One thing I hadn’t anticipated when I trained as a teacher was quite how much of a battering my social life would take. Having spent the best part of two years working not very hard in a not very glamorous office job, I became very accustomed to leaving work behind at 4pm, and spending my evenings and weekends doing just about what I wanted, in whatever part of the county I saw fit. Nowadays, one of the only times I can comfortably catch up with old friends, particularly those living more than a few miles away, is in the holidays. And so, my holidays tend to be punctuated by bus trips, motorway driving and meeting familiar faces over a mix of curry and beer.
Inevitably, the conversation turns to work, as we exchange stories and updates about how we’re getting on. It’s times like this where I find myself drifting inexorably towards painting a negative picture of teaching. Perhaps I’m conscious that the teaching profession might not always held in high regard by those outside it. Maybe I just want others to know how long the hours are, or how difficult waking up in the morning can be. Maybe this time it was the time of year – the Christmas term particularly grueling. Maybe I want my friends to realise that between marking, meetings and performance management, there’s little time for me to whisk myself away to London for that last meet-up I missed.
Whatever the reason, the situation this weekend was clear:
There I was. Sat in a pub. In another town. Moaning about teaching.
Now I’d never wish to dismiss opinions purely on the basis of them being negative. Just because I was moaning, doesn’t make me wrong. Negative voices expressing genuine areas of concern are important in any school or department. Yet, even in the most dark and difficult times in a school, rays of light will shine through, and I think it”s important that we dwell on these moments as well.
One thing that I’ve found rewarding in the past couple of years is trying to save these moments, collecting a few positives where I can. It’s nothing too remarkable – a few scraps of paper, the odd thank you letter, a couple of heartfelt emails saved to my memory stick. But when my morale is fading slightly, or I feel my smile start to wane, I’m only ever a couple of clicks away from a little boost. And, as it’s Christmas and all that, I thought I’d share a couple of my recent highlights.
– Firstly, a really sweet thank you email from a young girl. We’d written some poems in class, with a view to submitting them to be published in a collection. Hers was one of the ones the organising company chose to publish. This student really struggled for self esteem, and I was delighted that hers was among one of the poems selected, and grateful for her to take the time to thank me for ‘forcing’ her to enter.
– Secondly, a letter. I was just about to start studying rhetoric with my year 8 class. Whilst I was trying to decide exactly how this would pan out, we studied an article about a school in London that had banned slang. I thought it would stimulate some healthy debate and hopefully get the class to think more carefully about their own language choices. A week later, I sent 20 letters to the MP for the constituency where the school was based. Much to my surprise, we got a response! It’s not so much the letter itself, but the energy and enthusiasm the class displayed when engaging in this correspondence which I remember fondly.
– Finally, an incredibly amusing apology letter from a very conscientious year 10 student who missed a homework. I found it left sheepishly on my desk one morning. I think it’s the excessive formality of it which makes me chuckle:
I’d like to offer my sincerest apology for being late in submitting the English assignment (Blood Brothers Homework), and accept full responsibility for my actions. I understand the repercussions of my late submission that are felt by my colleagues and me (in Monday’s activity), as well as yourself and in no way meant to make things more difficult for anyone. Though this was due to uncontrollable circumstance (I was ill), I understand my duty to be on time for submission and will make every effort to curtail any issue that would restrict me from submitting future assignment in a timely manner.
I’m sure that collecting idea is a not for everyone, a little too sentimental perhaps. But every once in a while I think it’s worth dwelling on positive moments, however small on insignificant they may seen.
What have your highlights been this year?