So, we are three weeks in and new teachers - we feel your pain. The impossibility of the task that has been set is weighing heavy on your soul no doubt. I want to say to you, one and all - stay strong and stay focused. You can do it!
Leaving Liverpool post-university to become a teacher, having tried my hand at a 'real job' for a couple of years, was a wonderfully heady and scary prospect. I had been working in advertising and marketing and was offered a tidy deal to stay. I'm not just boasting - honest! I was genuinely surprised they wanted me to stay that much. I still happily turned it down. I had done a lot of soul searching and I knew what would make me happy - it was not the job they were offering me. It was a great job. I had a great boss, benefits a plenty and a diary full of fancy dos to attend. I wanted to love it but it all just felt a little empty. I remember sitting at my desk and feeling suffocated by the boredom and the lack of interest I had in what I was doing. I learnt so much about business, running meetings, interviewing, ICT, organisation, sales, marketing and confidence. I worked with some inspirational bosses and colleagues. I gained so much, the list is endless. I just felt that that job should go to someone that actually wanted it, loved it. It was wasted on me. They allowed me to take a sabbatical to be a teaching assistant thinking that I would realise how crazy my idea was and stay on with the company. But I didn't and that was it - I was hooked. So, I handed in my resignation. A new chapter had begun.
Teaching was my dream. Myself and my now husband drove a van down to London with our eclectic array or furniture and, well... junk. There really is no other way to describe the collection of items we had amassed from various shared houses. Turning the radio on as we left the city, London's Calling blasted out on the radio and we sang along euphorically. A prophetic message assuring us of the bright future awaiting us in the big smoke - the dream. I was about to start on my PGCEs at the Institute of Education. A whole new world was ahead of me. I was excited.
The first few weeks were no let down. I was in my element. The Institute did an amazing job of inspiring me. I felt invincible, the possibilities were endless, the world my oyster. The group I was on the course with were all wonderfully passionate about the journey they were about to embark upon. I knew they would be, the interview process was no joke and we were all very grateful to be there! My tutors, Caroline Daley and Deirdre Pierce were a wonderfully different pair and I learnt so much from both of them. They were the passionate, thoughtful and creative beings that I hope I am on the journey towards morphing into as time passes and I learn what they already had.
Ten years on and I really do feel like a different person - both personally and professionally. I think I was much less myself in the classroom when I started than I am now. I really am who I am now and that helps a great deal. You are not playing at being a teacher - it is part of you. It is a wonderful feeling that only comes with graft, grit and perseverance. Time spent 'on the job' won't get you there - it is a labour of love and one worth striving for.
- I have tried out every teaching initiative that has come along.
- I have observed every teacher that would let me though their door and stolen as many ideas along the way as I could.
- I have spent many a night trawling the Internet for resources that I love and adapting them to 'my style'.
- I have read too many books on education to even remember.
- I have trained over 15 PGCE students and mentored a number of NQTs over the years - they have taught me just as much as the old-hands I have worked with!
- I have searched out relevant CPD courses, put forward my case as to why I want to attend them and implemented things I have learnt as soon as I got back to school.
- I have run projects for passion not money - things that I love and are over and above "my role".
- I have dealt with the fight on the other side of the play ground and not walked on by.
- I have met with the parent that "is not worth meeting" and moved things forward for the sake of the child.
- I have accepted that sometimes there are things that you cannot share with other staff and that that will lead them to a possible wrong conclusion about you - I am professional and value confidentiality and the welfare of the students above all else in my job. That is harder than you'd even imagine.
- I have learnt to read a students mood in a split second and try to work with it - I'm not always right!
- I have dealt with that difficult members of staff that no one else wants to deal with.
- I have admitted when I am wrong and tried to make amends with student or adult.
- I have cried with joy at results and sadness at a student having a tough time.
I'm not going to lie to you, the first two years of your teaching career will be the hardest two years of your life. Training to become a teacher during these two years is all-encompassing. The mountain of lesson planning, pedagogical theory, observations, advice, names to learn, books to mark, meetings to attend, training to undertake, events to be a part of, extracurricular activities to be part of and systems to learn will seem never-ending. Christmas holiday during my NQT year was a dark place for me. I was close to not going back - but I did and I'm so glad. If you persevere, work hard, take advice and stay true yourself - you will reap the rewards. IT DOES GET EASIER!
There really is nothing like working with these off the wall, vibrant, loud, creative, emotional, open and inspiring young people that we work with. Watching them grow and having an opportunity to be a part of their development is so special - we are privileged. Don't let that out of your focus - ever. There is no other job like teaching. It is immense. FACT.
Looking back, here are the tips I would have given/reminded myself of as I stumbled through my first two years of teaching...
- Love your lessons. If you don't, they won't.
- Never disrespect, or approve your students disrespect, of a member of staff - it will be your downfall.
- Plan your lessons well. Plan objectives over tasks for lessons. Consider the end game.
- Keep parents on side. They want the same thing as you - their child to do well.
- Observe and listen to every member of staff you can. Then make your own mind up.
- Be consistent and fair.
- Be selective about who you allow to influence you and your teaching
- Toughen up if you are not already tough. Not hard though, just tough.
- Be the role model you know the students need. All the time. No excuses.
- Don't take things personally.
- Be open to things that you don't think 'are you'.
- Talk with other teachers - a lot.
- Get to know the students, invest the time. - they are people, not just a space in the seating plan and a number.
- Get to know the student outside the classroom around school - be visible.
- Have high expectation of them always, everywhere.
- Get the parents on board.
- Prioritise. Get a system going for time efficiency and manage your work load from the start.
- Ask for help!
- Consider your lesson from the students perspective.
- Be honest with yourself. if you have been rubbish admit it and plan for improvement.
- Remain professional even when others are not - don't get drawn in.
- Enjoy the students - they are brilliant beings and need you.
Hold on tight and get ready for the ride. I wish you all the best in your adventures. I leave you with this...