tinyjo: (Queen of Cups)
Well, the first week is done and I'm really pleased with how it went. The kids seems lovely - a little boisterous but very engaged with their learning. I'd forgotten how much they learn in a year though - they seem very young to me right now! All the staff were really welcoming, which was lovely and I feel like it's going to be a really positive working environment. I've got two TAs to work with (one 4 days a week and a different one on Fridays) and *they* both seem nice, so all in all, I feel like it's been a pretty good start. I was very knackered by Friday - I'd forgotten what working full weeks was like - but hopefully that won't last. I also picked up a mini-cold but that seems to have mostly gone already, fortunately. Slightly annoyingly, I realised that I needed to re-plan English for the week coming up because half the class had already studied the book I chose, but it didn't take much work, so not the end of the world. Next week is baseline assessment tests, which should be interesting!
tinyjo: (relaxing)
Am putting the finishing touches to plans for my first week at new school. Trying not to be too nervous - and being helped by the cats who have been doing lots of keeping me company while I work. Even as we speak, Clare is headbutting my fingers, suggesting that rather than typing, I should be stroking. Alex came in and helped me finish off the classroom on Friday and that is now looking really up to scratch. There's still a few things to sort out (and a few that I forgot to order) but there's two days of inset to get that sorted out in. I'm sure it'll all be fine, but I'm definitely in keyed up anticipation mode.

Have managed to have quite a good holiday over all - not much time definitively off, but quite a lot of time for being relaxed and doing reading as well as getting things done. I finished The Grace Of Kings and quite enjoyed it, although not enough to immediately start on the next one in the series. It definitely had charm, and I liked Kuni (although the book lets him off his collaborator past very easily). I could have done with spending rather less time with Mata, tbh, as he felt pretty lacking in redeeming features from the get go, although I did occasionally feel sorry for him. Still, it definitely had something to it. It felt not unakin to Song of Fire & Ice actually, in that it's attempting to tell a grand, sweeping story about a time of dramatic upheaval and to give you both an overview and a sense of active involvement in the action. It doesn't give you the same depth of character as SOFAI but, on the other hand, the level of gratuitous violence is considerably less and the story manages not to get bogged down and then lost up it's own arse, so I would say it's more successful. Actually, now I've made the comparison, I can definitely see this as a TV series - it's very episodic.
tinyjo: (sunflower)
I have been whiling away some of my holiday time reading around some of the knowledge vs skills debate that's been going on among teachers on twitter for the last couple of months. Most of the people I follow already have been on the knowledge side of the debate and I've felt like, more so than when looking at politics or similar, I've had to work quite hard to break out of that bubble to find the people with the opposing views (something I think I'm only beginning to succeed at). I haven't come to any conclusions or anything, or my own contribution to the debate yet, but my reading did spark the memory of an anecdote which feels relevant to me about my Year 13 mocks.

We studied Literature of Protest as one of our English Lit modules (that was where I first read the Handmaids Tale) and as well as our set text work there was an unseen texts paper. For our mock, the unseen text for that module was a poem called "White Poetess" by Musaemura Zimunya (I've looked, and sadly, I can't find a copy of the poem online) asking us to comment on how effectively the poet's protest was communicated to the reader. Briefly, the poem scorns the titular white poetess for her simple, superior view of Africa and Africans and for her romanticisation of the beauty of the landscape without acknowledging the Africans who live there. I wasn't particularly great at poetry analysis and I cobbled together a rough plan and had written nearly a page of it when I had one of the only genuine lightbulb moments of my own that I remember in my education. In the last stanza, the poem talks about the poetess going home and writing about "the Rhodesian veld". The word had been nagging at me for a while, and I suddenly remembered what Rhodesia was, and what the deliberate use of that word meant, particularly given that the poet had mentioned Zimbabwe earlier on. That one piece of knowledge unlocked the whole poem for me, brought the rest of the text into focus, to the extent that I remember actually crossing out the waffly essay I'd written so far and starting again.

When we went over the mock in class after they'd been marked, it transpired that I was the only person in my 12 person class who knew anything about Rhodesia or what the use of that word signified and quite a few of the other students claimed the question was unfair because there was no reason they should be expected to have this piece of random knowledge anyway. I have no idea where I'd picked it up - we hadn't studied the empire at all in the history I was doing at school, but I always have been a sponge for random information (although not science facts, oddly) so I imagine I read it somewhere and it stuck.

I'm still not entirely sure where this anecdote fits into the current knowledge vs skills debate. My knowledge unlocked the poem for me in a very powerful way. I only rarely connect to poetry as a form, and that sense of sudden understanding was exciting and precious. I kept a copy of the poem afterwards, which I still have today, and as you can see, the memory is fresh in my mind, so on the surface it seems to argue towards the teaching of knowledge.

