Thursday, March 30, 2006

...and I don't like Thursday much either

That's just coz I'm grumpy and don't need to be. Too much paper work, malfunctioning computers and printers, help I need I don't know how to get, constant feeling that I'm teaching by the seat of my pants, annoying parents – really annoying parents (I never thought teaching would make me so angry!), printing ridiculous things that could stay digital, starting a new term with nothing felling like it's progressing – actually that's not entirely true – I have noticed a change in some of the kids, they get it, well, some of it now but I still need to be so much tougher... but a six year olds can push your patience for a lot longer than a teenager and I can't fake strict but I really don't want the emotions that go with it! Now, where was I? Moaning, that's right.


I stayed back late this evening to get 'reports' done. They aren't very good or well thought out which offends my sense of perfectionism, but I really don't know what I'm doing and they are technically a draft – that means I can make it better later, right?


The other morning when I was fixing stuff up on the staffroom computer the principal stopped for a chat and told me not to stress about things as I'm new and still learning and I needed help with things just to ask. I am not so intimidated by her now but am not quite myself yet (i.e. still on good behaviour). I can joke with the APs now, and was asked if I was causing trouble in the office this afternoon – I was just stirring the pot, but really I would like newsletters emailed or with a website and archives, how many trees have to go for stuff no one really reads?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I don't like Wednesdays

There is nothing good on a Wednesday. It is work. Making it fun for myself (let alone the kids) turns me mental.

Only had the preps today with the other two away. It was ok and we got some stuff done but I still feel that we are fumbling along with very few set plans or programs. Our new OT seems nice, my speechie is still absent but I am supposed to have 2 in on a Wednesday so 1 was better than usual total of 0! We actually achieved something and have discovered Sleeping Beauty's hand gesture/sign for finished. It's not a clear finished sign but having a speechie have time to work it out is great!

Two of my kids had seizures in the car on the way to school this morning according to their parents. Snow white pulled up fine but Sleeping Beauty had another mid morning. It was the first one I'd seen of hers. So very quick. I was glad that I had asked mum about how they had presented this morning. I had been worried that they would be subtle and I wouldn't notice them. I have got to know the kids well enough now that I can recognise those changes. I called her mum at lunchtime even though she seemed ok. Her mum came and picked her up after play so she could go home and sleep as the seizures tend to get more frequent with tiredness.

It feels really weird calling parents like I am a responsible adult... I need to do it again when the kids are at homecrafts to see how Little Red Ridinghood is doing post op, she might be back for half days next week depending on the pain...

In the last session I had a prep in from across the road who wasn't swimming. When she was brought in I was told that she was an octopus and a scallywag so they thought she would fit right in with my kids! Luckily by this time I only had 2 left! It was an interesting change to have my glasses snatched at by a different kid...

Swore a bit at the computer at school as I faced another blue screen of death... not happy. So I went to pick up the stuff I had printed and it's all smeared... not happy. The computer guy called the photocopy people to come look at it and didn't seem very hopeful about my computer.

It makes me stress when I look at all the stuff the other prep class get done. My pregnant co worker says I should just not look at it then!

I need an early night tonight.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Arrrgh!



My pirate name is:


Mad Anne Flint



Every pirate is a little bit crazy. You, though, are more than just a little bit. Like the rock flint, you're hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you're easily chipped, and sparky. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from fidius.org.

What's it all about?

Contents may vary from illustration on the packet.

That's what should be put on anything to do with encouraging people to take up teaching. At uni one gets the idea that teaching is about content and curriculum that you deliver, make interesting (with any luck...) and the little darlings learn. OK, it's still about them learning something and you teaching it but it certainly hasn't turned out to be subject knowledge! Creating decent human beings that fit into society, do their best, play nice with others, know how to find out what they need to know and get what they require (say please!) is something that apparently starts in prep and appears not to have an end for school teachers. Content knowledge? Maybe later... or incidentally along the way.

I was somewhat disenchanted to find out I am not alone in these thoughts.

What worries me is that I'm not sure I'm really qualified as a person to teach this stuff to wee kiddies. Teenagers have a keen bullsh*t detector and someone has done the hard work already. Teaching these things to 6 year olds makes me wonder if I am morally responsible enough. I am not ready to be a parent but have put my self in a position of parental type responsibility... what was I thinking ?!?!

Monday, March 27, 2006

They're baaaack!

...and so am I! What worries me is that it feels just the same as before. I guess that's why I have decided that I need to make changes to the way I do things.


This term is going to be about finding a balance between work and having a life, finding ways of switching off and being more productive with the preparation work etc. that I do.


