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Good afternoon! Hope your day has been fantastic 😀

I will be sharing resources on my blog, but I will also be sharing them on Pinterest, Teachers pay Teachers and TES.com. Feel free to check them out below!

Miss Osmosis on Pinterest

Miss Osmosis TES Shop

Miss Osmosis TpT Link

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8 Top Tips for First Year Science Teachers!

Welcome to your first year of teaching science!! It is a fantastic job, full of so much excitement and ‘Eureka!’ moments (for you and your students!). But, let’s face it, teaching science is quite daunting. You have all the similar issues of assessment/subject knowledge/exam prep as all the other subjects, but you are doing it in a room with a chemicals, glassware and fire!

There are other things to consider in a science lab when compared to a ‘normal’ classroom.

So, hopefully, these tips will help put your mind at ease, and ensure you have a fab first year as a science teacher!

I am going to touch on the following key areas of teaching Science:

  1. Practical work
  2. Teaching 3 different subjects well
  3. Planning for science
  4. Using the Specification
  5. Working with Science Techs
  6. Engaging Students
  7. Encouraging girls in STEM
  8. Extra-curricular clubs

Practical work.

There is a big difference between practising an experiment/demo with your fellow trainee buddies, in a university lab, under the careful supervision of your subject mentor, to then doing it yourself – alone (well you know, apart from the 30 faces staring at you…). This is the big one, and probably the area I was most nervous about when I first started teaching solo.

When it comes to practical work that you are unsure of, I would really recommend having a go the day/week before. Ask the technicians for the resources needed and spend an hour after school having a practice. Believe me, it will be worth it! There is nothing worse than a demo flopping spectacularly because you didn’t troubleshoot it first… Or even worse, it going wrong and causing a dangerous situation. When I practice an experiment, I also take the opportunity to get some photos of the set up of the equipment/results of the experiment. I can then use these to help my students by adding them to my PPT’s. If they are struggling to set up, they can see an image of that equipment and what it should look like, not just a diagram. Or, if their results end up a bit dodgy, they can see what should have happened and think about why they got different results.

If you do not have the time to practice, then see if any other teachers in your department will be doing the experiment before you, see if you can go and observe. I have done this a few times, and have picked up ideas for how to explain it, what questions to ask or even things to avoid! A very useful exercise.

If that is not a possibility, then YouTube is your friend. You can find videos of pretty much every experiment that you will complete on there. Watch a few different videos until you find a method suitable for your lab/equipment/facilities etc.

The next stage beyond demo’s are letting you class participate in practical work. Letting go of all control is scary the first time you have students complete a lab. This is an area I still cannot get 100% right every time. What I would say is:

  • Think about your instructions very clearly – will the students understand?
  • Have multiple copies of instructions around – I will usually talk through the experiment and model it, give the students a handout with instructions AND have it written on the PPT/whiteboard. That way they SHOULD know what to do (but there will still be students asking you what to do…)
  • Some students will inevitably do something stupid… There are some students who just want to do it their own way. I have shut down a lab many times if just one student starts behaving recklessly. They need to understand the seriousness of their actions, and usually the reaction from the rest of the class makes them pretty reluctant to do the same thing next time.
  • Try to have lab equipment spread out a bit. Nothing worse than 30 kids stampeding to the front to collect equipment! I try to lay out trays with group sets of equipment, if I have time, but this is not always possible.
  • Encourage groups to have a work area that THEY are responsible for and stick to it. I had groups numbered with numbered work stations and numbered trays containing equipment. If on workstation was messy after a lab, I knew who was responsible. Likewise, if I found a tray with missing equipment, I could call on that group to organise themselves and refill their tray.

Teaching 3 subjects well.

Your degree will only usually be based on one of the sciences – Bio, Chem or Phys, I for instance, studied BSc Zoology. Rendering me pretty useless when it comes to Chem and Phys. However, remember, the content you are teaching up to GCSE/Year 11, is all work you have done before. It may have changed slightly, but you do have the basics, somewhere in there! I have to say, looking over concepts that used to baffle me as a GCSE student, I find so simple now, I cannot understand why I struggled so much with it when I was in school… But this realisation is important, try to put yourself in your students shoes. They may be very capable, but they are not getting it, why? What can you do to change your explanation to help them understand clearer?

