My first four weeks of teacher training have been the steepest learning curve of my life!
After years of coaching kids sport teams and running business enterprise sessions in schools, I had little idea how different teaching would be. The first 60 seconds of a lesson is a veritable challenge in its own right – getting 30 restless teenagers to settle quickly and start learning right from the off. My former nuanced style of adult communication had to be jettisoned and rapidly supplanted by a new military style of precise instructions, which makes no assumptions and leaves no room for confusion or ambiguity.
I was too nice to start with, then I went too far the other way. Now I am trying to find a better balance between praise and correction. A lesson goes well, I think I have cracked it, then the same class goes badly the next day. Time to reset and go again.
After a bad lesson this week one of the year 10 ‘lads’ came up to me afterwards and asked if he had been close to getting the star learner award. A great reminder that all kids care and want to be successful, even if they don’t always show it. It is for me to tap into this rich seam of aspiration.
After four weeks I am now getting to know the kids better, in class, in the playground and at the lunch table. Their lives are rich and sometimes exotic stories which I am now fortunate to be a small part of. I was helping one student with her UCAS personal statement although frankly it was hard to improve on her epic family story of fleeing civil war. The more I know the kids, the more they can know and trust me, and the more easily I can teach them well.
My fellow teachers are extraordinarily energetic, positive and caring – and scarily young. They want to change the world, and they are doing a great job from what I have seen so far. They talk about the kids with genuine love, even the most challenging individuals.
The school is only a mile from my smart office for the last 10 years, but it could be another world. At times it feels like a sensory overload, and every day is a challenge. The prize for getting it right is huge and absolutely worth fighting for…