Here’s another one for http://www.teachsecondary.com who promise to move me off the back page if I promise to stop stealing the individual sugar packets that they have next to their coffee machine.
So I’m never getting off the back page. Subscribe by hitting the link.
So the holidays are here (or just about over, or actually over, depending on when you are reading this – writing for magazines is a bit like being a Time Lord sometimes, only no one cares what gender you are); the old academic year is over and another is soon to begin. With the new crop of students comes a fresh crop of teachers, so what follows is some boot-camp advice for those grown-ups who are crossing the threshold of the school gates for the first time this September. Top tips, as it were, where I share my accumulated knowledge of how to be distinctly average.
1. Invest in a sturdy school bag.
Your bag will have to hold a veritable cornucopia of equipment, books, tech, pens, lunchboxes, folders, paracetamol, fluff, toot, vodka and broken dreams. Therefore, having one that isn’t bobbins is very important. I’ve found military style backpacks to be most effective. They’ve got lots of different pockets, are rugged, designed to be comfortable on the shoulders and are often expandable so you can feel even more righteous as you shove not two, but three sets of exercise books in them to mark on the weekend and promptly leave it untouched in the corner until you have to lug them back in on Monday.
2. This is not a movie. Movies about teaching lie.
Do not climb on any desks. Do not attempt to teach gospel singing to the disengaged. Do not try to be a renegade in an attempt to win the hearts and minds of the kids.
All these things will end up with you crying as the kids mock you mercilessly for the noob that you are. And you’d deserve it, dumbass. This is not a movie. A real movie about teaching would just be teaching, marking, planning on a 8 hour loop.
Oh, and meetings.
3. You are not better than anyone else. You are not worse than anyone else. You are simply at a different stage in your career.
Don’t go comparing yourself to every bugger. Leave your ego or your anxiety at the door and DO THE JOB to the best of your current abilities. Oh, and although you’ll be up against a screaming wall of information (and children) try to listen to the people around you, you might learn something important (or at least some extremely juicy gossip about Dave from PE and Sinita from admin).
4. Teaching is graft.
Is it an art? Is it a science? Is it a craft? Who knows? Not me. Nor do I care. These lofty questions can be considered at a later date because what I do know above one and above all is that teaching, as a profession, is absolutely rock hard. Nutter-in-the-pub hard. Junaid-from-Y10-hard. Mentally taxing, physically demanding and with little recompense, you have to be prepared for the sheer weight and variety of the work. What that preparation looks like is up to you, just make sure you go into it with your eyes open – you will be tested on all manner of levels. These tests can be hugely unpleasant. Be aware.
5. Eat well. Sleep well. Be well.
No job is worth your health. There’s a tendency for school offices to be magnets for crap food. Biscuits, cakes, limp and soggy sandwiches from the last managers’ meeting that have been sat there under sweaty clingfilm for an undisclosed amount of time. And even the last looks hugely appealing if you’ve only got five mins to shove something down your gullet before break duty. You animal.
Anxiety can also lead to loss of sleep that can lead to anxiety about loss of sleep and so on and so forth. Late night marking and planning don’t help either.
Do your best to eat properly and sleep for more than six hours. Your body and your mind will thank you for it. Think of the long game. And yourself. And leave the damn sandwiches alone.
6. Don’t let them mug you off.
Due to your inexperience, the chances are that there will be those who try to take advantage of you. I’m not just talking about the kids either. Just because you’re new doesn’t mean you have to let this happen. If you’re being unfairly overburdened (and you’re the best judge of whether that is happening, no matter what anyone else says) speak out. If the issues aren’t addressed, speak to your union. Many schools are still stuck in the mindset that you are lucky to be working for them. Given retention and recruitment this is patently utter tosh. They’re lucky to have you. Keep that in mind.
7. All teaching advice is highly subjective and context-specific.
Apart from the bag one. The bag one is a universal constant.
Thanks for reading