Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Teaching – What am I getting myself into?? (Old Blog Post)

So, a few years ago when I first moved to London for my first 'proper' job I decided to join the website 'Piczo' - it was pretty exciting being in London on my own, I'll have to tell you some stories about it at some point! I also thought it would be nice to share my photos etc, and one of my friends suggested I start a blog to tell some stories of my crazy teaching experiences (crazy because I didn't know what I was doing, which to her was rather amusing!). I've since abandoned/shut down my Pizco website because 1) i got lazy and forgot about it and 2) I wasn't that keen on the layout of the web page, I prefer this so far. However, the other day I found my first blog post so thought you (whoever you is, since I don't actually have any followers right now!) might like to read it! (please note I learnt a LOT from this experience, so it was actually a good thing in the end, I have also now completed my PGCE and NQT so I am a 'proper' teacher now! So please don't judge my teaching ability on this, it kinda makes me cringe reading it - I was really that bad!! But shows how much I've learnt since then, so makes me feel good too! Also,  I have since discovered that teaching KS3 History isn't so difficult after all!).


Teaching – What am I getting myself into??

Oct 2 2008 09:29 pm

x x EID MUBARAK EVERYONE!! x x                                                                                                       

I've been in my new job now since the end of August, and after hearing my stories (complaints) several people have suggested a blog, so here you go!

So, to start from the beginning, I applied for this job back in May sometime if I remember correctly, after I got back from my adventure learning Arabic in Morocco, but that's another blog!, ok focus... to cut a long story short, they were looking for a geography teacher - i have a masters in Geography, and although I have no teaching qualification apart from my CELTA (which btw I am pleased to say I got a B in, did it in International House, was great I def. recommend it) this was an independent school who did not require a formal qualification. Since they talked about training in my interview, when I was offered the job I happily accepted, good salary for an unqualified teacher.....

had a couple of days 'work experience' which involved observing the same maths lesson twice, a P.E. lesson, and a primary French lesson.... all very relevant to geography... the 'geography teacher' was away on a trip to Disneyland, but i came in an extra day and managed to meet him... (Partly i wanted to find out why all the girls fancy him!)... Very helpful... or so i thought at the time, showed me a few things, printed out pages of schemes of work for me, apparently 'very easy' to follow... great! i thought, cos i had been starting to feel a bit worried at the lack of any sort of formal guidance and the disorganised state the geog. classrooms seemed to be in... And the fact that I’d have to teach history as well (but...but... i gave up history when i was 13! oh don't worry you'll be fine! its easy! just do some preparation before you start. uhh... okay then! :S). so i thanked him and went back home to Portsmouth (well first i went to my friend’s house in Kent as that's where i was staying, thank you hun:).

Arriving back home, with not long before my trip to filistine, I decided to 'do some preparation'. How hard can it be? i thought... as i pulled out the 'schemes of work' ready to 'plan some lessons'.

Several hours later - ok what the hell is the 'Shark Activity' and the 'Internet Quiz'?? and how am I sposed to know what's on p.48 of the IB book?? and wait...how am I supposed to plan when i have no idea how long the lessons are or how many there are.?? ok... starting to panic.....

In the end i more or less gave up and went to Palestine (and had an amazing time i should add:), and when i got back was far too busy moving house for lesson planning. Anyway, i thought, i had been told to start work august 21st, over a week before the kids got back on sept 1st, so surely that's when the 'training' would be....

August 21st - my first day, a Thursday, i was told i didn’t have to teach history anymore (*sigh of relief*.... you'll be teaching English literature instead, you can start with Macbeth... *panic... panic!!!!... Ok breathe..... What the....?!?!*' (note - i did study English to GCSE and got an A, so fair enough i would be teaching lower than GCSE but still, it was a good 7 yrs since id read any Shakespeare, and that wasn’t even Macbeth!).  I kinda reluctantly agreed since at this point i was still thinking, its okay, I’ll just follow the schemes of work/lesson plans they give me, ask my mentor for help.....

'So Hafsa, do you know what you're teaching, which curriculum, which textbooks?'
*What?! Aren’t you meant to be telling me?!* 'uhh... not really no.....'
 *tries to disguise panic look like only slight confusion*

Ok next day will be better don't worry.... next day, when we have a talk about work etiquette and rules and regulations.... and finish the day at 11.30am... great but.... still no lesson plans in sight... maybe i should do some work this weekend.... but how?!

Next week was when all the other teachers got back, and as the week went by, i was starting to wonder if i would ever get any training...! i say starting to 'wonder' by what i mean is i was seriously starting to panic, which involved a great deal of stress and crying and considering giving up before I’d even started...not healthy!

