Ramblings from my PGCE year

Fantastic and different idea for a loci lesson

So we’ve all done the compass on a map Loci activity, but how about this video clip as an engaging starter? You could also get the pupils to come up with their own starter, incorporate speed = distance/time or scale as an extension, possibly even do a joint exercise with the drama dept. to get them to record their scenario in groups in a similar fashion! (This is only for the brave, but looking forward to adapting it for a starter in a couple of weeks!).


The naughty kids do exist!

I’ve finally been given my timetable, three classes, 3/4 lessons each a week. So far I’ve only observed and helped out, but my slight worry though is that they appear to have given me classes which are all good as gold – they all have a couple of characters in, but nothing major. I was beginning to think that this academy had no bad kids in at all!

During one of my spare periods this week however, I overheard one of the newer teachers discussing how she was going to manage a more difficult class, as the TA was off ill and she was worried about coping on her own. As I had a free period I offered to help, both for her sake and the experience, to which she gratefully but cautiously accepted, warning me that it could be a bit mad (exciting stuff!).

Before the class walked in the room I was briefed on the pupils that the teacher would like me to focus on; in particular one girl in the corner table who’d just had meeting with the head of year and her parents. I was to focus on this table of 8. The class was a bottom set year 9.

The class was hugely different from what I’d already experienced from the moment the pupils walked in the room. They immediately noticed me in the corner of the room and this sparked some curiosity and caution, but this diminished fairly quickly. The teacher set about moving a couple of problem pupils to different seats and the lesson begun. The starter was a ‘follow me’ task on time, which quickly spiralled out of control with a couple of the brighter kids shouting out and mocking some of the others who didn’t get it. The teacher began handing out C1’s (first warning on the IRIS behaviour management system) and reminded the ‘problem girl’ of the prior meeting; this seemed to work for the girl in question but not for the rest of the class. Within 10 minutes 6/7 C1’s and one C2 had been given out (its rare if I see more than a couple a week normally) with the teacher cutting the starter short.

During this I’d managed to keep some sort of control over my allocated table, doing my upmost to maintain a confident body stance and pre-empting the pupils shouting out, having the advantage of less pupils to monitor, but the teacher obviously had an entire room to control.

From this lesson I made a few observations. Firstly, in line with the recommendations of much academic literature (e.g. Capel, Leask & Turner (2009)), the teacher did attempt to shift the seating plan; this wasn’t very successful but the theory was there and she can try again next lesson based on the experience gained this lesson. One change which I feel could work is if the room was not laid out in groups. The teacher struggled to monitor pupils facing away from her, and pupils facing each other were encouraged to interact and disrupt the lesson. Using a more traditional row layout may have allowed her to monitor the room more effectively and minimise disruption.

Another observation I made is that blackmail can work (if used cautiously). The girl I was told to watch actually behaved incredibly well once reminded about the meeting and continued to do so through the lesson. Despite this, the normally very effective threat of a C1 or C2 had lost all meaning as the teacher was giving them out like sweets, a couple of which I (very humbly) feel were given out very inconsistently – I must emphasise that I am under no impression that I’m experienced enough to make any comment of value on this, but I feel that perhaps establishing clearer boundaries and giving out the punishment more consistently would have had more effect, as the pupils seemed to think they couldn’t do right.

Positive reassurance works – my table eventually settled and the teacher walked over, clearly prepared for another battle at which point I reassured her that they were working well. This seemed to please both parties and they got on (relatively) well after this.

Body language is everything – it’s not a nice thing to observe when a teacher is broken before the pupils have even walked in the room. I tried my best to appear confident and the vast majority of pupils actually respected that – I’ve since seen the pupils with another teacher who took command of the room in a much more positive confident manner and I struggled to recognise them as the same class.

So that’s my experience of the week! This week I’m conducting a couple of lessons and a few starters so I’ll hopefully use my experiences above to assist. I’m under no false pretence that my classes are actually good as gold – their teachers have just established clear routines, practices and respect within their classroom which is what I need to strive towards.

