Our induction and trainee expert James Williams answered your questions about teaching practice. Here is the third and final part of his live web clinic
Mary: Hi James, I have a Year Five class in which about six students persist in calling out, despite opening chats about the 'issue' and repeated reminders not to. Any ideas would be welcome. Thanks
James Williams: Mary, have you tried a hands down policy where you don't take answers from anybody who calls out or puts their hand up, you will only take answers from the people you choose. If you have an interactive whiteboard there are activities like random name generators where you put the names of each of the pupils in your class into a program, press a button and it randomly selects a name and only that person is allowed to answer. If they don't know the answer you can allow them to choose one other person to help them, who is sitting quietly and not calling out.
Talking during lessons
Kara R: What is the best behaviour management strategy to employ when the whole class continues to talk during the lesson. Even after bringing the class back to silence they continue to talk.
James Williams: Kara, you could use a strategy like the one I suggested for Mary above which means that they have to look and concentrate on the random name generator and if they are talking and their name comes up they lose the opportunity to take part. Essentially they behave the way that they do because that is the way they always have behaved so you have to break the cycle of talking behaviour. It could mean a new seating plan perhaps boy girl boy girl and only allowing them back to their original seating if the talking finishes and the behaviour improves but try and tackle one thing at a time and a bit like Pavlov's dogs get them to react the way you want them to when you give a signal. The signal could be a short piece of music and when the music ends everyone has to be silent or there is a consequence. For example a name on the board, a short detention, extra work etc.
Finally, try and build into lessons key moments when something fun is to happen. Let them know that this is part of the lesson plan but if talking persists, the fun things might have to go leaving just the "boring" work.
Joanne: Hi James, I've had 2 official lesson observations and both of them have been satisfactory. Should I be getting 'goods' at this point? I've been in the school for 3/4 weeks. If I got satisfactory for all my observations, would that be a cause for concern? Thanks.
James Williams: Joanne, after 3 or 4 weeks satisfatory observations shouldn't be a cause for concern. Satisfactory means that you are working at a level to be expected at this stage of your training. Provided your satisfactory observations have targets for you to build on then you should naturally progress towards being good. Ultimately whether or not you are satisfactory, good or outstanding is not the issue, it's whether or not you meet all standards.
hazelnut: Hi there, I'm about 6 weeks into my first placement (secondary) and I'm teaching my second full lesson in the morning. I taught my first today. My problem is nerves! I'm not normally a nervous person, and have no problem dealing with behaviour issues on the corridor, but although my lesson is planned and all my resources are ready and have been approved by my mentor, I get nervous when teaching the class. The feedback from my lesson today was generally OK, but I am dreading tomorrow. I feel like my subject knowledge will let me down because when I get nervous, my mind goes completely blank and I get a bit tongue tied, which makes me feel more nervous, which makes me look like I haven't got a clue what I am teaching. I practice at home, go through it all in my head plan it to the last letter and it seems fine, until I get in the class. My classes are generally good and I don't think I'm going to have any major behaviour issues, so I can't understand why I am feeling like this. Is this normal at this stage or am I not cut out to be a teacher? Many Thanks
James Williams: Hazelnut, nerves are not uncommon, the more you teach the less nervous you will become. To be honest sometimes when I am teaching, my mind goes blank. That's where lesson plans come in really useful. Keep your plan to hand and if you go blank take a quick look and it should all start coming back to you. If you are worried about your subject knowledge, write some brief notes on cue cards about things that you think you may struggle with in the classroom. Often you won't need to use them but just having them with you will help settle the nerves. What you are experiencing is perfectly normal and it doesn't mean that you are not cut out to be a teacher.
Thinking of quitting
Sarah: Hi, James my situation is very similar to Jo's, to the point I want to quit, however, I have contacted uni and my tutor and all they say is try and carry on. This is no help when you dread going to your school so much that it's making you ill. So I guess I will finish my PGCE and another one bites the dust.
James Williams: Sarah, I would go back to your university tutor and tell them exactly what has been going on. If you mean that you are only being used as a TA and not being allowed to teach, then that is a serious problem. If your uni tutor can't help then you might need to contact the course leader and ask for help and advice. Quitting is not the answer if the problem is not of your making.
Nicky: Hi James. My surname sounds a bit funny in English and anytime when a teacher/HoD presents me to the class I have an attitude from students. I can’t change my name, but it makes me feel uncomfortable in front of the class.
James Williams: Nicky, many students who have difficult names or unpronouncable names will take on an anglicised or shortened version of the name to make it easy for students and to avoid exactly what you have been experiencing. If it is too late to do that then you need to brush off the student attitude perhaps by explaining that in your country certain english names may also sound odd or funny. If you have only just started at the school I would think of changing the name to something easier and if the class ask why you are doing this simply say that they clearly are finding far too difficult to cope with a foreign name or if their behaviour is silly that perhaps they are not mature and grown up enough to cope so you have had to make a change.
How late to stay after school?
Mia: Hello James, I'm a BEd year one student about to start my first placement. How do you suggest I behave in order not to fall into the 'assistant' category? Secondly, what time is an acceptable time to stay until at the end of the school day? Would you suggest I stay for an extra hour or so to catch up on anything I didn't have a chance to write up and then leave after clearing it with my teacher. Or should I stay until he/she has finished the work they have stayed behind to do, and offer to help?
James Williams: Mia, the best way to avoid being treated like an assistant is to meet very early on with your mentor and produce a time table which shows how you will progress from teaching part lessons to full lessons over the placement period. The best thing to do to guage how long you should stay in school after the pupils leave is to fall in with the majority behaviour so arrive when the majority of teachers tend to arrive and leave when the majority of teachers tend to leave. There will always be the odd one or two who arrive at 6am and leave at 6pm. You are not expected to be one of those.
Guilt about my own children
Caroline: Hi James, I'm on a five week block placement of Primary 7's, next May/June and will have the class completely for the last two weeks. My teacher is great, but I'm frightened I'll burn out by the end. I did a three week block in September and the late nights, early starts meant I didn't see my own children. How do I get around feeling guilty for missing out on my own children? Thanks
James Williams: Caroline, as you already know the class and the teacher, you've got a great opportunity here to get ahead of the game. As soon as you are able contact the teacher and find out roughly what they expect you to be teaching. It is far too early for them to know in detail but they may have an idea about roughly what topic areas/subjects you will be teaching. That means you can get your subject knowledge up to speed from now. With your own children it is very important that they have some time with you so you'll have to be strict and plan specific points at which you do not do school work and concentrate only on your children. If they are old enough try to explain to them that at other points you will have to be working hard and may not be accessible to them as you normally are but ultimately if they know that they have protected time with you that should help matters and it should help you feel less guilty.
James Williams: Thank you for all your interesting and challenging questions. If you are on a placement, good luck and remember focus on the learning and the behaviour often falls into place. Goodbye, James.
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