Since I started on the project and placement at the school, I have been assisting teachers in multiple ways and also taking on a teaching assistant role by spending the majority of lessons sat with particular pupils to help them focus and engage. Furthermore, I have been leading a class during an afternoon club (see previous blog). One of the main reasons for working on the ‘droso4schools’ project was to gain an insight into a teacher’s life, experiencing both the good and more challenging aspects of the job, and I have constantly been asked by colleagues and friends alike “so, do you want to be a teacher then?”
My response to the question was always the same: ‘I won’t know for sure until I take a time-tabled lesson’. Leading the afternoon club was not a true reflection on ‘real’ teaching, because the students came on a voluntary basis, making it more likely they would be engaged and respectful, and the material was not necessarily something they had to cover. A timetabled lesson is the complete opposite – the students have to be there and have to learn whatever content is presented to them, which can make it a much harder challenge to control the class. But finally, last week, I was able to take my first ‘real’ class, and I was curious to find out what impact it would have on my answer to the question about a future in teaching.
The lesson I taught was the first of the year seven ‘health’ topic, focussing on the 7 food groups, and I gave it to the class that I had spent most time and become most familiar with during the project. The lesson itself was very simple, making it an ideal lesson for me to teach. It involved a numeracy starter, some group discussions about what the food groups are and some silent, independent reading about the seven food groups and writing down why we need each one. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite get time to cover what happens if you have too little or too much of them. However, this was not an essential aspect but rather a “reserve” activity, and it was not a massive issue that we did not complete it.
I really enjoyed the experience of being in front of the class, and the students did all the work that was planned. A clear challenge was their tendency to chat. Although I was often able to settle the class, they usually started to talk again fairly soon after. I think the main reason for this was that I am not a teacher, and it simply did not feel right using the disciplinary system with warnings and detentions the school has in place. However, although chatty, the class was hugely inquisitive about the topics we covered in the lesson and the questions which were asked by the students – although not always relevant – clearly reflected their interest in the subject. There were questions ranging from “Why do we like eating sugar so much?” to less pertinent ones, such as “Sir, what shall I write down for a good source of water?”
After the lesson, I had a feedback session with the class’ main teacher. The comments I received were very positive and boosted my confidence for future lessons which I am scheduled to take. As I had already expected, the main challenge pointed out to me, is to command the room when disruptions are occurring and, for this, to raise my voice to a level where I am not shouting but come across as being determined. I seem to have a fairly relaxed style, but I was told that this will improve with growing confidence. Obviously, when taking on a teaching assistant role working one-on-one next to a student, raising my voice is not something I have to do very often, if at all. Anyway, raising your voice seems to have different effects on different classes: some see it as a reason to misbehave more, as they probably feel I cannot control them, whereas other classes seem to respond well to it and become more attentive. So it definitely requires experience to choose the right strategies.
So what is my conclusion with respect to the question of whether I would consider teaching? I think I would! I have now spent 11 weeks in schools and had the chance to experience all aspects of school life. I have still not been put off by anything I had to deal with (which, even on a daily basis, is a lot!), and I am certain that the few teething problems which I experienced during the lesson will be resolved when I have more experience and more confidence. Therefore, I feel it is finally time to realise that I like helping others learn and would definitely consider a future career in teaching.