Just as an aside – I realised last night, after not getting anything like I'd hoped to done in my holidays, that I will never be the super organised planned ahead type person I long to be. I have always promised that I will do better next term/year/subject but I have to face the fact that I won't ever do anything until I'm good and ready and very, very close to a deadline. Sigh. Can I still have my dreams?


Today was really grey and dark. Winter approaches. At least it was still reasonably warm.


The kids were quite subdued today and Little Red Ridinghood was away after surgery during the holidays. Snow White came in very upset and her mum said she'd been a pain all holidays including doing a Russell Crowe impersonation throwing the home phone around! She behaved fine at school, no different to last term.


I am really bummed that not only do we miss heaps of swimming classes this term because of public holidays on Mondays, but today the pool boiler was on the blink and it was too cold to swim in. We played games in the hall but it just wasn't the same.


The ants that visit my kitchen seem to prefer protein rich dirty dishes to sweet stuff but they just don't do a good enough job to put the dishes away as clean. Almost, but not quite.


I dragged myself out of bed this morning for a swim and the teacher I swim with said that no one sleeps well the night before school goes back, no matter how long you've been teaching. I really didn't want to hear that!


We had a really boring staff meeting this arvo and I nearly fell asleep. It went for ages and and once it turns 5pm there is no point me going to play in traffic. So I got some stuff done that I have been putting off all holidays (promised myself not to do any more school stuff once home) and had a great drive home with hardly any traffic. One day I will leave early...

Monday, March 20, 2006

Teaching rounds are NOT like teaching!

How so? Weeeell...


It turns out that although you think you are experiencing 'teaching' like it's the real thing, it is so far from the real thing that it's hard to compare the two. The following areas are discussed in no particular order of importance: responsibility, organisation, discipline, planning, administrivia and paper warfare, politics, relationships/friendships/mentoring, support and self sufficiency. I may think differently about these topics in the future...


[*WARNING* This will probably be dry and boring to non teaching readers. It is also very long!]


5 weeks was nowhere near as physically and mentally and emotionally draining as this short 6 week term. It's nice to get a break now but I worry about how I will cope with a full length term. The last 2 weeks have felt like a full time low grade smokey pub hangover. I hope I will build some resistance to the stress otherwise this job will make me ill on a regular basis (This may be why the job comes with so many sick days though...).


The responsibility that I have as a 'real' teacher sometimes feels enormous! On rounds you can always look to someone else to take charge if you are unsure. Now I just have to make it up, appear confident and hope for the best. I can get advice before or after an event, but whilst it's happening you're it! Other people in the team look to me for guidance and decision making. How do I want it to happen, should we do this, what do you want me to do – in short, I don't really know. Learning to control the events in my classroom is a big task, especially when I often have a cast of thousands in to help or just one person I need to make the most of. Things change so often, as do the kids. I spend a lot of time thinking on my feet and there may be no way around this. I na├»vely thought you could plan, including contingencies and then it would be fine. These kids create so many contingencies that a lot of the time I just feel I have to go with the flow and make the most out of the time for a positive, fun, educational experience. It's hard for me to relax into something like that and say 'Whatever, never mind. We'll do it this way then.' When I have to make up an answer and work by trial and error I feel like I am not doing the best I could for my students, that I should could do better if I knew more, but I understand (or at least a small, rational part of me does) that I am creating, or having, the experience that my answers will one day come from. On teaching rounds, you have someone to say 'perhaps try it this or that way next time.' I have no such luxury now and can only try to describe what happened to colleagues and hope they have a good idea for me. The kids and class dynamic are so different that each teacher may need to create something new to make things work and that is a bit daunting at this stage.


Organisation... on the run... When you start something new with no idea what you are doing you have to play catch up to get ahead again – or perhaps not sleep, but I am too lazy for that option. Maybe other new teachers cope with this better than I. I am usually a very organised person even if things look cluttered. At the end of this term I have no idea what many of the bits of paper littering my desk and shelves refer to or even if they are important. That is why I will be going in to school this holidays... and maybe a little future planning now I have a clue what I am supposed to be doing. On teaching rounds you have plenty of time to plan and make cool stuff for the kids to do. One of my kids works well and independently with worksheets... Great! I'll photocopy a book and that's one less thing for me to think about! This change has come about a lot more quickly than I expected. Teaching rounds gives you a false sense of security that it's all manageable, and it would be, if you were teaching a 0.5 fraction. My kids don't generally work independently either, so unless I put a video on, I am teaching all the time. It would be nice to set kids on a task and then get on with some administrivia that needed doing but it's not going to happen in my world.


