The best form of CPD comes through the way it is communicated. Understanding everyday teacher problems and perks can help all of you develop. We’ve been catching up with teachers other the last few months in an attempt to bring together a wealth of tips, information and general teaching insights. This week, we met up with Emma (an NQT from North Yorkshire) in an attempt to find out the highs and lows of teaching…
How long have you been teaching for?
One year and 3 ½ weeks! I did TeachFirst so I did my PGCE last year whilst teaching, and got my QTS at the end of that. This is my first teaching post as a qualified teacher!
Was there a particular reason you got into teaching?
I suppose the roots of it probably lie in the work experience I did. I didn’t get any of my first choices, which had all been office jobs – law firms etc. – and I got a nursery, which is when I realised I wanted to work with children. Then I volunteered while I was in secondary school at primary schools, and carried on doing that whilst I was at university. I wanted to work with children – they’re fun! There’s something very refreshing about the naivety of children, and the impact that you can have on the way they see life.
What’s your favourite lesson and why?
Literacy is the easiest to plan. I didn’t really enjoy Maths at school, so I find that hardest to do. Topic is probably my favourite lesson. I cover it in a range of different ways – I deliver it in a carousel, so there are five different activities, and 3 different levels of tasks. They get on with it themselves, and they’re in control of their learning. Some are very prescriptive; others go and do what they want. You can see what they’re really good at through the flexibility it allows, which you can’t always see in other lessons. I like what they produce in this one.
What’s your seating plan and does it work?
I sit them in talk partner places, so they move around every week. A lot depends on group work – I sit them in zig zag shapes, L shapes U shapes. It’s difficult in a challenging class to get the seating plan right, and I’m constantly changing it – I think a lot of teachers do. Children can get irritated quickly by the person next to them, so by changing on a weekly basis there’s no option to get fed up. I had one boy who worked really well with a girl with a statement for learning difficulties – he worked so well next to her and really helped her develop her own learning, and I would never have known without talking partner pairs. The key is to mix it up – I do say to the kids that it’s random, but I do sometimes give them the option to sit next to their friends because you never know what will have a positive effect.
Tell us your most embarrassing moment as a teacher…
Last year, I did some Shakespeare with year 6 – we did a play of Hamlet. We made props, and we were making crowns out of gold cardboard. One boy asked me to cut off the edge of the cardboard to make it the right length but it was already on his head. I went to cut it whilst it was still on, and I accidentally chopped off a big piece of his hair with it! I had to ring up his mum and explain. I was terrified but she was very understanding!
If you were a pupil again, would you want to get taught by you?
Well, when I’m planning lessons I think about what I would have wanted. But times do change, and the class I have means you do have to be flexible. But yes, because I have their interests in mind and I always think ‘would I like that’? When I was at school I didn’t like handwriting, but I’ve just started doing it with my class and I have them writing out the lyrics to the songs and whilst they’re doing that I put the song on in the background, which makes it more fun!
Excluding marking, what is your least favourite part of the job?
My least favourite part is the copious amount of pointless admin that comes with everything you do, and limitations that health and safety can put on your lessons. It’s hard when we go on a school trip. You have to write a ten-page risk assessment first!
…and your favourite?
Probably seeing the children enjoy the learning! When they’re having fun and you know they’re learning too. Also, watching them get better at things – their visible progress is very rewarding, seeing them crack things by the end of the year. So…seeing children flourish!
What’s the ‘dream’ – SLT? HoD? Head?
This is a question I think about quite often as I’m doing my masters. I do have an interest in SEN, so maybe pushing that further and becoming a SENCO, but I don’t want to put any limitations on things now – it depends where the journey takes me. I’d quite like to run a free school, where the age range is 2-18. You have a lot more control over the direction of their education, and you get to know the parents much better, which is really important.
If a time machine was invented, which decade in the 20th century would you most like to go back to and why?
…The 70s? I’d quite like to be a hippy!
Finally, any top tips for the teachers of tomorrow?
Never limit a child’s potential. Never put children into categories, and don’t let labels affect how you treat them.
Be flexible – if the plan isn’t working then don’t be afraid to change it!
Enjoy it! And smile! And get to know the kids.
Are you an NQT looking for some inspirational training? If so why not have a look at latest CPD training here.