Meeting My “First Year Self”

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working with a group of student teachers and a few new relief (substitute / casual) teachers, and been given ample opportunity to reflect on my early career experiences. I still have vivid (painful) memories of my student teaching practical experiences, and remember how I graduated from university in 2008 with high hopes and a completely unrealistic sense of my readiness to teach.

It is hard for my current colleagues to believe that the eccentric relief teacher that they see now was the epitome of the ‘angry young man’ just a few short years ago. Nevertheless, it’s true. It took me years to accept that my university had not properly prepared me for the profession, and that teaching was a much harder, more savage profession than I’d ever imagined.

This is my fifth year ‘on the road’, although I’m only just entering my fourth year of teaching (in terms of days worked). I’ve yet to have a class of my own, despite spending three months in a school (an unpleasant story with unexpectedly positive outcomes). It has been an interesting journey, but despite all the setbacks and disappointments, I’m actually a better person for it. And besides, with most graduates quitting within three years, I’m one of the survivors.

I’ve come a long way

I am a different person, a different teacher than I was just a few short years ago.

It has taken me over four years to feel competent, to feel like that I actually know what I’m doing. Yes, I make my mistakes, but I’m making fewer of them … Yes, I still struggle to manage some classes, but I have a better classroom management toolkit and approach to help me get through the difficult situations. And perhaps most importantly, with an extensive national and international education network, I no longer feel angry, isolated, and alone.

So, as I reflect on my pre-service and early career teaching experiences, I found myself mentally composing the advice I wish I’d been given all those years ago. For those of you about to graduate your teacher training, and those starting out in our profession, this is for you.

 

First Year Teaching is Hell Hard.

 
cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by wakingphotolife:

Please don’t enter this profession with rose coloured glasses. Please don’t expect to easily get a teaching position in a good school, in a good class. Don’t expect to be the perfect, well organised competent classroom teacher from Day One …

Teaching is not an easy profession, and your first year will be, to put it mildly, hard slog. It is a matter of survival, resilience, and perseverance. The meetings, the dealings with parents (who can be difficult), the planning, the extracurricular activities, the classroom management challenges … and the list goes on.

It is easy to be disillusioned, isolated, and alone as a new teacher, particularly when you’re a relief teacher or new graduate in a ‘horror’ class. Research shows that virtually all new teachers go through a process of survival, disillusionment, and rejuvenation, although some people take longer to go through a phase than others.

Image via http://www.weac.org/professional_resources/new_teacher_resources/beg_handbook/phases.aspx

(Image source:  http://www.weac.org/professional_resources/new_teacher_resources/beg_handbook/phases.aspx. BTW, I highly recommend the Survival Guide at this link)

As a relief teacher, I didn’t have the support network that most new teachers have when they’re posted to a school. I was lucky that I had a few schools which were willing to forgive my horrific management mistakes, and give me the teaching experience I so desperately needed.

I am indebted to those relief coordinators who gave me a chance to learn and improve, who didn’t ‘spit me out’ after one or two days in their school. I went through some very traumatic experiences, yet I was one of the luckier ones, as I wasn’t stuck in a horrible class or supportive school for my first year of teaching.

It isn’t really possible to adequately prepare for the challenges of first year teaching, but there are some strategies and resources you can access to help ease the transition.

 

Develop your PLN / support network BEFORE you graduate from your teacher training course!



cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Alec Couros

If I could go back in time and change one thing about my university teacher training, I would have started building my online support network as a first year teacher. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest teacher trainers should provide some information about online education networks and support communities as part of the first year teacher curriculum and graduate teacher programmes, as this would make a significant difference for many early career teachers.

My online support network has helped make me the teacher I am today. From providing emotional support behind the scenes through some of the most traumatic episodes of my career, to giving me the empowering chance to present at my first online conference, and to the ongoing collaboration that I contribute to, my online network has stood by me, and helped me grow over the past few years.

And remember, if you’re employed in a school community, don’t forget to develop your local support network as well. You’re not expected to know everything (although we often think we should), and don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues (teacher next door) for help and advice. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, as you can’t survive in this profession if you try to go it alone. You’re working to create a learning community in your classroom and school, so don’t be afraid to practice what you preach!

