Scratch

Been playing with a fab piece of free software called SCRATCH which enables you to make games, stories and animations.

It might be a bit young for my students but could have some potential even if only as a fun activity… but then again I’m thinking of perhaps using it to lighten up some tough dry topics, it’s also a great way to embed some ILT. I just proudly made my first ever computer game! I never thought I’d do that.

It’s another way to appeal to those students who like creating I guess and if you can find a way to work it into a lesson why not… this kind of thing is the future, it’s what youngsters relate to and it compliments the traditional. 

Check it out here http://scratch.mit.edu/

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Business Teaching Resources

Just found some interesting and really useful resources provided by Nat West. They’re particularly good for teaching business topics with lots of really useful lessons and role play activities for anything from starting up a business onward.

You have to register to use the Nat West MoneySense for Schools service but if you’re a teacher that’s free and quick and easy. 

What more could you ask for?

Have registered this morning and had a quick look around and everything looks great, can’t wait to put some of it to use.

It’s also recommended by TES so has a cool endorsement there.

There are activities suitable for primary up to post compulsory so take a look it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of help with lesson planning and activity design especially if it’s expertly done.

It’s good to talk…

Today was joint mentor/tutor catch up meeting and it was good to review the last few weeks. It was kind of crazy to think it had only been a month since the last one, things have totally changed and I even feel like a different person. Things have changed beyond recognition and it’s really good to have had an opportunity to reflect on all the positive things we’ve achieved in terms of the placement. Anyone who reads my blog knows that I’m gushing about my experiences and thoroughly enjoying it and that I’m thoroughly grateful for the opportunities I have.

It was also my specialist interview day and so it was great to get that in the bag, it was really nice to get the opportunity to sit and chat with my mentor on different topics than the usual things and to gain a new insight on some key issues facing business teachers in FE. I’ve started to write it all up already and I plundered the library for research books to make sure there’s a ton of theory in there too. There was lots of talk about professionalism and some really interesting thoughts on it so I might have to revisit the professionalism essay.

I also got feedback from my latest observation (and found out that I still have one to go, I thought I was done but we have to do 8 in total one of which can be joint, I thought it was 3 tutor, 3 mentor and one joint so I still have to book one more). The feedback was excellent lots of 1’s and a few 2’s, the main observations being that the couple of points for improvement identified last time were noticed to have been worked on and there had been definite upward movement in terms of grading on areas where I’d scored a 2 previously.

It’s been one of those full and productive days and a very positive uplifting one too. I’ve got a smile on my face for the weekend and that can’t be bad. Now to start charity cake baking with the daughter for a stall running at her workplace tomorrow. Think I might have earned myself a couple of bits of a brownie 😀

 

 

 

 

Creativity

I like to add some creativity into a class now and again or a task which is a bit more fun and helps to embed learning in a more engaging and interactive way.

If I’m including something creative in a class I like to example that creativity myself by trying out what I’m asking the students to do. This not only allows me to create an example for them of what I want them to produce, but it also shows me if it’s doable or not and gives me an indication of time requirements for completion. In terms of differentiation it also allows me to identify areas where some students may find difficulties with completing the task or it may help me to understand the different levels of ability required to undertake the task.

I also like to add some creativity to assist in teaching.

I’m enjoying time while a student to do these things, I’m under no illusion that once in a full-time job those times are not going to be as easy to come across. Hopefully though I’m also building a bank of self made resources to use at some point in the future and also I’m learning lessons for myself to apply to my future teaching.

So as I never get much of a chance to showcase my creations I’m going to display some here. Call me self indulgent.. I don’t mind. We teach our students to be forthcoming and celebrate their achievements and to be proud of their work. Practice what we preach I say.

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This was an electronic mood board I put together to demonstrate the kind of thing that was required for a competition which a couple of our students are entering. I was quite surprised by my own creativity and how I captured the fantasy mermaid theme, how the colour scheme emerged and how my ideas for a perfume brand came together on the screen

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This one’s my poor attempt at a basic town plan. The white spaces were available for building retail outlets. The students were given a print out of this and a list of shops, either real or imaginary and also leisure facilities. They had to write on their plans where they felt they’d locate each business. They worked in groups and then this was put up on the interactive white board and every student got a turn to come up and use the board pens to write on the name of a retailer and explain why they’d located it where they did. It led to some good discussions and ideas, the learners said they enjoyed it and it allowed for inclusion and some higher level evaluative questioning. This was used to support an Understanding Retail Unit for BTEC Level 3 Business. This activity also gave rise to some discussions about assumptions… do we assume all students are poor? That all golf players are rich? It’s good for throwing in some analytical and evaluative type questioning and is great for visual learners who might struggle with concepts of town planning. Not one of my finest looking creations but one of my most useful and effective. An unanticipated learning opportunity arose from this as it became obvious that some students had problems writing on the interactive white board and had not tried it before. Some were quite tentative using the technology so at the end I gave those who had difficulty a chance to practice on a blank board while the rest of the class got on with another task. By the end of the lesson everyone was confident in using the technology.

