It’s been a while, I’ve been busy, but boy have I got things to tell you.

The last couple of months have been a huge endeavour and an even bigger learning curve. I am now in a 0.6 (3 days per week) role, doing backfill in 2 different classes while their normal classroom teachers undertake other roles internally.

I got a pigeon hole. I got a school-specific badge. I got keys. I got a computer login.

I understood that taking on the contract I had been offered was a big deal, but it wasn’t until the Admin SSO (Student Service Officer) pointed out that she had made me a pigeon hole that it truly sunk in that I finally belonged. I’ve never cried so much over an empty box… although one time I bought a pair of shoes where there was one shoe missing, if that counts?

When you are a TRT, things like having a pigeon seem so abstract. You don’t have a place where people can leave you notes. You don’t have somewhere to hang your coffee cup. You aren’t actually allowed a computer login for some silly reason that I can’t comprehend (it’s something to do with accountability I think). Some days I leave my hat at school. That one is a big deal to me. My biggest pet-hate of being a relief teacher is carrying my hat everywhere. I have a really stylish felt hat with quite a stiff brim. It looks really snazzy and aids in my “be a fashionable, non-frumpy teacher” quest, but is insanely awkward to carry around day-in-day-out.

I am now spending 2 days in a year 4/5 composite class, and 1 day in a year 3 class. While I find with my year 4/5s I do a lot more of project work and supervision of ongoing tasks from their classroom teacher, with my year 3s (who I co-teach with my amazing friend Emma) I am able to develop and trial lots of different units of work within my learning areas. This year I am covering science, maths (outside of numeracy/number math) such as mapping, measurement, data etc., handwriting and visual art. This has been great for me because I have been able to flex my figurative teaching muscles and dig deep in the curriculum in terms of planning. It has also been a fantastic opportunity for me to prove my value to the school as I am actually able to plan, implement and assess units of work that directly inform report writing. In such a short amount of time I have found my teaching skills have truly blossomed, in no small amount due to the support I have gotten from my colleagues. I can’t wait to get blogging about some of the activities I have developed and used with my class, and to hopefully pass on some of the things I have learned so far.

The other thing I am really excited about is implementing a home-sharing online community. At the moment we are using the Seesaw program in our classroom which so far has been working great as a tool to share learning and information with families. Hopefully over the coming terms we can take it to the next level by teaching students about digital citizenship and quality comments etc. through the online domain. The next step will be ‘blogging’, although I think we will use the Seesaw platform for this as a starting point, at least to allow families and the school leadership to become comfortable with the idea. I am really excited to get this off the ground.

In the meantime, I hope you haven’t been too put-off by my personal over-share, I wanted to establish where I am at in my career, what direction I am headed, and what you can expect to see on this blog in the near future.

 

Warmest regards,

signture
(The lady with the badge and pigeon hole)

 

A disclaimer on my previous post

Today was my first TRT day of the year. Today I feel absolutely amazing, it was so good to get back to work in the job I love.

I just wanted to post this quick disclaimer, simply to say that while I stand by everything I posted yesterday, I think I need to clarify that the last time I worked was at the start of December and the monotony of “holidays” has really been getting to me emotionally, making a massive impact on my mental health. I genuinely love working as a relief teacher and it has amazing benefits, allowing me to experience a completely diverse world of teaching. However, the long period of time off, and the feelings of social and professional exclusion that occur when you are not directly involved in your workforce, looking in from the outside, is enough to lead anyone to question how much they really enjoy their job.

Today I got to be a teacher. I was fondly greeted by many students in both the classroom and the yard. I was warmly welcomed back to school by my colleagues, and to make things even better, I was offered a weekly fixed day, backfilling in a classroom with one of my closest personal friends at the school (someone I went to Uni with and with whom I’ve have always had a great relationship). I am not totally sure if this is just karmic coincidence, considering how useless I felt yesterday.

Anyway, I just wanted to justify what I said yesterday and the conditions under which I said them, as well as to reiterate that I am truly grateful for the work I have.

Warmest of regards,

signture

I love my job, but…

I love my job.

Don’t get me wrong.

When I was younger I used to sit my stuffed toys in front of a whiteboard we happened to have in our house. I would call the roll “Good morning Ted, good morning Peter Rabbit, good morning Pillar (named after a Spanish lady on a kid’s TV show I watched), good morning Big Josh the wombat”. None of them ever replied, but in my imagined world they were the most well-behaved class an aspiring teacher could ask for. Occasionally I invited my neighbour’s kids around (I had three years on them) and forced them to sit and learn Year 3 Maths on their Saturday afternoon. I took role-play to the extreme. When watching television and film, there was no character I idolized more than Embeth Davidtz’s Miss Honey in Danny Devito’s 1996 adaptation of Matilda. I adored her. I wanted to be her, the perfect teacher, loved by students, caring, kind and beautiful.

Miss Honey
TriStar Pictures

As a teenager it took me a while to really identify where my passion lay. I was torn between being the fiercely independent feminist, the tortured artist, and the dependable educator. I wanted to have a successful, high-paid job in a male dominated industry, like politics or engineering, to prove my intelligence and abilities… but I desperately wanted to do a job I knew I would enjoy doing for the rest of my life. I wanted to perform, to act and be the center of attention… but sensibility and awkwardness soon drew me away from pursuing performing arts. It wasn’t until someone handed me a university pamphlet on education that it really occurred to me that teaching was a job I was absolutely passionate about, and gave me the opportunities to really have an impact on the lives of others, and leave my mark on a new generation of children.

