Tag Archives: english teacher

Thursday Week 2

It’s getting to be the case that Thursdays are my most draining day of the week. Not at all welcome, considering from next week I will be adding an after school class to my regular work load, but we shall carry on regardless!

So in other words: This Thursday has been equally as gruesome, or at least the afternoon has been. Today I am grateful for my renewed organisation. I had maybe my best lesson this year with my year 10s because it was meticulously planned out. I mean, it did help that it was first period so their attentions and efforts were the most focused they are all week. But we did a great class discussion and brainstorm, then annotated an article about gender stereotypes, and then answered questions. And for the first time all year they were all sitting, working, SILENTLY. It felt really great to start he day off with a win like that.

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Class brainstorm
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Keywords and instructions for the lesson

Of course come period 4, my year sevens were completely distracted by what I had left on the board, because they have no sense of self control at all. As in a literal butterfly could fly past my window and they would almost all turn to watch it. Any suggestions on improving this are well welcomed!

Hope you all have had a good week, and here’s to Friday and wine!

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Friday Five: Favourite texts to teach

Long time no post (as always)…

My year 8 class is currently studying a book that I studied when I was their age, and we are all loving it so much that I started thinking about the other texts that I enjoy teaching, and that I have (in my short career) used with a range of year groups and schools.

  1. Tomorrow, When The War Began
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    My year 8 class is in the middle of a comparative essay assessment for this text. We read the book, watched the TV show and the film over the last five weeks (plus school holidays). TWTWB is a novel that I really got into when I was in high school, and it is a book (and series) that is so unique in its plot, writing, characters, themes and issues. That idea of “what would you do if your country was invaded” is something that should seem inaccessible to teenagers today. But the way that John Marsden tells the story of Ellie and her friends is so compelling and vivid, so emotional and raw and above all else real, that I think it uniquely appeals to teenagers. The group of characters all have their flaws and are so different that I think everyone can identify with at least some part of a character. I used to live near a local airport, and whenever I read book one and then heard the planes flying at night, i would freak myself out so badly!
    This is also a series that I can never put down; once I read the first book I often read the other six within the week, and the same happened when I was teaching the book this term – I spent the first week of my holidays engrossed in guerrilla warfare and teenage terrorists.
  2. The Princess Bride
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    My year 8s looked at this movie at the start of the year, looking at characterisation, genre and film conventions. I adore this movie, and (selfishly) as a teacher I don’t like to teach texts that I don’t know or like. So when the opportunity came up for my year 7s last year to start looking at narrative conventions and characters, I had the idea to show them this movie. They loved it, after complaining at first that it was sure to be an old black and white movie, if it was made in the 80s.. I got them to do a character analysis on how one character in the story changed as a result of the events in the movie, some of them crafted some exquisite responses!
    I have also read the book, which quickly became one of my all time favourites as soon as I started reading it.
  3. The Outsiders
    2626920066_091dc0a914_zI first read The Outsiders when I was in year 10. I was amazed that such a seminal, rite-of-passage text that resonated with my male classmates was written by a girl no older than I was (at the time). Since then, I have used that text with my mostly male, disengaged classes. I have found that they identify with at least something in the novel, whether it is the loyalty and devotion of the three Curtis boys, the hero worship of Dallas Winston or the lonely bravado of Johnny. I think The Outsiders is a book that you could study on many levels; whether it is to introduce themes and issues as I did this year with a hard year 10 group, plot and conflict with my year 9s last year or parallel characters and debating with my year 9s in my first semester of teaching.
    The Outsiders was one of the first books that I remember reading in high school that I know have had lessons stay with me into adulthood. It was Ponyboy and Johnny that I turned to when facing my first novel study with my first “smart” class, and it is the lessons that they taught me that I try pass on to my students.
  4. Invictus

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    yes, i know this is the actual event, not a picture from the movie.

    This one is a bit more personal for me. I saw this movie with my brother and my dad at the movies, and I left crying and proud to be South African. As an English text though, I think that Invictus has a lot to offer. It explores issues of racism, class systems, sports, politics, history and civics. I first used it with a hard year 10 class last year, and they looked at it more as a film study, with issues and themes the main focus. My year 10 class this year was very similar. We had previously watched a documentary called Pacific Warriors (my class has a lot of rugby specialist program kids) looking at the issues of inequality and funding in sports. I think the kids get a lot from Invictus, from looking at a moment in history and events that seemed too unreal to be true, to being able to watch a good sports movie.
    I also like to teach it because it allows my students to get to know me a bit better. My family lived through a lot of the circumstances in the movie. My granny was a great hockey player who was not allowed to represent South Africa because of the colour of her skin, my mother was a great ice skater who was on her skating team as one of the “token” two coloured girls, and my grandpa would constantly talk about how great Madiba was. The movie is very real for me even though I have never really lived in South Africa, and I think lets my students see me as an actual “person” with a history and heritage that I am proud of. We also have a giggle at me being near tears at the end of the movie EVERY. SINGLE. TIME i watch it!

  5. Guardians of the Galaxy
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    This one less as a “study” text, more as an “end of term” text. I have shown this movie at the end of terms since it came out, and every single class i have shown it to (8,9,10,12s) have enjoyed it. I adore it, and i think it’s perfect in its quirkiness!