 

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This was another digital mood board. This was to demonstrate how someone may put together ideas for a new brand of nail products aimed at pre-teen girls, older teen girls/young women and older women as well as the emerging male market. I explained that by using images associated with those groups, just the first things that spring to mind when thinking of them helps you to identify an emerging theme.
I showed students how moving from the bottom right where there were images associated with younger girls a pink, fluffy theme emerged and then moving left into the older girl/young woman market bright, vibrant, playful themes emerged and this then changed to top left as the older more mature woman was associated with sophistication, flowers, rich fabrics, clean lines and how this then moved into the male market of sleekness, glossy textures, metalics, linear patterns. I explained how this wasn’t contrived, these images came to my mind and I placed them on the board then sorted them into four corners and this is what I found happened. I explained how this kind of thing can be used to then influence promotional materials in order to feel right for the particular segment of the market. On another level it gives rise to discussions about stereotyping.

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This one was to show a glimpse into the future. Using Prezi to create a digital portfolio or digital CV. Of course this one becomes interactive when it’s used on the appropriate platforms and the real skill is in populating it. I covered a class where the students were working on a digital portfolio and as is usually the case with me it got my mind working over time and I had to explore the potential. Teaching students how to write a CV is important and it’s bland, this can make it more interesting as a taught session even if you want them to create a traditional word document from the information they include in this format.

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This one is a little animation sequence (when it’s used as a Powerpoint presentation) that I put together to help teach a principle of law – precedent and case law. It starts off with just the rules on the board and then the kid on the right runs in with his bottle of lucozade in his had, the teacher appears from the back of the room and points to the rule so the bottle of lucozade changes to a bottle of water. Then the kid on the left comes in with a bottle of lucozade. The teacher points to the rule and the speech bubble appears from the kid on the left. The teacher has to make an exception to the rule and the second boy’s case sets a precedent which may eventually be written into the law. The first boy then protests that if the diabetic boy can have lucozade so can he and the teacher explains that his case does not match the case of the second boy in its detail and he can’t bring a case using the case of the second boy as a precedent however if he had diabetes or another condition which required him to have lucozade or any other drink then he may be able to cite the second boy’s case as a precedent. It’s very simple, bright, eye catching, fun and gets the point across. It caused light bulbs to flash brightly over heads by just setting the teaching of that point into context.

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This one was a promotional poster for the opening of a fictitious guitar shop to help with some ideas for a creative promotional campaign assignment. It helped to highlight (very simply) how to make things eye catching, how to emphasise key information, how to attract people with offers and celebs, the importance of including contact information and some branding of products you may stock. Also allows discussion about implying that Slash was going to be at the event when maybe he wasn’t. The celebrity could have really been someone who was on X Factor 10 years ago. If this was a flyer or leaflet the back could contain some information on guitar prices, special opening reductions or may mention information about guitar repairs, second hand trading, guitar lessons etc

There are loads more but in the interests of bringing out the creative teacher in all of us I thought I’d share my offerings. It might be business that I teach but there are opportunities to make it a bit lighter and fun at times and it all helps to develop my IT skills too.

Just when it all starts to feel right…it’s over.

This is how I feel when I’ve organised a big event or party. Just as I finally get to relax and enjoy it, after all of the stress of bringing it to life it’s over.

I can honestly say that from a wobbly start to now I really am loving my placement. I love the teaching of course but I love the feeling of being ‘one of them’ again. Of understanding the lingo, of feeling confident enough to help out or volunteer, to just want to do as much as I can before it’s too late and the placement is over.

I’ve gone from being disillusioned to being thirsty for more and I must say that’s largely due to my experience having been a real one. I don’t think there’s been any glossing over of how tough teaching can be. Once upon a time I might lightbulb-moment-zeofonzo-725549_50106945have actually wanted to hear how amazing it all was, because that’s what I imagined it to be. I would have had a rude awakening when I start work as a teacher if I’d been shielded from or had deprived myself of exposure to the trials and tribulations of the role.

