My Reflective Journal- GTP 2004/2005.

The following is my journal from my first full year of teaching. I took up post in April 2004 and taught for the summer term. The Year 11s had study leave, there was no real pressure on me, two of my classes were SEN and consisted of under eight pupils per class. The following September, the SEN classes were put together and I had a full timetable. I have removed some names but the rest is the exact account of my first year teaching.

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When I began to write my reflective journal, I thought about what direction it might take and the only avenue I didn’t want was the typical diary entry. So I kept notes of significant days when I felt particularly strong or weak about issues that had cropped up during the day. I found that sometimes it was not the teaching or the students that affected me most.

August 2004:

‘Only three days to go- back at school and the whole summer seems to have cruised straight by me without me even noticing. I am trying really hard to not to over analyze my first day. I am very sure that I can cope as I did last year and I have kept some of my favourite classes. I still can’t sleep- fear or excitement?’

September 2004:

‘First day back at school- whole staff meeting, slightly strange as I feel more grown up and feel a sense of belonging to the motley crew surrounding me. I don’t think that I have seen the whole staff together in one slot before now and definitely never noticed how young we all are.’

‘Pupils came in today and I had my first real run in with a group of pupils in my year 10 class. I forgot that because of the SATs all year 10 pupils are organised according to ability and that was based on their results. There were a few notorious year 9s and it is just my luck to have all the worst in my class! The first lesson was more than slightly poor as I tried to introduce the GCSE subject some of the pupils wanted to know about the kid who hit me last year. Refusing to fall in, I got R (HOD) to deal with them. Then JRF decided he wanted to play up and has new best friend SA (who also made numerous teachers and pupil’s lives a misery last year) started to take other pupils’ pens and be annoying. I can see I am going to have difficulties with 10GY’

‘My tutor group are absolutely gorgeous, little year nine’s who are also absolutely scared stiff of me. I am not sure how much I can keep the whole scary teacher act going. I am rather chuffed that I met most of them last year when I found I was going to be their tutor so I have a head start on a lot of the issues that might come up.’

‘Don’t think I can handle my year 10 class and I think I hate them. I’ve already decided that Tuesdays is my favourite day as I have my tutor group for two lessons, my wonderful year sevens and can cope with 11G7/R7. 10GY are awful and I hate them. They don’t stop talking, I waste at least ten minutes every lesson waiting for them to be quiet. I have tried every stupid behavioural technique I know and it is all rubbish. Phoning home and detaining them seems pointless as they just misbehave further. Started Original Writing Coursework and it is rubbish. I know it’s down to me as I haven’t taught it properly. Feel very bogged down by teaching so many classes and had a bad day’

‘What a delight my 7RX is. I have never taught year 7 before and although they are a set three, they are capable of much more than my little 9RL We have started a scheme called Darkwood Manor. I did a fabulous lesson with them today. I bought some chocolate éclairs and we did a lesson on the senses. I made them look at the wrapper and describe it, then slowly unwrap the éclair and listen to it, then they had to smell it. It was agony and they were all saying ‘Miss, you’re so cruel!’ They finally got to eat it when they had described it. It was such a lovely lesson. Will try it with 9RL and see if they can think of adjectives other than ‘you div’ and expletives which even I wouldn’t say.’

October 2004:

‘Having a tutor group is proving to be a difficult task. I am constantly sorting out petty squabbles and following them around in my free periods to keep an eye on them. My pigeon hole is filled on daily basis with NCRs that complain of disruptive and unruly pupils. I have sat in a science lesson with 9RL and they are bored, the teacher is what I would deem as boring, the lessons are uninspiring and to be perfectly frank messing around is the only way to fill fifty five minutes of deathly slow science lessons. 9RL have more issues than just worksheet filled Maths and Science lessons. One of my favourite boys is constantly fighting with other lads and is usually excluded. I really like him and we have had many manly talks regarding his behaviour. I keep telling him that if he is prepared to dish it out then he has to accept it in return. We have trust between us and he is definitely listening to me. I told him about me when I was at school and how hard I found it to mix with my class mates. His family background is not dissimilar to mine. I like talking to my class and feel a sense of respect. The HOY has praised my work with them. I will always fight for them but they have to, in return, have a certain amount of respect for teachers whether they deserve it or not. One of my girls who I thought I would have the most trouble with seems to be calming down. She hasn’t been excluded this term so I must be getting somewhere with them.’

‘My year 11s are proving to be very difficult. I thought that as we had made so much progress in Yr10 that they would be easy to control. The work load is massive as we have four pieces of coursework to complete before January. It is tough going but not as tough as 10GY. I hate that class and it fills me with dread. I still waste a lesson a week disciplining them. I know that it was because that I have treated them like adults rather than older year nines. I have one good lesson with them and I can feel that I am losing the respect of the good pupils in the class because I can’t seem to deal with the idiot children. HOY has said that he is trying to get rid of SA but we’ll see. They behaved when my tutor came into observe me but I just don’t seem to be getting anywhere fast. My mentor says I have to be more ‘strict’ but I can’t get the class control back.’

