My first year in teaching was very exciting. I joined a new school in September 2021 full of energy, with new expectations and with a new mentality. I had reflected a lot on my character during my training year. I wanted to be a consistent, knowledgeable and confident teacher and I was grateful to have a fresh start.
The first term was the most difficult one because I was getting used to a new place, new people, a new way of working and increased workload and responsibility. I became a form tutor and I had 10 classes, this is about 50% more responsibility compared to the training year in which I only had 5 classes and I was not a form tutor.
The students and staff were very kind and I quickly felt part of the school. Nonetheless, it is inevitable to have a lot of new information and short time to assimilate it. From what I remember, the following tasks felt like a snowball:
- getting to know the groups: their strengths, needs and pace needed in the classroom.
- keeping a coherent sequence of lessons: objectives, information recall, presenting new information, practising new skills, having a checkpoint or plenary at the end of a lesson.
- teaching with key skills and assessments in mind.
- first data drop and parents’ meeting.
Add behaviour management, phone calls and a bunch e-mails to the list… It was a lot to handle. Looking back, things seem a bit gloomy but not unsurprising. I had been warned but told how to handle it. It was a matter of time and of figuring things out: my routine, teaching and behaviour approach, time management, how to prioritise tasks etc.
It is interesting to break the year down into Term 1, 2 and 3 and to look back, reflect, compare and draw conclusions of changes over time. I have done that in my mind but I will not go on and on in this article. I just want to say that my progress was steady throughout the year and that by the end of it I felt happy, fulfilled and appreciated for my work and contributions to the school. Alongside, the professional growth, there was significant personal growth and I will never forget all the students and colleagues that made part of my short journey at that school. I am now moving to a new school and I look forward to apply the lessons learnt:
- Be consistent with everyone, in everything you do, all the time.
- Do what is right and fair regardless of how you feel or who is watching.
People (whether they notice it or not) appreciate predictability, order and fairness. If you have ever been in a classroom, you know the importance of a clear routine in the classroom, an organised sequence of tasks which lead to a clear outcome and a firm but fair approach to behaviour. The latter is very difficult and it can be subjective, we may always pick highly disruptive behaviour but conform with low-level disruption. We may be tempted to overlook behaviour that must be dealt with if that means we will lose our break in restorative conversations and calls home.
Although these two points take a lot of time and effort, I am convinced that they pay off. Once you have laid high expectations and students know that they can’t get away with things and that you least expect certain quality, they will fall in line and things will flow.
- Have the big picture in mind. Learning (anything) requires time, support and patience.
Because I am a Spanish native speaker, I tend to forget that verb conjugations are a pain and that my language is completely different to the languages of my students in every respect. When preparing my lessons, I use resources that are written for English speakers and I tweak them so that they are accessible but can also offer challenge and novelty. Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction are currently the norm for teachers.
- Do your job to the best of your ability but remember that there is a limit to what you can or should do as a teacher.
- Do not take things personally. Human beings can stir up all sorts of emotions, think thrice before responding.
I put extra dedication into my teaching job but I was often exhausted every Friday afternoon, I usually had a sore throat and my voice was affected. Sometimes, I went home at about 6 pm and fell asleep on the sofa for hours or until the next day (this was not uncommon). Working hard is not a problem, if you want an easy job, do not become a teacher BUT time management, collaboration within your department and good preparation will be helpful when deadlines approach. I will be dedicated and enthusiastic but not beyond measure, after all, I still need to be willing and able to carry on with my personal life.
- Enjoy your job but never put it above personal priorities such as family or health. Your value does not derive from your occupation.
Who I am, my worth or value does not proceed from my profession. I believe that teaching is a satisfactory and meaningful job but I strongly disagree with the way it seems to take over people’s lives. I just need to remember some people or our conversations about weekends or half-term. It is as if those are the times when we give room to other aspects of life. To some extent, newbies like me can expect teaching to take over their lives for a while but this cannot be inherent to the profession and things should get better over time.
As the new academic year approaches, I hope to keep these lessons in mind and to have a very positive year.
This post is day 12 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Visit 100daystooffload.com to get more info, or to get involved.