“Seriously, can I hug you now?”

That’s what my trainee teacher asked me when we were just about to sit down for our weekly Faculty briefing on Friday morning. I felt a bit embarrassed and hoped that nobody else heard her emotional plea, apart from the other trainees, of course, who cast a somewhat bemused look towards us.

The fact was, my trainee teacher was exhausted, physically, mentally and emotionally. She was just reaching the end of her first month in her main placement with us, working eventually towards 50% of a full timetable. 

“I am so tired, but I really enjoyed the Battle of the Books last night,” she went on, finishing her sentence with a sigh of exhaustion, closing her eyes. “I don’t know how you guys cope with six lessons a day,” she conceded that it was hard to keep up. Then, if suddenly waking up from a trance, she was enthusiastic again, “I was just going to ask you if it’s okay if I. . . .” She wanted to check with me her lesson plan for our Year 10 class in period one. I interrupted her, “If you are really not up for it, stick a DVD on.” “Really?” She was incredulous. My offering prompted her spontaneous display of deep gratitude. 

We sat down for the briefing. She explained her planning for the lesson. We had already planned this lesson together last week, taking into consideration of the whole teaching sequence of this unit and her targets. We decided that she needed to learn to “let go,” to allow her students to take more responsibility in their own learning. She needed to give it a try and see how it worked. We were both multitasking: her explaining the lesson plan; me one third listening to her, one third keeping up with the discussions, and one third trying to come up with a plan B for my trainee that incorporates watching clips of Romeo and Juliet and linking it to Robert Browning’s dramatic monologues (the objectives were going to be drawing links between them and exploring how intense emotions were presented). 

We met again at the start of period one. I arrived in the classroom after registering my own Year 7 Form to find that she was setting up the lesson as she had planned. I registered the group and took my seat at the back of the room to observe. I noticed an apparent change in her resources, both electronic and printed – they were more straightforward in design, black and white in colour scheme with an unfussy sans serif font.

The paired/group work worked well. There was very little fussing over the task. Instead, many cogent questions were asked. My trainee teacher was able to circle round the room to offer individual support. Ten, fifteen minutes later, the students came up to the front to present the analysis of their assigned stanzas of Browning’s The Laboratory. Many insightful comments were made. I was busy adding “TTCs” (Things to Consider) points in her observation form. For example, “You are building a relationship with this group, PRAISE THEM LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW when they make excellent points,” etc. 

Fifty-five minutes later, the bell went. I noted on my iPad, “It was a fantastic lesson.” in a larger font and in bold. 

As the group started packing away, I went round to praise some of the students for the excellent work that they produced. 

After all the students had left the room with my blessings for a lovely weekend (and they reciprocated with theirs), I turned to my trainee teacher who was visibly tired but relieved, “Sometimes, it’s a matter of perseverance. You might be surprised by the outcome. That was a fantastic lesson”. I emailed her my Lesson Observation notes. Beaming, she explained, “Planning at two-thirty in the morning actually worked!” “Sometimes, it’s best to keep it simple,” I offered. At that, we left the classroom. I had the rest of the day’s teaching ahead of me.

Hopefully, she went to make herself a nice cup of tea, feeling relieved in the realisation that she was getting more confident in, and indeed more comfortable with, teaching a GCSE group.

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About W. S. Lien

Tweed Wearer - Country Lover - Teacher Researching Professionalism and Identity@Clare College, Cambridge - Keen Amateur Photographer - Devotee to Poppy my Labrador
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