Our summer “Candidate of the Term” awards were a huge success, with one of our London contractors winning an award for his outstanding hard work. Hear from Miguel on how he felt about winning, as well as what he does in the classroom to go the extra mile for the SEND students he works with.
The school on Miguel:
“Miguel has acted and felt like a permanent member of the team from day 1. He has been enthusiastic, worked above and beyond what we would reasonably expect from a supply teacher and has taken the time to attend all manner of training and meetings so that he could more fully support the tutor group that he was assigned to. Miguel has been observed along with our other teachers and the standard of his lessons and teaching have impressed us all. For some time Miguel had an extremely complex and challenging young man in his tutor group and he has sought advice and guidance from more experienced practitioners to support his practice. A dedicated and thoughtful teacher who we are thrilled to welcome permanently to our team.”
Miguel on winning the award:
“Thanks a lot for your great, kind and endless support. I feel very pleased to see that my work has not gone unnoticed. I do not know what to say. It has been a great pleasure working through Axcis and I am convinced I would not have been able to get a contract with the school without Helena’s support. From the first day I could feel I was not left alone, but without TA’s work this had not been possible. Being nominated for my work is more than I had ever expected.”
Miguel on his classroom practice:
Tell us about your first role with Axcis
I started working through Axcis as a SEND teacher in September 2014. In my interview with the school, questions were asked regarding my background and my experience of working with special education needs. I had previously worked in a therapeutic centre for almost two years before I moved to London. Once here, I started working as teaching assistant. Therefore, those experiences, I am sure, have been the keys that allowed me to achieve my first opportunity. I felt nervous – for that was my first chance to lead a group of people in a language that is not my mother tongue. I consider the work I did as a teaching assistant to be essential – as that role gave me the additional skills needed in a special education needs classroom. It is all about a group of adults helping and supporting the students to gain new skills and knowledge they would not be able to achieve by themselves.
How do you find out about the students you work with and how do you prepare to work with them?
In my case, I had the chance to work with a group of 7 pupils, supported by a teaching assistant for the class, plus one more who worked 1:1 with another student. The TAs were really helpful and gave me lots of information about the class. However, it was not as homogeneous a group as I had thought at the beginning. Every one of them had their own features and behaviours. However, they all had something in common. They were happy, grateful and kind, hence I think we fit from the very beginning. One of the students was a wheelchair user, while another used to communicate with the support of an iPad. Another one had behavioural and emotional issues, while another had developed autistic behaviours. Special education needs is something so wide that you can never expect to face the same learning difficulties across a group. I followed the programme within nine subjects, planning lessons a week in advance and taking into account profiles, learning objectives and using new technologies, such as the Interactive whiteboard, which is highly useful in terms of getting pupils engaged before doing table work. Being prepared is important, but so is being flexible as you get to understand the personal needs of each student in your class.
How do you adapt your classroom practice for different special needs?
In terms of adapting my teaching to different levels of access, I think it is important to ensure there is challenge, even for those who spend more time on each task. It is necessary to provide visual support as well as verbal prompting to cater to each students individual learning need and style. When supporting one student, another pupil may have finished the current task, so it is also important to provide extension work, such as a word-search or finding more information out about the topic, or increasing the difficulty of questions – this works well with maths. In addition, by doing this, we are helping the students to improve their independence. From my experience, I have seen that students love to be challenged, and being given independence to try out ideas by themselves. For those who need more support, I think it is about going step-by-step helping them with a few words or processes. In one particular case, a pupil I worked with had fine motor coordination issues, so a laptop turned out to be a really useful tool for him – it allowed him to produce text and as a result, his own piece of work – which he was immensely proud of.
How do you build good relationships with your pupils?
A classroom is a social situation. Everything may become a learning opportunity, even the way you communicate and relate with students. It can be difficult to maintain a consistent relationship with the children due to the changing circumstance. One day, a child can be your ally – working hard in lessons and volunteering at all times. Another day, they can turn into a trigger for the rest of the group, causing a chain reaction of challenging behaviour – and can even seemingly do so on purpose. In my opinion, the ingredients for a good relationship between student and teacher must be based on confidence, respect and mutual support. A teacher must maintain the rhythm of lessons and make sure that education is in motion at all times. Nevertheless, above all, I think children must go to school to have a fun and enjoyable day. Every lesson must be amusing and, at the same time, educational. This is the key to success. However, this is also the big challenge that teachers face every day, regardless of what school or level we are talking about. If you are a good teacher, with an impressive academic background and your students get bored in the classroom, you have something to work on. On the other hand, if you get your students engaged and make use of the curriculum to your best ability, you will be doing well. One can teach effectively based on attention generated by the students, but not the other way around.
What does teaching mean to you?
What teaching means to me is daily adaptation to my students, hard work and respect for what we do. The more enthusiastic and involved you are regarding what you are teaching; the more you get from your students in terms of motivation and work. It is amazing checking what they know now compared with when you arrived. Teaching gives skills to people. Along with those skills, comes a wealth of resources through which they will be able to interact with the world as they grow and develop. I’m proud to be one of the people helping to give those skills and resources.