There have been a lot of changes in school this year, but one of the biggest and most exciting changes is the addition of two PE lessons to my timetable. In my last blog post, I anticipated that my first lesson was going to be a beautiful disaster, but in a surprising turn of events, these lessons have been going pretty well and I have actually been enjoying them.
In Monday’s netball lesson with Year 7, I actually think I did a pretty convincing job of looking like I knew what I was doing when I was running up and down the court umpiring their game. Although of course there was some whistle blowing and reminders of the rules required, with the Year 7s it was mainly lots of shouting of encouragement and praise as I watched their ever energetic, if not always successful, attempts at passing the ball. They don’t have to know that my only netball experience comes from primary school and some very relaxed and occasional games at university, where I was normally playing with a hangover from the netball socials the night before.
The Year 10s have unfortunately been a little less enthusiastic and energetic in their lessons. It doesn’t help that both of their lessons so far have been very warm, giving them a nice excuse for not wanting to run properly or put any effort into rounders. Once again, in these lessons I have mainly been providing lots of encouragement as they have been playing, especially if they weren’t able to hit the ball.
One boy didn’t take too well to my words of encouragement, as he was getting more and more frustrated with himself for not hitting the ball, claiming it was “so stupidly small” and impossible to hit. Defeated, he challenged me to hit it instead and despite me telling him that I knew I wouldn’t be able to as I also always missed the ball when I played at school, he insisted. Cue a role reversal as I then tried to hit the ball twice only to miss, as predicted. But with his motivational “third time lucky” I tried again and amazingly actually managed to hit it which was pretty exhilarating.
This tiny success at rounders gave me some confidence to demonstrate some bowling and batting techniques the following week. Although by ‘demonstrate’ I mean try to recreate what I had watched on YouTube the night before (which I had admitted to the class) as they watched on, maybe learning a bit but mostly laughing at me. The boy who had ‘coached’ me the previous week just watched on in confusion and asked “Why are you so enthusiastic? We’re not in Year 2.” But luckily I like to live by the motto “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” so I carried on anyway, undefeated.
One huge benefit of teaching PE is that it is much easier to keep my distance when outside, compared to in the classroom where socially distancing from the students is proving to be the biggest challenge this year. As teachers, we are used to continually circulating the classroom during a normal lesson, helping with work and just seeing how everyone is getting on. Although it is great to be back in a classroom and teaching again after so many months without it, staying at the front of the classroom feels very unnatural. This is proving especially challenging during practicals, for example the microscopes required practical I was doing with Year 9 this week. Whereas normally I would be able to go round to help them all focus their microscopes, this week if students were struggling I had to ask them to bring their microscope to the front desk then step back while I helped. Or shout instructions from afar like “No the slide goes on the other bit! No, the other way round!”.
Despite this, I have just about managed to adapt to the new systems in school. There has only been one lesson so far where I managed to mess up by escorting my Year 8 class straight up to my classroom on the second floor after lunch duty, only to realise my seating plan and printed resources were in my office on the ground floor. The stress of having a class lined up at the back of the classroom while my internet failed me as I tried to load the seating plan and various kids were telling me they didn’t have their exercise books was more than enough of a lesson for me to not make that same mistake twice.
In between teaching, I have also been finding my feet with my new head of year 9 role which is so far going well, although it has been a slow start to the year with not too many challenges yet. The main focus of the past week has been contacting home about students who are still wearing black trainers to school rather than school shoes, which has provoked some difficult and at times philosophical questions. What makes a shoe a shoe? What makes a trainer a trainer? Surprisingly, the Teach First programme didn’t cover footwear specifics at all.
I could honestly write forever about the joys and stories of teaching, but it is Friday night so there is some serious Netflix watching and wine drinking to be done, before a Saturday of lesson planning ready for another week. Happy Friday!