Why I Worry About The Perception Of Teaching

It’s not uncommon to hear reports, or read articles about the state of the teaching profession at the minute. Granted, I haven’t been a teacher long – this is my third year – but even I’ve noticed an increase in the media coverage discussing how much harder teaching is becoming. Even Michael Wilshaw (OFSTED head) says that teaching is becoming more difficult.

Believe it or not, that’s not what I worry about though. It’s inevitable that things are going to get harder on a personal level anyway. What I mean is that, the longer I teach, the more responsibilities I’ll be likely to take on. Eventually, I might have a family of my own to take care of and juggle teaching with that too. So, as time passes, teaching is going to become a more demanding job, regardless of what the government decide to throw at me.

With that said, the bureaucracy of teaching is slowly becoming more and more of a problem to me. The more paperwork I have to fill in and the more marking I have to do, the less time I’ve got to do the things I love – make learning games and think of exciting things to teach. However, it’s not the thing I worry about most.

What I do worry about is the perception of teaching. As teachers, we know it’s getting harder and we moan about it to other teachers. There are plenty of people on Facebook who take to teacher groups and vent their stresses, but we all understand.

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All The Jargon

It’s funny how shops are now providing jargon busting pages on their websites – PC World has had one for a few years now to explain that an ‘8GB RAM with Intel Core i5 processor’ will likely be able to handle Microsoft Word and whatever other planning software you’re likely to use for your lessons.

It’s also funny how we need one for the National Curriculum. I know there’s the glossary at the back of the curriculum but I feel for the kids.

I’ve always been one for teaching the proper language when we’ve been learning about it. When we’ve written poetry and included imagery, I’ve used the term ‘figurative language’, and my children can mostly tell me what that means. We’ve looked at time and causal connectives, active and passive voice, subordinate clauses, prepositions, adverbs, adverbials, adjectives… I’ve ‘ad enough.

To some extent, I think it’s useful to know the proper term for specific written features. I also think it’s important to know the right words for mathematical concepts, computing stuff, scientific processes and other various parts of learning. It means that children can express exactly what they mean, just as adults can. It also means that they can be concise.

What I don’t think children aged 11 need to know are terms like ‘continuous present tense’ or ‘a relative clause’. I also think, whilst language can make children more concise, I think it can be confusing when children are faced with terms like ‘algorithms’, ‘programme’ and ‘instructions’ (which, although they have subtle differences, are more or less the same things). ‘Conjunctions’ and ‘connectives’ is another one. Even I don’t know the difference between those.

This doesn’t help make children more concise. Or adults, for that matter. It makes us confused.

I often see people posting in Facebook teacher groups (bless us, we even band together to spend our personal time talking about teaching) asking about specific terms within the curriculum. If it’s confusing the teachers, surely it’s confusing the kids.

Maybe we should ask the government to make a jargon buster for us.

A Huge Thank You

Now that it’s officially summer (I had another day at the local show promoting the school yesterday), I thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect on the year. It’s been another busy one, especially with only one half-day for PPA (I miss my NQT time!), though it’s been wonderful.

I’ve managed to consolidate some of the things I wanted to and try out some new ones. The idea of having no book for ‘topic work’, and instead keeping it all in a ‘writing book’, was one of these new ideas. The original idea stemmed from a discussion I had when my year 6 writing was moderated last year where (apparently) there was a lack of cross-curricular writing shown in our English books. I disagreed, and eventually they finalised the assessment which I’d gathered (I knew I was right!), but it still got me thinking. This year, having all the writing in one place, was an attempt to show a range of different cross-curricular writing easily.

It didn’t really work as we were slightly confused throughout the year about which books we ought to be using for which bits of writing. It also made revisiting things we’d looked at in the past a lot more difficult – you had to flick back a few pages sometimes to find the previous work. All the writing was in one place so I got what I wanted, but actually Read more

Free: New Vocabulary Printable

Today I came across an interesting item on Pinterest. I’m very much into pushing my class to use new words. Regular readers of my blog may know I’ve banned certain ‘boring’ words (big, small, good, bad…) and consistently use wow words as a success criteria for almost everything we’re writing.

The image I found on Pinterest (if you didn’t click the link) showed a page which would be used to create a vocabulary book. The idea would be to introduce the new word, define it using a dictionary or class discussion, draw a picture of the word, and then use the word in a sentence. Steps which, when new words are learnt, are pretty important in developing an understanding.

The image I found looked great and for a moment I considered using it. However, I wanted to ensure it was consistent with the other books we’re going to be using next year and so I set about making my own.

Vocabulary Book

This version is, in my opinion, a little more simpler, cleaner and has just over 8mm between each line – consistent with the spacing in our writing books in September. It’s a high quality image designed with printing in mind.

Should you want to download this page, you can do so here.

The green, by the way, was chosen as it’s close to our school colour. If you’d like me to upload a few colour alternatives, feel free to contact me, using the contact page, or by leaving a comment below.

