Category Archives: Teaching

Supply Teaching: First Thoughts.

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So having returned to the UK in July, my options for work were pretty limited since returning so late in the academic year meant I missed out on nearly all the last job vacancies advertised for Sept. So I’ve taken the scary plunge into the world of Supply Teaching which I have never done before, since I graduated, and I’m finding it a pretty interesting experience so far. In the UK, most schools use an agency to find a supply teacher to cover absence. They use the agency which is probably a preferred agency known to the school, and request a supply teacher either in advance for a teacher being away on a course etc or on the morning of the day cover is needed. The agency then phone around to find a teacher suitably experienced or qualified who is available. If you don’t answer the call in time, they’ll just continue down their list and ring the next person. If you aren’t quick, the work has gone. I know this from personal experience, where I was driving when one of my agencies phoned. I obviously couldn’t answer but pulled over and phoned them back. The work had gone in literally minutes. Sigh!!! It’s a tough world out there in Supply Teaching and you’re completely dependent on work being available.

Supply work is hardly plentiful either at the minute. In the UK, one of the worst areas to be looking for a teaching job is the North East so its kinda sucky at the minute. I’ve only been getting one or two days work a week. I’m told the work will pick up in the next few weeks so I’m keeping hopeful. You can’t live off 1 or 2 days work at a supply teacher rate. Of all the regions in the UK, the NE has one of the very poorest rates of job advertisements etc and it seems supply is in short measure too, at least for now. I haven’t done supply for long, but looking at popular forums, I can see even those who have done it for a long time are finding the work is drying up. It helps if you make a good impression and schools the start to ask you back by name. I haven’t done enough work yet I think to get asked back!!

 

It’s also kinda stressful. Waiting in the morning for a phone call incase you actually get work that day. Then if you do, a frantic search on googlemaps to find it. Placing my entire trust in my Satnav to navigate me there. Not knowing anything about the school, or the class dynamics or any of the 30 or so kids you’re teaching. Looking to see if there is a plan and if you do find one, then having to rummage around somebody else’s classroom to find the stuff you need. Not knowing routines or timetables. Not knowing anybody in the staffroom. Not being able to use the computer or whiteboard because you don’t know the password!!! I’m also finding out pretty quickly that it’s a pretty lonely job. I’m hoping once I start getting into several schools a few times, I’ll start to get to know a few people. That will be nice when I have some sort of interaction with familiar people once in a  while.

 

It’s definitely diverse. I never know what I’ll be teaching or what kind of school. Although I have noticed that I’m starting to become a bit of a PE expert!  Do teachers always plan their PE lessons for their PPA time or what? What’s happening here? How come I can almost guarantee on a supply day, there’ll be a PE class! Getting Early Years children to change for PE must be one of the most time consuming tasks in a day I swear!! It has been fun getting some nice ideas into practice for PE and playing some fun games.

 

I have found the attitude of some teachers towards supply teachers pretty poor. I have experienced some very lovely members of staff whilst working on supply so far, but also some pretty rude members. Of course, you try your best to just grin and bear it, but sometimes it’s hard to do that. You have to, but it’s not nice feeling such hostility. Some people say on forums, that full time permanent staff are jealous of supply teachers because they don’t have any planning/ assessment/ paperwork etc of a full time teacher but I’d do anything to have my own class again and be back with a full time job with a regular paycheck at the end of the month. I’d love the consistency. I’d love the regularity. I’d love being part of a team and a school. And best of all, I’d get to work with a delightful class and see their progress throughout the year which is just a wonderful thing to see and reflect on.

 

I like that I get to teach without the hassle. I do. I like to see lots of schools and experience teaching in different age groups. I like interacting with students. I like to see great ideas on paper from somebody else and try them out in class. I like that I’m becoming more adaptable and flexible as well as experienced. But how much can I really do without being at a school for any length of time? How can I see progress? How can I measure the work I’ve done and the lessons I’ve taught? I’m not sure I can. Supply agencies sometimes offer long term work which is an enticing possibility. Yet in the UK, there are more than 10,000 unemployed qualified teachers. Too many teachers, too few jobs. The competition is tough. Just recently, I saw two Nursery posts recently in the NE come up so I’m off to get those applications pimped up and ready for battle in the shortlisting showdown 😀 Wish me luck!!

 

What have your experiences been as a supply teacher? Did you like it? What did you learn from it?

 

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Things I love about being home: Things I miss about Indonesia.

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So a lot has happened since I last wrote on this blog, oh so long ago! The biggest thing was that I have returned home to the UK from Indonesia where I was teaching at an International school. It’s September now and boy is it cold here in Newcastle! Brrrrr. I miss Indonesia a lot, but there are definitely benefits to being home. I’ll try to weigh them up here.

Things I love about being at home:
1) Driving.

Yes, now I am back in the UK, I feel I can climb back into the drivers seat and drive myself in a car. Did I drive in Indonesia? Of course I didn’t! Have you seen the crazy traffic and drivers there? I swear to god, at roundabouts in Indonesia, people on the roundabout give way to people coming onto it. I remember one of my colleagues at SWA described how she loved driving in Indo. She described the craziness and lack of organised rules and space as something she enjoyed and that when she went home, she didn’t like having to drive slowly and watch out for speed cameras etc. Haha. Now I’m home, I’m thrilled to be driving but gosh, the speedbumps, roundabouts and slow drivers are becoming a little painful and frustrating. In Indonesia, every day in a car or even better, on an Ojek, travelling on the road felt a little dangerous, if not very dangerous! It is kind of liberating though! I did drive once in Asia, but in the Philippines which it has to be said, had similar road safety issues, and boy was that one story. Kerry and Daryl, you’ll know exactly which driving trip I am talking about. I’ll just say being persuaded to drive back one large van to the school in the DARK was not a hugely enjoyable activity for me! I did get there goodness knows how! Still on the whole, being able to drive in England in a definite plus of being back home. I really love driving.. Except have you seen the price of petrol in England at the minute?!

