Back to School

After anticipating a farce on Monday, it was reassuring that my fears were put to rest shortly afterwards. Though no one did phone me back on the Monday, I once again had to chase up the school myself, and eventually got through on the Tuesday morning. Thankfully, no more time was wasted, and I started the same day.

I don’t know whether my local school is just good, but as far as I’m concerned, if there is a problem with discipline in the classrooms or a more general problem with the youth of today, it isn’t noticeable at the primary school age. I was in two Year 4 classes for the past two days, and even though one of the classes had a very good teacher and the other a not so good teacher, they were both extremely well behaved. Sure, they started talking every now and then, and had to be reminded what they were doing lots, and refocused on their work, but these are kids we’re talking about. What are we expecting? To take all the life out of them and turn them into droids at that age?

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in school the whole day, and it took me a short while just to appreciate how so much had changed. The teaching style, as far as I’m concerned, is far better now. The kids respect their teachers because they don’t talk down at them, and they offer them choices about how they want to work, and in some cases what they actually want to do: for example, for one hour of art the teacher introduced the subject of Australian Aboriginal art, and then the children were allowed to draw whatever they liked in the same style. During this lesson they clearly enjoyed it, especially as they were given the freedom to express themselves. There were no restrictions on where they could sit: some were at their tables, but others were lying down on the floor, or sitting at other desks. The teacher displayed a lot of trust in them, and the kids were more than happy to return it in spades. Very impressive indeed.

Then there’s the new technology – the interactive whiteboards. Computers everywhere, providing a much more enriching experience for the kids. Music, animation, and interactive elements, allowing the kids to go up and answer their questions on the board by touching the screen – it seemed to me they were getting a lot more out of it. Then the teacher could ask questions, and all the children would write their answers on their own small whiteboard, which they would then show to the teacher so they could see exactly who understood and who didn’t. A simple idea, but they always seem to be the best ones.

So it was fascinating enough anyway just to see what had changed and what hadn’t. I’ve not been doing anything that involved just yet, especially as it’s hard enough to learn what the kids’ names are. So far I’ve mostly been observing, while doing other general tasks like organising displays on the wall or some admin work, but these jobs allow the teacher to get on with teaching. I don’t mind as it’s an interesting experience to learn how the teachers interact with their classes. I hope I’m learning important lessons myself which I may use in the future. One of the things I’ve quickly grasped is that the difference between a good teacher and a bad teacher can simply be the tone of voice. They might say exactly the same thing as each other, but if one sounds like they’re going through the motions, talking in a neutral way, while the other is positive and inviting discussion, then the obvious results will soon follow.

It’s been a really good two days. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen, and it’s made me feel really optimistic about the future. I’m going to carry on, so I’ll do three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This will give me loads of time to really test if I want to go into this profession, and some time off to do other things as well: which I currently have a list of around 10 to do.

It will also provide plenty of amusement, as the past two days have already testified. According to my sister (who is in Year 5), when I was at the assembly yesterday, her friends were all discussing if I smoked, because I apparently look like someone who does. And when asked if they knew who the special visitor who is coming to visit the school on Friday is, one of them quickly responded, “Is it Jesus?”. Not quite, but it will be the Archbishop. So only a few rungs of the ladder away.

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