Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Best Laid Plans

I have completed my first lesson plan.
On my own.
We were given a poem, "The Identification" by Roger McGough and we had to plan a lesson either a solo lesson or part of a longer scheme of work - something I now know is also called a medium term plan.
Get me and all that educational terminology.
I haven't even mentioned SEALs or ECM or PHSE - don't ask!
It is a poem about a father being shown his dead son's body and how he reacts to the personal possessions left behind.
I almost cried after I read the poem but I pressed on and created a lesson which we had to present to the rest of our cohort today.
Our tutor's final remark was "well done, nobody produced a lesson that would be a disaster."

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Story So Far

Apologies for the lack of posts but it has been frantic.
So what have I been up to?
Well three weeks ago I completed my primary placement; three days with Year 6 at the school where my youngest is still a pupil.
I had a great time and worked on a special project to help a small group of pupils create a newspaper.
It was great fun especially as we had a visit from The Etherington Brothers (above) who have just produced a graphic story for kids called Monkey Nuts.
The following week we started at the High School where we will be slowly easing ourselves into teaching until Christmas and then teaching almost full-time between January and  February.
It is a challenging school with pupils from 33 feeder primary schools from across the whole of Merseyside.
I will be teaching English to years 7,8, 9 and 13 (A-level) and Media Studies to Year10.
I also have a year 8 tutor group to work with and have already begun taking the register.
We are at school Monday - Wednesday and back at Uni for the rest of the week.
And I have already completed three assignments with a biggie on planning looming.
I will be planning a scheme of work on Romeo and Juliet.
An assignment by any other name would sound as daunting!
Until next time.......

Friday, 17 September 2010

Two Weeks On

We had drama today and guess what I was?
No, not a tree.
Try again.
Yes, you at the keyboard.
A candle. Excellent.
Yes, I was a candle - guarding the old King Hamlet's tomb as his lifeless body lay in state.
And yes, you gifted and talented ones will have noticed this scene doesn't actually appear in Hamlet. At least not in the Bard's version.
Go to the top of the class.
But can you tell me what the difference between being a tree and being a candle is?
Come on. Think.
Correct. There is no purpose in being a tree but there is a purpose in being a candle.
It was all part of the workshop to engage reluctant Shakespeare readers with the play.
If you create a purpose then it is OK to be candle or even a tree.
So there I was with 20 other English graduates fumbling around with bits of material and paper to recreate the scene.
It could have been worse, I could have been a cross (and have to hold my arms out for ages) or even a spiky gatepost.
But we got it.
Create the context, build on suggestion and let the kids create and own the space and you have the holy grail - engagement.
I could see the theory but here was a dramatist and a teacher of 30 plus years and the personna to carry it off.
And what if the kids had so much fun they wrote about this non existent scene vividly in their GCSE exam?
And that's what make the course fascinating as a mature student.
I am more inclined to question and think things through more carefully for myself than if I was a 22-year-old.
One of the advantages of being a more mature student I guess.
The day ended with a practical lesson on ....lesson planning, learning objectives, key stages, the National Curriculum and the Framework.
I can't say I have mastered lesson planning but I now understand my children's school reports.
Next week I am off to a primary school to observe Yea r6 before starting my first secondary placement at a High School nearby.
Wish me luck.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

School Shoes

Phew! I have survived the first week and what a week.
It was probably the longest five days of my life.
So far!
We've had lectures on Teachers And The Law, Putting Together our Professional Portfolio, Behaviour Management, Assessments, The English Framework and much more.
At 8am on Monday I have my first tutorial with my course tutor and for that I have had to complete a comprehensive review of my (lacking) ICT skills, match up where I am now on achieving the 33 standards I will need to acquire qualified teacher status (a long way), audit my subject knowledge (six hours of misery to find out I knew a lot less than I thought) and compile a CV for my placement profile.
I have also got to finish reading "Stone Cold", a YA novel for next week which Iam thoroughly enjoying and read "Of Mice And Men."
Of course I couldn't get through the week (and the weekend) without a little reward so I have ordered a new pair of Clarks pumps (above)  and a skirt from the fab new online Zara.
I think I will be limited to online shopping only for the next 36 weeks.
Next week we find out which High Schools we will be working in for our first placement.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The First Day

My original timetable suggested a week of half days which made me mightily relieved as my dad is still in hospital and my childcare arrangements (mum) were well out of the window. However, the timetable was only a timetable of welcomes. The real timetable began after 10.30am.
A quarter of a century on from my last first day when a tiny speck of a man uttered a few inaudible words in a large lecture theatre we now have an all singing all dancing audio visual presentation from the “I’m a perfectionist” Dean. A speech that terrified the staff never mind the students who walked in late when he was discussing the lack of professionalism in those who turned up late.
More speeches,more audio visual presnetations (a power point presentation by any other name)and then finally into our subject groups.
Our course leader is a former English teacher with 29 years experience including a day when he fell asleep in the classroom during a particularly dull reading of a not so engaging novel.
And then the pleasantries were over. We were handed stacks of paper, booklets, calendars and reminded of  the tereminable to-do list which will dominate our every waking thought until July next year.
We have to book our QTS tests in literacy, numeracy and ICT. We have to audit our skills, we have to prepare for our first tutorial and we have our first assignment looming in the next few weeks. We also have to read a novel for a lecture for next week,four Shaekspeare plays and reams of professional documentation and much much more.
As we left the lecture theatre early (at 3.30pm) I heard a (young) fellow student says she was “shattered”. I didn’t hear what she planned to do for the rest of the day as I stil lhad to get home,feed my family and take my mum to the hospital to visit dad.
Interesting times lie ahead.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Enrolment Day

