Tales of a Trainee Teacher: A Day of Challenges
Challenging the Children
Today was a day for challenging expectations. The children entered the classroom as usual and sat on the carpet. The teacher took the register and then it was time for their morning exercise routine. After having a discussion that morning with the teacher about the importance of exercise in schools, the teacher attempted to bring the energy and enthusiasm back into the morning workout by separating the children into two groups. This challenged the children as they were being watched by the other group and it pushed them to put more effort and care into the exercises. This was really useful as it woke them up a bit more than usual and they seemed to enjoy it too which was good.
This was the first week I noticed that my confidence around the children and in the classroom had grown somewhat. I sat with a group of children and helped them to complete their maths worksheets which involved multiplication sums. In previous weeks I had struggled to know how to support the children when they were stuck, but this week I found it easier support them and to break the sums down into easier steps: “What do you have to count in?” – “Twos” – “And how many twos do you need to count?” – “Ten” – “Have you got enough fingers?” – “Yes!” – “So let’s count ten lots of two” – “Two, four, six…” The children were getting it and it felt extremely rewarding!
Not only did I notice a growth in my confidence this week, but the children’s confidence of being around me also seemed to be growing. My arms were being tugged, my name was being called and I was being asked a lot more questions that I didn’t know the answer to – “Can I go to the toilet?” “Can I have some water” “Are we doing our Chronological reports today?” It felt great that the children were beginning to see me as a knowledgeable and authoritative TA rather than a random stranger in the classroom, but I felt rubbish that I had no idea how to answer their questions! Either way, there’s no pulling the wool over the childrens’ eyes and I soon learnt that the key is to answer quickly and confidently so as not to let them clock on!
Challenging the TA
What happened after break time was a bit of an eye opener. As the children gradually came back indoors from play time the teaching assistant (TA) offered them a cup of water each and I stood at the classroom door chatting to them as usual. Five minutes or so had passed and the teacher still hadn’t arrived. The TA asked the children to calmly enter the classroom and sit quietly on the carpet, a task which was carried out neither quietly or calmly. I could see the TA getting anxious and she tried to hide the teacher’s absence by getting the children’s attention and talking to them about peer evaluation.
It didn’t take the children long to realise that the teacher wasn’t there. The noise level quickly rose and behaviour deteriorated. The more the energy levels in the room increased the more the TA began to snap and panic, which made the situation worse. The TA is a lovely, softly spoken lady who is clearly liked by the children in the class. However, when the situation required her to be authoritative and stern, and to successfully control the classroom this approach clearly wasn’t appropriate or effective.
After what seemed like half an hour of complete chaos, the teacher returned to the classroom, raised her voice once and the children went silent. It took a mere 10 seconds for the teacher to take control and reinstate a calm atmosphere, something of which there was not even a glimmer of in her absence. This made me realise how important behaviour management is in the classroom and just how difficult it can be if you haven’t established your authority and ‘made your mark’ in the classroom from the outset. The children knew that they could misbehave around the TA and did so when the opportunity arose.
A Lesson Learned
This week I learned that not only is it important to respond confidently and quickly to children and not to hedge with answers (as mentioned previously), it is also crucial for teachers to behave consistently with the children and to follow through with both positive and negative reinforcement. A teacher showing signs of stress and uncertainty is a teacher showing signs of weakness, which in turn signalled to the children that they could misbehave and easily push the boundaries.
After seeing the contrast between both the personality and teaching styles of the teacher and the TA, it got me thinking – do you need a certain personality to be a successful teacher or can anyone learn to do it?
I think this shows just how different teacher’s approaches are, and the importance of observing a variety of styles. Following this placement I intend to complete more work experience in a different school for exposure to different teacher styles and behaviour management approaches in the classroom.