Posted by: Mr E | 25 July 2008

Half the size, twice the kick

I just thought it would be a good time to take my hat off to all the primary school teachers out there. For a long time I’ve thought that secondary education is where the ‘real’ teaching is at, and that junior schools were just glorified daycare centres. However, all that changed a few weeks back after my school hosted a Year 5 day, for the hordes of 9 and 10-year-olds in our catchment area to come and run riot.

As a diligent (read: kamikaze) student, I volunteered to help out. I was supposed to be placed with a teacher for the day, and though she was very nice she thought it important to get her Year 10 reports done. As a result I found myself about to be responsible for 24 loud, screaming, high-maintenance urchins. First came nausea, then excitement, and then relief when I found out they weren’t all that bad!

However they did require a lot of attention. Upon setting a relatively easy form-filling task, I asked “Who needs any help?”. Clearly I asked it in a far too nice tone of voice, and nearly every hand in the group went up! I was then subjected to question after question that really didn’t matter:

“Can we just put our initials?”
“I don’t know how to spell my school!” (despite it being on their jumper)
“When is lunch?”
“Why aren’t we doing Food Technolology?!”

After getting them through those hoops, I took them to our ICT suite for their first lesson which was quite wonderfully crafted. Their first task was to ‘Name the Animal’. While they all seemed fine with the pig and the dog, things got a little more complicated when we came to the “gisafre” (also known as the giraffe). I also couldn’t help but suffer from an awful case of the giggles when the kids labeled a picture of Will Smith… “Will Smith”. Logical at least, but not really in keeping with the task! Things only got better when they got to create their own animals, and we were treated horrible tales of the deadly Sponk and it’s penetrating venom. Despite my best efforts to quickly move on, the little terrors decided it was one of their favourites and we kept coming back to it (pun unintended).

They really did seem to enjoy the day though, with particular highlights being P.E. and Design & Technology. Surprisingly there was a collective dislike for science, despite the lesson actually being quite fun. I remember enjoying the exact same lesson when I came to the school as a fresh-faced Year 5, and I do wonder how science has managed to fall out of favour so drastically. Nevertheless, they’ll have to get used to it with 5 years of bunson burners and copper sulphate ahead of them.

The day didn’t go without its hitches though, with particular struggles including having to convince the boys that drama wasn’t “gay” and that all the other boys weren’t, in fact, “homos” for taking part (have they been watching Summer Heights High?!). Also worrying was one young man who threatened to stab his friend for taking his ball. I took this very seriously and had words with him, and it turns out he didn’t even understand the implications of what he had said. It really shocked me, and it’s disappointing to think not even these kids can go untainted by the awfulness of our knife-crime epidemic. On reflection, maybe the picture I’ve chosen to accompany this post isn’t the most appropriate!

When I’d finished serving my sentence I was more tired than I expected, and that’s when it hit me: it’s just bloody hard work. Primary school teachers of the world: I salute you!

Posted by: Mr E | 20 July 2008

Is pink emasculating our schools?

Recently, I’ve read quite a few bloggers commenting on the colour pink and it’s effect on the perceptions of sexuality.

RantingTeacher suggests that pink is actually becoming a hue for the elite; those lads oh so comfortable with their sexuality (at 13 and 14, no less) that they actively choose pink paper, pink pens, and pink clothing to prove as such. In my experience I haven’t come across such a phenomenon, but I have noticed a greater acceptance of the colour pink in recent years. Gone are the days when retaining masculinity meant calling your pink shit ‘salmon’, ‘magenta’, or ‘fushia’; it’s now fully acceptable to go to work looking like a flamingo! Unless of course your name is studentteacher83. Part of this is to do with the rise of the so-called ‘metrosexual man’: he who takes care in grooming his looks, which may involve exfoliation, skinny jeans and even straighteners.

I will now confess to owning skinny jeans, though in fairness my legs are so skinny that they fit me as if they were regular-legged. I may have also used straighteners once… or twice… I am not often very vocal about this practice, as contrary to what the name might suggest their use comes with the heavy implication that you are “a gay”, as the kids might say. Then again, my sexuality often comes under questioning whether I disclose my hair-straightening antics or not, so maybe it’s not something I should worry about. I will make one thing clear though: I have never exfoliated. Or moisturised. I’m a firm believer in soap!

This does raise the the point that MissB explores very thoroughly: kids (and I would argue adults) are given very mixed messages about what they need to be. In the example given above, it is definitely confusing to think that looking after your appearance is ‘cool’, yet openly admitting to using straighteners is a step too far. The same goes for our teenage girls: being sexed-up by wearing a load of slap is all the rage, but yet sex education is dealt with in such a coy way that they don’t even know what being ‘sexed-up’ is. Is it any wonder that teenage pregnancies are prolific as they are? And not only do we seem to be averse to preventing them, but we shun those who are mothers before their time.