2) Being close to my family and friends.

Indonesia is a long way from from the UK! Skype is great but time difference is not. Being back has been lovely and I know how relieved my parents are that I am home safe and they can see me more often.It’s lovely to spend time with family and I’ve been lucky enough to see all my cousins and Aunt and Uncle who live far south from here since I’ve been back. I’ve also spent lots of time with my sister has been lovely. My grandma has  been ill recently and I’ve been thankful to be home and be able to visit her in hospital and spend time with her enjoying her company. I am very grateful that my sister came out to visit me in Indonesia. No matter how much I could tell people from home what my life in Indonesia was like, I really felt that unless you could be there and see it, it couldn’t really be understood. I wanted my family to see Indonesia and see my life there. I loved being able to show Carla around BSD, the Gili Islands and Singapore. I’m really glad she had the opportunity to come out and see me there. I felt so lucky. I wish my parents had been able to come but they will next time I’m teaching overseas!

3) Food – Cheese – Wine

The choice of food in England is incredible. Supermarkets, Deli’s, all kinds of shops so it was super, super exciting to walk into ASDA, one of my fave supermarkets to find whole blocks of cheese for 1 pound! That’s the equivalent of about 14,000 RPH! I LOVE cheese. Good cheese is sadly missing in lots of Indonesian supermarkets. Nice shops like Kemchicks or Hero’s would have some but it was super expensive. So just imagine my glee and how much cheese I gorged on my return! Wine is so cheap here. What a novelty! Wine was so expensive in Indonesia. And not of that great quality.

4) Rocking out at my kickboxing club, BSBB.

I love my kickboxing team. Rick, the Boss who runs is is a really wonderful example of somebody who has turned their love and passion for martial arts into a successful family friendly martial arts club. BSBB is a wonderful example of a great martial arts club. When I did Karate when I was younger, I really enjoyed the discipline. I got to 1st Kyu but stopped because I found the club to be a pretty demoralising place which didn’t make me feel any good at it. One of the instructors there I remember was pretty mean to us, even as young students. So finding a great martial arts club, as an adult has been a blessing and joy. Being awarded my black belt, almost 3 years ago now, was just so special to me. I finally had that black belt I had wanted for so long! Being back at BSBB now I’m home is really lovely. I’m getting fitter and having fun. I’ve also started as a STORM team member at BSBB so I’m lucky in being able to help instruct/ teach the kids and mini dragon classes. The mini dragons are students who are 4-7, which is the age of the kids I usually teach, and its so fun to see them enjoying sport and martial arts outside of my usual interactions with students in class. I found out the hard way running an extra curricular club last year that enjoying being an active participant of Martial Arts is VERY different to teaching it. Tons of respect to Rick and the rest of the great teaching team who do a fantastic job every day at BSBB.

I also had the opportunity to take part in a Fight Night at Andy C’s tournament just the other weekend. Andy’s events are always great fun and our club really enjoy taking part in them. I have been active in entering the tournaments and competitions there for a long time, but since heading overseas on my 2 year adventure in Asia, I haven’t fought in a competition environment for almost 3 years. So being asked to step in for an injured fighter was pretty nerve wracking, on 6 days notice. And I still didn’t feel that fit! I can’t describe my sheer terror in having somebody opposite me, fighting me, who I know is going to try their best to hit me. All I can do in that blind panic is move as fast as I can, dodge or block their attacks and hope to score first. Or more often than she does. I’m fairly well advantaged in the scoring system in that I have long legs and fast head kicks which score 3 points compared to 1 point for any hand technique. A kick to the torso is worth 2 points. So if you are good with your legs you can really score well in points fighting. However, there are lots of people out there in martial arts who are extremely good with their legs too. Nat Loy, my opponent in the fight night is very good with her legs. I really enjoyed the fight and the experience, and I was buzzing afterwards. Sheer terror beforehand though! That moment where you realise you just have to walk out there and get in the ring and do it. That’s the moment I tell myself, ‘if it works me up so much to do it, I’d better try my damn best to win this’. And I  almost did! Well I made a great recovery from a poor round which ended 8-1 to my opponent, to score 15 points in the second round and even it out to a draw at 16-16. That meant 30 secs extra time. I didn’t score in that time but Nat threw, I think, 2 lovely head kicks. Never mind. Great experience. Rick always tells our team and anybody competing, that everybody gains experience from entering. And it really is true. It takes balls to get up there and walk out to fight or compete in front of other people. It’s scary. It’s wonderful when you win but you learn the most when you lose. Here’s the video of the fight.

Things I miss about Indonesia:

Hmmm, this is going to be hard. There are many!

1) My friends and work.

I feel really lucky to have made some really great friends and friends that I know I will keep in touch with and be friends with for a long time. I’m lucky that skype and email makes it easy to keep in touch with people in Indonesia or wherever they are in the world now. I miss that real face to face experience though. I miss Book Club. I miss evenings spent with friends and wine, I miss easy and friendly company from my wonderful and varied friendships in Indonesia. I would love to come out and visit you guys at some point this year. Don’t know if I will be able to though yet!

