The end

It’s finally here. 20th July. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this date for a long time, at least since I first decided to quit teaching.

And yet, this evening, the scale of the decision seems to have hit me.

Tomorrow is my last day as a teacher.

It’s not the last day of teaching this class. It’s not the last day of teaching at this school. It’s my last day of teaching. Ever.

Of course, people keep reminding me that I’ve got the qualification, and that I’ll be able to come back to it one day, when the timing is better, or perhaps when I’ve got a young family and want the ‘flexible’ working hours. Honestly though, as a qualified accountant, I can’t imagine it would make much sense financially to head back to a career I know to be stressful, and where I’d be starting back at MPS2.

And so, I leave the job under the very realistic assumption that I won’t teach again.

I thought I would be thrilled by the arrival of this day. After all, I’ve been counting down the weeks since March and counting down the days since ofsted.

Ironically, I’m really sad to be leaving. I’m sad to be leaving the school, even though I’ve hated it for most of the year. I’m sad to be leaving my colleagues, even though they were less than welcoming when I started. I’m sad to be leaving the class, even though they’ve done my head in on lots of occasions. I’ve started to doubt my decision, second guess myself. After all, I recently received a ‘good’ lesson observation from a headteacher that is renowned for being hard to please. She, for the first time, acknowledged that it was a shame I was leaving the profession. Her approval, something I didn’t have when I went to her with my resignation, has fed the tiny seed of doubt about my choices. And that seen seems to be germinating.

The past 6 weeks have been intense. I survived ofsted, and have gone through all the usual end of term stresses: getting the assessment data in the system, sorting out class lists for hand up, filing and refiling every possible piece of information about each child in my class, just in case it’s ever relevant again. Sports day. Twice. One of which was rearranged twice! Staff v Y6 football and netball. Some of these things make me glad I won’t be doing it again next year. But for the past two weeks I’ve finally been able to relax with my class. And I’ve finally remembered all the things I liked about teaching.

Some of these things I’ve been pushing for all year, but other people around me disagreed. This, I’ve found, is one of the down sides of a big school. Unless everyone wants to try things, it’s hard to give it a go! Of course, we all have different styles, so it’s understandable that not envying wants to try everything! But my teaching this week has involved a lot of colouring in, making things up on the spot, and leaving the kids to it while I’ve been tearing down displays, throwing out all the rubbish that I’ve gathered in just a year and doing all the filing I was talking about. What I found was, left alone with an interesting, but seemingly easy, task, the kids thrived. A girl in my Y3 class drew a perfect net and made a box for her packaging. We haven’t taught that. I didn’t know she could do that! So I felt justified in my opinion that we should leave the children to simply get on with tasks, with limited teacher input at times. I certainly haven’t been allowed to do that much this year, if at all. And yet, these kids are capable of so much more than we give them the opportunity to show.

However, tomorrow I will say my goodbyes to the profession. I’ve got things to move onto, but I’m not sure anything will ever provide such a roller coaster of emotions.

Thank you for listening to my ramblings this year, which have sadly been more tales of my woes than encouraging or helpful posts. I hope I won’t be banished from educational discussions now I’m an ‘ex-teacher’!

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Looking ahead

 Year 11 and Year 13 have left, our new Year 7 have had their induction day, sports day (in the rain) has been done and the end is in sight. Two more weeks then we’ll be done. Despite wanting to leave several times during the year, despite crying many times and despite all the marking, I’ve almost finished my NQT year. But the question is, have I enjoyed it?

I’m not sure. I’ve enjoyed bits of it. I’ve laughed with classes, I’ve seen the ‘lightbulb moment’ happen and I’ve had thank you cards and wine from Year 11 classes. I’ve also really disliked parts of it which I won’t go into. I actually think that now is not the best time to reflect because it’s very busy at school still, things have to be finished very quickly and everyone’s tired. Perhaps I’ll reflect after I’ve had a week in the sun. 

So now we look forward to next academic year. I’ve got my timetable and I’ve got a lot of different classes. I’m also working split site for the first time (the sites are about 2 miles apart) so that’ll bring different challenges. I’ll be making a list for summer similar to the one Ian ( @teachingofsci ) made because I think it’s a good idea to be productive during my time ‘off’. Then I’ll be ready to hit the ground running for September. Don’t worry, I intend to do a lot of non-school related things too! 

