Categories
A teacher's journal

Back to school

Today is the last day of my summer holiday and I will go back to school tomorrow. I have had a great time off so far in which I could appreciate other aspects of life without the pressure of work.

If I had stayed in the same school or if I knew what to prepare for the new school, my summer would not have been the same. Instead, I think I would have prepared as much as possible so that things could run smoothly during term time.

I am grateful for having been able to disconnect because nothing was expected from me throughout the summer. Instead, I truly enjoyed things such as reading, exercising, cooking, talking to my family and friends and learning basic piano skills. I had not noticed how rushed life was and how superficial I tend to be with these aspects of my life when I am busy.

I have also been analysing how much time things take, I often feel guilty at the end of the week because there are many personal things pending on my to-do list. However, these weeks have helped me to pay attention to how long things take and I have adjusted my expectations. This allowed me to say NO more easily to other things that seemed like commitments at first but were not.

Although I would like to take an extra course and learn a specific skill, I realised that my week is already busy. I could cramp this course if I really tried but I am now used to taking my time and to do things well. I asked myself this week: “why do I need to rush every single day?” The answer is… I don’t need to.

Perhaps the last years of my life have been fast-paced and understandably so. I worked and studied at the same time, I helped my family in their business, then I went back to university and did my PGCE and teacher training. I am glad I did all that and I enjoyed it but at this point, I want to enjoy the things I am doing. I just want to do a good job while I keep up with other personal duties and do them to the best of my ability because I consider them to be meaningful.

I am glad about the mindset I have at the moment, I am sure there will be a time where I get quite comfortable and have the capacity to say YES to more… but until then, this feels pretty comfortable.

All the best in the new school year! 🏫 📚 👩‍🏫

This post is day 14 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Visit 100daystooffload.com to get more info, or to get involved.

Categories
Books

Books

This is a list of inspiring Christian books I have enjoyed reading. They have nurtured and strengthened my life. You will easily find them on Amazon or on the Metropolitan Tabernacle Bookshop.

Book name AuthorType
William CareyS. Pearce CareyBiography
Gladys Aylward – The Little WomanGladys AylwardBiography
Corrie Ten Boom: The Watchmaker’s DaughterJean WatsonBiography
The Pilgrim’s ProgressJohn BunyanFiction (allegory of the Christian life)
Our Priceless Christian HeritageRoland BurrowsHistory
The Book That Made Your WorldVishal MangalwadiHistory

If possible, I will eventually post a comment about the books. All I can say now is that I highly recommend them!

What all of them have in common is the amazing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ who came to a dark world and lived a perfect life. He suffered and died on the cross of Calvary and offered his perfect righteousness so that everyone who calls upon his name can be saved. If we seek him in repentance and faith, we will be forgiven and reconciled with God, we will not be lost eternally but instead will enjoy fellowship with him. The Bible is the source of this message and it would be at the top of my list, I encourage you to read it and to find out more.

The gospel of John ends with an interesting verse which makes me think about the incredible impact Christ has had:

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

John 21:25 KJB

The books I mention above are a small sample of the vast Christian literature in which we can find real heroes, people who turned the world upside-down against all odds and proved their sovereign God. Their dedication and instrumentality has ignited and carried out remarkable changes that have lifted up humanity in every respect.

Happy reading! 📚🤗

This post is day 13 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Visit 100daystooffload.com to get more info, or to get involved.

Categories
A teacher's journal

My first year in teaching

My first year in teaching was very exciting. I joined a new school in September 2021 full of energy, with new expectations and with a new mentality. I had reflected a lot on my character during my training year. I wanted to be a consistent, knowledgeable and confident teacher and I was grateful to have a fresh start.

The first term was the most difficult one because I was getting used to a new place, new people, a new way of working and increased workload and responsibility. I became a form tutor and I had 10 classes, this is about 50% more responsibility compared to the training year in which I only had 5 classes and I was not a form tutor.

The students and staff were very kind and I quickly felt part of the school. Nonetheless, it is inevitable to have a lot of new information and short time to assimilate it. From what I remember, the following tasks felt like a snowball:

  • getting to know the groups: their strengths, needs and pace needed in the classroom.
  • keeping a coherent sequence of lessons: objectives, information recall, presenting new information, practising new skills, having a checkpoint or plenary at the end of a lesson.
  • teaching with key skills and assessments in mind.
  • first data drop and parents’ meeting.

