The Creative Teacher Project

An NQT Bringing Creativity to the Classroom


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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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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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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


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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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Practicum: Week One

Slightly fatigued after my first week!

 

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!


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Au Revoir University, Bonjour Practicum!

Just a short and sweet post today. I’ve handed in my last assignment ever for my graduate diploma, said goodbye to some truly amazing lecturers and fellow student teachers. It’s done and dusted, I’ve learned all the theory I’m ever going to learn at university, and now’s it’s time for some practical work. Tomorrow is the BIG DAY when I’ll be starting my longest and final prac placement. I’m apprehensive but excited, and am spending today brushing up on my low key responses and doing the all important laundry, making sure all my teacher-appropriate clothes are clean!

For any of you out there about to start their placements, I wish you the best of luck, the funniest students and the most supportive mentor teachers. This year has whizzed by, It’s hard to believe. I’ll be updating the blog throughout the next 7 weeks, and hopefully some of you will find my experiences helpful, or at least in some way relatable.

What a year. Wish me luck for the last part!