I also miss my job a lot. I really loved working at SWA. It was a fantastic learning curve for me. I learnt so much. I grew so much as a teacher and as a colleague. SWA is such a beautiful school and working in the Early Years was a really enjoyable experience for me. I miss my students a lot too! I miss having a class of my own and enjoying the work day in/ day out. Working in the UK as a supply teacher is a very different experience. To all my friends still there and those who’ve moved on, I send you my love.

2) The weather.

Wow, coming home has proven to me just how much I dislike the cold. I have one Canadian friend who spent years evading a bracing, icy winter by travelling to hotter climes. He described himself as ‘allergic to winter’. I’m starting to feel that same allergy. Wrapping myself up in bulky coats, scarves, gloves. URGGGH. I feel claustrophobic in all that gear. And you know what, it’s still not enough! I’m still cold. My feet are still wet and my socks squelch. The UK has had severe weather warnings and floods recently and Newcastle and the North did bear some of the brunt of it. The other day, I looked at the gray sky outside, the water furiously lashing against the glass and the whistling wind which whipped the trees and decided I simply wasn’t going out in it that day. So I didn’t!

Weather in Indonesia was hot and sticky. But preferable to this cold. I loved the beautiful sunshine and blue skies. I loved waking up to a bright day (rather than it starting to get light at 8am here … urgh and the end of summer time will soon be upon us). I liked that even if I was hot, I could cool off in decent AC. I liked being able to wear nice light clothing, dresses and skirts every day of the year. And NO tights. Surely tights are the most irritating item to wear ever?! I spend the whole day pulling them up and feeling them pinch my toes. NOT pleasant.

3) The Chaos.

I love organisation. I really do. I like to clean. However I’m not so good in theory. I try but probably fail often. But in Indonesia, there was no pretence whatsoever in the city being organised. The traffic was horrendous. Roads were disgusting. Everything took an insanely long time to get done or do. BUT, the craziness and liberation of living in that society was exciting and fresh. Taking ojeks was a regular highlight for me. I loved feeling the wind whip my hair and my face being blasted with cool air as we zipped around on the motorbike taxi. Dangerous? Yep! Exciting? Absolutely!

4) The Travel and the Holidays.

Yep, it had to be in there. No matter what people say about teachers being in it for the holidays, I don’t agree. I don’t teach for the holidays. I love teaching. Holidays are a highlight though. But in Indonesia, it was so easy to travel for the weekend or the half term and it was affordable enough to do so with regularity. I went to Medan, to the jungle to see orangutans in the wild … twice. I climbed Anak Krakatau, a live and active volcano. I dived in many beautiful places including Bunaken in Sulawesi which has to be up there on the top 10 dive sites in the world. I’ve snorkeled on beautiful beaches such as Gili Trawangan and swam with bundles of exotic fish in warm, clear and crystal blue water. I traveled to Singapore several times. Bali. Boracay. Lake Taal. Thailand. Malaysia. Burma. What a treat to be able to indulge in so many places and see so much of the local culture and beauty of the places and regions I was living in. I can’t see me indulging in any holidays soon to escape the gray gloomy skies of England unless I suddenly get a full time job with a monthly pay check! Saying that, I can’t wait to see the Autumn leaves and colours soon splashing themselves over the foliage and trees. That will be stunning. Always is.

5) The language and culture.

I loved learning the local language. I actually think I got pretty good. I had some help with Indonesian friends, especially my cello teacher, Asep. At one time near the end of my stay, I spent 40 minutes talking to the taxi driver in Indonesian in traffic! I think that’s pretty good. As soon as you stop using it regularly though, you easily forget. I really don’t want to. I try to speak in Indonesian at some point, normally to myself haha throughout the day but already I am forgetting words and I have to really think hard to remember them. Even simple ones I used daily. Sigh. It was my first ever really decent attempt to learn a foreign language! I also loved many aspects of the Indonesian culture. BATIK! Gosh, I love batik design and clothing/ fabric. Some of my favourite skirts and dresses I bought in Indonesia and are made of batik. Intricate, colourful and local. I also loved the Wayang puppetry and shows. The traditional music. The local schools and children. The day to day interactions of a friendly and welcoming, warm nation. I heart Indonesia.

Teaching is about caring …

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There are many caring and absolutely respected jobs in this world. One profession I utterly respect is that of Nurses and Support workers who in my opinion, are wonderful, wonderful people. I also genuinely think up there with those caring, great jobs, has to be teaching.

I honestly believe the vital quality, the very essence of a good or great teacher is that they genuinely care. About lots of things.

You have to care about your children as people and individuals, and not just how they’ll get the grades you want or need them to achieve by certain days or the end of the year. You have to care about them as young people, young learners who are learning so much about the world every minute. Let’s face it, we live in a busy, rapidly changing world which moves frantically forward in society, technologies, science as each single day passes. And god bless them, by the time of those teen years there’s a ton else going on in their lives which can mean school is their only safe or happy refuge. Or a very unhappy place. Or a disinterest. What a loss. To lose interest in learning.

