In our last session of the summer institute, we were asked to write down our biggest concern about our first day on a post-it note. Jokingly, I wrote that my biggest concern was that I would be crying by lunchtime on my first day. I did not think that it would actually happen. Well, how wrong I was.
On my first day of teaching, I just had two lessons as it was a staggered start to the year with only the Year 7s and the Year 9s in school. My first lesson was a Year 7 lesson and as expected, they were all so quiet and more nervous than I was, that it went great. Too great. Nice as though they were, they definitely lulled me into a false sense of security. As they gathered round the front bench and watched intently while I demonstrated how to safely light a Bunsen burner, the thoughts naively running through my head were something like: “What was I ever worried about? Teaching is easy. Look how much they’re hanging onto my every word. Doing this for two years is going to be a doddle. So eager to please. So well behaved. So quiet.” This illusion lasted the whole lesson, until I heard my rowdy Year 9 class outside the door, waiting to come in.
The next 75 minutes were a struggle. Knowing that it was a difficult class and that this was only the second ever lesson that I had taught, multiple teachers from the department came in throughout the lesson trying to help. By the end of the lesson, I had only covered half of what I wanted to and as much as I tried to teach it, I’m pretty sure that no-one in the class still really knew the difference between an element, a compound and a molecule. From my point of view, it was a disaster from start to finish. So much so that when my mentor came in after the lesson with a grin on her face asking “How did it go?!” I just broke down. Right there in my science classroom, surrounded by lots of windows. The only small mercy is that I managed to not cry in front of the students, I really don’t think I could ever teach them again if that had happened.
Despite the teary start to the week, luckily I was soon able to laugh about it and the eight lessons I have taught since then have gone much better. Ok, maybe not much better, but there have been no more tears I am proud to announce. My classes are a real mixture. Not in the scientific sense that they are two elements that are not chemically combined and so can be separated, as I was trying to teach the Year 9s earlier. A mixture of classes that are easy and enjoyable to teach, where the students actually want to learn and will ask lots of questions, and classes that are a struggle and make me question why I spent hours planning a lesson, only for the students to not care at all what I am trying to teach them.
So, it is definitely a steep learning curve, but I’m pleased that after my first few days, it is still very much a learning curve that I am happy to be on and I am looking forward to getting to know the students in all my classes better. Now to plan next weeks lessons…