On teaching rounds, you walk into a fully formed class. Maintaining discipline is easier than creating it from a rabble of kids who have never met you before. My kids are a bit different in that it may take me a lot longer to get through to them but I am not the only new teacher experiencing this. I love my gorgeous, demonic (at times – and don't think because they are cute and disabled that they don't know what they are doing either!) and demanding students but sometimes I really want to throttle them. Maintaining and teaching discipline, both rules and self discipline is a crap job when parents won't reinforce and I need to build the line between home and school behaviour. I thought it was cool on teaching rounds when my supervising teacher wasn't there and I was the authority in the room. I now realise that this would not have been possible without a lot of hard work by them earlier in the year. I was just reaping the benefits.


Administrivia. How many trees had to die to tell me shit I don't give a rat's a*** about? Can't they send me emails I can archive or delete and leave the trees alone? Oh, yeah. That's right, no one would look at it. Do they look at their bits of paper? I understand we have to be told, to shift responsibility but really... Don't print it if it's on the school network – send me an email with a link. Then there's reports... When you are on teaching rounds you plan and teach. When you teach you plan, you teach, you fill out lots of forms and read lots of memos only a few of which will really have any effect on your students or your teaching of them. It's a pain in the but and leave you with less time for good planning because you always feel like you are behind in the paper chase and other responsibilities. Some days I feel like I need a secretary to tell me what is due when and where I am supposed to be next – oh, yard duty/team meeting/staff meeting, you say?


When you are on teaching rounds the school politics doesn't really touch you. You may be aware of some of it, but in the end it doesn't matter. Working in a school is different. At the moment I am vaguely aware of several sets (or subsets) of political workings going on. I am trying not to take sides as I don't really know what's going on, but already I am aware that it affects the relationships I form with other teachers. As the principal is fairly new to the school there is a power shift going on as she takes full leadership of the school. Things are changing and it's hard to know where you stand. One of the APs is retiring soon, so it will be interesting to see if her replacement comes from within the school. Some of the teachers seem to think it may create waves if the expected choice from within the school isn't appointed. Apparently the principal has a different style that a lot of the staff welcome, and who wouldn't welcome the chance to say what you think and have it taken into consideration instead of being shouted down or stepped on. How does this effect me? I am being mentored by the head of primary, who is considered to be very old school and the staff adoption of a confrontational relationship with management might make things very interesting. I am not used to being quiet about issues that I think are important but being on anyone's side at the moment would not be a good thing for me. So, I will do what I have always tried to do when confronted with work politics, be on good terms with everyone.


Relationships, friendships, mentoring... These I bundled up together coz they are all about getting on with other people, I guess. My mentor is the head of primary. She is sweet but very serious and under a lot of stress. I like her and respect her but it's not as if we click. I can't make her laugh and sometimes she looks at me like she's not really sure how to take me – I hope that in time she will realise that seriously is not the best way to take me most of the time. I am quite happy to share the professional issues I have with my teaching with her but not so much the emotional ones. Luckily I have found other teachers who I feel more comfortable with in that area who are a great support. In some ways I am lucky to be the youngest on the teaching staff amongst women who have kids my age. I am looked after and helped. I wish they could see more of that need in each other. The only people my age are the therapist and teachers and therapists don't generally tend to hang out much. I think that's just an age and stage of life thing and I'll be able to get to know them better as the year progresses. I would like to have a close friend at school but I am not feeling particularly isolated either socially or professionally. One of the best things on teaching rounds was other student teachers who were going through the same thing. That mutual support at morning tea, lunch or in a shared office was great and I miss that relationship of equals that I can't have with anyone here. At least compared to teaching rounds I am not tied to one person for advice and I have more personalities to sift through to find people I can relate to.


On teaching rounds you have someone watching your class and giving feedback. Where it was good, what worked well, where you could improve, suggestions on how to improve. Now I am on my own, teaching in a unfamiliar area. Great! The support I get now is rarely direct unless I ask someone to come into my class to have a look and give me some ideas. I have to ask for any specific help or suggestions I need. I get provided with general info and support but my mentor a) doesn't want to cramp my style with too much 'this is the way we do it' type thing b) doesn't know what help I need until I work it out for myself. She is teaching her own class, not watching over my shoulder. Some self sufficiency is necessary even to be able to work out that you need help. I would like some constructive feedback on my lessons but people just tell me I'm doing a good job, I tell them about a concern with the students during that lesson and they say 'Oh, that's normal for this school. It will be trial and error for a while'. No easy answers here, but I'm probably happier being frustrated whilst working it out for myself than if I were being told what I should be doing all the time.

