Incredibly appropriate and exactly what is needed to hear sometimes!
Dear Young Teacher Down the Hall,
I saw you as you rushed passed me in the lunch room. Urgent. In a hurry to catch a bite before the final bell would ring calling all the students back inside. I noticed that your eyes showed tension. There were faint creases in your forehead. And I asked you how your day was going and you sighed.
“Oh, fine,” you replied.
But I knew it was anything but fine. I noticed that the stress was getting to you. I could tell that the pressure was rising. And I looked at you and made an intentional decision to stop you right then and there. To ask you how things were really going. Was it that I saw in you a glimpse of myself that made me take the moment?
You told me how busy you were, how much there was to do…
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So tomorrow I go back to school and start/finish the remainder of term. After a week off I am really excited to go back and see my pupils, my classroom and my colleagues. It may sound a bit cheesy but the later is especially true. I have discovered during my time at Law that a staffroom can be a really important tool that all teachers should utilise. I have memories of a teacher once telling me that when she has a bad day she always has a stash of chocolate ready to greet her once the children have left, or others have a timer counting down to Friday so that they can go out and leave the stresses of the job behind. At times throughout this year I have been able to relate to all those, but in actual fact there is another coping mechanism not too far away and that is the staffroom. Of course staffroom’s have the reputation for being hostile, toxic and sometimes difficult to fit into but that is a broad generalisation. My experience this year has taught me that staffroom(s) are the opposite of this. They are a place to go and vent/laugh/listen or just have a nice lie down! I had a tough few weeks towards the end of term, with parents evenings, professional enquiries and job applications and at times it all felt just a little too much. But one of the things that got me through was taking a little trip that room at the end of the hall and chatting to the people inside it. I’m sure there will be people out there who say “just you wait 20 years” or “you’re still young and and don’t know any better” and they may be right! But for now I have found a mechanism that works for me. It makes me feel happy and I enjoy my time there and ultimately that is the most important thing.
Some it has come to the end of my second week back at school and I think now is an appropriate time to talk about something new I experienced. A BRAND NEW TERM! We started back to school on Monday 6th January 2014 and that has been one of the most anxious days of my NQT year so far. There was no early morning coffee chat, no in-service day to prepare for things…just GO! It was difficult to know what to do with the children because whilst we are in the middle of an academic year all of the children are still excited about Christmas and just want to relax. We managed to do a little bit of both and it all went off fine! But it just struck me how unsettled I felt walking into the classroom that morning.
So taking my own assessment strategies…WHAT DID I LEARN? Well I learnt two things! The first is always be prepared. Don’t leave your room on the last day of term until you have some idea of what your doing the first day back. The second thing I learnt is that it will all be fine. Sometimes you can think that your world is going to fall apart because you don’t know what’s going to happen but eventually it all works itself out.
WHAT WAS MY BIGGEST SUCCESS? Surviving. Easy answer!! A colleague told me on the first day, “just get through this first week.” I thought this was a weird piece of advice considering it is the start of the new term, surely I should be hitting the work and planning very hard! But in truth it was a great piece of advice. Sometimes you just have to survive and once you have a plan and know where to go, then you can attack!
WHAT WILL I DO NEXT TIME? It may sound silly but I will take everything that I have said and listen to my own advice. Of course in the future I will think about the first day back but I will also remember that the world will not end just because I feel a little uneasy about my first day back! Everyone is feeling the same thing and ultimately everyone is just surviving!
So I begin to write this blog at the end of a long and sometimes difficult first term as a teacher. When I first walked into my classroom in August I had dreams of changing the world and changing the lives of children, and to be honest those dreams still exist! There has been highs and lows but at least I can say the journey hasn’t been boring, so here is my review of my first term…
As with all children and all classes there are different needs, which need to be met. I have experienced this on placement and been given support by the class teacher as to what strategies worked for each child and what didn’t work. This time around no one was there to give me that advice and I had to find the strategies that worked for children and how we could improve the children’s learning. This has been a challenge but it has been satisfying to say the least! Some of these have worked and some have not and for those it is back to the drawing once again. However for those that have worked it gives a timely reminder as to why I got into teaching. Most people came into teaching to make the difference in a child’s life and to see a child begin to benefit from the support, which you give, essentially makes a dream come true.
However this term has had its difficulties and being new to the job, these difficulties have been magnified and intensified. The biggest difficulty that I have faced in this term is getting to grips with parents and the level of expectation.. Early in the first term we had a “Meet the Teacher” evening, which was to allow staff and parents to meet and help to build positive relationships. In Primary 4 there are a number of new things, which are introduced to children such as Accelerated Reading (a computerized reading programme), setting in maths and spelling and homework routines. Naturally parents had some anxieties about this and wanted to discuss these anxieties. However it turned into a very difficult situation for me because the questions that were being asked were questions that should be answered by senior management and by giving this suggestion it looked as though I was “fobbing” them off. However the follow up to this was anxieties on both parts. Parents wanted to be sure that their child was doing the best that they could and I anxious because I wanted to be sure that I was doing the best for the children, whilst also pacifying the demands of parents. This was the steepest learning, which I experienced over this term, however I do believe that it made me a stronger person and has actually helped to be more reflective in practicing and how others view those practices.
Coming to the end of my first term all the children seemed to talk about the same thing…PRESENTS! Obviously this is because Santa was finishing his last minute preparations for the big night and the excitement was reaching fever pitch. But the children talked a lot about presents for me and it brought me back to when I was in school and I bought my teacher gifts. It was usually the last night before term and my mum would run out and buy bottles of wine for the classroom assistants, secretaries and chocolates for the teacher. I expected all of this to come but I also had a few surprises as well. I had two personal cards from parents that expanded on the usual “Merry Christmas.” These cards said thank you for all the work, which had been done over the term and how my work had inspired, changed and motivated their children. These cards blew every tangible gift out of the water because they represented something other than monetary value. They represented success! To know that you have inspired at least one child represents a huge amount of success and makes that dream in August seem a tiny bit closer.
Here I sit on the cusp on a new year and I begin to think about the new term. There are hundreds of things that I would like to achieve in the next term but the one thing that I NEED to achieve is making the difference! That is my new years resolution, and that is my promise and that is my target! My success criteria is simple, wake up every day and try and be better than the last!