2nd Person and Present Tense

I love teaching writing. It’s one of my favourite things and I’ve always found it to be the thing I enjoy most and have a real enthusiasm for. Hopefully this comes across in my teaching – I often find myself getting really into modelling story openings, or creating illustrations that match what we’ve written about, or jumping around the classroom in celebration as children use amazing words in their writing (seriously). It’s fun to teach.

Having said that, I’ve found 2nd person and present tense are two areas within writing that I’ve not really touched on… until now.

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Sitting down too much!

BBC news covered a story earlier this week about sitting down too much, especially in the classroom. There’s also a piece on their website stating a similar thing to what was mentioned on the telly-box. Essentially, if you missed it and can’t be bothered to read the BBC article, primary school children are apparently sitting down too much and not doing enough activity.

I reckon they’re right.

I’m all for activity and getting up and about to learn. I think it’s a fantastic thing to do: encourage the children to be fit and healthy and pack in some learning whilst moving around. It’s usually more fun, caters to the needs of the kinaesthetic learners (if we’re still using this theory), and helps kids to be fit and healthy. Win, win, win.

What about the limitations though? I’m fortunate enough to have a small class of 23 (even if they are spread across plenty of years) so it’s something that’s manageable for us. Often, we’ll push back all the tables and chairs to the edges of the classroom and do some acting. Only a couple of weeks ago we had a mini-maths olympics inside our classroom – the weather was too bad to get outside. I like to think I’m working towards a happy medium of getting the kids out of their chairs and moving around.

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Belief and Confidence

Teaching a whole key stage on your own can sometimes be lonely. At least, that’s what I’ve found. It’s a daunting task sometimes to know that you’re going to inherit a class when the children are 7 and see them right through to their leaving date at the age of 11. When you’re the only one teaching this age group it can seem like you’re in a little bubble, plodding on doing what you think is right.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I’ve been doing it for two years now (that’s flown by so fast!) and I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s great to see the children mature into little adults as they pass through; there’s a really remarkable change in year 3s in their first year. It’s also a huge positive to be able to pick up where you left off each year with the same children. After all, who knows their strengths and weaknesses better than their previous teacher?

Assessment is also a pro. There’s no worries of inheriting a class with hugely inflated levels because the previous teacher was way out, or is now retiring. You’re the one that assesses and you’re the one that gets the assessment. It’s great knowing exactly where the children have come from and where they need to go.

Socially, you might think four year groups in one class is a bit awkward too. The older ones are getting towards their teenage years and the younger ones still believe everything they’ve ever been told. But it’s really not awkward. The older ones take leadership roles, take on responsibilities within the class, look after the younger ones and enjoy being ‘older sibling’ figures (if they’re not already actually their older siblings). The younger of the class learn from the older ones, mirror what they do and look up to responsible and enthusiastic others. Win-win.

So, before I get back to the point, this is not a moan. I’m a huge believer in mixed-age and mixed-ability education (and I never thought I’d say that before I took this job).

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Picture This: A Week Of Writing

If you read my last blog post, you’ll know I’ve recently visited the Kelvingrove art gallery and museum in Glasgow. If you hadn’t, you’ll know now.

Whilst I was there, we spotted some stone carvings which were really interesting. The museum had no idea what they would’ve been used for and this got me thinking. I wondered why someone would spend so long making something so resilient look so good (and I imagine they’d looked better). Were they something special? Maybe something to do with a currency?

When we got back to school, following the half term break, I showed the children the picture below, explaining what they were and why I thought they were so interesting. We had a big discussion about what we thought with some interesting ideas. Some of the class agreed with me, suggesting that they’re currency. Some thought they were something to do with a pagan religion long ago. Some used their imagination and thought that they were pots to put poison in, or objects that were lit on fire using tar before being launched at an enemy.

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Primary Teaching: Worth 8% Less

Today was an unusual moment for me, when out and about shopping (of all the things). My partner and I have been making the most of the school half term by visiting Glasgow and getting away from work for a bit. I have to say, it’s a wonderful city and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here with her; I’ve even managed to snag some photos from a dinosaur exhibition in the Kelvingrove museum for school!

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Now, I must warn you, the rest of this post is riddled with moaning and a healthy serving of sarcasm. If this is not your thing, I suggest you read a different post, like this one (which is pretty happy). I usually try to avoid posting these kinds of things but I’ve not written one for a while so here goes. Read more

The Big Dig: Our Own Excavation

You may have seen, earlier this term I posted my plans for a ‘Big Dig’ topic all about rocks, soil, minerals, excavations and dinosaurs. Some of the kids had been asking since September to cover dinosaurs and I felt it was time that we did just that.

I’d also felt as though, following the Victorian topic where we didn’t have a school trip, it was something I wanted to make a thoroughly hands-on wow topic. I mean, I always try to do this, but sometimes you know exactly how to capture children’s imagination… and sometimes, for all you try, it’s much more difficult.

It all began when I revealed that the British Archaeological Association had contacted me with a letter expressing that we may have a prehistoric remain with significant importance. Read more