So I got an email the other day from the Registrar about rural/remote prac opportunities for education students, and I got to thinking about my experiences at around this time last year, when I flew to Airlie Beach and taught at a local state high for a month. I had the most incredible experience and fell in love with the area. The students were really great and when I left they gave me cards, notes, chocolates and even a bunch of oriental lilies on my last day. One student, a Year 9 boy, even gave me a packet of chips from his lunchbox! The school itself had a really casual vibe and I found the staff supportive and friendly, even when I sat all lunch hour grilling them about the upcoming changes to the history curriculum and their experiences with mixed-ability groups. Best of all, the Deputy Principal said she would try to get me back for my internship, with a view to permanent employment when I graduate!
I was really fortunate to have free accommodation with a friend and his housemates, and the use of his ute to get to and from school every day. I spent a pretty epic weekend on Hamilton Island as well, and the weather was sublime. Some things were hard, like not having all my books and resources with me, and feeling like I was wearing the same thing to school every day (23kg of luggage on the plane had to include my hairdryer and GHD!). A universal experience (for everyone I spoke to at least) was having it dawn on me that not all students actually want to learn, and that we can’t all teach Year 12 Gifted and Talented students! Coming from uni where I’m surrounded by intelligent people who are passionate about education, and going into an environment where there is such a large mix of abilities and motivations was a massive shock.
I was flicking through old emails the other day and came across a bit of a rant that I sent to some friends, which sums up my first impressions of my rural prac. It is brutally honest, and sounds a bit negative but things got better. I think reconciling theory and practice is a balancing act that all teachers learn to perform, and encouraging underachieving students to care about their work is something I came to really enjoy. Lesson planning is something else that seems to get easier with time!
Hopefully reading through a brief account of my first week on a rural placement will in some ways prepare you for what lies ahead, and inspire you to consider leaving your comfort zone as well!
I hope your prac is going well so far… mine is going ok. I am loving Airlie Beach!! The boys I’m staying with have been cooking for me every night and letting me use their laptops and I’ve been at the pub almost every afternoon. The weather is brilliant, 27-28 degree days and my drive to school is a straight line for 20mins through cane fields with about 2 sets of lights and a roundabout. I am living rent free and I don’t have to pay for petrol either, I’m a 5 min walk to the pub and when I’m not at school I can swim in the lagoon, hang out at the local ($3 drinks at happy hour which goes for 4 hours!!) take Vegas for a run (she is the most beautiful dog ever) or just hang out at home (which is a 24 hour party complete with karaoke and a bottomless esky, amazing water views, and the architecture very closely resembles a 70s porn shack ahahaha).
My supervising teacher is really laid back and supportive, she is even organising a loan laptop from the school so I can get more work done at home, and she seems really confident in my abilities which is a good feeling. I planned and taught my first 70 min lesson on Thursday, a Year 10 History class on Stalin. It went well except for a technology issue. My students are really friendly and they generally try to behave. But Year 9 boys are the worst!! I have 3 of them in my SOSE class that try to hit on me every lesson. Still trying to establish the best way to deal with that one… So far I’m saying “Guys, that’s not appropriate. Stay on task”. I don’t want to be too mean to them because they’re the ones that are on ‘blue cards’ for misbehaviour and I don’t want them to hate me and play up even worse.
I think the biggest SHOCK to me (and I can’t believe this has come as a shock) is that the majority of students don’t really care, and they either don’t understand what they’re learning or just don’t try. I have some (formative) work to mark this weekend and I don’t even know where to begin! Marking is so easy when students are on task but when they hand in stuff that doesn’t even remotely address the task it’s hard to provide feedback. Aside from the atrocious spelling and grammar, 90% of this Year 10 English class have completely failed to grasp the content (taught by my supervising teacher who has been at the school 11 years – what hope do I have??). I can’t hand back everyone’s poetry appreciation with a big red line through it saying START AGAIN and REFER TO THE EXAMPLE but seriously that is what they need to do. I feel like my Year 10s are at a Year 8 reading and comprehension level. I am really struggling with how to deal with underachieving students because they seem like the majority in all my classes. My school doesn’t stream students according to ability either, so in every class there is a wide range of ability. Most students seem to really struggle and (with one or two exceptions) the ones who do grasp the content aren’t bright/motivated enough to undertake extension work and they don’t want to repeat the same tasks for the sake of it.
I feel like none of the theory aligns with the practice, every student has their own agenda which doesn’t involve learning at all, half of the class time is dedicated to trying to get students to write ANYTHING at all, most students fail to meet lesson objectives and grasp content/process, and the amount of time and energy invested in the planning of engaging learning experiences and activities is underappreciated by students.
I am so passionate about education and I want to be a really good teacher, but at this point I am seriously reconsidering if I want to be a teacher at all… But that’s enough venting, sorry about that. Are you guys struggling with any of the same issues? How do you stop dwelling on it? I think I need some inspiration here!!
The point of my email anyway, was to give you guys a few websites that have saved my life in terms of lesson planning (I’ve been doing it all weekend, I HATE lesson planning!!)
This one has about 100000 ideas for anticipatory sets, and if you navigate around the rest of the site there are example unit and lesson plans.
This one lets you create crosswords, find a words, word jumbles etc and it’s really easy to use, no registration, and free. To save your word puzzles just select all and copy and paste into a word document. This one might get you out of trouble if your lesson runs short or you need an extension activity.
This one has a few ideas on how to be creative in the classroom
Well I had better get back to it, talk to you guys soon. There is definitely a debrief in order when I get back!!