Saturday, 18 June 2016


I'm at the stage where I am seriously questioning the decision to do this course - the question was asked when I signed up. Back then I thought that I mainly needed to update core knowledge, and a bit of classroom management practise. It should be like riding a bike - and I "knew" this because I had taught a class a few years ago (having been absent for a decade) and, though I had a bit of a wobbly start, I recovered and all the old intuitions came flooding back.
This time it is not happening. It is as if I've forgotten everything I ever learned about classroom management. I seem to have some nascent feel for the senior classes, but the further down the worse it is. I know nobody finds them easy but I'm talking about how someone looks when they have had no experience at all.
On the upside, my feedback so far is that everything else is fine to excellent. I seem to be able to get a rapport with students quickly and this has saved me from real catastrophe so far. I can produce a range of lesson strategies which keeps the seniors happy ... but I'm sluggish to respond to surprises and the year 9 class is............ nuff said. Curriculum, knowledge, etc is not a problem. This does not feel like much of an upside since classroom management is just about everything. It's upsetting because it used to be almost effortless.
I do not think I will be fit for teaching at the end of this practicum.
To come back to teaching I believe I need more extensive coaching in classroom management ... is there such a thing?

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Y9 Sci NCEA4-5

Starting Y9 science this coming week.

This is a mixed ability group with an unconventional teacher (Anton Ford). Last week his teaching style suddenly snapped into focus and made sense: he assigns exercises to expose students to the information then runs literacy lessons (focussing on vocab) so they can talk and write about their experiences. It turns out that almost all the students can perform to merit, even if their language is a bit shaky.

I have 8 lessons to plan but have the first 4 mostly mapped out.
These will be a roundup of work to date on sound and light.

Lesson 1 is a practical: I'll draw on prior learning in the unit concerning reflection to see if they can discover the pattern relating the angle between two adjacent mirrors and the number of images produced. ie 90deg = 3 images etc.
ie. If the angle is A, then (360/A) - 1 = N ... but I don't expect a math statement out of these folks. I'd be happy with an algorithm or a flowchart.
They know how mirrors can change the direction of light. I'll be concentrating on "object" and "image" relationships (they still call the image "the reflection" so they think the object is being reflected in the mirror - which is common language: need to reinforce the scientific use.) Other lit vocab: "scattering" (vs reflection, refraction, and absorption)

Lesson 2 is theory: some back-and-fill on using formulas from the earlier lesson because some students are still confused. Maths literacy is a bit wanting - I may have to run some science maths lit skills lessons. But some are strong and there will be finishing-off exercises in their books and maybe a ray-tracing handout so they can get merit (min) and write up the practical.

Lesson 3 is a computer exercise: I could set a treasure hunt, say, why does a mirror reverse left and right but not up and down? What would it take to become invisible? That kind of thing. This is more half baked because I really need a google classroom login so I can see the resources properly.

Lesson 4: wrapup - the Scipad books have a chapter closing exercise many will have started in lesson 2.

The main focus for my own learning is classroom management - which is mostly revolving around routines.

Well that's the plan anyway. Securing enough plain mirrors is turning out to be hit and miss. I'm trying to order some through a local glass company and I've heard that the school's wood-mounted mirrors have been found so, fingers crossed, there will be enough at least to work in threes.

Math L1 NCEA L6

Started some structured teaching for senior maths early - this is because next week (when I would have started teaching) the seniors are all on external exams so no classes. I have a Y11 Math (this class), a Y11 Physics, and a Y9 Science. I'll try to get an extra Y8-9 maths class if I can, and observe another junior science while exams are on. That way I can get some more teaching in no the sly.

What ho: The class is finishing the unit on "chance and data" for the finals. My task was to teach a series of statistical literacy exercises for the 1st 20mins of each period, then revision exercises using worksheets which are team-taught with the regular teacher (Sam Yasli).

These results were encouraging - I seem to be able to build a rapport with the class quickly, which is useful for when I make mistakes. The exercise has proved popular - students asking for more, and asking questions about how the exercise fits with the rest of their education.

All I'm doing is putting a photo of a statistical statement with evidence on the board and student are given 2mins to figure out the author, what the main claim is, what evidence is being offered for the claim, if the evidence actually supports the claim, and what should have been provided.

They were a bit slow to get it, but, on the last lesson, managed to do the exercises smoothly and confidently. Later on I'll have to try more complicated texts - some where the evidence does support the claim, and some with more than one key claim.

Sam has provided useful feedback - mostly about managing the class, how I should not let this early apparent success go to my head etc. Organization and resource tips. We seem to jell - automatically bouncing off each other as a team. We will need to be careful with that when I have to solo-teach though: it is too tempting to jump in.

In the last week, I'll be teaching them full-time from scratch in a new unit: Algebra. Ooh er.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Queen's birthday thoughts

Last Fridays was a "Teacher Only Day" at WHS - this was a day set aside for professional development - in this case, a series of seminars and workshops and um stuff on "Restorative Practice" from the Institute of Professional Learning people from Waikato U.

 This produced some robust conversations around frustrations applying the more "touchy-feely" RP methods to the somewhat anarchic students at the school, many of whom are happy to game the system. I was curious to discover there was a name for the kind of management system I was trying out, and discovered I lacked follow-through: how to hold the student to account for improving their behaviour. Something that seems common.

I have settled to classes - I have a y11 maths, y9, sci, y11phys, and a form class ... going for a 0.8 load. The only trouble is that the seniors have external assessments in the 3rd week of my practicum, so I will be doing some teaching next week. Doubly unfortunate, the regular teachers are concerned that their students are prepped for the assessments - so the style I can use is going to be somewhat restricted with a focus towards revision. But there is still some flexability there.

The Y11's will get L6 stats: "statistical reports". This is basically a literacy exercise. We'll see.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

New Resources

Google Classroom
... it's Google.

Census at School
... school statistics resources.

TES (Times Educational Suppliment)
... meant for the UK curriculum but many are compatible.

Practicum Day 4

Towards the end of a week; tomorrow is a "teacher only day" - which is for prof development etc which I will attend and reflect on but for now...

The stand out today was a volunteer to supervise three students who refuse to do any work.
They had a work-sheet on manipulating fractions, which produced a lot of resistance until they realized their calculators could handle fractions. School policy is that students should use technology to solve problems. So the exercise (not set by me, or anybody present) was defeated.

As a content area, is fractions even a thing now? Seems to me it is like times tables after 4-function calculators became common. Students need to know what fractions are and the basics of the manipulation. Perhaps fractions have become a kind of notation for algebra and the standard division symbol should be depreciated?

Y9 Science class has the widest range of ability possible. Todays class was computer based and ope ended: make a 4min presentation for Y7 science on "How does light work?" which managed to cater for all levels nicely. This was via google classroom. I noticed a gender divide in organization: girls laid out their presentation first while the boys looked for information, but were reluctant to produce anything.

The school has strong ITC integration and most students have smartphones and access to laptops.