Teacher Training Diaries: First Placement.

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Four weeks I ago, I started my first teaching placement. I had been in my home school for seven weeks, I knew the staff, the children and the way the school day worked – I felt prepared. Little did I know that the following month was going to be the hardest, busiest and most tiring month of my life.

The pre-placement stage of my training was a lot of observing, taking notes and settling in to the classroom environment. During this time I still felt like a teaching assistant, I was in my comfort zone and naive about the thought of starting my first placement. On my first day of my placement, I was still very much in the teaching assistant role. On the second day of my placement, it was my turn to teach.

My knees were shaking, my heart was in my throat. I started to panic about the thirty little faces staring up at me from the carpet. I remember thinking why are you scared of a group of five and six year olds? It wasn’t them that I was scared of. It was the realisation that I had a responsibility. To teach these children. To get everything right. Well, I guess I worked myself up, put too much pressure on myself and the result was – my first lesson was a disaster!

My class teacher and mentor informally observed me and she was quite positive considering how bad it really was. We both agreed on the ways forward and I forgot all about it. The next few lessons I taught after that were better, the nerves started to melt away and I actually started to enjoy teaching. My mentor and my course leader came to observe me in my second week and their feedback gave me plenty to work on including deeper questioning when teaching the input to the children, work on pace and transitions within the lesson and most importantly have more faith in myself and have a can-do attitude.

Fast forward four weeks and I am a different teacher entirely to the quivering wreck that I was during those first few lessons. I am more confident, I laugh things off if they go wrong in a lesson now and think on my feet to change them (rather than panic and get myself into a state), and although I have a long way to go, my mentor must believe in my potential or she wouldn’t have let me teach three lessons every morning during my last week on placement and even teach every lesson (Maths, Phonics, English and Science) on one of those days.

I have many ups and downs on this first placement. I have had days which have ended with me in tears wondering if I can actually do this and I have had days which have ended with me humming Christmas play songs at home and smiling about how good my day has been and how much I love to teach. There have been a lot of obstacles that I have overcome to get to the place I am in right now. A few weeks ago I couldn’t plan a lesson, I couldn’t manage the behaviour of thirty children or know how to track pupil progress but now I do and there is still plenty more to learn in these areas and others too.

During the past month, I have seen how strong, confident and capable I can be when I set my mind to it. I have worked through exhaustion and illness to show not only my mentor what I can do but prove to myself that I can actually do this – I can become a qualified teacher. People were not kidding when they said this would be an intense course and the career I am going into is challenging and exhausting but it is also the best decision I have ever made and I know all of my hard work this year will pay off.

I am getting ahead of myself because I’m not even halfway through my course yet and there are plenty more training sessions to have (they resume this week now my official placement is over). But I know how quick this year is going to go and soon I will be a qualified teacher and terrified of having the responsibility of my own class. Although this is a scary thought, I feel a little more hopeful now that with more time, training and guidance, I will get there.

 

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Teacher Training Diaries: First Week.

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I survived my first week of teacher training!

I’m studying a Primary PGCE through School Direct which means I am currently in school three days a week and training for the other two. It has been a long and tiring week but I have loved every second of it.

The week began with a visit to the university that is providing my PGCE, I went there with the rest of the school direct cohort and we have really bonded as a group. It’s nice to be on this journey together and to talk about any worries we might have about the upcoming year. There were many inductions on that day including: how to use their referencing system, how the course is structured and a short seminar on systematic synthetic phonics.

I was really nervous on Tuesday morning, knowing it would be the first day in a school as a trainee teacher. St George’s is my beginning and extending placement, which means I will be there for the majority of the school year. There is a short amount of time after Christmas where I will be at another school in KS2. In this placement, I have been put in Year 1/Year 2, a lovely mixed class full of happy five and six year olds.

I was a little apprehensive on my first day, but after the second day I was settled and felt really welcome, not just in my classroom but the whole school. My mentor (who is also the class teacher) is really supportive and I’m sure we will have a good working relationship this year to get me qualified to a high standard.

On Thursday and Friday, I did training session on unions, teaching and the law, safeguarding and behaviour and learning. There was a lot of information to take in during a short space of time but I know that the knowledge I have gained will be beneficial to my teaching practice.