Imagine having half a teaching load and the rest of the time for planning and reflection! Ah, teaching rounds – I almost miss them now I am really thinking about it... I went into this job with little idea of what would be expected of me and no idea what my students would be like. Imagine the luxury of watching another teacher with the same class for a time before starting to find out what works with them and who's who in the zoo. Actually being the teacher I haven't had such luxury of teaching rounds and have been flying by the seat of my pants for 6 weeks. I now have time to stop, recover and plan out some ideas and directions for next term (not to mention go through all the bits of paper people have been handing me since day one. I really hope there wasn't anything too important in there!). I feel bad when I haven't really thought things through, as if I'm letting the kids down. There is a lot of trial and error but I feel I'm not being systematic enough about it. I couldn't have a CRT in for a sick day as I haven't written hardly anything down yet! I am glad it's a short term and I can get on top of things now and get my head together for next term.


The last thing I want to mention, unless I think of anything else to add to this epic ramble reflection, is the fact that I was unaware of the amount that emotion is a factor in teaching. Perhaps on rounds you have a lack of ownership of the class, but I am surprised on a regular basis by my emotions for my kids and how much of the inner part of me is a large part of my teaching. I expected I'd teach science and math (or health) to teenagers and nothing on rounds prepared me for the emotional journey that teaching is taking me on. Be ye warned!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Holidays are important for teacher's health and sanity.

It took the first few days to get myself back to feeling like a normal person with a brain that holds information and energy levels above that of a sick sloth.

I went into school yesterday and got stuff done that I never have time for with the kids around. I feel much better now I have the filing cabinet set up and folders for various bits of administrivia in order. I probably need another half a day to get everything as ship shape as I can with the school computer system offline.

I had lunch with the new music teacher there and it was a great chance to find out about things she had done in her career. She taught outdoor ed for years to special kids and has taught as a classroom teacher and going into music is following something she has always done in education but never formally. I really think being a primary teacher in the first place makes this kind of teaching easier.

Talked to the principal for a wee bit about the new painting being done and moving the art work around to cope with the new colour scheme. I'm sure with repeated contact I will get over being such a chook... She seems friendly, but how friendly are you supposed to be with the principal?

Now I need to get to all the stuff at home that I have been leaving in piles because I have been to tired from work... but no, I'm blogging...

The long reflective piece just needs proof reading then I'll post it. Final word count is over 2000... not for the faint hearted.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Hol-i-daay! Cel-e-braate!

It will be alright!

It's holidays. Especially early so all the wee kiddies can be patriotic and go watch our athletes triumph at the Empire games! And try not to think about the money spent on elite sport that doesn't go to health, education, grassroots sports.......

I feel pretty crap so am taking it easy for a few days before I try to catch up with having a life. I am writing a reflection on the differences between teaching rounds and the real thing. It has blown out to 1500+ words currently. So, I'll put a warning on for the non teacher types looking for entertaining stories...

Hmm... entertaining story for a short post. One of my kids has a new baby sister and she is well over it and getting quite whiney. Her new favorite line is "What about me?" I don't think she is getting the sympathy or reaction she is quite expecting when myself and whoever is helping the classroom break into the rest of the chorus "It isn't fair. I've had enough, now I want my share." Poor kid, not being taken seriously. We quite enjoy it though...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Yawning all day

So very tired... and so is at least one of the kids.

B2 reckons that often by week 8 in a normal term they are knackered and the last 2 weeks are a struggle or the kids just get really sick. 12 week terms coming up should be fun...

Had my last session with our current OT today. She is lovely, she is leaving us to work in an icky hospital coz the school doesn't pay her enough. Pay her more, I say!!!

Had a fire drill today... we couldn't hear it, we could have been crispy critters! I was able to put 3 of mine into the sand pit to sit down and the kids waited really well.

Dad dropped off Snow White and she was fine. A bit more hestitant than usual but she hasn't been with us much this week and it's hard that we haven't got the same routines happening.

Sleeping Beauty had a couple of naps today and was trying to climb into any lap she could find for a snuggle. This morning after she went to the toilet, as she does when she arrives, she walked straight into the classroom and towards her chair! That was great!

Cinderella was whiney again today but B2 reckons it may be related to the new baby at home. I should try to give her more attention whilst reminding her how we behave and take turns.

Goldilocks vomited a little but seemed ok. May have been some reflux. Later she had a bit of a fall transferring into her chair too fast and had a teary but didn't cry. Others in that class would have been howling.

