This year seems like a tale of two halves; it has separated itself into PRE and post QTS, and I am not sure I will ever be the same again. I have changed so much in such a short space of time, and some of it just won’t go into sentences, but I will attempt to take care of the bits that will.
1. I realised that I am a good mother.
I was always this, but I have only truly realised it in the last 15 months. I had sacrificed a lot to become a parent, and have since felt that by following a profession that I am more than dedicated to, I have made sacrifices on the quality of my parenting. This is not true, and I now realise that it is simply a matter of my extraordinarily high standards and expectations bleeding into yet another aspect of my life. Turns out that not all children have a story read to or by them every night, sleep and go to school in clean, ironed clothes and are told they are loved at least three times a day. I have learned to both appreciate and be grateful for the fact that my child does. Sacrifices are only as such if you label them accordingly- most people call it a work/life balance, but with less guilt and pressure involved.
2. I was approached by @tes to write an article for their blog, regarding using iPads within the classroom.
I felt both privileged and terrified to be judged as anywhere near the extent of knowledgable enough for the task during my PGCE (I had picked up an iPad for the first time only a month before my course began) but there we go. Just any sort of acknowledgment was amazing and a massive boost in what was quite possibly the hardest year I have ever experienced. It will always be floating about, just here: http://community.tes.co.uk/tes_english/b/weblog/archive/2013/07/24/english.aspx
3. I know I can teach.
Now, you’d think upon entering into a career that you have subconsciously wanted to do since you were writing out registers for your teddies into exercise books at the age of five, that you would have given the concept of actually being CAPABLE of doing a job, yes? Not so much. I went into this career with my eyes sewn shut. I like English, I like to talk to other people about English, I own lots of books. I really, really want to show other people how fantastic both literature and the English language can be. This is all enough, right? No, dear. That is not quite it. However, it was not the realisation of this wake up call (and the moment that I realised that I was in fact both dyslexic and in the dark with all that is grammar- thank you @veldaelliott, eternally grateful, and sometimes still none the wiser) that rocked the boat of capability, but simply the fact that I didn’t think I could do it. I felt completely and utterly out of my depth. I had sat through an interview at Warwick, talked inherently about the fact that I could do pretty much anything and now I was surrounded by some fantastic teachers. I felt both inferior and unprepared, and wasted so much time talking to anyone that would listen about how inferior and unprepared I was, that I was missing the fact that I was actually teaching the entire time. Rather successfully at times. Admittedly, it wasn’t until a rather lovely gentleman within the ITE sat me down one day when I had reached my dramatical pinnacle of the year and had decided I was appalling as a practitioner and told me quite frankly about the fact that if he had children, he would feel both honoured and privileged for me to teach them.
I focussed so much on what the kids hadn’t done that I was missing all the things that had stuck. I still do this, a lot.
4. Other things are just as important.
I was reminded, quite cruelly during my PGCE year that whilst I had made a commitment to the course, I had a certain commitment to the people in my life as well. I won’t dwell on this one but the horrid argument that this statement produced made me realise how important the people in my life are for so many different things. My friendship circle has moulded and warped into one of the most beautiful things I am proud to look upon. Whilst my teacher folk friends like @mulberrykate and @missdramatink are two of the most valuable people that I have met in the last 12 months, I now treasure my non teacher folk for their ability to make me hit the off switch more often than my OCD likes, but that my sanity definitely needs.
5. I broke Bob’s armour.
Bob- the fall back name of all good characters- is my alias for one of the kids. Bob has a reading age of eight, should have received a statement to support him so many years ago, and at times I worry that he has no sense of consequence or conscience of action. When I talk to him either to reward or reprimand, it is as though he can’t even hear me. I was beginning to feel that my role as Bob’s tutor was simply to act as the essential but unloved drill sergeant that consistently carried out his detentions (he fails to remember them if he has to go elsewhere) and that would be the extent of our interaction for a while.
Bob wrote me a Christmas card. And no, not to be translated as ‘Bob’s mother wrote me a Christmas card,’ but Bob did. He presented it to me last week with a beaming smile on his face, and followed it up with a thank you for this term. That is good enough for me.
