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What I have observed as an NQT and supply teacher about blended learning?

I had numerous thoughts about what to write as my first blog, but the one topic I thought I could share that I feel that I have an original opinion and experience on, is what I observed while being a NQT and a supply teacher during the pandemic.

Before I graduated, I had already been working as a supply teacher with two agencies for about a year, meaning I had already witnessed and experienced numerous ways that schools run day to day, and how teachers used different skills to teach.

This of course changed during the pandemic.

I saw how teachers with years of experience were suddenly off work sick with stress, due to technology becoming a requirement in every classroom. With initially little to no training being made available for them to become used to this new way of teaching.

“It is also important to note, however, that the responsibility to develop and extend teaching skills is not simply a teacher’s responsibility. Rather, it is also the responsibility of those within the school and agencies outside the school to ensure that such development is facilitated as part of the teacher’s professional development, and as part of staff development at the school as a whole.” (Kyriacou, 2008)                            

It seems to me that the differentiation we use with our students could have been used here. Realising and understanding that not every teacher is tech-savvy or even likes to use computers, and that they may not have the initial skills to access the online learning platforms, might have helped stop some teachers decide to leave the profession all together. “One in three teachers plan to quit the classroom within five years because of increased workload and diminishing respect for the profession, according to a major union survey.” (Weale Thu 8 Apr 2021 10.16 BST)

I do believe that blended learning is a great thing, and if it wasn’t for the immediacy of the lockdowns and with a bit more time and training before implementation, many teachers who have now given up on teaching would have flourished and seen it as another tool to use in the classroom.

I saw how centre determined assessments seemed to boost most students’ confidence in their work where before exams had left them discouraged. The students knowing that there are multiple chances during the year to raise their grades helped them take a more active role in the classroom and their learning, “Assessment for learning is not just about helping teachers to teach and assess more effectively, but about encouraging and enabling students to take more responsibility for the process.” (Bates 2016) This of course wasn’t the case for all students, some additional learning needs (ALN) students found the fact that they had more assessments emotionally taxing initially, before they realised, they wouldn’t be completing multiple exam – like assessments during the year.

I believe the use of blended learning has helped us differentiate the way we assess our students, “Assessment is fundamental to differentiation, because unless we can figure out what a learner knows, understands or can do already, we will not be in a position to work out what they might need or want to learn next.” (Cowley 2018) Meaning that assessing our student’s knowledge using different formats has helped us understand more clearly how our students learn.

I found that teachers who may have previously been, stuck in a rut, with their teaching suddenly had to think outside the box about what they were teaching and how they were to express their knowledge through blended learning. Meaning, they had to rewrite lesson plans and be more creative in delivery to motivate and encourage students. Where before they were able to achieve this through being present in the classroom, teaching through a computer screen made this more difficult. “Creativity is not simply about making something beautiful. Rather, it is about answering important questions, imagining possibilities, and solving challenging problems. By shifting our understanding of creativity, we can reimagine its place within our classrooms.” (White, 2019). The creative and engaging we can become with e-learning the better, if a student enjoys attending our live or recorded lessons then the more likely they are to participate in the learning offered to them.

Blended learning has revitalised the way we teach and consider what tools to use while teaching more carefully. “Resources and materials are widely available online to which teachers can direct pupils, or which pupils can discover for themselves.” (Kyriacou, 2008). There are many websites and apps that you can now use in the classroom and online that can enhance a student’s experience in the lesson.

I believe teachers have been ‘chucked in at the deep end’ when it comes to blended learning due to the pandemic, but I have seen them achieve brilliant, productive lessons by being willing to investigate and experiment with what’s available.

Just imagine what we can do with more time and experience.

References

Creativity in Education

As Henri Matisse said, “Creativity takes courage.” It is not easy to be creative, to be always thinking outside the box.

Therefore learning to be creative at a young age is a great skill that you can use in any field. Which is why charities like Art Council Wales are keen to involve students in art projects and for them to follow the creative journey.

In today’s classroom where paper is almost a thing of the past, being creative with technology, means using apps. There are number of apps that help students move around a campus or the classroom to find clues like ‘Action bound’. Where the teacher will give the app clues or instruction and all the students enter the same game to try and get to the end first.

Or virtually exploring art galleries around the world with the google arts and culture app and completing quizzes on what you see. There are various mini games on this app and most of the major art galleries in the world which lets you explore art in a different way.

Kahoot! is another great app which is popular with schools, where teachers can create their own quizzes and there are previously uploaded ones which you can also use.

What these apps tell us is that are a lot of different ways to incorporate creativity into the classroom for free.

I don’t believe the popular theory that educators don’t understand creativity, I believe that having to prepare what they are going to teach beforehand with schemes of work and lessons plans doesn’t seem creative. Yet in the classroom teachers have to work by the fly all the time and creatively handle any potential problems, the implementation of a lesson is the creative bit as you are responding to the students as they react to the lesson.

Being creative is about thinking outside the box when presenting ideas. The teacher is performing ideas and reacting to the students, as if they were constantly doing ad-lib. Sometimes the teacher may perform the same way every lesson which is why it doesn’t seem very creative.

The British council recommends several ways to becoming a more creative teacher:

  • Learn about different things and bring them into your teaching – learn artistic hobby, learn a song about a subject you are teaching, learn about teaching itself
  • Make connections with other teachers – your fellow staff members, over social media, blogs, attend talks.
  • Learn and save new ways of teaching old ideas
  • Share what you have learned
  • Practice your creativity – practice new lessons and methods
  • Experiment and reflect – the number one thing you can do is reflect on what went wrong.
  • Make it a daily goal to be creative – start with one class a day then move to two, and then three until eventually you are being creative in all your classes

So, being a creative teacher means experimenting with methods outside your subject and maybe comfort zone and using all of your skills and talent to make what you are teaching different.

Reflecting on your practice is something all teachers should do whether you have a good or bad day. Reflecting on your bad day can show you where you can better next time. Reflecting on different things you have tried can help you pinpoint what went right and wrong, so you can keep the right things when you do it next time.

Using other subjects in your lesson that normally don’t go together could be a good way to go, like using music in science, art in maths, English in technology for example.

You could use the classical music The Planets by Gustav Holt in science, you could use the Fibonacci sequence which is featured in nature and used in art for maths as it is a mathematical formula. You could use literature that talks about technology like robots in the subject technology. The ideas are endless

It is not easy work re-doing lesson plans to find a more creative way to perform lessons, and the teacher needs to be willing to put the hard work in otherwise it won’t work.

When anyone is trying something new a support network is needed, if you as a teacher don’t have this then it can be daunting, trying to become more creative on your own which is why it’s one of the British councils’ steps.

 Find your support network even if it’s through social media.

https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/blog/role-creativity-education

https://arts.wales/?_ga=2.115478593.69379373.1643029775-21551952.1643029775

https://www.britishcouncil.org/voices-magazine/eight-steps-becoming-more-creative-teacher

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