Every single person I met was so kind and generous. It's fair to say - and clear to see - that I was utterly petrified, but every member of the team was so supportive and I was so grateful for their help. I always think that any adventure that makes your heart race is a good one, so this ticked all the boxes. Plus I met some truly inspirational people.
You've never seen such a well oiled machine! Travel arrangements, cameras whizzing, backstage crew, people in the gallery, assistants, make-up people...there was a specific person for every single item on the 'to-do' list. It was astounding. Check out the LIVE LESSON HERE, and catch up on the DISCUSSION PANEL with Ros, Susie and myself HERE.
Thank you so much to BBC Teach for inviting me to take part in this. I was absolutely honoured. I learnt so much from the experience and I'm so thankful for the patience you took with me. This is easily the scariest thing I've ever done, and I'm so grateful.
Practise being optimistic.
Even if you don't fully believe it just yet, try making your thoughts benefit you, rather than creating further barriers. If there is trouble brewing, you know that making a conscious choice to make it worse isn't going to help. Practise optimism so that it will eventually become habit; make a choice that seeks to improve a situation. At first, it might not remove the barrier, but at least it won't add an extra one!
Celebrate your success.
In a game of balance, it's vital that you celebrate what you do well! Keep realistic goals and do a little something each day to help you towards them. Celebrate each step you take! Each little action will add a sense of control amongst the chaos that is our lives. Enjoy the positive relationships you are lucky to have and use the support network you have around you.
As part of a healthy mind, know that ups come with downs. In fact, it's the downs that make you appreciate the ups! Without them, would we even feel joy in the first place? Use challenges as an opportunity to achieve yet another thing! Don't seek drama because this life is stressful enough as it is. Aim to learn the difference between a destructive reaction and a mindful response; they often have entirely opposite outcomes.
Many emotions are perfectly natural responses, but it's only through open lines of communication that we are going to learn about which emotions come to us all, and hopefully generate a general consensus about 'how much is too much?', enabling us to identify when we need more targeted support using the growing range of resources available. Good luck, friends: you've got this!
Looking back now, the mistakes were clear:
All considered, I'm so pleased it happened. It was a necessary step in my journey that I most certainly learnt from. All mistakes are.
When browsing through various feeds that we so happily gorge on, likely torturing ourselves, please remember that it might not be all you see. They too would have had a bad day, a terrible lesson. Their airy-fairy quotes and wise tweets may have got a tonne of likes, but they still have a pile of marking they're ignoring, or are nervous about a meeting tomorrow.
We all have imperfections.
Just this week, undeniably the prompt for this post, I came to the haunting realisation that I was trying to cover too much, too soon. For those in the know, I've gone to Year 6, from Year 5. It's a blessing and a curse, because you're aware of the exact coverage of the previous year: often a topic of contention for the new teacher. However, it became clear to both my Year Partner and I, that we have expected far too much in the first two and a half weeks of our time together. An extensive list of Success Criteria for our first pieces of writing, should have at least been revision on the itemised features first, before any expected application. I fear I've skimmed some important steps. I actually sat my class down to apologise for the pace at which we have been moving, finally taking note of their panicked expressions. This isn't to say, however, that they haven't risen to the challenges set. I still believe in high expectations, and have been exceptionally proud of their efforts. It was a lapse in judgement as I moved away from my fundamental beliefs around teaching in a stepwise, specific manner to ensure understanding over an obsession with coverage. Process over performance always.
Although there are many jokes about the laziness of students these days, you must understand that you're within a certain percentage of the population because you are deemed to have the capability to achieve something they're offering you. Do everything within your power to reduce the prevalence of such stereotypes. Choose the right time to knuckle down, and tell people you've done so. We know that an embarrassing club story is usually more entertaining, but don't put yourself down by pretending that's all you do. Celebrate the library too!
Even if you go on to further study, you're only going to do this for the first time once! Make the most of it, both professionally and personally. Make close friends from all walks of life and create memories that you'll laugh about forever. Enjoy yourself and tell people all about it. It'll be difficult at times, because I firmly believe, if you're doing it right, your university days will actually be the busiest time of your life. For now at least...