Utilise the rest of your department: I would spend a lot of my free time hassling my colleagues about how to teach subjects I was unsure of, or which practicals they would recommend. They are experts in their field, so why not utilise that!

Ask for some CPD: If you don’t ask, you don’t get! Usually there will be some fairly local science based PD going on in your area, check out what is around. Sometimes it is even free! If you think your school will be onboard, check out the courses run at the National STEM Centre in York, I have been to a number of CPD sessions there and they are absolutely brilliant. They usually carry a bursary so schools can claim back the cost of the PD too, bonus! (bonus, due to the current pandemic, they are offering more online CPD and some of it is free!)

Look online: There are so many websites with great information to help you with your subject knowledge, here are a few to get you started:

  • SAPS – Plant experiments for all ages, with full technician notes and teacher/student instructions.
  • Royal Society of Chemistry – Education – Lots of ideas and teaching/technical notes for chemistry based experiments.
  • IOP – The Institute of Physics has a variety of practical ideas for teaching 11-18 years.
  • STEM Learning – This website has so much! For all areas of science! Be sure to sign up to this website to access most of the resources, it is free to do so.

Pick up some cheap text books: I did this when I started teaching A level. I would buy a few second hand A level text books, different to the ones being used by students. This gave me a slighter broader scope of what to talk about in my lessons and I found it very useful for finding extra questions to ask students etc.

Planning for science.

It is important to plan your lessons in sequences that ensure the content flows and make sense, ensure students are making progress, and allows room to adapt and teach according to the pace of those particular students.

Science AfL ideas: Most of these AFL ideas work in any subject, but are fab in science too!

  • RAG cards: use for multi-choice questions, to check student understanding, team games etc.
  • Mini whiteboards: Excellent for doing quick quizzes, checking understanding of equations,
  • Kahoot: The ultimate AFL tool! It is great for engaging students and I often use it as a carrot for BfL too. There are lots of pre-made quizzes on there or you can make your own. Students can work individually or in groups. I personally use the individual setting more often than groups. Oh and beware! Always click the setting to make up nicknames for the students, otherwise it is an endless battle of kicking naughty names off the game…
  • Quizlet: Probably my favourite now, even more so than Kahoot (although their music is not as good…) Quizlet is great for encouraging team work and mixes students up randomly so you don’t have to! There are loads of science question sets already available or you can make your own. I often use this to check understanding of key vocabulary.

This is a small list of my go-to’s, for more ideas, I also highly recommend checking out the Teacher Toolkit website, loads of great ideas!

Technology is here, like it or not, so we need to use it and encourage our students to use it more often and how to use it well. I enjoy doing research based lessons occasionally, my last school used G suite, which was amazing. I had all my lessons planned through the Google Classroom so students could access content whenever and complete assignments from home if they were ill (or, say, if there was a pandemic..). I could also set up research based lessons, with key questions for students to research along with recommended websites to get them started. I would spend time going through how to use search engines and whether websites looked like reliable sources of information or not. I would also throw their essays and work into a plagiarism checker every now and then. Weirdly, the students loved it! Especially the ones who passed.. The ones who didn’t would then spend the rest of the lesson editing their own work to make it more unique and would then check it themselves using the same websites, declaring proudly to me ‘Miss! My work is now 100% unique!’ Very sweet and a lesson learnt.

Using the Specification

The specification is your ultimate teaching guide. Whoever your exam board is; AQA, Edexcel, OCR, WJEC etc. their websites will be a good place to start when planning your lessons.

I would say, with exam classes, don’t stray too far from the specification when teaching. They cannot examine on anything that is not on the specification, so it is definitely what you should be teaching first. Do use real world examples to aid your teaching, but try not to end up on an unrelated tangent!

Past papers are usually found on the exam board website, or you school may already have copies. Use past papers a lot. It helps students see the sorts of questions they will face and it will feel a lot less scary when they are in the exam. Also share the mark schemes with your students, once they have attempted the questions. This will show them the sorts of answers/level of detail required, along with how to use key words in their answers (the area most students tend to fall down on is not including keywords!).

Make revision check lists to give to students using the specification as a guide – this way you can ensure that the students are revising all the content. This takes a bit of work to do from scratch, but I have seen some pretty good ones for free on TES.

