Natastha is an English teacher at a Secondary school in England. She is currently a student on the Postgraduate Award in Teaching Shakespeare (Online). Here she shares her experience:
My overall experience so far
Beginning the Teaching Shakespeare journey has been a real mix of emotions. Trepidation and excitement seem to trump everything else. Your nerves aren't helped by other colleagues who grimace and ask with looks of horror, 'Oh, you're completing a postgrad whilst teaching?' Or the internal voice that asks, 'When will you find the time?'
However, the one thing that is so immediately perfect about the Teaching Shakespeare experience is that this is not a bolt-on. It’s not an add-on; you don't trawl articles about pedagogy from which you produce a carefully crafted literature review, which in no way actually enhances the ease and pleasure in your everyday career...
As opposed to this, you instead have access to the most amazing teaching and learning resource. It's a resource that is waiting for you at any time of the day or night and it provides everything from printable resources that provide me with a lesson, to a whole host of new colleagues who will help me plan new things. I can post up a thought, question or challenge and I am always greeted with a response.
I am learning, challenging myself and developing professionally. But I’m doing this in a manner that not only 'fits in' with my everyday life, but also helps me and the children I teach to have new and exciting lessons. It all seems to fit together.
My first webinar
One of my biggest concerns about the course was not feeling like I had face-to-face time - I'm not the best independent learner! I was sceptical. Online classrooms sounded very daunting even to a fairly active techno/gadget person. I began to panic that I would miss content, or feel 'lost'. It soon became clear that this wouldn’t be the case.
My first webinar was really exciting and a little nerve-wracking. But the Teaching Shakespeare team worked hard in the build-up to the big day to ensure we were all ready. We even had an intro session to the classroom, just helping us navigate around. The best things about online lessons? They are all archived. This means that if you miss a session or even if you just want to go back and review an element, then you can go back at a convenient time and use the lesson as a resource.
This all meant that when the big day came we were ready. Webinars take place on Saturday mornings at a very sociable hour, so with a cup of tea in hand I'm ready and raring to go! As you log into the virtual classroom you can see who else is already 'inside' and watch as others login and the tutor gets ready to start the class. It was so exciting to see my input appear on a screen with people from all over the world.
Ideas spiral and develop and in order to develop these ideas further, the group is split into 'break-out groups'. These smaller groups allow you to speak and even webcam-chat with each other, sharing a communal screen and really getting to grips with things.
There's a real sense of the potential enormity of this project when our tutor Rachel signs off the webinar telling us to enjoy our days or goodnight and sleep well! You suddenly realise that for our counterparts in New Zealand and America that they’ve slotted their webinar into a very different part of their day...
In between webinars you can drive your learning at your own pace on days and times convenient to you through the platform. The platform is easy to navigate and an absolutely amazing resource. There is so much content to explore! On top of this it's a living and breathing entity - fuelled by your course colleagues and tutors. If you have a question - be it about a new activity you want to try or how to find something on the site - it will be answered by someone. You feel incredibly supported. You also have ICT support from the University of Warwick, available every day and also present at every webinar in case you need them.
It is very easy to navigate your way through the platform. At first I began working through the units chronologically, but I find myself now confidently hopping about (through the different units) often in response to comments posted by other users. If a chapter has 15 comments, curiosity will get the better of you and you want to become part of that professional dialogue. I also go back and review sessions, freezing clips and making notes for my own lesson planning.
The platform is an immensely valuable tool. It strikes the balance between being an academic forum and an amazingly creative teaching and learning resource.
Take a look around this website and try out some of the materials from the Teaching Shakespeare online professional development programme:
Sample materials »