The fourth year of teachmrn.com is upon us, so it's time to show you my classroom! Due to some back end programming, last year's post never reached you, but you can catch the previous years here and here.
The finished product (although is a classroom EVER really complete?) is below. But one question remains, how long will the desk stay tidy?
Where do you go for personal and professional support or advice?
I was lucky enough to make a great friend at work. We were both NQTs and we started on the same day at the same school in adjacent classrooms. We used to have a daily debrief where essentially we would have a massive moan about everything – from photocopier woes to difficult students. Although it wasn’t, perhaps, a productive use of our time (we could have been marking), it was really important to be able to offload to someone who knew exactly who and what you were talking about. Once a problem was off my chest, I was less likely to think about it when I got home. A huge asset to my professional life this year has been @Team_English1 on Twitter. It was recommended by a friend and it has, honestly, changed my life. The generosity of teachers in this network has amazed me. The resources I have gained have saved me hours and hours of planning time and I am a better teacher for it.
In my opinion, the worst part of the profession is lack of time. There simply is not enough time to do the job during normal working hours. I don’t work long hours because I am put under pressure by management or Ofsted or because I am a perfectionist (believe me… I am the very definition of ‘winging it’). I work long hours simply to get the job done.
There are teachers who manage to avoid working at home (and I believe that some subjects are more labour intensive than others) but the hours we work are unsustainable. There are small adjustments that managers and school leaders can make to reduce workload but I believe the issue is primarily financial. Teaching and learning would improve exponentially if teachers’ contact time was reduced and we were able to spend more time planning and preparing feedback. Unfortunately, schools are so financially stretched that this is impossible.
What strategies do you use to manage workload and protect your wellbeing?
In my fourth year of teaching, I was completely burnt out. I was exhausted and it was affecting my health. I was working every weekend and also in the evenings. My solution was to search for other jobs because I just couldn’t sustain the hours. The problem was, I didn’t really want another job. As I’ve already preached – I love teaching.
So, I decided to go part time. This was not an easy decision. First of all, I was worried about money. I did some rudimentary maths and worked out that if I went to a 0.8 contract, in my fifth year of teaching I’d be earning roughly the same as I’d earned in my first year of teaching. If I’d managed on that salary then, I thought I could manage on that now. Another concern was, well, embarrassment. In fact, I was so embarrassed that when I put in my part-time request, I made up a lie – that I was going part time to support my partner’s business. Looking back, I should have been more honest. I would recommend anyone in a similar position to talk to your school’s management about how you’re feeling so that they can support you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then others will be too and management need to know this.
Despite my concerns, reducing my hours has changed my life.
The question everyone always asks, is ‘do you work on your day off’? Of course I do. In fact, that’s when I do all my school work. What do I get in return? My evenings and weekends back. I know there will be teachers shouting at the screen as they read this. I agree with you. The fact that I had to go part time in order to do my job is ridiculous. I’ve been told that part time teachers should do nothing on their day(s) off – that by working on these days, part-time workers are actually responsible for the pressures put on full time teachers. My response? If that's the case, then full time teachers should do nothing at evenings and weekends. It’s unfair to blame part-time teachers for unfair expectations placed on all teaching staff. We're all in this together.
What advice would you give anyone who felt like giving up?
I know that reducing hours isn’t for everyone. I agree that teachers and school leaders should come together collectively to address the problems of workload. In the meantime, if anyone would like to chat about going part time, feel free to DM me on Twitter (@HannahHGO).
Sum up our profession in 5 words.
I wouldn’t do anything else.