 

Engage in State/Union Graduate Teacher Professional Development opportunities. 

In Western Australia, I was lucky enough to be one of the few relief teachers to progress through the Education Department’s teacher induction programme. It is called different things in different states (see here for details) and different countries, but early career mentoring and professional development programmes are truly invaluable. You’d be truly mad not to participate if you’re eligible, and I was certainly glad I did so.

 

Try and maintain your health

This is vitally important, and something that I probably should have paid more attention to in my first few years. Eating healthily, aiming for regular exercise, and maintaining an outdoor hobby are critical to surviving first year teaching.

I must confess that while I became a skilled ballroom dancer during this time (it was my only social outlet), ignoring chronic stress-related health problems saw me end up in hospital. I know for a fact that I wasn’t the only first year teacher who went through this experience, and I can only stress that setting some time aside to look after yourself, however hard, is critical when you’re starting out in this very stressful, and time-consuming profession.

 

Document the Journey

As you progress in your career, there will be times where you will want to look back, and see how you thought and acted in your early years. In fact, I’m doing that now …

A private journal or blog is an essential medium for first year teachers. Believe it or not, it really, really helps to just take a moment to write down what you are doing, how you are feeling, and what you’re planning to work on. In my first year, I took a few hours each school holidays to sit and write, and what I wrote makes for interesting, if admittedly painful, reading.

In more recent years, this blog has replaced my journal, although I have always maintained a separation between the raw emotion of the journals & the more professional tone I use here. I’m not sure I could have publicly blogged my first year experiences, although I do know, and greatly respect those teachers who do so.

Keep hold of your dreams, passions, and reasons for entering teaching.

Each person comes into teaching for different reasons, and there will be times in your early career where you’d will be wondering if it is all worth it, whether you’re actually achieving anything, or making a difference.

Don’t let go of your dreams, find something to cling on to – through the good and the bad. If you’re lucky enough to discover a passion for something, hold on to it with both hands. Having a sense of purpose and direction makes a huge difference when you’re going through the rough times, and will help you stay in what is, at the end of the day, a wonderful profession.

Remember, you’re never alone. And you ARE making a difference.

 

Enjoy the ride

First year teaching will be a challenge, but it is just the beginning of what we hope will turn out to be an amazing journey. As I enter my fourth year of teaching, the painful memories and traumatic experiences have faded, replaced by the triumphs, successes, and positive learning experiences of the past two years.

They say “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”, and that seems to have defined my teaching journey. For all the highs and lows, I’m a better person, and a better teacher. I’m looking forward to an exciting future in my chosen profession, and can’t wait to discover where it will take me.

Yes, I may not have (yet) had my own class, or a school to truly call home. Yet, I’m a teacher, and I’m proud of it.

All that remains is to wish my student-teacher and first year colleagues ‘good luck’ for your future. You have the potential to become great teachers, and I look forward to working with you in the years to come. Welcome to teaching.

 

Well, It’s My Story …

A few weeks ago, I was invited by Edna Sackson (@whatedsaid) to share my story about why I became (and remain) a teacher. Overcoming my reservations, and with Edna’s support, I wrote A Teacher’s Story, which was guest posted on the ‘What Ed Said’ blog on May 28, 2011.

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If you haven’t seen it, you can find it here. (It was also picked up on the ‘Success in the Classroom’ blog here).



An unexpected response

To be honest, I was taken aback by the level of interest in my story. I received some heartfelt comments and supportive feedback from around the world, which I have permission to share here.

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Thankyou

If there is one message that I’d like my readers to take away from A Teacher’s Story, it is this: If new teachers are to remain in the profession, they need to feel supported and fairly treated by their colleagues and employers. Too many new teachers feel isolated, stressed, and alone, and before I discovered my PLN, I was once one of them.

We live, we learn, we grow. Why should we leave?

Thankyou for your feedback and ongoing support.

 

Guest Post: Classroom Management – Donald Trump Style

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In today’s guest post, Sam Rangel (@samrangelSITC) from SuccessintheClassroom.com explores some of the key elements of an effective classroom management approach, sharing the benefits of his 20+ years middle school (Yrs 6-8) teaching experience in California, USA. 

