Teaching a Lesson in London

Part of the interview process in London involved teaching lessons at two of the schools I interviewed with, in the hopes of impressing them enough to land a job.

It was also an opportunity for me to experience what it is like to teach a class at the schools I might be working in later in the year.

The school I went to on the first day said that I would be teaching a half-hour lesson to a year 7 class, but that I could pick my own topic. My initial thought was to do a debate on genetic engineering ethics, as that always engages students very well, but I wasn’t sure what they may already know about genetics.

For those who don’t know, genetic engineering involves the purposeful manipulation of DNA to produce desirable outcomes or gather specific information. In order for the students to fully engage in this lesson, they would need to have at least a basic understanding of DNA and heredity.

I decided to do a little research on what specific topics are taught at that level, and discovered that DNA wouldn’t have been covered yet. After deliberating over what topic I could chose instead (wanting to pick one that I have pre-prepared lessons for of course – no need to stress too much on creating new content, or as anyone in the education field will tell you, don’t try to re-create the wheel!), I decided to pick one from the year 8 curriculum. My reasoning behind this was to ensure that the students hadn’t already learnt the topic, as that would render the lesson redundant and therefore probably reduce engagement.

I discovered that they would be learning about ecology in year 8, so I sifted through my resources for something that could a stand-alone lesson, be engaging, and also be able to be taught in half an hour (I am used to 70min lessons).

I found a worksheet activity that involved looking at a series of photographs of ants devouring a dead gecko, where students were expected to count the number of ants at various time intervals and make inferences about the ants being scavengers. I set it up so that the students worked in pairs with the different time intervals, and we would collate and graph the data.

Upon entering the class, the students were instantly curious. This isn’t our normal teacher! What’s going on? I decided to start with a very cursory introduction of “I’m Mrs Aslin, I’m from Australia, let’s begin”.

I see a few students shoot each other looks, but I’m pleasantly surprised to see that no one goes immediately off task. I give them a starter activity about naming scavengers in different ecosystems, and this dissolves into a discussion about whether kangaroos eat meat or not.

We move through the rest of the lesson without much issue at all. I only had to ask once for a couple of girls to get back on task – everyone worked very well and stayed very engaged throughout the lesson.

I can’t say whether it was the activity, or the novelty of me being their teacher, but they seemed to enjoy the lesson.

At the end I asked them to answer a few questions for me on small pieces of paper – what did I learn, what do I still not understand, and what is one thing I want Mrs Aslin to know? The answers I got varied greatly, but included a lot of questions about kangaroos and a lot of requests for me to come back and teach them next year.

Overall it was a very positive experience for myself as well as the students. I felt like I would be happy to return to this school and these students.

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