‘What is the point? I don’t think I can be a teacher. All this work and for what? I feel run down and just don’t want to be here any more.’

‘Had a few days of sick. Felt guilty. The constant worry of exams looming, the lack of discipline across the whole school makes me wonder why I bother. Half term soon, I am going to hang out with my old friends and just forget the never-ending pile of marking. The only joy in teaching is 7RX who came up trumps with secure levels 4+ and 5 with their assessment piece! I know full well that I set my boundaries with my year 7 and 9, I failed to do that with 10GY and what a fine mess I’ve created. I know for next year that I will ‘not smile until Christmas’ and be so hard that they will have to ask before they breath. I just keeping remembering how hard 10R5 were last year and how much easier they got.’

‘There is no way you can have a life and be an English teacher. I watch RE and Art teachers swan in and out of schools with handbags and not the suitcase I lug around filled with marking. If you let it slip then the Snowdonia size marking becomes the size of Everest and seems to be everlasting. I have to be more organised and I have to get my teaching right first time around so that I am not having to re-do coursework. I know I am learning but I keep wondering if I am in the right job.’

November 2004:

‘R said that November was the ‘hardest month’ and that every teacher wonders why in this cruel and dark month. I have no heating at home and because every day off matters, I can’t get it sorted. My network of neighbours has rapidly depleted and mum is still travelling abroad. I feel very much on my own at the moment. I don’t want time off because the pupils suffer and whilst I don’t want to be that sad teacher who has nothing in their life other than teaching I can definitely see how easy it is to slip into. I was invited to a party but it was on a ‘school night’ so could not go. I find that every hour of sleep matters and I am counting them.’

‘There was a big fight at school today. I was very unsure about how involved I should get. Some of those year 11s are huge and I don’t want to be on the end of a year 11 fist. I share teach one of the hardest classes in school. They are well known for their poor behaviour and yet in my English class they do work although limited by their low ability. I know I am getting somewhere with them, but I put that down to the fact I teach them period two and my first lesson is a free so it is a combination of me being relaxed and them not be as wired as if it was Friday period five. Their form tutor praised me yesterday in the staff room. She said that they ‘really liked me and have learnt lots more in my lesson’. That gave me a boost. Maybe I can do this job.’

December 2004

‘Christmas is looming. 9RL have their mock SATs first week back in January, Year 11 have their mocks too, and my goodness I am feeling so pressured. My year 9 group are so low that I am worried that they have leant nothing since September.’

‘Went out for drinks with the staff. We behave worse than the kids. I really like being part of such a young school. We are all about the same age, I feel a sense of belonging again. Mind you that could have something to do with the amount of vodka consumed. Spoke to people that in my normal routine I never normally see let alone speak to.’

‘I feel very happy, I have been praised for the work I have done with my tutor group. They are coming on leaps and bounds compared to how they were last year. I have one lad who has really come along away, I feel that I can’t take the credit as it is the kids themselves who make the effort to change. I do know that I make a difference because I am able to get through to boys like him when they are at their most angry and upset. All I have to say is ‘it’s me you’re talking to, come on. Am I being rude to you?’ and they come round, that must be the trust that some many teachers talk about. I do feel well respected. I can laugh and joke with my pupils and still get good results. I am going to work on SA and JF. 10GY here I come!!’

January 2005:

‘I bought my entire tutor group a selection box for Christmas and gave them a card with a special message. I was very surprised how many presents I was given. I bought some thank you cards for those who bought me the never ending mound of chocolate and bizarre Whinnie the Pooh memorabilia (I don’t think I have ever expressed an interest in Pooh). First day back and I was surprised at how much I had missed my tutor group. Still feel the same about 10GY but I have decided that I am going to take back all the time that the chatterboxes take from me. This is war.’

‘Poetry! That’s what I am good at. At last the real teacher in me is coming out. I started off with some New York hip hop which 10GY were said that ‘Hip-Hop ain’t poetry!’ and I proved them wrong by playing them the piece after we read it. I think they were secretly impressed with my ‘cool’ and ‘with it’ lesson. We talked a lot about the origins of Hip-Hop and how it led back to the Oral tradition from Africa. Then we began learning ‘Limbo’ by Kamau Braithwaite. I finished my lesson on a real high 10GY learnt something today!!’

‘My 11R5 are losing their will to live and the revision and coursework wheel seems never to stop. Am quite worried as they seem to be slacking and I fear bunking my lessons. Time for another round of phone calls home. I spent my evening ringing parents who were surprised that their child had not attended two English classes this week! Oops, not that I care. I praised all my naughty kids, then told their parents what I really thought and ended the conversation positively! The next day a lot of sheepish pupils crept through my classroom door and I made a sarcastic remark about how much I missed them. We had a laugh and carried on the hard work!’