Have you got any tips for organising a large number of classes or travelling between sites? What do you like to have organised before September? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Hope everyone enjoys the last couple of weeks until the holidays. 

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Nearly at the finish line.

5 weeks to go. The end is very much in sight. I’ve got half my reports to get finished. My maths and reading assessments are marked and the results are on the system, along with my teacher assessments. I’ve started the process of getting my APP done for final writing assessments. I’m nearly there.

Of course, life is rarely that simple.

Last Tuesday lunch time, the teachers and TAs (and family workers and inclusion team and office staff) were asked to go to a briefing session at lunch time. The head teacher had returned from a course to do this….. There was only one reasonable conclusion to draw.

OFSTED.

Yes. Last Thursday and Friday a team of 4 OFSTED inspectors came to visit our school. I spent 5 hours after school on Tuesday going over all of our plans for the two days. Spent my entire PPA on Wednesday sorting out resources, making sure all 4 teachers in my team had everything they would need for the lessons. I stayed at school until almost 9pm on Wednesday, making sure my classroom was perfect, my books were looking great. There wasn’t a thing out of place (so long as my cupboard remained safely locked!!!)

Thursday morning, I felt physically sick. We’d already been told the inspectors wanted to observe every teacher in the school. I’ve been observed a LOT in the past two years, but this had a lot riding on it. Not for me of course. I’m still leaving teaching, and so the observation didn’t matter to me, other than wanting to do my best. But I didn’t want to let my school down. As much as I’ve struggled this year, I wanted to do my best for them.

The two days themselves went by in a bit of a blur. In a strange way, I wish teaching could always be like that. Our plans had been discussed, agreed, collaborated on. Resources were immaculately prepared. My classroom looked amazing for the first time since September, with hands on resources out for the children to fiddle with (sorry, learn from!) Children had their targets rammed down their throats and could all regurgitate them with ease.

And, as my head teacher put it, these are all things that should be in place all the time. Wouldn’t it be lovely if I had enough energy and dedication to be at school for 14 hours of the day every day.

Realistically, OFSTED see a phoney impression of the school. It’s the school’s chance to put on a show. The question is, how much of the act do they really buy? They’re not stupid, these inspectors. In fact, they’re pretty experienced and well trained. They all know we spruce up our classrooms and our plans and our books. They must be trained to look beyond that.

And, as horrible as the process was for me, theoretically, they serve a purpose.

Of course, I can’t really say much about the outcome of the inspection. My personal observation went fairly badly, but I didn’t fail. The inspector had been pre warned that I was an NQT. And that I was leaving the school. AND that I was leaving teaching. I guess that gives me further indication of my school’s confidence in my ability as a teacher, and further proof that I’m making the right decision.

I say that….

I have been thinking a lot about it recently. Making a move to yet another new city where I know practically no one. Starting another new career that will involve working evenings and weekends for the first few years (at least coming up to exams!).

Should I, as many people have suggested, have tried a different school? Maybe in a school where I felt welcome and valued I would find my stride and become the “outstanding” teacher I once had the potential to become. Maybe somewhere else I wouldn’t go to work every day feeling physically sick; I wouldn’t lose more than 10% of my body weight; I wouldn’t spend 6 months coughing, fighting off more minor illnesses than I’ve ever had in my life.

I guess we’ll never know. I’ve made my choices, and I’ll be sticking with them for now.

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Intensive Spanish – Week 2

Well I survived week two… just!  I was exhausted come Wednesday, never mind Thursday or Friday.  I felt like I was a trainee again, trying lots of different things, some working well, some things that need tweaking, every single lesson being taught for the first time and every single lesson different.

However…

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Intensive Spanish – Week 1

When I mentioned on twitter that I was teaching the same Y9 class for six weeks of solid intensive Spanish, I could read the raised eyebrows and feel the sentiments of ‘poor you’ and ‘oh dear’ from the #mfltwitterati and being an NQT never having done this before I had absolutely no idea what to expect.  Therefore I thought I would share my experiences with you all, I mean Y9s and for six solid weeks….

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Class Dojo

I have been meaning to write about Class Dojo, the online behaviour management software, for a while, but really wanted to make sure that I had the substance that makes (at least) mildly interesting reading.  When I was last prepared to write @dominic_mcg had pipped me to the post, so if you are simply curious about how it works, here is his blog post on Class Dojo.   For now, I’m just going to explain the effect it has had one one of my worse behaved classes and how it could be put to other ‘behavioural’ uses in the classroom.

