For the last 14 weeks of term time I have hated Tuesdays because it is my “busy” day – I have been teaching four lessons out of the six slots on the timetable. It has caused me a lot of anxiety most weeks preparing for it. Two of the classes I only see once a week, and I share with another teacher, which is difficult because it is harder to build relationships, work out what they are capable of, and build up a head of steam. The other two are the only classes I see more than once, but have been difficult in their own special, other ways. All four groups, for different reasons, make me doubt any nascent ability as a teacher I might have. Consequently weekends and Mondays over the last few weeks have been getting harder and harder.
Knowing that tomorrow is my last ever one of these is a bit of a relief. But then again… in my mind is the ever present knowledge that next year, starting September, if I get a job that is, a four-lesson day will be at least the norm, if not one of an NQT’s lighter days. If I’ve struggled this much now how will I cope next year? There’s a variety of opinion about whether the NQT year is easier than the PGCE one, but the main conclusion I seem to be drawing is just that it is differently hard. Out go the essays and assignments, the bittiness and the gaps caused by sudden recall for university days; but in come the hard graft of maintaining class control by yourself, the longer term work with groups, the responsibility for young people’s futures and new and scary ways of being accountable to colleagues, headteachers and parents.
There is no question this has been a challenging year in which I have been questioning my sanity, my plans for the future and my sense of self. There are many aspects of working in schools and teaching which I am really enjoying. The classes that let you “feel like a teacher” where you can sense the progress and see your students engaging with the curriculum. The first time the “difficult Y11s” seem to like you enough to acknowledge your presence in a corridor rather than sullenly averting their eyes. Staffroom banter is awesome and working with other teachers is great. After many years away from languages, working in a community of linguists – at school, at university and online – is really inspiring.
But is it enough to counter the aspects of teaching that are causing the sleepless nights, the loss of appetite and the early morning up-chucking? No job yet for next year (although 3 interviews in schools have been productive and give me hope). I’m not yet very good at class control, behaviour management and even name-learning, from which any sort of maintenance of discipline and good teaching hangs, is a constant struggle.
Ask me next year.