Griffith: Day 13

Teaching in Griffith

Thursday was a particularly frosty day in Griffith.

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I arrived early-ish in the morning, and my supervisor and I worked (read: ran around like headless chickens) trying to set up for a poorly organised incursion that another teacher had arranged. Our first obstacle was trying to find a place to host it, as make-up exams were scheduled in the hall where it was meant to be.

We settled on the CAPA (creative and performing arts) space, before meeting with another challenge; nobody seemed to know how to open the dividing door between the stage and the seating area. We both headed up to the CAPA staffroom, only to be met with a teacher offering rather colourful language about the inadequacy of management, and the challenges of report writing. We excused ourselves as diplomatically as possible, while my supervisor suggested that it was all part of his plan to show me how fortunate we are to have a great head teacher in English.

When we finally got everyone in and seated for the incursion, things began to settle. Year 8 had the opportunity to watch a man perform the poetry of Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson. This was enjoyable for me, but for a school with a low-SES (socio-economic status), this was not the most engaging talk. Very few students were following, and even the most engaged students seemed to find little interest in the show. We laughed it off, and went to grab morning tea at a cafe for the next period. My supervisor was tired and overworked, and our lovely head teacher offered to mind his class while we went for a debrief (read: relaxing in a cafe). We actually did talk about work, though. I had a rather fantastic piece of ricotta cake, and a chai latte.

In the afternoon, I walked to the local bowling alley with a bunch of students for school sport. There are absolutely worse things to do – I used to do bowling for school sport myself. Though I didn’t play, we were suitably pampered there; the teachers all got a free non-alcoholic beverage of their choosing. I sat and watched many a gutter-ball as I sipped a banana milkshake. Interestingly even outside of Sydney, some things never cease to make me feel at home:

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I was fortunate enough to get a lift home from my fellow prac student and housemate, and got a cool shot of a lovely sunset.

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Griffith: Day 12

Teaching in Griffith

Today was definitely one of the highlights of my prac experience so far.

First thing in the morning I got to observe elective drama for year 8. I was genuinely impressed with the quality of the work the students had put together (they were doing performances based on postcards).

During my second period at school I was lucky enough to participate in a PLT meeting (professional learning for teaching). The teacher running the meeting has recently been given a promotion to be the headmaster of a local special needs-focused school, and is an excellent teacher. She taught us several evidence-based practices, and modelled many of the techniques she was teaching. We also received some fantastic handouts to help is in our future practice.

Next I had photography with one of the coolest art teachers I’ve ever met. They were studying the history of animation, and making thaumotropes and praxinoscopes. I asked the teacher if I could show off some GIFs a good friend of mine had made (she studies media arts/animation and is awesome), and the teacher was very excited. The students also really enjoyed the work. For those who are interested, you can see her work here.

My time after lunch isn’t exciting enough to mention, but during the period just before lunch I had the best experience ever. I got to see the school agriculture farm, and meet their sheep, chickens, and baby cow. I also saw their great plants and little greenhouse. As an avid animal lover, I was completely in heaven. The best part was getting licked by the baby cow (called ‘Turnbull’ – the other which sold at a recent show was called ‘Trump’).

Here are all of my favourite photos of the agriculture farm.

 

Griffith: Day 11

Teaching in Griffith

Tuesday was a rather unremarkable day, all things considered, but I still had a lot of fun.

I spent the morning observing year 11, and dreading teaching my previously rowdy year 10 class. While assisting year 11 with visual techniques for “The Truman Show”, I sketched a Pokemon to send to my boyfriend, as we’d been joking about the noise it made over the phone the previous day, and how it blew bubbles a lot.

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My sketch of the Pokemon, ‘Krabby’.

When it came time to teach my year 10 class, I was informed that my supervisor had professional learning to attend, and that I would be observed by another teacher (from a different faculty). I was concerned, to say the least. Surprisingly, I needn’t have worried. Putting the content up on the smartboard and working through it as a class seemed to do the trick, as most of them were quite engaged and eager to ask questions or contribute to the lesson. I finished it feeling a renewed confidence in my ability as a teacher, and remembering that I still have much to learn in the way of classroom management (even a simple piece of advice from my supervisor here saved me a great deal of trouble).

Next period we had year 7, and as per usual, the group was rather rowdy (to say the least). My supervisor was kept a little overtime at his meeting, and I tried to placate them in his absence. They made such a commotion that an ordinarily docile teacher was stern with them – not surprisingly, that did wonders for making them shut up. After my supervisor arrived, they sat their assessment task, wherein they had to watch a clip on food waste, then write a letter to the principal on how to reduce food waste in the school. My supervisor and I were both relieved when it was over.

