A challenging classroom for observation week


As leadership descend for NQT observation week, our NQT diarist faces the return to her classroom of a particularly challenging student. Will she cope when the pressure is on?

It is senior leadership team observation week – the week where us NQTs are scrutinised as we spend longer than usual on our weekly lesson plans and create far too many over-thought resources.

I always feel that in practical subjects observations are about ticking boxes, as we are often working on larger projects that pan over several weeks, but the PGCE showed me the necessity to demonstrate progress in an individual lesson – after all, this is what I’d have to do should Ofsted walk in for 20 minutes. 

I treated this observation no differently and knew it was no coincidence that they were coming in to my only theory lesson of the fortnight. Only since September have I had to teach a lesson in a classroom – with tables and chairs! It may sound daft, but compared to my usual open space this was fairly daunting. It requires a whole new method of teaching and behaviour management strategies and I now understand why many teachers refuse to cover drama lessons!

A month back we had a girl join our GCSE dance class from Poland who was clearly unhappy at having been moved here – our EAL (English as an additional language) department certainly had their hands full with her.  

She spent the first few practical lessons sobbing uncontrollably and was nowhere to be seen for dance theory – but was expected to be a part of the observed lesson as she was reintroduced to her timetable again. I assume dance seems a logical choice when you barely speak the language – it involves largely modelling, which she responded well to.

I was concerned to have her back in the class for my observation, however, as I was yet to encounter her temperamental behaviour within a classroom setting.

I made it my mission to target her within my lesson, to encourage her understanding and make her want to be a part of my class. In creating my usual resources, I tried to work out what was best to cater for her needs – which seemed to open a can of worms. 

I debated whether it was acceptable to translate material, and to what degree, as this could also be seen as preventing her from learning the necessary English first-hand. We were learning how to write live reviews, therefore extended writing was the key to the lesson and I was determined to get through to her and help her make progress. 

After many discussions, I settled for Polish key words only – which were kindly translated by a native speaking teaching assistant – a good way to ensure it wasn’t poor internet gobbledygook! I sat her with a strong gifted and talented student for the writing tasks who loved the opportunity to help and share her knowledge – a partnership I will have to remember for future tasks and that I have adapted my seating plan to cater for.

What happened within that lesson was a shock to myself and the EAL department, as she settled in quickly and was thoroughly engaged within both theory and modelling tasks.

To our surprise, she handed me a page of written English (all be it a little muddled) reviewing the dance and broke her silence as she left the room to tell me that she thought “the performance was good”. 

That, to me, was mission accomplished!

  • Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of drama and dance at a school in Essex.



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