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... a place to catch up on staffroom chatter

teacher talk_Aug

Sarah Denyer

Sarah DenyerYear 3 teacher

New year, new challenges

As teacher, Sarah Denyer, prepares to begin her second year of teaching, she feels a mixture of both excitement and anxiety

At the time of putting pen to paper, the start of the new school term is just one week away. It feels as if there is a mountain of jobs to do and there are lists upon lists scattered around the bare classroom. My last few days of summer freedom have been spent cutting out lettering and backing blank display boards in order to create a new, inviting and stimulating environment for a fresh class.

New challenges

I have a mixture of feelings as my second year of teaching approaches. New responsibilities including subject coordination, a change of year group, a more challenging class and less time out of the classroom all bring differing emotions. Mostly there are feelings of excitement and determination but with a good sprinkling of anxiety thrown in, too. This year’s learning curve will be just as steep as last year’s!

A change of year group means no opportunity for consolidation, but a great opportunity for learning and personal development. A tough class so dynamically different from last year’s brings not only children with EAL, EBD, physical disabilities and children who are profoundly deaf, but also a massive challenge. These individual and wonderful children all have attached support that creates a classroom packed full of teaching specialists and adds greatly to the mixing pot that is my new class.

Feeling positive

So, as I near the start of term I feel myself having to take a deep breath. I visualise stepping confidently into the classroom I have worked hard to create, holding my head high, ready and willing to take on the year ahead. Most importantly, I am smiling!

Is a picture really worth a thousand words?

Daisy and Pip are chatting in the playground. ‘No! She didn’t!’ ‘Yes, she did. And I was, like… uh?’ (Pip raises her eyebrows, drops her jaw and extends her hands in a gesture of disbelief.)

Have you ever noticed how children today often prefer to mime emotions rather than selecting an appropriate adjective? In an increasingly visual world, they use body language as ‘emotions’ – miming astonishment, horror, boredom, disgust, and so on – without ever having to ferret through their vocabulary to make their meaning clear.

(Teachers) have to ‘stimulate’ children at all times because they can’t seem to concentrate without something to stare at

And it’s not surprising, since a recent survey by npower* showed that children spend more than four months a year in front of a screen, absorbing visual images with little need for language. And, there’s a lot of screens to keep up with – TV, DVDs, the internet, websites, computer games (most children have lots: X-box™, PlayStation®, Wii™) and social networking sites like Club Penguin™.

Visual learning

It doesn’t even stop at school, since teachers are now exhorted to use the interactive whiteboard whenever possible. We have to ‘stimulate’ children at all times because they can’t seem to concentrate without something to stare at.

The value of words

But words are still the main vehicle for human thought and communication. The more we neglect words in favour of images, the fewer words children will have at their disposal, and the less competent they’ll be at exploring and expressing ideas.

It’s time to switch off the whiteboard and read them a good book. Or, is that too, like… (Sue raises her eyebrows, drops her jaw and extends her hands in a gesture of disbelief).

Sue Palmer

Sue Palmerwriter and literary specialist

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