I had a good lesson observation!

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So, I always thought that my NQT year would be quite straight forward. Not easy. But seeing as I had sailed through the PGCE, I didn’t expect it to be quite so soul destroyingly difficult as it has been so far. I haven’t had the best start to my NQT year, each lesson observation was deemed ‘Requires Improvement’. Which has been hard. Even though I knew that the outstandings I received on placements were not the based on the official OFSTED (spit on the floor) outstanding gradings, it was still difficult being told that you are no where near up to scratch. Factor in an absolutely abysmal observation four days before the end of the Christmas half term, ‘I mean you’ve passed, but only just’ and I had to admit to myself that my confidence was being slowly but fiercely chipped away from me. I had visions on the school asking me to leave after my NQT 1 year contract was up, I was feeling low and the worse teacher ever when I heard of others in the school who had been observed and got good, with elements of outstanding. I thought, maybe, I’m just one of those people who thinks that they are quite good, but are actually sh*t. Oh God- I’m a sh*t teacher!

So with all these negative thoughts/ feelings and my confidence at an out of character all time low, I had my lesson observation for this term, four days ago. And guess what. It was good! It was actually, really good, which made me feel really good. I can’t believe that grown people are turned into grinning, children again just by being told, by other grown people, that what they saw them teach was good. Ludicrous.

Anyway, I’ll tell you a little bit about my observation. It was literacy this time. My first literacy lesson and because my mentor has been so busy this term, it was two days before we broke up for half term, which meant that if it had gone terribly wrong, then there would not have been another opportunity for me to redo it before the end of half term. I knew that whatever was going to happen in my lesson observation was going into my official NQT assessment. But thankfully, it went as good as I had hoped and prayed it would. The children’s behaviour was exemplary, no one let me down. Even a last minute borrow of my TA for the yr6 practice SATS exams couldn’t dampen my spirits. I kept calm and carried on. 

The main difference with this lesson was that was confident in the lesson, I was looking forward to teaching it and I wanted someone to see it, because I knew it was fun, engaging and that the children would definitely learn from it and make thier bloody ‘progress.’ This enthusiasm for the lesson was contagious, the children fed off it and wanted to learn. I was more free to be creative than with my numeracy observations and i could be more flexible. I didn’t have to ensure I followed a strict, rigid format: starter, main, plenary. I could show my personality in this lesson and I feel that is why I ‘shined’ last week, so to speak. And I honestly cannot tell you how amazing and utterly relieved I felt after my observation. It was such a lovely way to end, what has been my favourite term so far.

I just wish that teacher’s happiness and stress levels were not determined by how well another person judges our lesson.

Strike Day- March 26th

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Today is Strike Day. Yesterday at the school gates all the parents were giving me winks, ‘enjoy your day off’ wink wink. ‘Enjoy your lie in’ nudge nudge. ‘Teachers strike day, eh?’ nudge wink. Not one parent asked what is was about, or seemed vaguely interested in why we were striking.

I don’t think people actually get it. Yes, on one hand I do want to strike for selfish reasons. I am tired, a mid week day off is just what I need- I can stay in my onsie until midday. But on the other hand I didn’t want to strike; I miss a much needed (just bought a house) day of pay, I have end of term tests that need to be finished and assessed by Friday (I can’t actually do them without the kids) and the most important reason- I wish the government weren’t shafted teachers in the first place! I wish there was no need for a strike. But this time, there really is.

Working until 68? I’m 28 and I sometimes find it a struggle getting up from sitting on the carpet and crossing my legs. I actually cannot imagine having lesson observations in my 60s.
Performance related pay- just an excuse for some bullying heads to exert more power. My friend doesn’t get on with her Head and has already been told that she will most likely not get her annual pay increase due to ‘poor results.’
Longer days. If this absolutely ludicrous law was ever passed, I would be handing in my notice the following day. Seriously.
The constant pressure to constantly be ‘outstanding.’
The disappearance of fun and creativity.
The increase in pensions. Put more in, get less out. Yeah, that makes sense?!
In fact, I could go on, I disagree with everything. And to be honest I don’t know how effective these strikes are. When the government want something, they’ll just do it. Regardless. And it’s a shame because in the end it’s always the children who suffer, the children that are supposed to be getting a better experience with these changes. It just doesn’t make sense. None of it does.

