School’s Out: Teaching Memories
I used to be a Secondary School teacher, teaching History, Geography and/or Religious Studies to 11-16 year-old students. This is in itself not a big deal: there are many teachers and former teachers in the world. What is a problem, is that ‘My’ Form Group – and ‘My’ Year Group – are turning 30. And I can’t come to terms with it.
I still remember the first time I met them as if it were yesterday. I walked in to my new classroom and stood in front of a group of unimpressed 12-13 year-olds. “I have some bad news”, I said. “Miss S has left”. Imagine my sense of foreboding when the response was cheers and the statement: “We’ve got rid of the witch!”
Slightly taken aback, I continued, “I’ve got some worse news. I’m your new Form Teacher.”
After a moment’s silence one of the form – I’d swear it was Craig – asked, “Are you a supply teacher?”. It was only then that I realised what I had let myself in for: this was a tough school with a high turnover of teachers. But surely, you may ask, with my ‘vast experience’ this should not have been a worry for me? You may also be asking why I call this one class ‘My Form Group’, and that Year Group ‘My Year group’.
There is a very good reason, and if any of them are reading this, I have a confession to make: I’ve been keeping a little secret from you. Some of you may have already guessed, others possibly not. That form group were ‘Mine’ because they were the only form group I ever had. The secret is that when I arrived at the school that 5th January I was a Newly Qualified Teacher. When I left that school four years later I was Head of Year and never had another form group.
That Form/Year group are the touchstone for my teaching experience, because in many respects they are where I learned my vocation. They forced me to develop skills which I didn’t even know I needed. And many memories. In return I gave them – a good “telling-off”, but only when necessary! And hopefully encouragement to fulfil their potential.
There is another reason why teaching is on my mind at the moment. I applied for a job at Jo’s school. Obviously, this would mean either slowing down or completely stopping the writing. It was a difficult decision to apply, as in many respects I am now ‘wedded’ to my job: most of the time I like what I do! But there was a greater problem. It is a long time since I was teaching, so in the intervening years the memories of the ‘bad’ experiences have died away and I can only remember the good times: positive interventions with students; laughing with the other teachers at stupid things that happened; meeting Jo, etc.
I know that if I went back to teaching I might find it hard to readjust. Unlike the opinions held by others, I don’t believe that ‘the kids have changed’. It’s not them, it’s me that has changed. I am not as patient as I used to be, so the students would suffer for stupid behaviour. Even more importantly, I think a few of the teachers might be on the sharp end of my tongue should they not be doing their job properly. I didn’t hold back in the past, I don’t think I’ll change now I have to admit that there is nothing worse for the dignity of a student than to be made to look stupid in front of their peers. This is even more true for teachers! So maybe it’s a good job I didn’t get the post!
Thankfully, I won’t be sat at home crying about the missed opportunity. I won’t have time. I’ve verbally agreed to write another couple of books, so hopefully I won’t be bored!!
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