 

As a child I idolized my teachers, as a teacher I idolize my colleagues.

 

Throughout university I worked hard. And I don’t work hard for any thing. To become a teacher though, for that, I worked harder than I have ever worked for anything. I came out the other side with a Grade Point Average of 6.4/7 (that is the 90th percentile) and received three letters of commendation across my degree. I went the extra mile to undertake professional development in areas of education that are in current demand, like differentiation, open-ended numeracy, literacy intervention strategies and incorporating ICTs. I was in the top 15% of students who studied my degree and I maintain community and extra-curricular school involvement, despite only being a casual reliever. I volunteer on camps, at sports days, I attend out-of-hours school events, I go to assemblies and special celebrations. I love my job.

 

Yet I am here, a second year graduate, highly educated, sitting at home on a school day, watching the Superbowl and feeling sorry for myself, while my colleagues and peers go about their days in their classrooms.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I have written before about the great perks of being a reliever, and I would hate anyone to think I am ungrateful for the work I DO have. I am working tomorrow for the first time this year in a classroom I absolutely love, with children I have taught previously. I cannot wait. But I am also incredibly sad. I watch teachers post excitedly about their new classrooms, about their job interviews, about their new roles. I see pictures of beautifully set up classes that are Pinterest-worthy. I see friends writing about their cohort of students, about the challenging ones, the gorgeous ones, the quirky ones. I am sad and I am angry at myself for feeling jealous. I wonder if I should have worked harder to have that for myself. Or wonder whether I have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. OR, maybe there is something wrong with me, perhaps I am unlikeable and I am being looked over because I don’t act in a certain way or ingratiate myself with the right people.

 

Don’t get me wrong though. I love my job. But I am disheartened at sitting at home. I am saddened at the feeling of not being good enough. And I am also annoyed at myself because I know there are others who have been in this situation much longer than I have, who have worked just as hard. I wonder how long I will wait, and how long I have to keep justifying how much I love my job and how great relieving actually is. I DO love my job. There ARE wonderful benefits of relieving… like I totally got to hang out with my Dad and watch the Superbowl today, we ate toasties and shared a pot of tea and have a guilt-free day off work because as a casual, that is my prerogative. I get to schedule dentist appointments without the stress of booking it off. I have no obligation to go to staff meetings, to do programming, to stay at school past 3:30, to throw class parties, to spend my cash on resources for my classroom (although I do half these things anyway). There are certainly perks.

 

I love my job.

But, I also hate my job.

I am saddened by my job.

I question whether being a classroom teacher was only ever a pipe dream.

I question myself, and my abilities.

I question whether I can financially justify staying in a casual role.

I wonder if my passion for education, my hard work, my love for my students, my enthusiasm, my dedication, my intelligence, my approach to teaching will ever be enough.

I love my job, but it is killing me.

signture

TRT: A Day in the Life

For the purpose of this post I am going to reference a “typical” TRT (Temporary Relief Teaching) day, but I need to be absolutely honest in telling you that this is one of the most unpredictable jobs a person could possibly have, and the chances of any day being remotely similar to another is highly unlikely. There are so many factors that influence a classroom environment and its day-to-day, hour-to-hour fluctuations. Adding a new person (you, the outsider, the stranger threatening the relative norm) only magnifies those experiences and adds to the chaos of maintaining “normalcy”. Although I teach in two classes on a very regular basis, I am actually not going to talk about those classes for the purpose of this post. The “typical” relief day doesn’t usually look like a teacher the students are connected with and bonded to, strolling in first thing and knowing the daily ins and outs of classroom life for those children. What is more than often the “typical” relief day, is being sent in to a classroom that you may or may not have taught before, with students whose names you may or may not know, whose classroom code of conduct you may or may not be familiar with. So on that note, to give you the most realistic “day in the life” recount for a relief teacher, I will use an example of a school I am much less familiar with, and in a class I had taught only for short periods in the past.

nov

My first year of teaching is drawing to a close. I have just gotten back from a 2-week holiday in Thailand. Hope the school doesn’t notice my new tattoo. It’s a Sunday afternoon. Four weeks of school remaining for the year. I’ve got three days booked at my placement school covering the Kindy transitions at the end of the week. Watching Netflix. Phone buzzes. Text Message.

text 1

Deputy principal of local school. Am amused by his “text talk”. I studied linguistics as part of my Arts Degree, I find his informality refreshing, I struggle with authority a lot, it’s an anxiety thing, but I find this particular deputy extremely approachable, and kind, I think it is because he is young.

 

I accept his message with a quick “yes absolutely” and he replies with a quick confirmation of the class I will be working in. The teacher has left notes for the day. Score!

 

This is great because I have plenty of notice, I don’t need to do any preparation, and I find this particular class to be quite manageable. Not all days start off like this. Sometimes I get called at 6:30am with an urgent “PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE tell me you are available today, Mr. John Doe has called in sick and I’ve got 4 staff out at a conference and no relievers”. I don’t mind those days either. I have a folder of junior primary and a folder of primary activities ready to go in those situations. I’ve got activities and resources that pair up with certain stories and loads of activities in my brain just waiting to be used on such an occasion. Some times it pays to be creative. I have even had days where I have walked in to a classroom, thinking of activities on the fly, and had a child point out a beetle on the classroom floor… I then engaged the class in a clearly well-rounded and well-planned science lesson on beetles where the students drew and labeled the parts of the beetle (Google, I love you more with each passing day) and then as a group named the beetle (Spike), who we captured inside a discarded lunch container and then freed in to a safe and suitable environment at the end of the lesson.

