Lee Hewes

is totes becoming a teacher…



As the days draw nearer to my first month-long block of professional experience, there are a range of questions circling my head.

Am I good, knowledgeable enough; am I competent? Do I have ‘what it takes’? What’s the community like? Will I survive the commute?

What is education? Can I do ‘the kids’ edu-justice?

I certainly hope so, and it’s granted that I’m going to do my best.

What about experience, what is it?

I’m educated, I’ve travelled; I’ve a couple of kids. I know some ‘teachers’.
I’m married to an edu-peep who amazes me.

I’ve never been in front of a primary classroom for any extended period of time.
I’ve also made plenty of mistakes; it’s called learning.

There’s plenty to learn.

15 thoughts on “Experience

  1. Hang in there Lee – it gets better.

    Not long ago I found my student teacher evaluation from 1971. My supervising teacher did not like my work. Here’s a few of his comments:
    “You have no problem with class control when you wanted it. – I suggest you get it as soon as you are ready to start.”
    “Learning cannot go on to any great extent, if half the students are talking.”
    [And I especially like this one – what an image!]
    “Climb on them and let them know what you expect.”

    You can see the full report on my blog at http://bit.ly/PN3M6Y Ironically I was teaching a lesson on Ghandi and civil disobedience

    • Thanks so much for your reply, Peter, and for sharing your student teacher evaluation. I went for my pre-placement visit earlier this week and was delighted to find that my supervising teacher is very supportive of class discussion.
      I remember from my experience tutoring at university that standing in front of a largely silent group of students sucked. I was much more comfortable when we all discussed what ever the topic was and shared our ideas – partly because I never really felt comfortable ‘dispensing the knowledge’ to university students and also because I found that we’d all learn more from each other through discussion.
      Cheers 🙂

  2. I am officially stalking your blog — i’m so excited to follow you on this adventure! To answer some of your questions — yes, you are good enough and competent enough. But don’t expect to feel that way for at least the first month. Embrace the feeling of complete and utter terror. Kids are scary by themselves – when they come in packs, they can be paralyzing. Alas, you will surface soon enough and realize that the scary wolfpack that is your class has become your new Tribe — and it’s awesome. Yes, you will do them edu-justice. You have the perfect combination of traits: healthy fear, ability to be self-reflective, and huge amount of enthusiasm. (New teacher note: Enthusiasm will get you far. When you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about – just act SUPER excited and no one will notice. That’s what got me through fractions;)

    Also know that EVERY single person who has ever taught has been in your shoes. Don’t be scared to ask for help – and be ready to laugh at the inevitably stupid things you will do, especially in the first week (um, i left my kids in the cafeteria by themselves for and extra 30 minutes bc i had no idea I was supposed to go ‘pick them up’ at the end of lunch. I guess I assumed they were little business people who would wander back to the room on their own? errr. whoops.)

    Have fun – keep posting blog entries — you’ll love looking back on them later in the year!!

    • “Embrace the feeling of complete and utter terror”. Haha, I love it!
      I’ve also received similar advice in lectures, from guest speakers, etc
      about acting like you know what’s going on when, in fact, you’re freaking out!
      Thanks so much for your reply, Betsy and I’ll try to keep posting about the
      freak-outs, the triumphs, and the flat-days.
      Lee 🙂

  3. Hi Lee

    I enjoyed reading your post about the prac experience coming up.

    It’s also coming at a time of yet more querying of the quality of teachers/teaching/teacher training/teachers training; whatever.

    Are you good? knowledgeable? competent? At what, by who’s measures? Who knows.

    You know already that this is something you reckon you can do. Trust that. Trust too that the kids will know almost immediately how they feel about your authenticity. Trust that your belief in the value of what it is that you want to do will manifest itself to the children and young people with whom you come in contact. They will gain an immediate sense of whether you care or not. And your care will be evidenced by their belief that you show care by being fair.

    So, be fair.

    Just as I think you may have done outdoors at a creek once; don’t lose the belief in the value of curiosity and the asking of questions about stuff that’s interesting. Use the connections and tools we know of to supplement that huge store of human curiosity and capacity to find out and construct new meaning: and be the ‘human disruptor,’ giving the sustained world of binary suggestion a shake now and then.

    Continue to be insatiably curious and draw them along with you to collaboratively drive the areas of enquiry. Share the worth of your travel learnings and whatever you are comfortable to share about family and stuff which generates the shared human Maslovian levels of connection. Build the relationships as you would with any others.

    I reckon you’ll learn lots. I hope those around you do too; as you should be proud of what you’re doing and that you’re having a crack at something you’re actually pretty passionate about: umm, futures for our young people – and the development of environments for learning which are, in the real sense we each define of just what it might mean: quality.

    Have a great time!

    • Wow!
      That’s such an awesome reply, Roger. I’d forgotten that I had told you about that morning walk down at the creek with Bazzy and how he totally reignited my interest in primary education and developmental psychology.
      Totally agree with your comments on the kids being quite savvy at judging whether or not you actually care about and believe in what you’re doing. I must admit that, in addition to my varying degrees of trepidation, I’m quite psyched about my upcoming prac journey.
      Let’s hope that I come out of the experience with some informed answers to some of the above questions to reflect upon.

  4. I started my thirty-seventh year of teaching a week ago and much of what you asked in your post I was asking myself in the days leading up to that start. I love that you are already such a reflective educator. It says that you are going to do the best that you can and that is what we do – our best. And when we fail, we walk away and go through a reflective process to try to figure out how to be better.

    Your post made me think back to my semester of student teaching so very long ago with a lovely bunch of wide-eyed second graders (seven year olds). First of all, I remembered they loved me no matter what because they are children, and children love their teacher. They cried at the smallest slight by someone else, they laughed at the silliest things, they thought they could do anything and do it well, and they were always ready to hug me around the knees just because I was their teacher.

