Tales from new teachers - From chaos to calm

28th February 2014 at 00:00

The problem

Before I started at my current job - my first as a teacher - the school gave me a pack of guidance notes to read, consisting mainly of articles detailing teaching techniques to apply in class. But after spending a weekend reading these and planning my lessons, I found that my biggest difficulty was keeping track of what I was doing and the kids on task. Chaos ensued.

My greatest challenge was classroom management. The noise level was high. The students had little independence. I was trying to work with one group at a time but had constant interruptions from children in other groups complaining about their friends' behaviour or not understanding what they were supposed to be doing. After a few weeks, I went crying to the school leader, asking him to let me go back to work as an assistant teacher.

The solution

My school leader handed me a tissue and gave me a hug. He said that all teachers felt this way at the beginning. Although it was nice of him to say that, it didn't help to solve the problem. My partner said that I shouldn't work so hard and should relax. I continued being stressed and our relationship took a dive. I told my grandma that my family life was suffering because of my work and she said, "Never mind, you'll make it up to them next year." It made me smile.

Finally, I went to my coordinator and trainer and she was really helpful. She offered to support me in class for a few hours every day for a week. She made notes and comments about the lesson each day, which she then went through with me after school.

The result

Those notes saved me as a teacher. By the beginning of term two, I had stopped losing my planning sheets, the noise levels had gone down in my classroom and I was able to differentiate for each group. I felt much more relaxed. So what did my mentor tell me to do?

Well, each lesson began with a whole-class session. Then I separated the students into groups. The tasks were straightforward enough for each group to work independently, rotating from station to station. I stayed in one place. Every student had a mini lesson.

With practice, I worked with a group and monitored the class and was also able to make notes about each individual during each session to plan further.

The writer is in her first year of teaching in Mauritius.

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