Effective Teaching?


I would like to make my lessons engaging so that every single pupil would discover maths knowledge satisfied with his attainment. I would also like my students to build a strong, positive relationship with the subject so that they will come to my lesson with willingness to learn.
Ok, Maybe I am a dreamer but everyone should have a target. Unfortunately, looking at above goal most of experience teachers will argue that it is hardly feasible to achieve students’ satisfaction. In fact, what I have written down is a kind of vision of what kind of teaching I am aspiring to. Being marketing graduate I look at teaching from business point of view, where a school is service type of business with students being the major customer. (In this model we should also include parents)
I have started thinking about planning my lessons and made plenty of online research looking for answers to one critical question: How to make maths lesson interesting and effective at the same time?
What I have found out did not provide me with detailed answer ( I did not expect that ) but few authors stressed the importance of lesson being ‘well planned’ as student like to know that there is defined direction for their work and just giving the class numerous copies of hand-outs is not a planned lesson ;).
Then what seems to go next is a genuine enthusiasm of the teacher who demonstrate his passion for teaching and passion for its subject.
Eventually, majority of contemporary authors highlight the necessity of implementation of real life problems into maths lessons with others even claiming that there is either this way of teaching maths or no way. Having already experience of working in a secondary school and also being student myself I cannot agree that learning techniques can be learn by undertaking only real life projects. Students have to practice the boring exercises to master the technique otherwise; they will struggle or fail trying to solve harder problems. It is common that kids loose points on tests by making so called silly mistakes.
Therefore, I am not sure how to teach mathematics avoiding boring, repetitive activities that on many occasion can be the put off factor for both talented and less able students as first will find the task not enough challenging and second will feel exhausted.


My first observation.


Probably the most important part of that experience was the actual possibility of not only observing various teaching style but also talking to and asking questions different teachers at their very different stage of their career. Following numerous discussions I have recorded responses to three educational issues which I find most interesting.
Even though, I would like to became a teacher and rather feel excited about starting PGCE next September I am also curios how I am I going to cope in a new role. Hence I wanted to find out what is the hardest part of the PGCE course and the teaching practise during first years?
The overall response to the first part of above question focused on: horrendous work load due to lack of gathered resources, very stressful beginnings of standing in front of the classroom and delivering lessons. Those newly qualified teachers admitted that controlling the classroom can remain difficult.
NQT said, “ During your first lesson you focus on smooth flow of your lesson plan and it is easy to make mistakes; i.e. the activities might be too easy so everyone seems great on track and you are thinking that your teaching also goes great but in fact students don’t learn anything new. Learning how to adjust appropriate level of difficulties for tasks you plan for your students is the skill you only get after delivering numerous lessons. What is more, you are not able to learn how to teach by the book or even from observations; You will also get only little idea about teaching during PGCE as it is after you get your class and greater responsibility that goes with it, then you find what works for you, how you structure lessons what kind of resources works best for you and different classes or year group etc. Finally, what might sound like cliché but you will only improve your teaching techniques by doing it so my advice to you is to get on with it as soon as you can at the very start of your first placement”.
Head of Maths said, “Teaching is difficult because you do not really know what you looking for while observing. When you start practising you will realise where your weaknesses are so then you can try to improve those weaker areas. Besides teaching something for the first time is always a bit hard even for experience teacher but i.e. teaching “inequalities” third time will feel natural and you will be able to pay more attention on students’ progress as well as their behaviour. You should also remember that sometimes your plans might not work and even experience teacher feel tired or lost sometimes”
Another issue I find disturbing is a classroom management. Working in the secondary school I have become aware that successful control over class is a key factor creating foundation for pupils’ learning. However, understanding how to achieve pleasant learning environment remain a challenge. As a result, I have asked few teachers how they stay in control while teaching and how they tackle common problems.
NQT said “during last couple of years Morley Academy has developed rules. Those rules are strict but very clear for both teachers and students. Hence the teacher’s responsibility is to monitor pupils’ behaviour and act accordingly with respect to school’s policies and regulations. The system works well as long as the teacher remains consistent. The word CONSISTENT has been stressed and if occasional misbehaviour it is extremely important to follow rules in order to reinforce the school policies and demonstrate our disagreement for any disruption or rudeness.( i.e. in Morley Academy there are three steps: verbal warning, then a negative that follow with one hour detention.) Eventually, if we make it clear from the day one of our work what is not acceptable we have to stick to it! We can always relax the rules a little bit later on but at the beginning it will be safer to be rather strict “

Another teacher highlighted that the level of noise in the classroom can be caused by frustrated students not able to follow the task we set for them. At this point we can explain the problem on the board one more time, solve it with them or just move on. We should never let the bad behaviour to escalate.
The best way to keep the class focused on their tasks is to provide a variety of adequate activities so students will not have a time for unnecessary talking. I have also noticed that older more experience teacher are more likely demand more responsibility from pupils for their own learning by giving them longer quite challenging task when less experience teachers asks students to complete many tasks of varied difficulty between their lecturing.
Observing teachers I have realised that there is going to be a long time before I could call myself a teacher. Teaching can be very rewording and satisfying career but unfortunately there is significantly more stress than fun in it at the beginning. As we approach the holiday period I thought it would be wisely to ask about tips for preparation prior to the start of my PGCE course. I have asked if there is anything I can do that allow me to survive my placements and avoid a break down at the very beginning. I have also asked if I should think about gathering resources or reading advices on pedagogical issues.
Teacher – 4 years’ experience said, “ the best you can do at your PGCE is to fight your demons or fears by practising those aspects of teaching you are the most unsure about. i.e. if you are worried about teaching year eleven due to lack of experience in classroom management just ask for year eleven class to teach. At that stage, even if you fail or things go in the wrong direction you are allowed to ask for help because you are still learning.”
NQT pointed out, “ Make sure your subject knowledge remain at its highest level as there is nothing more stressful than not being able to solve maths problems in the classroom. You will risk losing face, authority and confidence. Hence revision on maths deserves consideration.”
NQT added, “at that stage, at the beginning of your teaching it is probably better if you create your own resources while working on your placements. It takes time to prepare a lesson from scratch but you will feel more comfortable to present lesson using your plan rather than somebody else work. The idea behind planning lesson is to give a subject another rethinking. By planning lesson yourself you revise the maths and adjust level of the lesson to your group of students. Remember to start thinking about planning a lesson as soon as you know what you are going to teach. Finally, it is worthy to prepare extension activities and spare activities so you will always have something to do with students when left in the classroom. “
Teacher – 8 years of experience said “you have to learn how to make lesson without hours of preparation i.e. using white boards to practice commonly problematic times table such as 7×8, 9×8, 6×7 etc. then also by using white boards you can ask pupils to simplify fractions. It can be a competition or the whole class can practice those harder examples that frequently appear wrong on the test. If unexpectedly you have to deliver a lesson to unknown group of students do not panic but choose something you fully confident. In the reality you will never be fully prepared for every single lesson so stay flexible and improvise if necessary.”

The most rewarding career.

Good maths teachers are constantly in demand. The perception of maths being difficult subject creates many challenges for teachers.

I am going to start my PGCE course in September 2013 and will use this blog to record issues I find interesting. I will also write about my experience gained from classroom observations and share doubts and other disturbing matters

This blog is run by intelligent but dyslexic introvert whose mother tongue is not English. Hence whoever spots any mistake or lack of clarity is welcome to comment but in general try to be forgiving…