Notes from the Classroom

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Today I hit the ten month mark of my teaching career, and I officially qualified as a teacher.

If someone had sat me down in September and told me about the late nights, the early mornings, the endless paperwork, the constant criticism and self reflection, the self doubt, the physical and mental exhaustion, the lessons where everything – and I mean everything – goes wrong, the lack of time to do anything other than planning and marking, the moments of panic when a child comes to you with a problem you have no idea how to solve, the excruciating parents’ evenings when you realise you’ve been talking about the wrong Sophie for the last ten minutes…I would have gone back to my safe office job and never given teaching another thought.

So, I’m glad nobody sat me down and told me the truth. Because if they had, and I’d taken the easy way out, I would have missed the most amazing year of my life. It’s been incredibly difficult at times, and pushed me to the limits of my endurance, but it’s been completely worth every minute. Teaching is nothing like I expected. I thought it was going to be a halcyon world where I would never have a moments’ boredom again. Obviously, I was wrong. Marking was fun at first, but correcting misspellings of there and their gets tiring pretty quickly. The despair that sets in when you get to the seventh essay in your pile of 30 and realise that no one can actually spell Shakespeare and you might as well have been talking to yourself for the last term is crushing.  And I certainly wouldn’t call inputting students’ targets into endless spreadsheets thrilling. Of course, as I should have realised, teaching has just as many annoyances as any other job. However, the rewards it offers are beyond anything sitting in an office ever gave me. I get to be part of hundreds of childrens’ lives every single day, and that is what has made this year so special. The conversations I have with my students make me laugh until I cry sometimes. They’re amazing. They make going to work fun. You can’t ask for anything better than that.

I’m not the best teacher in the world. I still have a lot of learning to do. But I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved in the last ten months, and I can’t believe how much I’ve learned, developed and changed in that time. It’s been quite the experience. And this is just the beginning!

39 comments

  1. Congratulations on qualifying as a teacher even though I don’t exactly understand what that means in the UK systems. I’m glad you’ve found your year so rewarding — it’s been great to read your updates and see what you’ve thought as you’ve gone along, partly because you often make me wish I’d had you as a teacher when I was younger!

    PS I can’t wait for you to visit.

    1. Thanks Jenny! It means I’ve finished the one year of training required to be a teacher here. You are so sweet – and I can’t wait to see you – so soon!! x

  2. Good for you … my son became a teacher 4 years ago and I well remember the exhaustion and exhilaration of his first year. It’s an important thing you are doing.

  3. You are right about the benefit of not knowing – I would never have considered staying with teaching for over 30 years if I had known ahead what the “job” really entailed. I loved it and don’t regret staying in the classroom. Too bad more gifted young teachers give up so soon (and those who don’t have the “gift” stay on!) I am glad I’m retired, but I do miss those teenagers!!!

    1. I’m glad you hav had such a fulfilling career, Maggi -yes it’s a shame too many do leave – mostly due to bad management, unfortunately. There is far too much pressure on teachers these days – I hope I’ll be able to stick it out for a few years at least but it’s certainly not going to be an easy ride!

  4. Congratulations, Rachel. I always look forward to your “Notes from the Classroom” posts and have been so interested to read about your experiences (both good and bad) these past ten months. I am now certain that I would never have the patience or energy to be a good teacher and I admire you all the more for having those talents! Most of all, I’ve loved seeing how excited and interested you are in your work. You seem to have really found a career that you enjoy and that gives you a sense of purpose. And as you say, this is just the beginning!

    1. Thanks Claire! Glad you enjoyed reading about my experiences even though teaching isn’t for you – it’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea and you do have to be ready to bounce back afresh every day with enthusiasm and creativity which is sometimes a real struggle! Thank you – yes, I think I have – for now, anyway – and I am looking forward to seeing where it takes me!

  5. Congratulations on becoming a qualified teacher. I have been a history teacher for the past 15 years, and although certain things are never fun (mostly to do with administration or the management), the students always make things worthwhile. I am glad to see you enjoy it so much. You say you are not the best teacher in the word, but you forget that the best teacher is the teacher who loves her/his job!

    Kind regards,

    1. Thank you, Bettina! I’m glad you still love your job after all this time – it’s good to hear from people who still have the passion! Yes that’s true – a miserable teacher can’t inspire anyone!

  6. Congratulations Rachel, I wish my son had you as his English teacher, his current teacher does not seem very user frlendly – I noticed a definite charm deficit at parents’ evening… and English should be such an inspiring subject…but to be fair to the poor man, he does have to endure my son’s continued belief that capital letters are optional at all times….and don’t get me started on “their” and “there”…

    1. Thank you! Oh no! That’s a shame. You definitely need an inspired teacher for English as so many people struggle with it. Hahaha – an English teacher’s worst nightmare! Random apostrophes are my personal bugbear – nobody knows how to use them, apparently!!