Some of my highlights of the week were: playing with the children on the playground and pretending to be dragons, learning about the teaching standards, singing phonics songs and helping the children with their cursive writing. I’m eager to be back in school next week and excited to see what I will learn on my training days too.

My First Week As A Teaching Assistant.

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I survived my first week as a Teaching Assistant.

This week I’ve been overwhelmed and exhausted, I’ve felt nervous, anxious and even a little bit awkward at times. However, I wouldn’t change a thing about it. The first week was a chance to find my feet, learn, observe and discover if being a Teaching Assistant really was a perfect fit for me. I’m happy to say that it is. I love children, I love education and I love to help others and make a difference. Perfect job 🙂

Going into a brand new school, meeting new people and building relationships with the children in my class is all a little bit scary. The school I am working at is huge. There are lots of rules to learn and procedures to follow. I know that I’m never going to have the same day twice and that’s one of the many things I love about it.

The staff at my school have been so welcoming, every single person you pass on the corridor asks how you are and if you are settling in. The team feeling in the school is comforting and makes the transition from being unemployed to full-time Teaching Assistant a lot easier for me.

The only thing that wears me down a little is the travel. Due to the distance between my house and the school, I have to get up at 5.30am every day and travel for an hour and a half on two buses. This can and will be frustrating some days but it will be worth it. I may have only just started my career as a Teaching Assistant but I’m already thinking ahead about whether or not I want to train to be a teacher.

I think the only thing that is making me hesitate is my lack of confidence in myself. I know deep down I can do it and I would be an amazing primary school teacher but my insecurities and anxieties hold me back. Only time will tell if I have what it takes to be a teacher but right now, I’m enjoying being a Teaching Assistant. I will learn something different from every teacher I work with and all of my experiences will shape my future career and my future self.

 

Camp NaNoWriMo 2015

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So, I have decided to do Camp NaNoWriMo. After the success of winning NaNoWriMo in November last year, completing 50,000 words in thirty days for my first full length novel 1:58, I decided that it was time to do it again. Camp NaNoWriMo is the same as NaNoWriMo but there is more freedom, I can choose my own word count goal. However, I’m still sticking to 50,000 words. I can do it. I know I can.

I feel like I have lost a lot of motivation in the writing side of my life and the less I write, the more confidence I lose and I knew that it was time to transfer the novel that I have been planning for months in my head, down on paper. I have started to outline and plan a novel called The Last Letter. I have it planned up to chapter twelve and I am going to spend the last few days of June planning the rest to start the Camp NaNoWriMo on July the 1st.

I have planned many novels and many of them have never been written but this one, it just feels different. I can’t really explain why but this is the story that I really want to tell. Completing the challenge last year boosted my confidence enormously because I had never completed a longer piece of writing from start to finish. I had written poetry and short stories but never succeeded in writing an entire novel. Now I can say I have. And I am going to do it again.

I have so much time on my hands right now and I feel like I am wasting it. Day in and day out, I do nothing productive and it is only getting worse. I don’t want to be the writer that doesn’t write. I don’t want to be the woman who says she wants to be an author but never even tries to make the dream a reality. I want to write this novel.

The Last Letter is my chance to prove that I can write novels. It is easy for some writers to just write a 100,000 word novel from start to finish, start revising it, complete it and then send it to publishing houses. But what about the rest of us? The struggling writers that don’t always have the discipline to complete what we start? The writers that listen to the voice in their heads that says they are not good enough and believe it. The writers that know they can do it but have to convince themselves that they won’t fail.

I can manage 1,600 words a day. I have done it before. There are a few days in the month of July that I will be busy but I will have to work around my plans and make sure I get my daily word count. I know I can do this. I have done this before.

July has one extra day than November. I have thirty one days and 50,000 words to write and this time I am going to revise the novel and redraft it and get it ready to be published. No more messing around with ideas and wondering if I am good enough to be published. I need to start believing in myself. I can be an author, no, I will be an author and doing NaNoWriMo is just a stepping stone on my journey to achieving this dream.

My NaNoWriMo Journey

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I WON NaNoWriMo!

