Mrs Humanities

Because I'm married to the job


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5 Years a Teacher. A Reflection.

In October 2016, an article appeared on the Guardian that struck a chord.

“Almost a third of teachers quit state sector within five years of qualifying”

I started my teaching career in 2010 by undertaking a PGCE in Secondary Geography Education at Aberystwyth University, finishing in July 2011.

Living in the depths of Mid-Wales meant there were few employment opportunities so I made the tough decision somewhat late in the school year to move down to the South East of England where I initially went and worked in Early Years for several months before moving onto my first full time teaching role in June 2012.

The statistics in the article were concerning “Of the 21,400 who began teaching in English state schools in 2010, 30% had quit by 2015, the schools minister, Nick Gibb, confirmed. More than one in 10 (13%) of newly qualified teachers left after a year of teaching, meaning 87% continued to work in the classroom, a proportion the government says is largely unchanged since 1996. That figure fell to 82% after two years in profession, 77% after three years, 73% after four years and 70% after five years”. (

And whilst I wasn’t one of those that began teaching in state schools in 2010, I’m definitely one of those that has considered leaving the profession several times within the first 5 years.

To be honest teaching lessons has always been the easy part; it’s the relentless workload surrounding book scrutinises, data input, assessment and observations that have made it so difficult. Alongside that I became Head of Department at a new school in April 2014, which had opened in September 2013 and had to set up the department from scratch. Fortunately for me my planning was my strong point, but as the only Humanities specialist it was a solo effort and a lot of hard work.

So, here’s my tale of 5 years a teacher.

Year 1 

My NQT year was interesting. I worked with some amazing educators and a fantastic department. The school was tough with high expectations for staff and often challenging students, but I always felt incredibly supported by my department and NQT coordinator.

During this time, I lived 30 miles from work and although the journey wasn’t too arduous I didn’t drive; Never needed to learn living in Cardiff and Aberystwyth, where public transport was reliable and cheap or things were in walking distance. Luckily a wonderful woman came to my rescue, she lived in the same town and was also an NQT. She was older than me and had entered the profession after a wealth of experience elsewhere; dare I say it, she became like a mother to me with all her words of advice and constant reminders of work/life balance. Even when I eventually passed my driving test and got a car, we continued to car share.

However despite the support it was a struggle learning to manage behaviour whilst trying to ensure progress; trying to juggle marking and planning; keeping track of student data and monitoring progress; writing reports and attending meetings; finding time to make phone calls home due to negative behaviour and trying to ensure you added a few for positive behaviour; attending NQT CPD sessions and ensuring time to research pedagogy and classroom management strategies… the list goes on of the balancing acts that took place. The PGCE really didn’t prepare me for this level of work.

There was definitely no work/life balance at this point, along with Ofsted in the first term but I still managed to pass my NQT with Outstanding thanks to the support I received.

Year 2 

I stayed at the same school, I felt confident this year would be better. I knew the routines, more of the students, the GCSE courses etc. It should have been a breeze and to start with it was. Well until my projector broke in the first term. Doh!

No projector meant all my resources from the year before were somewhat redundant, that along with the fact that photocopying budget was low so printing was restricted which meant that teaching lessons suddenly became a lot more difficult. Unfortunately, it was going to be several weeks for the parts to be delivered because I just so happened to have an ‘old’ projector.

This point taught me a lot though, how to teach without technology and resources. I relied on my knowledge and the white board. I used models students had made the previous year to demonstrate, for instance rainforest structure; I became more imaginative in my approach. But it was hard work, really hard work though.

The tip of the iceberg came just after I’d been told to relax on my marking by the Head. He recognised how hard I was working and that my marking was top of the school but I was working myself into the ground. Yet we had a Mocksted and my external observer gave me terrible feedback – firstly he commented that I hadn’t shared the L/Os with students (hrm, yes I had they were on the whiteboard and at the top of the student instruction sheets and if you’d been here at the start of the lesson you would have heard me read and discuss them with the class), he commented on my poor planning (there were a range of activities with plenty of differentiation to suit individual needs and to stretch my more able, but that wasn’t recognised) and finally the negative comment on my marking… MY MARKING! Insufficient! WTF. I blew my top at that. My Head of Department was not happy, the Head certainly didn’t agree and essentially the whole observation was wiped off the record. The school threw a big party that Christmas… many of us felt it was a way to say sorry for the terrible Mocksted experience especially as we’d got Outstanding the year before from the official Ofsted.