Add behaviour management, phone calls and a bunch e-mails to the list… It was a lot to handle. Looking back, things seem a bit gloomy but not unsurprising. I had been warned but told how to handle it. It was a matter of time and of figuring things out: my routine, teaching and behaviour approach, time management, how to prioritise tasks etc.

It is interesting to break the year down into Term 1, 2 and 3 and to look back, reflect, compare and draw conclusions of changes over time. I have done that in my mind but I will not go on and on in this article. I just want to say that my progress was steady throughout the year and that by the end of it I felt happy, fulfilled and appreciated for my work and contributions to the school. Alongside, the professional growth, there was significant personal growth and I will never forget all the students and colleagues that made part of my short journey at that school. I am now moving to a new school and I look forward to apply the lessons learnt:

  • Be consistent with everyone, in everything you do, all the time.
  • Do what is right and fair regardless of how you feel or who is watching.

People (whether they notice it or not) appreciate predictability,  order and fairness. If you have ever been in a classroom, you know the importance of a clear routine in the classroom, an organised sequence of tasks which lead to a clear outcome and a firm but fair approach to behaviour. The latter is very difficult and it can be subjective, we may always pick highly disruptive behaviour but conform with low-level disruption. We may be tempted to overlook behaviour that must be dealt with if that means we will lose our break in restorative conversations and calls home.

Although these two points take a lot of time and effort, I am convinced that they pay off. Once you have laid high expectations and students know that they can’t get away with things and that you least expect certain quality, they will fall in line and things will flow.

  • Have the big picture in mind. Learning (anything) requires time, support and patience.

Because I am a Spanish native speaker, I tend to forget that verb conjugations are a pain and that my language is completely different to the languages of my students in every respect. When preparing my lessons, I use resources that are written for English speakers and I tweak them so that they are accessible but can also offer challenge and  novelty. Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction are currently the norm for teachers.

  • Do your job to the best of your ability but remember that there is a limit to what you can or should do as a teacher.
  • Do not take things personally. Human beings can stir up all sorts of emotions, think thrice before responding.

I put extra dedication into my teaching job but I was often exhausted every Friday afternoon, I usually had a sore throat and my voice was affected. Sometimes, I went home at about 6 pm and fell asleep on the sofa for hours or until the next day (this was not uncommon). Working hard is not a problem, if you want an easy job, do not become a teacher BUT time management, collaboration within your department and good preparation will be helpful when deadlines approach. I will be dedicated and enthusiastic but not beyond measure, after all, I still need to be willing and able to carry on with my personal life.

  • Enjoy your job but never put it above personal priorities such as family or health. Your value does not derive from your occupation.

Who I am, my worth or value does not proceed from my profession. I believe that teaching is a satisfactory and meaningful job but I strongly disagree with the way it seems to take over people’s lives. I just need to remember some people or our conversations about weekends or half-term. It is as if those are the times when we give room to other aspects of life. To some extent,  newbies like me can expect teaching to take over their lives for a while but this cannot be inherent to the profession and things should get better over time.

As the new academic year approaches, I hope to keep these lessons in mind and to have a very positive year.

This post is day 12 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Visit 100daystooffload.com to get more info, or to get involved.

Categories
A teacher's journal

Work-life balance

balance

Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

The third half-term has been very positive on my teaching journey. I am finally getting used to this job: its demands, workload and expectations. I am also a more confident and positive teacher who does not stress out as much as before.

I am glad of having left behind the days when I worked late either at school or at home. Part of this improvement has been due to the normal course of life: the more one does something, the easier it gets. However, there are a few things people told me but I had to try myself in order to take them in. For example:

Good enough is good enough:

I stopped spending a significant amount of time (outside my working hours) trying to adapt a lesson that was ready. I know that students will need some scaffolding or challenge, so I add these elements. Although this is ideal, it can be detrimental for a teacher because it increases the workload significantly. Ultimately, a teacher who has rested properly and can deliver the content with confidence and high quality is invaluable; a beautiful PPT presentation cannot compete with that!

One day after a parents’ evening, I got home at almost 21:00 and did not have time to adapt a Year 9 lesson about the Perfect Tense in Spanish. I was worried because the students had been learning other tenses and I thought they would struggle. I contemplated doing some revision on those tenses instead but… I would need to plan a revision lesson and this was not happening that evening.

