Why We’re All Doing Just Fine

This is a call to arms to all you teachers out there who sometimes feel inferior when you compare yourself to others. This is a shout out for all you ‘adequate’ teachers, all of us who are doing just fine, getting on with it, feeling fair to middling. This is my chance to say why we’re all doing just fine, and that’s perfect actually.

Over the summer classroom displays were a hot topic on Twitter with lots of people posting their beautiful works of art for all to see. Oh, how envious many must have been. I once would have felt that way myself but, being 32 and having taught for 10 years, I just thought ‘Good on you folks for having the energy to do that!’ My creative juices start and end with what colour socks to wear in the morning. My classroom displays are the product of spending the last 10 years ‘taking one for the team’ and allowing Open Evening to be held in my room. All of a sudden the whole department has to help jazz the place up and turn it from a jungle of ripped backing paper and blue-tack stained walls into a multi-coloured, laminated and fully backed theatre of key quote dreams.

So, if you ever feel a pang of guilt when you see beautiful displays shared on Twitter, remember that it might look nice, but so does a kitten, and kittens are much more cuddly than displays. Get a kitten. You’ll feel just fine.

Next up, resources. First of all, I love a good resource booklet as much as the next person and always find the time to thank those who have shared such gems through Team English and beyond. I know how much hard work goes into them. At this stage in my career my own resources are basic at best. I used to take such pride in a PowerPoint. I even used to spend time downloading new fonts. Just take that in for a second. As an insanely busy new teacher I spent time DOWNLOADING NEW FONTS. What the merry hell was I thinking? My students’ results were no better for it. I needed to find a use for my ever increasing stationery addiction so I now teach with a chunky notepad, a good pen, the text we’re studying, and a visualiser. If there’s no visualiser in the room, I talk at the kids for an hour and tell them to make notes. That’s ok to do because I’m the only person in the room with any qualifications and I’m worth listening to. Our results last year were the best they’ve ever been and I have more space on my hard drive for pictures of cats. What could be better?

I don’t know a great deal about language terminology as I’m a literature student and sometimes on Twitter I see people debating whether such and such is an example of asyndeton or polysyndeton or polycystic ovaries or something like that and I have a pang of “blimey, I should know this stuff… everyone else knows this stuff!” And then I remember that I got a whole entire degree without knowing lots of things that other English specialists may know, and I have successfully taken hundreds of children through their GCSEs without knowing them either. I am certainly not celebrating ignorance; I bloody LOVE learning and try to instil that same love into every student I teach but I also know that I don’t know everything and there are gaps in my knowledge. I do, however, know all the words to the musical episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Don’t tell me I’m not talented.

And finally, work life balance. Anyone who says they’ve got this nailed can go and get in a bin. Get right in that bin and don’t come out til you’ve been up all night trying to mark 120 mock exams where every kid has taken the beach picture prompt to mean ‘shark attack’ but without any of the subtlety or nuances of a Spielberg script.

You don’t work at home? Oh well good for you, now smug off. You had time for a run this evening did you, and you feel great do you? Well I had time for a migraine tablet and an episode of Pointless before I fell into a broken sleep worrying about whether or not Year 11 will have made ‘expected progress’ in their latest assessments.

All any of us can do is our best and big each other up along the way. We need to be cheerleaders for each other and if that means creating a safe space where you can say ‘actually, no, I’m not doing so well today’ then do that. By all means do it right now and ignore all those that claim they’re getting it right all the time.

And on that note, I’d like to use this opportunity to give a massive virtual group hug (because they know I don’t like real ones!) to my own personal ‘safe space’ buddies: Becky, Fiona, Amy, Caroline, Grainne, Lyndsey, Sana, Nat, Freya, Charlie, Rebecca, Sarah, and our token bloke, Chris! My group chats with you lot keep me sane in a cray cray world!

Thank you for reading.

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