PGCE blog: my first lesson

This is the third posting from our student physics teacher (read his previous posting here). After spending his first weeks in college learning theory, he is now in his first placement school and has taught his first lesson. He tells you how it went here.

“I’m now spending four days a week at my first placement school. It’s a huge school with a massive intake of pupils. I’m still getting lost going between buildings via the maze of temporary classrooms erected in the playground due to the sudden cut in funding for building new school buildings last year.

Up to half-term I was observing lessons, helping the teachers out and building up a rapport with the pupils, desperately trying to learn all their names. It’s amazing the clear increase in respect a pupil has for a teacher who has gone to the effort of learning all the names of their pupils.

Whatever time during half-term was not spent at university was spent planning my first two lessons. I had been warned to expect to spend about four hours to plan for a one-hour lesson initially but this turned out to be an underestimate! I meticulously planned every activity and then changed it about four times until I ended up with what could possibly be a couple of okay lessons.

A quick digression: one piece of advice that I got from the first of my blog posts was to make friends with the technicians at the school. This has proved invaluable. The technicians have been extremely supportive of my ideas for experiments so far, dusting off old equipment and helping me rehearse experiments in advance. They are always happy for me to pop in and discuss potential ideas and even seem to appreciate not having to bring out the same equipment every week.

Back to my first lesson: I had decided to go straight in at the deep end and teach a full two-hour class, complete with an experiment that neither I nor the technicians had done before. What could go possibly wrong?

I can’t say the lesson went as I’d hoped. Actually, the experiment worked perfectly. But at one point during the lesson, I saw a little red dot go zooming across the wall. I immediately turned around, looked at my desk and noted the blank spot where not five minutes ago my laser pointer had sat. I hadn’t used the laser pointer in the lesson and it hadn’t occurred to me that it may end up in the wrong hands. I continued with the lesson, keeping the prime suspect in my peripheral vision waiting for him to reveal the hiding place for his new found treasure. It turned out it was up his sleeve and he was quickly relieved of the laser.

Immediately after the lesson, the teacher whose lesson I had taken over asked me how I felt it had gone. I could not think of a single thing I had done well. However, the teacher took some time to discuss it with me and we looked at what had gone well and what could be improved upon. I began to realise that I had coped rather well in a lot of difficult situations. There was plenty of feedback on specific things to improve on and it was all very constructive.

I came home that day exhausted but with a great feeling of accomplishment. Ideally, I would have rewarded myself with a nice cold beer and some TV, but the following morning, I’d be teaching again. That second lesson, which I had planned with such precision and in such detail over my half-term break, needed just a few tweaks and improvements …