The Creative Teacher Project

An NQT Bringing Creativity to the Classroom


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7 Tips for Returning to Teaching After Maternity Leave

Returning to Teaching After Maternity Leave - The Creative Teacher Project

Hello, dear friends! It has been quite some time since I last posted. You may have guessed by this post’s title, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, but rather I’ve been spending the last seven months raising my beautiful baby boy, Eamon. I have utterly adored my time out of teaching (heck, my career is based about taking care of kids, so having my own is wonderful!), but these precious months together are drawing to a close, and I am now preparing for my return to work.

I was feeling a little burnt out after my last year of teaching, having been through my first OFSTED and spending most of my second year in Primary pregnant. Yet while my responsibilities have never been as great as they are now, I am really feeling excited about getting back in the classroom. Apprehensive, yes, but motivated as well.

In order to allay some of my worries about going back to work, I’ve reached out to a couple of teacher groups I am a part of for some advice – I asked what their top tips would be when returning to work. I thought I’d set out a few of the ones that felt right for me, and then in a few months come back and update you with the ones that really made a difference.

Get Prepared the Night Before

Obvious perhaps, but I have a feeling this will be my saviour. From nursery bags, to clothes and breakfast/lunches, set them all out the night before and then you can whip round in the morning without the mental burden of trying to remember anything.

The 10 Minute Alarm Trick

I love this tip. Set yourself 3 alarms, each ten minutes apart. The first 10 are for dossing about on your phone, checking whether the world has blown up and your favourite Insta stories (or whatever floats your boat!). The second 10 are to get yourself dressed (in the clothes you handily laid out the night before), makeup, brushing your teeth and general getting ready. The final 10 are for changing and dressing your baby. Then you put your breakfast in your bag, check you have your car, house and school keys and off you go! Personally, I’d prefer to get up a bit earlier so that I have a more leisurely start to the day, and let’s be honest, my son rises at 5:50am without fail, so a lie in is a foreign concept to me these days. But the principle is the same. Don’t rely on your innate sense of time in the mornings. Get an alarm to shriek you into submission.

The Slow Cooker is Your Friend

This came up a lot – batch cook and use the slow cooker! Someone also said ‘beans on toast on Wednesdays and fish and chip Fridays’. This is something I can definitely get on board with.

Finish on a Thursday

I’m only going to be working four days a week, but I really like the concept of this tip. Essentially, plan your week so that major tasks are finished before Friday, so that you can minimise marking before the weekend. Use your Fridays to repeat certain concepts, address misconceptions and have short activities that perhaps don’t need onerous recording methods or much marking!

Be Organised – ha ha ha…

If I am entirely honest, I am naturally a planner, but not necessarily a follow-througher. I have the best of intentions to be an organised person, and I usually start out well, but often fade out into disarray before the term is over. But this is no longer really an option for me if I want to stay this side of sane. My favourite class organisation tips were to try and get your planning done a week in advance (with wiggle room to adjust to your class – they may move more slowly or quickly!) so that if you need to take care of a poorly child your lessons can be easily covered. Another tip from an American teacher was to have a couple of standalone absence plans completed, for exactly the same reasons!

Assess as You Go

Mark books in the sessions where you are able to, update targets as you go and use your lunchtime to mark. I am guilty of the lunch time race around the photocopier more often than I would like, so this is going to have to be a bit of a mindset change for me, to ensure my afternoon sessions are set up in the mornings.

Done is Better than Perfect

The workload will always be there. Choose a leaving time and stick to it. Wise words from women who have been here before me. If you’re anything like me, you like things to look good as well as work well, and frankly, it’s something we get asked to work on! But I’m going to relax my standards, and pour my time and energy into getting it done. Then I am out the door to pick up my baby.

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So there you have it, seven tips I’ve had from teachers who have gone back to the classroom after maternity leave. I’ve got a couple of months yet before I cross the threshold again, but I’ll head back here once I’ve got my head in the game and let you know which tips were the most helpful!

