NQT: One Small Step…

You’ve done it! You’re finally stepping into your own classroom, which is probably one of the best feelings you’ve had in life. It feels like all your hard work has finally culminated in having your own class!

It can be easy to let work overwhelm you in the first year – and it’s absolutely okay to spend as much time as you want preparing! You’re excited; there’s loads of ideas firing round your heard; your bookmarks on Pintrest, Twitter and Instagram have grown out of control and you want to create it all.

But it’s super important to make sure your wellbeing comes first; a tired, burnt out teacher cannot give their best to their class; no matter how many fabulous resources you create. The best resource in the classroom is YOU.

TOP TIP 1: BALANCE

It may take a while, but finding balance for yourself between work and home life is always so important. A burnt out candle can’t glow, which you will need to in both aspects of your life!

Make sure (minimum!) an evening a week you go home early and spend a day at the weekend (minimum!) relaxing. Of course, some find work relaxing – but you need time to switch off or it will become hard to draw the line between the two.

TOP TIP 2: ASK

It’s absolutely okay to ask someone for help. Yes, we mean about lessons, planning or subjects – don’t struggle when there are experts all around you – but also when you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed. Don’t suffer in silence; find a colleague who can be what you need. It might be just a listening ear, a helping hand or someone who can help you make a change.

Believe us, we know how hard it can be to ask someone for help if you’re finding things difficult. It can take lots of courage! But in the long run, it will have a much better effect on your mental health. If there is no one in school who can be there, then remember you can always reach out on Twitter. It’s a great support network.

TOP TIP 3: SELF-WORTH

Too many times NQTs (or even PGCE students!) walk into a classroom and think they don’t know best because it’s ‘just’ their first year of teaching. Know your own worth!

You will have fresh eyes, enthusiasm and new teaching strategies that other members of staff might not have seen before, or be able to see in the same way as you. Many a student or NQT has come up with a totally amazing way of teaching something! Don’t fill yourself with doubts – you wouldn’t have been chosen for the job if you hadn’t shown a real flair and love of teaching.

And in the future…

As you develop your own teaching style further, you’ll find tips and tricks to make things quicker. Less resources to make; more ideas to fall back on; trial and error of different strategies.

Just remember: do what works FOR YOU where possible.

B & W x

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We’re all going on…ANOTHER holiday.

The same debate rears its head most holidays.

Why are we working in the holidays? Why aren’t we looking after our wellbeing more?

But every year it’s frustrating that people forget that the key here is choice.

If you are in a school that expects you to go in during the holidays, or gives you so much work that you feel you have to do work during the summer then absolutely, break the mould and make it different for yourself. Being told we have to do work in the holidays is not acceptable.

But.

And it’s a big but. If we are, ourselves, choosing to do the work because we want to, then why can’t we? Personally, I find it more relaxing to go back to school knowing a lot of my work is already done; 6 weeks is a long time to be off with not a lot to do!

If you have families your priorities may be different- but I don’t. Don’t get me wrong, I pack things into Summer Holidays: 2 weddings (one in Ireland!) my birthday, 2 Welsh rugby games, a trip to Cornwall. But alongside this, there’s elements of my work I enjoy doing during the break because I have more time to do them.

What does not help wellbeing is people filling you with guilt.

You shouldn’t be doing work.

You should be doing work.

We are all professional adults who are capable of making decisions about when we choose to do our work. Let’s keep it that way!

B & W x

@primaryteachew

Is it a bargain if you didn’t plan to spend?

Warning: I won’t lie to you, this is probably quite a boring blog. Unless you’re as obsessed with stationery as I am.

I don’t know about all of you, but every time I get towards the end of a school year I start thinking about how I’m going to adjust my classroom for the next year. And that includes all the new stationery I need want to buy.

Fast forward to last night, and a ‘quick look’ where I planned to buy one single thing in B&M turned into a spree in several shops. I keep telling myself that individually, everything was a bargain. But is it ever a bargain when you planned not to spend any money in the first place…?

So, to make myself feel better about my spending habits, I thought I’d share some purchases with you all and hope that they help someone else with a stationery addiction; don’t buy your own when you can live vicariously through me.