My first day in big school

So I’ve finished my first day! I’ve mixed feelings, lots to muddle over in my head, but overall I’m very happy 🙂

The boring descriptive bit:
The day started well, I turned up shortly before a couple of other trainees from my uni (but in different specialisms) who I got on with really well. We were then introduced to our professional mentor, and in passing the assistant head, before being taken up to the ‘staff social room’ (what’s wrong with calling it a staffroom?). There we spent a couple of lessons going through paperwork and had a general intro to the school and its policies. Fun fun fun!

Now I could be all happy and fuzzy and tell you it was all fantastic, but what’s the point of that? One of my biggest issues today was that this two lesson talk consisted mostly of us being told about how fantastic the school was, that they expect us to hit the same high standards, and that anything less isn’t good enough. Now I’m sure they can’t actually mean that literally – it’s very rare for a PGCE student to come out with a steady stream of outstanding lessons on their first few weeks, but it’s a bit overwhelming to be faced with such high expectations on day one. In Uni our mentors/tutors etc were saying that no one is expecting us to have perfect lessons instantly, that we need to hit certain (QTS) standards straight away, and then gradually incorporate the others as we progress, but this school seems to want it all, instantly. Perhaps I was being naive in thinking that they would let us loose on their pupils with ‘average’ lesson plans – I’ve been let into an academy with outstanding grades, reports and a fantastic reputation to match, they don’t want their progress dented by a trainee teacher, but there has to be a line somewhere surely.

So far I’ve had very little actual classroom experience, so I’ve no real idea of how my ideas will pan out in reality, how good my lesson plans actually are, or whether or not I’ll turn into a big gibbering pile of jelly when I actually have to stand in front of them all; until that point I can have no idea of where I stand in their scale of acceptable standards. This aside I can only do my best, and I’m confident in my abilities (relatively); this talk should of course get me to push myself even harder, which within reason should be a good thing.

Back on a more positive note, the kids behave astoundingly well, the dept. seem really friendly, and they’ve already organised for me to follow a KS3 pupil on Wednesday and KS4 pupil on Thursday – two of my targets hit straight away. Today was a bit of a whirlwind so I’m not sure how to go about finding out who runs what yet, but apparently there’s a lunch time maths club which I want to help in, and various other after-school activities.

With regards to behaviour, I only got to observe one class today but the pupils didn’t step a toe out of line, I was in awe. They use a system called IRIS, which has 4 levels of warning/punishment, but also rewards good behaviour. If they behave, they get awarded IRIS points which they can monitor online and use to buy things from pencils to pizza apparently, and they all appear to respond really well to this. I did plan to explain the actual steps to their system, but its long, boring, and I don’t think they’re even the effective aspect of the system – the emphasis seems to be on consistency throughout the school. Because of this, the pupils know that their actions will have consequences, and the results seem to speak for themselves from my own observation today.

I do wonder if this good behaviour is a good thing for my training, as I actually want some behaviour management experience. Saying that, respect from pupils is earned and takes time, so I’m sure some of the pupils will try to test me when I’m up there at the front; I should probably be careful what I wish for!

So that’s my first day, sorry for it being so waffle-y, just wanted to put my thoughts on paper really 🙂 I am planning to write a reflection on the lesson I observed which should be of a better standard, so look out for that later!


An excellent reflection on the use of flipped learning

The following is a link to (in my humble opinion) an excellent reflection on the use of flipped learning in classrooms


For those who aren’t aware of flipped learning you might find the following link useful:


10 Things I Wish I Knew My First Year Of Teaching

Some things I should probably consider before starting out this year, I particularly like number three:

3. Students won’t always remember the content, but many will never forget how you made them feel.

One day, you’ll just be the blurry face in an adult’s memory. They’ll likely not remember how a poet used symbolism to establish a harsh tone in a poem, and they may not remember you, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel about themselves.

e topic of education. I read a fair few, and I suspect that what I get the chance to read barely scratches the surface. I’m struck by the passion with which they are written and the dedication of those who write them. Can you tell there is a ‘however’ coming?However…. I have a creeping feeling that as practitioners, and in celebrating the reflective nature of our teaching, there is somewhat of a culture of fetishising pedagogy. I might be wrong, but from what I read, the teaching and learning blogs far outweigh those that consider other educational issues. It sometimes leaves me wondering if we fail to see the practice, and

via Show me the money!.

Maybe math isn’t the beast under the bed….