Show students where to find it: Quite often students know something of the specification or may have seen their teachers using it. But in my second year of teaching I started actively showing my students where to find it when they started GCSE’s. This included then showing them the website and how to access it and getting them to take a photo on their phones of the address. Now, however, with the increase in online teaching platforms like Google Classroom, you could share a direct link with them that way.

Working with your Science technicians.

Arguably the most important person/people in the science department… And I am not just saying this because I used to be one!

Usually science technicians are sparse within a science department – maybe one or two max, with one usually part-time (if not both). This is such a shame, science techs can do so much for a science department and it is a role that is undervalued in my opinion.

Get on your science techs good side by always giving plenty of notice for experiments (most departments will have a cut off point for requests for the following week). If you are doing something that requires fresh ingredients (onions/celery/milk/pond weed), give extra notice and see who else might be using it that week so your poor tech doesn’t needlessly do multiple shopping trips. Check how long is needed for ordering things like hearts/lungs for dissections – some schools will have built good relationships with local butchers/abattoirs, but may need more notice.

Talk to them! You would be amazed at the knowledge and wisdom an experienced science tech has, they have seen it all… If you are not sure of something, ask them, they probably know some tips and tricks to make your practical work, work!

Engaging students.

Even though we have experiments to increase engagement in Science, I would say more than half the students I have taught would say they don’t like science, or they don’t feel smart enough to be good at science. This is an idea we really need to discourage! We need to make sure that our lessons are engaging and providing just the right amount of challenge.

One way that I have tried to increase student engagement is to try and make it more relatable to them. When you know your students well enough, you will be able to relate different aspects of science to the students interests, and then you will have them hooked!

  • Use a ‘get to know you’ worksheet early in the year and take an hour to actually read student answers! See what stands out that you can link your lessons to.
  • Got girls obsessed with makeup? Show them the devastating impact of Mica, a common ingredient in makeup – link to chemistry.
  • For all the sport fans – Muscles and bones, respiration: discuss how athletes enhance their body through training and look at the Biology behind it.
  • Food! One thing everyone has in common… We all eat! There is so much you can do with food. From looking at health, molecules, sources of food, preservation of food… It is only as limited as your imagination!

Encourage girls to enjoy STEM.

This is so important, we need to show girls that science is for them too. One of the best ways to do this is through equal representation of male and female scientists. This could be in your displays, or in your lessons. Try to have an equal number of male and female scientists in your lessons, this will show girls that it is equally normal for a woman to be a scientist as a man.

If you would like to read more about this, I wrote a whole blog post about it here.

Extra-curricular clubs etc.

Do volunteer to be a part of an after school club in the science department. If there isn’t one, offer to set one up! Not only will this show your HOD and SLT how keen you are, it is a great opportunity to complete some of the fun experiments that there is not enough space for in the curriculum AND bonus, you get to know more of the pupils really well. Building relationships is so important in the job, if you can form a relationship with some year 7’s in science club, imagine where you will be with them by the time they get to their exams in year 11!

A few notes about this:

  • Plan ahead (I would recommend being at least a half term ahead).
  • Give your science tech’s plenty of notice for required equipment.
  • Struggling for ideas?
    • Join up to Stem learning it has lots of great practicals and worksheets, and a whole section for running science clubs.
    • TES has a lot of science club ideas that you can download for free, along with some you can pay for.

OK, so my quick list turned into something a lot longer, if you have made it this far, well done!

I hope that you take something away from this list and that you enjoy your first year as a science teacher, hopefully the first of many! Best of luck to you all ❤

If you have any questions about teaching science or anything mentioned above, please feel free to comment or get in touch via email!

K

How can we promote careers in STEM to girls in school?

A little while ago I was asked to participate in an upcoming campaign to encourage more girls to study STEM subjects with the company STA Travel Education. Obviously, being an advocate for Women in STEM I jumped at the chance! Especially when they asked me to write an article about how to promote careers in STEM to girls. One of my favourite parts of being a teacher is being in the position to foster curiosity in my favourite subject, and in particular with girls, who are sadly still underrepresented in the STEM job market, post university.

To read the full article, click the image below:

Women in STEM
How can we promote careers in STEM to girls in school?

I had so much fun writing this article and got so much fab advice from people on Twitter! I hope you get a chance to read it, please let me know what you think!

women in STEM
My reading list has increased since researching this article. Two books down, loads to go!