Box File – £4.99 @ B&M

I can’t even tell you what I’ll use this for yet! I just loved the coloured dye appearance – and hey, when is a box file not useful in a classroom?

Unicorn Paintbrushes – £2.50 @ B&M

I don’t know about you, but our paintbrushes seem to end up scattered around the school after being lent to various classes. There are never the ones you want to model with in order to show those amazing (…) techniques. Now, I have my own personal set of paintbrushes that I can have on hand whenever they’re needed.

To-do List – £1.99 @ B&M

Again, it’s that coloured dye/marble design that I couldn’t resist. Do I have numerous lists? No. Do I ever complete a to-do list? No. But will it make me feel better about the work I have to do? Also no.

It will, however, give me something else to procrastinate about instead of completing the work!

Magazine Rack – £4 @ Sainsbury’s

I have started reading even more educational books for CPD, so wanted somewhere to store them where they’re to hand (and not shoved in my cupboard and forgotten about!). I’m hoping to keep this on my desk, with the ones I want to regularly use on my desk.

Fairy Lights – £4.99 @ B&M

These will go into my forest themed book corner, to add some ambience as the children read. 📚

Scented Markers – £2.99 @ B&M

What will I use them for? Who knows. But I wanted them.

Giant Post It Notes – £2 each @ Sainsbury’s

These are not new by any means, but finding some in Sainsbury’s was super exciting as I don’t have a Tiger that’s very local to me! I love using these for group work, displays and working walls!

I did warn you this wasn’t an exciting blog…but a problem shared is a problem halved. And buying things for classroom is my problem.

Any great buys you’ve discovered lately for your classroom? Let me know where you found them, & what you’re using them for!

@primaryteachew

B & W x

Secondary Week(s) – Part 1

Emily here!

After planning our Secondary Week for the Year 6’s a while ago, I was looking forward to it with excited anticipation. I’ve never planned anything like this before, and I hoped that it would be a great transition stepping-stone for the class on their journey to starting Secondary.

I asked teachers,SLT and TAs throughout the school to volunteer to teach a lesson to the class (giving them free choice of which subject they most wanted to do!). Everyone really got on board with the idea, leading to us extending the Secondary Week to just under a fortnight of different lessons!

Our school has a really supportive atmosphere anyway with a great attitude to teamwork, but even so, I was really (pleasantly!) surprised that so many people offered to do lessons, as well as cover a range of subjects.

I’m hoping to show, and share, with you the lessons my Year 6 class were lucky enough to be taught during this time.

W/C Monday 10th June – our ‘unofficial’ starting week.

This week was used to ease the children in. It was explained to them that they would receive homework (with a range of hand in dates), detention slips (to show them when/how often this could happen) and also commendation slips for children who worked extra hard in their lessons, or were being role-models around school. All the children understood what was happening and were really excited to receive their timetables!

Tuesday

Martial Arts/Dance –

We spent the morning with outside instructors from @MattFiddesUK to do a martial arts class, followed by a session of dance.

Drama –

After lunch, our headteacher took the class for a drama lesson! It had lots of little activities:

  • First, we played ‘123’. With a partner you take it in turns to say 1 – 2 – 3. Which sounds more simple than it ends up being! After you master this, you replace 1 with a clap, and 3 with a knee bend! A really fun warm up activity.
  • Next, the children had to be in an ‘Imaginarium’. Stood in a circle, they were told a scene – for example, a haunted house. One by one, children state what they are, then act it out inside the circle ‘scene’.
  • Finally, the children had 4 chairs next to each other in a line – a bus stop. Behind it were a range of hats. Children, up to 4 at a time, took a hat, sat on the bench and had a conversation in character. Some of the hat choices were fantastic and provided really great opportunities for interaction and teamwork!

Maths –

Next, a member of our SLT completed a maths activity with the children, based on probability. It was an activity which I hadn’t seen before, where children had to ‘race’ horses – and bet which would win – based on rolling a dice. They did this in pairs and were really enthusiastic (and, no surprise in my class, very competitive!).

Music –

The last lesson on our first day was music, with our Deputy Head. He decided to focus on the Haka, looking at rhythm and beat. The children had to spend time exploring this, using performance to understand more about both of these features. Once they had looked at this, they then compared it to a different song – what was the difference in rhythm? What about beat? How did that make them feel? Promoted some really fantastic discussion!

