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Siobhan is an primary teacher from Sydney who decided to move to the UK after university to teach in schools in London through Protocol Education. Sadly, her time in the UK has come to an end and she shares her thoughts before heading home. But don't worry it won't be the last we hear from our dedicated blogger!

After nearly 2 years, over 30 schools, 3 long term placements and more learning experiences than I can count (for both me and the students), I have reached the end of my teaching in London.  Through the many ups, downs, stresses and successes, I have seen, done and learnt a lot more than I could possibly have imagined!

When I am dealing with a class of students, I like to know that I have every minute of the day planned and there will not be time where the students are not engaged in some form of learning.  I have learnt however, that this is blatant optimism bordering on delusional!  In a school, there are a number of things that, no matter how organised I am, will catch me off guard.  Choir needs emergency practice, an assembly wasn't put on the timetable, the technology doesn't work the way it should or (always my favourite) there is a fire drill.  These are just some of the ways my lessons have been thrown off kilter in the last 2 years, and this doesn't even broach the ways students have disrupted my lessons.  Knowing that things can go awry, I have instead learnt to go with the flow.  Yes I need to plan to engage my students, but I feel I can more easily adjust and adapt lessons and situations for the best outcome.

Paperwork

There is paperwork for EVERYTHING!  Of course the planning and the marking and assessing requires paperwork, and the excursions need to have risk assessments etc, but when they need to be printed, signed off, photocopied and placed in a folder in the office to follow procedure, it gets a bit excessive.  The hardest part I found was getting through the marking, making sure that I was reflecting on the lesson I taught and how well the students understood it and achieved the learning objective.  On top of this, I had to provide feedback for the students, and check they had responded to previous feedback.  When there are 30 students in the class, (and I am struggling to read their writing as it is), I felt like I spent more time marking than anything else!  The paperwork is important because it assists me in my teaching so I don't mind because I can see the point of it, but there is a ridiculous amount!

Teaching is a fragile vocation

With very background information (particularly as a supply), I go into classrooms and must make snap judgements on a student's behaviour, acceptable margins of behaviour, and methods of discipline.  Actions from one child might be normal (misbehaving or bullying in nature), whilst from another child, they are completely new.  Without this background information, it can be difficult to assess the right course of action for both the student and the class.  A student with a behavioural disorder will respond better to positive reinforcement, whereas some children who are just trying to push the supply will respond better to strictness.  If I make the wrong call early on, the day and possibly the relation with the student is in jeopardy.

Another way that teaching is fragile is to do with safe guarding procedures.  A teacher must be vigilant in looking for signs of abuse or neglect on behalf of their students because, statistically, a teacher is 100% likely to come across a student who needs to be reported to child services.  Teachers need to be incredibly careful that their actions are above reproach and, just as importantly, their actions are SEEN to be above reproach.  I have had several situations where a student will say something and consequently I am required to give a formal statement to clear the matter up or further an investigation.  Some things that kids say are, of course ridiculous and it can be tedious and yet more paperwork, however I wouldn't have things any other way because the safety of a child is, and always will be, my first priority.

The good lesson

Even if there is no lesson plan written up, doesn't mean there isn't a good lesson in things.  Any activity can provide a lesson and this is not limited to the students.  I had one situation where a student sharpened a pencil into my cup of tea out of spite (thankfully almost empty and not something I fell for).  I learnt several things here (first and foremost was never to leave my tea unattended with students!) and I know that my behaviour management skills improved exponentially from that placement.  The students on the other hand got a lesson on appropriate ways to treat other people.  Getting to an excursion can be turned into a navigation lesson for students (especially if they help plan the route), playground duty should have underlying sportsmanship values and any wait in line can be a lesson in patience (one that is usually sorely needed for both students AND teachers).  Lesson plans are fantastic because they allow me to differentiate and reach all students for the best outcome, however lessons that arise from situations are also fantastic and guarantee student engagement.

The highs and lows

Teachers are privileged enough in their jobs to experience some amazing highs along with the upsetting lows.  Every day in the job should be treasured as an opportunity to inspire knowledge, understanding and curiosity about the world.  Children have a delicate understanding of how the world works and we are the ones who get to open their eyes to what it has to offer.  Not only this, but we can have a lot more fun in our daily lives - what other job allows me to have a princess party with Reception in the morning and play basketball with the older students over lunch.  I have dressed up as Hermione Granger (World Book Day) and Alice in Wonderland (Children in Need), made a complete fool of myself on multiple occasions, usually with the younger years (who love it) and attempted to keep up with year 5 and 6 students playing soccer (I failed, but I earned their respect for trying apparently!).

Final reflection

Over the past 2 years, I have had a blast; It is as simple as that.  Of course there have been days I thought would never end, and weeks that are better left forgotten, but the point is I don't forget them.  I reflect on them, learn from them, and look forward to the next opportunity where I can show my improvements.  I have had many fantastic experiences and met some wonderful people who have taught me more than I could have imagined.  As my time in the UK draws to a close I am grateful for my opportunities here and thank everyone who made it possible (particularly Protocol Education - if you are ever considering teaching in the UK, get into contact with them!).  I have done what I set out to do and am now getting excited for my next adventure back in Australia.  I plan to continue teaching and will keep updating this blog with my experiences Down Under.

Siobhan, thank you for your dedication and frequent blogging while in the UK. We wish you all the best back in Australia and we hope to hear from you soon. 

Want to share your experiences? Email Megan at mparsons@protocol-education.com or share on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn or Google+


Tags: Siobhan, ProtocolEducation, Teaching, UK, Australian, Overseas, Reflection, Lessons,

Category: Australian Teachers


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