Some of the inspiration behind this article can be found below if you want to check them out for yourself…

•  These amazing posters from Nevertheless (a podcast about Women transforming Teaching and Learning through Technology). These are perfect for a classroom display, hopefully with the idea of normalizing women in STEM. I would probably include men on my display too, so we are equalizing the role of women in STEM and not sensationalizing them.

•  While you are there, they also have a fab podcast episode about why role models in STEM are important for young people to help them pursue their own future STEM career.

•  Not entirely focused on women in STEM, but here are a great set of posters available from Nitty Gritty Science that you could rotate as ‘Science job of the week’ or just have displayed year-round to show a glimpse into the diversity of careers available in STEM, which all students may not be aware of.

•  If you are looking for some fab resources, ready to go and with great diversity, check out these worksheets created by @AlMacHistory. They contain lots of examples of women in STEM and are research based activities.

•  Introduce your students to some of the amazing women working at the cutting edge of STEM. There are lots to follow on Twitter, you could possibly arrange a Zoom/Skype meeting with them! I have made this list to get you started, however there are so many more out there!! Use social media to your advantage to encourage engagement with those in STEM!

•  ‘Women in Science’ is a brilliant book by Rachel Ignotofsky are available online, here is her website. She has books and postcards outlining women in various fields, not just science!

•  Here are some links to ready-made lessons that discuss women in science along with other contexts:

https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/women-science

https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/women-in-culture-learn-anywhere-googlearts-12309710

https://www.wgu.edu/heyteach/article/7-women-scientists-to-integrate-into-your-lesson-plans1709.html

Exploring the Gender Pay Gap in Education

This guest piece is from Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society – June 2020 Pay inequality thrives because of a lack of transparency. We don’t like talking about pay, and women don’t currently have the right to know what their male colleagues earn even if they suspect pay discrimination. 28 more words

Exploring the Gender Pay Gap in Education

A Remote Chance of Learning

Fab article, very well written and absolutely bang on point!

Teaching it Real

Over the last couple of days Lord Andrew Adonis, Labour peer in the House of Lords and former Schools Minister under Tony Blair, has been raising eyebrows with a series of tweets on how he believes schools should be setting work during the lockdown. Yesterday he announced he was talking to former head of Ofsted, Mike Wiltshaw, about the need for schools to provide a “full online education during the lockdown”.

Unfortunately, Lord Adonis seems a little unwilling to answer questions about what exactly he means by a “full online education” but we can see from his previous tweets…

View original post 1,489 more words

How can we use social media to encourage girls that a career in STEM is possible?

I’ve collaborated with STA Travel Education, a school trip provider, as part of their #GirlsInSTEM campaign. We’ll cover the rising popularity of STEM across social media, and how it can be utilised to encourage girls to stay in the subject. Check out what they had to say.

The power of social media

We’ve long known that social media is used by the vast majority of us. In 2019, Ofcom indicated that 70% of 12–15-year old’s have a social media platform. Pew Research suggests that teenage girls have taken over their male counter parts as ‘near-constant’ users. With 50% of teenage girls being put into this classification, compared to 39% of teenage boys.

It’s not just the students getting involved. MDR found a huge 81% of teachers get inspired with new teaching ideas by utilising social media, and 80% of teachers are using the platform to find resources.

There is no arguing that this is a powerful tool, and with such a large female audience, it is one that can be utilised when looking to inspire girls to pursue a career in the STEM sector.

The gender gap in STEM careers

It’s common knowledge that the STEM industry is seen as a predominately male dominated field. Not only is that a common perception, but this is also realised across statistics, with just 13% of the overall UK STEM workforce now made up of women. (Stemgraduates)

Research from the World Economic Forum found that women tend to be underrepresented across Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction, as well as Information, Communication and Technology fields. In fact, just 3.2% of women globally are gaining educational attainment in information, communication & technology. Whilst just 6.1% of women are gaining educational attainment in engineering, manufacturing and construction.

What you can do as a teacher?

Findings from The University of Bern, suggest that gender-science stereotypes of math and science can potentially influence young women’s aspirations to enrol in a STEM subject. Therefore, it’s important that our teachers step in to empower young female students to discover STEM careers.

Follow the right people: social media is a place where inspiring females can freely voice their opinions, tips and advice on the STEM field. We’re in an age where your students can connect with experts via social media by following noteworthy women in STEM. This makes it easier for students to visualise what a career in STEM might look like and have the opportunity to ask questions directly to women in the career.