You have to care about helping them to learn, to help them learn to learn and to learn about themselves too. You have to care about understanding where they  are coming from sometimes and what’s happening in their lives, perhaps difficult circumstances at home which might be influencing them. Even down to kindergarteners, never mind teenagers or pre teens. If one of my student’s parents is away for work often or just on certain days/ periods of time, I need to support that child. If they have a new brother or sister, there’s careful consideration there necessary from the eyes of the teacher to help them with that. Children and young learners need nuturing  and we, the teachers, who students spend half of their day with and are constant figures in their path to adulthood should nurture them. Help them in the professional and caring way we need to be to help them strive to be the best they can be.

Loving Learning! Grade 6 - Issan, Thailand, 2009

Loving Learning! Grade 6 – Issan, Thailand, 2009

You should care that you inspire your students. That they’re preparing for the tough world of work and adulthood which ultimately comes at the end of the whole timely process. whichever age you teach. Kindergarteners are just starting to learn how to make sense of a seemingly and often complex busy world in a beautifully innocent naivety that very young children have. First, second, third graders, all of them upwards are learning really complex stuff as well as facing and feeling an increasingly heavy pressure to progress, achieve and succeed – honest I’ve seen some of their work in class and it’s amazing what they’re learning and doing. They’re only like 7 or 8. Achieving wonderful things. All in a complex community of learners, involving a huge myriad of people and learning situations with;  peers, elders, youngers, teachers, family, people they meet from other schools, learners they learn from and engage with on the internet, television, the media -in fact everywhere. The work produced by middle/ high school students should be applauded.

I went to the Grade 5 exhibition a while back and was stunned at this whole array of personal projects these students had worked so hard at and done such a great job with. And each passionately following their own questions and interests to create a personal project and such amazing art, drama and musical representations to support their work. Amazing. I wondered what I had been doing in Grade 5 back in my past life  when I saw their work, and I don’t recall anything of such complexity and maturity. How much education changes, all the time, (even in my short life so far) and how a good curriculum ( I love the IB inquiry method) and good teachers can make those sometimes relentless changes to be positive ones. To be part of that evolution of teaching and learning, how amazing. From students being an empty vessel to be filled with knowledge as was such in the not so distant past, to be inspiring them to create their own path of learning and follow their own rigour and hard work in doing so, following a path that interests them. To be a learner helping a learner. Not a teacher helping a learner. Isn’t that how we should be helping our students learn in both their school work and also their understanding of learning itself, how they best learn, what they want to learn about, so they can be inspired and engaged in meaningful learning,  relevant to them, their studies and life in an intrinsically curious way?

Happy classes

Happy classes

We all experience and learn every day. In addition to caring, every good teacher should be humble. Accept that they are in fact still themselves a learner and can and will make mistakes. It’s definitely okay to make mistakes but a hundred percent better if we accept and learn from them, especially when that knowledge and growth stops us making it a second or third time in the future? In fact if we admitted to our students more often that we’ve made or do make mistakes, they’d feel much more comfortable with making mistakes themselves. Being open to the process of learning.

Who ever got long division the first time?! Seriously? Some of us still struggle with it or other concepts like percentages now as an adult. Who can remember Pythagoras Therorum clearly now all these years later? (unless you’re a maths teacher!) How many things have we had to learn in our own lives, and more importantly, just how much more do we have to learn, and will learn in our future. Embrace it, I think, for a much more open and less complex life. A healthier life.

 

I make mistakes all the time with my kids, and I feel lucky that in Kindergarten, it’s easy to accept it and let my students know a) I’ve done so and b)  know it’s okay to be wrong because ‘Miss Kielly’s just made a very silly mistake!!’ … cue a gaggle of loud giggling children, potentially actually rolling on the floor with silly laughter! But it’s important to do it wherever you work in a school and with every student. To feel safe in fact is in the knowing of safely of being able to make a mistake/s and know it’s okay, nothing bad is going to happen. School should be a safe place. Let’s encourage it more. Who wants students to be so scared of being wrong that they necessarily limit themselves. How sad.

Helping each other - Grade 5 students Issan, Thailand, 2009

Helping each other – Grade 5 students Issan, Thailand, 2009

Collaboration - Grade 5 Students, Issan - Thailand. 2009

Collaboration – Grade 5 Students, Issan – Thailand. 2009

Don’t limit yourself just because you’re an adult and supposedly know everything! Accept mistakes when you make them,  acknowledge them,  grow from them, and show your students your own personal learning curve.

Teaching is a great profession. Enjoy it! Help your students enjoy it! Listen, think, reflect, act, reflect and learn. Remember to care.

What I’ve learnt as a teacher … so far.

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Okay, so I haven’t been a teacher for very long, this is my second year and it’s safe I haven’t gone the traditional route, heading straight overseas after graduating to an International school in the Philippines ( and quickly resigning after realising it didn’t count as a well maintained building, never mind a school) However I was fortunate enough to land in a great job here in Indonesia and I feel like I’ve traveled a long way as a teacher already ..

So here are some of my insights ..

1.  I can make mistakes and it’s okay! It’s not the end of the world, and providing I learn from them, they enrich the teaching experience both for the students and myself. What a realisation after the numerous stressful observations in my placements at uni. I can say to my students, ‘You know what, that didn’t work but let’s try it this way’ or ‘Oh dear, Ms. Kielly totally forgot about that, oops’ and they just giggle! It helps them in their understanding that everybody is a learner, and all I expect from them is that they try their best. No more. And they do! They think ‘If Miss Kielly can make mistakes, so can I! ‘Or at least that’s what I imagine they tell themselves. If I think about it, it’s probably more like ‘giggle … ‘Miss Kielly is soooooo silly!’

