Weekly reflection: from zero to hero?

New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 5.b

Graduating teachers gather, analyse and use assessment information to improve learning and inform planning.

T’was the week before holidays and through the school… the students and teachers were counting the hours until… the holiday bell would sending them all flying… out of the gates with no sadness nor crying.

Term 1 is officially at an end which means not only am I more than halfway through my teaching experience but I am also officially on holiday. The students and teachers were really hanging out for the break (as this year the first and second term were extended to 11 weeks so that schools are on holiday for the Rugby World Cup in october) however my holiday is shaping up to be a typical teacher holiday: working on assignments for class and prepping for next term’s teaching because when I get back my Teaching Experience will kick into high gear: full control days.

Every practicum demands that teachers take on the planning and the teaching of a class for at least 5 days during their practicum. For the last few weeks most of my teaching experience has been observational but I’ve also taken form time and fitness with my associate teacher’s class and also taken a small group of year 7s for maths. I also had an impromptu full-class in another subject when the reliever said ‘here you take the reigns’ for my form class but in general I’ve been playing second fiddle to the ‘real teachers.’ However when I come back from holidays my solo part comes up I’m taking over responsibility for FOUR Classes for the next three weeks in probability so I can get my full control days in. I know my form class and a few members of the Year 7 class really well but there are two classes I’ve hardly seen since my first week so I feel like it’s going to be a huge learning curve getting to know the students.

Then there’s the question of what to teach these kids and how I’m going to teach them. Over the week, the associate teacher gave the students an AsTTle pre-test which I marked and entered into the system. The brilliance of the AsTTle tests is that highlight areas of a classes strength as well as gaps in their knowledge (each individual student also gets a printout which shows them where their strengths, achieved, gaps and yet to be achieved). The ability range of students is amazing, there’s some who were testing at 6A(!). So far I’ve used the tests to put the students into groups (although the Associate Teacher twigged them a bit using her judgement of student ability) and also pinpoint areas that I need to work on with each of the classes.

For the Year 7s I’ve decided I’m going to do a rotation-style class with each group moving on to a different mini-topic each lesson and rotating in for a small group lesson (starting with the lowest group, moving up to the highest ones). For one of the year 8s I’m giving them a range of activities of which correspond to the different Achievement Objectives of the AsTTLe test and the students then get to choose the activity based on their level and gaps. This class will also have small group teaching on a topic basis (basically I’m borrowing the Associate Teacher’s current set for this class). For the Associate Teacher’s class I’m taking student choice to the next level. Alongside giving students a range of independent activities, I’m giving the class a calendar and letting groups book-in for mini lessons on topics that they need work on. The idea is that the students are really able to take control of their learning, something the students have mentioned they’ve really valued this term in terms of choosing activities that benefit them. Being able to ‘book in’ for mini-lessons also means that students won’t miss out on important lessons due to being away on extra curricular activities and having to play catch-up. I’m also getting my high-achievers to work with a group as a ‘maths assistant’ so that they can benefit from peer tutoring rather than leaving them bored in class. How this works out in real life, I’m not so sure yet. But I figure now is the time to be experimenting and making mistakes when I am under the watchful eye of my associate teacher.

The bonus of teaching probability is that there are heaps of hands-on experiments to do which is something that the kids really value. I’m thinking part of my lesson is going to be having a coin toss olympics as I’ve got a whole bunch of foreign coins from my travels which would make an excellent experiment for teaching the students how to determine probability of long-run events, a problem area according to the tests. However the next two weeks I’ll be going through a whole bunch of resources and websites to give my students a range of meaningful activities to choose from when we get back next term. Like most new and student teachers, I find myself worried about how to fill the time when in reality I know that I’ll be wondering when the time went once I get back to school.

Nevertheless, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed… but I keep telling myself that I’ll be doing it by myself for real next year. Well not the four classes thing, but I’ll have responsiblity of a class FOR A YEAR over ALL the curriculum.

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