Work Experience 21: Teacher
It may seem a little strange that I’ve included teaching as one of my work experience jobs, considering I’m a registered teacher. However, I haven’t taught my own class from the beginning to the end of a school year since before my children were born. For more than a decade, I’ve been relief teaching part-time. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved in some professional development before school went back this year, and share a day with some gorgeous little Preps who were settling in to their first week of school. When they reach Year 12 it will be 2030! I wonder what schools will be like then?
What did I do?
Teachers in Queensland attend school for a week before the students commence the year. This is a great time for staff to work through the key priorities for the year. It provides staff with the opportunity to align curriculum, assessment and teaching practices and collaborate with teaching partners, and is also an occasion for school staff to engage in Professional Development. This year I was lucky enough to attend two days of PD with the staff of a local primary school.
Day 1 included mandatory staff training. All staff from a cluster of local schools were required to attend. This included leadership teams, administration, teachers, teacher aides, schools officers and cleaners. The program was designed to provide employees with an overview of what’s expected of them to work ethically (abiding to the Code of Conduct, Standards of Practice and the department’s internal controls), protect information, work safely, protect students, and be clear on how to access further information and support. The action of every employee is guided and influenced by a range of documents including legislation, policies and procedures, values and the department’s strategic plan. It’s quite amazing the amount of legislation that underpins the work of schools and what goes on behind the scenes.
After the course was complete, it was time to head back to school. The principal ran a whole staff meeting discussing the WHY (purpose), the HOW (process) and the WHAT (results) for the 2018 school year. Starting our discussions with the WHY was great, as it inspired me to consider the reason why every teacher gets up every day and gives their all to support students to achieve. The principal spoke about the core priorities for the school including Successful Learning; Quality Teaching; High Expectations and Strong Partnerships. It was interesting to reflect on the achievement data shown and attribute the school’s success in recent years to this work. I thought this meeting was a great way to kick start the school year. I really enjoyed being a part of the team and the collective enthusiasm shared amongst staff for the year ahead.
The next day the school welcomed Dr David Rose from the University of Sydney to continue ongoing professional training for teachers in the Reading to Learn methodology.
The approach is consistently used across the school to support all students to engage in high level classwork through deliberate interactive strategies, which scaffold students from explicit teaching through the independent work. Using the Reading to Learn approach, the children are taught to read and write using high quality children’s literature. It was exciting to see the school’s commitment to ongoing training and the eagerness of the teachers to sharpen the tools in their teaching tool-kit to enable every student to succeed.
The next part of my work experience was to spend a day with Prep students during their first week of school. My first years of teaching were spent in the lower school, and I have a real soft spot for the preppies. Maybe that’s because I can get away with singing badly in front of them. Children start school when they are 4 or 5, depending on where their birthday falls during the year. They’re so little! Although school kicked off on the Monday, I waited until Thursday to give the Preps some time to settle in with their own teacher first.
I’ve given a detailed rundown of the morning routine and Reading to Learn lesson here, as it was great to see the theory from the PD in practice.
|7.30||I had a little chuckle as I drove into the school car park to see that it was already full. Teachers work incredibly hard behind the scenes preparing lessons for the school day.|
|8.30||Prep children and their parents were welcomed in to class before school officially started. While children settled in to a quiet activity, the teacher chatted to parents and provided feedback about how their child was settling in to school, and to answer any questions.
|8.50||Start of school. Children sat on the carpet and were reminded of what whole body listening looks like. The teacher marked the roll, sang Happy Birthday to one of the students and gave her a card. She added a couple of names to the ‘Smiley Face’ on the board. This is a positive reinforcement for students who are showing good behaviour. Students whose names are on the board at the end of the day receive a sticker on their sticker chart, and when their sticker charts are full they take them home and can choose a special prize.|
|9.00-10.00||Reading to Learn (literacy)
The teacher re-read the delightful children’s story I Went Walking by Sue Williams. She explained the meaning of the story so that the children could understand it, enjoy it and recite it. The aim was to make reading fun and seem easy. The teacher carefully guided the children through the book, drawing their attention to the meaningful elements including the pictures, and what was happening in each step of the story.
Recognising words and making sentences:
The children worked in pairs using cardboard sentence strips from the story (I saw a pink pig looking at me). This activity enabled the children to make a connection between the words they say in the story, and their written forms in a sentence. The teacher showed the children how to recognise each word as they read it, by pointing to the words and saying them.
Cutting up word groups:
This activity reinforced the children’s recognition of words. They cut the words in the sentence into word groups using meaning cues from the teacher, eg Who is it about? What was he doing? When? Where?
The children had fun working in pairs to mix up the cards, and put the sentence back together again. The teacher prompted the children to re-read the sentence and check for meaning, pointing to the words as they went.
Recognising words in and out of the sentence:
Once the children could put the sentence back together, the teacher checked that the children could recognise each word both in and out of the sentence. The words the teacher chose were the meaningful words from the sentence.
|10am||Fruit snack. Children had a toilet break, washed their hands and sat on the veranda to eat their fruit and have a drink of water. This is a great way to break up a long session of learning for the littlies.
|10.20||Spelling and handwriting:
After a quick break, the children returned to the classroom to start looking at how to write the words and sentence from the story (I saw a pink pig looking at me.) The children practised what they know by cutting them in to spelling patterns, e.g. p-ig; p-ink. They practised the words on white boards with the teacher guiding them and supporting them to form the letters. Once all children could write the words it was time to put the words in to a sentence.
The children now had a good understanding of the words in the sentence and the teacher supported them to ‘write’ the sentence I saw a pink pig looking at me. The structural words were there to help and they were able to add the spelling words with support. The children enjoyed drawing a picture to match their writing.
Rewriting the story:
The class came back together to think about new ideas for a new story, eg I went walking what did I see? I saw a green frog looking at me. The children delighted in writing a new story, and the teacher will publish the children’s ideas into a book for them all to enjoy.
|10.45||A phonics song was played on the projector for all children to watch, follow and do actions. The children had fun brainstorming words that began with the letter ‘S’ that had been the focus of the previous lesson. The teacher also connected the sounds and letters.
|11am||FIRST BREAK – after a morning of great work the Prep children enjoyed morning tea and a play while the teacher quickly gobbled up some morning tea and went out to supervise the children play.|
Other highlights of the day included a hands-on maths lesson that required lots of resources for the children to manipulate, joining in on an art lesson, and exploring the junior fiction section of the library and borrowing books. At the end of the day the children were collected by parents and the teachers packed up the room and joined the rest of the staff for a staff meeting. It was nice to see the teachers join together at the end of the day to support each other.
What did I learn?
I was so glad to be included in the professional development days. The Code of Conduct and Child Protection session was very informative, and I’m happy to know I’m up to date with current policies and legislation in those areas. I also gained a lot from the school-based meetings. The principal’s address was particularly inspiring, and I could tell that the teaching staff were excited about the year ahead. Dr David Rose’s Reading to Learn sessions were also valuable, especially as I haven’t had the extensive R2L training of permanent teaching staff. I really enjoyed seeing the program effectively put into practice in the Prep classroom. Hopefully I can spend a few more days with these gorgeous preppies throughout the year, and see how they are progressing. They’re definitely off to a flying start!
To read my Interview with teacher Fiona Haywood, please click here.