We used our next period (a free) to visit another nice cafe in Griffith, and chat about my progress so far. While there, I had an amazing piece of ricotta cake with a shortcrust base – their coffee was quite good too. We had a good chat about management strategies, and how to continue to make the most of my time during placement. We also talked a little about our content knowledge from uni, and how we ended up in teaching.

My final period was spent with the lovely Chinese teacher, who my supervisor often jokes has to fly from Taiwan to school every day (in good humour of course – the two are good friends). She had year 7 in the afternoon, and was understandably concerned about their potential misbehaviour. I discovered my friend from sport (walking) was in the class, and he seemed happy to see me there too. It was definitely interesting to see how he interacted with other students, as we’d talked at length about how he was bullied (as well as about many video games). There’s little doubt that he has difficulty socialising, and another English teacher has a strong suspicion that he has autism to some degree. To my mind, he certainly displays many things characteristic of that.

Although I’m just a prac teacher, I really wish I could do more to help him. Although he accidentally causes himself a lot of grief socially, he’s extremely bright and has some wonderfully creative and unique ideas (like how the school is separated into social ‘factions’, and how certain areas are ‘enemy territory’ and therefore unsafe to visit for him). I see a great deal of my little brother in him, and also a lot of a few good friends of mine. Being a talented outcast is never easy, and I hope he finds someone who is on his side, and who he can really confide in.

The year 7 class was really fun to watch, and seeing classroom management implemented in language teaching was a really great opportunity. My favourite new idea for teaching was seeing a creative use of boardwork. The teacher had magnetic spinners, so she could draw up pie charts on the board, and have students spin the wheel. Whichever number it landed on, students had to say the number in Chinese (Mandarin), and then in English.

You can see a picture of the neat little spinners below:

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I was certainly taking note of how clearly structured and well sequenced the lesson was. 

 

 

Griffith: Day 10 [Week 2 Begins]

Teaching in Griffith

Monday morning was wonderfully misty. If I recall correctly, it was also pretty cold – seems like Griffith got the memo for the nearing winter.

On Monday, I had to teach both of my classes. Year 8 went quite well, the students were engaged, and read their play together, discussing the characters and the story so far. I’m finally getting the hang of their names, and managing to joke around a bit and still keep the lesson interesting. It’s amazing how quickly lesson plans come together now I have a class in front of me who I know the level of.

Year 10 was a rather awful lesson on this particular day. I kept my cool thankfully, but the students weren’t following my essay scaffold at all, and grew rowdy and increasingly more disengaged. As my supervising teacher later discussed, the students were very used to him putting worksheets up on the projector, and going through them as a class. I took it in my stride, and was determined to make sure the next lesson was an improvement. As it so happens, it really did improve the following day (but more on that in the next post).

The final class of the day was library with year 7 after lunch. My little friend who called me a man had begun the lesson telling another student to “pull their head in” and do the right thing. He’s a really mature kid, but also a very defiant kid. He was pretty well behaved in library (all things considered), and actually started and maintained a conversation with me – seems like we’re getting along a lot better one week in. He advised me of a few nice places to visit in Griffith, and where to find good food around town. We also had a chat about video games, sport, and Manly beach (he’s been there a few times).

Getting to have such a civil chat with a ‘difficult’ student was really lovely. Kids truly do let go of yesterday’s drama with teachers basically overnight. One bad day doesn’t remotely ruin your relationship with a student, unless you make a big deal of something that’s yesterday’s news.

Later that evening my housemate and I went for Italian at a restaurant my year 7 had mentioned, named Il Corso. I had a seriously delicious pizza, and she had pasta. We had a great chat about how we’d both had our worst day so far, and compared stories of our teaching experiences. I’ve certainly learned the value of a good de-brief (both with fellow prac students, and also the lovely teachers in my staff room).

Until next time, here are a few photos of the lovely foggy day in Griffith.

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Griffith: Day 9

Teaching in Griffith

After getting home at around 11:30pm the night before, I was not at all ready to get out of bed too quickly. I stayed warm and snug for a while, before finally crawling out to have some green tea, and a couple of pieces of ALDI’s high-end raisin toast (which I can seriously recommend).

After a relaxing breakfast, my housemate and I wandered out to the Griffith Rotary Markets, where farmers sell local produce, and there are plenty of secondhand items, artisanal foods and handmade ornaments/jewellery. Although I failed to take many photos there, I did get one of some very cute hand-made plush elephants, which you can see below.