    Here are some life-savers I’ve learned along the way.

    Always be way over-planned. What you think will last 20 minutes, will probably be done in five. Always have a book to read aloud, a poem on chart paper to teach, a quick and easy math game or two ready to use as a time-filler if needed.

    Have several songs at your disposal to teach your students. Kids love to sing and they love you to sing with them, no matter what you sound like. Believe me I could clear most rooms with my singing, but my students always love it. Just this past Friday, I had a conversation with a girl I taught over 25 years ago and she reminded me of a song I taught her. We even sang it together again and cracked up when we got to the end of it.

    Let them have voice. I believe too many teachers do way too much talking in their classrooms. When you ask questions of the class, try to let them all respond with thumbs up or down for yes-no, true-false type of questions, holding up fingers for multiple choice questions, or turn and tell their neighbor what they think for longer answers. Teach them right away how to do Think-Pair-Share type activities. Kids love to talk, so give them plenty of opportunities to do so.

    Give them choice. Yes, there are certain things that everybody must complete, but they don’t all have to turn in the same exact final product. Let them decide how they can best demonstrate their learning – an audio recording, a drawing, a comic, a poem, a song, etc.

    Picture your classroom and what procedures you will need to have in place and teach them to your students. Have the kids role-play what the procedure looks like when done properly and when done incorrectly. Go over them several times, have several students model them, and be ready to review them as needed.

    Have a signal to get everyone quiet before you begin any teaching or direction giving. One of my favorites is I say, “Class – one, two, three, eyes on me.” My students respond with “One, two, eyes on you.” I have taught them that they must be seated, have their hands empty, and be looking at me when we get to the end of the refrain.

    I hope you find some of these tips helpful. Enjoy each and every day and remember that you will be learning right along side your students everyday. And have fun!

    • Thanks for sharing your advice, Paula. It’s cool to think that I’ll be able to look back on this after my prac experience and see how my thoughts have changed, share what worked for me and what didn’t.
      I’d love to think that one day I could bump into one of my ex-students and share an experience similar to the one that you had a couple of Fridays ago (I’m a massive softy)!

  5. The mere fact that you are asking yourself these questions means that you are on the right track to provide your future students with a great education. It is once we stop asking ourselves these questions (both new teachers and veterans alike) that we no longer belong in the classroom.

    You will certainly be learning right alongside your students. That is the best education of all! Don’t let little hurdles get you down and remember this piece of advice that my mentor teacher gave me 16 years ago: After your first year of teaching, you’ll realize you didn’t know anything. After your second year of teaching, you will think you have it all figured out. However, it won’t be until your fifth year of teaching that you realize those first years were a jumble of awful mistakes, but will have made you into the fabulous teacher that you have become. —- Keep using reflection to make your practice stronger and, as I’m sure you know, you have a wonderful support at home on which you can lean! Best, Dayna aka @daylynn

    • Thanks Dayna,
      I’m becoming increasingly aware of the importance of reflection, and your comments about the first five years being a ‘jumble of mistakes’ definitely reinforce my preconceived notions of teaching to be a constant process of ‘becoming’ – giving it a go, doing the best you can, reflecting on what did/didn’t work and doing it all again. Sounds exhausting. Why am I doing this again!?
      Seriously though, thank you!

  6. Love your honesty & the feedback in these comments is priceless! Looking back on my first year, I remember thinking that someone would come into my room and remove me any minute due to my being completely unqualified! Although, I’m sure there are many things I could have done better, I also kept in mind the wise words of my 1st principal. “If your students love learning, ask lots of questions and want to come to school, you did well.” I learned the most when I took the time to go into other classrooms as much as possible!

    • Thanks Theresa,
      Haha, I’m expecting many a moment akin to yours, fearing that someone is going to come in and revoke my privileges as teacher. I’ll probably put a chock behind the door as soon as I have the chance, just in case 😉
      I do agree with your comment on observing others and my supervisor seems pretty cool and supportive, so I think I’ll get a good chance to go and observe some other teachers/classes. Also we’ve been put in pairs with fellow students, which entails our going into their classes (and vice versa), and observing a few of their lessons. Hopefully we’ll learn a lot from that.
      Thanks so much for responding,

  7. By simply being reflective and thoughtful, I know you’ll be great. The worst teachers I’ve encountered are the ones who without-a-doubt believe they are doing their students justice. The thing is, they think they are doing their students right because what they’ve done every school year has worked for them time and time again.

    Good teachers (and any kind of leader) question everything. Just because it has always been done one way doesn’t mean you can’t change.

    Well, as a first year teacher I wouldn’t try to rock the boat too much. I worked with a supportive team that sometimes told me I was “re-inventing the wheel.” In some cases I was, in others, I was putting my spin and stamp on what was going on in my classroom. I put in way too many hours my first years of teaching. But I am still proud of what I was able to help students achieve.

  8. Hi Lee, I have followed you on twitter and instagram for a while now thanks mainly to your lovely wife but I never realized that you were studying primary teaching too. I am in third year at UTS and have just completed my 6th prac. I also have two sons. I will be following this and your twitter feed with interest. Hope you are enjoying prac as much as I did.
    Cheers Jane Logan aka @loganberry06

    • Thanks for your reply, Jane.

      I apologise for taking so long to get back to you.
      Primary education is something that I’ve been wanting to ‘get into’ awhile and I’m so glad that I finally made the decision to enroll.
      I had such a good time on placement and I’m looking forward to the rest of the journey, except maybe for the assessments!
      All the best,
      Lee. 🙂

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