I'm not so sure though. I do think there was some validity in the other students complaints that the question was unfair. The world is absolutely full of random knowledge like that - it was purest co-incidence that I happened to know of it and I don't think there could have been any reasonable expectation that our English Lit teacher would equip us with even a fraction of the possible historical allusions which might come up in the poetry of protest. And it wasn't that piece of knowledge alone which brought the poem to life in that moment for me - it was the skills of literary analysis which I'd been taught which allowed me to understand the depth of what the poet was doing with that word choice. Both knowledge and skills were vital to that moment. Most of the students knew a little about the British Empire - would it not have been reasonable to have included a footnote with the specific definition of Rhodesian?

Where I'm working now is at a very different stage in the learning journey of my students than I was at that point and I definitely think that there is value in exposing the children to a wide range of facts at this stage - who knows what will stick? But of course, as the possessor of a brain which is naturally filled with random facts, this is not so hard for me to accomplish and, given my teaching style, actually seems to be basically inevitable. Maybe the conclusion I'm coming to is, in this knowledge/skills tug-of-war, perhaps different teachers need to focus on different things. I often think about skills in my lesson planning but that's partly because I know that the knowledge content will be there anyway but that if I don't think about making the skills of using it explicit that won't happen automatically - other teachers are probably the other way around.
tinyjo: (webdesigner - chez geek)
It's interesting, moving to a school which is much more free about how teachers run their classrooms because it gives me space to think not "what do I have to do" when I'm getting ready for next year, but "what do I want to do". It hit me again just now, thinking about morning work - I started off by thinking "what shall I do about morning work this year" and then moved on to "hang on, is that even a thing in my new school?" to *then* thinking "well, do I want it to be a thing? Was it useful?" It feels odd that should be the last thought rather than the first one, but that was rather how I got conditioned by the old place - we had a huge "must" list which I would never have had time to do all of, so it was about prioritising which things would be most visible and/or would take the least effort; what was most efficacious didn't really come into it. It's the same with displays - now I don't have a list of displays every classroom should have which is longer than the number of boards I have, I'm starting to actually think about what I want my displays to be for.

Then again, I'm leaning on the side of having morning work (tasks for them to do when they come in for registration) - it's a good opportunity for short burst practice of skills and it really helps get them settled and in a good headspace for learning - but that's because, having been doing it for about 6 years, I know how to make it work well. When I started, I found it of very little value and time consuming to prepare and I resented it, but that was because I had no real idea what it should be for, other than keeping the kids occupied, and so I couldn't properly select tasks for it. So the must list did have some value too - it pushed me to try something and work to get it right that I might not otherwise have done. On the third hand, surely that could have been achieved by better communication from the people on my SLT and leading my team about what the point was and what good morning work looked like rather than me groping towards it. I guess that's the whole point of me moving up to SLT myself now - can I help people to develop good/useful practice without descending to the must list?
tinyjo: (cat don't care)
Went to training at my new school on Thursday and the positive vibe definitely continues - I have a really good feeling about the move. We sorted out my application for the leadership course they want to put me on next year and they're right behind the writing assessment project I've got planned which will take forward what I've done this year. Also, on a geeky note, they want to buy me what looks like an *amazing* smart TV thing to use as my interactive board for my classroom, which would be super exciting. I really hope it arrives before the holidays so I can have a play with it over the break as it'll be quite different from what I've used before. Obviously the shiny video on the product website is always a bit misleading but it does look like I should be able to do some really quite neat stuff with it eventually, including controlling stuff on the kids screens and so on.

I am really enjoying the garden at the moment and I can't get over how much more light it gets now that we've had the horse chestnut next door cut back. It does mean that the decking is in full sun in the middle of the day though so I might have to buy a patio umbrella to sit under - it's not good for the laptop, if nothing else! Generally though, it's all looking really nice and the kittens love playing out there. They're only allowed out under supervision at the minute, but soon they'll be having their ops and then we hope to retire the litter tray - not a minute too soon!
tinyjo: (Default)
This is education related, not related to any of the other chaos going on in British political life...

letter to my MP )
tinyjo: (Default)
Well, that's the methodology section written! Am actually over half way done now, which is a relief and I have a reasonably good idea of when I am going to get the rest done (i.e. while visiting my folks next week).

I went into school yesterday to make a start on my classroom and, of course, that turned out to be the day the cleaner wanted to wash my walls and do my polishing. Sigh. Still, I did get some stuff done. I think I'm going to swing by again today to pick up one or two things I forgot yesterday before I get properly stuck into classroom organisation tomorrow.

