More Observations

Today was another good day, even if it was a long day and a real eye opening insight into the real world of teaching.

It all began at 7.30 when I arrived at college in time to organise myself for an 08.00 team/validation meeting. It was an interesting meeting and I got involved in discussions about next year’s plans and this year’s issues. That ended just before 09.00 giving me just enough time to grab my materials and prepare my classroom for my first lesson with mentor observation.

The class went really well (official feedback pending). It was a low tech one today, I like to mix it up. No computers required which really helps with classroom management and behaviour as at least I don’t have to be monitoring what they are actually doing on the computers. This is a real problem with classrooms full of computers, learners tend to log in as a matter of course and surprisingly most of them didn’t even bring paper and pens so tried to use the computers for note taking but I was able to dissuade them from doing this and made sure everyone had writing materials. I was later told by another colleague (not the one who was observing me who felt it had been appropriate to give everyone materials rather than back track and let them switch on computers) that when you have an OTL as an in service teacher you are marked down if you give students a pen or paper as they should have it instilled in them by yourself that they should be attending class prepared with such basic equipment. That’s something worth noting for the future.

Perhaps the most successful part of the lesson was a very short powerpoint slide I put together explaining where in the whole scheme of all things business our area of study fits. It was a little ‘aside’ but the students said it really helped them to slot things into perspective and context.

The  most successful part of the planned lesson was a very simple paper based task considering pricing strategies. Students were provided with a grid and a set of product scenarios and had to put each scenario into the pricing strategy they felt offered the best fit. They worked either alone or in pairs for five to ten minutes and then I wrote each pricing strategy on the whiteboard and asked each group for their thoughts on one of the scenarios each. This resulted in some debate as other groups disagreed or argued that the scenario could fit into more than one of the strategies and the discussion was lively, interesting and showed some higher level thinking and learning taking place. There was a good degree of evaluative thought on display and critical analysis which was all really fab from a simple paper based sorting task.

I’m all for the use of IT in the classroom, it is the present and the future, it is the way young people receive, process and store their information today but sometimes a return to basics offers a nice balance and an opportunity to use those old fashioned skills of writing on paper and such.

The task was very simple yet very effective for stirring up some debate and discussion. A good one for observations it brought everyone into the discussion and allowed me to pose a question to every member of the class to demonstrate inclusion and all that good stuff.

After that I oversaw a class for one of my colleagues who was involved in the Match Fit competition and we watched some film clips on various advertising and business topics and had some good discussions.

After that class I had a couple of minutes to touch base before I went down to the main hall to participate in Match Fit competition finals between our college and others in our region. My task was to participate as a judge of a debate between two teams representing two of the colleges. It was a really interesting experience, really valuable to add to the bag of ‘have done’s’. It was good to see some of the teaching that’s been done being repeated and used in solid arguments in that way. I was very proud of the students from my year 2 class who participated and really did us and themselves proud.

Once that was complete I spent a little time in the office working on hot reflections from my observations and also finalising my assignment brief for the current unit I’m teaching. I also firmed up my interview questions for my specialist interview and spent some valuable team bonding time chatting with the other teachers… soaking up as much insider info as possible.

Then it was time for Open Evening and I was one of a nearly full contingent of staff manning the desks. It was really interesting and another one to put in the ‘have done’ bag. I had anticipated being more of an observer than a participant but as it turned out I was involved in fielding enquiries from a few visitors and took details of two people who were more interested in courses on offer when they left than when they arrived so hopefully they will be future students. It has an ‘off duty’ feel, manning an open evening, maybe it’s just the psychological effect of being out of the office and out of the classroom, but it was a good opportunity for some light hearted banter with colleagues and quite a pleasant social activity.

Before I knew it it was past 7pm and time for me to dash off home. It had been a long, full, busy day but a good one. Lots of firsts, feeling a real part of the team, a good observation, good input to a meeting and to future development of the curriculum and just an all round fulfilling day.

To any potential PGCE students or trainee teachers, get involved in as much of what goes on in your department as possible, meetings, events and such. Ask to be involved or to at least observe, offer your time and make the most of this time on placement. Your mentor and their team will be pleased of it as it frees up some pressure on them, staffing groups are stretched to the limit in some areas of education (if not all) and so any help to take on something outside of the teaching responsibility is welcomed.


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