My student teacher days are over. Now I’m in the classroom, on my own, with the freedom to teach what I want in the way I think best, without having to tick lots of boxes and document everything I do. It’s wonderfully liberating. I have my own classroom, have chosen my own texts to teach, and have my own classes all to myself. Instead of a bumbling amateur, I actually feel remarkably competent. I can plan a lesson in five minutes, mark an essay in two minutes and reprimand a naughty student while simultaneously making 30 copies of a poem and drinking a cup of tea. I have created a rule of ‘working smart’; I am determined to have a life this year, and am not going to return to becoming the miserable black-eyed zombie with no friends I became during my training.
This means that I have come up with numerous ways to cut my workload, while also providing my students with opportunities to become more skilled and more independent. No time to plan a lesson? No problem. Give the students five minutes to plan it for you, then sit back while they teach the topic to each other. No time to mark 25 essays? No problem. Give them the markscheme and make them mark each other’s work. Don’t want to mark 30 pages of ‘research’ copied from wikipedia? No problem! Make them present it to you, meaning you also don’t have to plan a lesson, then give them a grade for their speaking and listening skills. No more will I be the sad teacher lugging a bag full of marking to my car, and no more will I spend my evenings sitting up until midnight thinking of exciting lesson ideas. The less I do, the more the children I teach have to do for themselves, and provided they are given the right boundaries and equipment to do it properly, they actually gain far more benefit from these self led activities than from me telling them what to do. That’s not to say that I will never mark essays or plan thrilling lessons again, it just means that I now recognise that I don’t need to do that every day, and the learning experience my students have is actually better if I don’t anyway.
It’s strange to look back and think that this time last year I hadn’t even taught my first lesson. Now I can barely remember a life before teaching. I am so happy that I made this career change. It is stressful, it is hard work, and I do find that most days pass in a sort of hazy blur, but it’s a real privilege to spend your days talking about the subject you love most in the world, with small people you come to really care about and enjoy spending time with. It’s also fabulous exercise for the brain; in any given day, I can go from teaching basic comma usage to Year 7s, to analysing a complex poem with my Year 12s, with three novels being taught to three different classes thrown in between. I like to think that this frenetic activity has taught me to become a more creative, thoughtful and spontaneous person. I have also learned that being a perfectionist doesn’t get you anywhere but wide awake in your bed at 2am. The art of letting go is a tricky one to embrace for those of us who love controlling every aspect of our lives, but once welcomed, it’s gloriously liberating. I must confess, I have no idea what I’m going to teach tomorrow. Last year, I’d have been panicking to find myself in this predicament, and have knuckled down at my desk until the wee hours to hash out a series of lesson plans. This year, I couldn’t care less. I’ll figure it out in the morning, after a good night’s sleep and a thoroughly guilt-free evening of watching rubbish TV. What a difference a year makes!