Today was the 1st day of my School Direct Year.
It began with an inset day, however the health and safety training we were due to have was postponed due to the loss of the head teachers voice! So we had an hour or two to get classrooms sorted. Always a bonus for teachers to be given time like this I think.
In the foundation stage unit this involved emptying a shed, moving the shed to the other side of the outdoor area and re-filling it, and emptying the store cupboard. I sorted a load of jigsaw pieces and attempted to do a couple with one of the TA’s before realising there were pieces missing so we chucked the lot. At least it got my brain going!
This is what early years is like. All very time consuming.
We then had a brew and the teacher noted on the whiteboard in the EYFS kitchen how everyone liked their drinks making…I like things like this. Good organisation over the simplest of things. Makes a difference!
In the staff room I ascertained that there were no seating plans! I can breathe…and sit anywhere! I have read on teacher forums that sitting in someone’s chair can affect your whole placement!
So after a catch up in the staff room we went on to the venue where the afternoon inset was held. Being a Catholic School, first was mass. Quite a lengthy service and I can never sing quite high enough but I do like the way that mass is used on the 1st inset day to bring everyone together in their faith.
Then came lunch and finally the guest speaker.
This was a man called Sir John Jones. He was very inspirational and spoke with no notes whatsoever, remembering facts and figures spectacularly. He told us that by the age of 3, a child from a home with professionals as parents will have been exposed to 50 million words. A child from a family on benefits will have heard only 12 million. I love facts and figures like this and he told us many more. He also gave us little tips too. For instance he gave us 2 minutes to discuss some points he had made. Then music blasted out. Happy music. He said if we give the children this opportunity for discussion, 1 minute is not long enough, by 3 they are bored. So 2 is ideal. The music puts you in a good mood. Being in a good mood makes you more receptive to learning. It is little things such as this that I want to remember. Surely we need to do all we can to open children up to learning. Maybe I’ll get some feel good music to play in the car on the way to work every day so I start my day positively. And I’ll play it to my own children before breakfast club too. If I think about it, when a favourite song comes on my usual stations of Radio 2 or XFM before work, that feeling does stick with me for a while.
Another idea was SOS. I think this was short for Save One Student. Sir John Jones had been talking about the invisible child prior to this. These could be the neglected child, the disappointed (with school) child, the different child, there were many categories, but the average child struck a chord with me. These are definitely a group I see being missed.
Anyway, with SOS the theory is to select a child every half term who you will make a difference with. He suggested starting with the child who you got on with the least. Make real leaps forwards with that relationship in half a term and you will make a difference to their learning. I think I’ll try this.
I was really impressed when he started to talk about Growth Mindset. I have read a fair amount about the work done on this by Carol Dweck and do find it incredibly interesting. So to hear it being discussed with teachers I will work with was fantastic as at least now they’ll know what I’m referring to… ultimately I’d love to work in a school which adopted this method of teaching wholeheartedly.
Examples of this in practice were given by Sir John Jones, for example he talked about set 4 children being taught by a teacher who thought she was teaching set 2 and who therefore got set 2 results from the pupils because her expectations were higher. He talked about classes working together to alter a piece of work so that it went from a level 4 to a level 6, or from a C grade to an A grade because they kept trying to change the work and improve.
Thinking the children are able to achieve and helping them to try again to make improvements to their work is the way I want to work. Commending them for working hard, persevering, trying again, taking their time. Rather than saying they are clever or talented.
In fact he talked about the mistake our society makes by referring to athletes and sports people as gifted or talented when we should actually be congratulating them on their effort, their determination, their commitment.
They have learnt to be amazing in their field because they see it, they want it, they believe it and they do it (again and again and again and again… it’s called practice).
Our children can do this too. All of them.
Finally he told us to slow down. To walk as though we are walking to the song “Moon River”!
To remember there is always a better way.
So in other words be open to change.
To know that children will be smart enough if I am good enough.
So much to take in. So much to remember.
I thanked Sir John Jones at the end of the conference because what he said and what he believes really reflects how I see the role of the teacher.
What a good way to start my teaching career.