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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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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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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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!