My First year in an MLE - Kate Bodger
This year I have made the transition from single cell classrooms to an MLE. I am very lucky to be teaching in a purpose built environment at Halswell School. (My ideas are completely my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.) I think the transition was even more intense coming from a small school with no syndicates. I will admit I am finding it quite difficult to articulate the amount of learning and unlearning I have done this year into a blog post.. But here goes…
Having only ever taught in single cell classrooms I have found this year to be a massive change. Being on my own in a small school without a syndicate to share planning, I had a lot of autonomy over my own programme. I would implement new things, see if they worked, reflect and start again. I have found it so refreshing to draw on five other people’s experiences to decide on programmes to best suit the learners.
Coming from a digital 1:1 class and being the teacher in charge of ICT my teaching philosophy was largely based around using digital technologies to engage my students.
I have been absolutely humbled by what I didn’t and still don’t know about teaching and learning. This year I have been predominantly teaching with two other teachers with 90 children. Moving into a decile 10 school the resources although generous were nothing near 1:1. I found my philosophy of teaching was slowly changing.
We have a wonderful team leader. I think she has made this process so easy to adjust to, as I have never felt like I have had to ‘pick my battles’ which was the piece of advice most often dished out by friends already working in these environments. We talk. We talk about everything, we discuss, we research, we use our experiences just as I did in a single cell classroom, but with five other ideas, points of view and expertise. I felt because I saw these people teaching everyday, I had such a high level of respect for them as educators I really value their input and feedback.
Working so closely with other teachers who are really passionate about certain subjects is really infectious. Was I as an educator starting to enjoy teaching P.E?! Surely not… But spending a lesson observing amazing teaching, being shown incredible resources and being encouraged along the way has been amazing. I didn’t exactly say I enjoy teaching P.E, but am definitely warming up to it!
Last year with my class of 32 I had five Maths groups. Ranging from stage 3-7 I tried to put them together as much as I could, but I really struggled to see my groups as much as I would have liked to. I really started to not enjoy teaching Maths which I usually adore. I found it such a "brain frying" to go from stage three to six, to seven to see all my groups. My book five was a rainbow of coloured tabs trying to keep me on track with where I was with each group. I had tried a few new things but just found I was too stretched to be an effective Maths teacher to such a range of needs. Hats off to those that do it and do it well!
So what a treat being able to ability group a larger range of children. This year I have a group of stage five children and that’s it. My teaching and assessment I feel are better than they’ve ever been. I don’t feel stretched, I love teaching Maths. I talk about my teaching all the time and get advice, encouragement and ideas daily. The reflections just become a part of my day.
I did find with this way grouping/timetabling that I lost a lot of flexibility. We would start our literacy and numeracy rotations promptly and because of the mixed groups would have to be ready to go at certain times. I am aware this would be the same as any other interchange situation, but it was new for me. I found it hard to squeeze in those incidental learning opportunities, when a child asks a question in the morning, discovers something new or brings something into share. It could be quite restrictive I have realised it is important to make the most of the time I am alone with my own class.
One thing I have noticed, I’m exhausted. More than the usual level of ‘where’s the wine on a Tuesday tired’, but could sleep for a year tired. As a team we have discussed what makes us so tired. It’s more than the noise which was the first thing everyone has asked me about… But more being constantly ‘on’. There is always a buzz of activity, with 90 children, many more parents, grandparents etc. We are always talking/reflecting/changing/sharing. There is no down time where you are alone with your thoughts.
After all the talking, reflecting and trying to explain this amazing rollercoaster of a year I found the best analogy from the owner of my local cafe. (Hector in New Brighton amazing coffee if you’re in the area!) He said “ it sounds like a really long group project at uni”. How true I thought to myself.
There are those in the group stronger than others in certain areas that take responsibility for that to be completed to the best of their ability. There are times in the group project that someone has other things going on and needs to lean on the group to get everything done. But at the end we are all working together to achieve the best results possible for our akonga.
I really couldn’t imagine going back into it alone!