2. Encouragement is key, my 4 year olds want to please their teacher more than anything. I give the the positive praise they need to try even in things they find difficult like learning letter formation, or blending sounds, or even writing their name. I’ve learnt that creating a positive, encouraging environment where my students feel safe and happy, one in which they love coming to everyday is more important than anything because if they don’t feel this, their experiences at school are altered totally. I think I’ve been successful this year. My students are happy, confident learners who tell me how much they love school everyday. They give me hugs and blow me kisses from the playground. They shower me with flowers they’ve ripped off a bush. ( I have tried telling them I prefer to see the flowers on the bush, living, but when I see how excited they are to give me such a gift, I just shrug and think, let them have their little pleasures.) Bless them and their sweet nature. When they’ve been off sick, their parents tell me how desperate they were to come back to school. When I helped them mark on the calendar our 3 day holiday for Chinese New Year, most of them moaned with drawn out sighs at the thought of no school. LOL! Those who didn’t were so genuinely excited, I was excited for them. Especially when I know how valuable holidays are to a teacher and how much we love them and look forward to them too!

3. Early years teaching is so much fun and something I love to do. When I first began, I wasn’t sure. I thought it wasn’t totally for me. Then I was lucky enough to be able to attend a great PD in Bali all about play based inquiry learning in the Early Years. Boy did that change my perspective. I remember feeling so conflicted in myself at the course initially. Then it just seemed to change, about the end of the second day. I came back inspired, motivated, excited. And that’s continued in my practice ever since. I love the early years and genuinely appreciate the students total intrinsic enthusiasm, curiosity and love for learning.

4 The hard work is totally worth it. Seeing my students excitement in their success, their joy in grasping a new concept, a new skill. Seeing them proudly dragging their parents over to the writing table at the end of the day to show their mum that they can now write their name is priceless. Seeing their amazed faces watching an Imovie of themselves I’ve slaved over for hours at home makes it worth it. Seeing them accomplish something new and knowing how far they’ve come in their journey over the year is just the best feeling ever. I am so proud of each of them. They’ve all achieved so much.

5. Getting parents on board is vital. Having their support is amazing. It’s totally worth all the effort. I’m not a parent, but I can appreciate the worry in getting a new teacher, wanting their child to be happy and successful and as a teacher to 4 year olds, I can only imagine how hard it is to leave your child at school at that age. I feel an overwhelming responsibility to look after and nurture these tiny human beings as much as I can. I want to share with their parents, as much as possible, the successes and achievements of their child, of the whole class so they can be as involved as possible. The long road to getting them on board is also valuable say when I need their support, say for example in sending in photos of their family from home … this year I got photos from every child, without fail within a week and only one reminder email! 😀 One parent told me she and tons of the other mum’s and dad’s  want me to be their child’s teacher next year. What an awesome feeling knowing they trust and support me so much! I’ve also helped some parents in their journey in understanding of an inquiry play based curriculum and why it’s so appropriate and right for early childhood students through workshops I’ve helped plan and deliver, articles and links I’ve sent them and conversations with them. We are all learners.

6. I’ve learnt what does work and what doesn’t in my learning space. Having a table half hidden around a corner does not work and not only encourages children to get up to naughtiness but is actually a blatant symbol for doing so to a 4 year old! Replacing it with the computers which are independent and fuss free (except for the odd complaint of someone not sharing) was a much better idea. Leaving all the resources on shelves does not work if I expect students to be able to select resources themselves as well as tidy them all up. A selection is better. Having a Box House as a ‘dark room ‘ to explore night and day for our UOI was ridiculously fun for the children but descended into chaos and every possible resource being dragged into it and left in a mess which often meant 10 whole minutes of tidying up from the children.

7. Creating Essential agreements with my class was not as hard as I imagined. 4 year children are totally capable of understanding this concept, if approached in the right way and have fantastic ideas. They know what is expected of them, and thinking of them themselves gave them ownership of the classroom and was much, much more effective than ‘Teacher Rules.’ Revising them with the children after two months made them even better, asking the children to think about what we had agreed and what we might want to change now we were 2 months into class. Laboriously talking about them everyday and referring to them …. all the time in the first few months was essential and continuing to refer to them to help remind children of them has helped keep them fresh and important in their minds. My students work together in a very collaborative fashion and I can see they follow common agreements and shared understandings, evident in the way they interact with each other and their teachers. They have a social gel which is wonderful to see. Putting in the hard work and effort (including waiting … forever to print out coloured photos, and walking back to the printer numerous times to see if they had arrived virtually) to create a large display of the essential agreements, displayed prominently on our board right in front of our carpet area, with photos of the children helped enormously. These students can’t read yet, so visual cues are vital and they just LOVE to see themselves in photos, anytime, anywhere. Total excitement.

