Towards the end of last year after successfully gaining a teaching role for 2014 (yah!) I tweeted about this article ” Teachers who care too much to stay” that struck a cord with me. My student teacher journey had progressed and I was one of the lucky 20% of my graduating class that had the security to know that our enthusiasm and hard work at Teachers College would be put into use in the classroom – we were now officially labelled Beginning Teachers (BTs).
At uni we would discuss our passions and what we would do once we got hold of our own classrooms and no longer needed to appease Associate Teachers by trying to fit into their idea of how we needed to teach. Personally I was excited to think I could completely unleash my passion for gamification to see its impact rather than a watered down concept that sometimes no longer resembled what my intention was.
I saw myself and uni friends as the BTs described in the article and it made me wonder how our adventures would play out. The night before my first class was sleepless and what little sleep I did get was littered with anxious imaginary tales of all planning going awry. Excited texts/emails were exchanged between us as we took our first (extremely over planned) teaching steps.
Last weekend I caught up with a handful of my fellow BTs for a mini picnic and exchanged war stories. On all accounts I find myself extremely lucky to be at a forward thinking school with a supportive mentor, amazing senior management and a great department that welcomes my sometimes confused queries. But talking with others I got the sense that not everyone will be having the same ride I am and I remembered what our tutor said to us in our first few weeks at uni, ‘Out of this class of 30 only about 8 of you will still be teaching in 5 years’. This sentiment was echoed in the article.
While some stories were hilarious, like the science teacher who happened to not notice he’d knocked the head off his anatomy mannequin while talking or the drama teacher who walked into a tree in front of students, others made me wonder. This area was mainly around behaviour management and students with learning difficulties. We all agreed that we didn’t cover nearly enough, one BT commented that she remember our tutor stating these things are really on a need to know basis. Well, um we all felt needed to know more.
But I suppose that in itself is the issue.
As a BT it feels like there is so much to know, to absorb, to remember, to do, to not do that for some it is so overwhelming its paralysing. We look around our departments and see our colleagues smiling during interval with enough time to sit round and chatter and then we realise that this too is on our to do list, to make sure we communicate with my colleagues. It’s this level of expectation we (BTs) have on ourselves that is at the heart of our own downfall. I’ve come to realise that to be attracted to teaching you kinda need to be a control freak with perfectionistic tendencies and the want to be amazing. But after a while if you start to feel that your ability to be ‘amazing’ is being squashed – by time pressures or lack of support – well of course the grass outside the school gates is going to look greener.
One of the comments from our BT picnic was how there was just no time, the science teacher commented ‘so I just put on a powerpoint that I found in the department and talked to the slides’. Like uttering those words was admitting pure failure. We all smiled, internally I think we all sighed glad that we weren’t the only one to have moment in the past week that felt like a teacher fail and less than our ‘amazing’ ideal.