By Persian Poet Gal (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Persian Poet Gal (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Being flexible in your plans, and thinking creatively and quickly makes life as a reliever a lot easier. Even if I don’t have time to come up with ideas, I will start the day with some type of “sharing” activity (there is usually a pre-established roster in most junior primary classrooms and older kids will talk about anything if you give them the chance and a little prompting) which gives me ample opportunity to jot down quick learning ideas while the kids are engaged elsewhere. Again, I digress, on with the story…

 

I arrive at the school. I am late. It is only a five-minute drive from my house. I left with ten minutes to spare. I encounter unexpected road works. I have to loop around the main road of the suburb and approach from the North. Stuck behind the trail of parents’ SUVs and mini-vans (I drive a Mazda 2 but because it is manual I drive like it’s a race car). I can’t get to the car park from here without waiting in a long line of cars. I park on the side of the road. It is a hike to the front office. Seven minutes late. Sweating. Anxious. Busted by principal. She understands. She got stuck in the road works too. Note to self: leave earlier, save embarrassment. I sign in at the front office (this will be the same in most schools, try to remember your DECD ID number, otherwise you look like a dweeb taking out your little diary every morning to copy your number to the sign-in sheet). I collect the classroom pack/relief folder. My prac school doesn’t have these, I usually just collect a key, but this way is much better because aside from the building key it will have classroom information, school map, duty areas/roster, timetable for the class, kids with severe allergies, and basically any information you strictly need to know.

 

Finally I arrive at the classroom. PE teacher who has non-contact first thing has come down to open the class up in my absence and started taking the role. I haven’t been in this particular classroom before but I have taken the majority of classes in this block. I’ve had this class for single lessons, teacher release, when I took art for the day, when I took PE for the day, some of the kids I had taught as part of a whole-block literacy rotation when I was in the room next-door. A couple of the kids I know from outside of school, their younger siblings were in my playgroup, they will be useful throughout the day because I know their names so can call on them, and because I know their families they will be eager to please and willing to help with day-to-day classroom management. The teacher has left me notes, it looks like this:

day plan
Really real authentic paper

 

I don’t know if you realise by now but this school has a lot of teachers that go by the name “Doe”.  In terms of teaching plans left for a reliever this is pretty decent. In my experience it is not often you will find one that is more detailed than this, which is more than adequate. The class tends to function a lot better when there is some semblance of normalcy, so the teacher leaving notes, when they can, greatly improves your chances of successful behavior management. At the end of the day I tidy up and lock the classroom, say “goodbye” to the surrounding teachers, and head up to the office to drop off my relief pack and sign out.

I drive home the long way because of the road works. The road works are now gone. I feel like an idiot.

This day went relatively smoothly for me, and I told the students at the beginning of the day there was an option for outdoor activity if they demonstrated responsible and respectful classroom behaviour. I make a conscious effort not to refer to it as sport or fitness because these are important elements of a holistic education that considers child wellbeing, but rather as “outdoor reward activity”. I make it clear that they have to earn it by showing the school values, putting the onus on the students to make the right choices. Then when students are being particularly rambunctious (such a great word) they can be gently reminded to consider their choices and make the one that gives them the best outcome (yay for encouraging responsible choice making – there is hope for my teaching yet).

 

Now, I say this is the “typical” day, but this is one example, of a million different scenarios that can occur for a relief teacher. Even on this given day things could have gone totally differently. Conflict between students could have been higher if child x (the one that is the class comedian but doesn’t have a great home life) wasn’t absent, no teacher notes could have meant an entirely different day plan, I could have been on time and 100% less flustered, there could have been a headlice epidemic, student z vomits in the classroom, half the class have to go out for unexpected traffic-crossing training (this actually happened after recess), I left my lunch at home and the children have to suffer the wrath of “hangry” Miss Smart. There are so many factors that can change and influence a classroom environment, then apply that to an entire school of classrooms and how each one is different and has a different dynamic. Now expand that principle even further, and apply it to every different school you teach at, and you can soon appreciate how no day of relief is ever going to be “typical”. I spent a week in one class and no single day was the same, even when you strip away the timetable and just look at the student interactions. Little Billy didn’t get much sleep last night and is stirring the pot. Betsy on the other hand has a new baby in her family and the lack of attention at home is making her emotional and clingy. And as for Johnny Doe Jnr. (this is the grandson of Mr. and Mrs. Doe the school teachers), he grazed his knees as soccer training yesterday and needs to remind you about it every 6-7 minutes like clockwork.

Be prepared because relief teaching will always be different. I hope this gives you at least some insight in to #reliefteacherlyf. Obviously no two schools do things the same, but there is at least some consistencies you can always be aware of, like arriving early (unless you have my poor time management), signing in, getting class keys, being prepared for any situation etc.

My final parting wisdom is this: always take your own mug, because you can never guarantee a spare in those precious few moments you’re holed up in the staff room, and no one wants to go a whole day coffee & tea free.

My favourite mug, made for me by the amazing @ThoughtHarvest
My favourite mug, made for me by the amazing @ThoughtHarvest

signture

My First Year as a Casual: a slight digression.

