Phew. It’s half term, at last! My first eight weeks of teaching are over, and what a whirlwind it has been! I am absolutely exhausted, both mentally and physically, and ready for a week of sleep. That I won’t be getting, as I’m off to Paris for a few days tomorrow, but never mind; exhaustion is a state I think I shall have to get used to in this profession! I feel like the time has flown, but it also feels like I have been teaching forever already. Since I last wrote about my experiences, I have been given many more classes to teach, had to meet parents, and had to mark a whole raft of GCSE exams. It’s been a steep learning curve and I’ve often felt totally out of my depth, but at the same time, it’s been an amazing experience. When I think back to how I felt and what I knew at the beginning of term back in September, and I how I feel and what I know now, the difference is extraordinary. I can’t think of any other job where I would have learned so much so quickly, and been so rewarded for my efforts. It’s incredible!
I have been teaching a mixture of English and Drama, and I’ve been especially surprised by how much I enjoy teaching Drama. I know very little about theatre, aside from general knowledge gleaned from watching plays over the years, so I felt very uncertain and inadequate at the beginning of term. I thought I’d be totally useless, but actually I’ve had an amazing time. Watching my students grow in confidence and skill over six weeks has been a joy. They’ve gone from being either wallflowers or bouncing balls of uncontrollable energy to accomplished little actors, coming up with their own mini plays and managing to create and sustain characters with only a little bit of direction from me. They can also intelligently criticise one another and make sensible and thoughtful suggestions for improvements. While I have been developing my knowledge, so have they, and it’s been lovely for us all to grow together, while also having enormous amounts of fun!
I’m now also teaching English higher up the school, and having to face the more stroppy side of teenage-dom as the kids get older has certainly been a challenge. My first lesson with my oldest students did not go so well. If they weren’t draped across their desks, sighing about how tired/bored/not bothered they were, they were chatting to one another constantly. Attempting to get on with my lesson, I soon realised that my tried and tested methods with the younger years were not going to get me anywhere fast with this lot. We all suffered through a couple of lessons of me being annoyed and them being distracted until the penny finally dropped and I realised that I needed to change tack. They get bored quickly; so I obviously have to give them a range of activities that get them up and about and doing things. Rather than spending all lesson trying to get them to shut up, I obviously need to set tasks that have them working in groups, so that doing work involves them also doing the thing they enjoy the most – talking! Our last couple of lessons since I worked this out have been wonderful; they’ve stayed on task, produced great stuff, and I haven’t had to raise my voice once. I’m now looking forward to developing a really good relationship with them over the next term, rather than dreading the time I spend with them. The more I learn about teaching methodologies, the better every lesson gets!
Even though it’s only been eight weeks, I am finding a lot of the things I initially struggled with are starting to fall into place. It’s very much a case of trial and error; sometimes things work and sometimes they fall spectacularly flat, but either way it’s positive, because it’s a lesson learned. If a lesson goes terribly wrong, I don’t leave the classroom feeling rubbish at all; instead, I’m buzzing with ideas of how to do it better next time, and can’t wait to try again and see how it goes if I try a different way forward. Teaching can be frustrating, of course, but I can’t honestly say I have had a ‘bad’ day since I started. I am still loving every minute and wake up every morning ready and raring to go. Even so, I am grateful for this little rest, and I shall be back soon with tales from Paris!