3458 / 6000 (57.63%)
tinyjo: (charlie)
Looking back on here, I actually posted more than I realised last year. Not anything like regularly, but more than I thought I had, which is quite pleasing. Still, could do better. I've been thinking that I miss writing - I'm going to try to kick start my fiction writing again this year by pushing myself into it a bit more and perhaps I could do worse than write more here too. It's all practice after all.

Got my second TMA back from my history course and just squeaked a first out of it which I was extremely squee-ish about! Also, as with previous essay, got good helpful feedback from my tutor. She's definitely the best tutor I've had at the OU by some way for giving clear, helpful feedback about structure and content. Now I just have to manage to apply some of it to the next essay!

Had a conversation with my head about dropping to four days a week next year, which is in many ways my ideal lifestyle. She seemed totally up for it - accepted the idea with no hedging at all. We have a lot of part time teachers, mostly for maternity reasons, so I guess she figures it'll be easy to find someone happy to teach my extra day without too much trouble, which is probably true. I'm hoping it'll be a Friday (the extra day, I mean) so that I can take long weekends more easily, although I will still have to negotiate around Brownies for that one. Still, all in all, I'm excited about the prospect.

Looking at my calendar to fix up one or two things this morning, realise it's really not that far until my birthday. Think it will be a quiet one this year as nothing can possibly top the Avengers eating and drinking party from last year (seriously, it was epic) and we only have had 2 of the next group of films out so far :D
tinyjo: (candle trail)
So, an unexpected day off. Actually, it's not really a day off as my union is not striking, a decision I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, I do think that many of the education policies pursued by the current government are misguided and dangerous and demonstrate serious misapprehensions of and disrespect for the role of the teacher and profession of teaching. The government doesn't seem to listen to anything the profession has to say on this so perhaps we need to shout, as it were. On the other hand, I find it very hard to believe that this will actually do anything to change those pre-conceieved views and may in fact encourage them to entrench themselves further into the belief that teacher are all left wing zealots who are secretly inclucating a socialist revolution and must be stopped via the medium of performance related pay and a strongly transmissive* curriculum. That's somewhat confused but it does genuinely seem to be what Gove thinks sometimes. Put a little less strongly, I think it may bolster an us vs them attitude in the DoE which can hardly be productive. But then nothing else is and that attitude is already there to some extent so we have to play the cards we're dealt. As I say, ambivalent.

Anyway, as my union is not striking but my school is closed, I do get something quite valuable which is a day to catch up on my paperwork and marking without any distractions, which is rather nice but of course I am procrastinating by writing a journal post about my feelings about the strike. I don't think this counts as fighting the power either way.

I also wonder where we go from here. Will there be more strikes if nothing changes (and I find it hard to believe that anything will)? Will the government offer some piffling alteration and the unions accept it as the best they can get? Perhaps there are more duvet days in my future.

* Not a weird insult but a taxonomy (I think by Askew but I haven't got my notes at home) about how teachers believe learning is achieved - he divided teachers into constructionists (who believe that learning is constructed through collaboration between teacher and learner), discovery-ists (who believe that learning is discovered by the learner if the right environment is provided by the teachers), and transmissives (who believe that learning happens through teacher instruction in specific methods and facts).
tinyjo: (Default)
Well, it's nearly the end of half term, sadly. As usual, I feel like I haven't accomplished nearly as much as I would have liked to. Every time I cross something off the list on my whiteboard, I seem to add two more things, which is a little frustrating, but I have managed to get through a couple of big ticket items, so that's a relief. I just have to force myself to do the rest of the unaided writing levelling!

At home, work has actually started on decking the back garden, which is very exciting. We're starting off by redoing the retaining wall which holds the flower bed in place which was in rather a parlous state and then it'll be on to the decking! It might even be done by Christmas, although the front garden will almost certainly take longer. Still, things are happening, which is good. I haven't managed to clean the bathroom yet, of course, but still, all things in their time.
tinyjo: (sunflower)
Well, if I had any doubts about whether it was worthwhile buying my tablet, I can be reassured by the fact that I left it at school accidentally (at least I really hope I did - I was using it to read an ebook to my class so that we'd have enough copies that they could read along with regular books) and am really really missing it today. Normally I would lie around and read a book in bed and then get up and futz around on the internet while sitting in my comfy chair with it. I am actually missing it enough that I popped over to school because I thought they were open for ballet classes and stuff (they weren't actually, which was annoying) to see if I could find it.

In other only semi-in-my-brain related news, this is the first week in which Alex has gone to Oxfam and will be buying books which will end up at school which will actually be paid for by school money! I talked to Rach (our head) and she's agreed to fund us improving our bookshelves by, you know, having some books on them through giving Alex a list of writers and just buying the bloody things. I asked my class for suggestions and got a list of about 20 authors so that should keep us busy for a while!