6. Y10 actually want C grades.
Now I know you may not see this in the same holistic light as my other 12, but I am rooting for this group. I couldn’t back them more than if I brought Pom poms to school and created a song as tribute. I have seen every single student go through de motivation, swing back across to dedication before shaking their heads in disbelief at their lack of commitment to their teenage pout, sashay back over to de motivation again. The first controlled assessment was a painstaking tug of war, chanting at them with absolutely no glimmer of response from their sullen little faces.
Parents evening was a shifting stone for all of us. I saw each child in a new light- the bravado stripped away to reveal how much they could care. They each told me what they wanted to achieve after GCSEs, moreover what they needed to get there. I found out F isn’t just an HD browed gossip, but loves horses and rides regularly. I found out that M is a fantastic artist. I found out that L can talk at quite a rate when she chooses to- which is never in my classroom in front of all those terrifying boys. Going back into the classroom afterwards, I felt like I finally got it a little bit.
7. J brought me a tile.
You know those shops on holiday where you can paint your own tile and then your parents can save it forever to marvel at your eleven year old talent? I have one of those on my mantelpiece from one of my students from the class of kids that will really take some beating.
8. I taught my son to read.
This is like watching the secret if a magic trick. To see a four year old crack the code of the encryption that is the English language is really like no other feat of sorcery. From wanting to run around book shops like an aeroplane, he will spend an hour pouring over the pages of books before trying to reachable decision. About which one he wants the most. He loves anything that will educate him; from encyclopaedias to Volcano facts to the history of dinosaurs, nothing gives him greater pleasure than to recite knowledge back to you over dinner. We are now seventy pages into Harry Potter, and his finger follows the words as we play out Harry’s thrilling first trip to Diagon Alley, and Noah holds his hands out to guesstimate exactly how big a large owl is…
9. I went to Venice. And Sherwood Forest. And Cornwall. And Sea Life. And Wistow Maze. And took a row boat out on a lake. And had plenty of picnics. And went to the seaside. And generally remembered how fun my son was/how to be a non stressy, non shouty mother.
10. ERM HELLO THERE MISS. YOU ACED A PGCE.
This blurb could be a come of sentences or a couple of novels. I will veer towards the first. I learned that I am in fact more educated than teenagers (even if they make you think that is not the case), that people are the most difficult things to get along with and that it is incredibly lonely and intrinsically community-spirited teaching is all at the same time.
11. I have learned to relax.
Now I haven’t quite nailed consistently sleeping for periods of time- I currently do alternating weeks of deprivation, meltdown and then sleep catch up- but I have learned to switch off. I have realised that I am a better teacher by doing so. I’m not going to dwell too long on this one because I am by no means an expert just yet.
12. I did what couldn’t be done.
Now, I could play this down but with the help of another teacher (who I am so indebted to for the last year and the chocolates didn’t even come close to saying thank you enough times) we essentially did our best Mrs Kay impersonations. After being told on more times than I wish to count (by SLT, SEN team, several bemused members of the department) that I couldn’t possibly take this group of children on a trip for the day, I did. Not even out of sheer pig headed determination, but I think that helped a little bit. One wheelchair, two hearing impaired, five ADHD, one severe learning difficulties, several levels of emotional and behavioural needs and not a partridge or a pear tree to be seen, yes we did. Not only did we go to Stratford, but to save cost and make this a truly Shakespearian experience, we wrote a treasure trail to follow. I harassed SLT for pupil premium funds so each team within the trip had a camera, and had a budget to buy memorabilia.I phoned parents on the morning to offer hardship funds so that their child could come. I was told repeatedly that the pupil in a wheelchair could not attend due to toileting, and I will still see it as a failure on my part that she was transported home in a taxi courtesy of the school halfway through the day after I had spent two months liaising with the local council to try (and fail) to find a disabled toilet and available hoist within Stratford to ensure that she had exactly the same experience as the other students.
I had the best day, and will never forget how much fun the kids had. Highlights included being unbelievably proud of the childrens’ behaviour after receiving compliments from the general public, eating ice creams next to the canal, seeing 21 kids genuinely absorbed in Shakespeare’s history at Nash’s house as the shop assistant gave them an improvised talk about the building, and my group performing a two minute mini play on the grass of Macbeth for us to watch back in the classroom.
