This coming week sees a huge challenge and a big change in my teaching career. After three years at St John’s, I am moving to be a Year 3/4 Leader at Riders Junior School.
So why the change?
I have been teaching eight years and have worked in three different places so far. I know people I went to University with that are still in their first school but I feel that each move I have made has been a positive one. My first change took me out of the classroom to work with Hampshire IT for two years and then when that finished, I took the PPA role at St John’s. This allowed me to develop my teaching and “get back into it” after two years out. Last year I had my own class again for the first time in four years and it was the best year of my career so far. I was lucky enough to have an incredible bunch of children that worked their hardest to improve on a daily basis.
I learnt so much last year and had so many great experiences that I though I would share some:
There’s the child who hadn’t made much progress for a year or two, always had 1-1 support and didn’t enjoy writing. However he did like technology. No, he loved it. So I got him blogging, he was responsible for charging the tablet in class, he even helped tidy the ICT suite. Did this help his learning? Not directly, but it made him even more keen to come to school. Once there, and settled and in a positive mood, we were able to focus on writing. His handwriting isn’t the best, neither is mine in fact, but the content of his writing excelled this year. By teaching him a few little tricks, he was able to use them and improve no-end. Every now and again I would give him another little “tip” such as…Did you know, adverbs are the kind of words that good writers use? Now, the rest of the class were able to focus during inputs and pick these up, he wasn’t. But by building up his little tips, he made huge strides in his writing: 1A to 2B (although probably a 2A on a good day). But even without the academic progress, he enjoyed writing more and more which is something I am pleased to have helped with.
In fact, it wasn’t just him, because of my insistence that a good writer borrows (porcupines) ideas, words and phrases from others, I managed to build a class of children that were keen to experiment with their writing. There were a few key elements to this, one being the Good/Amazing/Awesome cards. I had three A4-sized whiteboards on my writing wall, each with different features on it, progressively getting “harder”. So in one lesson, it might be “Good” to use words such as and/but/so, “Amazing” to include adverbs and “awesome” to include an adverbial phrases or two. What happened very quickly was that my less-able writers could see a few ideas of how to make their writing better and they would bring work to me and say, “I think this is amazing, because I have included x/y/z, do you agree?” Some teachers have All/Most/Some but I thought that good/amazing/awesome sounded cooler and more positive. It meant that the less-able children didn’t have their learning and objectives caped, they could see what the “best” writers were doing and try to include it in their writing. Did they always do it correctly? No. But they were playing with words and ideas.
This coming year, I want to blog more about my actual lessons and planning. The children made good progress and they seemed to love literacy and enjoy writing, something that they didn’t all admit to at the start of the year. Four children wrote comments in my leaving cards thanking me for making literacy fun and not scary any more so I must have been doing something right! Some also thanked me for our science lessons too. In an end-of-year circle time, I asked what they enjoyed this year. A few children said the obvious things like our Tudor day, school trips, visiting BETT and our curry-making lessons but a number said they enjoyed lessons more than before, which is always nice to hear!
Something else we worked on last year was our Science lessons. I very much believe that children should be able to experience practical science lessons as much as possible and this hadn’t always happened previously. So throughout the year I looked at where we could get investigations into the children’s hands. Through questioning we were able to skip past the stuff the children knew and really explore things further. For example, the curriculum said that the children needed to know about the ideal conditions for plants to grow. A quick 2minute conversation confirmed that plants needed water, light and so on. So I asked them some questions:
- Would plants grow in milk? or orange juice? Coke? Diet coke?
- Would they grow in playdoh instead of soil? or cotton wool?
Simple questions, but rather than repeating things they already knew, we had fun with every group doing a different experiment. For the record, Diet Coke worked quite well, but Coke didn’t. Oh and milk starts to smell after a few days! Much of that is obvious, or so I thought, but not everyone else was doing it!
Overall, I had a lot of fun this year with a great class. I’ll miss the children, the football teams and the digital leaders. The children asked me why I was leaving, why didn’t I want to stay with them? It was a tough question to answer, but I think that they understood. I needed more of a challenge. I needed a different challenge. In almost every way, Riders is completely different to St John’s but that’s what makes it fun right? A parent asked why did I want to do something that would be so much harder? My answer? How can you improve if you don’t challenge yourself?
I hope to take all of the things that I have learnt with me in my new role and I want to inspire the children to learn, to succeed and to enjoy what they are doing. I won’t have ICT to look after but we are going to start blogging this week (www.ridersblogs.co.uk). It’s going to be a very meaty role with plenty going on. Ofsted are due any day and we will probably implement a range of new ideas and strategies but there is an awesome team of enthusiastic teachers that will hopefully make it a great place to be.
So here’s to the new year, a new role, a new challenge, a new school.