There is no motivation to write a new blog post quite like an email from WordPress with a receipt for the automatic renewal of your blog domain, which you have not posted on in over a year. Seeing this receipt, coupled with the fact that my last post was about virtual teaching and is therefore very outdated, were reasons enough for me to write again.
Despite this being my third year at my current school, this year is going to be the first full, ‘normal’ year I have taught there, thanks to school closures for the previous two years. Suddenly, a full academic year of teaching feels like a long time and the summer holiday feels too far away. There’s the lesson planning, marking, parents’ evenings, meetings, last minute cover lessons (Covid- the gift that keeps on giving) and everything else that goes on top of all of that. Sadly, I think a lot of teachers are almost at breaking point at this time in the year. There is never that satisfying feeling of having completed everything, because unfortunately the to-do list really is never ending.
However, although it is very easy to focus on the stresses of work and the feeling that you could always be doing more and teaching better lessons, for the sake of your own wellbeing, it is so important to focus on the positives. Yes, it is easy to complain to colleagues, family and friends about what a tough day at work you may have had, and of course this is absolutely needed sometimes, but we do need to remember to talk about and share the good things too, however small they may be.
I have never got into this habit myself, but one idea is to record one positive thing that has happened each day, to look back on when things are tough, and to remind you why you are doing this job, teaching or otherwise. As I have paid good money for this domain, it’s only right that I use this blog to share three of my own highlights from the past week.
The first is that Year 11 had their biology mock exam this week and the feedback from my class after their exam was that it was ‘easy’. This can sometimes give you false hope, as there have been many times when a student thinks they have done really well and when you mark their paper, you realise they have not included enough detail or the right keywords (especially in biology) and so despite their best efforts, they have ended up with a low score. Luckily, having marked these already this weekend, they were right to feel confident and they have actually done reassuringly well. This is a positive in itself, but what really made me smile was one student telling me after the exam that he had remembered how to answer one particular question “because you drilled it into us every lesson.”. It’s nice to know that if I say something enough times, they will actually listen and remember it. Just got to keep drilling the rest of the content into them before their first exam in May now…
The second thing that has made me happy this week is that my Year 10 entry level science group (a tiny class of nine students, but on average this is more like five or six) actually remembered what I had taught them the previous week. Why is this so rare? Because so often, I teach what I think is a great lesson, where all students seem to have understood the content by the end of the lesson, then the following week you ask a simple recall question and you are faced with a sea of blank faces who act as if you are speaking a different language. This particular lesson I had taught was about the control of blood glucose and this is a tricky topic, as there are lots of new keywords for students to grasp. I ended up teaching the same thing in about four different ways in the one lesson, including a *shudder* role play, so they could act out how the pancreas releases insulin, allowing glucose to move into cells and to be converted into glycogen in the liver. There’s always the worry with activities like this that it is just a gimmick and they don’t actually learn the intended thing, so it made me very happy when reviewing this at the start of their lesson this week, they were getting the questions correct and said “yeah we remember, we acted it out”. As there were three students there that had missed the lesson themselves, I was even able to get the others in the class to act out the role play again, to teach the others what they had missed. A small and satisfying win.
My last highlight is a stand out moment more because it was just so bizarre and one of those moments that reminded me, once again, that teaching is an unpredictable job. It was the last lesson of the day with Year 7 on Thursday and I noticed a girl on the front row had a tupperware out which she was holding, and there seemed to be something moving inside. On closer inspection, I realised there was a ladybird in there, along with some leaves. The only thing I could say in this situation was “Never thought I’d have to say this, but can you put your ladybird away?”. She then passed it back to the girl behind her, who when I questioned her about this, said she had put it in there at lunchtime and promised to let it out after the lesson. A random one to end on, but it was a memorable moment from the week that did make me smile.
I hope that everyone’s week ahead is filled with little moments that make you smile, even if it is as small as seeing that sunshine symbol on the weather forecast everyday this week. Summer is on its way!