8. Offering and giving responsibility to my students works remarkably well in helping them to be responsible students and makes my job a thousand times easier as a result. Tidying up time is blissful (well that might be an exaggeration but it is a thousand times easier than last year, I don’t even need a tidy up song anymore! Success!) . I virtually do nothing other than help direct children to an area which needs cleaning .. and they run to do it! They almost fight over who gets a sponge to help clean tables or mess from the floor. They get excited when I show them new cleaning equipment such as a dustpan and brush and can’t wait for an opportunity to use it. Today, walking my class to the library was the best feeling of accomplishment! Bear in mind, our classroom is FAR from the library. At the beginning of the year, I used to dread the walk to the library. 14 small children running along the path, or off the path. Loudly screaming in excitement. Running straight into people who might also be trying to use the path, heaven forbid at the same time. Often these people stopped, unsure what to do with the sight of 14 tiny children running towards them on a race to the library, wildly swinging yellow bags with sharp cornered books in the air. Through months and months of constant reminders, praise and reinforcement, my children walk to the library as the smartest children in school (Well, I am biased!) … I have talked them through the whole practice of walking together and waiting at certain spots, such as doors, the pond, the maps which dot our route every time we walk out of our classroom to go anywhere. That we need to stick together, as a group, meaning we don’t race to be there first, before I’ve even got past Topeng building. That we need to move to one side when we see other people on the path. That we won’t swing our bags wildly all over the place. Well, yesterday, I practically strolled in leisure, chatting to excited children who wanted to share their stories with me, as I watched the children walking ahead, stopping at every ‘waiting spot’. They patiently waited, excitedly finding where they were on the map or stood searching for fish or frogs in the pond whilst we all caught up. They stood at the door, blocking it, like Policemen, waving their arms or folding them like a bouncer saying to the other children approaching  “Stop! Wait! Teachers open the door’. They did not run up the stairs, nor did they run across the all too exciting bridge to the elementary library. They were amazing! Of course, we totally had a praise overload, in the hope that our next visit and walk next week will be as peaceful and successful. What little superstars!

9. Working with colleagues is harder than the students. No need to elaborate. Students are easy. Adults are much, much harder.

10. Becoming more organised in approaching mega tasks or deadlines such as reports. Start as early as possible. Think ahead. Work smart. Recognizing my weaknesses such as keeping a classroom tidy. I swear, it’s part of working in the early years. Well, I would say that but … having 28 tiny hands moving things, having to multi task managing the classroom as I am being given letters/ forms/ things  means I invariably put them down on any surface. Covering my desk with all manner of things, most of which I don’t need there. ( I can actually think of a bottle of Balsamic Vinegar sitting my my desk, right at this minute that I brought in once for a salad I made for lunch in like October, yes… really… ) I make an attempt to tidy when I walk into my classroom and look at it in disgust, when I can’t find something I need because it could literally be anywhere. At the end of last year, we had to empty our classrooms. This was my first emptying of a classroom I had inhabited ever. That’s when I realised what a total pig I was. Keisha and Mel will tell you exactly how messy it was because I bet ( actually, I KNOW) they remember it vividly. Behind every corner, every piece of furniture, on every shelf was something … it could have been anything …  something I was sure I would use again, would need, but obviously could never ever find when I remembered I had it. Finding pieces of jigsaws or games in dusty, never seen before spaces. Being ridiculously frustrated at the whole task. That’s when I realised I could never again let my classroom be that disorganised. And I have made a conscientious effort this year to try harder. I’ve come to accept nobody else will ever clean my cupboard .. or my desk, or the empty (initially) tantalizing flat tops of shelves which invite me to place things on them …  no matter how much I wish somebody would! If I want to be able to find something, I need to actually be able to walk in my cupboard. I need to take resources back to the library regularly instead of the library being empty because I have them all! I say this, and I know I am better this year. To be fair. anything would be an improvement. I have a box in my cupboard for random things I find, which I know are part of something, so at the end of the year, I can put them all back in the right boxes/ games. (Hmm, reading that sentence, I’m not sure how tidy that sounds really!) But I do know how busy I am and how little time I have to do these things. I tidied my cupboard yesterday after feeling sick of not being able to walk in it without tripping over something (often a random bag of junk collected for junk modelling or large resources such as a basketball hoop (which thinking of, I should just return to wherever it came from, I’ll remember where if I think hard enough about it) ) .. I emptied my desk a little. I can only try. And at least, by about May, I’ll know about the end of year clean out and make a huge effort to clean and organise in preparation. Never again will I repeat last year. Ever.

11. Realizing that my ideas are as valid as other peoples and I have a lot to contribute to discussions and planning/ ideas. Realizing we are all learning, no matter where we are on our journey as a teacher and learner.

12. Choosing which battles to fight, when to bite my tongue, which if you know me, you will know this has taken a long time to learn and which I am still learning to do. Accepting to let things go, knowing which ones I should fight for. Not going into meetings like a raging bull in a China shop. Learning patience. Learning how to work with people and how to come across as reasonable, even if I feel furious. Knowing when not to reply to emails, if I know it will be laced with sarcasm or bitterness. Giving myself time to calm down and come back to something. Know if I can’t be loving, to be kind. If I can’t be kind, be polite. Never less.

13. Realizing I am actually good at this. Seeing the progress my students make and knowing how I have helped in that respect. Seeing how far I have come in my journey. Accepting there are lots of things to learn, being excited about this and appreciating the successes so far. Allowing myself to give myself credit for what I have done instead of being too hard on myself in moments of worry or stress. Enjoying the moment, the experience. Excited for the future 😀

Changing Education Paradigms … Online Digital Communites?

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This is one of my favourite videos on Youtube and Ken Robinson is an amazing speaker. I love how the animation on this video clarifies what is being talked about. I am definitely a visual learner.This video will make you think.