With some resignation and frustration I said to myself “just use that lesson and let it be”. What a surprise when I saw that students were very interested in this new tense (I am not lying!), they took it in immediately and were very productive. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I was definitely underestimating my students and slowing down based on false assumptions. The lesson was good enough, actually it was better than it looked at first. Additionally, I had rested and could give them the best of me that day. This was a win-win situation that helped me to realise that I need to be more humble in a way and use what I am being given.  Whenever possible I can add my own touch but I must accept that I will not always have time and that there are other duties to fulfil. I could use any spare time to create new resources using authentic texts for example, which is a target that our department needs to meet and some input would be appreciated.

A task that I need to do more than 3 times needs a system

I had heard this one but I did not pay attention to it just as I did with other pieces of great advice that would save me time…

This happened a lot when marking student work and giving feedback. I used to write lots of notes on the first papers and customised feedback but then I realised I had more than 200 things to mark. Would I ever finish that monumental task? No. Ironically, most students only looked at their total marks while my many comments are suggestions were not as relevant. There is a minority who pays attention to this and asks further questions… although this is not a complete waste of time, it is not worth it either.

In order to last in this job and to go home at some point, I needed to refrain from my super feedback. I began following the advice I got at the beginning, this consisted of using some literacy codes, making notes of the trends, common mistakes or misconceptions. Then, providing a general feedback where I covered what I had decided to prioritise and that provided elements for students to reflect on their work and improve it.

I also made a list of students whose work could be praised and presented as a model. I made a separate list  of the students who were struggling so that I could support them in the future.

Doing this saved me time and made the dreadful marking process bearable and useful. Students benefited much more with this type of feedback and were happy when they received some praise for their good effort and work.

The same is true for setting homework, printing, reading emails, answering emails… Doing things in bulk is much better than jumping from task to task.

Final thoughts

This was the “I told you so” half-term but I think it is only natural to try to be a perfectionist at first. After all, people’s eyes are on you as an Early Career Teacher and you want to show some competence and good performance.

I hope you had a happy and restful half-term. I did my best to rest and to keep my mind away from work although I did some marking for 5-6 hours. This would allow me to have a better start next week and I didn’t mind it too much. The good ideas (literature, revision booklets, challenges etc) are written down in my journal and will resume next Monday at 8:00 and not a minute before. In the mean time, I need to make sure the other aspects of my life are taken care of, I have had some health setbacks and this week was a blessing, I was able to get some medical advice and I will surely be recharged and smiley next week.

This post is day 11 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Visit 100daystooffload.com to get more info, or to get involved.

Categories
Reading

Bible reading plan

🇬🇧

Reading the Bible is part of my life, I have been blessed through its message since my childhood and as the word of God, I hold it in high esteem. The powerful message of the love of God towards a rebellious humankind is inexhaustible and every page is full of great treasures.

Join a daily Bible reading plan and find out by yourself. In a year, you will have read the Old Testament once, and the New Testament and the Psalms twice.

Happy reading!

🇪🇸 🇨🇴

Leer la Bíblia hace parte de mi vida, su mensaje ha bendecido mi vida desde mi infancia y la valoro mucho pues es la palabra de Dios. El mensaje poderoso del amor de Dios para con una raza humana rebelde es inagotable y cada página está llena de grandes tesoros.

Participe en este plan de lectura bíblica y descúbralo por sí mismo. En un año usted leerá el Antiguo Testamento una vez y el Nuevo Testamento y los Salmos dos veces.

¡Disfrute la lectura!

🇧🇷

Ler a Bíblia faz parte da minha vida e tenho sido abençoada pela mensagem desde a minha infancia.  Valorizo-a muito pois é a palavra de Deus. A mensagem poderosa do amor de Deus para com uma raça humana rebelde é inesgotável e cada página está cheia de grandes tessouros.

Participe deste plano de leitura da Bíblia e descobra por si mesmo. Em um ano você lerá o Antigo Testamento uma vez e o Novo Testamento e os Salmos duas vezes.

Boa leitura!

 

 

 

Categories
Journaling

On being grateful

Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

We will say goodbye to 2021 very soon and as a journaling lover, I am reviewing my year. I am looking at countless tasks done and at many tasks that were rescheduled or cancelled. However, what stands out the most is all the memories that I recorded throughout the year. This year was full of positive things, big and small and I wouldn’t be able to remember them all at once and appreciate them with the same intensity if I hadn’t written them down. This allowed me to bring those feelings of gratitude and happiness back which is my favourite part about journaling.

