You’ve gotta walk the walk …

Yesterday was the first time that I have taught on a Monday in 6 months. That’s a big deal because I have four junior classes on a Monday and NO senior classes. I have Year 8 twice – period 1 and period 6. Yup, it’s like two completely different classes. It’s bizarre what five hours of being caged can do to a group of 30 14 year olds.

After struggling to invent some kind of engaging ‘hook’ lesson for our new literature circles project, and doing my best to keep the students ‘under control’ whilst they took part in the activities; I came out of the lesson shell-shocked. For real. I was all like, ‘What the heck am I doing this for?’ and, ‘I am so bad at teaching!’. I felt like a prac student after her first solo-lesson. Thank goodness there wasn’t a supervising teacher in the room or I would have been sent packing.

Next lesson was Year 10 (although I thought it was Year 9 so I amped myself up for discord only to be greeted by the smiling faces of 19 girls). The boys were out for their ‘Men of Honour’ day, so the girls and I got to spend the lesson sitting in a circle, chatting about the women in Macbeth and vaginas, lol. It was a lovely lesson.

Recess – yay, chocolate cake for my colleague’s birthday! Then the nightmare of a double period of Year 12 Trial marking and helping our teacher/librarian out with her first attempt at creating a PBL project. Lunch time? I forgot that I had play-ground duty so had to rush out and stand in the sun watching boys play handball. Not so bad except I had a towering pile of marking that wasn’t getting much smaller due to a bombardment of interruptions in the English staffroom.

Period 5 was Year 9. I haven’t seen these guys on a Monday for so long and they were super excited to have me back as their teacher – such a nice feeling! What was rather ‘trying’ was the eagerness of a small group of boys to participate in EVERY drama activity – even when they weren’t meant to … urgh. This is a ‘cute’ thing, right? Like they were SO engaged in the tasks that they couldn’t STOP participating. Or maybe there is something else at play, like the boys being dominant and not just playful? It didn’t bother the other students and therefore I took it as playful – kids at my school are usually over-friendly more than devious. It was an exhausting lesson though – those ‘fun’ lessons we all hear about from the presenter on our occasional PD days are impossible to sustain, given more often than not when we teach 5 or 6 lessons per day.

Period 6 was Year 8 again … we had some special guests in the classroom – students from Maebashi, Japan. It’s always hard to know what’s the best type of lesson when you have ESL students in a class of primarily English-speakers. It was even worse given that these three students had minimal to no English. What was I to do? I did the wrong thing. I just ignored their needs and powered ahead with a lesson I felt I ‘needed’ to get through (introducing the roles in Literature Circles because I will be away from class the next two lessons). OK, I didn’t ignore my guests, I said hello and smiled at them a lot, haha. Shocking, hey? Then I went off on my teacher-centred whole-class instruction mode and ‘taught’ what I needed to get through … what a horrible approach to a lesson! I even yelled a little because the kids were noisy coming into the class and made them sit in a seating plan. Who the hell am I? Half-way through I saw some kids staring out at the trees, I saw others drawing pictures in their books. I hated the lesson but felt confident the students would ‘learn’ the roles despite the boredom. The quiz at the end revealed that to be false. Most of them didn’t learn the responsibilities of each role. Wahhh.

After school I sat with my colleague and we compared our marks for the Belonging essays – all essays are double-marked and checked for discrepancies at my school. Then when I got home (at 5.30pm) I sat down and wrote detailed, personalised ‘medals’ and ‘missions’ comments on the back of every essay and in the middle of that managed to eat a hasty dinner. At 8.30pm I started marking English extension two major works and reflection statements. I got to bed at midnight.

You know what? This is the daily experience of the every-day teacher. Don’t come into our schools – or target us on social media or email – and try to tell us that we should do this and that to be better teachers. Don’t try to tell us we need to work harder. If you aren’t walking than walk, then don’t talk the talk. Word.

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5 thoughts on “You’ve gotta walk the walk …

  1. Fullstop. Exclamation mark! Today I have a full day, 6 lessons. All classes I teach in one day. Workig thru recess as there is a practical lesson before hand (second time in the kitchens and shorter periods on Tuesday) It’s like having meetings back to back without prep time in between. Let alone debrief, catch up, take stock, administration time – what’s that? Oh yeah, That happens at home and cuts into our personal down time…. Not healthy. Do business people have back to back business like this 5 days a week? I am writing this in the car on my phone (running late as mr14 very sick with flu) it is one time I manage to process emails – extremely difficult during the day. Even harder when another ingredient thrown in the mix eg bullying, exams, students finally needing to chat about a home difficulty… Breathe…. Yes, you are right. Teaching is bloody hard work and draining.

  2. Anyone who complains about teachers should read this. They should publish it in the newspaper! Your experience as a reflective teacher tells us that we learn more from our “mistakes” than our successes. This is one thing I am constantly pushing with my students – it doesn’t matter what “marks” you get, it is what you learn from it. In real life there aren’t people grading you (I don’t think) so you have to know your strengths and weaknesses and to find ways to target and improve those weaknesses.

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