Emily has kindly invited me to share my musings, so here’s a brief(ish) introduction to me, a high school English teacher; a devourer of books, drinker of tea and wishful crazy cat lady.
Why did you become a teacher?
I’m originally from the UK, and fell into teaching in 2014. I’d always said I would never be a teacher, but a burning desire to live in Australia and the Skilled Occupation List conspired to leave me sitting in a UQ lecture theatre, with the aim of achieving my Grad Dip in Secondary Education.
Despite such an inauspicious start, I took to teaching like the proverbial duck to water. You cannot succeed as a teacher (measuring success by enjoyment and satisfaction) unless you are passionate about students and your subject. I cannot fully express my love for English Literature in all its forms, which made the subject bit easy. But then teenagers…
As it turns out, they’re very interesting too. Teenagers are also witty and eager and genuine. They can also be the exact opposite, but I figure that is why they need teachers to be examples of all different kinds of awesome.
What has kept you in the profession?
I began teaching full time in 2015, so will begin my third year on the job in a few weeks time. I love those golden moments when students ‘get’ a concept for the first time, I love my subject and I love working with young people. It is by far the most interesting and rewarding job I’ve ever had.
What is the best lesson you’ve ever taught? What made it so?
Relinquishing control of the minutiae and letting students take their own spin on things has been a steep learning curve. However, the best lessons I’ve ever taught are always the ones led by students, especially when they take ownership of a subject or task.
I also love teaching in rotations and team activities. Rotations are essentially 15-20 minute activities that present a skill or content in a different way. I like to mix up skills and groups and try to have something for different learning styles in each set of rotations. For example, I might have students create a freeze frame of a scene in one corner, while another group create a poem from lines of cut up poetry and others play Articulate. In a junior class I’ll usually have 4 across a lesson and a half (so we can consolidate) and have up to 7 stations across 2 lessons in a senior class. Team activities like jigsaw grouping are great for accessing content as team members are responsible for gathering information and disseminating it back to their group. These lessons are thoroughly worth the effort creating innovative resources and reinforcing the behaviour management in a class.
What is the biggest challenge you face?
Being in the middle of the summer holidays, the downsides of teaching seem like a distant memory but I would say office politics, paperwork and overwork/lack of recognition are definite contenders for being just the worst.
I think my biggest personal challenge is probably self-confidence. I sometimes (often) forget that it doesn’t have to be the perfect I imagine for it to be a valuable lesson. I also take throwaway comments to heart, and teachers need to have a thick skin. In 2017, I’ll be doing more deep listening, rather than just waiting for my turn to talk!
Is there something you would like to try out with your classes?
There is so much I would like to try! There are some visual story-telling activities I’d like to revisit, as well as building on project-based learning. I would like to give students more chances to be the teacher and embed that in my teaching practice.
Saying this, every time I read about what others are doing I find something else I can try!
What advice do you have for beginning teachers?
This year it has really hit home that teaching is a profession where you need to be kind. Be kind to students, because you don’t know what they’re bringing with them when they walk through your door and every day is a new chance. Be kind to colleagues, because you don’t know what is happening beyond the school gates. Be kind to yourself, because you are a model of positive and productive behaviours to those you teach and it is a hard road if you’re beating yourself up along the way.
-Do listen to your more experienced colleagues, they absolutely know more than you (but don’t forget that listening closely doesn’t mean doing exactly)
-Be humble and say sorry genuinely when you get it wrong (you will).
-Don’t reinvent the wheel!
-Take time every day to reflect on two great things and one thing you can do differently next time.
If you have any questions you’d like to ask or any advice for Rhi, or if you would like to tell us a bit about yourself, please get in contact in the comments below or on the contacts page! Also, keep an eye out for future posts from our new resident English and SOSE expert – just click on her username (musingsonteachings) down below to see other posts written by her.