I was reminded of this video talking to a friend about the virtues of blogging, how technology and education are changing and why our school ‘needs’ to be a virtual online community. It got me thinking just how much technology and its presence in education has changed even just in the past 10 years. I’d consider myself to be pretty young, heck, I was at school taking my GCSES just 10 years ago and the most digital my school was was in the form of a website. Facebook didn’t even really exist then. At least I don’t remember it being so. Perhaps it was but considering Facebook has over 350 millions users today (and who knows how many by next month), that’s huge.  I only got my first mobile phone at 15. Now it seems everybody has one and not just any phone, a smartphone most probably, capable of doing a zillion things … internet, instant messenging, satnav, bluetooth, Twitter. Things are changing so fast, where will we be as a society be in just 2 or 3 years? How will education change? Will most schools be online, with ehubs and digital communities? Is it as important as it seems to be? Will it be as valuable as it seems to be right now? Is it all hype? I’m not even kidding you, today when I used the ‘Clean My Mac’ application on my MAC, it asked me if I wanted to ‘Tweet’ my result! Why on earth would I want to do this? And why would anybody care to know the results of whether my MAC was clean?! Really, ridiculous. How much of what we post online is meaningless or excessive?

When I consider the work I do each work at school in terms of communication with parents with Newsletters, Friday Feedbacks, creating videos of my students and class to share with my parents on Youtube, email reminders …  I feel confused. I love sharing our news with them. I don’t mind putting in all of the effort (most of the time!) but how much do they really read? They get infobytes, Infoflashes, ‘The Buzz’, letters home, emails about important notifications almost daily.. how much do they need and how much do they actually read? Is it information overload? Can all of my parents understand what I write, considering most of them speak English as a second or third language? Is the job of a teacher to be an online narrator, a digital citizen? How many teachers out there are not technology savvy? Some teachers surely will not feel comfortable with using technology so profusely. Will these teachers be judged in their future by their ability to use technology? Surely the main function of a teacher is to teach?

I, myself consider myself savvy enough with technology to be able to use IT effectively. I use Imovie regularly to create movies of my students. I can set up and use a blog. If I need to figure something out, I can work it out on the computer. I am looking forward to beginning my class blog .. it will simplify what I am already doing and everything will be on one site. I am looking forward to being creative, to sharing our class community to those who matter … but I keep wondering where will these changing technologies take us?

Early Years Teaching is Fun !

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Here’s a video I made of my students showing how they develop the 10 attributes of the IB Learner Profile in our Early Years Classroom. Enjoy!

Oh my goodness, the fun I have teaching 4-5 year olds totally makes up for the hard work I put in every day. They literally make me giggle everyday. Thought I’d share some of my thoughts on why I love teaching the teeny children!

1. They are hilariously funny. Once, I asked one of my boys if he had made a gun with the construction toys … knowing this was disapproved of, he looked at me and said … ‘No.’ I said, ‘Oh wow that’s funny because it really looks like a gun! What is it then?’ He replies ‘ I can’t tell you, it’s a secret!’ . Ha, quick thinking there! I let him continue with his game. Another time, two of my boys were being ‘Pirates’ and searching for treasure around the classroom using tubes for telescopes. Peering through his telescope, one of the boys said ‘I see Treasure! Come’ motioning to his friend. To which his friend stared at him with disdain and said ‘No, don’t be silly – that’s the rubbish bin!’. Absolutely classic. Today, singing our ‘continent song’, one of my funniest boys looked at me and said ‘I don’t like this song, we live in Indonesia and it doesn’t say Indonesia in the song! He was somewhat placated when I told him Indonesia was in Asia but only just. LOL. I showed them a video once of my scuba diving (I’m big on sharing with them the enormity and beauty of our earth and helping them know there’s a whole wide world out there for them to explore) and ever since then, everytime I put a video of underwater scenes (We live in Indonesia, one of the most amazing areas of diverse aquatic life in the world) they tell each other excitedly ‘There’s Miss Kielly!’ whenever they see a scuba diver. I’ve tried telling them it’s not me, but they are completely convinced! Okay, yes that is me guys, I am the only scuba diver in the whole world!

2. They are so easily amused. It’s mind boggling. One of my children brought in her ‘favourite book from home’ to share. It was in Dutch. I said to the class, ‘Oh wow, I don’t know Dutch but I’ll try to read it for you!’ I proceeded to make a fairly decent attempt at speaking Dutch ( I can speak German) and the whole class were literally in hysterics to the point where I’m looking at my Teaching Assistant as if to say, ‘Is this really that funny?!’ Every word I spoke, they were quite literally rolling about on the carpet giggling beyond explanation! Yesterday I started a ‘secret password’ on the classroom door which they have to read when they come in and ‘whisper in my ear (remember it’s a secret!)  to help develop our beginning ‘reading skills. The first ever word was ‘box’ … you would not even believe how exciting they find this ‘secret password’! The first day I started it, the first little girl who came in was so hugely excited to find we had a secret password that every time a classmate walked in with their bags, she ran over to them literally as they walked in, almost tripping over her own feet in her haste to whisper loudly to them about it and drag them to the door to show them! Bless, one of my little girls got a little bit confused and asked me all day ‘But when will we open the mystery box?’ LOL.Today my kids thought the most hilarious thing ever was to run off the roofed path into the rain giggling with excitement at the prospect of raindrops falling on their head. It reminds me of the simple pleasures in life and not to take life so seriously. They keep me young in my mind, even in the stress of the busy working day.

