Sunday, 20 November 2016

20 Ways Teaching Primary School is different to Teaching Secondary School

Guess who won "Class of the Week" two weeks in a row?
"Duh Alex," I hear my teacher friends say, "Did you expect teaching primary school to be the same as teaching secondary school?". Well no I didn't but I really wasn't expecting so many differences.  I'm in a unique position: teachers tend to teach primary school OR secondary school. And, as a devoted secondary school teacher up until a few weeks ago, I feel like the scales have fallen from my eyes.

With my hectic travel schedule, I had been avoiding taking on permanent teaching contracts because, truth be told, I really struggle with jet lag. So when my agency rang me and told me to attend an interview at a Primary School, I was prepared to say "no thank you" at the end of the day.

I mean why on earth would I want to teach primary school children? I'm a secondary school teacher, right?

But at the end of the interview day, the year five class I had been teaching were looking up at me so adoringly that I knew I was in trouble.

"Please stay," one whispered as I tried to make a getaway. "Our last teacher left us when we needed her."

There are times when my Jupiter in Cancer heart just becomes a big bowl of overly eager to please jelly.

Yes, I accepted the job.

On top of being to keen to help, I also thought it would be a great opportunity to study the transition process from primary school to secondary school from a different perspective. I thought teaching these Jupiter in Scorpio/Sagittarius learners would be a piece of cake. And for lots of different reasons, it is easier (but some things are decidedly harder). I thought I would learn something. And on that, I wasn't wrong.

When I taught secondary school, I didn't pay too much mind to what primary schools had to say except when it came to behaviour and pastoral issues. I completely disregarded data because, as every secondary school teacher knows, primary school data is pretty useless. Well I changed my mind on that one.

So here's a little summary (before my time at the internet cafe expires: long story).

1) Primary school kids are tiny. I kept tripping over them!
2) Good God, I have to mark everything they produce (fortunately, it isn't too difficult).
3) Secondary school teachers re-teach an awful lot of stuff that primary school kids already have a very good handle on (yeah, persuasive writing!).
4) I run up and down two flights of stairs seven times a day picking kids up from various places and then dropping them off somewhere else (they aren't allowed to be by themselves at any time).
5) Moderation: the most intense marking and data fury I've ever experienced. And it will be done 4 times over an academic year in a primary school compared to once a year (if we were lucky) in a secondary school.
6) Ha!! No playground or lunch duties for me! Which brings me to. . .
7) I love teaching assistants more than ever! I've always said secondary school teachers need more of them but who listens to me? TAs in primary schools do a lot of the jobs that make teaching secondary school so difficult: they help mark, do admin jobs, help monitor children and help to keep me sane.
8) Another ha! I can wear trainers and jeans every day. BONUS!
9) Boo! No more contraband tea for me. A kettle of boiling water in a primary school classroom is a definite no no.
10) The emotional onslaught of secondary school is none existent in primary school. Primary school children kind of see me as the mother bird of the nest and they trust me to be the sensible one (poor kids). No hormones to worry about :D
11) We're together all day in the same classroom. Already I pretty much know their levels in all subjects and know almost all of their assigned numbers for the data file. So mastering their birthday was a piece of cake.
12) My Year 5 pupils are experiencing their waning Jupiter squares and they're not having any of my wild stories before they start calling me out on them. "Miss, I think you're making that up. That didn't really happen." So my vast store of mythology and Ojibwa legends is rather lost on them.
13) I have to teach across all subjects--who can really imagine me teaching PE?? Well they will leave year 5 having mastered Salutations to the Sun ;)
14) I get to sit on music lessons!! Woohoo! I'm fulfilling a childhood dream to learn to play the cello
15) My "teaching partner" is well cool (and very young) and I think I scared her when I said I won't be taking marking home (that lasted two weekends).
16) Easiest OfSted ever
17) Primary school children are expected to be able to swim 25 meters at the end of year 6. Best bloody idea ever. And we take them to local swimming baths during a normal school day.
18) I feel we are letting our children down more than ever by not recognising all the hard work primary schools do in data tracking and pastoral care.
19) Primary schoolteachers and Secondary schoolteachers need to start listening to each other. There has to be a way of one side informing the other.
20) With a ten minute train journey from my house, I am in receipt of Inner London Weighting! ker-ching!!

I took advantage of the opportunity to ask OfSted a few questions on why there isn't the opportunity for primary schools and secondary schools to work together. As usual, it comes down to an ignorant Education Secretary who has never spent significant time in a classroom since leaving comprehensive education, a lack of interest (also due to ignorance) and a lack of funding.

Tragic really.

On a better note, I will have primary school behaviour data to analyse and add to my research for the Kepler Conference. Can't wait to crunch those numbers.

Oh and I got "Class of the Week" an unprecedented two weeks running. Who says astrology doesn't give a teacher the winning edge?

About the Astrologer

Alex Trenoweth was voted Best International Astrologer, 2015 for her dynamic presentation on Astrology and Education. Her book, "Growing Pains" is an exciting development in astrology as it combines classroom teaching experience, sound research and the potential to have a positive impact on struggling adolescents, parents, teachers and those who have been labelled "at risk". For queries, consultations or syndications, please contact Alex via or leave a message in the comment section.

About the New Book

There are two wolves fighting inside of me, the old story goes, one wolf is good and the other is evil. “But Grandfather,” asked the child, “Which one wins?” The Grandfather answered, “The wolf I feed.”

We might like to think that being good is a natural instinct. In fact, doing the right thing takes a conscious decision. Every day, we are met with temptation to get ahead at the expense of someone else, to get away with something we know is wrong or to cut corners if we think no one is watching.

Following on from her powerful book on astrology and Education, “Growing Pains”, Alex Trenoweth explores the benefits of using “the bad guy” of the solar system: Saturn. Often avoided and seldom understood, if we understand our own Saturn then we can help others to understand theirs. Using case studies of  highly successful people contrasted with convicted serial killers, Trenoweth deftly demonstrates the dire consequences of feeding the wrong wolf.

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