In September, I decided that 2014 would be the perfect year to take part in a writing challenge. I had plenty of free time and I was starting to wonder when my first novel would actually get written. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, hundreds and thousands of writers from across the globe take on the challenge of writing 50,000 words in just thirty days. It’s insane! I thought it was impossible but it really isn’t.

It’s been quite a journey and there were many days in November that I felt like giving up but when I crossed the finish line and I received my online winners certificate, it was all worthwhile. I now have a solid first draft to work on. I feel happy knowing that I have completed a novel, from start to finish. It isn’t perfect, there are lots of mistakes and it needs a lot of work but I’m proud of myself for actually finishing something I started.

There is no secret to being a great writer, you have to write. One word after another, you have to put all of your insecurities and doubts away and lock them away to an unreachable place in your mind. That’s what I did for the month of November. I knew that no one would read my first draft and it didn’t matter how rubbish it was, I just needed to write a full story. Now I’m already thinking of edits, revisions and plot changes for my second draft.

I’m really proud of myself, I have always wanted to be a novelist and now I know that I can be. Technically 50,000 words is a novella but still, it’s the longest thing I have ever written, my first novel attempt was about 20,000 words so this is a big achievement for me. I know I can write poetry and short stories but I wanted to prove to myself that I can write novels.

I will definitely take part in NaNoWriMo again but for now I am going to start revising my first draft… I’m so excited!!! 🙂

Foreign Words

Thank you in different languages

My eyes are derelict.
Infant and fresh.

Absorbing foreign words, foreign faces.

My mother tongue,
tangled,
twisted,
amongst vowels
of confusion.

Their faces shine with
welcoming eyes.
A barrier present,
cold and strange.

Muttering, handshakes,
kisses – swapped and selected.
Twist of culture, language and value.
Holland.

60 minutes by plane.
60 differences from home.

Far away
from little
home comforts.

Of familiarity, warmth and English idioms.

My mind is washed
with the dizziness
of change.

Landing home, a relief.

(First Draft Of Foreign Words For My Poetry Portfolio)

Street Corners

canal at nighrt

Caution lurks
behind every street corner.

In the early morn.
Dusty blue and sapphire ignite,
forming patterns
in the sky.

Panting heart quickens.

Racing even, mimicking dangers that
– Do. Not. Exist.

Heightened fear in the darkness.
Over the bridge,
water resembles – thick, black liquid.

Slithering away.
Opaque
Ambiguous.

Reflecting the light of the moon
soon-to-be sun.

There Are No Shortcuts To Any Place Worth Going

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I sit here now and I really cannot believe that I am in my final year of university. I know the journey is far from over but I feel like I can reflect back on my time at Edge Hill from this point and smile at how much things have changed. I have learnt many life lessons, met some great friends and I have finally found my voice as a writer. The next priority on my list is to get the best possible grade that I can achieve. I would love to get a first but a 2.1 is what I am aiming for. I also believe that it is never too early to start planning the future, I have started to search for graduate jobs. We had a career talk in class on Friday and the realisation was that over three quarters of students who graduate fail to get on the career ladder of their chosen field. I want to be in the minority that manage to get their dream job. I know I am optimistic but you never get anywhere in life if you fail to try. I have become very interested in magazine journalism and I would really love to pursue this after university. The one problem I have come across is that a large percentage of magazine companies are in London and I live in the North West, so I want to work in either Manchester or Liverpool.

I am going to try my best to get as much experience as possible, if this means doing another unpaid position when I leave university then so be it. The recipe to success is a mixture of talent, determination and hard work. You have to push yourself to achieve your goals. Recently I have acquired a new attitude. That you have to push past every person on the way to the top, they are your competition. This is a competitive field, better yet it is a competitive world and sometimes you have to do whatever it takes to get to where you want to be. When the man who was leading the careers talk asked how many people in the room had contacts in the business or work experience that was writing related, three people put their hands up (including me) Three people! Out of a class of thirty students. He was surprised by this. He told me and the other two people that we were ahead of the others and were more likely to get a graduate job because of our related experience. I think he used the phrase – you already have one foot in the door and that’s all it takes.