Anyway, for now I will enjoy my Strike Day. I got up a little later than usual and I am still in my onsie. But I have been working for two hours straight already and that was to rid myself of guilt before I go shopping and for lunch with my mum.

Teacher’s Guilt, much worser than Catholic guilt. Seriously.

 

I’ve realised…. that I’m happy

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I’m going into week 4 of this Spring2 term, which means there’s only 3 weeks left until the (TWO WEEKS) Easter half term. Spring 1 was a difficult term for me, I don’t know why, but I was down, feeling dissatisfied with teaching and moral was very low at my work. Fast forward a month, and I don’t how or even when it happened, but one day I finished work and I was laughing- at goodness knows what- and I realised ‘I’m happy.’ I’m at work and I am actually happy. There is nothing to complain about, I don’t feel like I am drowning, the children even seem happy- and so am I! It feels amazing.

It goes to show that positivity breeds positivity. Before the start of the term, I kept telling everyone that i was excited for this term and really looking forward to it because we had a lot of fun stuff planned- World Book Day, Sports Relief, two school trips etc., and before I knew it, I really was looking forward to the weeks ahead. And this positive attitude rubbed off on the children- they became excited too.

I stopped moaning. I decided that when people said ‘alright?’ I would give them a huge smile and say ‘yes, are you?” Instead of my usual, ‘yeah, I’m so tried’ yawn. It really does make a difference.

So, we’ll see how long it lasts, but I’ve decided to stop moaning. Yes, we all know the negatives about being a teacher, we hear them every bloody time we switch the news on and there’s some teacher bashing headline. But I’m going to list my positives just to help me remember why I decided to go down this path just over a year again:

  • No two hrs are the same, let alone no two days! Where else can you work where you have not got a clue how the hour is going to go? We could be stuck at a desk typing in the same data for the same people, that we did the same time, in the same place at the same time last year.
  • The day zooms by. It really does, I am constantly looking at the clock thinking ‘go slower, go slower! I’ve not done my plenary yet!.’
  • Work colleagues really are some of the closest work colleagues that you can get. No one will understand you like them. And I am grateful for all the ace people that I work with in my school.
  • The pay isn’t that bad really, unlike a receptionist, there is pay progression- we will not be on the same NQT wage in 5 years time. You can actually see where you want to go.
  • The children- we are so lucky to get to work with little people all day and nurture them into future little human beings.
  • Paper work aside- the job is fun. I am a daily actor for the 10mins I read a Jacqueline Wilson books each day, I get to dress up, paint, make displays and sing songs each day.
  • The holidays! Yes, I do work, but I still get to have lie ins, rest and go shopping during the day when the rest of my friends are working in their 9-5s.

And honestly, I could go on. So for now, I’m going to pour a glass of wine and relax watching The voice. Knowing that I will go to bed tonight, looking forward to getting up for work tomorrow. What’s not to be happy about? :)

Office politics.

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Before I was a teacher I had worked in a lot of schools. And the first thing that I noticed was how bitchy they were. Every school I went in was full of catty women bitching about another workers clothes, way with children, a new partner, what time someone arrived at school, what time someone left. I couldn’t believe it. They would have lunch with a work colleague, only to bitch about them the second they left the room. I was shocked. I didn’t think that schools were like that. How wrong I was. School had been full of cliques when I was there as an adult, so I suppose it wouldn’t be any different now that I was there as an adult. 

That is until I started at my school.

It was different. There was no bitching in the staff room. There was no colleague that was a ‘target’, there was no one that people rolled their eyes at when they spoke. Even having a female head didn’t cause any problems. She was, and thankfully still is, a professional. I have never heard, seen, or been told about anything underhand or bitchy that she has done or said. She is strictly business (at one school I worked at with a female head, she had exploded at her staff on the Monday morning after the Christmas do because no one had wanted to sit with her at the table. Another time she had said ‘that’s fu*king nice!’ when she heard that all the KS2 teachers had gone out for a meal without inviting her. Yes really). My head isn’t like that. She’s scary. But she’s great. I like her.