I’m glad that everyone on my placement has kept it real and balanced it out because of course it is not all trial and tribulation it has some significant highs and I’ve seen plenty of them too. I already know how it feels when something as microscopic as a student coming into class and smiling at you feels and the good bits only get better from there.

I’m getting a bit reflective now about my placement in an overall way, not just picking on the little things to make sense of, but the whole experience. That’s because I’m mindful of the fact that it’s coming to an end. It’s still got a way to go but it’s winding down now and after Easter there will only be a few weeks left of teaching and that’s it. Done. Another experience in the bag and a whole heap of lessons learned. Gosh I think I’ll look back on this period of my life and cringe at the school boy (or college girl) errors I made but that’s all part of the whole really.

It’s been a great experience, it’s taught me more about myself, more about teaching, more about other people and it’s just enabled me to grow in yet another direction. Don’t expect your placement to just allow you a chance to practice what you’re learning, it’s more than that. I approached it like that and I was so wrong to do so.

If you’re on a placement and feel you’re not getting enough out of it I’d urge you to push yourself forward and make opportunities and get what you want out of it, it’s up to you.

If you’re thinking of teacher training or teaching I’d really advise you to throw yourself into it and not make the mistakes I did by holding back in the beginning and just immersing yourself into the whole fabric of teaching. You will be around many people who all have something different and something new to add to the mix, a different perspective images (3)on something, a different history, a different skill or different knowledge and experience to throw in. It will all make you a better teacher and it will all help to keep your placement experience real and give you the fuller picture on teaching as a profession.

It really isn’t all 12 weeks holiday and 3pm finishes and it’s not about developing a set of lessons at the beginning of the year and never doing any lesson prep again, it’s not about coffee and cake in the staff room and team nights out and whole afternoons where you can plan for next week and others where you catch up on your paperwork. That’s not it at all and if your placement doesn’t teach you that then it’s done you a disservice because it really should show you the warts and all elements of teaching. How else can it prepare you for life as a teacher if it doesn’t?

I’ve been lucky and as much as I’m sad that it’s coming to an end I’m glad that I had the placement opportunity I’ve got and I’m grateful for everyone who has shared and continues to share their knowledge and expertise with me.

Another thing… ask questions! If you don’t understand something, there are lots of acronyms as in any professional setting, just ask. If you still don’t understand what it  means, ask for it to be explained, if it’s a role you don’t images (2)understand ask what it entails, find out as much as you can now because when you get your first job it will all feel so much better if you are familiar with the language and the different roles. They’re just a few things that you already understand and which will make you first job easier to become accustomed to and besides that it will add to your own air and sense of professionalism if you understand the jargon.

I want to squeeze every last opportunity I can out of my placement and I’d advise anyone in the same position or who is heading in the same direction next year to do the same. It’s the only chance you’re going to get to really be the absolute newbie, where expectations on you are going to be less heavy than they will be in your paid roles and where opportunities for you to learn and grow are all around you and you have the time and energy to take advantage of them.

 

 

Good Teacher

What does that mean? What is a good teacher?

I think back to the many teachers I’ve had teach me over the years and I ask my own kids and we had a discussion in class today which the students started on what makes a good teacher and there seems to be a common denominator… enthusiasm.

It seems that this enthusiasm comes in three separate packages: Enthusiasm for:

Number One Teacher

Number One Teacher

  • the subject
  • teaching itself
  • building a rapport with all of the students

This all sounds simple, obvious and straightforward but is it?

Thinking of enthusiasm for the subject, I kind of put my actress hat on last week and demonstrated to the class what a totally bored, disinterested teacher with a bad attitude would be like. They thought it was hilarious (missed my vocation maybe) but it hit home that if I behaved like that, or any teacher behaved like that they wouldn’t last five minutes. Their class would have no respect, their colleagues would not tolerate them and they’d end up out on their backside.

I explained that some teachers, myself included, had perhaps practiced whatever we were teaching for years in the work place.. let’s say accounting for argument’s sake. They may have practiced it day in and day out, 40 hours a week for 10 years, they may have studied it for 3 or so years, they may have taught this same lesson time and again for years and years BUT they could not let that show in front of their class. They had to be enthusiastic, interested, engaged in what they were teaching in order to enthuse students. Some of the feedback from download (4)various sources on this concept was that it really showed to the student if the teacher was enthusiastic or not about the subject. They are not stupid these students, us them whoever, we’ve all been students and we are still students lots of us. We can tell when a teacher doesn’t respect or like the subject they are teaching, it shows as clearly as if they were wearing it on their face like a big warty fake nose.