I like to think of my career as a ladder and I have already placed my foot on the bottom step by working at Female First this summer. I have a long way to go and I have this ideal dream in my head that I believe is possible. I am not deluded. I know that it may not happen but I will use every bit of strength I have to make it happen. If there is anything I can take away from university, besides my degree and writing experience. I can walk away and say that I am a strong, confident women who is ready to grab hold of her dream with both hands. I want to inspire. I want to write. That’s all I have ever really wanted to do deep down. Even at a young age. I wanted to create stories. Start with the idea of a character and a place and create something wonderful.  I am one voice in a sea of people, just hoping for my voice to be heard. 

I cannot predict the future. But I would like to see myself working for a magazine, I would be happy with this career path. There are two types of people in this world, those who sit back and wait for things to happen and those who make things happen. I want to be the second type of person. I want to make things happen for myself. I want to achieve my dream. It is possible. If I keep believing this and if I stay positive no matter how much rejection I face then I will be okay. There are no short cuts to any place worth going.

There is no easy way to reach your dreams. I believe that it is never too early to think about the future. I will blink and my life will be ten years from now. Life is incredibly short and we don’t have time to sit around and wait for good things to happen. I want to make the most of the next twenty years or so because these are the prime years of a person’s life. These are the years that will be the foundation of my career. I will learn all of the valid life lessons I will ever need in this time and I will grow as a person and as a writer. I still live in the present because I believe that it is the best place to be but I still need to think about the future. It is quickly approaching. In eight months time I will no longer be a university student. I will be looking for work just like the hundreds of thousands of other students across the country. I need to stand out. Why should they hire me over another Creative Writing student? What do I have that makes me different? That is what I need to think about. A year ago I didn’t have this mentality, but now I do. Now I am ready. Ready for the long and agonising path that is, my future.

Treacherous

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A beacon of light saved me.  July 15th was the day that everything changed. It was an ordinary morning, the sun was shining but sadness clouded my mind, I was on the edge of destruction, praying for salvation. Darkness had snatched away the hope that I would one day be completely happy. I had no positive thoughts left to keep me going, I was living a pitiless life on the streets and I didn’t want to carry on. It never crossed my mind that a single moment could change the direction of your life. I thought that my miserable life was all that the fates would allow for me. But now I realise that life is a treacherous journey, you never know what will happen day by day. Life is a stream of  moments. A collection of photographs. Before I met James, my photographs were black and white. My life had no purpose. But now my life is colourful. I have to keep the shadows of my past locked away to enjoy the lease of life I have been gifted. If James ever discovered the ghosts of my childhood or the insidious struggles of my young adult life, he would leave me. Just like everybody else does.

   ———————

  One night I slept in the ginnels behind The Slug & The Toad pub on Western Avenue. I was lucky to find somewhere cosy for the night but I knew I couldn’t stay there for too long, I needed to keep moving. It was roughly day seven on the streets. I was past the point of desperation now, I managed to get by like most homeless people do but I was hoping that luck would reach me soon. I was twenty two years old and I had never had a place that I could call home. The second the hand on the clock reached twelve on my eighteenth birthday I left the children’s home. They wouldn’t come after me; I was able to do what I wanted to do. I stayed in a few hostels but I never spent long in each one. I was at my fifth hostel when things spiralled out of control. I had been in the hostel for a week or two and one night there was a new girl who was about the same age as me, or she may have been a tiny bit older. She sat in the corner, withdrawn and lifeless. She had extremely shallow cheekbones and her ratty blonde hair was tied in a messy ponytail, I noticed that the skin around her right eye was bruising silver. Her eyes were pale green, she hardly blinked in the few moments that I watched her. I never usually introduced myself to the other girls in the hostel but pity took over my natural instinct that night, I walked over to introduce myself.

I tapped her on the shoulder.

‘Hi, I’m Erin. What’s your name?’ I waited for a response.

‘I know it seems scary in this place but it isn’t that bad once you get used to it, are you okay?’

Her eyes darted in my direction. She stepped towards me and before I had time to even process her actions, she had punched me in the face. Sharp blows continuously imprinted my cheek and she didn’t stop until someone had to pull her off me. Stunned, I walked away in silence and all of the other people in the room quickly ignored the existence of the fight. I assumed that it was something that happened  frequently in hostels , but I wasn’t prepared to stick around and find out. The next morning I left. I decided that I had to go it alone, no more hostels. Ever since I have been living on the streets. I still don’t understand why that girl lashed out at me, something terrible must have happened to her before entering the hostel, not that it gives her any dignified excuse to attack me. I tried to forget about her but her troubled eyes have been carved into my memory ever since.