As a new teacher, I’ve found the SuccessintheClassroom blog to be an extremely relevant & practical professional learning resource. Sam’s grasp of the everyday realities and challenges faced by new teachers around the world is second to none, and I hope he continues to share his expertise for many years to come.

Now, on that note, we proudly bring you:

Classroom Management – Donald Trump Style.

When I tell people that I teach middle school, I always get thewow-you-deserve-a-medal look or the sorry-you’re-stuck-with-that-job look or the and-you-haven’t-gone-crazy-yet look.

When I tell them that I’ve been teaching 12 and 13-year-olds for over 20 years now, and I’m still loving it, they can’t believe it.

Why is that? Why did my college dean tell the other teacher prospects that I was going straight to heaven when I died, because I wanted to teach middle school?

It’s because we all know 12 and 13-year-olds. We know how they behave. We know how they think they know more than anyone. We know how they want to push the limits. We know how they don’t like rules.

Of course, not all 12 and 13-year-olds act like this, but we know enough who do, and having 35-40 of them in a room together for close to an hour at a time can be scary.

That’s why you will find very few teachers who actually want to be middle school teachers. Most of them want to be elementary or high school teachers, which I totally understand.

When I first started teaching, I looked too young to be a high school teacher, and I didn’t have the patience for elementary kids. They require you to smile too much, and you have to dance and sing and decorate your room in a bright pastel colors, and that’s just not me.

When I got a long term substitute position in middle school, however, I knew I had found my place.

To teach middle school, you have to be an expert in classroom management or else you’ll be eaten alive by these hormone-driven, drama-seeking, argumentative, push-your-buttons, trying-to-find-out-who-they-are students.

So in this post, I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned over the years about classroom management, and hopefully I’ll be able to help newer teachers find a little more success in the classroom.

I truly enjoy what I do, and middle school kids are amazing. I know, however, if I didn’t have my classroom management skills, I probably wouldn’t be teaching anymore, and I probably wouldn’t still have all my hair.

 


Here we go:

1. Make Great Lesson Plans

The best way to keep students from misbehaving is to keep them engaged. This will only happen when you have a great lesson. The times when I’ve had the most problems with my classroom management were those days when I just winged it. For some reason, I came to class with no plan. It’s a rarity, but it served to remind me of the dangers of not being prepared. With 8th graders, five minutes of nothing to do will turn into 10 minutes of redirection.

Lesson plan preparation is the most important element in great classroom management. I always plan for more than the time allows. If I have a 40 minute period, I plan for 50 minutes. I also always have a mini lesson, like a vocabulary activity, in my back pocket just in case I have too much period left after the lesson.


2. Remember That They’re Just Kids

I often hear teachers talk about how a certain student made them so mad that they wanted to kick that student out of the classroom, call their parents, place them on the terrorist watch list, etc. You have to remember that these are kids. They are going to do things that we adults know better not to do.

Once we remind ourselves that these are just kids, then we won’t get so upset. We won’t get into a shouting match with a 12-year-old. Do we excuse the behavior? No, of course not. We hand out a consequence and make that a teachable moment. Some kids just don’t know why what they did was wrong.

 

3. Show Them You Care About Them

For a lot of teachers, this is an easy one. You probably wouldn’t get into teaching if you didn’t have a heart for kids. There are times, however, when we lose focus on this, especially when the students are acting out or when we have other more personal issues occupying our thoughts or when  the administration is pressuring us to improve test scores, etc.

Many times the student who is acting out the most is doing so out of a need for attention that he/she is not receiving elsewhere. It would be a good idea to take a look at the student’s records to see if there are any home issues that would help explain his/her behavior.

This takes time. You’ll have to spend that valuable prep period or time before or after school to do the research, but if you can conceptualize a day when that one student is not causing problems in your class, it may be worth the investment of time.

I’ve had many students who are terrors in every other class except mine, not because I’m a better teacher, but  because I’ve made a connection with this students, and he/she doesn’t want to break that connection by making me mad.

Taking time to show some sincere concern to this student will make so much of a difference in how he/she behaves in your class. What I like to do is bombard that student with positive comments. “You’re so smart.” “That was amazing.” “Nice job.” A lot of times, these students have only heard negative words coming from the adults in their lives. They’ll behave better in your class, because they know they’ll get some verbal pats on the back for a change.


