Monday, September 14, 2009

Week One Review (and Family Feuds)

I'll be doing this post in chronological order for a change, as I'm pressed for time. You see I haven't got into a routine for doing "homework" which consists of "reading" so I'm awake at some unusual time trying to finish things off!

The first word that comes to mind when I think about my first week on the PGCE course is tiring. Both mentally and physically I'm afraid. Unfortunately my health is not what it used to be (perhaps due to laziness) and I find myself tiring very easily. On the other hand I've been a lazy slob for the past three months so I'm not used to the increase in physical activity, so I'm hoping this is only temporary! Mentally though, I feel like my brain is being ripped apart and broken into epsilon sized pieces. These pieces are then being put through their paces before coming together in a completely different and new way. I feel like I have a new outlook on Mathematics now. It's no longer about ME (well humour me for a second!) but it's about CHILDREN.

But hey, isn't that what teaching is all about, you ask? The children and getting the point across? Well I have to disagree slightly with that you see, and that's what this PGCE has made me realise. It is a lot about ME but not about MY MATHS. There I said it. This blog will be sucked into nothingness now - apologies! The PGCE makes you realise a lot about yourself as a person and what you tend to do a lot. Hopefully it will allow me to improve on certain things, like slowing down whilst talking perhaps. This whole "ME-ness" and trying to get a control over myself and being accountable for myself is somewhat scary. I'm not always immature etc but 30 children gazing at you with expectancy, can be quite nerving. I don't think a lot of ME is going to change, but I am on this occasion making more of an effort to smarten up!

By the way, I'm not suggesting that I shouldn't know the Maths or take an interest in it anymore. I'm merely commenting on the brain being broken up process and how it seems slightly disorientating at the moment. With time this will change, but doing a year 9 SATS paper was a shock to the system, especially when I answered "don't know" on a ratio question!

Yep - that was my homework for the weekend: answer a SATS paper correctly in the way I would, and then incorrectly in the way I think students would answer it. It was enjoyable enough, but on certain questions I was intrigued as to how anyone could possibly get them wrong. That's the gap that has to be bridged now, for one thing I have learnt is that most students don't see words but just numbers. Another thing which struck out to me was that (in my opinion) secondary school kids haven't been taught to CHECK their work. I did a question wrong at first attempt, but I always review my answers and thus realised an error. It was actually my Dad who first stressed to me the importance of checking that my answers were sensible, and later in year 10 I can recall my Maths teacher doing the same. I realise it's all about finishing the work as soon as possible and moving on to the next question, but checking and reviewing is such a powerful tool in helping ones understanding that students sometimes lose out on.

Enough of my personal rumblings. Apart from the (painful!) process of having my brain ripped apart, I have enjoyed the challenge this week has presented me. The challenge of adapting my thinking and applying it to a different situation. I have some teaching experience but it's a giant grey slab. In the same way that my brain is being broken into bits and joined again, I have to do this to my own experience to be able to teach a class of 30 kids. I am very apprehensive, as from past occasions I am known to be given a lot of "crap" from the students. Certain family members don't help by actually imitating what they think students would say to me! Meh.

I missed the first day back (due to timetable mix up) which consisted of being taught starters - i.e. what's done in the first five or ten minutes of the lesson. This is meant to an activity which brings pupils attention to maths from whatever lesson they had. You can do whatever you want in it - recap previous lesson, play maths logic game etc. As I missed this day I was in for a shock, when on Tuesday we were put into groups and asked to prepare starters to do in front of everyone! What made this doubly worse was that everyone else already seemed to know each other, and I would be making a fool out of myself in front of random people. Thankfully though I spotted someone I knew which has changed my experience a heck of a lot. (The table I was sat on didn't seem to want to engage me in their group, as of course they all were knew one another).

My post on starters is non-existent yet, as although time thankfully ran out so I didn't have to do my starter, I have yet to find "the starter" that I like very much. I have made a note of a few interesting ones, but nothing different. However I have some questions though: Should students be divided "boys vs girls" if you play a game? The competition is already there, but should you enhance that? If not boys vs. girls, how would you divide a class into two (apart from down the middle)? I mean in the mathematical sense? It might not end up being a fair test, for eg, you could say, "one team is of people whose birthday is an odd number?".

Moving on, as I said above, I have found it very difficult to answer questions incorrectly. I have a been given six questions to take to my placements to give to students to do. I can't teach them how to answer them correctly, but just note what they do and see what goes through their heads when they're doing them. This is quite challenging and I will invite your opinions on what you think students would do, when I get a moment.

Hmmm - this is going on isn't it? A quick summary of a few other things then. We had a brilliant session on data handling and it's amazing how visualising data can make a difference. Also having some comparative data and putting it into context makes a heck of a difference. One thing I learnt from this is DON'T force my understanding on students. For example when teaching mean, mode and median. Instead work on what the students know and take them slowly to my understanding.

We had a session on Professional Studies but it was mostly a recap for me as I had gone through a similar study when I did the Student Associates Scheme (link?). The key thing is not to answer any personal questions whatsoever the students might say or do. Full stop. Not even a nod of the head is acceptable. As politely as possible tell the students to "butt out"! I think that's the best advice anyone can give for as a naive Teaching Assistant, when I was a lot younger, I responded to questions and later on regretted it as the students wouldn't stop harassing me for more information. Nevertheless the discussions we had on this topic were very interesting, and trainee teachers just have to make sure that they're professional all the time.

Overall it was a very knackering week and the weekend has flown. My bones are protesting and concern is beginning to shadow my thoughts. This week will be my last week in University before I go out on a small placement. I worry about this placement because I am out of my comfort zone. I normally decided where I did placements etc. so always chose safe-ish options you see! I do welcome this challenge, but nevertheless it does worry me.

I've met a lot of really nice and friendly people on the course, and sharing our experiences and thoughts has been a very good thing. Although I do disagree heartily with what a few people say, it's still good.

I have just bracketed the title as I can't afford to diverge into that topic. It's suffices to say that I am surrounded by a lot of people who can't be happy for me. My Dads family especially. This stinks as some dislike me by "association" and others just like to create situations for me that suggest I am unhappy at how my life is. Yesterday for the first time in my life perhaps, I stayed upstairs to try and avoid everyone. I had to come downstairs to eat, which was a big mistake, but still these things happen right? I'll say it again - A I have been quite lucky in life. Certain opportunities have come to me at good times and I've tried to take them (the tutoring for example). Bitter people just annoy the life outta me - GET A HOBBY (which doesn't involve being bitter). I didn't even want to play Pro Evo for a change! At least we won't be having a family reunion for some time now. (We all get together on the day my Grandad passed away, but not for the same reasons anymore...).

Alas, I better get going now!

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