Create a community: social media is an excellent tool for strengthening the community within educational establishments. We recommend creating a STEM focused social group for your school, or even better create a female focused STEM focused group for your establishment.

Highlight the hashtags: The easiest way to spread information across social media is to hashtag like there is no tomorrow. Make sure girls are aware of hashtags and where they can find information. Our favourites are:

#Stemgraduatesuk #Stemgraduates #Stemcareers #WomenInSTEM #GirlsInSTEM

Introduce social media sessions into the classroom: don’t be afraid of bringing social media into your classroom. Create time in your lessons where you can highlight fun, interactive or important news. This includes everything from revision guides, influential people and careers hubs. You can integrate social media into your learning plan by sharing important news and updates with your students via the platform.

Collecting content: there is a lot on the web! When girls are at such a precious part of their career it can be overwhelming to take it all in. That is why it is excellent to encourage your female students to utilise social media to navigate it all. Often content is condensed into 140 characters, or in video style or easy to digest blogs. All of this aids the research process, and can aid females to make the right career choice for them.

Girls looking to the future: online can be an amazing place for young females to start building their brand. Those who are set on a career in STEM can start building their online portfolio whilst they study. Sharing their own research and opinions on current situations or areas they would like to focus on moving forward. That’ll put them ahead of the pack when it comes to career prospects.

Social media is a tool which is known for building engagement within a community, a place to share support and get interactive. It’s a tool that is constantly developing and changing, therefore we recommend asking your students for feedback on what motivates them when using social media.

The authors of this blog post, STA Travel Education, specialise in creating bespoke educational trips. Yes, that includes science school trips. Check out their school trips to CERN for a truly immersive STEM experience.

Back to School!

So this week was the first back at school with the students. We had a few teacher only days last week, which I was VERY grateful for. I managed to spend some time prepping my classroom in between planning meetings, which means I am finally (almost) happy with the way my classroom is looking!

Some displays are improving! Still have a few empty walls… I teach general Science, Biology and Agriculture, so I am trying to include displays that reflect all 3 subject areas!

I am also looking to increase the literacy resources available to my students to help them improve their reading, comprehension of scientific writing, and ability to write in scientific contexts!

So in love with my new marine mammal corner! I used the dolphins that my year 13 students used in their end of year ‘prank’ last year. To be honest, I got a beautiful marine theme pranking… Lots of teachers got toilet papered/cling filmed rooms! So I am counting myself lucky!! The posters are from Project Jonah, a wonderful charity based in NZ that deals with marine mammal stranding events. They offer this educational pack to schools, so I jumped on the offer last year.

For the first few lessons with my junior classes I though we could spend some time getting to know each other. The year 9 students have all come from a mixture of local intermediate schools, so they do not all know each other yet. I decided I would do a STEM themed team activity to get them talking and working cooperatively! So we did the pyramid of cups challenge. Each group gets 6 plastic cups, 4 pieces of string and 1 elastic band.

Prepping each teams cup challenge!

The rules: make a pyramid of cups, working as a team (every member must be physically involved) without touching the cups at all.

This activity worked so well! The students were put into alphabetical order, so not necessarily working with friends, but despite this, they got involved and all the groups successfully made their pyramid. It took some groups more time than others, but they all persevered!

I first came across this activity as an ice breaker during some PD at my training school. As far as ice breakers go, I actually enjoyed it and found it fun! So I hoped the students would respond the same way, so far so good!

Now it is my job to work on remembering all their names! I have met 105 new students this week. With another 30 to meet on Friday, my brain is not feeling too receptive to all the new names and faces… But we will get there!

Grateful for the Waitangi day break that has fallen in our first week back. Busy, full day of teaching tomorrow and then a well earned weekend. It is always difficult to get back to the normal teacher pace after the summer holiday, but give it a few weeks and I am sure we will all be back to normal!!

Thanks for reading 🙂

– Kayla

Teacher Wellbeing – How to avoid burnout.

Avoiding burnout is crucial to keep teachers in the classroom teaching.

I am sure we have all been there… Stressed and tired, hyper and fuzzy brained after one (or 4!) too many coffees… Just trying to make it through the day. Teaching is hard, it is AMAZING but hard. I’ve worked all sorts of crazy jobs (try 6 days at sea on a tiny fishing boat or 12 hour night shifts in a potato factory), but I have never been as tired as I am after a days teaching. Often I find myself falling asleep on the sofa by about 6.30pm.

