In the last three months, I’ve discovered that chronic sleep deprivation does the funniest of things. 1, what was once a rather straightforward task now feels as though it requires a Mensa subscription to crack. Complaints processes appear to be a particular challenge. 2, you can reach a point of tired along the journey to utter madness where you actually don’t feel tired. It is this stage that is indeed the one to be most feared. 3, you come up with the most amazing and original ideas but unfortunately, because of the tired, you may never know if they are truly any good or not.
Both worryingly and spectacularly, I’m enjoying 3 the most. Whether it is the fact that my freedom is now somewhat restricted (in a wonderful way of course) by looking after a newborn, or simply that I really do need employment to keep my brain cells ticking over, I’m feeling quite inspired. I put this down to one factor above all else that seems to be the real bitch within the braces: time.
Time is the one thing that teachers beg for as answer to all of our problems, the only thing standing in our way of feeling like we are nailing the workload. I’ve been thinking this over and being a starter over a finisher, time is my excuse rather than the true enemy. To be honest, the stumbling block is often that whilst the time I have is almost certainly sufficient, I’m not using it in the most efficient way.
I think I figured this out above all else over the last year: I can teach better if I do the things that matter (ironically, and I’ve mentioned this before, I talked about value vs time and the impact of workload on wellbeing at #TMLeics in 2015. Clearly doing a fantastic job of taking my own advice). So let’s scale this right back by thinking about our students; with only a limited time with the content, what could they do-or could I get them to do- that will make maximum impact? How can we simply stop using time for anything other than the things that matter?
I’ve by no means formulated a comprehensive list- I definitely need to know the examiner’s notes inside and out to be in a position to feel that I am providing students with the most accurate advice on this. But as a starter for five (ish) and with last year in mind, here’s what I believe we could possibly pinpoint, with both Lang and Lit in mind:
1 Read non fiction every day. Talk about it and keep a reflective journal to ensure you are engaging actively with the text and possible contexts or structures.
2 know your context. For all the literature texts, read around both the texts and authors to grasp a thorough understanding of these people. Dickens is now your best mate. Treat it as the equivalent of a 19th C Facebook stalk.
3 Know your texts, on three levels. Firstly, literally be in a position to reel off the parts of the text that are valuable, provocative, open to interpretation or ambiguity. Secondly, know your characters. Consider them as old friends or perhaps people you would avoid inviting to a party and think about why they are one and not the other. Encourage yourself to like them, even when they make it so bloody difficult (I’m talking about you, Sybil). Finally, know the text to understand its motives. View the text as an individual that is pointing you in a particular direction and consider what it is exactly it wants you to see.
4 Know your terminology. Not only the fancy words, but why someone writing would make such a choice. When would you choose such fricative alteration- angry? Indignant? Excitable? Number five will help with this a bit:
5 Write, every day. Write as another person, object, in another era, walk of life, present moment, purpose of writing. Play with words; do not view what you are writing as something of finality but more as a mixing bowl to see what you end up with.
6 Because I knew I wouldn’t be happy with five, see how others do it. Not because they will carry out the five tasks with any more flair or finesse than you, but because they will have chosen a different way of getting there, which will put things is an altogether different light to your initial ideas. Argue with them (not too aggressively), and allow yourself to be convinced by what they say, if they put it well enough.
To take my own medicine, I’m going to spend the next six months trying to do the same through the CPD that I complete. That way, maybe I can endorse my own sleepless ideas and pass it off as words of wisdom.