What I didn’t realise before I became a teacher


What I didn’t realise before I became a teacher makes up pretty much most of my job! I honestly thought you went on a course and it prepared you for teaching. How wrong I was.

It got me thinking. The transition from every educational establishment hasn’t historically been great with me. On reflection of each course, I have found things that I wish people had divulged at the start. For example, when you go to college. When I went to college, I didn’t realise what you actually had to ‘do’. The teaching was different than school. You were expected to be autonomous. Autonomous is what I have always strived for, but it’s a different thing knowing how to being autonomy. I sat in classes where everyone was having conversations about things I had no idea about. I went from being a relatively bright high school student to a realisation that I knew less about stuff than those around me. Stuff in general. Like who the Gestapo were.

Onto University. I remember turning up and wondering where I actually went. I mean physically went. I had a timetable that made no sense and I had absolutely no idea that you sat in lectures and took notes. I remember looking around the room wondering what I’d missed. The concept was completely alien to me. It sounds utterly stupid but I didn’t know you had to research things post-lecture. Why does no-one tell you these things? Of how and why. 

Onto CELTA. Oh dear. We were bombarded with information with not much to base it on.

PDGE ESOL – I remember my tutor asking us, ‘how would you explain snow to a student from the desert who has been in the UK for a week?’.

Then it occurred to me. Half of the reason I’ve struggled with education in my adult life is because people don’t sit you down and tell you what you actually need to know. They’re pretty high on the list of success factors too.

It has made me think about the way in which I treat my students. Some would not give two hoots about the structure of the course (it’s pretty much different for every student too due to their spiky profiles). Some students don’t care about what they have to do to be a ‘good’ student. Most of my students don’t have access to the resources I did which makes me feel they are disadvantaged by resources, but also of knowledge of how. The red tape in Adult Literacy, Numeracy and ESOL is a constant constraint, but it is there to serve a purpose and I do agree to raise standards. I like to think of paperwork as reminders to do things, much in the same way as CPD. For example, this may be a ramble to some who read it, but the main purpose of my blog at the minute is to help my development (plus it’s a requirement of my course :-). This post so far has helped me realise 2 things. 1) I don’t know what’s happening half of the time, but my conscious incompetence brain is up for the challenge; 2) I need to think of better ways to help my students study.

Back to my main point though. When I did CELTA, I didn’t know what I needed to do. I got bogged down in a realisation that I didn’t know my grammar. I have carried this around since day 1. It’s better, as now I know more, but the panic was soon replaced by my PGDE content. The main issue that have cropped up for me during and since then (and recently in a Literacy DTLLS) is how to complete what I like to call the jigsaw.

The jigsaw for me included how to write SOWs that are worth the paper they’re written on (and seeing how others in similar job roles even begin to start – I’ve always struggled to see how it fits together), how to write lesson plans that actually meet individual’s needs whilst achieving progress with the group as a whole (quality differentiation in general – again how  to actually do a good job of it), meeting standards, targets, teaching methodology, how to conduct an initial assessment, diagnostic and what to do with the information in an efficient way, ESOL specific theories in practice, whilst meeting the demands of my job with irregular attendances of a challenging client group. I’ve still not cracked it on my own. Half of the problem is knowing what to do to fix the problem. It had become a problem. I’d even go as far to say it’s caused a lot of anxiety and a panic attack here and there. Then  I wonder why? Why? Surely I’m not the first to not know the answers. I have tried to do research on each individual area I feel are CPD areas (AKA stuff they didn’t have time to go through in your non-existent NQT year). It seemed too much at times and still does to some extent. I would read an article or a chapter that would give me 20% of how to do something, which led to Googling something else in order to understand article 1. The process continued and I got nowhere. It still baffles me how no-one I ask has any answers and I wonder whether it’s just me. I think I am in a much better position than I was, but I’m still not there yet.

Enough babble. Another reason for wanting to blog is the hope that someone will read a post and feel slight comfort that they’re not on their own. I wonder where all these people are. The answer is probably in another job. Should I feel lucky that I have some determination, or stupid that it takes me ages to get things as teacher? This is purely confined to teaching by the way. I am quite the opposite in the rest of my life. How bizarre. I do want to crack it though. Then I’ll write a book and retire. Ha! What’s also interesting is if I heard one of my learners say this, I’d probably tell them they aren’t thick/stupid and I coud help them to enable them to learn. Funny how we treat ourselve with double standards. Or at least I do anyway.

On the action plan is going:

* Write some lessons on how to study, how to learn and how to remember

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