Monday was PD day, so my interactions with children were in all fairness non-existent, however I was able to use that time to profile the school effectively, looking at its ethos and principles, as well as the responsibilities of staff members. The school I'm working at is a C of E (aided) junior school, therefore the ethos woven throughout everything the school does is predominantly Christian. I'm as yet unsure of how I feel about this. As a fervent atheist I think discussions of morality and citizenship can be framed within a worldly context that transcends the bible and it's associated tropes. Having spoken to others working in schools of no designated faith, it seems that a Christian ethos is present in almost every primary school, with prayers and hymns to celebrate the contribution of Christianity to the lives of children today, taking place on a regular basis. Although I think the majority of young people are sufficiently savvy to make up their own minds, I am still somewhat uneasy about what may or may not be being said in order to preserve the ideologies of a school's guiding religion. Having said that, the children at the school are little angels in their own right, so something must be working!
|The specifics of 6A's classroom layout gave the teacher|
additional control over behaviour and learning.
I'm also beginning to unpick some of nuanced variation between primary and secondary attitudes to teaching and learning. Using the analogy of a retro school lunch, secondary school has to be the stale fish finger, compared to the uneasily elastic turkey twizzler of the primary school. Secondary schools seem laden with policies, and a rigidity that stifles the creative fluidity of many. On the other hand, primary schools have a dynamism that refreshes the notion of education on an almost constant basis, as well as pursuing the highest quality of national curriculum teaching. This brings me to my next focus, the up levelling of expectation for school pupils towards the end of key stage two. Year Six in particular (as discovered during my time in 6DB) are now being pushed to pursue the sort of grammatical knowledge that many GCSE students would struggle to learn. Word classes, active and passive phrasing as well as clause structures all feature in a new-look focus on grammar in writing.The absurdity of this became obvious to me as I reviewed the plan for Friday's lesson. It was an almost identical replica of a lesson I had planned for KS3 before the summer holidays, albeit with more basic terminology. I think that despite the importance of grammar in all writing, it is wrong for the government to place a requirement on primary schools to place such a heavy focus on a particularly difficult area of the curriculum at such a young age, potentially at the expense of some learners' development, as their core literacy skills and competencies are sacrificed to devote time to explaining the difference between and adjectives and adverbs.
Wednesday was relatively unexciting, although I did manage to get numerous cuts, blisters and bruises from knocking out some flat-pack cabinets that the caretaker didn't want to make...
Thursday was very much the wardrobe into Narnia for me, spending the day with 4L went beyond all of my expectations and fears in almost equal measure. The class were a great group of kids, supported by a fantastic partnership between their teacher and a regular learning support assistant; this showed in their ability to deal with a child called Consuelo (perhaps not their real name). Consuelo has a spectrum of behavioural issues that could manifest as tears, anger, and head-banging on the desk amongst numerous other things. Having not been told in advance that Consuelo had these behavioural concerns, my decision to sit next to the pupil in question was ill-advised, fearing severe brain damage as her cranial assault continued. What shone out for me here was the commitment of the staff, the persistence with which both the teacher and the LSA dealt with Consuelo was amazing, and at the same time managing to focus the other 31 children and deliver high-quality lessons in a suitable climate for learning. Whether or not i could maintain the composure of these ladies as long as they did, I'm not quite sure, but it is something i would have to quickly adapt to given the strained level of support personnel available in most secondary schools. A special mention must of course go to the other students, their maturity and eloquence in dealing with the behaviour of Consuelo would hardly ever be seen in a secondary school environment. I found it touching that throughout these disturbing outbursts, the students maintained their focus and behaviour, and kept a positive, welcoming attitude to Consuelo throughout the day.
Friday. The weekend is almost here, and the notion that I can go to bed tonight without setting the alarm for 6am is orgasmically good as chomp through my golden Grahams with skimmed milk. Returning to Y6 I spent most of the day with 6DB. One of the main things I focused on here was reading, and in particular how schools support a class of readers who are all developing at different speeds. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to listen to two readers from 6DB, reflecting opposite ends of the reading ability scale. The magnitude of the gap between the two readers was enormous, and my focus for next week will be to delve deeper into how the school provides differentiated learning opportunities for students in the same class.
As you can see, my perspectives on education are already beginning to shift as I see where the children arriving in Year Seven have come from, and how I have a duty to bridge the gap between the expectations of a secondary school, and the abilities and attitudes of a child of primary school age, whose experience of education thus far has been underpinned by a nurturing ethos of careful development. I still have a week to piece together the collage of my primary experience, before I present my (hopefully eloquent) evaluation to my university, and use my experience as the foundation upon which I craft my teaching ideologies. Lord knows what next week will entail as I enter the prolifically snot-encrusted world of Year Three...