TRT, CRT, The Temp, The Substitute, The Relief Teacher, The Casual. For many first year graduates, these are terms that will become your reality. I am by no means saying that you won’t get full-time work or contract work (many of my friends got contracts in their first year out), but casual work is the most common, and the most readily available work for graduates. I have found in my early teaching career that a lot of people look down on casual work like it is beneath them (I will probably refer to it as TRT – temporary relief teaching – as this is the standard in my state). First and foremost let me tell you, casual work can be very easy, require little planning, you are not obligated to any extra-curricular activities outside of your required professional development (i.e. for the renewal of your registration), and in my opinion, it pays well. You are also the person who comes in last minute when classroom teachers have a sudden illness or family emergency, so in part, you are the hero of the teaching world, swooping in and saving the day (Go you!).

 

For the purpose of this post to be as useful as possible, I am going to give you a little background on my TRT experiences, how I managed to get work in schools, and how I prepare myself for the casual relief day.

 

At the beginning of this year I was slow on getting my act together, mainly because I was totally clueless about what formal certificates etc. I needed to have in order to actually get out there and teach. You shouldn’t have this problem because I made this post. It wasn’t until my amazing mentor from my final placement rang me and said she had a half-day of relief available in week one, and asked if I was interested, that I finally realized I needed to get organized. I just want to emphasize how important it is to try and keep the avenues open with your placement school. I have gotten the majority of my relief work at my prac school because I have worked hard to make myself invaluable to the school community. If you go out of your way to make the other teachers like you, to make parents like you, and to be the most reliable person you can, the person that the school knows they can count on, then you WILL get relief days. Make it your business to know who coordinates relief at the school, and make yourself known to this person. Better yet, ingratiate yourself with this person, because at the end of the day, they are the ones who decide if you get work or not. At some schools it will be a person in leadership who coordinates relief, while at others an administrative SSO may take on that role. I was fortunate enough that I had established a relationship with the relief coordinator at my placement school during my practical experience tenure so I was comfortable in approaching her and asking if she could give me any days.

 

In South Australia relief comes in two forms, half and full days. While a half-day may seem like a waste of time, particularly to experienced relief teachers who can afford to turn it down for the promise of more work, they are a great way to prove your commitment and enthusiasm in your early days teaching. I accepted around 10 (or more) half-days throughout my first year of teaching, including several during the first few weeks of term one. There is a truth, universally acknowledged that a teacher in want of relief work, will not find much during weeks 1-5 of term one (thanks to Jane Austen for that one). Teachers are with their new classes, establishing routine, are rejuvenated from the summer holidays, and it is just that, the Australian summer… so the winter coughs, colds and flus are relatively dried up. The other thing is that all the internal coordinator roles are yet to be filled so all those odd days that teachers have off for administrative roles have not yet commenced. Do not take it personally if you get little work during this time. What you should do though, is accept ALL THE HALF DAYS!!!

firstday

After I did my first ever relief day  for my mentor, I wasn’t expecting to be called again, however in week two the relief coordinator rang me and offered another half-day that none of the established relievers wanted to fill. I snatched the opportunity and I could not have been luckier. It was in a year 1 class, most of the students I had taught the year before as receptions while I was on placement, although the teacher I was quite unfamiliar with. Again, I was very lucky as we quickly bonded during the change over time (the great part about half-days is you can actually meet and talk with the teacher you are reliving for) and by the end of the week she had given me a whole collection of dates she needed relief cover for. Jackpot!

 

Term one was slow for work. This worked out well for me because I wanted to ease in to teaching rather than be thrown in to the deep end. By term two I started receiving more days from my mentor and the year one teacher, as well as a few odd jobs in other classes. I did consider taking my resume around to other schools, but as I was planning this I was contacted by a local school near to where I live, who were in emergent need of relief and had plucked my name from the relief pool (the list of all teachers registered as working relief – you don’t sign up to this, you go in automatically when you start working). They began to give me regular work, which worked perfectly as I was now employed from 3-5 days a week. Despite hearing a lot of negative remarks about work in term four, I have still maintained my 3-5 working day schedule until the final two weeks, which is understandable as most teachers are finishing up the year with their classes.

 

Basically, I found that only working at two schools been perfect for me. I am not saying it will work for everyone; each case, and each teacher, will be a different experience. I find that committing myself to only two schools has allowed me to have some job flexibility while still establishing permanent relationships with those school communities.

 

The first days of relief I had, I was terrified. Mortified. I thought I was bound to make colossal mistakes. The best advice I can give is to make sure you arrive at school REALLY RIDICULOUSLY EARLY (assuming you haven’t been called in last minute), and go and see the relief coordinator or deputy. They can go through anything you need to know: bell times, what to do during non-contact time, yard duty areas, a quickie school tour if you need it (and everyone likes a good quickie), any paperwork you need, how to use the photocopier, where the toilets are (this one is critical if you have an unpredictable bladder like mine), any key school rules/behaviour management policies, who you need to call if you are in trouble… the list goes on. Be prepared with questions if you can. Sometimes you don’t get the chance to be this organized, but if you are always prepared to work on the fly, have you own strategies in place, and bring along your common sense, then you should be able to navigate through until recess time and ask your questions when you get the chance.