Hope your Friday is less chaotic than mine! Would love some suggestions for go-to English texts, my tendency to stick to the familiar can at times be limiting…

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Friday Five: Term 1 at a new school

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While my lovely year 12s are on the computers in the library, and I am taking a break from the bottomless pit that is my marking, I thought I would reflect on what I am grateful about on this, the last day of school.

Being at a new school I was nervous initially about fitting in, about getting back to upper school after a year immersed (and I mean IMMERSED) in lower school students. I didn’t know if I was good enough to teach alongside a “proper” English department (last year me and my colleague were pretty much ignored and alone in planning/reporting/assessing despite having three well-experienced English teachers at the school). I worried about my ability to handle challenging behaviour management issues and trying to keep my emotions in check while getting to know students.

I have loved my first term at my new school. The kids I teach (admittedly on the better side of our school’s standard) are for the most part wonderful, and even the most troublesome ones have never been malicious or nasty. The staff are amazing, greeting you happily whenever they see you and always checking that I am getting on okay. My English department is beyond amazing. The Head of Learning Area has been so kind and generous in making sure myself and E (fellow grad/newbie to the school) are getting all the help, opportunities and resources that we need. Colleagues are always willing to give advice on problem students, re-read assignments to help figure out grading and all around offering support.

The kids, especially my year 12s, have been beyond expectations. Here are a couple of my favourite moments from my kids this term.

  1. One of my years 12s A started playing music after we finished working one day, turned out to be one of my favourite songs EVER. Same thing happened the next lesson, and when he was in charge of the Friendship Week music playing at recess. It’s as if he has taken the playlists directly off my phone, and I listen to some pretty obscure and uncommon 90s and 2000s hip hop/R&B/rap/soul.
  2. Every Tuesday afternoon with my year 12s having to allocate 5-10 minutes at the end for “Walking Dead Talk.” It’s a lot of fun for me, but also as a teacher kind of funny seeing kids who claim they can’t do essays and have trouble analysing texts, spout off diatribes about who Negan killed and was Glenn really dead and look at the symbolism of certain props, characters, sounds and gestures. #everythingisenglish
  3. Assigning my year 8 ACE (academic achievement/extension) class autobiographies, and then reading them and learning so much about my kids. Also seeing some of the lesser engaged ACE kids pull out autobiographies of an insane level, well beyond what they appeared to be capable of. I say it all the time to kids; you write better when you are writing about what you know and love, and this assessment was perfect for my class in that regard.
  4. The moment at the start of the term when I assigned my ACE class homework to post on a discussion what their favourite books were, and upon reading the responses realising that I had a class that (mostly) loved to read and loved to read similar books to me. And when I took them to the library for silent reading for the first time and they sat reading for an hour, uninterrupted and silent. This is after a year of trying to do the same at my old school with rarely any success.
  5. Doing an in class essay with my year 10s, and while most of them couldn’t be f-ed doing anything, watching those who had done their notes and tried their hardest connect the dots and write their first essay. AND then reading the essay of my favourite year 10 F, who had impeccable notes and finished her essay in one lesson, and who wrote so lyrically about theme and the loss of innocence and characters, and linking to other texts. I literally clutched it to my chest when I say what she had written.

 

Hope you have a wicked last day of school teacher friends!

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New start, new ride

Just a quick one on this glorious Wednesday!

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Today was my first day at a brand new school. Last year I formed a pretty significant bond with my advisory as part of the Big Picture Education pedagogy, and I was dreading having to leave them and start fresh. I’ve never been a big fan of change, and I had settled in so well at my old school that I ended up in a panic on the drive down to my new school this afternoon.

However my old school was nowhere near perfect (it is solely the familiarity and the students that have me missing it). So as soon as I got all my induction information and realised that I could finally be in an environment where I could learn and not have as much premature responsibility as at all my previous schools, I was a LOT happier. I loved being a part of a Big Picture school because of the emphasis on knowing your students and having a strong relationship with them, which is one of my biggest strengths as a teacher by far. My relationships with those kids were some of the best in the school, and I am very proud that in my farewell speech my line manager told everyone how I was a big sister figure for the disengaged kids especially,and that I was frequently the only one they responded to and would complete work for. Even now it brings me to prideful tears thinking how far I was able to bring those kids, though they are coupled with fearful tears knowing some of those same kids will go backwards without someone investing that same amount in them as I did.

As great as my student relationships were though, the staff were another story. Not dissimilar to my previous two schools, often I was left to my own devices with a huge amount of responsibility for someone only two years into her careers. The English department was nonexistent both in support and function. I would have my reports all ready to go with very little guidance, only to be told I had done them wrong and I should have been told the correct way to do them.

My new school already has a vastly different feel amongst the staff. The English department head has been amazingly helpful and there are a lot of existing systems in place for personal and professional support. One of my personal beliefs when it comes to teaching is that I will be less than useless in looking after and educating kids if I am not looking after myself. I struggled a lot in my first two years with that, overworking myself and taking on a lot of duties that were beyond me, and only recently finding a balance between work and self care.

Maybe that’s why I was hesitant and on edge this afternoon before arriving to school. I had finally found that routine and balance only for it to be swept out from under me without being able to do anything about it. I like to have control over things, and I do tend to panic first before letting go and enjoying the ride. Hopefully I have the panic all out of the way now, and can enjoy being at what seems to be an amazing school.

Hope you all are having an awesome week and that you Australian teachers are taking care of yourselves ahead of a new school year!

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