I love a to-do list. Almost every day (sometimes twice a day) I earnestly write myself a list of jobs and tasks to complete, which almost never gets completed. My desk is littered with multicoloured post-it notes, each with hastily scribbled reminders and calls to action. Even simple things like calling a parent or replying to an email can find their way onto my lists. Lists upon lists. I’m sure I might remember some of these tasks without writing them down, but there’s something more concrete about putting pen to paper. If I write it, I’m sure it’s more likely to happen.
I’ve read dozens of different nurture blogs this week, some quite breathtaking, which have all prompted me to think about the year ahead. And, when there’s no post-it note big enough, blogging is a solid alternative.
Without being too gushing, I’m pretty fortunate with my colleagues. Obviously, like with any other job, there are sources of frustration, but I know we’re all working towards a common goal. I like being part of the English department; a lot of great teachers, but more importantly good people. I laugh every day, even when things are tough.
They make me laugh, make me smile, and make it nearly impossible for me to sleep soundly on Sunday nights. For some, I continue to marvel at how they’ve managed to battle circumstance and setbacks to emerge leaps and bounds above their peers. For others, I wonder at how they appear to be content with achieving the bare minimum, when they could be on the cusp of brilliance. The triumphs outweigh the disappointments in terms of number, but will never outweigh the stresses and frustrations caused by those who fall short of the mark. The problem is, I don’t want anyone to fall short of the mark, and I can’t help feeling that when my students fail, I fail also.
I’m in my third year as a teacher including my NQT year. About half way through my second year, I felt like a decent teacher. Behaviour was fine, my lessons were OK and classes seemed to be moving in the right direction. I’d also performed well in my observations, which at the time provided me with a lot of confidence. I was even getting to the stage where I was able to share some of my teaching ideas / strategies with others, particularly our NQTs. This was great. But if they ever find out that I nick all my ideas off Twitter, I might be in trouble.
4. Twitter / Blogging
I’ve been a teaching Twitter user for about two and a half years. Roughly speaking I spent the first year 18 months listening, too self conscious to really interact with the people I was following. After another 6-8 months or so of gradually lowering myself into the cauldron I finally summoned up the strength to start a blog. It’s been revelatory, and opened up a whole new aspect to Twitter that I hadn’t anticipated. I’m two months in to blogging, and wonder why I didn’t start much earlier.
A little know fact among my colleagues is that I can sing, and indeed do sing in musical theatre. It’s been a hobby of mine for nearly 10 years, and I’ve found little to compare with the thrill and exhilaration performing in front of a live audience provides. This year I performed in two pretty successful amateur productions, taking on bigger roles than I normally would, which was a big personal achievement.
I try not to mention this too much at work. After all, how would I? “Hi my name’s Dave and I do musical theatre, any requests?” I don’t think so. During show week, the symptoms speak for themselves. Droopy eyes, exhaustion and a self-inflicted sort of mania that comes with spending 18:00-23:00 at the theatre every night during a school week. If I’ve managed to scrape off the remainder of my stage make-up, I’m lucky. I always have a great week, but it’s a relief when they’re over, because 07:30-17:00 five days a week, sadly, is no way near enough time for me to do my job well.
My other main passion is sport. I managed a half marathon in September, I play cricket during the summer holidays and football during the winter. I don’t train nearly enough though. When I was rehearsing for a show, this was my ready-made excuse. But now I’m not rehearsing, and I’m still not going to training. Is work really a good enough excuse for me not to give up an hour on a Wednesday night?
I’ve read countless blogs this year, and a few educational books, but reading for pleasure, outside of the summer months, has become a rarity. How can any self-respecting English teacher not have enough time to read for pleasure? If I want my students to do this, I need to model this behaviour and share my reading more with my students.
From September, I’ve been acting up as a ‘Programme Leader’ for English. It’s on a temporary basis, so I feel I have a lot to prove. Thanks to Twitter and some supportive colleagues, I’m not short of ideas of what I’d like to achieve. But whatever I do, I know it can’t just be another initiative that passes and fades. It has to make our department better, even if only marginally, without making anyone’s job harder or more time consuming.
I’ve also taken on a couple of other roles this year, mentoring an NQT and being part of our school’s coaching programme – great opportunities which I am really enjoying so far. Although, I’m still pretty sure I’m not emotionally intelligent enough for coaching. Must try harder.
I know I will teach children this year who’ll struggle to reach their full potential. I know I will experience successes as well as failures. I know I’ll spend a disproportionate amount of time after school and at break times with a handful of students, dragging them through their GCSES. But, I need to find more ways to reward those doing the right thing day-in, day-out. I know I should be calling their parents more and singing their praises.
I have two year 11 classes instead of one this year, I must so everything in my power to make sure they get the results they need. We’ve started well, but there’s a long way to go.
As I mentioned earlier, about half way through my second year of teaching I felt content that I was doing a pretty good job. Recently though, this feeling of contentedness has dissipated somewhat. I’m feeling much less certain about my teaching, and I blame twitter. The problem with reading so many inspirational and thought provoking blogs is that I’m continually challenged to reflect on my own practice. I’m certain there’s a whole host of things I could be doing better, and I’m determined to make a start in 2014.
The key focus for me is to try and ensure that every choice I make when planning lessons or a scheme of work is completely deliberate. And these choices need to be justified and open to scrutiny. Just continuing as before, when I felt comfortable, may not be good enough anymore.
4. Twitter / Blogging
As a teaching twitter user, I’m very much in the minority at school. But the minority is growing and I’m enjoying watching this happen. Also, with a group of colleagues, we’re starting to use Twitter and WordPress as a CPD tool. Hopefully, more and more of my colleagues will start realising the potential twitter has for CPD.
I’m continually amazed at the quality of blogging that is shared over Twitter. I won’t name individuals, but those on the list at the bottom of this page are all incredible. As for myself, I will try this year to get over my imposter syndrome, and contribute more. I’ll keep my blog active as well. Hopefully, I’ll be writing a similar post this time next year, with a decent body of posts to reflect back on.
I know that I need to work smarter or more efficiently. How else will I have more time for reading, football training, and running another (faster) half marathon? I need to stop bringing as much home, even if it means staying in school longer. I might even need to go on twitter less. Well, maybe.