I have to admit that the subjects I loved most as a student of various ages and which I am still passionate about now are all subjects in which I recall having a super enthusiastic teacher, be that the English Lit teacher who had us charging around a rainy field, our copies of Julius Ceaser in hand, shouting out our lines because he wanted us to get a visual of the big battle scene and where everyone was positioned. Or the French A level teacher who clearly spent hours at home designing a French Blockbusters game or re-writing the script of the Deidre Barlow/Ken Barlow/Mike Baldwin love triangle scenes in French (remember these were the days of VHS with no remotes, he must have sat on the floor for hours rewinding and replaying to get it right) just to bring the conditional case to life for us.download (5)

On to teaching itself and being enthusiastic about that. It’s perhaps easy for newly qualified or trainee teachers to be more enthusiastic because it’s all new to us but word on the street is that even some new teachers appear to not really like teaching. I explained to my son who commented on this that perhaps its nervousness and he said that no, it’s not that, he can tell the difference between nervousness and a lack of enthusiasm. I guess I’ll take his word for it. I kind of get where he’s coming from though, I’ve seen teachers who are nervous but so desperate to do a good job that they fall over themselves and trip themselves up and stumble through but at the end of it all you can see their enthusiasm, relief when it’s over but enthusiasm for what they are learning to do. As someone said to me “you get a sense that they are there because they want to be not because it’s a job”. I guess that’s one of the big markers and I’d kind of agree that I’ve perhaps suspected that in teachers who have taught me, that they had stumbled into the job for reasons other than they really wanted to be a teacher. Not because they wanted to fulfill a burning ambition but because it was one of a few options they had. If that does show then I guess it really does detract from being perceived as a good teacher. But in defense of teachers everywhere they could be generally enthusiastic and having a bad day, they could be time served teachers who are still enthusiastic but perhaps ready for a change of scenery or an end of term or a personal assistant.

I guess if there is not a real passion for the job then where does the passion for self development come from and where blogspot-sweetest-teacher-quote-ever-html-114658does the passion for the final enthusiasm come from? In recent times where there are issues with unemployment and lack of opportunities for graduates and when there are loans and grants available for a teaching qualification when there is nothing easily and universally available for any other post-grad course are people entering the teaching profession who really don’t want to be there and are they finding that they can not build the enthusiasm as quickly as they would like, or ever?

Enthusiasm for getting to know the students. This is an interesting one and discussions today kind of highlighted that it’s not just enthusiasm to know some of the students and build a rapport with them but to treat all students the same. To make the effort to build a rapport with the quietest student, the most challenging student, the student who you don’t understand too well because of a language barrier, the student who resists all attempt to engage them.. every student. The others notice if you start showing favouritism they do and as my son told me today “even if you are the favourite you still don’t see the teacher as a good teacher because you are aware of how unfair it is to have favourites and you know someone is being left out and that’s not right or fair”. Now either I have an overly compassionate son or he has a point.

The need to show enthusiasm for getting to know all of your students is therefore quite important. I thought about it and I thought “yeah, it’s easy to build relationships with the students who are easy to build relationships with” that makes sense. What I didn’t think about was how your lack of enthusiasm for building a rapport with the others is tumblr_m6g2upzy2J1ra3tm1o1_400noticed by everyone and it reflects on perceptions of you as a ‘good teacher’. It has to be even and fair. A bit like parenting more than one child (something I’ve been privileged to do) you have to be mindful of having as good a relationship with each one or else sibling rivalry can creep in and you can lose control, or the children start to resent you for having favourites and the balance is all upset and their opinion of you as a parent can be affected. Similarly then failing to develop or work on building a rapport with each of your students can reflect on perceptions of you as a teacher and whether you’re ‘good’ or not.

A lot of this comes down to professionalism again really I guess, depending on what your view on professionalism is. That word is hard to escape this week.

What’s interesting is that it’s not about your knowledge of your specialist subject but your enthusiasm for it. It’s not about your ability to teach it’s about your enthusiasm for it. It’s not about your engagement with your students it’s about your enthusiasm for engaging with all of your students.

