It is hard to believe that I'm actually reaching the end of the first trimester of my Masters of Teaching studies. At the start I was quite apprehensive, as I've never really studied a Humanities style course before and I've learnt that it is quite different to doing Music (craft...) or Maths/Science degrees. So, after a pretty intensive two months, I'm into the last month with some of the coursework now completed and some coming assignments to finish off the session.
I have to say that I've learnt a lot in between being irritated a lot as well! There is so much interesting stuff to do with the way that people learn things and the psychology of learning and development as well. Trust me to find the abstract stuff to be much more interesting than the practical aspects of teaching!
So, two of the courses (the Science and Maths) ones now completed as far as coursework goes, and the other two (Planning and Observation) are now into their final weeks. I'm travelling at the moment, so I think I going to try and burn through the rest of the coursework instead of trying to do the Assignments whilst on the move. However, there is an online exam that I have to do whilst I'm away as it is only open for about four days... I just have to find a quiet hour to do it... hopefully the hotel internet will be good enough for that!
However, for the Science assessment, I will need to come up with a unit plan for a particular topic. I guess I should start browsing the available topics so that some sort of unit plan can start festering in my mind... or at least how to approach the topic so that it is interesting and perhaps even educational!
The Observation and Planning parts of the course have now hit pretty interesting areas. They are starting to deal with methods, strategies and tactics in dealing with the Tier 2 and 3 students on the PBL scale of interventions. So, these are the kids that are either actively causing disruption in the class (Tier 2) or those who are potentially causing harm or danger to other students (Tier 3).
Of course, it is a good idea if most students never reach this level of intervention, and that is where good planning, engagement and teacher-student relationships will come into play.. ensuring that most interventions (85-90%) will remain in the simple Tier 1 group (or preferably Tier 0!). However, it would be naive to think that even with the best of planning and relationships and everything else that it would be possible to get through without some seriously problematic students...
Like many other pre-service teachers and teachers in training, this is the part that I've dreaded. All of my teaching has been one to one and so it is possible to build strong and trusting student-teacher relationships with teaching that is directed and individually structured. However, when you are teaching multiple groups of at least 25 kids at a time, this becomes more and more difficult. So, what are strategies to deal with this.... and what do schools have in place to help individual teachers.
Much of what we learnt in dealing with Tier 2/3 interventions seems to be that we need to take a step back, breathe and not react reflexively to a confronting situation. Fighting fire with fire is only going to make the problem worse at best... and it definitely won't get anywhere to actually fixing the problem. Unfortunately, much of society has a "muscle it up" approach to fixing problems... however, in education, our primary remit is to leave no student behind.. whilst for society, well, it appears that we have no problems in leaving people behind...
I guess that is where you learn to be an effective group leader... a good team leader isn't the one that is loved and admired when everything is going well... anyone can do that! It is the person that reacts wisely and guides a team when there is a problem.
It has been a pretty full on first semester... and it still isn't finished. I'm definitely moving into a part-time status next trimester and spreading out the load a bit. My wife has been taking up all the slack whilst I've been stressed with completing unfamiliar assignments... and although I'm now getting less stressed about them after getting some pretty good feedback, I still find that it is not really a thing that I do easily!
So, moving to part time... the full time load is too much for me, as it means that I can't contribute as much to the household and kids as I should, and that means that my wife has much less of her own free time and ability to pursue her own interests. I'm looking forward to keeping on learning... but at a less hectic pace in the next trimester!