Diary of an NQT: Taking the lid off

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Do I make learning engaging enough? Or even fun enough? A CPD session provides some cause for reflection for our NQT diarist.

I attended another CPD session this week, which was pretty timely with the return to school after half-term. The CPD was refreshing and reminded me of some of the great learning I did last year during my training.

I had felt fairly prepared for the new half-term, yet already I am feeling drenched with more tasks and deadlines. However, the session, labelled “Extending our range of teaching strategies”, was uplifting. It reminded me of why we choose to teach – to make learning accessible and valid to our pupils’ development.

I had great fun. First, we watched a clip about fleas in a jar. A demonstration that if you teach fleas to live (and jump) in a confined space they will continue to jump within these confines even if the restriction (the jar) is removed. We were asked how this relates to us and some great ideas were raised and discussed.

For example, if we always teach in the way we were taught to, will we ever adapt our style? Furthermore, if we place too many restrictions and expectations on our pupils can they ever exceed them?

We were given a form. Question 1: what do you understand/what are you good at? My example was bringing up children (I have two). Then I had to complete a spider diagram for question 2: how did you get there? Trial and error, reading about it, having a go, asking questions from experts, having fun, watching others, and spending time with other mums.

The final question was: “How do I know?” Praise from others, feeling good when they are successful, advising others, being able to respond confidently when they need something.

The activity was a real eye-opener. It is absolutely what I want my pupils to do and feel when in class with me: To have fun, have a go, ask questions, share ideas and talk it over – and then to be able to feel good, be praised and feel confident in their new knowledge.

This CPD session will stay with me for some time to come and I will endeavour to apply this in my lesson planning. Pupils need to do it – participate, take action, and not be talked at. 

Sometimes I do revert to teacher talk and I need to work on that. If we let pupils explore themselves, we could be taking the lid off when it comes to making progress and amazing things could happen.

I have already begun to try it. I was teaching year 7 about Mother Earth; The Indigenous People of North America and their belief in Maka. They were given some content and had some opportunities to discuss. I then showed a slide with a list of options to choose from to select their own method of application – poem, poster, role play to name a few. Every pupil was keen and interested. 

They had the choice to demonstrate their learning independently or within a group, they could choose their means of presenting their work and I saw some of the highest levels of engagement. We watched rap songs, listened to amazing poems, acrostic writing and news bulletins! It was great.

Thankfully my school and department are keen to encourage this and monitoring progress does not need to be done solely through book work – levelling presentations and illustrations are given as much importance as written form.

My mark book therefore is developing its own coding to show how pupils are progressing using various formats. 

This is something I wish to apply more regularly. Pupil-led learning and creating opportunities for choice in the classroom seem to promote the confidence and collaboration I have mentioned above. 

  • SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of sociology and philosophy from a school in the South of England.

Further reading
New Kinds of Smart, Professors Bill Lucas and Guy Claxton, Open University Press, 2010

   


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