My apologies for the long, long absence from my blog; for those who weren’t aware, I’ve just spent the last four and a half weeks doing my first placement as a student teacher in a local all-girls public high school. Naturally, these last few weeks have been immensely busy so I apologise for the lack of activity – life gets in the way! But I’d like to give you a brief wrap-up of my time as a student teacher, including lots of highs and a few lows.
I had the chance to try out whiteboarding with all three of my classes (Year 7, Year 9 and Year 11 Chemistry), with somewhat mixed results. (NB – if you want to learn more about whiteboarding, check out Frank Noschese’s blog here). Overall my experience was really positive, as the students loved working in groups and having the chance to do something a bit novel and different. Year 11 took to it especially well and I could see their confidence building as they were working through some practice problems without the fear of making a mistake. It was also great for encouraging peer-teaching, as they worked cooperatively in groups to help each other understand. However, my other classes were so excited by effectively having a big drawing canvas in front of them that they spent a large part of the activity doodling! They were still on task for most of it so I wasn’t going to crack down on a bit of creative expression now and then, but it was useful to learn the need to structure it a bit more.
One of my main challenges was trying to find that balance between encouraging and controlling the chatter and chaos in the classroom. Being in an all-girls environment meant that classroom chatter was probably my major issue overall – which tells you something about how positive and safe the school environment was! I know that this is far from a unique challenge – I would imagine it’s almost universal – but it was great practice and I know I’ve still got lots to learn in this area in particular.
My mentor or cooperating teacher was an incredibly helpful and encouraging presence in the classroom. She gave me great verbal and written feedback, and I was really chuffed to be told 5 minutes into my first solo lesson that she reckons I’m a natural teacher! I also felt like I slotted right into the staffroom environment, so much so that they all said that they’d gladly have me back. I felt very supported and yet encouraged to be independent and self-reliant. I didn’t feel either abandoned or mollycoddled and yet they put up with all my newbie questions, for which I’m incredibly grateful!
And to cap things off, when they found out I was finishing up Year 11 threw me a party and Year 7 surprised me with a really thoughtful card – I was very touched, considering I’d only been there a month! And the best bit of the whole experience was the gradual shift in my mindset from student to teacher – I really feel like I’m almost there!