Wednesday

English –

This lesson was with me! With a focus on writing, we looked at creating a ‘100 Word Story’ for the Young Writers ‘Ancient Adventures’ completion using some ambitious vocabulary. After creating a class shared write, the children focused on their own 100 word stories, thinking about amazing vocabulary they could use! A simple lesson, which all the children enjoyed.

Maths –

Miss McNally (my brilliant PGCE student – @missmcnally1) created a lesson around pie charts, incorporating our termly topic of Twisted Tales. First they recapped working out the degrees of pie charts.

Next, the children developed their own pie charts from scratch using data that they generated by asking the class questions. They came up with questions like: ‘who was the greatest villain?’

Geography –

Jo, my 1:1 TA (@jo_plumridge), created a brilliant lesson based around local maps. First, there was elicitation around what children already know about maps. Then, they had to find, using the map key, what different symbols referred to. Finally, they had to locate, on a local map, where each of those symbols could be found and use co-ordinates to explain.

Science –

I loved teaching this lesson (as seen originally on twitter by @mrsbteachy). We discussed the language of experiments to check children were secure with the technical terminology we were using (great chance to see progress from September!) to begin the lesson. Next, the fun part! In pairs, children were given a petri-dish, a swab and a toilet location in the school. Each pair needed to take samples and see where was the least or most hygienic.

We’re hoping to see some fantastic, clear results!

History –

Next up was Miss Lafford (my PGCE student from Oct – Dec, who came back to our school for her final placement! @miss_lafford). Her grandad was in the trenches during World War 2, so she planned a lesson using inference and enquiry to discover more about who their (at this point mystery) person was!

This included a range of genuine artefacts from the war including: a will that had been written in the trenches; medals he had won; photos and belongings that had been passed down. The children were really engaged with the learning, especially when they found out the personal connection!

Thursday

Computing –

‘Digital Schoolhouse’ visited us from New College Swindon, with some activities to help children better understand coding, algorithms and how computers worked. In one classroom, children had to use ciphers and other means to decode information.

Whilst in the room next door, groups had to investigate how information is stored on servers.

Digital Schoolhouse has been a really great project that the college have provided, in order to upskill us as teachers, while providing great computer learning opportunities for the children!

History –

This is my ultimate favourite subject to teach (closely followed by English!) so this lesson is my favourite I’ve done…so far! In this subject, we began with each child having a section of an Aztec timeline. They sorted themselves into chronological order and briefly discussed key events…most importantly the building of a temple. After this, we looked in closer detail at the gods that Aztecs worshipped in their temples. What animals were they influenced by? What areas of life had a god?

The children really enjoyed learning what they were worshipped for (and attempting to pronounce the names!) before then using their knowledge to design their own ‘god’ based on what they have learnt. Here is the design we developed first as a class. Standard teacher comment: I’m not an artist.

Science –

@MissMcNally1 taught another really interesting lesson! Earlier in the year we completed a heart dissection, so when she told the children that this time they were dissecting flowers, they were equally as excited. Using Freesia’s, Rosella went through the parts of flowers and explained that they have both male, and female parts. She produced a beautiful example for them, before the class worked in pairs to create their own.

Friday

English –

I won’t give too much away here, but we did some fantastic writing for @reading_realm! I am SO excited to use this app more within our classroom. It has some really great features (which work on not only reading, but spelling and grammar!) so the class were thrilled to have an activity to complete!

Science –

With a STEM focus, our Y4 teacher & assistant SENCO had the class making solar robots! They were more challenging to make than the children expected them to be, and we are now waiting for some very late summer sunshine to appear to test them properly!

PSHE –

Our brilliant nurture TA, Anna, did our PSHE lesson. We use Jigsaw in school, and she’s currently building up to our SRE lesson which I have the pleasure of delivering soon!

French –

Mrs Phillipon is our lovely French TA, who covers MFL within the school! She created an interesting lesson where children focused on body parts. First, the class sang head, shoulders, knees and toes. The main activity was to create their own ‘weird creature’ by rolling the dice to give it different body parts.

