Teacher Training Diaries: Learning & Practice.

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Well I made it! I survived my first seven weeks as a trainee teacher. It was a long slog of training, learning and observing. I have had training sessions on Mathematics, Science, English and different types of assessment. I have started my first university module ‘Raising the Achievement of Children’ and had half the autumn term to get to know the children in my home school.

Now, the real work begins! It’s half term now but when I go back I will begin teaching a full class of 5 and 6 year old’s. Starting with six lessons a week, working up to fifteen by the fourth week, yikes! I feel like this part of my teacher training journey is ‘learning and practice.’ Taking everything I have learnt so far and putting it into practice.

I know you have to teach to become a teacher but the thought of teaching a full class, on my own, makes my palms sweat! I know that once I start doing it, teaching will become second nature to me but it’s the anticipation, the worry about what may go wrong that keeps me up at night. I’m not the only one that feels this way. There are twelve other people in my school direct cohort and they all have the same anxieties.

The teacher training course is going to step up a gear as I will have to juggle writing lesson plans, teaching lessons, keeping my files up to date, writing university assignments and pre-reading and tasks for training days. I’m trying to keep a work/life balance the best I can because if I am going to make it through this training year, I need to learn to take a break and have some time for myself.

When I go back after this break, I will be in my home school for four whole weeks and then I will be returning to the old routine of three days in school and two in university and training. Hopefully in my next post I will be more confident in my ability to teach and will have many stories to tell about the lessons I have taught. I will be reflecting on what went well and what I still need to work on, as that’s what being on this journey is all about, the ups and downs of what it takes to become a fully qualified primary school teacher.

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Teacher Training Diaries: Summer Preparation.

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I have decided to start a series of blog posts about my experience on my teacher training course, which begins in September. It will be submitted as evidence of my progress, a reflection of my pedagogy as a trainee teacher and a perspective of my journey from PGCE to NQT.

It is four weeks until my course begins. My summer preparations include: taking as much time as possible to relax before the craziness starts, reading up on the national curriculum and familiarising myself particularly with KS1 (as this is my main school placement), learning about phonics and all the jargon that goes alongside it and doing a short course online provided by the university to remind myself of the academic writing standards and referencing systems.

I am training to become a primary school teacher through the school direct route. What this means is that I learn all of the practical aspects of being a teacher in a chosen school and two days a week, I complete the academic side of the course, the PGCE, with a university.

I decided to do this route because I wanted the hands-on approach to learning. It’s been three years since I graduated university and I didn’t want to begin my training by returning to a lecture hall. I wanted to observe, be in the classroom environment and see every side to teaching, the good and the bad. I have one years experience as a Teaching Assistant, but I doubt it will prepare me fully for how difficult it is to be a teacher.

I feel a mixture of nervousness and excitement as September approaches. My biggest worries are my overall confidence in the classroom, managing behaviour and juggling the academic side with the practical aspect of the course. Luckily, I am one of those organised-obsessed-colour-coding-highlighting-everything kind of people, so I will have no problem with staying organised. I am good at managing my time and creating to-do lists is second nature to me. I also think the reflection part of the course will be naturally easier for me, as the basis of my Creative Writing degree was learning to reflect on yourself and your writing. The only difference is, I will be reflecting not on my writing, but my teaching practice.

The next blog post will probably be after my first week on the teacher training course. I can only guess that I will probably be exhausted, I will be running on caffeine and adrenaline and I’m sure I will be feeling overwhelmed but excited about the year ahead. Wish me luck, I’m going to need it!

Twenty-Four

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So tomorrow is my twenty-fourth birthday. If I could use one word to reflect on the year that has passed between my twenty-third birthday and now, it would be strength. I have found a strength that helps me to get back up when I fall. I have found an inner strength to do what I know I am meant to do, teach. The road to being a teacher is going to be a hard one but I know that my passion, dedication and strength will get me there.