I think we are all of the same opinion about the challenges that teachers face. But some will resent it more than others and leave the profession. I know I almost did.

There came a point where it was getting to be just too much. I was miserable, my partner was fed up with how gloomy I was all the time. It was taking over my life. Anyone I spoke to, at any point of the day, would get an earful from me about teaching. It consumed my conversations and even my dreams.

Once I had got to the point where I was Googling ‘alternative jobs for teachers’ I knew I needed to make a decision. Was I going to quit this profession and become another victim of the shocking statistics around teacher retention? Or was I going to do something to make my situation better, in the teaching profession.

As it happened, moving countries to teach abroad* was just the move I needed (not drastic at all 😂). Seeing a new school, with new ways of teaching reignited my passion for teaching and I learned to work with the job, instead of battling against it. I stopped taking my laptop home, and I learned how to switch off at the end of the day. *Disclaimer, I am not suggesting that you need to move countries too… That was already in my plans!!*

Part of this was due to realising that, no matter how hard you work, you can never be the perfect teacher, all day every day. So, I used technology and planning to my advantage, I have outlined some of my techniques below:

  1. Set up Google Classroom for each class. It takes a bit of forward planning to start with, but saved me so much planning time later on down the line, plus you can add to it as often as you like.
    • For my senior classes with exams I set them up with websites/YouTube videos/PPT’s to help them with revision, along with revision tasks and past exam questions to practice.
    • For my junior classes, I would set them research tasks and give them some useful web-links to get them started on the right track. I would also put up all my PPT’s from class for any students who had missed a lesson, or if a student wanted to go back and look at any content they may have forgotten.
  2. Started a massive independent science investigation with my year 9 class. This took us a whole term, and every child was doing a completely different science investigation of their own choice… Here is a link to a booklet I designed to guide students through this process. It might sound like mayhem, but it was great for a number of reasons:
    • It decreased my planning, I was facilitating the learning, not planning it, that was down to the students! (this means I wasn’t planning for 3 lessons a week for a 10 week term, winner!)
    • The students took complete ownership over what they got to learn – increasing accountability and engagement.
    • They spent most of the lessons over that whole term practicing a variety of science skills (trialling methods, collecting and analysing data, researching, conclusion and evaluation writing – there were so many great opportunities!), which is the whole point of junior science right?!
  3. Quizlet Live/Kahoot/Education Perfect: There are so many amazing education platforms out there now, each that are useful in their own way.
    • Quizlet Live: I have only just started using this, and OMG! Where has this been all my life! (Well, teaching career…). It is fantastic and the students LOVE it! I particularly like that it organises teams randomly and the students don’t seem to mind if a computer chooses their team mates (?!?), so it has been fab for mixing up students in the class and getting them working together to win, believe me, it gets super competitive!! Regular Quizlet is also good for revision for junior and senior classes and there are loads of pre made sets on there, so you don’t need to do a thing. The best!
    • Kahoot: I mean, Kahoot is the best for a bit of down time in the class, a quick spot of AFL or as an exit ticket. The kids love it, the music is fantastic… What more is there to say? Oh, I find the inappropriate nickname thing so annoying, but I avoid this by telling them I want their name to be an element from the periodic table, works a treat! If you go through the pre-made ones and save them to your favourites so they are there ready, you can save yourself some planning time. I use them last lesson of the day a lot, you know when the students think it is ok to try and pack up and evaporate into the ether 10 minutes before the bell…
    • Education Perfect: This is a NZ specific education platform, but I am sure there are equivalents for other countries (e.g. Educake in the UK). This comes with a bank of resources already prepared, inline with the curriculum, and you can add to it as well I believe. The great thing with this is it lets you see the students progress live if you decide to use it in lesson time. I mostly use it for homework/cover lessons when I am not in/or in a lesson if the kids (and I) need a break from the heavy learning. Sometimes they are happy to sit and answer questions quietly on the computer and I can see exactly who is on task on my computer, it is a good way to break up a busy week and requires zero planning on my part! Oh, I also like that you can set up class/year group/multi year group competitions on it, fun!

