Week 2: Split Personalities

Whilst my first week of teaching was characterised by steep learning curves, in my second week of teaching I have found what I have struggled most with has been my identity as a teacher. This is in some ways ironic because I am teaching an Area of Study to year 11 on this very subject.

I have been given so much advice on how I should be running my classroom, conducting myself, lesson planning, and managing behaviour (some of it useful, some of it patronising, and some just generally unhelpful) that I feel as though I should be being and doing a million things at once.

In my infinite wisdom I have realised that this is highly unreasonable. Instead what I need to do is find a way to ‘be myself’ in the classroom, as I don’t want to spend my days at work feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. However, this is easier said than done, and required me to reflect quite thoroughly on who I am, and what I value. I am someone who needs to be highly organised in order to feel comfortable, hence I do not want to ‘wing’ lessons as I know other teachers thrive on, but instead take time to plan them carefully. And whilst this will eat up a considerable amount of my own time, at least I will be minimising stress in other areas. I am also someone who values discussion, and hope that this can be a central part of my classroom practice, encouraging students to value the opinions of their peers.

I have also realised that I may not be able to ‘be myself’ until late in my first year of teaching, or even until my second year. I am lucky to have a senior class, with whom I have already allowed aspects of my personality to seep in. I have been told by many teachers at the school I am at that the kids test (and aim to break) their new teachers, and so my aim in the first instance is to do what I need to to survive. If I spend most of my time on behaviour management, students will learn nothing from my classes, which is desirable for neither the students nor myself. Therefore I may have to adopt a persona this year not entirely consummate with the one I wish to cultivate, but necessary to achieve some level of learning.

So I have set myself a slightly more achievable goal for this term than ‘finding’ my identity; that of consistency. Whilst this might sound easy for experienced teachers because it is part of their routine, I need to establish this ‘routine’ myself in a very conscious and deliberate way. Whilst we have discussed rules in classes at the beginning of the term and they have been displayed since then, this week I will be making a poster with 1 rule on it, and I will work on continually enforcing this. If it takes two weeks to achieve, fantastic, if it takes til the end of the term, so be it. I will also display the way in which it will be enforced, and rewarded. I think 2 verbal warnings, moving within the classroom, then moving outside for a one-on-one discussion is a reasonable routine for enforcing breaches of the rule, whilst verbal praise (which I try to give often, but will make more systematic and targeted now that I know students’ names) will be used for correct observation of the rule.

And whilst there are plenty of progressive pedagogies which advise against the above practice, I have had an epiphany; these pedagogies are for teachers who already have classroom management down pat. Unfortunately for me, even though many of these pedagogies are ways in which I aspire to run my classroom, they are simply far down the list of priorities at the moment.


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