 

Last, but not least, be friendly, be polite and be yourself. Never let other teachers make you think you are less valuable because you are a casual, because it is so far from the truth. I once got called to a school last minute, where the teacher had fallen extremely ill while in the classroom. I came in at 10am and the teacher had already gone home. Her students were scattered across the school, 3-4 kids in each of the junior primary classes. I came in and got to “save the day” as it were, relieving the pressure from all those other classroom teachers. Reliable relief teachers are invaluable to a school, and the more flexible and easy going you are with your role, the more you will endear yourself to the school.

 

I am going to update again soon with my “a day in the life of a TRT” post to explain exactly the ins and outs of what a standard (there is no standard, but for lack of a better word… I digress) relief day looks like for me.

If you have any questions about relief teaching or anything along those lines, shoot me a message, I am more than happy to impart my enthusiastic, albeit slightly inexperienced and sometimes off-topic wisdom.

Warmest of wishes in the holiday season,

signture

 

 

An update about updates

Absence makes the heart grow fonder,

At least that is what I am telling myself when I look back at just how poor my blog-updating skills are. I am trying in earnest to update more regularly, but I am finding it a real challenge, especially as I want my updates to be relevant, relatable and useful to others. I have made a list of a whole host of things I would like to write about, and then I get distracted by my personal blog, or by my Twitter account, my Pinterest (which I am trying to sort at the moment), reading a book, Netflix, planning for school… you name it, I have probably been distracted by it. As the summer holidays draw closer, I keep telling myself I will finally have some more time to knuckle down and churn out a few posts. But who am I kidding, pre-Christmas I have interstate visitors coming to stay, my two moonlight jobs, the necessary festive celebrations, and I am even taking up scuba diving. There really is no rest for the wicked.

So, I am going to commit to writing as much as is possible for me. I am hoping to publish something THIS WEEK (you heard it here folks) about my first year of teaching, a retrospective look at being a graduate navigating the waters of being a casual teacher, and the feelings that come along with it. I have already started writing this post. It is in the pipeline, just waiting to come out the other end as cathartic waste! I have a couple of other projects for this blog that I would really like to get off the ground, and one day I might even get around to blogging about some of my ACTUAL real-life teaching successes (and failures for that matter). Ha!

Until then, I once again say those frustratingly ambiguous words: Watch this space!

signture

 

Disclaimer: This is my new sign off signature I will use for the time-being. I mean, as someone who teaches handwriting, it is all wrong, but for sake of my blog looking cool (and hopefully consistent) it stays! 

Applying for DECD Jobs and the ETR – the secret document that is impossible to find!

Low and behold,

I spent days (okay maybe a slight exaggeration) trawling through DECD documents trying to find information on the elusive personal statement, and specifically something that defined the difference between a personal statement for the ETR, a personal statement for specific job applications, and how they differ from a philosophy statement, and finally I have found the pièce de résistance!

Okay, so I already knew what a philosophy statement was, uni gave me that much at least. You can see mine over at my teaching portfolio. Three to four hundred words essentially summarising your most profound and personal view of teaching. Whose theories inspire you? What monolithic discovery about education have you made in the deepest throws of your psyche? Why do you do what you do?

But the DECD personal statement is NOT that. “But then what is it?” I hear you ask. It is outlined for you very easily and concisely in this excellent, yet impossible-to-find document:

TeacherAttachments

And where did I find? Look no further…

Screenshot 2015-07-26 15.07.14

You can find this nifty document located in the convenient spot of that little tiny “click here for help” link located INSIDE the ETR application where you will most definitely find it quickly and easily, without wasting you valuable time scouring a government website in the quest to locate it. It is like they actually WANT you to be really successful as a fledgling graduate teacher when they decided on this layout for their site. If you search the DECD site for ‘personal statement’ you will NOT find this document, so don’t bother with that outdated function.

Once you have actually found the document, sarcasm aside, you will find it very useful when you are deciphering how to structure your personal statement for both the ETR application and for specific advertised positions (note: yes there is a difference!). So, if you are applying for jobs I hope this gives you a little bit of help along the way.

That is enough comedy for today! Onwards to actually applying for jobs, hurrah!

Goodluck!

Miss Smart x

So you’re a final year teaching student and terrified…

There are lists of tasks, jobs to be done, things to organise, assignments to do, placements to complete. The stress. The frustration. Where to start?

 

You’re a fourth year education student and nothing is okay.

 

Let me tell you, you are not alone, comrade. And sadly for you, your university is probably not going to wrap it in a nice, teacher-shaped package for you with some kitschy bows and ribbons to make things simple. So, I thought I would try my hand at making an easy (or not so easy) checklist of things to get done before the year is out and before commencing your teaching career. I completed my Bachelor of Education (Primary R-7)/ Bachelor of Arts at the end of 2014 at Flinders University in SA, and this post is predominantly aimed at people in a similar position to myself who are aiming for employment with DECD in SA, and may not be planning on applying for a specific teaching contract, but rather are looking at starting TRT work in the new school year with long term goals of gaining contract work/permanency.

