I’m still alive, just. My blog, along with most other non-work related things in my life have gotten used to a bit of abandonment lately, but enough! I’ve had my first pay day and amongst a few (several) small treats I bought for myself was a new charger cable for my laptop that has been lifeless since April.
But first things first. Teaching is better. I no longer want to cry into a bottle of wine most nights. Since my last post I’ve made it a personal mission to get as much support as I can and now I have weekly meetings with the Principal, other senior staff that I drop in with, external training and have been enrolled onto a weekend course, all for extra support. Compared to four weeks ago I feel like someone with a decade’s worth of experience.
Better than that, my class has seen a bit of a shake-up of students, and the group that I now have are angels comparatively speaking. There are still daily behaviour issues to deal with, but the workload that I’ve had removed from me in just doing this has been huge, and it’s not just me seeing the change. The rest of my class are now happier, more talkative, willing to get involved and generally pleased to be in my lessons because they’re around the sort of people that allow them to feel like this.
The biggest thing I’ve learned since last writing though is how much I needed to take a step back and really pay attention to what my students could realistically achieve each lesson. A lot of them are low ability, and my initial reaction was to push too much onto them in an effort to increase their levels quickly, but all this did was stress them out, stress me out and leave everyone unhappy. I was planning at least double the amount of tasks for a lesson they could reasonably get through and it was frustrating. Today, we played games for the first 30 minutes of the lesson. What I had after this was a class of students that wanted to be involved in what I was doing. Everyone wanted a go, and when we changed the focus to written work everyone got straight onto their tasks without a single problem. It felt great.
From now on I’m not going to push kids to do more than what they’re comfortable with. They got more work done in the remaining hour of the lesson than they would have done if it had been entirely about the work for the whole session.
What I think was key to the success of this was that the games had no relation to the theme of the lesson. It was an entirely separate part and this let their minds relax. They talked to their friends, they smiled, laughed and took part. They were happy to be there, and by the end of the lesson they had all learned something. And that’s my advice – if a lesson isn’t working, forget what they might or might not learn. Have a break, do something fun, and go back to it. I wish I’d tried it weeks ago.
On a different note though, although things have improved for me, I still really miss my old job. Beyond any teaching tips I’ve picked up, I know this much: If you have a job you love, don’t change it. I don’t wish I could go back to mine because I hate teaching, I wish I could go back to it because there was no reason to leave it. And that, readers, is Mistake 2013.