#ToughYoungTeachers

Whilst I was watching the programme last week, a PGCE student tweeted that watching this BBC documentary made them feel simultaneously aggravated and soothed. As soon as I saw this tweet, I thought, yes, I could not agree more! So I thought I would write on why Tough Young Teachers makes me feel this way.

I have to keep reminding myself that this programme is made for TV and therefore is primarily made for entertainment purposes. Therefore, each participant has been made into a character of sorts. We have Chloe, the second year Teach First participant, who is the blonde haired, bubbly shining light. She is there to motivate the others, show them where they could be and also sadden the first years by making it seem so effortless. We have Claudenia, the real ‘Tough Young Teacher’ who is not willing to put up with any bad behaviour and has sadly been presented, after the first term, as losing sight into the real reason she wanted to be a teacher. The guys are generally pictured as bright, well-mannered, affluent young men who don’t think their education will impact their teaching persona in these underprivileged schools – yet the students seem to think it impacts massively, with one student exclaiming, ‘I knew he was posh!’

Then we have Meryl, poor Meryl. Meryl has been classified as a cause for concern both my Teach First and by the BBC. The other day, I had a Meryl moment. I am 3 weeks into my second placement and am still trying to get used to the timings of the day – there are lots of 5 minute changeover times between lessons, there I think to confuse new teachers. Also, there is not a bell at the school, liberating in many ways but once again, increasing new teachers’ confusion over timings. I was teaching my Year 7 group and all was going well. We had ten minutes until what I thought was the end of the lesson and so I started the plenary. It then got to just before five past eleven so all the students packed away and were standing behind their desks. Fortunately, some were being rather noisy and my rule is that they cannot go until all are quiet. So at around six minutes past eleven I sent my little Year 7s off to their break time, feeling happy with how the lesson went. I then looked out the window and questioned why everybody else was still in their classrooms. It then dawned on me; period 2 doesn’t actually finish until ten past eleven. I swore, hoped that nobody else noticed my class had already gone to break, and then I laughed. I then also thought…I am Meryl. If BBC had been filming me, it’s likely it would have been edited to show that moment where I looked out of control.

So when I watched it this week, I was carefully thinking about the editing, the personas that have been created and the fact this programme is made to entertain.

Yes, I am grateful there is a programme highlighting how difficult and tough the profession is – I have some friends who have said if they can’t get a job after graduating, then they will ‘just become a teacher.’ I hope this will warn off these kinds of people. As Nicholas said, ‘You’ve got to care persistently about your kids’ and I also think you have to love what you do in order to get through and become Chloe, the shining light. However, I also worry that it may warn off too many and prevent people from wanting to enter the profession, particularly as the programme starts off each week by reminding you of the high number of people who leave teaching after only five years.

14 for ’14

Rather than come up with New Years’ Resolutions – let’s be honest, by mid January we have usually failed at keeping them up and are feeling bad about ourselves – my sister decided to come up with 14 things that she would like to achieve in 2014. This is meant to keep the ethos of a positive start to the year, looking at what can be done, not making a list of all the things we shouldn’t be doing this year. Therefore, I have decided to steal her idea and adapt it to teaching because hey, that is what most of my 2014 will be spent doing. This blog post is going to be about the 14 things I would like to try/test/achieve in teaching in 2014.

1.       Qualify as outstanding/excellent this summer.

I imagine most trainee teachers want to achieve this and it is something I would be extremely proud of. Although I enjoyed my undergraduate degree, I often couldn’t help but see it as a means to an end – I had to get it in order to teach – and therefore I never felt wholly motivated to push myself to get a first. However, I am now doing what I wanted to do since I received my blackboard from Santa, aged 6, and therefore am motivated to push myself to do my best.

2.      Keep up to date with all of my paperwork.

Boring I know, however as a PGCE student, there is a whole lot of it that can easily get on top of you.

3.      Try something new in my practice each week.

During this year I have so many more opportunities for lesson observations, something I will not have the privilege of in the future, therefore I would like to make a conscious effort to incorporate the different ideas I get to see into my planning each week.

4.      Continue writing this blog.

I have found writing this blog quite daunting. I was always quite a secret writer and sharing it on such a big platform is rather petrifying. My first blog post was very well received and even gained me more followers which I was extremely happy about, however, I now feel as if I need to keep posting something of some sort of interest to others.

5.      Be active in using twitter for CPD.

Twitter has given me so many ideas and resources; I’d be silly not to keep using it. However, I would also like to try and give back a little more, rather than taking all the time.

6.      To attend as many CPD sessions as I can.

I want to be the best teacher I can be.

7.      Use an iPad somehow (still trying to get to grips with it) in my teaching.

A lot of these points involve aspects of digital learning. Although only 22, I have been known by my older sister as a technology dinosaur in the past, not understanding why it is important to carry your whole life, with 24 hour internet access, on a handheld device. However, after a very convincing seminar session on digital literacy at University, I would now like to think of myself as a technology whizz – perhaps pushing it slightly. My views on technology have changed massively and I now appreciate how many opportunities there are for digital learning in the classroom. After all, part of schooling is preparing students for life after school; therefore it is surely imperative that we incorporate technological advances into our teaching practice.

8.      Use Edmodo in at least one of my classes.

Last term I set up an account however was too intimidated to use it. In 2014 I will eradicate that fear.

9.      Share resources and good practice.

This is something I was never particularly good at whilst at school myself – my work was my work and therefore I deserved all credit. However, I think this is very closed minded and will not help my profession. I think using Twitter has highlighted how great it is to have a variety of platforms where resources and teaching ideas can be shared and this is something I strive to maintain in 2014.

10.  Not get down by all the bad press teaching gets.

The media are great at putting across false messages that many members of society wrongly absorb and come to believe. I have already had many people criticising my chosen profession of teaching since September 2013 and I am sure there will be many more – good job I enjoy a debate and love teaching.

11.   Not be afraid to ask for help.

Remembering that it is ok that I do not know everything about teaching, I am only a trainee after all.

12.  Maintain positive relationships with students.

I have read many articles that inform trainee teachers that in order to have any hope of gaining respect from pupils and managing behaviour, you must not smile until Christmas. For me this would not have worked. I am naturally a very smiley person – a big teethy grin kind of person – and therefore this would have been impossible for me. However, this has not impacted on my relationships with students. So far, I think I have created positive working relationships with my students, rooted in mutual respect, and I would like to maintain these.

13.   Continue to improve my subject knowledge.

An aspect of maintaining positive relationships with students is it being clear to them that I know what I am talking about and therefore I strive to learn more about my subject and to keep reading.

14.  Love teaching!

I want to be happy to go to work every morning…ok maybe not every morning but most mornings.