I should probably apologise for missing last week’s post. I was going through a rough patch that urgently needed to be dealt with. It felt like life or death, but it actually was not.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s end this conversation on being a student-teacher. I do not want it to end but Teaching Practice (TP) is officially over. Anyways, during the 7 week period I was in the shoes of a Mathematics Student-Teacher, as you all know. I am using this time to wrap up my reflections on my personal growth. Let me begin!
There is specific criteria that a student- teacher is marked on. Of course I do not have my results but I have to still reflect on what I think about me post-TP.
I was in a public school, one that is well-managed and well-resourced school and could easily be misidentified as semi-private or even private school, given the fees and technology used in the school for learning. Overall, it provided a good learning and working environment for its learners as well its staff; I had a pleasant experience!
Planning and Preparation
I started out being highly afraid that I would be a poor planner. I was worried that I would set everyone behind because I was either too slow or that I might be too fast and possibly confuse learners. Turns out when you are giving the lesson 45min is not a lot, but when you are the learner 45min feels like forever. I learned that planning and preparation is important but, I never wanted to write down time on a lesson plan because it felt like a commitment that I could not commit to, especially if I wanted to allow the learners to control the pace themselves. My planning strategy had to change. I rather focused on how long a topic will take and then plan for subtopics per day or period of days. It completely removed my anxiety on thinking “damn, my intro has to be 5min long” and allowed me to actually get all that I needed to get done in preparation for whatever the next test was going to be with some extra time for thinking ahead or broader without too much CAPS restriction.
Intellectual Quality of Teaching and Learning
In the beginning I was fixated on saying all the right things, and doing the right things. I questioned my own intellect, thinking I might be not good enough (Tip: Do not do that). I struggled quite a bit with my grade 8 class, because I had been told that they are the top class (a form of streaming) and are able to think at a slightly higher cognitive ability. I could not completely determine what that meant. It was then that my mentor teacher tried to explain better that they can be pushed further but I still needed to take care of them. The intellectual quality is not solely on what I am able to say, in part it is also letting the learner assess their own thinking and the teacher facilitating that in a way that is mentally stimulating. This epiphany happened when I taught algebraic equations and selected a few questions from a grade 9 textbook, it was a mistake that turned out very well for the grade 8s because I let them run the lesson and ended up learning something from them instead.
Language use and Enrichment
I emphasise this quite often that Mathematics has a language of its own that is universally acceptable and important for learners to use. Sometimes there are words that are used interchangeably, and different ways that the same thing can be phrased and I felt that although it is necessary to agree as a class on what is most comfortable, I also needed to allow them to acknowledge everything that is possible. Sometimes it is all a bit confusing, but I found that practice and consistent repetition is key to building comfortability. I enjoyed having learners express their views in their own understanding and allowing that to sometimes be a enrichment opportunity for the class on how there could be many ways to solve a problem. Key note: Attentive listening is so NB because a learner will say one thing but actually means something else, and at times you won’t understand the question and that is when you realise some intervention is required.
Assessing For- and Of- Learning
I really noted the importance of this from PGCE, and also the numerous ways in which assessment can be done throughout learning. Homework activities, game simulations, Q&A in class verbally asking in a specific manner “do you understand,” google form quizzes etc. all leading up to the formal assessment which would be an investigation or a class test. It is important to assess learners in non-stressful situations to build confidence in a topic and then gradually lead them to more intense work, leading them to the test that will count formally for marks. I recognised that I did not always know what is the correct pitch of assessment for a given grade. Sometimes it was too easy and sometimes a bit too difficult for the learners. Then marking is a true eye-opener. One of my teachers used to tell me she enjoyed marking because part of it assesses you as a teacher, where your strengths lie and what you desperately need to improve on for the next time. Unfortunately, the next year or the last class you teach will always get the best adjusted version of your teaching but it is really a worthwhile experience especially when majority of the class passes.
Supportive Classroom Environment and Recognition of Difference
Creating a supportive environment means that one has to recognise difference between learners and their abilities. One has to try to give instruction in a way that can challenge but not break a learner to a point of giving up. Simultaneously you do not want to nurse a learner that they forget to think on their own.This was one at my challenges throughout TP across all grades. Striking that balance was not always easy or even consistent on my part. There were learners that required personalised support or personalised enrichment. I found that each learner wanted to feel listened to in their own way for their own learning. But as long as there was mutual respect amongst all of us and eagerness to learn that is all that mattered.
Conclusion on Overall Individual Growth
I started TP very excited but worried about how it would turn out. Asking myself “how can I make some sort of positive impact in a short amount of time?” Mathematics is not always a learner’s most exciting subject to think about. Part of me really wants to change that narrative; with experience that will come #CONFIDENT. My confidence greatly improved even in my “not knowing” for instance not knowing if I will be able to answer a question posed to me by a learner – Tip: get a different learner to do it. I still do not know how to be strict because I did not need to be. Working in the headspace of seeing myself as a teacher, learner and student has proven to be one of the greatest tools into my success. It allowed me to learn more about my own learning and how I may tailor that to the learners’ learning and adjust accordingly. Something to carry forward into my future endeavours. I made connections and possibly those came across too friendly. I loved every moment of it, not knowing that I would feel that much fulfillment. I miss it now, it has been a week of no teaching, just assignments – feeling highly drained about that. I wonder everyday how many students googled me.
Thank you all for walking this journey with me for the past few months! It has been nerve-wracking, tiring and exciting all at the same time! My last suggestion is to read the entire series from the beginning!
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