Also, I am spending far too much time thinking about the experience machine. I wish I could do the last assignment on it but the question about it bears no relation to my thoughts on it so I might have to do something else! I have now started the registration process for my next OU course (Themes in the history of Wales), which is a small one so that I can also do a Masters level course next year without buggering up my transitional funding arrangements for my OU study. My school are offering/asking to fund me to train as a Mathematics Specialist Teacher. It looks interesting and comes to 60 points of Masters study (out of 180) over two years. I emailed Oxfordshire to ask about applying and got an email back saying "Yes, you can totally have a place!" which was a bit unnerving, but I think Rachel had already talked to the person there about me so hopefully it's just that and not that anyone can have a place for the asking! As a result, I'm also being made Maths co-ordinator, as our current one is about to go off and have a baby, so I'm also going to be applying for a salary bump, which I really hope I get as it comes with extra non-contact time attached so I'll be able to cover the extra work! It's a really good opportunity, but I feel very early in my teaching career to be taking on this much responsibility! There seem to be a lot of exclamation marks in there, which feels not quite right. There should be an uncertainty mark or something that I could use.
tinyjo: (Default)
It's sad to reflect on how vain I am sometimes. I posted to the tutorial forum for my OU course (some stuff about Plutarch and the Life of Anthony) and got a very complimentary response from the tutor with a further question. I replied to that and now I refresh the forum every half hour or so hoping for further compliments. Sad eh.

On the other hand, it should remind me of the power of praise with my class tomorrow.
tinyjo: (Default)
Easter school is surprisingly tiring actually. I thought I'd get loads of work done this week but actually I'm kind of knackered after having 4 hours of kids. Which I suppose is not that surprising as we'd have 5 hours of kids in a normal school day so it's not that much less. Still, the extra cash will definitely come in handy and it's quite a good scheme, nice for the kids. I guess I'll get some work done next week - it doesn't seem very likely that we'll be able to move in on Monday next week so I'll have a few quiet days here next week, I expect. I'm going to pop over this evening, I think, and see how things are getting on, perhaps take Alex with me for a look see.

We had a barbeque on Sunday, which was absolutely glorious. I got suntanned and it felt so good. It was really sad today to wake up and see how cloudy it was - I really hope we get a nice warm May/June so that I can get out there and enjoy my garden and garden room!
tinyjo: (Default)
Am at in service training with Pie Corbett. Am not sure it is worth all the money we're being charged for it really. It's OK but not much surprising in there really. It's not not knowing this stuff, it's the time and energy to do it full on all the time. It's really sunny outside and I find myself thinking wistfully abouut blowing off the afternoon and going and sitting in the park and reading. Sadly, there are other teachers from my school here so I don't think I'll get away with it but I can dream :)

House seems to be taking for ever. I don't think it's anyone being slow, just I can't wait for it all to be done. Chose paint colours yesterday but still haven't actually ordered the appliances. Might do that now while I've got wifi.
tinyjo: (Default)
I have to read a favourite poem in assembly tomorrow (as do all the other teachers). What would you pick?
tinyjo: (Default)
I need a name for a joint blog which is going to be run by our school and a French one. Any ideas?
tinyjo: (computer cat)
Mountain questions from one of the kids coming up into year 5 in my class:

How high does a mountain have to be to be a mountain?
Are mountains always pointy at the top?
Is the inside of a mountain wet or dry?
Is a mountain solid rock or lots of little rocks?

All from one person. I am quite looking forward to my new year 5's, I have to say.
tinyjo: (Default)
Have now completed 1/10 of my reports. I've actually *written* slightly more than that, as I've also written all the maths reports and copied in the French and music from those teachers. Still, feels like miles to go! No fun for me until it's all done :( It's quite hard to plow through because a lot of it is quite dull to write and I expect half of it won't be read, but still, there is a value there, I guess. If I wasn't having to faff around with Word at the same time, that would be better - I might write some software for it next time.
tinyjo: (candle trail)
Must stop checking my inbox to see if my essay has been marked yet! It's only been a week! I should know better.

Also, I feel that I would like to boast. I diverted my science lesson this afternoon to explain chemical symbols (CO2, H20, etc) and the chemical reaction of photosynthesis (off the top of my head, too) in reaction to the class being really interested in the whole thing. They didn't all follow it, but they all got something out of it and some of them definitely got it and got really excited and kept asking me what elements other chemicals were made of - they were particularly amazed that salt molecules had chlorine in them.
tinyjo: (cassie by jeremy)
Week one of school went really well - class seem lovely and very sparky. We'll have to see how it develops, of course. Not sure if I'm being mean enough to them, but we'll see. If you want the detail, you can read [livejournal.com profile] stf_feed or [info - personal] start_to_finish.

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tinyjo: (Default)
Emptied of expectation. Relax.

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