4. Act Like Donald Trump

One thing I’ve noticed about Mr. Trump is that he is in charge everywhere he goes. Even when he’s not the person in charge, he acts like he’s the person in charge. It’s all about his presence.

That is what I notice about teachers who have problems with classroom management. They don’t have the in-charge presence. It’s almost like they’re afraid of the kids. The kids will ask them a question like, “Why do we have to do this?”, and they’ll go into a long and confusing explanation describing the reasons why the lesson that they are about to begin is important or they’ll get offended and kick the student out of the class.

Would Donald do that?

When a student asks me that question, I stop and give him/her my I-can’t-believe-you’re-questioning-my-lesson look. Most of the time, the student will say, “never mind”, and I’ll continue as if the question was never raised. It’s all about presence. It’s your class. You are the expert. You know everything, and the students are so fortunate to be spending 40 minutes of their lives learning from you.

This is a change in mindset for many new teachers who are unsure about their abilities and are still learning how to teach. The sooner they get past this and move into the I’m-in-charge phase, the sooner they’ll see a decrease in their discipline problems.

It’s not being mean or tyrannical. It’s being in charge. It’s all about presence. Go ahead and fake it if you have to, but don’t let the students get any idea that you are not the one in charge. By the way, Mr. Trump, if you’re reading this, how about hooking up my students with some new laptops? It’s worth a try.

These are just a few ways to help you with classroom management, and although I’m definitely not the world’s expert in this area, I have been teaching 8th graders for the last 20+ years, so that gives me a little bit of an edge.

I love what I do. I have a great day almost every day, because my students don’t (or can’t) ruin my day. I can see how many teachers leave the profession just after three years. It is an often thankless job with very little pay and little support, and on top of all that, you have a bunch of kids who want to see how far to the edge they can push you.

There are many, many benefits that come with being a teacher, however. You don’t make a lot of money, but you do make a difference. Getting your classroom management skills perfected will help you not only make more of a difference, but you’ll have fun in the process.

I share some more specific tips on my other website: TipsForNewTeachers.com, so feel free to take a look.

I would welcome any comments, questions, criticisms, etc.

Thanks,

Sam

What the heck is a PLN?

I’m a new teacher, returning to relief / substitute teaching after 3 months in (several) classrooms.

My PLN has changed the way I learn, and the way I teach, for the better. Yet, I am still to meet a new teacher in my part of the world who’s ever heard of, or has a PLN.

Perhaps this post will help to change that.

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Why you should begin your own PLNAshley Azzopardi (@ashleyazzopardi)

Defining the Personal Learning Network

As a quick Google search will show, there is a wealth of information already written and shared about Personal Learning Networks available online. So, in writing this post, I’ve drawn upon the collective expertise and thoughts of my own PLN. (A big thankyou goes to @mwedwards and @ashleyazzopardi in particular for your help with this post).

So, what does it mean to have a PLN?

Imagine being able to walk into a room filled with the very best education professionals, selected by YOU, and having a conversation with them!

It can be as long or as short as you want, and as in-depth as you have time for. Perhaps you might discuss ways to teach various concepts, learn about resources that others are using, or maybe even have conversations that challenge the way you think about education and teaching.

This is exactly what a Personal Learning Network (PLN) can bring to you!”

Ann Carnevale in Break Down Walls, Build Up A Community [italics added]


To me, this is the essence of my Personal Learning Network –

Connecting, Mentoring, Sharing and Learning

 



Building a PLN

People go about building or growing their PLN in different ways. I personally started by talking to my real-world colleagues; moved to blogging about my experiences; took the plunge with Twitter; met @clivesir and well, the rest is history!

Your PLN is shaped by YOUR interests, learning needs, technical skills, and ultimately, your contribution. Building a PLN doesn’t happen overnight, but in time, it can fundamentally change your teaching practice (see this excellent post from @InnovativeEdu). Truly, “from little things, big things grow”.

I’ve included a couple of useful videos which may make the PLN building process a little clearer; however, if you have some advice / experiences to share, please leave a comment! Your contributions are most welcome!

How to build a PLN? from Elena Elliniadou on Vimeo.