3. They literally spend all day trying to please me. (mainly my adorable girls) Oh it’s the cutest. One of most adorable girls tells me all the time ‘It’s okay Miss Kielly, we can do whatever you want, don’t worry about it, I don’t mind what we do now because I just want you to be happy!’ Ahhhhhh. One of my parents of the most gorgeous girl told me that she had been talking to her daughter the day before and the little girl had announced .. ‘Next year, in K2 I’m going to have Miss Kielly as my teacher you know’ to which Mummy said ‘Oh that’s lovely but I think you might have a new teacher’. The girl replied saying ‘Oh but it would be so nice to have Miss Kielly again. Do you think I could just repeat K1 next year so she can be my teacher again?!’ Ahhhhh, hearing these things makes me so happy!! The girls LOVE to give me hugs all day and tell me ‘I love you Miss Kielly!” How wonderful. I love it!

4. They are so naturally curious. Despite being asked questions all day long, I never tire of it … I mean they just love exploring and finding about the world around them. If I can help them love school, my job is done. Seriously, that’s my biggest goal. Enjoy school. If you don’t enjoy school at 4, there’s something seriously wrong.

I might need to start a page on here called ‘The hilarious things my kids say’. Yes, I think I will!

Tons of people say to me, ‘Oh I could never work with tiny children’. You are seriously missing out!

Hello world!

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Hello World! It’s definitely time for me to begin a blog about my experiences as I live and teach overseas! Several years almost out of date but I’m sure I can play catch up now. I’m actually just beginning my journey into teaching overseas since graduating from my teaching degree in July 2010. I currently work at a beautiful International School in BSD City, Jakarta, Indonesia.

I teach K1, students aged 4 turning 5 … which I just love. What a simply wonderful age to teach! Curious, intrigued and highly motivated students. My biggest goal as a teacher is that my students enjoy school and I love to see just how excited they are at school and how engaged they are in their learning! I see such confident and successful students and I really feel confident in saying that they do love school! So I feel extremely fortunate to be blessed with such a wonderful class and my amazing, colourful life out here in the hectic life of Jakarta. Even though we are only 5 months into the year, I see such amazing progress in all of my students and I’m so happy for them! Some have progressed hugely in their spoken English language skills having come into the class in August only speaking Chinese and now they are putting together some great sentences and are confident doing so! Some have made such progress in their confidence I almost don’t remember them anymore as the shy boy who rarely spoke at the beginning of the year! Some simply shone during letters and sounds work, ready for the next bit as they discovered their new and exciting ability to read! Wow, what an awesome inspiring event to be involved in!

One of my gorgeous boys always says to me ‘Miss Kielly, I can do it!’. I love to hear him say that! Yes you can! There’s no such word as can’t. My kickboxing instructor at home, a really great guy always said that and I love that ideology. Positivity. Don’t give up. What an inspiring attitude.

I just came home from Indonesia at Christmas and I simply love being here, sharing this family time at Christmas with my loving family and friends (an experience which never makes up for the time I spend away from them … and I wish could). But I also can’t deny that the gray skies and bitter, icy winds aren’t a little miserable. I’ve moved into slow mo at home recently and not done an awful lot since I got back and I’m certain the fact it’s so dark outside both morning and evening depresses my overall mood quite a bit. Yesterday I woke up at 6am and waited almost 3 hours for the skies to lighten so I was sure it was morning and my watch hadn’t just stopped. It was a long time to wait. Finally the gray sky lightened and another gray day began. Then there’s the icy cold. My feet have never warmed up since getting off the flight in Newcastle one chilled morning. When I stepped off the plane, I actually gasped with cold and shock. It’s almost indulgent to say it but I simply love being in a hot sunny climate.There’s something to be said for sunny, hot days every day! I can’t deny that looking up at the sky everyday whilst I live in Asia gives me a thrill that I am here, in life, right now enjoying such wonderful, colourful skies with their heavy drenching monsoon rains which soak in seconds and turn roads into muddy and puddled messes. A sunny life indeed.

I love my job and I love Indonesia. What a fabulous country, full of culture and wonderful, welcoming people and communities. I feel a strong connection, almost an affinity with Indonesia and Indonesian culture shaped by the experiences I have had in my time here, both professional and personal and the journey over the last few years which took me here. One tradition I love the most is the Wayang shadow puppetry. I simply love the Wayang shadow puppets and have spent numerous hours (!) scouting out wonderful traditional Indonesian household things or gifts at Pasar Raya in Blok M. I am also fortunate enough to have kind friends who give wonderful gifts of Wayang to decorate my sparsely furnished house! Minimalistic chic at its best.

Wayang Shadow Puppets - Image from Web

Balinese Wayang – Image from Web

I really hope this site will allow me to share my life overseas with family and friends back home. Despite photos and emails, without visiting, it’s hard to imagine what it’s really like. Until my family come, which I’m really hoping they do (!) then I’ll try to share more of my current life with them via this blog. I really hope I make this blogging a regular thing. There’s a huge IT initiative in my school which means everybody will be producing class / subject blog pages in order for our school to fufill its ambition of creating a ‘digital community’. I’m really happy about making my own blog for K1, it’ll be so exciting to share what’s going on in our classroom. I hope I’ll learn enough with this blog to hit the ground running when I start my blog for class. Different departments have different dates to start their blogs, a phased introduction. At first I was a little annoyed that I couldn’t do my blog earlier but actually perhaps it’s been a blessing. Last term was a very long and tiring term.  Already just a few days into the Christmas Holidays, I feel relaxed and revived, if a little cold back home in Newcastle, UK. Now I feel excited and motivated to do this whole ‘blogging’ thing as well as my other goals for 2012! Feeling excited about the adventures ahead 😀