Thursday, 2 July 2015

Become a better teacher by getting more rest.

It’s a demanding job – do it as well as you can, but be kind to yourself, too

You’ve probably already broken the futile resolutions you made while pie-eyed, singing the new year in. But one unofficial “promise to self” still reverberates a couple of weeks on from your ugly awakening on New Year’s Day. Repeat after me: “I will be a better teacher this term. I will be a better teacher this term. Now pass the gin.”
Only it’s not as simple as just making a resolution. You can’t resolve to find the workload manageable; because it isn’t. You can’t resolve to find your mentor less objectionable; because they are. And you can’t resolve to not find your first year’s teaching an emotional rollercoaster; it just is. But you can resolve to be the best version of yourself it is possible for you to be.
So the first thing to do is take a fairly hard look at what your professional issues are and reflect on how you’ve done.
What have you been doing that is getting in the way of being a better teacher than you were last term? What is the worst thing the kids say about you? Are they right? (Clue here: they are right.) What is stopping you from being the best version of yourself that you can be, bearing in mind that you’ve been given the gift of spending your life surrounded by the developing sensibilities and passions of young people at their best?

Behaviour impact analysis

It’s worth doing what they call a “behaviour impact analysis” on yourself at this stage of your career. First, list the classroom behaviours you manifest that might be getting in the way of being a really good teacher, and write down the impact of these behaviours on the students. Then go through the process of deciding whether the impact on the students is acceptable or not.
If it is, you’re fine; if it’s not, you have to make changes to that behaviour. Write these down and implement those changes.
Having had a look at your own behaviour – because you can’t change anyone else’s unless you can model the ability to change your own – and having put yourself underneath the glare of your own critique, then resolve that, above all else, you will be kind to yourself.
The job will make all kinds of demands on you, many of them utterly unreasonable. You are doing a job in which the amount of work you have to do is obviously not possible to manage within a normal person’s waking hours. The phrase “normal person” is important here, in that normal might reasonably be thought a nomenclature for sane. In an insane environment, it is often those who display the greatest quotient of the prevailing moral of the arena who rise to the top. Consequently, some of the people handing out the expectations of you, have insane expectations of themselves and will blithely pass this illness down as a minimum professional requirement.

Teacher take care of yourself

But let’s get real here. There is no other job in which the minimum expectation seems to be that you will destroy all your human relationships, never get any rest and be in a continual state of panic. There is no other job that routinely and blithely expects you to run yourself so far past the point of exhaustion that you look back on exhaustion with overly fond eyes. So you must resolve to look after yourself.
If you are too tired to do any more work, go to bed. If there is nothing on telly, go to bed. If it is Saturday daytime, go to bed. Teaching leaves you permanently exhausted, running on emergency power all too often. It’s far worse if you haven’t had anywhere near what a normal, sane person would regard as rest worthy of the name. So, if you want to be a better teacher this term: get more rest. You can’t function properly without it.
On a related point, it is about now that you must decide whether you are going to be an early-morning grafter or an after-school drudge. The insane response to a job that it is not possible to do, is to attempt to do it by never, ever, ever stopping working. You can’t manage this lifestyle for any protracted time when you are a young teacher – it takes years of practice to be a proper workaholic – if you do try you’ll find yourself standing dribbling in a cold field, clad in your pyjamas, staring into space within a month.
A saner response is to do your level best.
This means either getting to school early (before senior management arrives) or staying after hours.
The former has an advantage over the latter. Do your marking in the morning, and you can’t give in to the temptation to bugger off home, as you’ve got to be in the building all day to teach. Yes, it is desperately wearing getting up at stupid o’clock, but when you are in work when everyone else is considering getting up, you get to feel a certain gratifying, Nietzschean moral superiority. 

Get in early. Grab a class set of books

Furthermore, if you can take the imaginative leap required to understand the statement that marking is actually the best planning you can do, then if you get in early, you can do the two things simultaneously. Get in early. Grab a class set of books. Go to town on them. Note down anything you notice that your class can’t do. Your lesson plan is now in front of you.
Finally, understand why everyone is telling you not to take things personally. It’s not for the reason you think: it’s not because the children are attacking the uniform and not the person. They are attacking the person. The reason you are told not to take things personally is that you are a trained graduate professional. Taking things personally is not a professional response. Wise up.

No comments:

Post a Comment