Have you returned to teaching after maternity leave? What tips would you like to share?

 

 

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The Creative Teacher Book Club :: Tudors :: Under the Rose by Alan Childs

My cUnder the Rose - The Creative Teacher Projectlass has studied the Tudors for terms 5 and 6 this year, and the text we have used is Under the Rose: A Tudor Spy Story by Alan Childs. This is a descriptive account of the adventures of Crispin, a young baker’s apprentice who gets swept up in an Elizabethan murder plot.

First things first, this is a book from what I believe to be quite a small publishing house. Alan Childs appears to have written a few novels, linking to the old curriculum, as well as many non-fiction historical texts. It’s a little bit old-school, in terms of the setting out of the book, but is accompanied by some excellent illustrations.

The illustrations proved rich fodder for GPAS work, giving my students opportunities to create expanded noun phrases to describe what they saw.

As it is a spy story, the plot is filled with suspense, which I also found useful in developing the class’s prediction skills – they were desperate to know what happened next and had so many ideas!

I found that it was also incredibly useful for vocabulary work. There are many Tudor terms used in the book, and we had a couple of great sessions finding out what they meant, for example a scrivener, doublet and livery. This allowed us to come up with a working wall filled with words to include in our writing, and the class had a sense of ownership, as they’d discovered the meaning themselves, and had immediately seen in used in the context of the story.

My Google detective work has suggested that there may be a teacher’s pack to accompany this book, which I would love to find, however it appears to have been published in the 90s, so my searching so far has proved fruitless. If anyone out there can point me in the direction of it – I would be heartily grateful!

 


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The Creative Teacher Book Club :: Ancient Romans :: Tiger, Tiger by Lynne Reid Banks

Tiger Tiger - Creative Teacher Project

Today’s post comes to you from my sickbed – it seems my body doesn’t even have the decency to wait until I am on holiday before getting ill, and I have a suspected case of tonsillitis. Must be all that talking I do!

We have a creative curriculum at my school, meaning that we use our topic of study across as much of the curriculum as we can. It can, however, be tricky to find a suitable book – one that is both challenging for good readers but accessible for those who are still developing. They also need to be well written, ideally with some of the SPAG/GPAS features that we are learning.

I have actually found it quite difficult to find suitable texts, and so I thought I would create a little blog series addressing this, and recommending texts I have used and found helpful in the past.

A common Year 4 topic is the Romans, and I absolutely loved the text we studied this year-  Tiger, Tiger by Lynne Reid Banks. This book is set in Ancient Rome, and although as a class we were looking at the Romans from a British History standpoint, the text was still suitable, as it often referred to Roman ways of life, for example slavery.

Taken from the blurb:

Two tiger cubs are snatched from their native jungle and shipped to Rome. On arrival at this strange land crowded with noisy “two-legs” they are cruelly separated. One cub becomes the princess’s pampered and adored house pet. The other, fiercer, cub is trained to become the star performer in Caesar’s bloodthirsty circus.

Reid Banks, perhaps more famously known for her work The Indian in the Cupboard, has paced the story well, keeping the language interesting and very descriptive.

I used this as inspiration for some non-fiction writing, in fact, and we spent part of a term looking at non-chronological reports. We all studied tigers, and gathered facts about their appearance, habitat, diet and other interesting facts. My class were really engaged, and some even borrowed the book to reread at home! The mark of a winner, no?

I think this book could also be a good basis for some descriptive writing, the settings are well described, and there are some interesting viewpoints. Princess Aurelia, the Caesar’s daughter, is horrified by the thought of the ‘circus’ at the Colosseum, and so some fruitful diary entries could easily be extracted from the text. I would also suggest some balanced arguments, from perhaps the point of view of the slaves and their masters.

As the front quote by Michael Morpugo states: “Tiger, Tiger burns brightly to the very last page, and long afterwards too”.

 

**Please note this is not a paid or sponsored post in anyway, nor are there any affiliate links. I just like the book!


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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!

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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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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 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.