I was thrilled when I looked at every page of this year’s journal and wrote down some of these blessings, for example: health, life, provision, protection, family, friendships, progress etc. I filled one page and a half!

The best illustration of 2021 is PSalms 103. I have only quoted verses 1 to 5.

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

In a chaotic year worldwide, I experienced the Lord’s mercy and provision and could grow in every aspect of my life. I know that even in the midst of trial, I would be sustained by his help.

I praise God and pray that 2022 may be a year of dedication and service to him.

✨ Happy new year! ✨

This post is day 10 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Visit 100daystooffload.com to get more info, or to get involved.

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Gatinhos da Internet

Oi!

Photo by Ion Şipilov on Unsplash

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A teacher's journal

What a term!

Today teachers and students breathe a sigh of relief because it is the last day of term and the Christmas holidays begin. Schools around this time get a funny vibe, people carry on because they have to, there is some excitement about the holidays and nobody cares about things in the same way they did back in September.

This is interesting because I thought I would never be “that person”…what I mean is, a person counting the weeks and days to the end of term. However. I shamelessly began counting  towards the end of November when I piles or student work to mark and also when I kept hearing: “this is the longest and most difficult term for teachers”, “it is cold and dark”, “it is the flu season plus there is a pandemic” etc.

I usually ignored comments like those and just got on with my life, I did not want to get into that mindset. Nonetheless, at some point this crept in and I longed for the end of term like never in my life. Part of the problem was that I worked many extra hours just marking and really struggled managing my workload.

Part of this was expected as it is my first term as a qualified teacher and I have 90% of the responsibility a teacher has. Compared to my training year, this is an increase of almost 50%.

I am currently on the Early Career Framework and I have a lot of support and continuous training. However, the best thing that has happened to me has been to share my experiences with colleagues who have been in the same situation before and to be open about my weaknesses/areas of development. On the conversations and a couple of workshops I attended, I learned strategies to be more efficient with the things that take the longest in this profession: marking, feedback and student reports.

Although I heard this over and over since the beginning of my training, it took me a while to implement it and to get my head around it.

  • Being systematic: if I need to repeat a task or if something takes too long, I need a system. For example, when marking a writing activity, I can write a code that relates to a specific action (sp = spelling mistake). When students get their feedback, they will be given examples of these common mistakes, check against their text and improve it. They will do the thinking!
  • Begin with the end in mind: Planning a sequence or even a whole term in advance. My friend Adeline, who is an early teaching career mentor calls it “retro-planning” and held a brilliant workshop on this. If I know where my students must be at the end of term or what the assessment is about, I will consider that into each lesson and provide them with all the knowledge and practice they need.
  • Just ask for help: this is the most obvious one but as a new teacher I wanted to give the best of myself and show that I could do it. But in just a term I had days in which I suddenly disliked teaching, I had no patience for my students and was unwell. I had a cold for about a month, my voice weakened a lot and I had to teach some lessons whispering or using Spanish audios.

I knew this but I had to learn the hard way anyway… When marking, I fell into the trap of correcting every single error and wrote the correction in another colour myself. Students spent about one minute looking at it and very few actually cared about improving what they had done.

I also began teaching without really checking where I was heading. I had to look at the assessments eventually and realised I did not have enough time to teach all the content. I had to modify assessments or rush teaching and kind of hope for the best. At the end of the day this created a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety. Did you not feel betrayed at school when the test included topics you barely covered in class? I did! My students coped with all this but it should not happen again.

Finally, I did not need to strain my voice, lose my appetite or sleep less. I did not do a good job at taking care of myself and this impacted my mood and health to some extent.

Well, today is the end of term and I am glad. I joined the many countdowns and who knows, I might do it again. However, I have decided to set sustainable systems and to get my workload under control with retrospective planning which tells me where I am going and keeps me on track. Most importantly, I am going to take care of myself, after all, I love teaching but this is just a job, I have a family, friends and a purpose in life which is strongly linked to my Christian faith.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV

Learning takes time and the only way to learn is by doing, finding out where we failed and correcting it. I am ready to rest but also to have a great 2022 in the classroom!

MERRY CHRISTMAS
Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Merry Christmas and a Happy new year!