(Template from CPP Middle School)

PE –

Our PE extraordinaire – @sam_wood93 – started preparing Year 6 for sports day with javelin and sprint trials. After learning the key skills, children had challenges to complete in order to be ready for the big event!

This is already a mammoth blog, so come the end of this week I’ll post the second half, with all the other inventive and creative lessons the fabulous team have come up with during the second part of our secondary week(s).

I am so grateful to all the people at school who have helped out with this week and helped to make it happen!

@primaryteachew

Transition Tips!

We have spoken previously about the activities which might make Y6 transition easier for them. But what about children’s wellbeing during transition? Not just in Year 6, but across the school?

It can be a scary time for any child; moving up a year group can seem daunting. So how can we make the process easier for them?

1. Start each child with a clean slate.

Some children will come to you with a label.

‘They are always distracting others!’

‘Probably won’t ever be above working towards.’

‘They always worked so hard for me!’

These things might turn out to be true, but it’s only fair every child gets a do-over when they get a new teacher, or go into a new year. It gives them a chance to spread their wings and make a difference to their own experience, before we treat them with our pre-conceived perceptions.

2. Give children a chance to show you who they are.

Even if you know the children, which often happens in a small school, it’s worth doing a few tasks during transition to get a view of their individual skills: writing, art, sports are all great activities as you can see a range of talents the class may have.

If you don’t know the children already: a larger school, moving to a different area of the school or a new school altogether – then choosing activities will help you get a real feel for not only the individual children, but also the class as a whole.

It still surprises me every year just how different each cohort is, even in the same year group!

3. Start as you mean to go on…

It’s easy to let behaviour slide on transition days, but introducing rules and routines they will always have means you can start in September with clear expectations. Easier for you…but also the children as they know where they stand!

4. Pass on any needs to teachers, with some background.

If there is something that will make the child more comfortable, able to learn or is necessary for their daily routine then try and know as much as possible before transition days, not just September. Again, easier for you, as well as the child! They will get that immediate sense of understanding from you, which means relationships will have their foundations laid to continue building on during your time together.

Every school will have their own transition routines and ways of working. Some schools have one morning, or day transition. Some schools have more than this. So here are some handy activity hints for the time spent with your new class:

  • Letter to their future selves – could be a motivational letter used by Year 6, to open before their SATs. Or, for other year groups, a letter to show how far they’ve come.
  • Make bookmarks of their favourite book cover – these can be laminated and given out on their first day and give you an easy insight into which books are popular with your class!
  • A Dragon’s Den style project (e.g create an eco invention). Really shows a range of skills – both academic and social – allowing you to get a real sense of how your class work together.
  • An art activity – I love @_missiebee Julian Opie style class portraits! A perfect display to start you classroom with a welcoming feel come September!

Every teacher approaches transition day differently! Any handy hints or activities? Add them to our comments, or reply to our blog tweet on Twitter! We’d love to hear and share them!

B & W x

Time to Transition…

SATs are over, we are about to start our final term of the year and the Year 6 children are feeling the ‘big fish little pond’ syndrome kick in with full force.

This year, the BBC have created a ‘Starting Secondary’ campaign to help children on their journey to the next educational station. We know how hard it can be sending children on, whether it’s to one feeder secondary or several.

You’ll always have children who feel ready to go: they’re excited to get to visit their next school. Then, there are the quiet children who we all worry about. They may get extra transition days, discussion between SENCOs or need more conversation and preparation from school staff about what to expect.

But sometimes, there are those children who say nothing. They’ve never had any explicit issues whilst at primary school, and haven’t voiced any concerns about secondary. So often, we assume they’re okay.

But if they aren’t, how can we help them?

First, we can ensure that the children we are sending to secondary have a wide range of skills. We aren’t thinking academic skills here: we are thinking of those key social and life skills which will help them be well-rounded students.

  • Organisation
  • Resilience
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Being a responsible citizen
  • Respect
  • Independence

“I created a series of lessons based around these characteristics in collaboration with our local secondary: their ‘Year 7 Ready’ Project.”

These lessons are designed to combat a number of initial issues children might have: following a timetable, solving friendship problems, respecting adult decisions or even basics like creating (and using!) a to-do list.

