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PLS Teacher Blog number 6 – Ben

Today, something clicked. Finally.

It’s 8.35am and I have twenty-five minutes until 9rEn1 begin disembarking the One-Way Corridor Express, primed and ready for their first stop of the day: English. We’re in the process of preparing for their half-termly assessment, and so this week they’ve been treated to a whilst-stop tour of Transactional Writing’s most well-trodden landmarks. I’d like to think this is where the metaphor begins to fall down, but if you’d seen the looks of bewilderment I’d received in yesterday’s revision lesson, you’d be forgiven for assuming that it was their first sojourn to the area.

I can’t really blame them. Though, of course, their incumbent English teacher has never really been far away, there’s been moments over the last month where I can’t help but feel I’m failing. Am I the only one? I doubt it. I think, as trainee teachers, we are acutely aware of the tremendous responsibility we are undertaking. The desire to do our best for our students is unquestionable, and it can be incredibly frustrating when that passion is undermined by a lack of experience. In short, I want to be better now. I’m certain that I won’t be the only one feeling this way.
Personally, I have been struggling with managing the structure and timings of my lessons. In spite of all my best intentions, and notwithstanding the scrupulous support and advice I’ve received from everyone around me, those precious minutes seem to just melt away. Last night, in the wake of my first official observation by Sydney Russell, I’d identified that I was mistakenly frontloading my lesson plans with “Do Now” activities that were too challenging and too involved. The lessons were stalling, and by the time the engine was up-and-running again, I was finding myself having to speed through the more important learning phases in my plan. This shouldn’t be news to me. We’ve had sessions on structure. I’ve read the literature. But somehow, perhaps due to an ironic desire to make every second count, I’ve consistently fallen short. Or perhaps “long”. What should be an accessible, five-minute activity has somehow turned into an enveloping quagmire of query, debate and explanation.

8.36am. I am resolute. This morning is going to be different. I have just 24 minutes to make some last-minute revisions to my lesson plan. Armed with this newfound, mental success criteria, I quickly put pen to paper to conceive and write a brand new starter activity. Is it accessible? Yes. Can the students work independently without direction? Yes. Will it engage and activate the learning without being imperative to the rest of lesson. Yes. Will it last 5 minutes…? God, I hope so…

10.00am. The last stragglers of 9rEn1 vacate my classroom. As always, I’ve put my mask on as a reminder to them to do the same. Alone once more, I march over to my computer and begin to flick backwards through my presentation. I am searching for the slide that details the lesson’s three learning objectives. I read each one, mentally ticking them off, and finally, with a sigh of relief, I peel away my mask to reveal a broad, giddy smile. Eureka. It’s a small step, but finally something has really clicked.

Teacher training is not dissimilar to the process of learning to drive. When you start, you are all fingers and thumbs. It feels unnatural because you’ve never done it before and you are desperately just trying to work out which is the right pedal to push. That’s where I am now. I am looking forward to the moment when I can teach without stalling or getting beeped at. It seems impossible, but I know it can be done because I have people around me who have all been there, done it and passed the test. Here is where this particularly metaphor does begin to lose traction… What is both challenging and exciting about working in a school is that even the most experienced teachers never truly remove their learner plates. With the right attitude, those “eureka” moments will hopefully just keep coming…