Out on Prac: Is this really how you want to spend your time?

11 10 2009

I am fresh off my first week as a pre-service practice teacher. Three more to go.

I have been assigned to a rather large state high school (no names please). I am workingwith one of their many (I think there are at least seven!?) year 8 classes (that’s 12-14 years old). I am working with two overseeing teachers on the student’s “core” classes – Maths, Science, English and SOSE (“Studies of Society and the Environment – a humanities amalgam). I have also snuck in a double period of Japanese with the same class into my schedule. This will give me a chance to see how second-language eduaction works in Queensland.

Pracs are important for pre-service teachers. There are some skills you cannot learn without opportunity to test them in the field. Teaching groups of your peers is not quite the same as teaching actual rambunctious twelve year olds (though some may have the same maturity and social skills). Getting things to work just right is as much trial and error, building relationships, and luck, as much as it is having the knowledge.

I had my own trial and error, building relationships, and luck, rollercoaster ride at the end of this week. My overseeing teachers were away for several lessons on Thursday and Friday – so I was working with substitutes. Unsurprisingly the first one was a bit chaotic, but then Friday’s lessons went quite well (not perfectly, but well). I was impressed that most of the students who misbehaved on Thursday recognised their behaviour was inappropriate and took steps to improve themselves.

The main thing that I learned did not work was contributing to classroom noise – funny that.

  • Raising your voice – negative and antagonistic
  • Talking over children – how can children obey instructions if they don’t hear them
  • Using vocal calls for silence – I was trying countdowns from five – too long, too noisy.

Things that do work are usually silent and get children to reflect on their behaviour. This way things are not inappropriate because you say so, but because they know so.

  • Stay calm – don’t let external sources (like an ICT failure) affect your attitude to the students
  • Waiting for silence – instead of talking over them
  • Silent cues for silence – hands on heads is working great for me, even it might seem a little primary school.

And there are some things I’m not sure of yet.

  • Asking inattentive students to repeat instructions – is it embarrassing?
  • Reminding students of school’s core values – potentially nagging?

Another good technique was to write the time we would start a video at on the board, and delay it as children misbehaved; although, in the end, one student messing around with some magnetic props erased it altogether. Not perfect yet.

Image credit: 我要生氣! by sizumaru from flickr (CC by A.ND)




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