Often, we expect them to be able to do simple organisational or independent tasks and find it beyond them. But in fact, if you’ve never had to do them before then is it surprising it is initially challenging?

If you are interested in these lessons, please find the link to the Google Drive here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1MS3EymAHSw7Qyz6zBiFvMdropygRvOnD

Next, we are really lucky this year that BBC Bitesize has recognised the gap of resources aimed at Secondary Transition. Their new ‘Starting Secondary’ campaign includes a number of really helpful resources including videos, quizzes and information on how it works, including ‘through the eyes of a child’ which I think makes it all feel very accessible.

For those children who worry about going up, but are also reluctant to share this with an adult, then they have the information to help them at their fingertips! With tech becoming an ever-increasing source of knowledge among children, it is valuable to have a reliable source available to them.

If you think it would be useful to your class, click here: https://www.bbc.com/bitesize/tags/zh4wy9q/starting-secondary-school/1

Finally, and the transition activity I’m most excited about this year, is our ‘Secondary Week’ (that has extended out to nearly 2 weeks now!) we are holding within our primary school. All the other teachers, SLT, student teachers and TAs have generously got on board: children will move to different classrooms (having to remember their correct books and kit!) for their different subjects, by using their provided timetable.

We have people teaching: music, drama, RE, geography, languages, history, geography, science, PSHE, PE, DT, art, maths and English. For most lessons, I will be able to act as TA in class, for the others I’ll be covering, along with my PGCE student, in other year groups (from Reception – Y5!). I can’t wait to see what is going to be produced and covered during those lessons!

Transition is a time for children to learn and develop understanding for what the next stage of school has in store for them, and for us to assist that growth to happen.

Good luck in T6 everyone! Let’s give these children the best last term of the year – or primary school – that we can.

B & W x

@primaryteachew

Actually, I can.

Dear Past Self,

It’s been a while since you felt yourself.

Since joining the school as an excited, care-free NQT, everything has changed. You were someone who never cried and could compartmentalise. Someone who thought choosing where to go to dinner was the most difficult scenario you would be in any time soon. Someone who had never wanted to do anything but teach.

But, right now, you are feeling like you want to quit teaching. You are feeling like you aren’t a good teacher. You are feeling like you aren’t even a good person.

You have been called inadequate, boring, a ‘nit-picker’ and a bully. You don’t know the reason that you’re being targeted and it’s ground you down. It’s made you feel like there’s no point being in a career that, even though you love it, you clearly aren’t good at. The worst part is, it didn’t all happen at once so you didn’t see it coming right away. Slowly, over time, your confidence has been chipped away.

The final straw was a reference filled with such vitriol and inaccuracies that you wondered how you would ever be able to move on. How could a teacher with ‘poor appearance, poor lesson preparation and a lack of empathy’ ever be able to gain a new teaching post?

Soon after, you left. And now, you’re where you are now. Filled with anxiety (and this time last year, had stress-induced shingles!) wondering what step to take next. Questions are constantly running through your mind, every decision you make you overthink. You haven’t even told some of your friends that you’ve been out of work for a couple of months because you can’t face another conversation about it.

Feeling like you aren’t good enough a person to burden others with your problems; you’ve been made to feel you don’t matter.

But, you do.

You are lucky to be surrounded by a huge variety of supportive people. They will make sure you know you’re appreciated, remind you of all the positive things you have, can and will do. And soon, a new school will show you just how wrong that one person was.

You are worth more than one opinion! Instead of looking at the job advert thinking ‘but I can’t’ – start thinking

“Actually, I can.”

Instead of choosing to stay in, because you feel apathetic to the working week whilst not at work, choose to venture out. Tell yourself,

“Actually, I can.”

Instead of choosing to not tell friends, to stay quiet because it feels too raw to talk about, say

“Actually I can.”

Because speaking out won’t just help you move on, it may help others. You can get another job. You will regain your confidence. And you must believe in karma.

As the New Radicals say – “you only get what you give.”

So give out positive words, thoughts and vibes the best you can in every situation. You may sometimes feel down, or like life has no direction. There will still (even now!) be days when you feel like saying: ‘I can’t’.

Just remember to tell yourself:

Love,

2019 x

@primaryteachew