So after finding more and more ways of reducing my own planning time, it has actually allowed me more time to enjoy my job and be less resentful. I have more time to look into pedagogy I am interested in, it has given me time to write this blog!

Now I am in a position where I love teaching more than ever, in fact, probably more than I thought I would. I really feel like I have found my vocation. I love education and want to do my best to bring something to this extraordinary world that I get to be a part of every day, it is a gift.

But it has taken me time to realise that being the perfect teacher is not sustainable. Find a way to make it work for you. Be selfish. Move schools until you find a good fit (Move countries if need be!). Have a lazy lesson every now and then. Take a mental health day if required (the school will carry on running without you…). Go away for the weekend without feeling guilty about not doing any marking/planning. Get back into nature or do some exercise. Go for drinks and a nice meal. Remember that your health is always more important than your job.

Find the balance, it will be better for you and your students in the long run!

Oh, but I still fall asleep by 6.30pm most evenings… When I find a cure for that I will let you know.

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Do you have any suggestions for avoiding teacher burn out? Please leave me a comment below! I would love to hear from you!

– Kayla

What I know now – Memories of a first year teacher.

I recently hopped back on to Twitter and have been delving into the #edutwitter, #edchat areas looking for like minded folk to follow and get their perspectives on the world of education (partly for ideas/inspiration, mostly because I am nosy).

One thing I have noticed is the number of beginning teachers on there getting fantastic advice from educators with a variety of experience, from fellow first years, NQT’s, HOF’s and even Principals. I never thought to go to Twitter to seek advice in my first year, although now I wish I had! Such a gold mine of information!

Reading these first year teachers current conundrums and queries got me feeling reminiscent of my first year. Granted it wasn’t that long ago, I’m currently technically in my 4th year of teaching (including my training year), but already I feel so far away from who I was in that first year. There are a few challenges from my first year, that when I reflect on them now, I see them in a brand new light. Mainly regarding my mentor…

In my training school I had both a subject mentor, and a professional mentor. They both had different roles for helping me out, but my subject mentor should have been the one that I had most contact with. Regular meetings and observations were required for me to collect necessary evidence to gain QTS. However, my subject mentor was already the Second in Charge of Science and Head of Key Stage 3, a pretty busy teacher. I would schedule meetings, only for them to be cancelled. I got an observation about once a fortnight (I was supposed to have 2 a week to pass the course).

As you can imagine, for me as a new teacher, struggling to get any time with my mentor for meetings, barely hitting the required observation numbers each week, I felt like I was falling behind and became resentful. Why were they not helping me and doing their job?! I had meetings with my professional mentor about this, airing my concerns, they agreed that I was not getting enough support from my subject mentor and would look into it (side note: the professional mentor was a paid role, given an office, had dedicated time and resources and very few teaching hours for their role).

Christmas arrived, and for the first 6 weeks of Term 2, I was scheduled to be on placement at a different school (I had a different, crazy experience there – but that is a whole other blog post). So I stopped worrying about my mentor at my home school, and cracked on with the job at hand. When I got back to school after the 6 weeks – I had a new mentor! A teacher, with barely any additional responsibility, but who was experienced enough in the classroom that they were able to spend time with me and help me gather all the required evidence for my evidence folder. I felt so lucky to have my new mentor and was assured that my original mentor had not been told that I had complained about them, but instead given an excuse as to why they were not mentoring me anymore (although, from the frosty feeling in the office in my first week back, I suspected otherwise…).

Fast forward to June, I had passed my QTS, my folder of evidence was barely even looked at by my University (I am definitely not bitter that I spent hours on it, only for it to be ignored….). I got my certificate, I was finally a teacher! Legit!

Looking back on it now, knowing how much work you have on a full teaching load, knowing the pressures of student data collection and analysis, knowing how hard it is to get cover to observe other teachers, I feel so awful for my first mentor. There was no financial incentive to be a mentor, it was more a case of being told at the start of the year ‘you are doing this’. No extra time was given. Some training was provided, but due to a communication breakdown, my first mentor did not attend this (believing it to be the same training already attended in the previous year – alas no, they had completly changed the programme). This meant we spent the first month recording our meetings and evidence completly wrong and I had to go back and change it all…

I guess what I am saying is… Mentors should be taken a bit more seriously. I am not sure how the mentoring system works in other schools, but I believe that if you are expecting a teacher to give up their non-contact time to effectively train a new teacher, there needs to be more incentive to do so, otherwise they resent it and the trainee feels unsupported. More training needs to be provided too, if mentors were provided with additional CPD to make them confident in what they are doing, this would positively impact on the trainee teacher too.