 

First and foremost, do not worry about gaining employment and completing “the checklist” now. Focus on your final placement. Be amazing. Make an impression. Gain as much as you possibly can from your practicum and build solid relationships with your mentor, other school staff and leadership. If I hadn’t done this on my final placement I would seriously have struggled to get TRT work in first term this year, and if you are one of the many people who don’t get that elusive teaching contract in your first year out, the more bridges you have established early on, the better off you will be down the track. Don’t forget to identify who the relief coordinator is at your school, this person may just become your best friend later on. So here is check-point number 1:

 

  • Make the most of placement

 

Imagine now, that it is six weeks down the track and you have completed your final placement. You have the mid-year break and one final semester to go, and yet you still have that daunting feeling that there are still so many things to do before you graduate. You want to use your break time to a) make some much needed money after 6 weeks of full-time unpaid work, b) binge watch all your favourite television shows (Game of Thrones, am I right?!), and c) actually make some headway with the pre-graduation checklist of things to do despite having no idea what that actually entails because uni wants you to drown trying to figure it out solo.

 

Which brings me to the next set of tasks you need to do in the lead up to finishing uni:

 

  • Formally register your interest for teaching in the next school year

 

When you want to teach in a DECD school there are several things you have to have to be considered “qualified”. The most significant is the “Letter of Authority to Teach”, which is a document you receive directly from the department. To get this, you must complete an online application on the DECD website in which you upload all you necessary documentation as you complete it. I.e. first aid, RAN training certificate, provide references, contact details, previous work experience etc. You can begin this application process at any time and can come back and edit it whenever you have something new to add, until you have all the necessary things completed. If you “save and submit” on this online form, you may receive an email that indicates your application has been unsuccessful, this just means that you still have further documents to add (which as previously mentioned, you can do at any time).

 

  • Register with the Teachers Registration Board of South Australia

 

The TRB is an independent organisation that assesses your eligability to teach. You have to register with the TRB to teach in any school, and you need to be registered to receive your Authority to Teach letter from DECD.

The TRB requires the following supporting documentation (certified copies or originals):

 

You can find the TRB application form below, but I would recommend downloading directly from the TRB website to ensure you have the most up-to-date version. It is critical that you read this form very carefully as the TRB will repeatedly make you resubmit if there are any issues. Also note that you do not have to do this AFTER completing your degree. The form states:

You can submit your application for registration at anytime during your final semester. There is no closing date to lodge an application. You must enclose certified copies of all required documentation, together with an unofficial statement of results for your current studies. When you receive your final official academic transcript, this transcript, or a certified copy, stating completion/conferral date of the Award, must be submitted to the Board. Applications for registration will only be finalised when all requirements are met. You are not permitted to teach until provisional registration has been granted.

Teacher’s Registration Board Application Form

 

The sooner you submit this application the better, this way once you receive your official transcript from uni, only a minor update to your application is required for your registration to be processed. Note that when you submit the application you will be required to pay the registration fee of $355 (for 3 year registration).

You need to print the form as a hard copy and submit either:

-by post to

Teachers Registration Board of South Australia

PO Box 3649

RUNDLE MALL

SA 5000

 

-or submit your application in person to:

Teachers Registration Board of South Australia

Level 6, 70 Pirie Street

ADELAIDE SA 5000

While perusing these documents, you may have noticed the requirement to do a full-day/7-hour Mandatory Notification Training Course or Responding to Abuse and Neglect (RAN) training course. Naturally, this is the next point on the checklist.

 

  • Complete full-day RAN Training

 

Here is a fun-fact: If you join the Australian Education Union (SA Branch) for a measly annual fee of $22 you can get your your RAN training for free. Plus, the AEU run the day really well and you even get morning tea, what a bonus! You can find their list of dates for 2015 here.

AEU Student Member Application Form

I did my training in the September sessions, which allowed plenty of time to get my TRB form in early, but the earlier the better.

 

And while we are on the topic of training that you are required to do to get your ‘Authority to Teach’ letter, let’s talk first aid. DECD has a list of acceptable first aid certificates you can use to qualify.

 

  • Complete First Aid certification

 

If you have not already done your first aid training, then the best option is the DECD BELS (basic emergency life support) certificate. The reason this one is the best is because it is geared specifically to teachers and how to respond to first aid situations in a school setting, on school-sized humans. The training is $95 through Red Cross, and you can do the 180 minute online training, followed by a 3-4 hour practical session.

 

So let’s imagine for a moment that you have filled in all you details on the DECD online ‘Register Interest for Teaching’ form. You have completed your first aid and RAN training and have uploaded those documents to your online form. You have made certified copies of all the necessary documentation and sent off you hard copy of the TRB application booklet to the Teacher’s Registration Board. Then suddenly, that wonderful day comes along when the final assignment is submitted and you are finally free from university.

Now you must wait.

Once your grades have been confirmed, your university will inform you that your official academic transcript is available. Typically it costs $10 (Flinders) for a hard copy via post and you will need to contact your university as soon as possible so that you receive it immediately.

Success, the transcript has arrived safely (kudos, Australia Post). You make a certified copy. You send it or deliver it directly to the TRB. Low and behold, your registration is confirmed. You receive a certificate of registration. You attach that to your DECD online application and submit. BAM, you receive an updated email from DECD – Authority to Teach: accepted. Guess what? You are now qualified. You can legally walk in to a school and teach the tiny humans. Congratulations!

Be aware that although the TRB does their own police check, schools will typically ask you to provide your Working with Children Check (Police Clearance) when you commence employment, so ensure you have one that is up-to-date.