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After the farmer’s market, we headed to the ‘Second Hand Shoppe’ (complete with olde tyme spelling). There were many useless things here, but equally many pretty wonderful things. I happened across several bikes more lovely than my own, but decided if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. (Not entirely true, as my bike only has 2/3 gears at a stretch, and has only one slightly functional brake.)

Of the many interesting and odd things in the place, a couple did catch my eye. I am now the proud owner of a jazz guitar handbook (complete with CD and worth $40), and Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet (which I have wanted to read forever). The only other picture of for Sunday is an image of my lucky book finds, which only cost me $2 all up. The rest of Sunday I spent doing work at school with many of the other English staff. It seems I’m truly getting a sense of the never-ending work these people do.

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Two books I’d been meaning to pick up in Sydney for quite some time. 

Griffith: Day 8 [The First Weekend]

Teaching in Griffith

Although some attempt was made on my part to have a good and well earned sleep in on Saturday morning, it was not to be.

I awoke only half an hour later than my usual waking time (7:30), though I did feel just a little less tired. I had an easygoing morning, and from memory spent at least two hours in bed playing my 3DS.

Following my slow morning, I took a little bike ride around to the local Vinnies, and found some lovely things. The first was a winter cap (pretty old school), and the second was an eggplant coloured woollen pullover. I later thought it would be a good idea to wash and dry said pullover by machine, and although it’s only 38% wool, the sleeves are looking a little short now.

Following this, I spent a couple of hours catching up with people by phone, and playing games online/having a video call with my boyfriend. Long distance gaming is a great thing to be able to do with people.

Later on, I popped out to the shops and picked up a bottle of local red wine. My flatmate (and fellow prac student) and I had been invited to a ‘curry night’ by a teacher in the English faculty, and so I thought it would make for a good gift, and be a nice opportunity to try the revered local wine. As it so happens, the wine was excellent, and so was the company. The teacher who put together the evening was doing so to celebrate his daughter’s recent marriage. I’ve been to a fair few Indian restaurants in Sydney, but they don’t come close to the home cooked meal I had on Saturday. It was a really lovely opportunity to get to see all of the teachers from my faculty being themselves, and convinced me even more that these are the kinds of people I really value getting to work and spend time with.

I’ve had a lot of experience in workplaces, and my take-home message has always been that a poorly paid job with amazing people is leagues better than a well paid job with a bad team. I think the staff working in the English faculty have truly hit the jackpot in this regard; teachers make a humble but very comfortable amount, and getting paid to work in a difficult but rewarding environment with great colleagues is about all one can ask.

To finish off, the only photo I really have that sort of encompasses the day is a picture I took of what I wore to the dinner that evening – I’ve got the new jumper from the op-shop on, and the hat I got is on the table beside me. (Excuse my mediocre selfie, and messy room.)

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Not surprisingly, my room grew less and less arranged as the week progressed. 

Griffith: Day 7

Teaching in Griffith

I’m slowly catching up with these posts, as I’ve reached the final day of last week now (the working week, at least).

It had been an exceptionally big and busy week, and I was rather glad to end it on a high note with a very positive year 10 class. I’m quite lucky that my class is keenly engaging with Macbeth, and asking very thought provoking questions. We’ve delved into themes together, and I’m working on getting them to construct their own theses on who is most responsible for Macbeth’s negative actions in the play. As things progress, they will be doing a listening assessment that involves a long answer question – my hope is that the practise essay we are working towards will be adequate in helping scaffold their work in the assessment.

Friday was an otherwise quiet day – I observed some senior classes, who were looking at the films “The Truman Show” (year 11) , and “Run Lola Run” (year 12). By this time of the week I was naturally exhausted, and took to sketching in order to keep myself awake (I promise I also engaged with the lessons).

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The cake pictured here was a mint slice cake that we had at the staff morning tea.

I also managed to take a quick picture of my “office” (they’ve cleaned the desk of another teacher who is off on maternity leave, from memory). I’ve got a cosy desk right by the window. We’ve got the largest staff-room in the school, which is wonderful (it’s also thankfully air-conditioned). I’m lucky that I really adore everyone else in the staff room – I’ll be very sad to leave them all at the end of this. It’s almost tempting to stay here and teach.

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The view from my “office”.

The rest of my day went relatively quickly, and the weather was fantastic. As per usual, I got a few photos as I was leaving school, which you can see below.

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Probably the cutest part of my Friday was returning to a freshly cleaned apartment, and finding that the housekeeping staff had taken some artistic license in their arrangement of my room.

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My guess is they find my Griffith companion as cute as I do.