Weekly Reflection: Turn and face the strain

Still don’t know what I was waiting for… And my time was running wild…

I’m older Beginning Teacher. I’ve already had ten years out in the workforce so I was well aware of the major shock to the system that occurs when you go from being a university student whose days and nights are almost entirely your own to command to the demands of work where they expect you to be at a certain place at a certain time. After 18 months of not being in full time employment, these last two months have been a bit of a shock to my system. No longer could I decide to blow off study for the day to go out for lunch with a friend or spend a summer afternoon stand up paddle boarding. For the last 9 weeks, I’ve had bells telling me when to teach and when to eat, I’ve had meetings, emails to answer which frequently demand my attention right that minute.

Despite my grumbles, I quite like this new life.  I’ve learned so much in these 9 weeks and the odd thing is the fulfilment in the huge light bulb moments of student learning or big events but in the little things. Kids following classroom routines or parroting something you taught them back to you. Getting kids to that point has tested me in ways I never thought possible and I’ve enjoyed the stimulation which comes in solving puzzles of classroom practice.

Every time I thought I got it made… It seemed the taste was not as sweet…

Yet still I find frequently find myself back at square one. For every day I might go home buzzing about classroom successes there are at least two or three where I go home utterly despondent. Lessons that went awry, forgetting to take the roll, still not having got items a, b and d done on my to do list even thought they’ve been staring me down for days weeks. I start out the week hopeful that *this* will be the week I will finally get my act together and get down to some *real* teaching.

Of how the others must see the faker…

Classroom observations hang over me like the Sword of Damocles. I’m still utterly convinced that I’m one observation away from the jig being up. Someone is going to realize that I’m one of those bad teachers we all keep reading about, that at times I’m still blindly feeling my way around the classroom and not particularly effective at my job right now. What terrifies me is things I don’t know I’m missing that I am missing. Is there something obvious I’m not doing that six months down the track is going to cause major problems?

I’m much too fast to take that test.

These days my world seems a lot smaller than I am used to. Even with mobile web access I feel like I  have very little idea of what is going on in the world outside the confines of my classroom. I see things in passing but no longer connect with major news stories, haven’t seen any of the latest series of Glee and know there are friends I should actually catch up with instead of saying I’m going to catch up with. How did it almost become the end of term 1? I’m not sure. Yet despite running myself around in circles I don’t feel that I’ve accomplished all that much this term.

But as I head towards the final two weeks of term, I do so in the knowledge that this too shall pass and at some point a new  normal might start to emerge from the craziness that is the first term of teaching.

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12 thoughts on “Weekly Reflection: Turn and face the strain

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  1. I know how you feel re: first year teaching. It’s my first year too!

    I would put more balance into your life. Plan a set time to catch up with a friend, give them a phone call, or go out for lunch. You can’t immerse yourself in the job too much or else it’s going to consume you!

    You need to add more fun to teaching as well. I make crazy YouTube videos using iMovie. Check out this http://youtu.be/3DUaQzc80Kg.

    I am not sure what is happening either. Time goes so fast!

    p.s: Stay up-to-date with current events. Wake up early. Follow technology blogs.

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  2. Sometimes, even when you have done this for several years, it still manages to take the wind from your sails. Either something wonderful, or something that gets right up your nose. One thing that gets easier is the way you manage to deal with it- the stresses get less difficult to manage.
    The lists never get shorter, I still have ‘to dos’ from years ago, but somehow they seem less important as I move away from them!
    What you are doing is not an ordinary job, you know that, I know that, most of your readers know that. If we have to explain, they wouldn’t understand!
    Keep enjoying it, making time for yourself does get a bit easier, and Glee is surely available on DVD if you really HAVE to watch that…

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  3. I’ve learned something while teaching: when your students “respect” and “love” you, then they are learning. That is really all the “class observers” really want to see.

    I remember one lesson very fondly–mostly because it was the first time I was being observed, and it was by the principal of all people! I was teaching my 5th grade class the importance of the 5 Paragraph Rule. I had two people come to the board to draw something–I had one of them draw a picture of a beautiful cake, and then I had the other draw a picture of a disgusting food.

    I asked the class, “Which one do you want?” They all screamed out for the cake without hesitation. I then smirked and said, “What if I told you the other one tasted better. What then?” And again, without hesitation, they screamed for the cake.

    I told them, using the example, that it is the same with writing. You may be writing something great, but if it isn’t organized correctly–if it is ugly–then no one will want to read it.

    They all laughed and agreed, nodding their little heads. A young child even chimed in to say, “My mother had a yummy cake, but she dropped it, and no one wanted to eat it because it looked bad.”

    That situation, where the students can not only understand, but relate, is what the classroom observer smiles upon. In fact, I am going to take that example one step further.

    You can run a classroom with worksheets, videos, and the works. Cramming their heads with information. And although you are feeding them a lot of information, it doesn’t look fun at all and it doesn’t look like they are “getting” it. So, the observer may not rate as high as the teacher who makes it “look” good.

    It sounds like cheating, but I have students come back to me from high school saying, “Your 5 paragraph rule made high school essays SO much more easy! Thank you!”

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