End of one thing, start of something else

Prac. has come to an end. My last lesson was a few hours ago – year 8 English lessons. My 20 days on the other side of the education process (as opposed to the near 20 years on the learning side) was neither enough to deter me from wanting to do at least another 25 days (the absolute bare minimum to graduate with my degree and never teach again), but nor was it enough of an experience to turn me into the stereotypical education student that you find at Sydney University. You know the one – the kind of person who has always wanted to be a teacher, who wants to save the world, who cares oodles about ever kid who walks the Earth.

I do want to be a teacher, but not always. And I found I cared about a student’s performance as much as they did – if they wanted to be there, and they wanted to learn, then I was eager to teach them and help them. if they were happy to goof off and lark around so that they got nothing out of the lesson then I was happy to give them less attention than those who wanted to learn. Obviously, if a student is struggling or needs help and they want to learn, I’ll give them as much assistance as required. But it’s those students who are mucking up before we even get into the classroom, who don’t even give what I’ve prepared a chance even, that I have no patience for. Perhaps it will change over time, or with experience. I don’t know though.

I went into university loving English – it being my best subject through high school (evidenced by my completion of 4-unit English I suspect). Then university killed that love in two semesters. I excel at history subjects now. Then, as part of the education degree, you have to do subjects that teach you how to teach your topic (English and history for me). After these, I was more eager to teach English than history again. Then I went into school, and after my four weeks, I much prefer to teach history. Perhaps it was the subject/units I was asked to teach (contact history in (of all places!) North America – so you know I was busting out some of my imperialism jingo now and then for history. English was the start of a topic that the primary aim of the unit was for students to read and read only). Either way, I come out eager to teach history ahead of English.

However, saying that, I am still eagerly anticipating teaching senior English. That’s where my love of English came from, and where real learning happens. Not in year 8 of any topic. Senior subjects are still this holy grail at the end of my degree. I observed a couple of senior subjects while I was out and really wanted to get in amongst them.

I found that I resorted to a practice I never really wanted to – worksheet-ing. I’d say a good portion of my lessons had a worksheet that the whole 40 minutes was based around. It certainly helped focus and coordinate students, and gave them something to pay attention to. But I remember going through school and getting these masses of handouts and worksheets and hating it. It certainly wasn’t my learning style. But, for this group of year 8’s, they needed it. I knew going in to prac. that I would be naive to think I could have discussion and note lessons with this group. But I thought that they wouldn’t be so dependent on a hardcopy of the work to the extent they were.

Which brings me to something I want to say. Obviously, going to an all-boys school this next statement is going to sound somewhat obvious. But high school is absolutely nothing like I remember it. I remember working, cliques, obvious divisions between the people who were the ‘learners’ and the ones who were the ‘wastes’, competition among the ‘learners’, and motivation. What I saw was (to me) completely different to what I remember. Maybe it was the school’s culture, the years, or my faulty memory. But things really seem lik they’ve changed. I don’t even think it’s for the better.

Anyway, I could go on and on about prac., but I’ll stop. Both visits from my university observer were positive, and the report by my supervising teachers were glowing. I was called ‘well-groomed’ by one of them in it. I was glad that my week before clothing splurge worked. Didn’t hurt that I had a helping hand (a different story for a different time). I am glad that I’ve finished and am on holidays. I feel quite burnt out – the month before prac was working on some 200 pages of assignments (106 in the final week), then straight into the month at school. I didn’t stop working, either, for a single weekend. That would make it … 30 days of working without a day off. Looking forward to Monday – my first sleep-in in a long time.



8 thoughts on “End of one thing, start of something else

  1. Congratulations to you. Senior English is good: my 12s are the only class I enjoy teaching, as opposed to don’t mind teaching in return for money.

  2. That sounds very positive Thomas. I would not want you to become one of those starry eyed people who think all children are angles. they are the future psychos who go mad after they realise the some kids need to be pushed to learn and that teaching is not all about warm fuzzies.

  3. The Rabbit is succinct and I certainly have shared that feeling, but on the other hand what we do in Yrs 7-9 really is important and can be rewarding. It’s nice, as has happened rarely to me, to follow a class almost all the way through to Year 12. As for the problems we encounter and the “Year Nine are Animals” syndrome, well — hormones. That is certainly part of it. Only part, of course…

    Funnily enough, in the first half of my teaching career I found History teaching most rewarding, but then the trouble with that is that you have to know so much! šŸ˜‰ (I was even briefly History Coordinator at Illawarra Grammar School.)

  4. I have to agree with Neil. At my previous school, I had the same class every year from Year 7 to Year 10 for History and enjoyed watching them grow up and getting to know them.

  5. Not having a go, Rabbit. I agree with you. I often went into senior classes with a great sense of relief after an hour or so resembling stand-up comedy or circus acrobatics or tight-rope walking… šŸ˜‰

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