I’ve decided that I’m going to do a monthly post on my teaching course on the blog, both for myself, to see how I’m progressing, and also for those of you who might be interested in hearing about what it’s like to change careers and enter the classroom. Obviously I have to keep everything very general as I can’t mention any specifics about where I am working, but I can still give you a good picture of what it’s like to be a trainee teacher. It’s now been four weeks since I started at school, and I’ve never been happier since I left my own school behind eight years ago. It’s a beautiful place to work; the campus is surrounded by rolling countryside and ringed with trees that are starting to turn golden. Whenever I look outside a classroom window I am filled with joy; it is a world away from the view of dilapidated shops and rubbish strewn pavements I used to have in East London. When I wander between classrooms I can breathe in fresh air, and hear the sound of laughing, chatting children floating out of the windows, rather than inhaling traffic fumes and being deafened by sirens. It’s bliss!
Aside from the actual setting, I love what the job itself entails too! I have a form of Year 7s for registration at the beginning of the day, and I am already involved with their little lives. They come to me in tears or with faces of worry, panicking about forgotten homework or old friends they miss. Others come bounding up with big grins to tell me about how well they’re doing, or that they got picked for a sports team. Usually I end up traipsing after one or two with pencil cases or books they have left behind, and I make list after list of things I need to remember to tell them or of things they have asked me to sort out. I feel like I have twenty eight 11 year old children. It’s a great responsibility, but also a great pleasure. I care about each and every one of them, and I hope with all of my heart that they will flourish and come to love their school days as much as I did.
I have been sitting in on lots of lessons, which has been absolutely fascinating. Even in 8 years, teaching methods have changed massively, and no longer is it acceptable to have a teacher standing and talking at pupils for an hour. Now it’s all about interactivity, and the teachers all work so hard to come up with exciting and innovative activities to get the children learning independently. I’ve loved watching how teachers with a wide range of personalities interact with their classes, and I have been especially interested in seeing how Science and Maths teachers make very complex topics simple and accessible to all abilities. After watching one biology lesson, I finally grasped the concept of photosynthesis, something my teacher never managed to get across to me when I was 16! Coming at education from the point of view of a teacher rather than a pupil is a truly eye opening experience, and it is only now that I am really beginning to appreciate just how much I owe my own teachers for the hard work they put in to giving me such a fantastic school experience. You have to be on the ball constantly, ready to answer a thousand and one questions, motivate and inspire flagging pupils, able to change the course of a lesson and come up with new activities on the spur of the moment if things aren’t going quite to plan, and able to cater for students across a range of ability levels, all while maintaining control of noise and behaviour levels and staying calm and unflustered throughout. Those who say teachers are lazy and stupid and can’t cope in the real world infuriate me; I’ve worked harder in the past four weeks than I did for five years in my office jobs, and I don’t even properly teach yet!
I have started to teach a few lessons now, and though I still feel totally inept and am reminded after each one of how much I still have to learn and improve upon, I absolutely love every moment of being in front of a class. It’s the greatest challenge I have yet faced in the working world; keeping thirty people engaged and motivated for an hour while also ensuring that they have actually understood what I am talking about is really not as easy as it looks. When I plan a lesson, I assume that things will go to plan and what I am delivering will be intelligible to everyone. What I am rapidly learning is that this is usually not the case. The way I explain something might work for twenty children, but the other ten might need some extra help. I don’t have time to explain everything in several different ways, so how do I manage to ensure everyone gets the support they need? Dealing with behaviour is also tricky; I can do a good stare down to ensure quiet when I am talking, but what happens when this doesn’t work? I have already worked out that shouting is not effective; so what other ways can I use my voice to assert authority without becoming a fishwife?
I’m also frequently coming home racked with guilt for focusing too much on children whose behaviour is negative to the detriment of those who are wonderful and should be getting my praise. I teach a delightful girl who does everything she is told and who always wants to chat to me, but because she never gives me any trouble I never really seem to be able to spend much time giving her the attention she deserves. How do I ensure that everyone in my class feels valued? It’s so hard, and I never feel that I’ve done enough. Every day I come home and think about how I can do better tomorrow. It’s not like a normal job, where you can go home and forget all about it until the following day. Something I say or do could have a significant effect on someone without me even realising, and I have to constantly reflect on my actions and think about how I could have behaved differently to achieve a more positive outcome. Every day is a huge learning curve and gives me so much to think about, both personally and professionally. I have so much to work on, and it is daunting, but it’s also thrilling. It’s everything I dreamed of and more. I can’t wait to get to work every day, and I never thought I’d hear myself say that! It really is the best decision I ever made, and I am so excited to see what the rest of the year will bring!