I think the worst part of the profession is that despite working with people all day, that is can be terribly lonely. Stuck in a classroom, or sat alone marking. Colleagues and networks are essential. I absolutely believe in @womened and the work the amazing national leaders do, those women are beyond fabulous, and the network has introduced me to many wonderful educators. It challenges me to be 10% braver and inspires me to have a voice. Another thing I worry about is the negative narrative surrounding education. I always say that I’d rather invest in hope than spend energy moaning. It is through that ‘If not me, then who? If not now, then when?’ that I became a trustee of the Chartered College of Teaching, contributed to Flip the System UK and have built a wonderful network of passionate teachers who inspire me, support me, challenge me and pick me up when I’m down. People like Hannah Wilson, Jaz Ampar-Farr, Amjad Ali and Matt Pinkett are all amazing role models, who have become good and trusted friends. Educators such as David Weston, Ian Gilbert, Hywel Roberts, Debra Kidd and Vic Goddard remind me of the need for humanity, when I feel like my integrity is compromised or a tiny cog in a huge corporate machine. These people will probably never know how much they have helped me- well, maybe they will if they read this!
What strategies do you use to manage workload and protect your well being?
I learnt the hard way; hospitalised, anaemic, exhausted and broken by the system. Now, I do what I need to, I prioritise tasks and love a to do list. I spend time with friends, and I ask for help when I need it. I’m not a superhero, I’m human. I admit my mistakes and marking still overwhelms me at times, but I stick by the belief that if it doesn’t make a difference to the students in my classes, I will challenge it, I’ll ask why. I don’t reinvent the wheel anymore, twitter accounts like #teamenglish and @GCSE_Macbeth are absolute god sends for English teachers. I’m utterly endebted to them!
What advice would you give anyone who felt like giving up?
Having been there myself I’d tell them to get in touch! Follow other teachers like Emma Kell, Stephen Tierney, John Thomsett, Tom Starky, Tom Rogers... these are really good people. They exude hope. When I quit, charity work took me to France, and introduced me to Spider-Man, a 6 year old refugee, who reminded me of my passion and reasons for teaching. I blogged about him, found my voice, and that led to so many wonderful opportunities- TEDx, TeachMeets, and got me back into the classroom. Sadly, after winning the TES award, it led a fair amount of criticism- sometimes it is darkest before dawn and you just have to keep plodding on. On twitter I try not to engage in the negativity or futile arguments, it’s a waste of my energy. There are some keyboard warriors out there, who wouldn’t dream of saying such things to a fellow teacher’s face. Yes, I like to be challenged, but I don’t need hostility. When all else fails, I’ve found that a mute button works wonders! Ultimately, I think what it really boils down to, and what we must remember, is that there are many truly great schools out there, and there are sadly some pretty soul destroying ones too. It shouldn’t be about leaving the profession, but instead we should have the confidence to leave a school that we can’t align your ethos and values to. Walk away from toxic leaders or situations, but do so with professionalism and the confidence that there are other inspiring, innovative, brave leaders, and many other schools, who will invest in you, build you back up and help you to thrive. Be true to yourself. It just comes down to humility, integrity, bravery and authenticity.
Sum up our profession in 5 words.
Best flippin’ job in th’world. (I know I’m sort of cheating there).
Perhaps it's a rite of passage, most often a series of bad moods catching each other on the wrong day, during what is most likely the least comfortable period of your life. Choosing to take offence because we believe the world owes us something. Either way, it certainly builds a thicker skin, rather than playing victim to the basic, eventual life-limiting, ignorance of others. But out of the many experiences you often hear of, my secondary school was the best place to be. We were well cared for by everyone around us. Very much a community.
It was here that I made my best choices up to that point. For A-Levels I chose subjects that practically ignored all academia. I went for creative, personality building subjects. I went for subjects that would force me to speak in front of people. I went for subjects that encouraged group work and portfolios, the clear building of progress over time. McLuckie, Brown (who became Beecham), Hobbs and Collins. In many ways I owe you the most.
Primary is the basics, the essentials that we all need. When those are down correctly, secondary builds on that and helps you focus on a direction. You most definitely, alongside my beloved friends - whether we have remained in touch since then or not - taught me to be comfortable with myself, to live without limits. And when that bit was right, academic success and my future were set.