This post is day 9 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Visit 100daystooffload.com to get more info, or to get involved.

 

Categories
A teacher's journal

I got my QTS!

This was my first half-term as a qualified teacher in England. Although everything was new and fast-paced, a new persona emerged in the classroom and this was a positive experience.

When I was a trainee teacher last year, I always felt like an impostor in front of my students. I had butterflies in my stomach before every lesson until about June 2021 when the year was almost ending

Unfortunately,  my lack of experience was always in my mind and I have no doubt this permeated my lessons and influenced the way I taught or behaved at school. No matter how much I prepared or rehearsed whatever I was going to do in my lesson, I was often uncomfortable and a bit apprehensive.

Several people observed my lessons and provided weekly feedback. This was constructive and it helped me to improve. However, people usually pointed out at my lack of confidence and presence in the classroom. I did my best every day but I felt inadequate most of the time.

At the end of my training year, I was ready for a new experience. One of the last and most valuable things my mentor said to me was that leaving would give me the opportunity to have a fresh start and to reinvent myself as a teacher. I could begin a new year with no preconceptions from myself or others.

On my first day, I decided to walk into the new school as a new person and left my previous modesty about myself at home. I met new colleagues and new students and just decided to present myself as a confident, straight forward person who (at least outwardly) knows what to do. To my surprise, this has had an incredibly positive impact in myself and also in my students, it is like a brand new world opened up for me.

I have been able to walk into my classroom with confidence and have set my expectations and main routines. My students are lovely and I am getting really well with my classes and building relationships with both students and colleagues.

I am really glad to see how things fall in place day by day and to look back and see how valuable my teacher training was. What made it  outstanding though was not the school or the training provider (although they were very good), it was the people around me. My colleagues were key to my development and I am very grateful for all the things they taught me. I would not be where I am without their support.

The quote below appears in my welcome postcard which my mentor  gave me. When I began my training, the journey seemed endless and things were very unpredictable.

Photo by Hester Qiang on Unsplash

Nonetheless, my professional and personal life improved as a result of the daily journey as a “teacher to be”. I am grateful to look back and see how far God has allowed me to come. The journey continues day by day and it just gets better and better!

This post is day 8 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Visit 100daystooffload.com to get more info, or to get involved.

Categories
CrossFit

CrossFit

I joined a CrossFit gym a few months ago without much information of what I was getting into. I only knew that it consisted of a variety of workouts to develop strength and conditioning. As time went by, I found out much more…

CrossFit has a fun, engaging and demanding nature. It requires a ‘no nonsense’ mindset, one needs to engage with the workout and do the best. Today was my 54th workout and I have learned not only about exercise technique but about my self, specifically my inadequacies and my potential. I am always surrounded by more experienced people who motivate me, they are friendly and supportive too.

This is a perfect environment in which I have tested my limits and surprised myself, I recently managed to do a few pull ups for example. This may be nothing to some but it was very difficult for me and it took some time!

Rowing machine and Kettle bell

CrossFit is a lifestyle characterized by safe, effective exercise and sound nutrition. 

CrossFit Journal

The combination of exercise and sound nutrition is nothing new but it must be underpinned by discipline. Like every new habit I have implemented in my life, I found it hard at the beginning but I got into it very quickly for the reasons I outlined above.

Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.

“What Is Fitness”, CrossFit Journal, 2002

I have seen significant improvement in my life both mentally and physically. Although I am still adjusting my diet, I am mindful of what I eat and when. I plan my week ahead and balance it with working days and other responsibilities. I wish I had more energy and didn’t need to rest so that I could train 6 days a week, some people have told me that CrossFit may be addictive, I believe them!

A few days ago, I saw an ad in the underground. It had a pancake picture and prompted people to lose weight without having to change their lifestyle or sacrifice what they enjoy the most. I personally find this approach misleading and very sad. Firstly because it doesn’t work, secondly because things that are worth living for take time and effort. It is rewarding to push yourself through a workout and keep going even when you feel you won’t make it. When you push yourself and others push you (coaches, peers), you strengthen your body and mind and are elated at the end. No pancake has given me this feeling and I like to work hard.

There is a lot to learn and I look forward to continue training and learning. I highly recommend you to find a CrossFit gym nearby and to learn more about it, the CrossFit website is very useful.

Happy training!

This post is day 7 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Visit 100daystooffload.com to get more info, or to get involved.