  7. Congratulations! What an achievement, you really should be be proud of all your hard work! I hope you take some much needed time to celebrate, I look forward to hearing about it!
    Vicky

  8. Congrats on the achievement.i was glad to know that despite all the marking and spreadsheet horrors that you enjoy the experience.

  9. Hi Rachel, well done. What a great achievement – to qualify and still bring life and joy and positiveness to your students. I dont want to put a downer on this, but I do want to warn you that your first year as a qualified teacher is the hardest. But anyone who can list those moments of OMGness with such humour can survive that year as they did the PGCE. I think you have already understood that the rewards of teaching come from the thousands of daily small interactions with the students. It is cumulative.
    I hope you will continue with your blog – from the classroom as well as about books. I love reading it.

    1. Thanks Caroline! I know next year will be hard- but as I did a GTP not a PGCE I think I probably have more of a realistic idea of what a full time teacher’s role will be, and as I’m staying in the same school with some of the same students, I’m hoping I won’t find it too much of a struggle. We’ll see! I fully intend on continuing the blog, don’t worry!

  10. Congratulations! The world can never have enough enthusiastic, motivated teachers. Your students are lucky to have you.

  11. Congratulations! You have clearly done a tremendous job and know you will continue to do so. It is tough but the rewards are great! I am so glad you that are still posting, because I love reading your blog, and have made some wonderful bookish discoveries via you! Summer is nearly here – enjoy!

  12. Congratulations on qualifying! I think your text clearly reflects one of the advantages of life: we never know what is going to be like and therefore, we benefit from our ignorance and take incredible risks. I think if someone had told me how university was going to be like, I would have never enrolled, too scared of what was going to happen. But since no one can really put into words the reality of what is going to happen, we just embark on amazing journeys!

    I hope you get a well-deserved rest this summer🙂

    1. I quite agree – every scary experience I’ve ever had has been as a result of taking a risk, and the benefits have outweighed the things I was worried about every time. You’ve just got to go for it!

      Thank you – I intend on having a lovely break!🙂

  13. Congratulations, Rachel. So much of what you wrote rings true, but having gone through this process with all the benefit of a uni tutor and peer support group, I am beyond impressed with how much you’ve done on your own. Your students are lucky to have you, and I’m sure they know it.

    1. Thanks Kate! Yes, it’s been tough – but I have amazing colleagues who have helped me so much. Without them I wouldn’t have managed! I hear you have a great job to go to, so congratulations! I hope your first year will be marvellous!

  14. It is always so good to hear about what is happening with your new endeavor, Rachel. Here you are at 10 months. Wow! Now that you have qualified, I’ll be eager to hear “what comes next”. This much, I do know, which is that you will be a very good teacher. Onward, dear woman.

  15. Congratewlations. I fort I wud incloode a few more spelling misteaks for you, just in case you have not had enuff of them … On second thoughts, I found it rather excrutiating to deliberately spell those words incorrectly. So, for the record, I do of course know how to spell congratulations, thought, would, include, mistakes and enough.

    Seriously, very well done. I knew someone who left a school at the end of a PGCE year in the 1990s and said that she never wanted to enter a classroom ever again. I’m pleased you have survived and concluded that you made the right decision to go into teaching.

    1. Hahaha! I know, whenever I try and deliberately do things wrong to show them to the kids, I find it harder than getting it right!

      Thank you – yes, teaching isn’t for everyone. If you can make it through the training year, you’ll be fine!

  16. Dear Rachel – Many Congratulations! I can’t wait to hear the next chapter🙂 I have come to enjoy your ‘Notes’ very much. How well you have done and with what generosity of spirit, sensitivity and verve.

  17. Smart, kind and thoughtful, what’s not to love about you as a teacher, Rachel? I am so impressed with your care and concern for your pupils.

    Have a wonderful holiday in America.

    Oh, I’m sure you knew (I didn’t till recently) it’s the 200 year anniversary of Pride and Prejudice.

    1. Thank you so much Sue – how lovely you are! Don’t worry, I will have a wonderful time. Two weeks to do whatever I like in some of my favourite places – bliss!!

      I did – maybe this summer I might get time to re-read it!

  18. Sorry I am so late commenting on this. Congratulations! I will have to look up the certification procedure in the UK. It sounds very different than here in the US. I like the idea of 10 months before final certification. New teachers should find out how rigorous teaching can be. It may weed out the less dedicated.
    Teaching has become part of you. If someday you decide not to be in the classroom, you will still be a teacher. Even your blog is a way of teaching. It is who you are.

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