Ann Carnevale – Personal Learning Networks (shared by @mwedwards)

Sketchy Explanation: Starting a PLN (YouTube)

Coming Up: “The People of my PLN”

Seeking your Contributions!

Dear PLN: The concept of a Personal Learning Network / PLN is not well known in my part of Western Australia, and I’d like to create a PLN VoiceThread to share with prospective employers later this year.

I’m interested in learning more about the “real people” who make up my PLN, and exploring how PLNs influence us as people, and as educators. I’d also love to know if / how my inclusion in your PLN (via blogging and Twitter) has helped or inspired your own teaching and learning.

You can find the “The People of My PLN” Voicethread here (I plan to embed it in a subsequent post).

With your support, I hope to be able to better explain and share the benefits of having a PLN with my colleagues and prospective employers. Thankyou.

 


Further Reading

2010 – My Journey So Far

Well, 2010 has been an incredible year. It was a year in which I passed some significant milestones in my fledgling teaching career, and it was a year of immense, transformational change in my personal and professional life.

As my year draws to a close, I am finally starting to realise my aspiration to become a knowledgeable, connected, and reflective 21st Century educator.

Looking Back

I’ve learnt some valuable lessons this year –

  • Relief Teaching is a professionally and personally rewarding career option.
    • I have the freedom to experiment, develop a collegial network, collect resources, learn from my mistakes, and celebrate my successes.
    • I am now able to teach K-7, and work in a variety of Government, Independent, and Religious schools.
  • In my line of work, experience & a positive reputation mean a lot.
    • As I became a more experienced, and I hope, well-regarded relief (substitute) teacher, I noticed a dramatic increase in my work bookings over the course of the year.
    • This enabled me to actively experiment and improve my teaching practice, as I moved away from my relief ‘time-fillers’ to actually teaching and assessingstudents’ learning.
    • I am extremely grateful to those relief coordinators; (Hans, Deb, Sue, Jane, Cathy, amongst others), whose long-term support helped facilitate this empowering evolution in my teaching practice.
  • Writing merit-select job applications is an incredibly useful way to reflect upon and share your teaching practice with prospective employers.
    • On a personal note, I realised that while I can clearly articulate my practice through written mediums, such as my blog, I need to work on my ability to ‘sell’ myself in interview situations. Practice makes perfect, and I’ll have another go next year.
  • The Personal Learning Network (PLN) – Every teacher should have one
    • I believe the PLN is one of my greatest discoveries of my (short) career. I am an increasingly active member of the OzTeachers network, and have more recently realised the value of educational blogging and Twitter™ as professional learning tools.
    • My forays into this ‘connected’ world of global educators are still in their early days, and I will blog more extensively about this topic in 2011.

Image: ‘Arrival on my Way
http://www.flickr.com/photos/16230215@N08/4722297430

And Looking Forward …

While I don’t really know what 2011 will bring, I hope it will be a better, more productive year.

I enjoy my job. It is a wonderful feeling to walk into a school in the morning, and have students (and staff) greet you by name (or in my case, various derivations of it!). I hope I will have the opportunity to build upon the personal and professional relationships which I have worked so hard to foster during my relief travels in 2010.

I will also be working towards several important professional learning goals, which I have decided to share here –

  1. To continue to build my instructional toolkit; learning how to apply teaching and learning strategies, and reflecting upon my performance.
  2. To further investigate, and hopefully experiment with, the practical implementations of Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom.
  3. To build and contribute to my Personal Learning Network through my blog, Twitter interactions, and the “Blogs I Follow” via my RSS Reader.
  4. To revisit my First Steps™ informed literacy and numeracy planning approach, seeking feedback from experienced educators on my planned literacy block organisation model.
  5. To familiarise myself with the new Australian Curriculum, and rearrange my Curriculum Resource Bank (now containing over 4000 documents!) to reflect its’ structure and organisation
  6. To begin working towards my Accreditation to Teach Religious Education.

A New Year Begins …

Well, that’s it for A Relief Teacher’s Journey in 2010. I have quite a few posts in the pipeline, and I’ll be back to my regular blogging endeavours in January 2011.