‘7RX are proving to be a real challenge. I am really enjoying teaching them. I had one pupil move upwards which I am pleased about but also am going to miss him. We did a media scheme of work and he brought in a set of screens from the Sun newspaper. He did a really impressive presentation and gave the screens to me as a present. His move means that I will have a new pupil starting, so that will be interesting. I am not sure I agree with all the moves within the year group. It seems to me that moves are based on behaviour and not academic work which, I really do not believe is fair. It is my view and understanding that pupils who are not being challenged tend to misbehave and if that leads to disruption and then a move into a lower ability group, surely it follows that that pupil will become even more disruptive.’

‘SATs results for 9RL are in! Actually, I was pleasantly surprised at how well my lovely tutor group did. I have spoken to HOY and said quite categorically that I do not want any of my pupils moved as I know I can do better with them. Maybe that’s not fair on SS and DL because they deserve to move up however, I know the tutor group above mine are unruly and I think that could damage both pupils. I also want, selfishly I know, to prove that I can teach and this will be proved in the summer SATs and through the all important data.’

‘Academic Review Day. I saw SW’s parents first thing this morning and I was not impressed by the father who could not see through SW’s achievements such as not being excluded, excellent and continually improving marks and comments from subject teachers. I felt desperately sorry for him as his father took away privilege after privilege. In my eyes, and I know I am not a parent, SW is a child who responds to praise and responsibility, he works hard for me and we have such a good relationship. I just couldn’t say anything to improve matters. DH’s mum came in, I also teach his sister in 7RX, we had a chat about DH and how well he is doing and how impressed I am with him. Mrs H said that she ‘felt I had a connection with her son’, and that I ‘was on a level with him and that’s why D is doing so well’. I felt quite choked as I never realised the impact that teachers make on children’s lives could be made so quickly. I really love Academic Review day, meeting the parents is really interesting. ZR came in the next day and said ‘my mum doesn’t think you’re a proper teacher ‘cos you don’t act like one!’ I thought that was a compliment.’

February 2005:

‘11R5 have completed their coursework. I have lost MV, I really tried to help him by offering him extra lessons after school. I also invited his father in to go through the work but he rang to say he could not make it. MV will now not be entered in English. I feel like I have failed him and that miserable feeling overrides the feeling of accomplishment that the others have achieved.’

‘I learnt a lot today about young people. We had an interesting discussion about what young people do outside school. They are so frightened of violence and many have been the victim of ‘happy slapping’ and been involved in vicious brawls. I really thought I was up to date with issues that affect young people but I am not. We talked about gangs and how many of them were involved with or had friends in gangs. I felt a real wave of sadness as they were recounting their experiences. What terrified me the most was how nasty the girls are. They told me about a fight that some of them witnessed in the local high street, a year 10 girl used a metal door handle to punch a girl in the face. I asked if anybody tried to stop it but they said they couldn’t get involved because the girl involved was a member of a gang and they ‘would end up getting their face smashed in’. It just left me wondering what else these 15 and 16 year olds have to through and no wonder that sometimes they are not in or have not done their homework.’

March 2005:

‘I had a really funny lesson today with 11R5. They decided that they were going to imitate my every word and action. I was attempting to teach poetry but to no avail. I asked for my HOD to come in, and thought they would not even attempt to mimic me in front of her but they did. R found it hilarious too. So no work done today!’

‘Trying to teach Macbeth to 9RL is like trying to teach them Japanese. I have had to pull out all the stops in order for them to understand it. We have translated it into Eastenders characters, re-enacted the banquet scene by moving tables- almost everything I could think of I have done. As time is so short I have to plan the writing triplets within the scheme of Macbeth. My pupils are understanding it very slowly. R has always said that if the children learn one thing from a lesson then that is a success. We’ll see come the SATs.’

‘I attempted to teach the idea of Utopia to 11R5, at first they did not understand it. So as I have learnt with all my lower ability classes that I need to put it into terms they understand: ‘My idea of utopia is a CaribbeanIsland, surrounded by…’

‘Yeah, Miss, men, we get the picture!’ A few chorused.

‘So my idea of dystopia would be a million SBE saying ‘Miss, Miss, Miss’

They understood that straight away. SBE always puts his hand up to ask me the most ridiculous questions such as ‘Miss, do you think I look hench?’ SBE really annoys me, he knows it as I have told him and the class know it because I have told him in front of them! SBE came in late that lesson and when he walked in the class told him that he was ‘Miss’s dystopia!’ This made them all fall about laughing especially since SBE had no idea what they were talking about!’

April 2005:

‘Oh my goodness, I am drowning in a sea of marking! There is no respite and once again I am ill. There is no way I can cope with all the early mornings, late nights. I have marked all my year 11 coursework and still am not sure whether it is right or wrong but whatever is done is done. I don’t feel well supported by my mentor and it is not her fault, there is just no time. GS keeps telling me that this is the best way to learn ‘on the job’ and that the ‘PGCE never taught [her] the skills needed to manage a classroom.’

 

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About milkwithtwo

A blog about my experience as a Head of Year, looking at some of the issues faced by young people and teachers in the UK and International schools. Offering straight-talking child-centred advice.
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3 Responses to My Reflective Journal- GTP 2004/2005.

  1. Pingback: Meditation, mindfulness and positivity: Dr.Brad’s guide to behaviour management. | milkwithtwo

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