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NQT Take 2

Being on supply and doing little bits here and there was definitely a valuable experience and taught me many things that I wouldn’t have learned had I been in just one school…. However I’m pleased to announce that I’m going back to school full time, and better still, it’s the same school in which I did the first term of my NQT, hooray!

I’m taking different classes, in a different classroom and starting again, but I’m also not.  I’ve taught all but two of the classes before, I’m back in the same department and I know who everyone is and where everything is.  It’s like Take 2, or rather Take 1b.  I’m going in a lot more prepared, knowing all the procedures and policies, and have a better idea of what I need to be working on towards my standards.  I finally got around to putting together a file last week, it really had been put off for far too long!  It’s really strange, it feels like a fresh start, but at the same time, it feels like an old pair of slippers?!

Goals for Take 2:

  • Try at least 3 new ideas every week, even if they are only quick, such as those being blogged about on the MFL Ideas Factory
  • Use more ICT – I teach one class a week in an IT suite this time around, must try something fun!
  • Use more Target Language
  • Work on the standards
  • Observe more in NQT time
  • Stay on top of marking
  • Be smarter with my time – I’m sure a better work-life balance is achievable!
It’s good to be back!
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Decisions, decisions…

Following the lovely MrsNLC’s bombshell blog, I have been inspired to blog about my own plans for September.

Almost three years ago I moved to London and began working as a Teaching Assistant. I never planned to end up in London, but it just kind of happened. I never planned on staying forever, and even last year I gave serious consideration to moving out of the big smoke. But I didn’t. Somehow I didn’t quite feel done with this city yet, and so I focused my job hunt on North London and got myself a job.

My job hunt was far from a straightforward one. I ended up with a grand total of seven interviews before I took the post I hold currently. I was quite a picky job hunter and turned down a job and withdrew from another interview, before finally settling on this one. This was a job I had very much intended on staying in for at least the next three years or so. In a lot of respects I think I made a good decision – I love most of the boys I teach, my department are lovely and I have made some really wonderful friends. However, there have also been things about this school I have not enjoyed so much. I really wanted my own classroom and have been quite disappointed (and I’ve found it extremely demanding on my non-existent organisational skills!) to be teaching in seven different classrooms. There have also been instances where I have asked for help with situations and that help has not been provided. I don’t want to go into detail about what those situations were, but they were enough to make me reconsider my initial plan to remain at this school in September.

Meanwhile, at the NQT bloggers meet-up in August, I met a chap. A very lovely chap. A chap I was surprisingly compatible with. A chap who, typically, lived two-hundred miles away. However, I have never been the most sensible of people, and so we decided that a long distance relationship during an NQT year didn’t seem so silly. And so my NQT year has been characterised by bi-weekly trips up North, which has served as a bit of a reminder as to why I never planned on living in London in the first place.

It became clear a few weeks ago that this lovely blogger and I didn’t want to continue only spending two sevenths of our week together, and so we began to look to the future. Our initial plan was that he would move to London. I would stay where I was and he’d hunt for a job in our country’s capital. On paper it made sense – we both knew people down here, there’s a decent public transport network, there are lots of schools so job hunting would be easier.

But, one night after a hellish tube journey from a rammed Kings Cross to my house, which cost us £3.10 for the priviledge of being pressed against numerous sweaty bodies belonging to perfect strangers, we looked at each other and said “do we really want to live in London?” And at that moment, we realised that there is another city that is far more perfect for us, and that city is… Liverpool!

And so, all being well, I will be completing my NQT year in London and continuing my teaching career in the North West. There will be lots of people I will miss, and lots of things about London schools that I will be sad to leave, but I think the things I have learned from my time in London schools will serve me well in the future. Pretty exciting stuff, I think, and the best bit is that it all started because of a blog!

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Decision Time

“So, why do you want to be a teacher?”

It’s that question. It’s asked in interviews. It’s the thing that underpins one of the key parts of your life. Theoretically, it should be easy to answer. Yes, it will almost always contain a cliché about children and the future, but ultimately it should be an honest reflection on the career choice. And hopefully, it will have been a positive decision.