So in summary of that, my final points:

 

  • Ensure Working with Children Check is up-to-date
  • Submit official academic transcript to TRB to finalise registration process
  • Attach certificate of registration to complete DECD online application process

 

For those of you who are intending to become a TRT, there are a couple of additional things you may like to know. The problem with being a graduate looking for TRT work is that you don’t have a specific line manager in the same way someone on a contract at a particular school does, and as such you don’t have that mentor guiding you on all the formalities of starting work. Uni certainly doesn’t prepare you for relief work, everything is targeted at full-time work and having your own class. I was very fortunate that my first relief day was at my final prac school, where I had really supportive staff members to guide me through the process. You are also very lucky, because you have me, and my worldly advice (ha!).

 

So here are a couple more of the formal things to know/do before commencing TRT work:

 

  • Call the IT desk and get your login for LearnLink/Email

Their phone number is 8204 1866 and you will need your DECD ID which is a 7 digit number found on your ‘Authority to Teach’ letter. Be prepared to wait on the phone for a while because DECD receive a high volume of IT calls, unfortunately you can only get your login details over the phone. Your DECD email is very important as you will receive all your payslips, DECD updates and information through this address.

  • Send your bank details and tax form to Shared Services SA

All DECD pays are handled by Shared Services SA, specifically Payroll 5, and it is necessary for you to send the bank details form I have attached below, as well as a tax file form that you can pick up at your local newsagent to start receiving pay from the department.

Payroll 5 Bank Details Form

 

  • Create a simple resume and cover letter (and business cards)

If you have not already lined up TRT work you may want to create a two-page resume and cover letter that you can email or deliver to schools in your area, along with your documentation. Ensure you capitalise on those vital connections you made during placements to secure work. Be aware that the first five weeks of term one are always going to be relatively slow for TRT work as most teachers are rejuvenated from the holiday break, want to be with their new class as much as possible, and coordinator roles are not yet filled etc. With that in mind, do not feel like there is something wrong with you if you don’t get a call right away. Business cards are really useful to keep on you so that when you are in school you can do a pigeon hole drop, or leave them for teachers you relive for, especially if you haven’t met them before.  When that first relief day does role around, don’t hesitate to ask the deputy principal/relief coordinator for any further help. Typically schools have a sign in for relief teachers where you indicate what class you are in and what fraction on the day you are there for (half or full day), this is what will be processed for your pay. You will also need to collect a classroom key and a school information pack (usually with a map, bell times, behaviour policy, student allergies etc.).

There are also a whole host of communities and websites out there, especially Facebook groups like Relief Teaching Ideas (and their extended community), Fleurieu Teacher Talk and Teacher’s Inspire that are there to give you further support and advice.

So, with all this in mind, make the most of your final placement and semester. There is a lot to do, and I remember feeling like the list was never-ending. But if you follow this checklist and take things one-at-a-time, you will be teaching before you know.

Good luck, young padawan!

checklist

Portfolio Update

My professional portfolio is now officially complete for submission (note: I added ‘for submission’ as this document is intended to continue evolving in future to keep record of my professional practice, knowledge and engagement through all future teaching and learning experiences.)

You can find it here.

Most importantly I would like feedback on my teaching philosophy statement. In approaching the writing of the philosophy I had many reservations. How does one encompass their entire school of beliefs in 300-400 words? How do you summarise your thoughts and feelings towards the acts of teaching and learning which you hold in such high esteem? In particular, balancing theoretical frameworks with personal reflection and insights was the most difficult element of the statement for me, and it is this area that I believe will require further attention in future. However, in the interim, I am pleased with the statement and portfolio overall and will continue to add to it over time, once it has been academically assessed.

 

Warm regards,

A. Smart: Teacher!

‘Mythbusters’: All gifted children are socially inept nerds

inept nerds

 The purpose of this project was to deconstruct a myth that exists within education and wider society that hold implications for gifted and/or creative learners. Note: this post also appears here.

A misconception exists that all gifted children are socially inept nerds. This myth has been brought to the fore as a stereotype appropriated by the media and popular culture. In contemporary times there has been a significant increase in the portrayal of ‘nerds’ in television, film and comic books. Kendall (1999) remarks that in popular culture “[a]spects of the nerd seen as asocial and incompletely adult (sartorial disregard, bad hygiene and lack of social skills) create a category of human partitioned off from the rest of humanity” (1999, p. 263). These characters have appeared in comic books such as DC Comics’ Superman, television programs such as CBS’ The Big Bang Theory and FOX’s The Simpsons, and films such as Jeff Kanew’s Revenge of the Nerds. Kendall (1999) stipulates that “[t]he nerd stereotype includes aspects of both hypermasculinity (intellect, rejection of sartorial display, lack of ‘feminine’ social and relational skills) and feminization (lack of sports ability, small body size[)]”(p. 264). The myth has permeated in to society’s view of cultural norms, and it is clear that through the appropriation of the nerd stereotype, the view that all gifted individuals are ‘socially inept nerds’ could easily be misconstrued as the truth. This viewpoint would be further maintained through lack of education towards, and exposure to real life learners identified as gifted.

 

 

There are several ways this misconception disadvantages a gifted learner. Labeling a child with terminology that holds negative connotations towards their cognitive, physical, social or emotional development can be extremely damaging to the irwellbeing, and have significant implications for their self-concept, self-esteem and sense of identity. Kenny and McEachern (2009) note that “[p]ersistent low self-concept has been linked to depression, eating disorders, suicide, adjustment problems, and later alcohol use” (p. 207). By classifying gifted students as socially inept nerds there is potential to cause sustained damage to all three domains of self-concept: physical, academic and social self-concept (Kenny & McEachern, 2009, p. 207). Students may respond in a variety of ways, for example a gifted student may deliberately underachieve to meet the social expectations of peers. Reis and McCoach (2000) suggest “negative peer attitudes can often account for underachievement” (p. 160). Conversely, students may isolate themselves, modify their behaviors, interests and mannerisms, or put unnecessary pressure on themselves to achieve in an attempt to conform to the stereotype being projected on to them. Finally, the myth disadvantages students in the sense that is does not provide a complete picture of giftedness, particularly with the connotations of the nerd stereotype failing to represent all gifted students, as a result these children will not receive appropriate support and challenge.