As MissB suggests (please do read her post – it’s truly very good) we need to take a more open and honest approach with sex. No more sneaky morning after pills in the GP’s surgery; no more trips to the family planning clinic without Mum or Dad; and no more learning about the birds and the bees in a poorly-lit street. Teenagers need to learn about sex properly at home and at school, with their parents and their teachers, and be given the knowledge to make properly-informed decisions about what to do with their bodies. It’s shocking to discover that so few teens seem to know what chlamydia is (and does) beyond being “One of those funny STD thingies”.

I think what I’ve convinced myself here is that pink isn’t a problem. I just think we need to get our teens out of s*** creek, regardless of what colour the paddle is.

Posted by: Mr E | 3 July 2008

Life After Learning

Finishing school isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I remember the end of Year 11: class parties, shirt signings, videos, cakes and conga lines. Year 13 however is slightly different, as we bow out with nothing more than an unhealthy dosage of stress. There really isn’t a chance to say goodbye to all the friends you’ve made over the course of sixth form (and indeed your entire 7 years of secondary education if your college is handily annexed to your school, as is the case with mine). Nope, it’s all just a bit of an anti-climax with very little closure, and as the summer days roll by you begin to feel a bit of a void in your life.

This is all assuming you decide not to throw a leavers’ party. However such an event isn’t much use when the police turn up at 9pm to shut it down and you find yourself barred from the venue…

The above is just a very long-winded way of me saying that I’m bored. Luckily, despite my previous warbling about my teaching career being on it’s last legs, I was offered the opportunity to teach a little more now that I have the time. First up: Year 12. I was incredibly nervous taking this on, as rather than just taking a class of 6 or so – as I had been doing last term – I was now in command of a group of 30. My bowels stirring at the thought, I decided it would be wise to plan and so I sat down with their (and my former) teacher to do so. We came up with a pretty decent lesson plan, but it actually did little to settle my nerves.

So the lesson rolled around, and the games began. And there were games! In retrospect, I actually had very little to worry about. The lesson went incredibly well, and everyone responded really enthusiastically. I felt surprisingly comfortable up at the front of the class, and they even listened a lot more attentively than my smaller class do, which was nice. In fact, it went so well that one of the Year 12s hung around after the lesson ended to say thank you, which really gave me a bit of a kick and put a smile on my face for the rest of the day.

Relieved? Without a doubt. It gave me the confidence to then help out with the Year 11 induction lesson, in which I told the whipper-snappers a bit about myself and tried to drum up a bit of interest in the dismal science that is economics. This turned out to be a second success for the day, and I was beaming when the bell rang at 3 o’clock.

When I got home, I was greeted with an e-mail from my teacher saying he thought I was excellent. He doesn’t dole out compliments like that lightly, and I felt so proud of myself. Can’t wait for next week!

Posted by: Mr E | 18 May 2008

T-Minus One Week

I have one week of my teaching career left, at least until I get into the profession properly.

What have I learned? First of all, it’s that inspiring people to want to learn is bloody hard work. You have the drifters, the chatterboxes, the nose-pickers, and the chair-throwers (don’t ask), and that’s in a class of eight! I think, and I hope, that I’ve done some good though. The fact that they’ve come back week after week – if their history teacher isn’t stealing them from me – is something I’m proud of. Get this: I also managed to get twenty whole minutes of silence out of them last week! They wrote a timed essay, and the only noise made was the odd question about the work. I was so glad they’d taken it seriously, and my mood was only dampened when I found the work was mostly unfinished, and a bit on the crap side. I’m hoping that exam adrenaline will allow them to pull something out of the bag.

I’ve also seen first-hand what a lot of work it is to be a teacher. I only teach for an hour and a half every week, but I still find myself agonising over lesson plans and marking for hours upon end. You might say that’s because I only have one lesson a week and want to get it right; a real teacher may have slightly lower standards, or even experience economies of scale from repeated lessons. I would tend to disagree with the former though, as particularly at my school I find most teachers are there because they give a damn. They put so much effort in and it’s made me appreciate them even more to have done so myself.

Which makes it all the more sad for me to have learned that two of my favourite teachers (and dare I say… friends) have told me that they’re likely leaving at the end of the year. It’s all quite depressing, as I was hoping they would still be at my school when I returned. But alas, it’s probably not to be – at least there is a silver lining: guaranteed work experience wherever they may be! For one at least, that seems to point abroad…

Not much, as I learned today. At least not in any sort of productive sense.

Sometimes I wonder why I want to go into this profession. My class today were an absolute nightmare. Not in a “we-hate-you-and-want-to-make-your-life-a-misery” way, but in a “meh… learning?!” way. They really didn’t want to do anything. That is, other than talk; at every opportunity someone would start talking about bogeys or what they had for dinner last night or erections, and this is in a completely voluntary class! The mind truly does boggle. I do worry about the erection talk though, especially as it resulted in some sort of show-and-tell. I’d rather not elaborate, truthfully. I must confess to being roped into a discussion about driving lessons though, as I’m still in the honeymoon stage after passing my test in November. There’s never a bad time to moan about the extortionate price of insurance, I say!

