Tough Young Teachers – Review

The computer breaking down just before the lesson starts is a problem that resonates with all of us; we’ve all wondered, as Oliver did, what we will possibly do if the ICT technicians can’t fix it in the next four and a half minutes. We all remember the fear of our first phone call home and our secret wish that it isn’t picked up.

It highlighted the overwhelming highs when everything goes to plan and the heart breaking lows when it all falls apart; feelings that us teachers only really understand. Claudenia experienced the whole spectrum of these emotions; the feeling of elation when her year 7s applauded her balloon demonstration and the feeling of failure that followed the demonstration of sound particles which did not work. She should not be too disappointed with the latter, she took a risk, it is clear that she has all the skills and ideas and a little practice will make her into a great teacher.

It showed the sheer number of hours that go into the job, the times when we sit at work for the 14th hour when someone taps us on the back to say ‘Don’t work too hard’ and we realise that our work life balance is now just a distant memory. Despite this it highlighted the passion and enthusiasm that goes into the job even when you reach tiredness levels that you never know existed. Nicholas demonstrated this perseverance when he used an excellent scuba diving analogy to engage a girl into negative numbers when it would have been very easy to leave her there silently not trying. Oliver showed how he wanted to use classical music and quotes to make a real difference and you get the sense that these will be the first ideas in a long line of many. Charles showed how you must quickly learn ‘to think on your feet’ and he did this successfully by utilising a prefect to use Google translate to help the new student who could not speak English.

Chloe, in her second year, portrayed an air of confidence and success and as such acted as a reminder to new teachers, who may be overwhelmed by the scale of the task ahead, that if you keep going then it will all be worth it, she seemed to have survived the war wounds. To do this teachers need to quickly learn the skill of reflection; making sure that you evaluate and move on. Claudenia looks like she will develop this quickly, she seemed to grasp that everything must be judged on the level of learning achieved when she judged one lesson as a ‘waste of time’. Successful teachers learn from these harsh truths very quickly.

I was also let with some final thoughts. I laughed at the thought of having to wear a high visibility jacket in the playground, wished that I had a telephone in my classroom in my early years and was reminded, as Meryl soon found out, that detentions on their own are not a magic cure.

Claudenia summed it up nicely: ‘There is no perfect formula to teaching –  effort and 12 hours planning does not equal success’. As Tom Bennett says says: ‘Teachers need the work ethic of a brick layer and the soul of a poet’. This comes with practise and quality mentoring and it is the latter which I hope future episodes focus upon.

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