I have also realised the importance of gratitude and appreciation of the little things that make me happy. It isn’t easy for me to be positive but I always try to think of at least three things I am grateful for each day. No matter how bad my day may be or how I feel about the direction of my life, I always try to step back and evaluate the blessings in my life rather than the imperfections.

Some days I do feel stuck, like the world is passing me by, the clock is ticking and I am no closer to getting the life I want, but I am learning now to stop, notice my negative thoughts, then change them. This is something I learned in therapy and I am starting to slowly apply it to my life.

I have to keep telling myself that my life path has its own timeline and what may take someone one year to do, may take me five, but it doesn’t matter. I strongly believe that in life ambition will lead you to success, perseverance will lead to positive actions and positivity will lead you to happiness. I remind myself on a daily basis of my goals and I always see each day as another small step towards achieving them.

My challenge for myself during the next year of my life (before I reach the grand old age of 25) is to start living in the present moment. This is something that I struggle with and is the root cause of my anxiety. With a combination of studying Buddhism, meditating and practicing yoga, I am slowly but surely on the way to learning how to be mindful and just ‘be’.

Another challenge in my path this following year will be balance. I know that when I start my teacher training in September (if I pass this maths test), I will struggle with the work-life balance. Finding time to relax and enjoy life, with the chaotic, stressful and challenging year of studying, working and learning.

Whatever happens in the 365 days between now and my twenty-fifth birthday, I hope that I find joy in the little things, I hope I learn to believe in myself more, to laugh, love and live each day with a positive attitude because life is passing me by and I don’t want to waste any more time worrying about things I can’t control or choosing to live an unhappy life or surrounding myself with people that don’t allow me to be the best version of myself.

Reaching A Mental Health Milestone

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During the past few years, I have struggled with my mental health. I have General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which means I constantly worry about everything and experience high amounts of anxiety for no reason at all. It took me a long time to accept that my anxiety was part of me, something that I couldn’t erase, something that couldn’t be ‘cured’ with a prescription of pills from the doctor.

A few months ago, when I reached a dark place with my anxiety and depression, I finally admitted to myself that I needed help. I would go days without leaving the house, I would sometimes sit and stare into space, pondering on the bad things that have happened in my life or bad things that ‘could’ happen in the future. I felt like I was trapped by my own mind, it’s a horrible feeling and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

Having an anxiety disorder is unpredictable. You may go through periods of time without any anxiety at all and then all of a sudden, it’s back and suffocating your thoughts like a dark cloud. I thought I was strong enough to battle my mental health issue on my own and convinced myself that I was ‘in control’ and my anxiety would get better over time, but it didn’t.

I had tried all of the ‘self-help’ options and nothing worked. I was crippled by anxiety, always worrying about the future or feeling sad about the past. I reached a dark place, where I thought medication was the only option for me to proceed. Then, a shining light appeared and everything changed for me. I found the strength to ask for professional help. It was a waiting game but I finally got on the list for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

I have to be honest, I was sceptical at first. I had convinced myself that my natural way of thinking, the negative way I approach life and every situation couldn’t be reversed. After a few weeks of therapy sessions, I started to notice a change. I had unconsciously started to think more about my ‘unhelpful thinking style’ and started to rationalise with the voice in my head when negativity surfaced. The great thing about CBT is that it strips back to the bare bones of how you think, how this effects your behaviour and how you can change this in the future.

David, my therapist was amazing. He was honest, critical and helpful in our sessions. Always sending me home with ‘homework’ to do, such as thought diaries and weekly schedules, he discovered what my triggers were and how to remove them from my life. For me it was during my alone time that I experienced more anxiety and more depressive thoughts. The answer for me was to always keep myself busy and distract myself by colouring, reading, doing yoga or simply doing some meditation.

Ever since I started CBT, I managed to pull myself out of the depressive state that I found myself in for months, started to fight against my negative thoughts and made small changes in my life that were going to improve my overall wellbeing. I am going to do yoga as often as I can, learn how to meditate, practice mindfulness and make sure I find time to relax each day. I’m going to still have bad days and now I realise that it’s okay to feel sad sometimes and it’s normal to worry, as long as it doesn’t take over your life.