I am glad that I was able to build a positive working relationship with my original mentor in the years that followed, I think we both had a mutual understand that it worked out better for both of us in the long run…

Despite this experience, becoming a mentor myself is something I would really like to do. I am considering joining onto TES’s mentor training to upskill myself incase the opportunity arises. I see mentoring as a way for me to keep my own skills sharp and have the best impact on future teachers. Hopefully, given my own experience, I would be able to provide the support required. We need more teachers, and I am happy to do my bit to help out!

Do you have any experiences as a mentor or trainee teacher that resonate with mine? Are there any other training programmes available for wannabe mentors??

Thanks for reading! 😀

End of Year reflections…

So it is the end of the teaching year here in New Zealand. At my school we officially wrapped up last Friday for Christmas and the summer holidays! I thought it was a good time to reflect on the last teaching year and make some goals for 2020.

This was my first year teaching in NZ, and boy was it a huuuge learning curve! New school, new curriculum, new team, new students, new country! As a 3rd year teacher who had only worked in the same school for the last 3 years, this was scary. But it has also been incredibly valuable and has taught me a lot.

Reflections from 2019:

First of all: You can do this! Somehow I managed to drag my senior students through a totally alien assessment process, and achieve decent results, I’m taking that as a huge win. NCEA level 1-3 is a largely internally assessed system, something I am not used to being trained in the UK (the land where exams rule). It did mean more marking on my part, but it was pretty spread out over the year. It was also nice to know that most students had gained enough internal credits to pass level 1 before sitting their external exams. A bit less pressure for them.

Second: Kids will mock your weird accent. There was an amusing comment made during a period 5 year 10 lesson which always makes me laugh, ‘it’s kinda like being taught by Mary Poppins Miss!’

I will also continually be mocked for calling chips ‘crisps’, referring to ‘bank holidays’ instead of public holidays, and the way I pronounce data and vitamins is always chuckled at… If you can handle the constant banter, it is a great way to form relationships in the classroom, and I have to say, I have met some fantastic kids this year!

Third: The NZ curriculum is super vague, but you can make this work to your advantage, with a bit of creativity. If you like to teach content, then NZ is not for you. Here they are all about teaching skills, if you can get your students communicating, investigating, participating and understanding scientific principles, this is better than how well they can recite facts. This was a struggle for me at first. So used to churning out lessons based on all the content needed for exams. Here you can take a step back, look at what skills the students need, and pretty much cherry pick the content you want to use to teach that skill. (Note: This is true of junior science, senior science is a bit more structured around content, but not as much as the UK).

Goals for 2020:

Now that I understand more about how the curriculum works and the various processes associated with NCEA, I am looking forward to continuing to develop my teaching practice. I must admit, I think my practice has taken a hit due to dealing with so many new ideas and concepts. In particular I would like to focus on the following three areas:

  1. Behaviour management
  2. Improving literacy in Science
  3. Increasing use of peer and self assessment

My behaviour management has definitely dipped this year, I am frustrated that my lack of confidence in a new school allowed my standards to slip. I would say that having a fairly loose whole school policy has not helped. (My previous school had an iron clad behaviour policy!).

I think this is probably a trend that goes beyond my classroom, and the country, but students do not expect to do writing in science… They will happily write an essay in English, but will they write me a decent conclusion and evaluation?! Improving my strategies for teaching literacy in science is one area I would like to develop more. Helping students to feel confident in their report writing and increasing their own expectations of what scientific writing looks like.

Marking… Am I right?? I hate marking, and I understand how valuable it can be, however I can spend hours marking for students to barely even look at it… Enter peer and self assessment. I spent a good week doing some peer assessment with my year 9 science class towards the end of this term (see exemplar below). The response was so much better than when I had marked their work. So, I plan on increasing the time spent doing this in my class. Developing more ways for students to peer and self assess, and really embed it into the classroom culture of my classes.

Exemplar of Peer Assessment Resource from Miss Osmosis.
Example of student Peer Assessment in action for a Climate Change themed essay!

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog! Are you a teacher? How has your year been? Or how is it going so far? Leave a comment below 🙂

Kayla