Thursday, January 15, 2015

Teaching Without the Paperwork

Any regular readers - or people who actually know me in real life - know that I'm a qualified teacher. I graduated in 2013 with a degree in Education, Religion and English. I've done my teaching hours. I've passed my exams.

But I haven't gotten a teaching job. I haven't registered to be a teacher - and that was a strategic decision, made on the basis of having to reach a certain amount of teaching hours within a couple of years...which I knew wasn't going to happen unless I started teaching immediately. Truth be told, I haven't actively pursued teaching as a career since finishing college, because I knew that I was going to be doing a Masters. I knew I wouldn't have time to teach and study, particularly not when I didn't even know what I would be studying.

In November, I was offered an assistant position in a web design course in college. It's a bit of a change from English and Religion, but more importantly, it came without a ridiculous amount of paperwork.

When I was on teaching placement, I didn't just have to teach. I also had to produce lesson plans every week - one for every class, each one unique, even if I was teaching the same material to different class groups. To add to the fun, I also had to send my Schemes of Work to my supervisors by Monday afternoon each week, for the week ahead. And each Sunday evening, my Reflective Statements for the previous week's lessons had to be uploaded for them to see, too.

Typically, a teacher should spend at least as much time preparing a lesson as they spend teaching it. That's an impractical demand, particularly for newly qualified teachers or teachers in training, but it ends up being something that has to be done - no complaining about it, because there's no one to listen.

Thankfully, this time around things are easier. No lesson plans. No schemes of work. No reflective statements. I don't have to spend six hours a day preparing the class for the next day.

This is, for all intents and purposes, teaching without the paperwork. This is liberating.

Web design is a funny ol' thing to teach, because in a few years it's incredibly likely that most of what we've taught the students will be obsolete, or at least less important. Heck, the only reason knowing how to code a website is important for the general user these days is if they want to set up their own website and edit the templates provided by Wordpress or Blogger. Just knowing what goes where, really.

See, unless you really understand the languages behind web design, you can't do much with them. If you don't understand the tags used in HTML, you almost certainly can't create a website that looks anything like a website. Trust me, I've been a student of the very same course I'm teaching and even though
tags existed back when I did it, we didn't use them. Even though CSS existed, we didn't use it. We had webpages that looked awful, and we didn't understand why.

The difficulty in teaching this sort of stuff in a week is that we need to teach the students what the tags do, why they're important, and how to use them. The last part is the most difficult one. With a little bit of time and playing around, students begin to understand that they need to close tags to make sure the page looks the way it's supposed to. They understand which tags they need to change. They just aren't sure how to start it from scratch. At least, I'm not sure they'd want to try.

And who can blame them? If I were on teaching placement, I'd have to come up with a reason for not teaching them to use everything all by themselves. The problem is, they only have a week. They have a week to learn something that's entirely new to them, and it seems that some the students don't even use computers at home. It's all mobile technology, these days.

Without a lesson plan to encourage teaching them everything from scratch, to have them create everything without a template (they've tried, then they were given a template to edit), and without the time to really let them at it, it's difficult to ensure that the students have learned anything.

The best we can do with a week - yes, a week - is to teach them to understand, and to try get them interested in web design. Some of them really have an eye for the design side of things, too, which was nice to discover. We can give them the tools to go and learn more. We can show them resources to use to create websites of their own. Sure, we can't ensure they'll actually continue. And we can't ensure they'll actually remember anything. But we can do an awful lot towards making sure they can come out of the class with a greater understanding of web design.

And all without the paperwork.

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