Anyway, slowly, since December I’ve heard little snippets from my TA about ‘politics’ that I should keep away from. Like the fact that the only male teacher in the school is going around saying he will be Deputy soon, how the foundation and KS2 managers’ boyfriends are best friends so be careful what you say to one about the other (or about the school) because they will talk about you behind your back. And how the SEN co ordinated, never drinks at work dos because she likes to listen to everything that is said by loose mouths and report back to her best friend (the headmistress). Thank goodness my TA told me these ‘secrets’, and has given me much valued inside knowledge. Not that I would ever say anything controversial in school, but there’s always times when you slip up. Last month a new teacher was slagging off the KS2 manager to the KS1 manager (cringe). How was she to know that they see each other every weekend and that their partners are best friends? And ultimately is it my place to pass on the insider knowledge I know or just keep quiet? I had to just keep quiet unfortunately. Not that I wanted to, it’s just if I start a conversation with ‘don’t say anything, but…’ I straight away get caught into the office politics web.

My eyes were definitely opened this week though. My TA was off on Wednesday and as I have 30 children and quite a few SEN another TA was sent in for the day. Now she’s not my sort of person, but I thought i got along with her and that she was decent, ok. Well, we have a school trip to Bretton Yorkshire Sculpture Park coming up (dry weather please) and a parent came to me with an envelope with the trip money. I definitely took the envelope and then a mass of parents were at the door asking questions about the trip, questions about homework, had a seen their childs pe kit? Jack came home with Ali’s trousers on… etc. etc. Next thing I know, my TA had said have you got x’s trip money? Oh no! I realised that I had put the envelope down in the madness and I couldn’t find it. I looked everywhere where I had been in the morning and i couldn’t find it. I said it will definitely be there and I’ll look at the end of the day. And if i couldn’t find it, I will just pay the money my self. ‘Aw, don’t worry about it. It’ll be here. Look for it at the end of the day. It doesn’t have to be in until next week.’

That was that. My TA came back the next day and said that I had to go to the admin office and tell them that i had lost x’s trip money. My TA said that as she was walking into school that morning, the TA who had been in my class yesterday had come running up to her and said ‘you’ll never guess what? That bloody NQT lost x’s trip money yesterday. I mean, how can you loose someone’s envelope with trip money in?! Anyway, I went straight to the office and told them.’

Well I was in shock. Not only had she said don’t worry, you’ll find it. She had put me into a false sense of security and brushed off my own panic and concern. Don’t worry about it. She said. It’ll be fine. She said. What annoyed me the most is, why didn’t she be honest and say it to my face. I went straight to admin and told them i had lost it. I said I will pay for it myself. They were extremley understanding and said ‘don’t worry’ (where have I heard that before?) and that to be honest trip money is not my responsibility. I offered to pay for it and they said don’t bother. All parents know that the school policy is that all money for anything and everything must be handed into the office.

Once again, I realised in schools that you can’t trust everyone. A loyal TA is worth it’s weight in gold and no school doesn’t have any office politics. And how I miss open aired ‘bitchyness’, because at least then you know where you stand. Hidden politics is way more dangerous.

Ps. I paid for the trip money the next day with my own money. 

This term I’m coming back fighting!

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So I’ve decided that it’s time for the old me to come back. The old me who was positive, happy, stress free, the eternal optimist- because this week I realised that somehow teaching had crushed my spirit and turned me into one of those people that I have always hated- the moaner. It hit home this week when a friend came around for a catch up and asked me ‘how’s the job going?’ I didn’t even answer at first, I just let out a huge sigh, I felt my shoulders slump and I just said ‘it’s so stressful. I don’t even know how to begin to explain how stressful it is.’ I couldn’t believe it- I had turned into that friend who you want to avoid because nothing happy ever comes out of their mouth, they sap your energy and they just drag you down.