The things we kind of think of as being key to being a ‘good teacher’ before we set out on this journey (i.e. knowledge and the ability to communicate well) are not as key as I once thought, they are not as integral to being a professional as I would have imagined a few months ago. It’s that enthusiasm and interest in what you are doing I guess, that’s what the students see and that’s what makes their minds up and at the end of the day.

downloadThat then opens up a can of worms because we could ask lots of questions based on that. Is it possible to acquire enthusiasm or is it innate? What if we don’t have any, where do we get it from? If we have none are we in the right job? Can we still be a good teacher without it? How do you keep it alive? How do you refind it if it slips away? How do you notice that it’s gone? Do you notice that it’s gone?

It’s all good stuff, it’s good to chat to students and reflect on our experiences as students ourselves to enrich our understanding of what students see when they look at the teacher and not what we see. OTL’s give us an opportunity to look through the lens (Brookfield) which our peers and mentors and tutors view us but I guess this this is why it’s important to have a look through one of the others, especially that of the students from time to time too.

Circles

Placement was good today, very productive. I really feel like a teacher now, I feel comfortable in the role, I like that I’m teaching one class and students from my other class pop in to ask me something quick, I like that they trust me to make decisions and ask me things now instead of waiting for my mentor. It’s all very settled and enjoyable. I was a bit frustrated in the beginning but I’m glad that things worked this way now, it’s all pretty much perfect. I enjoy chats with my colleagues, personal or professional, they help keep things in perspective and it’s nice to feel one of the team although I’m acutely aware that I will be going soon and they will carry on being the same team and they’ll have another student in my place. It’s all part of the experiential and learning circle.

I’ve kind of lost my mojo for blogging which is a shame, but when what you write is taken out of context and used against you it makes you lose enthusiasm, I only keep blogging because it’s valuable to me or else I’d have closed the book on this by now. We were meant to do as part of our course and I want to be able to look back and think about the journey I’ve been on when I’m at the end of it and on those days in the future when teaching is tough or I need a lesson from my student self on how to cope.

It’s a shame the whole cohort didn’t use if for what it was intended, it could have been really useful to have some discussion and debate on the many topics which affect a teacher’s life , but then it has been useful for me and that’s the most important thing. As it’s such a popular practice among teaching professionals I hope that in time more teachers use it and value it as a real part of the profession and they can take advantage of mass peer support to analyse and improve practice and to stay abreast of developments from a teacher’s perspective.

I’ve linked in to so many useful and informative networks and so many interesting and inspirational people in the teaching world through my blog and it’s really enriched my experience and without a doubt made me a better teacher. Example: I’m going to a 2 day teaching event in London next month which I would never have known about if it wasn’t for blogging. I get involved in an FE twitter chat every week that I wouldn’t have known about if it wasn’t for blogging. The internet lets us network well beyond our physical circle of colleagues with a whole world of professionals with an enormous wealth of knowledge and experience to tap into and share. I wouldn’t miss out on that for the world.

I love blogging because it lets you dump the rubbish from your mind, weigh things up, reevaluate, reflect and make decisions to move yourself forward. Then it stands to reason that I would like blogging, I love language, I love using it and I’m naturally reflective and I like to big up positives as well as have a moan now and again. Trouble is when you do that on a blog you lay yourself open to criticism and to misrepresentation but it’s all worth it. Sometimes you have to remember the problem is not yours but theirs and brush it off.

“Now’t as strange as folk” as they ‘kind of’ say. If you’re about to start a PGCE and you have to keep a reflective blog as part of your course requirements just be mindful of the fact that there are always people who will look for a way to misinterpret what you say, keep it real, keep it honest and most importantly keep it going. Link in to others and learn from them and share your thoughts with them even as a novice they are valued, often more than you realise because you are fresh eyes on a situation and sometimes fresh eyes see more clearly.

Thinking of professionalism lately for the essay I’ve just written and part of developing and maintaining that professionalism is building and contributing to networks, it’s just what professionals do but then again it’s what anyone who has a real interest and a desire to learn and improve and help others does, but then that’s part of professionalism too. It’s another big circle. Maybe some people prefer to keep their circles small and personal and blogging isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’s easy for me to say that I enjoy it, I write off the cuff, thoughts flow from brain to finger tips easily and I touch type stupidly fast for others it might be more of a chore. I still think it’s worth giving it a go though if you start a teaching qualification,  it’s really good to look back on… and unlike your ILP and your OTL reflections you don’t have to add theory :D.