A quarter of a century after my first university enrolment day in September 1985 I am back again.
And how things have changed.
Instead of one queue to fill in my registration forms and one queue to pick up my grant cheque, the digital revolution now dictates that I need to queue up no less than eight times.
The first was an ID check to ensure I am who I say I am.
The second to make sure details are correct for my bursary.
The third to prove I have funds to pay the course fees.
The fourth queue I didn't need to be in but this was to collect keys for the halls of residence.
The fifth to get my photo taken for my Unicard for the library.
The sixth to verify that I filled in the form they gave me in queue 1.
The seventh was a good one because now (unlike 25 years ago) I have to pay course fees in excess of £3,000 they give me £200 back to spend on books.
The final queue was to pick up my National Union of Students card.
By the time I had finished queuing I had almost forgotten what my fears were.
But not quite.

As I write I have a few concerns about the coming year.
The first is writing essays. Yes, I know I have been a writer for the past 20 years but I have not written an academic essay since May 1988. I have forgotten all about references and footnotes and for some reason this bothers me. Really bothers me.
The second main concern I have is the perennial parental one - I don't want to short-change my family. I have tried to prepare them as best I can but family life is wont to throw low balls just when you least expect it.
But I am not alone and I am still excited.
And still terrified.

Friday, 27 August 2010

To Teach Or Not To Teach?

That is a question I have asked myself many times since I graduated with an English degree in 1988.
And here I am a 44-year-old mother of four about to begin a PGCE at the fourth attempt.
When I first graduated I began working as a journalist for a local newspaper.
It was a dream job for me and I loved writing stories, meeting people and seeing my name in print.
But after three years there were aspects of the job I could never come to terms with such as the "death knocks" in which a reporter is sent to the home of bereaved relatives in the event of a sudden death such as road accident, fire or murder.
It was around this time that I started visiting schools to talk about my work and I started to experience the classroom from a different angle.
So in the early 1990s I applied for a PGCE at Liverpool University and was offered a place.
Just before I took up my place I was offered a job at The Liverpool Echo - a massive step up from a weekly newspaper- so I declined the PGCE place.
As the years passed and the death knocks increased my family circumstances changed.
I was now a mum and loved spending time with my baby son and watching him learn.
Inevitably, my thoughts turned to teaching again and I applied a second time for a PGCE.
It was 1994 and I was all ready to start the course when I discovered I was pregnant with my second child.
Life as a mother of two was hectic and I was able to step down to part-time work which gave me time to help out in the classroom at my sons' school.
I loved the balance of my work and was able to accommodate a third child in 1997 and in 1998 I secured a much coveted place on the Features Desk - so much more creative than the newsroom where I had worked for 10 years.
By 2003 I was juggling a part-time job as a features writer with my role at home as a mum of four (my fourth child was born in March 2000) but it was tough.
So tough that I decided to leave and become a freelance writer.
This proved to be the perfect solution.
I won commissions to write for local, regional and national magazines and set up my own small PR company. I never missed a school assembly or sports day and even had time to help out in the classroom again.
As my older children grew I became interested with the way English was taught in High Schools.
I started to read many of the texts they were studying and felt myself drawn to teaching again.
In January 2007 I was offered a place on the Flexible PGCE course which meant I could combine my roles as writer and teacher.
But in May 2007 I saw a job advert in The Guardian for a "writer in residence" at a men's prison not too far away.
I couldn't resist. I applied and was successful.
And this proved to be the perfect transition role.
I mentored the magazine team, organised author events and taught creative writing for up to nine hours a week.
I loved the challenge of creating interesting workshops and tweaking classes to engage all participants.
Although the recession meant my freelance journalism was dwindling I didn't mind as by this time I was also an accredited Creative Practitioner and I was creating and delivering writing projects in schools across Merseyside and Lancashire.
The turning point came in August 2008 on the day I was told  I had won a travel writing competition in The Guardian.
That very same day I also heard that one of the prisoners I had helped write a play won first prize in The Koestler Awards.
I got more pleasure from the prisoner's succes than my own achievement and it was then I knew.
My contract was renewed for another two years but I had already made my mind up.
In October 2009 I appplied for a fourth time for the PGCE and here I am just days away from finally taking up my place.
On Thursday September 2nd I will teach my final class in the prison and on Friday September 3rd I will enrol on the PGCE.
I feel exactly the same as I did the day I walked into the prison - excited and terrified.