To cut this long story a bit shorter, i realised i was going to have to just 'get on with it' and started doing whatever i could to get sorted! The first 2 lessons i decided could be 'introductory', that would give me a bit more time before starting geography. Also i spoke to the director who kindly reassured me that i only had to teach geography and nothing else, despite then being told by certain other people, but u can’t just teach geography! It’s not enough hours! You have to teach English too! You have to! You will! Yes but the director said.....  Apparently that didn't count for anything.... but in the end it went my way, alhamdulillah! I was becoming a bit more stubborn by now! i applied for a post as a 'geography teacher' so that’s what i was planning to do!

so, the first two lessons, which for most classes extended into three, seeing as how lessons were only 40 minutes long and the kids were often 10 minutes late. Introduce myself, play some getting to know each other games, go through class rules.. soon used up the time! i was starting to worry however when it got to the informal assessment (obv having no experience i can't remember how clever i was at that age, so had no idea what was normal and what was special needs)

*board* write a paragraph about:
·       where you're from, what it's like there
·       what you've studied in geog. before, what you liked, what you didn’t like
·       any interesting geog. trip/holidays etc. you've been on

Marked on geographical content and English (spelling and grammar).

Simple enough, no? well i thought so... but apparently not... the first few lessons not a single pupil managed to put their answers in a 'paragraph' but insisted upon answering in as few words as possible under each bullet point, which they numbered to form questions. I gave them either 20mins or 30mins to write (I’m teaching yrs. 7-10) depending on what year they were..
'i expect you to be writing for the whole time, so that’s how long it has to be' yet after 3 or 4 minutes i started hearing 'finished miss!' being shouted out. What?! I thought, what am i going to do with them for the rest of the lesson?? 'let me check your book....'
.... well of course they were done in 4 minutes when all they wrote was something along the lines of:

1) Iraq, its hot.
2) Maps, I hate geography
3) No

To be fair some of them did make an effort, and the next lessons to tried to make it clearer i wanted a paragraph of continuous prose in full sentences. Apparently i was being quite unclear before.... so I drew a picture on the board
'this is a page in your book, here is where you write the questions *draws square brackets with 'questions' written inside* and here is where you write the answer *draws big brackets covering rest of page with 'answer' written inside*. 'Write it like an essay.....' 

Somehow though, i was still slightly alarmed when marking their books (note - i have no idea how to mark, but another teacher gave me a few tips so that will have to do for now! i guess I’ll pick it up as i go along..... or something....). Apart from the one word answers, and some of them who had just managed to leave out 2 questions, in some cases my drawing on the board had served only to confuse further - some of them had copied out the drawing, and then proceeded to number the bullet points, answering each 'question' (its not a question if it has no question mark!! don't u learn that in year 2??) separately in-between. Others had interpreted it to mean the requirement of a big pair of squared brackets around their numbered questions and an even bigger pair around their numbered not full sentence answers. I was starting to despair a little... till i got to a couple of books which seemed completely blank..... What were they doing all lesson?? i saw them writing.... i flicked through the whole book just to check.... ah wait... what’s this.... 'Glossary' (i'd told all of them to have a contents page at the front and a glossary page at the back... to be fair i probably shouldn't have assumed they knew what those words meant...) so,

 'Glossary - Extended Writing
1) where are you from.....

Aaargh! i know they're Arab kids and for a lot of them English is their second language -  and I know Arabic is the other way round to English (even ive been confused before about which end to open books in Arabic) but surely, surely you would realise that if you write your name on the front cover, it follows that the front of the book if the first page from that end, the end where your name is, not the other end! Especially after being told
'please turn to the back of your book and write Glossary'- this is where you can write down the meanings of any new words you learn'.

Apparently not.

Anyway, having been 'teaching' now for several weeks, I’m managing... just.... its pretty hard planning lessons/schemes of work from scratch with no experience, especially GCSE level (help!!! anyone teach IGCSE Geog?! please get in touch!!!), i guess its  bit hit and miss atm... But I’m learning! And although i have no official 'mentor' or any training as yet, there are several people who've been very helpful alhamdulillah, plus some of my good teacher friends outside school, thanks guys! and there are some good points, its sooo nice working in a Muslims school where 'prayer time' is scheduled into the day... and the other day a little girl came up and gave me a kiss (so cute!), and one of the boys told me,
'you're a sik teacher miss', that makes it worth it.....:)

I'm about to embark on being head of the environmental committee (as if it’s not enough being head of geography already!) no but, i wanna do this, i said i would make up the hours anyway, and it’s the sort of thing I’m into.... well, i think I’m into it! Hopefully won’t be changing my mind any time soon! so, any suggestions please?

On a final note, a yr 9 (first yr IGCSE) girl approached me at the end of a lesson before Eid half term

'Miss.... i don't understand...'
'That’s okay, what don't you understand? I'll explain it...'
'I don’t understand anything in geography!'
*What now?!* 'uh... anything in particular you want me to explain?'
'Well, all of it, it’s so hard! i don't get ANYTHING'

*Ok Hafsa.... stay calm......*

And i may as well add, since this post is so long already, my last lessons were rather uh... disorganised have to admit, i was too tired to argue with pleas of 'please miss! Its last lesson! Can’t we just play games instead?! It’s Eid!! Come on miss!' yet i hadn’t really organised any 'games' to play.... so in the case of my year 9 boys... it ended up being 'let’s chase each other around the classroom with sticks’. Not me obviously, i just sat and wondered whether i should be taking the sticks away... which was around the point at which the headmaster walked in . . .

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