.

Now that I’ve found a system I am determined to stick to it, and furthermore to find even more hot tips to help me have more time to teach and more unadulterated time with my family.

Any suggestions?


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Te@cher Toolkit, by Ross Morrison McGill: First Thoughts

Teacher Toolkit - The Creative Teacher Project

Image credit to teacheretoolkit.me

I’ve worked out that at about week 3 of each term this year, I tend to have a little ‘I can’t do this, I’ve made a terrible decision’ freakout. I’m told it’s quite common. By week 4, I’m slowly recovering, and by week 5 I am feeling pretty amazing about this job of mine once again. With this being a 6 week term, the freakout forecast predicts a possible meltdown in week 2…..not good!

One of the things that gets me feeling good again in week 4, is going on a little Amazon binge (although I do try not to shop on Amazon for various reasons). I tend to find some good resources, and occasionally a little teacher help book. It was a few weeks ago now that I realised one of the teachers I follow on Twitter had written the above book.

I’m not going to lie – this baby was in my shopping basket the moment I read the strapline “Helping you survive your first five years”. This looks like the book I never knew I always needed.

Written by Ross Morrison McGill (the most followed teacher on Twitter), it seems to be a collection of general advice, mixed in with practical tips and suggestions of things that have worked for him. I find that I really enjoy his writing style, and his voice comes through strongly.

I’ve already got some ideas brewing about what strategies I might implement this term, and I’m sure they will become even clearer by the time I finish reading the whole book. I plan to report back once it’s finished, but so far – so good!

~

On another note – thanks for the great year guys, hope you see 2016 in with style!

Here’s to bigger and better teaching and learning in the New Year.


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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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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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What Happened to Creativity?

On Monday evening, far later than I should have been, I was scrolling through some teaching related tweets. I tweeted about a new post of mine, checked out the #dramaed hashtag, and contemplated letting another Drama teacher know how much I love her blog (I totally chickened out on that one). I felt a bit smug for about 30 seconds, congratulating myself on how well I am doing this whole blogging thing.

Then I switched tabs and caught a view of my latest post. Right up the top, in turquoise letters on my favourite yellow chevron header, was the wake up call I didn’t know was heading my way. The Creative Teacher Project. My blog, about bringing creativity to the classroom. That isn’t what this blog has been recently, instead it’s something more along the lines of Confessions of a Student Teacher.

Although when I created this blog I wanted it to be a place for student teachers to come and find information they weren’t getting at university, I really wanted it to be a place where I discussed and dissected the creative practice of teaching. I missed being creative daily in my last role, and teaching was the path I chose to take instead. But I’ve realised I’m not sharing that creative journey here. 

So I’m going to have a little think about how I can work creativity in here a little more. I mean, it’s my name! I simply have to! But before I do that, I’m going to let myself come to grips with this whole teaching concept first, and I hope you bear with me. Can I become a better, more creative teacher at the same time as I actually become a teacher to begin with? I don’t know.

Shall we find out together?


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Introducing Mrs Tolliver…

Take a look at this clip if you get the chance. Mrs Tolliver is a Maths and Communication Arts teacher in the Bronx, New York City. Firstly, why don’t we get to study Communication Arts in Australia? Sounds brilliant! The clip is a little long, just over half an hour, but if you have the time, please do take a look and check out the techniques she uses to get her class interested and stay interested!

We saw this today in my Classroom Management tutorial. We were focussing ton our ‘anticipatory sets’ as described by Madeline Hunter, whereby we whet the appetites of our class, and introduce the topic and objective of that lesson. This clip was shown as the teacher, the inimitable Mrs Tolliver, uses such a range of techniques to draw out this excitement to learn from her students. You can tell just by the way they speak about her that they love her classes!

My head says you don’t start out day one being a teacher like this. My head says only experienced teachers can get away with this, you know, the one’s that aren’t afraid of student riots  in their class, and the ones that know how to handle kids. But my head says, “wouldn’t it be great if I could use some of this on prac?”. We shall see…