Last weekend I was at my parents house and had a look through a bag of school stuff I had left round there to see if there was anything in it I wanted to take. This bag reminded me quite how much my teaching has changed in a relatively short time, and made me think about the sorts of things that I used to do, that I don't any more. When I went back to work on Thursday I took some photos of the other things in my 'box of tricks' that I used to use and no longer do. In this post I intend to look at these things, think about what I used to use them for, why, and if they are best suited to the bin or using them again.
The pictures scrolling round above are just a selection of the bits and pieces I have in my school box of tricks, or hanging around taking up space in my poor parent's house. Some of them are things I used to use all the time, like the fly swatters that have seen better days! Some are things I bought with great intentions, but that never really paid off or even got as far as a classroom. In fact, I remember dragging my mum round the pound shops one weekend as I was determined to benefit from this #poundlandpedagogy I was hearing about. Sorry mum, I'm pretty sure that was a wasted trip. So why was it that I invested in these things/gimmicks/props? I think it was all in the name of fun/engagement. Somewhere along the line I'd got it in my head that if students were going to like MFL I had to make the lessons extra fun, and that without these bells and whilstles language lessons clearly could not be enjoyable for them. I think there were great intentions in what I was doing, I wanted to improve, I wanted to motivate students to learn MFL, and yes, maybe I even wanted the students to like me.
So what am I throwing out? Gone from my lessons are the dartboard and basketball hoop. I thought these were a good way of getting students to participate, but on reflection the lesson became more about the game and less about the language they were practicing. Yes, they were practising, but was the learning really worth the amount of time spent on it? I doubt it. Similarly, my lovely buzzers for team quiz games were an utter nightmare! The kids loved them but there was definitely more time spent arguing about who buzzed first than on the learning I was aiming for. These are still great for small 6th form lessons though. Gone are the cuddly toys/balls that were thrown around the room in the name of AfL, what may have seemed a great way of getting multiple students to take part, once again turned into being about who could throw the furthest, highest or hardest, who could catch it the most times and often it would be thrown between the same people every time. I won't go into detail about every item, as I think it is clear where this is headed. The vast majority of these purchases were a waste of my time/money and the benefits to learning were small.
I think I needed to go through that phase in order to realise what was important and to discover my own way of doing things. In fact, at one time they were totally what I needed, as in this post from early in my NQT year. Looking back, I'm surprised to read how I felt about lessons that were'nt exciting and my reaction to using a textbook! Something had clearly got into me and convinced me that this was the way forward. Now I see that this was probably neither sustainable nor worthwhile.
Now I'm not saying that all the fun has gone now and I want the kids to hate me! But what I am saying is that I'm finding the balance. Working out what takes fairly little extra effort from me, keeps the kids interested and of course, actually teaches them something. It's a balancing act, but one that is getting easier with every lesson I plan, blog I read or even blog I write.