Today was my first day back teaching after having two weeks off and was I thrown in the deep end or what!
Arriving at the college at just past 8:30am I was informed that three teaching staff were currently off and cover was urgently needed. This resulted in me taking the two classes I typically have but together! Two classes in one! So obviously I had to change all my lesson plans as it would have been impossible to do my planned one-to-ones as the second class (Group A) are more needy than my first so I basically had to do as much as possible, moving around the class, helping those that needed it and checking in on those that didn’t just to make sure.
Obviously this led to many difficulties, mainly that of keeping students on task. The mixed group and change of normal class structure meant they were already disrupted in their mood to work and more excitable and I feel I saw a glimpse of how substitute teachers feel being a cover teacher out of the loop almost. Having more students to watch also meant that it was easier for the students to fall off task (though I do believe I am slowly developing the ‘eyes in the back of my head’ phenomenon but it is extremely difficult to do) and also hard to get them back on task. This wasn’t helped by the students being unsure on what they should be doing and or really needing a sit down to go through their work which just isn’t happening. What I am finding with both groups is the feeling that many of the students struggle to get past issues they have with the work which stops them and sucks all the motivation from them, especially since they know they will fail if they don’t do the work which I find baffling. I feel that many of the students fall back on a loop hole of having 10 days to re-sit work which takes some of the finality of doing the work.
Another issue was that the students who also needed the help only had me, while lately they have me and their regular tutor and I witnessed the old issue of too many students and not enough teacher time – trying to get these students to do something else while they wait for help is also near impossible as they’re so linear in their working and thinking, which links back to if they have an issue they stop dead and don’t work.
I think a big problem is my classroom management, I do feel I am not being strict enough with the students but I don’t really know how to do it… I have a feeling it’s all down to tone of voice and nipping issues in the bud but I think it could be my own confidence of doing it and what to do if they do have issues. I feel it is a matter of not treating the students like they are back at school but obviously giving them freedom isn’t working all the time which is the worst issue as sometimes the classes work fine and although I felt there was a pattern emerging this class really threw that idea into the wind.
The second block of classes had the issue of having too many students and not enough space but thankfully the technicians helped with having students (those more capable and who knew what they were doing) moved to another class to work in their sketchbooks, this allowed the remaining students who were all doing practical sewing work to have the attention they needed and once the over-crowding issue was solved the class ran smoothly.
Lunch however was interrupted by a fire which had most of the college evacuated meaning that Group A who I have after lunch came in excitable and hungry (not a great mix) I allowed them to spend the first 15 minutes of the class finishing off their lunches and settling as I felt this was the only method of getting this group to settle and it did work as they then worked well for the hour and 15 minutes. With 45 minutes left of the class is when the students began to really fall off task again, I sometimes feel that this class being two hours is too much for this class as we often have issues with keeping the students on task, motivated and driven in the last portion of the class but I know that I probably gave in to the students as I tried to get certain students working over and over again but ran out of options!
Covering for other teachers was an experience and having a larger group (25 students) again was an experience I will not forget as it was very different and it was good as I have not had these experiences yet and its all good reading up on class management but as I have seen knowing what to do is very different to doing it in place. I also feel that I need to figure out (AKA Research and ask around) tactics to get students back on task as I really felt I had ran out of all the options I knew of and became exasperated with the student.