I do worry though. I set them on doing a very simple 6-marker from a past exam paper and they failed to come up with any remotely convincing answers. At this rate I fear a clean sweep of Ds, though thankfully its not on my head. I would hate to see them not get the grades they deserve though. In the end a few early departures encouraged some focus, and I got through the basics of supply-side policies. Which was all well and good until some of the lads decided that molesting each other is fun. Then again when you have a class full of hormone-brimming boys you can anticipate as much (and here’s me, only 4 months older than some of them!).

When the lesson (and to my glee, the day) ended though I felt quite good about myself. It wasn’t unmanageable, and I had a bit of a laugh with one of the Economics teachers about the whole shebang. We then had a random discussion about iPods and Facebook and ‘Battys’ after that, but it was all in good humour and felt pretty welcome as a wind-down. She’s a lovely woman and is really encouraging me to come back to the school after my degree, as long as I tell everyone it was her influence that did it! Feeling part of the team was really nice, something I didn’t expect when taking on the role of Economics Revision Monkey (my official title).

I’m looking down at my last post now and noticing it says ‘sleep’ , so I think I’ll take my own advice and hit the sack. Goodnight!

Posted by: Mr E | 25 March 2008

Lesson One: Sleep

As all great procrastinators do, I put off doing any work over the extended Easter weekend until today. The only problem being that yesterday didn’t end until about 3am, and I managed to stay in bed way into the afternoon. This is not good for a number of reasons.

Reason #1: My dark circles are worse than usual.

To my shame, I bear a striking resemblance to the Ailuropoda melanoleuca. Budding biologists out there might recognise that as being the binomial name for the Giant Panda. Saying all this without the word ‘panda’ makes me feel slightly better about admitting it, but still the bags really ain’t doin’ me no good. I’m even starting to the think the phrase ‘beauty sleep’ has some merit to it. It sure would be nice to meet new people and not have them think I’ve been in some sort of en route brawl.

Reason #2: I missed breakfast (again).

As a result not only did I have a McDonald’s-themed dream, but the current Monopoly advert became incredibly persuasive, pointing me in the direction of the fast food Mecca of Chicken McNuggets. I actually despise McDonald’s. It’s so unhealthy and I dread to think how much money I blow on junk food. Still, I had a Tropicana rather than a Coke so it’s not all too dreary (for my pancreas at least).

Reason #3: I have essays to write!

Seeing the ‘s’ on the end of ‘essays’ is really very painful. But alas I have Economics and History to contend with in the next 5 hours or so, and if I’m honest the outlook’s not good.

Reason #4: I have a lesson to plan!

Now you may have just jerked your head to the side and ripped a small amount of hair out wondering why I have a lesson to plan. Or you may just be slightly miffed. But I’m actually in theory a part-time teacher! I have my own class in Year 12 who I teach Economics once a week, and get paid for the privilege. It’s actually incredibly helpful and one of the things that’s spurred me in the last few months to decisively say that teaching is for me. I can’t actually remember how I ended up doing it, but for any budding teachers out there: do it! The practice is invaluable and you get to have a ton of fun along the way.

So in all not the greatest way to start the day. And here I am blogging about it, putting it all off again. I really need to develop a sense of when it’s time to go to bed, but I’m constantly thinking “Just 5 more minutes…” and before you know it a few hours have passed!

Posted by: Mr E | 25 March 2008

Welcome!

I assume that you’ve stumbled here by accident; not many out there go actively searching for a blog on the trials and tribulations of getting into the teaching profession. I also assume that you’re assuming me to be some post-grad beginner teacher who’s on the cusp of undertaking his first foray into the classroom. Unfortunately I’m not. I’m a 17-year-old still months away from University, but one determined to ‘make it (relatively) big’ in the world of education.

There’s one question that may be teetering on your lips right now: why?

I’ve heard it many times before, unfortunately. I’m told it’s ‘a waste’ and that I need to be up there in one of the investment banks, selling my soul to the corporate suits for a hefty premium. But it’s my party and I’ll avoid the rat race if I want to. Really, I think job satisfaction is incredibly underrated. It’s most definitely been overtaken by greed and materialism. People just don’t know when they’ve got enough, and because of that they’re never happy. Luckily I’ve had an epiphany rather early on in my life and realised that regardless of the pay packet, I’m going to get so much joy out of teaching that I can’t not do it. I’ve hit the metaphysical jackpot. Personally, I think there’s no better way to make use of my knowledge than to pass it on.

The road starts here. Join me, won’t you?

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