A new school, a new me?

It was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to my colleagues at Davidson High School at the end of last year. As I walked out of the school gates for the last time, my mind was preoccupied with thoughts of cider, holidays and Christmas. Despite being overwhelmed by the generous words and emotions of my colleagues on that last day, it didn’t feel like I was leaving. It was only as I prepared myself to begin my new school, that I started to realise what I had lost.

What had I lost? Obviously, I’d lost many hours of shared experiences and laughter with my colleagues (who of course are really friends, now) but what hit me most was the loss of my students’ future selves. It sounds weird, but I started panicking that I wouldn’t see how certain students ‘turned out’. Would Tom get taller than his sister? Would Adam ace English in his HSC? What about Lachie, would he become the new school clown, performing on stage in SOPA? Of course, you don’t know who these people are, but I do, and as I type those questions out, I get a bit choked up. I know that very soon their names and memories will be swallowed up by time, and replaced by new names and future selves. That kinda scares me. I am grateful, though, for social media – already one student has tweeted me about their new English teacher. Of course, that connection won’t last forever, but it does fill a little Davo void, whilst I work to develop my connections at my new school.

So how is my new school? It’s actually really awesome. This makes me very happy, but it makes me feel guilty, as though somehow I’m being unfaithful to my colleagues and students at Davo. I continue to use the collective first person when referring to Davo, ‘We didn’t have that’ and ‘Our students did this’. I suppose when I refer to Manly in that way, I’ll know that my heart has left Davo, and found its new home at Manly.

One thing that’s played on my mind a bit, is how much of ‘me’ I should be at this new school. Like, how slowly or quickly do I reveal that I’m really disorganised, or that I’m a constant apologiser, and self-deprecating? When do I let it slip that I can be a bit bossy and even arrogant? Should I let my new students know that I panic when writing on the whiteboard incase I make a spelling error (it’s always the double consonants that get me!)? What about the fact that I am pretty forgetful, and bad a managing class time? I guess by now they know I’m an anxious people-pleaser, since I’ve been running around like a nutcase trying to stay on top of stuff.

Most of all, I wonder how I should be in the classroom. Davo is a very different school to Manly. Perhaps what my students loved and respected me for at Davo, the kids at Manly will find frustrating? Perhaps they’ll think PBL is silly. Perhaps I’ll find myself giving them what they want, rather than what they need, simply because I’m anxious to be liked? So far, I’ve not planned any projects for any class. Not one. That’s weird, huh? I feel very unsure. That’s what it is. I’ve just got to find my feet, and then the creativity will come back, my confidence, right?

I certainly now have much greater empathy for teachers and students who have taken that leap and started a new school. If you’re new this year, and you’re feeling a similar way, or you have some tips on making the transition more confidently, let me know! I do know that having ridiculously friendly and caring colleagues at my new school has helped HEAPS. I also know how lucky I am… and I’m happy. I’m just still at that ‘tail between her legs’ stage, lol. Are you?

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10 thoughts on “A new school, a new me?

  1. Love your honesty, Bianca. I’m a new graduate teacher and I, too, feel like my weaknesses stand out like a red light bulb flashing over my head. I realise that I feel this way because I want to be the best teacher I can be. After following your blog last year I know it won’t take you terribly long to find your feet again…good luck and I can’t wait to follow your new professional journey.

  2. Totally normal Bianca! One of the hardest things when changing schools is avoiding saying “At (x) we did this..” – constantly comparing the places, but that will pass; it just takes a while. I’ve changed schools a couple of times and it is always an unsettling, as well as exciting and invigorating, experience. No doubt you’ll find your feet in no time and wonder why you didn’t take the step earlier…
    As far as the PBL, maybe you just need to meet them and gauge where they’re at at first – I’m sure you will be outstanding as you have been in the past.
    All the best in this exciting new adventure 🙂

    • Thanks, Maria. I have been saying that too much already, I know! I think I will take some time with the PBL approach, at least give them a weeks to find out who they are and what they’re like. I think kids here really need to work together to develop those ‘soft skills’… so it will be a priority, I just need to have the head space to plan some cool projects 🙂

    • Thanks, Ben! I had fun presenting on PBL on SDD. The staff were really responsive and many were keen to give it a go with their classes. I’m looking forward to running some projects with my own classes, and then getting my hands into the PL stuff a bit more. Just getting my head above water right now, but won’t be long and you’ll see me around. You should come and visit!

  3. HI Bianca, I really liked this post. It reminded me so much of how I felt when I left the school I’d been at for 9 years to take up the AP position at my current school. I suddenly doubted everything I did – I worried that even though my teaching seemed to work at Balgowlah North, it might not cut it at Castle Cove. Maybe I’d been just getting away with it. Going into a leadership position where people would look to me for best practice only added to my self doubts.

    I think doubting yourself must be normal when changing schools – but try not to. Focus on your many strengths and all the positive things you have to offer. You’re a brilliant teacher and your students and colleagues are lucky to have you.

  4. Great post Bianca! Am sure your students will benefit greatly from PBL. After resigning my executive position at another school, because I wanted more family friendly hours so I could spend quality time with my baby, and a year of maternity leave, I am now working in a new school as English Coordinator. This is my sixth school in my 16 years of teaching. I have found that sometimes you need to give students what they need, rather than what they want. Often they can’t articulate what they need, because their experience as a student has been rather limited to the experiences in the classroom. Like you, I am finding my feet and it is made a lot easier working with a collegial, professional staff. Give them time and they will definitely come around. I remember teaching at one school, about 12 years ago, where students were insistent that they learned best by copying notes from the board and sitting in rows. Can you imagine my horror? I had banished the booklet of photocopied worksheets and notes and I don’t think they copied anything off the board, aside from class discussion notes that I had written on the board. They also went from sitting in rows to sitting in groups. They of course, protested and protested, but eventually when they say the added value to their learning, they embraced it! As much as we think our students are open to change, it’s not always extended to their experiences in the classroom.
    All the best to you. They are incredibly lucky to have you as their teacher. I would love James to be taught by you, or someone who is as intelligent, passionate and talented as you are!

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