Had a really useful group tutorial yesterday. It was good to hear other ideas and start to get excited about the conference coming up in May. I”m really looking forward to it and to developing my ideas from the outline they are now into a presentation and a paper. I’ve been toying about with presentation ideas and think I’ve come up with something that will make it interesting and engaging.
I’ve presented tons over the years and still get nervous every time. Teaching has made me think more about presenting and making things engaging not flashy, concise yet informative, logical and with clear objectives. What I will have to do for this one is avoid it sounding and looking like I’m teaching a lesson.
I’ve seen teachers who teach as if they are presenting something they have learned as if they’re doing their own assignment. I’m aware that it could maybe work the other way round where a teacher presents as if they’re teaching a lesson and not as if they are presenting their own work. There are subtle differences and I’m going to have to be careful to not blur the lines having become used to teaching.
It’s great though that my presentation skills have improved no doubt through teaching (the theory and the practice).
I nearly hit my 100 hours independent teaching mark this week too. There were a lot in the beginning which were made up from 1:1 work on assignments and preparation time and some bits of teaching and class sitting but since winter half term the hours have really been racking up fast. I know those hours are draining and that’s something any teacher will agree with (well all of those I’ve spoken to anyway). I can really appreciate that Friday feeling my colleagues and other teachers I know display.
I never appreciated how intense it was going to be teaching for an hour or two at a time, being effectively responsible for twenty odd people being educated, entertained, engaged, interested, motivated, patient, well mannered, good humoured, comfortable, happy, suitably challenged, included and all of those other balls teachers have to keep on juggling. On top of all that you are performing, you are on display you are being observed and silently or otherwise judged. Your ideas, those fantastically inspired tasks and activities you spent hours devising, creating and testing are out there at last being test driven being enjoyed… or not, doing their job… or not. There is so much going on, so many tiny almost invisible pressures on a teacher in the classroom which are tiring and can be very draining.
That’s not to mention the outside influences; what if you didn’t have such a good sleep, what if you’ve got worries or troubles at home, what if you’re not feeling 100% health wise, what if you’re just not feeling on top of your game today? You still have to plough on and smile and deliver a fabulous lesson and maybe after that you have to rush to deliver another and another.
Besides all of that you are doing it all on your own essentially, you don’t walk out of a class sit down and have a coffee and a chat and reflect on what happened with a colleague who was in there experiencing it with you, it was just you and the students. When they bustle off to their break or their next class you kind of deflate for a moment and look around your empty classroom like you’ve been abandoned, like it’s the end of the party and you’ve been left to go around and pick up all of the burst balloons and paper cups. Sometimes you may want to share a triumph or off load a problem or run something by someone but in reality those opportunities won’t come until later or won’t come at all that day. But I guess you have to get over it and reinflate quickly as your next class starts to pour in. I guess that’s when time with colleagues becomes even more precious, just to have some adult non student contact.
For a full time teacher time with colleagues is often snatched as they all whizz in and out of classes. As a trainee there is undoubtedly far more down time to be had but I observe the teachers around me and see how they rarely get to touch base and how they value it when they do. These are some of the things you don’t appreciate in life before teaching and things you really need to contemplate before you head off down the path. I’m not saying it takes huge physical energy or huge physical fitness or even the optimum of health to pull off but it does take a mental toll and if your brain is tired then your body is tired.
Tips for every day really but these are definite top tips for teachers: Drink lots of water all through the day, sleep well at night, make sure to have breakfast and lunch. Besides giving you the hydration and energy to get you through a day they give you a chance to sit down, often with other adults (colleagues for lunch) and you get a break from those pressures talked about up there^^^^ and a quick battery refresh.
I need to lose a ton of weight gained largely through illness and physical inability to do the things I used to do to keep the pounds at bay but I’ve lost half a stone in the past couple of weeks because teaching has given me a kick up the backside to make me re-find my former fit and healthy self because she is needed and now the illness is under control there is no excuse. There is no denying that staying active and healthy is a big part of teaching, not because you have to run around a lot or stand a lot but because it keeps your brain functioning well and you need it functioning well. If you are fit and healthy and if you exercise and eat and drink well then you will be less likely to suffer from stress and related illnesses both mental and physical. Your brain will be more on the ball and your wits will be sharper. This work is demanding, it really is. I’ve heard or seen so many student teachers of varying ages and fitness levels comment on how exhausted they are after a 90 minute lesson and how shocked they are by it. Don’t underestimate it and do all you can to prepare for it. Really, don’t be surprised when after your first 90 minute lesson you could easily climb into bed.
You can sip water all day, in class and out of class, you have time between lessons to scoff a piece of fruit, a few grapes or an apple and then to make a healthy lunch choice to give you a vitamin and mineral boost without leaving you feeling lethargic and weighed down. I never thought I’d be giving health advice as part of my advice to new teachers but it’s good advice I promise you. Regardless of where you’re starting from e.g dire health (me) to super fit this is advice for everyone and anyone to either help improve your health and fitness or stave off stress and those bugs that seem to spread around schools and colleges like wild fire.
I covered a class after tutorial yesterday. I never get to teach on a Monday as that’s PGCE theory day when we’re in class ourselves at the uni from 9-5. My group tutorial started and finished before lunch so I offered to cover an accounting class for one of my usual groups. There weren’t many of them there and there was a peculiar atmosphere. It was like the last day of term before Christmas… that kind of feeling. Students were in good spirits but not very interested in doing any work. Cast your mind back to the last few days of term when you were a teenager and remember how you had already begun to wind down the week before and all thoughts were focused on the next few weeks and what you would do with all that freetime… that’s where they were at I think. I do remember it even though it was a long time ago.
I gave them a task that their usual teacher had set but they hoodwinked me. Beware of the hoodwinking that goes on when you are covering a class for someone else. I’ve not fallen foul of it thus far but I’ve had my first experience of it now.
There was a bit of confusion and that can also happen when you are covering a class where you are unfamiliar with the content. Not being familiar with teaching the subject although (rustily) familiar with it having learned it myself I found myself agreeing that a task to find a break even point was impossible without a knowledge of how much the sale price per unit is. I hadn’t been taught that the variable costs were the sales price, I thought the variable costs were the production cost per unit on top of fixed costs and sales price included a profit margin. So it was confusion all round BUT some learning did take place as we did discuss the effects of fluctuations in the variables and the merits and otherwise of the analysis method.
I guess covering a class can be a minefield or an opportunity to showcase your flexibility and we can’t all get it right all of the time so I’m not beating myself up about it and it’s just another one of those delightful learning experiences and it was a favour done which is always gratifying.
Last three teaching sessions coming up this week tomorrow and the next day and then it’s Easter break and a chance to get all of those written assignments and files up to date and cleared off the to do list and hopefully to have a rest and to free my mind from thinking of study for at least one of the weeks… at least that’s the plan.