guest post #15 – Jen English – @Jennnnnn_x

Title: unknown

When I was asked to write a guest post about #sharingiscaring I wondered what I could write about – I have only been teaching two years but a lot has seemed to happen in those short years and it feels like forever…


So I thought I’d share some observations (which probably aren’t uncommon) made in my first 2 years…

1. It’s okay to fail! – I regularly make mistakes, I get it wrong, I lose my calm and panic, but it doesn’t matter… The audience in front of me never seem to realise. That’s one of the things that you realise as soon as you get your own class. You learn that sometimes it’s okay to stray away from the plan (in fact it’s always okay) and to be honest that was the best advice anyone could have ever given me.

2. Just try it – I was fortunate in my first year to work with an amazing HOD, she was also new to the role. She focused not on making my teaching better but making me better… She was there to bounce ideas off, and most importantly she encouraged me to just try it. FYI – play dough and bottom set year 11 is a no go – unless you want phallic shaped objects created! Since this incident I have use plenty of different ideas – including jelly babies, water guns, beach balls – this term I’m experimenting with Lego!

3. It’s only a lesson plan – It took a while for me to realise that a plan is just a plan… It doesn’t have to be followed to the end – if your lesson flows in a different direction and that works – go with it. Inspiring an interest is far more important than a plan. One particular lesson we ended up spending 45 minutes discussing the ins and outs of the one child policy, the problems it has now created, why it wouldn’t work in England. And the next lesson we carried on… In fact I think in total we spent 3 lessons on it and the interest from a bottom set year 9 class was incredible… They can’t focus on a video for 30 minutes yet they wrote pages and pages on their views and opinions of the policy. I loved it – seeing their passion just makes me even happier!

4. Use what is around you – I’m very fortunate in that I teach geography and only really to years 9-13 (I share a year 8 class) – I love this because it means we can get in to the proper geography, but it also means I’ve got the students at the stage where asking questions isn’t cool (year 7/8 are notorious for it!!) I seem to spend my first year pushing them to ask questions, to think about what they were doing and challenge pre-conceived ideas about the world, to no avail. Although one particular lesson comes to mind when they did ask questions – in fact my year 10 class asked questions for the first 10 minutes of the lesson – why? Because hurricane sandy has hit New York and they were interested! Finally!! Now every time something on the news or happening in the real world is relevant I scrap the SOW and I talk about it – sometimes this means planning a lesson but sometimes we just talk about it, watch videos off the bbc, and it’s fascinating! I think the most rewarding part of teaching is seeing that lightbulb moment…

5. Be positive – I for one spend a lot of time communicating with parents, phoning them about behaviour, recent exam results, poor attitude, lack of effort in controlled assessment – the list goes on. I think the fact that I do this has meant the phone calls seem to be decreasing in number as we go on… This year tho I spent the last 3 months angry… And then I decided to make another phone call, I phoned a girl in my year 11 class who got a C on a recent exam and who was previously working at a E… I told her mum how pleased I was that she was trying so hard, and the appreciation at the other end of the phone was fantastic. It really made my day. So I did it more often, I made a pact with myself for every 3 negative calls I would make at least 1 positive one – it worked… I just need to carry on this year… Children just want someone to notice they are working hard – I think just like we do!

Anyway I have definitely smashed the 200 word target – sorry! I hope I haven’t bored you too much…

And if like me the first night nerves are back… A few days too early – have a glass of wine and remember that whatever happens there’s always the next day/lesson/week or term!!



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