Everyone has a worst lesson don’t they? I’m hoping I’ve had mine already. Whilst the worst lesson ever and why makes for a great interview question, when you’re in it, it sucks.
I breezed through my first teaching practice. I was fortunate to have some great classes across Reception to Year 11 covering a vast range of different activities. I was also blessed with fantastic teachers and teaching assistants supporting me and a wonderful mentor. So when I was given Year 6 for my second teaching practice I didn’t think anything of it. I had experienced Year 5 and Year 7 in term 1, why would I find Year 6 so challenging?
My Year 6’s quickly showed me they were capable, confident, top of the primary school (the big fish in the small pond) and they were full of personality. All wonderful traits but all together at the same time proved to be extremely challenging.
The unit of work was a Leadership unit and my plan was through the sport of hockey to look at the different leadership roles within this sport. I wanted the students to identify coaches, umpires, scorers, captains etc and look at the skills that are common across leadership roles. The unit would culminate in a tournament with students taking on different leadership roles in a similar way to a Sports Education Unit. Sounded simple, but it did not work.
First lesson I introduced the topic of leadership and attempted to pass on some responsibility to the students. I wanted them to take ownership of the unit and for them to take the direction within the framework I had given. I wanted them to have roles in leading the lessons and the unit. What it seemed to result in were arguments between students and students saying to me ‘we don’t want to do this, just tell us what to do’. Some students seemed to be hockey experts whilst others were only interested in playing football.
So what went wrong? The teacher who usually has them did say he found them challenging and he had warned me about the strong personalities in the group. Despite the warnings I went straight in and tried to teach the content of the unit. I forgot the basics. Get to know your students first. I did not have their respect. They did not know who I was and I didn’t know who they were.
Lesson two, three and four this continued. Students arguing and not buying into what I was trying to do. This class started to become the class I was not looking forward to teaching. I knew I had to change something. I reflected upon the activity, hockey. Some students liked it and some didn’t but none of them were taking ownership. I needed something that they could take ownership and ultimately lead. I remembered that a few months previously the PE world of Twitter was alight with the game ‘Hula Hut Throw down’, a game which looked like great fun. I was yet to see anyone play it at my school and this seemed like a good opportunity to give it a try. To be honest, anything was worth a try.
So how did I introduce it? I was honest with the students. I brought them into the classroom and talked to them about how I felt the unit was going (or where it was not going) and how I thought we would all benefit from trying something new. Initially they did not look enthralled. I then told them I would show them a video of a new game and following the video they (as a collective group) would be responsible for implementing this game for the remainder of the unit. Click here to see the brilliant video Ben Landers (PE Specialist) has made. The video was perfect. The students were making notes about the rules and discussion quickly began about how they were going to get it set up using the facilities we have in our school.
As with any activity involving a group my class then went through the forming, storming and norming before they got to the performing stage of Tuckman’s team formation process. But this was perfect in relation to the leadership unit. We as a group were able to identify leadership qualities and skills in the progression of this process and when we got outside and played the new game we could look at the leadership skills and roles within the game. Hula Hut Throwdown is a fantastic game for getting everyone involved and for identifying different roles as well as using a number of different physical skills.
I started to look forward to these Year 6 lessons and the Year 6’s started to look forward to their new game.They took ownership and I was able to deliver a unit of work that met the learning outcomes I was aiming for. Had I continued with the activity I had started with I would have done the students a disservice. I learnt so much from this unit and this class.
- Always get to know your students, relationships and mutual respect is key.
- It’s ok to admit you were wrong and make changes to your lessons.
- Reflect, reflect, reflect!