Weekly reflection: Teaching it’s a marathon, not a sprint

Shoes resting in the sun (photo by me)

Hello what’s my name again? I’m in the 2nd of my three weeks of full-time teaching. I’m also a bit sad as I know that next week will be the end of my first Teaching Experience which means back to the dull drudgery of readings, assignments and the downwards spiral towards exams in June. What’s keeping me sane is knowing that my next placement will start on August 1st. So really it’s only a few weeks of study, exams and then holidays before I’m back teaching again.

This week was somewhat stressful as I had my visiting lecturer assignment. Of course me being me, I bought most of it on myself. I just had to have a huge folder of plans to show and had to redo my lesson plan the night before because I wasn’t happy with what I had initially planned for the lesson. So I spent the nights before getting myself wound up over paperwork and lesson plans.

As I’m currently teaching maths and I knew my lecturer was a maths lecturer,  I decided the wisest course of action was to roughly follow a lesson that I had seen in a Numeracy Development Books on probability and put my own spin on it. The lesson involved students flipping coins so in order to avoid chaos in the classroom, I set down some heavy ground rules. The students couldn’t throw the coins just shake them in their hands. I also was a bit more pro-active with my groupings of students pairing off a few of my students who tend to regularly engage on off-task behaviour with students who I know tend to stay on the task at hand. The rowdiest student also got a chance to earn the right to collect the coins up at the end of the lesson, proving one of my theories that sometimes responsibility is a good way to ensure compliance rather than rewards. So I was perhaps a bit more heavy on the classroom management side of it than usual however due to the organisation of my school, I had only taught this particular class for 9 45 minutes lessons before my lecturer assessment.

But the students responded so well. Not one of them felt the need to pass comment on the new person at the back of the classroom scribbling notes. In fact I stopped paying attention to the lecturer pretty early on and the students and I managed to get through almost all the lesson. Moreover the chaos of 30 kids flipping coins that could so easily have happened never came to pass.

Overall I managed to gain Strong (the highest level) on four out of the seven Graduating Teacher Standards and Competent (the next level down) on the other three. I have a few minor things to work on but overall I’m pretty happy with my assessment, obviously I’m gunning for seven Strongs on my next assessment.

However the downside to all this activity and stress is that I’m now I have the flu.

I know that just about every student teacher gets a bout of the flu and the first few years of teaching you pretty much get hammered by every bug that the students bring in because one of my teacher friends say, “my GP told me students are vectors of disease.” However I can’t help but wonder if perhaps the fact that student and newly qualified teachers are busily trying to get a hold on classroom management and also building up a banks of lesson and unit plans that we find ourselves highly susceptible to getting sick because we are sprinting 100m race rather than comfortably running a marathon.

So what have I learned this week?

That slow and steady definitely wins in teaching. One of the things I’ve been working on this week is dialling down my energy aka using my inside voice, not only because it increases the classroom energy but also I’ll burn out if I keep my level that high.

The other thing I’ve learned is that is better to perform like you are always being assessed rather than perform for an assessment.  I have no idea when I am getting assessed by my associate teacher so operate on the basis that I am pretty much always being watched. This strategy worked out well because when it came time for a formal assessment from the university I just went about what I would normally do and was easily able to block out the person at the back.

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