13. I have a job.
Not just any job. A job where I have felt more content than the entire history of my employment. Where people are supportive and encouraging, and where I feel that I can share my work within the department without it receiving negative comments about how I am simply showing off ( I wish I was kidding. If I wanted to show off, I’m pretty sure I could be more inventive than a Powerpoint on an email. People can be cruel). A job where not every day is a battle, and I have control of my own approach to work. I am not penalised for considering how something could be done more efficiently but praised, and I am finally working with people that don’t behave like they are from another planet. Additionally, the people are interesting. They like the things that I like, and know things that I do not. Every day is in fact a school day, rather than observing each tick of the clock until it is over. I love my job!
What does 2014 look like? I couldn’t possibly put the pressure on myself to produce 14 little things (I say that now, see how long I witter for) but here is a start:
1. I’ve bought a house. An actual house.
Not just a tiny house to get me on the property ladder but actually wish I had never bothered, but a beautiful house. A friend commented that it was as though it had been built just for me. 2014 will have the most fantastic start to it because it marks the beginning of knocking walls down and choosing bathtubs and all of the other wonderful things that a project calls for. Have I mentioned I love a project? The best bit is, it’s all mine. The bathroom is under the stairs, the 200 foot garden terrifies me and I have already built and knocked down walls in my head, panning out the next five years of my own anxiety. Cannot wait.
2. I HAVE A TICKET TO SEE ELTON JOHN.
This is all I need to say.
3. I’m going to have all summer off. Yes yes I am.
I ended up working for my placement school (inability to say no) and return to my previous place of employment last summer just out of boredom/not being able to sit still for more than two days without a purpose. I’m almost certain that I moved house in the summer just to give me something to do- although I will never admit that aloud. Additionally, I think the rather loudly amorous neighbours also bore a factor in this. I digress…six weeks this year. I’m going to do stuff. All the stuff.
4. I’m going to be nice, more often and in a more obvious fashion.
This can work on many scales, but I feel that my dry sense of humour is a misunderstood animal at times. Those close to me understand the many shapes that it can take but I think that along the way, it has tarnished my relationship with someone at times. Be nice, just because. Don’t expect a single thing in return.
5. Remember things!
Take photos, remember birthdays, speak to people on the phone more often, update my blog, keep a journal, leave notes for people to smile at. Make things better for longer.
6. Treats are good.
After saving for said house for the last six years, it has created in me this ridiculous in-competition-with-myself monster when it comes to saving money. This needs to stop. I don’t need to save a substantial amount of money every month for a deposit, so I really need to start spending money on nice things to compensate for the lack of sleep/life during term time.
7. I will not whinge.
Now, this is a stretch. You see, my problem is not that I am ever particularly miserable or discontent when I whinge, I whinge for comedy value, to get stuff off my chest or just because I am bloody British. But sometimes I do worry at the glazed look on my friends’ faces when I start up. I personally blame them for attempting to get me out during term time and expecting conversation about anything except the funny inks kids say/do, or how much work I have on. However, I will give them one of fourteen at least…
8. I want to get better.
At my job that is. I feel that my creativity keeps me motivated within my profession, but that there is a bigger picture that I have not yet explored. I want to start thinking about what I want after my NQT, because I currently do not know the answer to that question. Not so much do it, but have an idea at least. I am so dedicated to teaching and learning, that I feel that there is more to give.
9. @gcuoros words, “Do less better.”
This is the perfect summarisation for my outlook right now- 2014 needs to be smarter and sleeker than I have previously been. I lack the linear function that I envy in other teachers; my work process is normally to write something several times, leave it along and return to it, procrastinate, write two or three lessons to get the same result and only use one. I have an awful memory, and sometimes when time is of the essence, I forget that I probably already have a resource that looks very alike the thing that I am creating. As an NQT (and from talking to colleagues I think this should probably be worded, ‘as a teacher’, but hey, I’m optimistic) I am still juggling to reach my work-life balance. This is my goal now; to find the balance where I am awake enough to function, see some of the weekend but most importantly, experience a life away from work. Wish me luck.