Sometimes it really comes back to you that these kids are just 6 years old. They are sick, tired, naughty, unhappy at times just as much as anyone else. Working with little people is weird, teenagers you can treat like adults most of the time but I don't want to treat my kids like they are little kids or worse, little disabled kids. They need me to expect more of them than other people. Today I really felt like I could see changes for the better in the class especially Sleeping Beauty and Goldilocks. They are getting the hang of it. Pity they will forget it all over the holidays...

I scored two 4 drawer filing cabinets today. They will make great drawers for organising stuff in the room. The little things that make you happy, eh?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

2 days to go... 2 days to go... 2 days to go

2 days to go... 2 days to go... 2 days to go... 2 days to go... 2 days to go... 2 days to go... 2 days to go... 2 days to go... 2 days to go... but who's counting?


ME!


It's strange how one week I can have a cast of thousands in my room for one session - like the first and middle last week compared to 2 of us this week, and 2 and a bit for last session last week and this week heaps!


It was still a bit of a trial in the arvo when it's hard to keep the wrigglers interested when they are tired. Turns out Sleeping Beauty really responds to music (as well as balls and books) and Goldilocks doesn't like being left out of the group - it's all about the words you use with discipline...



Am tired and looking forward to the break. My foot is sore. One of my good kids, Cinderella, was mean and whiney today, it was dissapointing but very six years old.


The psychologist stopped by after class to see how I was doing. I was lying in a bean bag with my feet up in a choatic room (which i have left til tomorrow to clean up!) listening to beach sounds... a bit more relaxed than last week, yes.


Am off to a movie now, on a school night! wooeeeeee!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Those kids better not be my karma!

The title refers to my response to a comment made at lunchtime yesterday... I wasn't that bad!


Physical program on a Tuesday still has no structure and so there is no control or engagement with Sleeping Beauty or Goldilocks. It's draining and frustrating.


Had a great chat with B2 after school. It was mainly coz I needed to understand some things about the reports but after that we had a bit of a chat and I felt that I was able to get to know her a little better. I think she is great at being supportive to B1 and keeping her mouth shut. It sells her a bit short, I think, as people see them as a team not individuals.


On the way out she asked if I thought I had made a good decision coming to work here. I don't believe that there are good or bad decisions, you make them and make the best of the consequences as you will never know what the other path would have been like. I feel happy about my job even when it is all going wrong and I am miserable. I feel very supported and like and trust the people I work with. Those are very important things to me. At week 5 and a half I can see a future at this school. I keep saying that if they like me and I like them at the end of my contract we will see what happens... there is a long way to go still.


Afterthought: My (previously) babysitting teacher is so frustrated with the teacher that has some of her students from last year that she thinks even throwing popcorn at the kids would be an improvement in their day!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Hell's Bells!

So I cranked up the AC/DC and had another look at the reports... Hell's bells alright! Staff meeting this arvo was interesting in that a lot of people are stressed, frustrated, annoyed and confused - not just me! Get a bl**dy program! I should not have to be dealing with formatting glitches. I want a data base of learning outcomes I can click on to add, not cut and paste between different formats. Why are they making it hard for themselves? And then there's subjective and objective outcomes... I am a science nerd, I want objective not quasi, apparently objective bollocks!

Last week descended into emotional chaos... and that's why I didn't blog. Sorry. It was just too much. I really wanted to write after five weeks teaching, a reflective comparison with 5 weeks of teaching rounds... but thinking about teaching has to stop somewhere. I wrote some notes about the events of the week but I will try to flesh them out when/if I have time or inclination next week when I have holidays.

So, today... was ok. Goldilocks was noisy and nothing worked to settle her down. I think the middle of the week is best for her. She is too excited about being at school on Monday. It surprises me that with the amount of time I spend trying to get her to do something I want her to do, that her mum says to me today that she was wanting to go to school all weekend and talking about me a lot (in her own way). Wow!

This morning was ok, but it was really nice that the principal came down and would have helped in my class if it had been necessary. I am still a bit shy around her though. Middle session was going fair to middling when another teacher (a CRT for the PE teacher) came in and said I could have 45 mins to do what ever needed doing and she'd take my class. So I started doing the reports for my class and got very frustrated. I think I should have tidied my desk coz it adds so much to stress levels trying NOT to swear in front of your class! Sleeping Beauty was good in class, but tried to poke a stick in Little Red Ridinghood's eye in the sandpit at lunchtime!

Arvo was swimming which was nice. Saw Goldilocks in the pool for the first time, she could walk by herself with a bit of a bounce. It was nice to see her upright and unsupported. The pool is great for these kids.


CRT: Casual? Crisis? Relief Teacher