I am approaching the end of my second full year of teaching, so here’s a quick contemplative post on what I have learned over the past two years.
I know for a fact that I am a completely different teacher now than I was last year, and different again to the teacher I was before that. When I qualified I worked as a substitute teacher for the first six months of my teaching career. The amount I learned in that time is crazy. I think I became maybe a nicer and more understanding person. I also realised how lucky I am in life which is no bad thing either. I remember being so shocked that people could have kids, and be heroin addicts at the same time, and shocked by the fact that a first class child was allowed to get a bus across town by himself to get to school, after having woken himself up and dressed himself too. I used to come home to Tom in tears most days at such injustices. I remember the day I finished up a stint of teaching in one school, I cried and cried knowing that I wouldn’t be able to help the children in the class who so desperately needed it. But then I toughened up and realised that yes that goes on, but you can’t dwell on it or you would never have a day’s peace. So that was the first thing I learned. I have been trying to do bits and pieces since to help charities and stuff but I have learned that as one person I can make very little difference to such a huge problem.
A few months later I started my first real job. That was a serious shock to the system! As a substitute, you come in, teach the class nice lessons you planned or work the teacher left, you go home and that’s your day done. Alas, with your own class comes SERIOUS responsibilities. There’s the day to day things to remember, taking attendance, collecting money, collecting notes, giving out notes, writing notes to parents, checking school bags for lost belongings, etc etc! All this takes time out of your day when you just want to teach. Then there’s parents, testing, tours to plan, arguments to try sort out, the list is endless. So, after my first six months in my first real job, I learned that teaching is only part of your job. There’s so much more to it than that!
I think this past academic year was my steepest learning curve and where I really changed as a teacher, maybe for better or maybe for worse, I don’t know! I became a permanent member of staff in my school this year and that again was a big jump for me. Suddenly you’re a real part of the school, so it really matters an awful lot more.
I learned a lot about differentiation and how to actually do it, rather than it being a case of giving one child more or less challenging work. Sometimes it means that a child might need to leave the room for ten minutes to go on a ‘job’ and it’s ok if all the school work doesn’t get done. That time out doing a job may be more beneficial to that child than learning about adverbs on that particular day. I am a stickler for seeing results sometimes. I want to see fruits of our labour, from every child, be it posters, art work, stories, poems, anything. But I know now that is a little unrealistic and if I get it from the majority of the class ,that is okay.
I also realised how much of a chore homework is. It is a pain for children who are tired after working hard all day, it is a stress factor parents don’t need after a long day at work for some. I would love to be able to give just research or project based tasks for homework, it would be far more meaningful.
I have always felt praising children is important, but now I believe it more than ever. We have the power to completely change a child’s perspective and how they feel about themselves and that is amazing. I have learned that sometimes, you can be too nice and it is important to take a step back and be a tiny bit of an authoritarian person. I do wonder what changes I will see in five, ten twenty years time?(God willing!)
One thing remains unchanged however, and that is that I love teaching as much as I did the day I first stepped foot in a classroom as a teacher in Ballyconeely NS.
Apologies if that was slightly rambling! I must go now, Tom is ordering us a pizza! #sorrynotsorrylols