I wish to thank all of my readers, around the world, for your readership & support over the past six months. A big thankyou goes to Veronica Chase (Substitutes FTW!) who made the first (and to date, only) comment on A Relief Teacher’s Journey. Also, thankyou to all my new Twitter™ followers – I look forward to talking to you next year.

I’ll be participating in the 2011 Edublogs™ Teacher Challenge, starting on Jan 10.

Happy New Year!

Image: ‘Happy New Year !!!

Reflections on Classroom Management (Index)

My Experiences, Philosophy, & Reflections

  1. My Jigsaw Approach to Classroom Management
  2. The Conscious Competence Ladder (Skill Development)
  3. The Four Stages in My Teaching Practice
  4. Classroom Management – Summing Up

The 3 R’s of Effective Learning Environments

  1. Setting the Scene
  2. Overview of the 3 R’s
  3. Transforming a Year 3 class into a learning community
  4. The Third ‘R’ – Shared Responsibility for the Learning Process
  5. My experiences with the Third ‘R’

‘The Theory of Bumps’ (Bennett & Smilanich, 1994)

  1. The Key Principles
  2. Explanation & Suggested Strategies

The 3 Keys to Working with Challenging Students

  1. Introduction
  2. What is a “problem” or challenging behaviour?
  3. Part 1: Building Positive Relationships
  4. Part 2: The Classroom Learning Environment
  5. Part 3: The Teacher’s Attitude, Actions, & Management Approach
  6. Responding to Anger

Building Positive Relationships

  1. Small Talk: “From little things, big things grow”
  2. Relief Teaching – Chalk & Small Talk!
  3. Get Involved with Breakfast / Lunchtime Clubs
  4. The Importance of Active Listening

Top Tips for Teachers – Behaviour Management (Video)

Cracking the Hard Class

Celebrating my First Year of Teaching

Today marked the end of my first year of teaching.

I have awaited this day for a very long time, and it has come about through my work in 23 schools across the Government, Catholic and Independent school sectors.

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To commemorate this day, I thought I would share excerpts from my very first reflective journal entry, and publish my Top 5 list of First Year memories & special moments. Here goes:

My First Journal Entry: Week 8, Term 2 2009

“In the final days of my university degree, I recall my lecturer advising us to keep a diary or journal during our first year of teaching. She said that this record of our experiences would become a keepsake in later years. Now, as I begin my first entry, I hope that this marks the start of a more frequent reflection on my experiences. …

Over the course of my first 50 days of teaching, my conscious reflection on my teaching strengths and weaknesses has led to a remarkable transformation in my teaching style and confidence.

I won’t forget my first class, a Year 6 at [name removed], in any hurry. I replaced a graduate teacher (an old university colleague) whose father had died suddenly. The class was naturally unsettled, and their relief teacher was a nervous wreck. These two factors ensured a rather ‘interesting’ day, and I even walked out the wrong entrance on my way home!

As the weeks went by, I was gradually exposed to more schools, and started implementing my pet astronomy project. I encouraged my classes to write to NASA and the Perth Observatory as part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

This activity generated a lot of discussion and interest, and [name removed] did eventually receive a reply from NASA. In hindsight, I would have planned the activity more thoroughly, contacting astronomers and observatories to find people willing to engage in the project. As my relief activity repertoire grew, I ultimately abandoned this activity.

As Term 1 turned into Term 2, I spent a significant amount of time working at [name removed]. I am grateful to the staff and students of this school, who have supported and stimulated my professional growth in the areas of behaviour management, fitness games, and as a facilitator of student learning. “

As I look back on my early journal entries, I can see the incredible personal & professional transformation I have undergone in my first year of teaching.  I am no longer a “nervous wreck”, and have vastly improved classroom management and relief teaching skills.

Remembering the terrible stress & exhaustion of my early days, I am grateful for the opportunities & professional growth relief teaching has afforded me.

I’m on a journey, and its’ been one hell of a ride!

The Top 5 Moments & Memories of My First Year

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One: Watching my students learn & grow up

Over the past 20 months, I have had the wonderful opportunity to watch hundreds of my students grow up; forming into the young people & young adults they are destined to become. Watching the transformation, learning & growth of my students over time has been one of the greatest joys of my relief teaching practice. 