Looking back, I made the decision to be a teacher for all the wrong reasons at a point in my life when I probably should have been learning to go with the flow and not deciding something that would alter the rest of my life. There’s no need for the details. Let’s just say, I wasn’t in any state to make a career choice back at the time.

Hindsight is a really wonderful thing.

The answer to that initial question? “I don’t.”

Yes, you read that correctly. After a year of training and half a year of having my own class, I have decided I don’t want to be a teacher.

Whilst I can honestly say it’s a decision I’ve spent a long time agonising over, I can also say that in the end it was an easy decision. I simply don’t enjoy teaching.

I loved my PGCE. However, looking back, I enjoyed the academic aspects of the course far more than the placements. I think that should have been my first clue that this wasn’t the career for me. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve not been enjoying myself this year. I’m constantly stressed, close to tears, I’ve lost a lot of weight, and despite being told I have a lot of potential, I don’t see myself ever being a truly inspirational and outstanding teacher.

One of the things I hate the most about the job is the sheer quantity of work. If I wanted to, I could work all day every day, and still have more things I could do, or things I could do better. As it is, I’m at school for close to 10 hours each day, where I choose to work through my lunch break to try to get more done. It gets to the end of each exhausting day, and I know that there’s things I really should be doing at home. On a good day, I will do it. Increasingly, I simply don’t have the energy, which means I end up feeling guilty and more stressed about the work I’ve yet to do. That’s not even considering the weekends.

On top of this, I’m finding that the things I end up prioritising are not the things that are most beneficial for the children, but the things that are most important to my management. This is something else I end up feeling guilty about.

If these were my only complaints about the job, I think I could cope. I got into the profession knowing I would have to work hard, and I have no issue with hard work. However, it didn’t take too long for me to realise that I don’t actually enjoy the teaching part of the job either. I don’t enjoy standing in front of a class full of children. I don’t feel that “buzz” other people talk about. I don’t notice that look in their eye when they suddenly understand something. In fact, as a whole class the children really irritate me. I mean, I like them all individually. They’re really wonderful kids. But put them all in the same room as me for 5 hours a day and I start to gradually lose my sanity.

People have suggested I try a different school before I give up teaching altogether, but I just don’t think that would be fair on the children. If I don’t enjoy teaching them, they’re likely to know – even if I act to the very best of my ability. And as much as I don’t like the job, I respect the children enough to know they deserve more than that. They deserve the very best teacher available; they deserve someone who wakes up each morning excited by the day ahead of them and walks into school with a smile.

And so, this week, I have handed in my letter of resignation.

It was an easy decision really, and one I’m really glad to have made.

mrsnlc

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Following Children’s Interests in Early Years

I haven’t done a blog post for ages because firstly, I have been so very busy and secondly, I have not really had anything great to blog about. However, in the final week of the last half-term, I went on an amazing course at Early Excellence in Huddersfield. Now if you work in Early Years I’m sure you will have heard of this place and I hope you have been there. It’s a lovely place for courses specialising in Early Years and they have rooms set out with provision areas for inspiration, a shop full of lovely resources (but are rather pricey) and a yummy café. The course I attended was all about developing learning through a child initiated approach.

 

The course was led by Anna Ephgrave, an EYFS leader and Ruth Moore, Early Years Manager at Enfield’s School Improvement Service. It was based on the way Anna runs her Early Years unit without any forward planning or focus activities. The adults are free to interact with the children in their play and move their learning on appropriately. This spontaneous way of working sounded great and was exactly what we were taught at university but you rarely see it in practice. At university they were always going on about how children learn best when they are doing something they are interested in, young children are curious, children should be learning independently, ‘hands on’ learning… and the list goes on. Yet when we step into an average Early Years classroom we have children coming to sit on the carpet for a 10 minute input on something most of the class might be interested in and then we follow this up with a small group activity and we try to get through as many groups as possible before lunch time.

 

Anna and Ruth showed how things can be different; you can follow children’s interests and still get results. I feel awful interrupting a child’s play to ask them to come and do a focus activity with me and I hear this voice at the back of my head saying ‘why are you stopping them from learning independently? You could play with them and scaffold their learning’. I don’t always have the time to play and scaffold because I’m doing focus activities or observing. This course definitely gave some food for thought and I would like to aim to adapt my practice to follow children’s interests and spend more time playing and interacting. I got a copy of Anna’s book on this course which I would thoroughly recommend if you would like to follow children’s interests.

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