I feel like I am reaching a mental health milestone. I have learnt in the past few months that anxiety cannot be ‘cured’ it can only be ‘managed.’ I have discovered that if I give attention to my anxiety and say to myself that I am mentally ill or there is something wrong with me, it only fuels my negativity and it will probably erase any progress that I have made.

I feel like I have reached a pinnacle of understanding. I accepted my anxiety was a problem, I asked for help and now I no longer feel alone on this journey to achieve a positive mindset. I have a long way to go but I finally feel like I can see the light at the end of a dark tunnel of worry, insecurity, anxiety and doubt. Like a butterfly, I feel free to go anywhere I want to go and do anything I want to do. I want to believe in hope instead of fear. I want to see the glass as half full instead of half empty. My anxiety will never ‘go away’ but I’m confident that I’m now in control of how I think, how I feel and how I behave.

 

Colour Me Calm: The Adult Colouring Book Craze

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We all remember the joy that colouring books brought to us when we were small, our parents would give us a colouring book and some crayons and we would stay quiet for hours, focusing on staying in the lines, with our tongues sticking out and wrinkles on our forehead.

Unfortunately, as we turn into adults we close the doors on our childhood, we forget everything we used to enjoy and focus on making a living, worrying about money and what we think we should be doing with our lives. We tell ourselves that everything we did when we were children should be left in the past and we should just be adults, responsible adults who have lots of important decisions to make.

I’ve always loved colouring, as a child I would entertain myself for hours, scribbling and drawing and using felt tips to colour in blank silhouettes of cartoon characters and princesses. This is why I stopped. There were no colouring books suitable for adults, until now. It might be the latest craze that will fade into obscurity in a few months time but I think it’s an excellent idea to get adults in touch with their inner child. Instead of getting caught up in the anxieties of modern life, why not sit down, switch off your brain for a little while and colour? Brilliant.

Studies have shown that colouring is a great way to relax and turn off the world. We’re so animated all of the time, whether it is scrolling down our Facebook news feeds to see what our friends are up to, working in a busy office nine hours a day or travelling on trains and buses, we find it difficult to just stop and focus on one thing. Psychologists say that colouring stimulates areas of the brain that are related to motor skills, the senses and creativity and when we enter that creative state of mind, naturally our worries melt away, it’s the perfect relaxation technique.

Some adults will shake their heads in dismay at grown-ups sitting down with a box of crayons and a book of patterns to colour in on a Friday night but if it transports them to a place where they feel calmer, happier, even nostalgic then what’s the harm? I have always found colouring to be therapeutic and since buying my ‘adult’ colouring book, I have found a new hobby that enhances my creativity, makes me feel calmer and keeps me entertained when boredom hits. The first day I opened my new colouring book, I left my laptop screen and coloured for nearly three hours. I think that’s the longest I have been away from a screen for a while.

If you feel like you need an escape from your every day life and want to reconnect with your childhood innocence then pick up an adult colouring book from your local book shop, try it, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Forgive

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Turning the corner alone, you left behind.
A daughter whose words were wise and kind.

Ripping apart all that is known.
Now all that is left is skin and bone.

The heart will heal, but respect is lost.
Change can have an unforgivable cost.

Desires of the future will never be the same.
The flickering light dims on the family flame.

The tie was love, but now just blood.
I would turn back the clock if I could.

On these separate islands that we now live.
We learn to accept and learn to forgive.

No amount of glue will fix the damage done.
One decision made. No one has won.

Living with guilt – worry – fear.
One day this earth won’t have you here.

Imperfect in your selfish way.
I choose in my life for you to stay.

Ending all this pain and strife.
For you were the one to give me life.

Heavy words lift off my chest.
I still have my mother and for that I am blessed.