Two: The support of my colleagues 

As a graduate teacher, I have valued the support and guidance of my experienced teaching and non-teaching colleagues across a range of schools. I wish to extend a sincere thankyou to all those people who took the time to share their experience and expertise; answering the many questions presented to them by a teacher new to the profession. I hope to emulate you one day.

Three: Breakfast Club Moments 

I’ll never forget the stories and discussions shared with students over their morning toast and Milo. I love volunteering in these friendly, informal environments, and it has been a pleasure to work with the dedicated volunteers who run these school programmes. Three Cheers for “Mr Possum”. [Don’t worry, someone will know what that means!]

Four: My Professional Development as a Graduate Teacher

I have undergone significant professional growth in my first year of teaching, incorporating the benefits of other teachers’ many years of classroom experience into my own teaching practice.

Some of the highlights include:

  • My experimentation with instructional & collaborative learning strategies in my relief teaching practice
  • Cracking the code of First Steps Numeracy, an incredible Western Australian resource for the teaching and learning of mathematics. I’m now working to unlock First Steps Literacy, admittedly, a work in progress
  • Learning how to read & captivate middle and upper primary audiences using books by Andy Griffiths (e.g Just Tricking) and Roald Dahl
  • Developing my Teaching Files & Resources Database (4.01GB),  which now contains over 3000 units of work , teaching resources, lesson ideas, professional learning materials; as well as my catalogue of 1500 digital learning objects from the Teaching & Learning Federation.

Five: Paying off my university HECS-HELP debt

This one’s self explanatory!

 

Finally, the Top 10 Things they DIDN’T teach you at University/College

I highly recommend this Top 10 list, although I’d ignore the advice of Number 9. Having personal experience with Number 8, I can only agree that there are some things that Uni/College just doesn’t prepare you for. Sit back, and enjoy!

Here’s to another year.

A Relief Teacher’s Journey continues…

Challenging Students: Dealing with Student Anger, Defiance, Aggression, and Violence

As a relief teacher, I meet and work with challenging students on a regular basis; and it is fair to say that my 2008 school experience and 2009 relief teaching experience in a TRIBES school have defined my attitude and management approach towards these students.

My experiences, observations, and professional learning in these schools underpin my ongoing efforts as a relief teacher to win-over and build effective relationships with my most challenging students. They have also contributed to some of my major success stories working with students that some dread to teach.

Common Characteristics of Challenging Students

  • Their behaviour disrupts the learning process, verbally or physically harms others, frustrates their teachers, and often results in office withdrawal or school suspension. 
  • They are usually male, ranging in age from 7-12 years old (K-7). I have also worked with some challenging female students, but they are usually found in upper primary. 
  • They can be socially-isolated, or associate themselves with students with similar background experiences. 
  • Their behaviour is directly linked to the emotional / social baggage they bring to school, and is motivated and purposeful.
  • They generally can’t cope with changes in classroom routines, and are more likely to negatively respond to relief teachers. 
  • The attitude and management approach of the classroom teacher, and school staff, are CRITICAL to a successful intervention with a challenging students

 The Three Keys to Working with Challenging Students

  1. Focus on Building Positive Relationships
  2. Focus on the Classroom Learning Environment
  3. Focus on the Teacher’s Attitude, Professional Knowledge, and Management Approach

I will be discussing these “Three Keys” in the context of Rod Plevin’s (2009) eBook: MAGIC Classroom Management: How to get the most from the worst kids in school (www.classroom-management.org), as his approach mirrors the lessons I have learnt over the past few years.

Dealing with Challenging Behaviour (Belize Teacher Training)
 

A Process of Trial & Error: Developing My Classroom Management Approach

I have found classroom management a very complex topic to learn about, let alone write about, so I have divided it up under four major headings:

  1. Classroom Management – Creating a Learning Environment which Works
  2. Behaviour Management – Strategies for Dealing with Student Misbehaviour
  3. Complex Behaviour Situations – Dealing with Aggressive/Violent/At-Risk Children/the “Class from Hell”
  4. Advice for Graduate Relief Teachers

I have learnt some valuable lessons in all three major areas of classroom management, and have had some major successes with managing more complex behaviour situations. By sharing my experiences here, I hope that some of my readers will be able to better prepare themselves for their first years of teaching.