 

The truth is, gifted students have the capacity to be socially skilled individuals, the definition of the term ‘nerd’ does not encompass all forms of giftedness, and it is possible that gifted learners may experience social exclusion or isolation rather than ineptness. That is to say, gifted students are far from socially inept nerds. These key points form the basis of evidence in refuting the myth.

 

Students may be highly competent in their social skills; Lovecky (1995) notes “highly gifted children who are most successful with peers are those who are able to go along with group goals, be flexible and be able to assume multiple social roles… Many gifted [children] do these things very well” (para. 10). It is possible for gifted children to demonstrate an advanced social conscience and the ability to communicate with others in sensitive, eloquent and thoughtful ways. Lovecky (1995) remarks that gifted students often require “contact with older gifted peers at similar levels of social development” (para. 12), and Piirto (1992) adds that they “are often eager for acceptance by adults” (p. 265). It is critical to analyse gifted learners and their interactions with not only age peers, but also older students and adults who share similar interests and intellect. Many gifted students are emotionally advanced and are able to show empathy, as well as an ability to take on important social roles including speaker, active listener and showing flexibility in connecting with others.

 

It is possible that social exclusion and isolation is being inaccurately referred to as ineptness. Neihart, Reid, Robinson and Moon (2002) point out that gifted students “may have difficulty finding friends who share their understandings, and far too often they endure not only the burden of loneliness, but also enormous peer pressure to “be like everyone else”’ (p. 268).  Gifted students may have a unique set of interests and abilities that are highly different to those of their peers; as such students are unable to bond with others on a social level. Lovecky (1995) notes that students may “exhibit inappropriate behaviors that elicit ridicule and rejection from peers” (para. 7). Fundamentally, gifted students operate at a level of high-order thinking, and may have intensely focused interests; resultantly, students are not socially inept as the ‘myth’ would have us believe, but rather, students are excluded or isolated from peer groups due to discrepancies in their social and emotional development.

 

The ‘nerd’ persona is not inclusive of all domains of giftedness; The Oxford Dictionary Online defines ‘nerd’ as “A foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious”. This definition paints an image that fails to include all areas of giftedness, defined by Piirto (1992) as including the following domains: high IQ, mathematicians, business/entrepreneurs, scientists, inventors, actors, visual artists, musicians, writers, and dancers (p. 262). There is a clear sense of misalignment between the image of the stereotypical nerd and a student who is gifted in a domain of talent that may not be considered ‘studious’.

 

In the primary school classroom, there are a number of implications of this myth. It is vital to support gifted students in developing a strong sense of self-concept. When considering Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 1971), teachers need to model positive behaviours of self-conceptualisation, and provide opportunities for students to foster and observe positive relationships on which social behaviours can be modeled. Ongoing opportunities to socialise with individuals outside of age peer groups will allow for gifted students to bond with others who share intellectual and interest-based similarities. This may appear as buddy classes, lunchtime clubs and peer learning support. Educators can also explicitly teach strategies for developing positive self-esteem and self-concept.

 

Other implications for teachers include dispelling all varieties of stereotypes through day-to-day classroom interactions and activities, for example telling stories featuring characters that challenge stereotypes and discussing what makes these characters unique. It is important to celebrate differences in students, and in older age groups analysing and deconstructing stereotypes seen in the media. Teachers need to consistently update professional learning, becoming educated in all areas of giftedness and knowing the students in their classrooms, their strengths and weaknesses and to differentiate learning experiences. Teachers need to be aware that they are not appropriating and sustaining the myth through practice and attitudes. To reiterate, the myth that all gifted students are socially inept nerds is far from reality and has a number of implications for the affective development of students, their wellbeing and their success. Teachers play a pivotal role in dispelling this myth through classroom practice, curriculum, pedagogical approaches and positive attitudes.

 

 

references

 

Kendall, L. (1999). Nerd nation: images of nerds in US popular culture, International Journal of Cultural Studies, 2 (2), 260-283.

 

Kenny, M. C., & McEachern, A. (2009) Children’s self-concept: a multicultural comparison. Professional School Counseling12 (3), 207-212.

 

Lovecky, D. V. (1995). Highly gifted children and peer relationships, Counselling and guidance newsletter, National Association for Gifted Children, 5 (3), pp. 2, 6 and 7.

 

Neihart, K., Reis, S., Robinson, N. & Moon, S. (Eds.). (2002). The social and emotional development of gifted children: What do we know? Waco, Texas: Prufrock Press.

 

Nerd. (2014). In Oxford Dictionary Online. Retrieved from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/nerd

 

Piirto, J. (1992). Understanding those who create. Ohio: Ohio Psychology Press.

 

Reis, S. M., & McCoach, D. B. (2000). The underachievement of gifted students: what do we know and where do we go?. Gifted Child Quarterly, 44 (3), 152-170.