To be continued.

My First Year At University

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A year ago I was deciding which university to go to and which course I wanted to study. It was a difficult time for me because I had to make a life choice that was going to effect the rest of my life. Leaving performing behind I decided to take a leap of faith and enrol on the Creative Writing course. I realised a sense of belonging from the moment I started my degree, I thought that being a performer was my life goal and I was too blind to see all along that I was meant to be a writer. I should have known this really, writing poems from the age of five and entering and winning many competitions could have been a big clue but I was sure of becoming an actress. After a lot of stress, tears and realisation I decided to try and achieve a different dream. My heart wasn’t in acting any more and I knew I had to try something different. Getting on the Creative Writing course was a task like no other. Originally combining Drama and Creative Writing I still wanted to hang on to performing. I passed the audition but was advised not to do both together by the university. A devastating blow I have to say. I had two different choices and I had to choose the one that would be the best for me.

I went with my heart in the end and chose to do Creative Writing course by itself. I’m not good at making decisions in life and I often wonder if it was the right choice. When arriving at university I knew it was. The first year of my degree is over and I have learnt so much about myself in the process. I always knew I had the ability to write but I didn’t realise the potential I held to be  a professional writer. I have fully enjoyed learning about writing this year and I hope that my talent in writing grows even more to the standard it has to be, to be published. As for the moving away from home and living by myself part of moving to university. This is the part that scared me the most. I was dependant on my parents and I knew nothing about coping by myself.

I could have quite easily took a gap year before actually applying but I knew I had to challenge myself and dive into the pool of independence. Of course I was scared, terrified even. Sounds stupid now I know how easy it is but when you are eighteen and have no idea about washing, ironing, food shopping or managing money it’s quite the challenge. I knew I had to grow up quickly and I think this was in my favour, it was the right time too. I did get homesick and lonely at times but I started to love living by myself. It’s a novelty when you first arrive at university accommodation. Friends to hang out with all the time, going to the pub and having a few drinks and getting to know other people you are going to live with for the next year. However, by the time I reached the half way mark in the year I started to resent living here and I started to miss my family and friends back home. I don’t live far from the university and saw my family every two weeks and my boyfriend every weekend but still I was lacking something.

The novelty of living by myself started to wear off when the work load piled on top of me and I didn’t have the money to go out as often. I became a sensible student, budgeting and doing my work instead of having fun. I’m not necessarily saying it’s a bad thing. Most students I know have debts up to their eyeballs and are still smiling. If that was me my stress levels would be through the roof. I guess I like to take control of my life now I am independent. I like to go food shopping and buy what I want to buy, I only buy what I need and save up for a few weeks if there is a nice outfit or a pair of shoes I like. I don’t think students realise the sacrifices they need to make. This started to rub off on my friends and their opinion of me certainly turned to being annoyed. That’s what I think anyway. I started telling them what to do with their money and not to go out when they had work, I felt like their mother.

I’ve realised now it’s time to go home for the summer that I need to relax about money. I can still budget and not be too hard on myself. I have learned many life lessons in a short space of time and I feel wiser, mature and ready to take on anything that life throws at me. I’ve learnt that being on your own can be scary at first but it gets better. I’ve learnt that trying something new is a fun way of testing yourself and you could be surprised with the outcome. I’ve learnt not to trust people so easily. Friends may appear to be friends but you never really know what another person is thinking. Someone who I met at university, I called her my friend. Told her things about me in comfortable situations and most importantly, I trusted her. Never again will I trust so easily because lies can be well hidden. She’s not the person I thought she was but I’m ready to move on and forget about our friendship.

I know who my true friends are now. I’ve opened my eyes since being here. I’ve learnt that I can do anything I set my mind too if I just try. I never thought I would be here at this point in my life. I’m happy and I’m ready for all the possibilities that await me. My first year at university has shaped me into a different person than I once was. I’m the most confident I have ever been and even though I still have my bad days. I’ve finally started to believe in myself. And for me, that’s a miracle.