Well no more. I am back. 

This term I am coming back fighting. I am banning the word stress/ stressed from my vocabulary. Even just saying the ‘S’ word puts you in a negative frame of mind. I’m not going to let the new government requirements let me feel like I require improvement- I am outstanding in my own right. I love my class, I want them to do well and they are progressing. That means I am doing an outstanding job. I challenge Mr Gove to come and work in a deprived area of Yorkshire with a class of 30 children (28 EAL), and prepare 5 sets of differentiated work for 5 subjects, 5 sessions a day for 5 days a week. I do this on 6hrs sleep a night. Therefore I don’t need you to grade me. I will grade myself. I am outstanding.

This term I will work like a bi*ch. I will do work every night, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. And I will do it because I want to. If I want to that means that I will have no resentment towards my job. I want to do this work, which means I have made that choice, which ultimately means that you will not dictate to me what work I have to do outside of the school hours. I will decide. 

I am also going to get ‘dressed’ every morning. This past term I really let myself go. One teacher even said, ‘I’ve never noticed it before- but your complexion is quite grey.’ No, you hadn’t noticed it before- because I used to have a healthy glow, but since September, that glow has slowly, but surely been replaced. Well, screw you grey complexion, there’s foundation for you. As well as eye shadow, mascara and blusher. In fact I am going to put a full face of make up on every day. I am adamant that I will stick by this. I will also wear nice clothes, heels, make sure my nails and hair are done because as they say, if you look fabulous on the outside, eventually you’ll feel fabulous on the inside. Fake it, ’till you make it, right?

I am going to become super organised. My work will be marked that day. I will plan my lessons vigiously for the next day so that I know what I am doing and I will put 150% into my lesson observations. I am going to cheat. For that one lesson I will do what the government feels is best, I will tick their coffin boxes, I will kill creativity with lessons that cover all of the ludicrous standards. Then the next day I will go back to being a teacher who teaches my children in a way that truly is best for them. I will no longer feel I require improvement because some rich middle class t*at who has never stepped foot in a class room like mine is dictating how best to run my class. Are we as teachers actually allowing this is happen?!

Anyway, tomorrow is the start of a new term BRING IT ON!

Do teachers really get a half term?

Do teachers really get a half term?

That’s something that I always asked on placements during my PGCE. And the honest answer is yes and no. I have one more day left of half term and as I look back I have actually done quite a lot and had a lovely half term; I have-

  • Been out for a romantic meal with the fella.
  • Went out clubbing (yes, teachers still go clubbing- the pics just don’t appear on Fb!)
  • Met up for lunch with the girls.
  • Baby sat my baby nephew all day.
  • Been shopping (and spent way too much money on clothes I  do not need).
  • Done some DIY in my house.
  • Finally started to sort out my wardrobe.
  • Stayed up late watching the Sex and the City box sets (just gets better every time).
  • Had friends round for a cuppa and a gossip.
  • Caught up on sleep.
  • And done most  of my planning…

Ah, there it is. The planning. Resource making. Marking. No matter what you do over half term, no matter how much fun you have- there is always this little niggle at the back of your mind. ‘I should be marking this…’ ‘I could be laminating those…’, for me that constant guilt reminds me that I can’t get too relaxed during my week off. And personally, that’s due to me. I was so exhausted at the start of half term, that I ‘wasted’ the beginning just napping, resting and recharging my batteries. But that was something that I desperately needed to do. I could have (should have) done my planning during the first weekend of half term, but like I’ve always done since the age of 11, I have left my homework until the last minute. I work better that way. Working under pressure motivates me. 

And because of this fact, I will now be spending my entire Saturday night finishing off medium term plans and preparing for my lessons next week. But that’s ok. I am ok with that, because it meant that I was able to have fun doing all of the things that I mentioned above. I will probley be kicking myself at 9pm tonight when I am still typing up plans, but I have prepared myself for that because I am adamant that I will have all of Sunday off, and I mean really off, without any of that niggling guilt in the background.