After that experience however by the time half term came I was exhausted and didn’t feel I wanted to go back to school. I’d fallen into a state of depression, which I hadn’t realised at the time but looking back that’s exactly what it was. I started experiencing dizziness and vertigo as well which almost led me to passing out in front of a class and several visits to the GP and hospital.

The school provided some counselling which helped and I eventually applied for Head of Humanities at a different school, closer to home. I managed to get the position in February and handed in my notice to end at Easter. Whilst the Head did not seem happy with the decision and did not make things easy, I’m sure deep down he recognised it was the best thing for me at the time.

I left in April and started my new role after Easter.

And wow, how very different it was. I went from teaching Geography and History to teaching across the Humanities, as well as Art, Cookery, ICT and Drama. The previous Head of Humanities had left no resources, so I had no idea what they’d been taught already. What an interesting time that the first full term it turned out to be. The kids were very challenging in completely different ways and it was an exhausting summer term but I stuck with it. I immediately implemented routines and behavioural strategies and laid out my expectations clearly. My NQT year had prepared me well.

That summer was spent preparing for the September. I had to make sure I was fully prepared for my lessons in order to ensure my time went into managing behaviour and the resulting workload as well as the high levels of differentiation and scaffolding that would be needed.

Year 3

Year 3 went by in a whirlwind. Being a new school, there was a hell of a lot of work involved in setting up whole and departmental resources and routines. We were a small community and it felt like that to begin with. Everyone was supportive of one another, we ate together and chatted when we could.

As a consistent team of staff emerged, the kids became better behaved and the consistency helped many of them to feel better about school. In fact, what became more challenging was the workload. Being a new school, we had regular visits from a DofE representative (I think) who would observe the progress of the school, staff and students. We’d have one a term, along with other observations as part of the self-evaluation weeks. We had to provide data packs on classes, flightpaths on books, targets and progress on the front covers etc. The amount of paper being used was huge and that was before we thought about resourcing lessons and scaffolding for students. Anyway, I did what I had to do and got through. There were times I wanted to just give up but I kept on thanks to the support of my family and closest colleagues. By June we had Ofsted and it was a very positive experience. I felt confident and it came across; the inspector had no feedback on how I could improve. Win. My marking and feedback was also highly recognised and praised by the inspection team. My feedback not marking approach was beginning to take shape and as result I ended up running a CPD session in the final term for current and new staff on marking and feedback strategies.

Whilst it had been a difficult year in terms of workload, #Teacher5aday and twitter had helped me through the rollercoaster and I finished the school year on a relative high (although I was disappointed we didn’t have a celebration to celebrate our excellent Ofsted result).

Year 4

This was the year of my undoing. This was the year I came closest to walking out of teaching once and for all. This was the year when it all got too much. The workload, the behaviour, the level of SEN, the lack of support, the lack of specific CPD…. the staff morale. In fact, I think staff morale had the biggest impact. Seeing people working as hard as they were and receiving no recognition and appreciation for it and instead just having more and more work piled on to them was the hardest thing to witness.

I started to dread morning briefings, what would I need to add the humongous to-do list that was already impossible to complete even if I didn’t eat and sleep day in day out. I’d roll up to the meeting and the sense of anxiety in my stomach would bloom. My hands would shake and by Easter I’d leave with tears rolling down my eyes. I hated the morning briefings. I hated the feeling of worry. The stress. The anxiety.

If the workload wasn’t relentless enough, I felt unsupported by SLT. Behaviour was worsening and despite following the school procedures, kids seemed to be getting away with the highest f sanctions. I’d always follow through at my end but they weren’t exactly followed through at the top. This made teaching harder and harder.

I started looking and writing applications for jobs outside of teaching, but I was too scared to send them. I wouldn’t be able to finish until the summer; would they even wait that long? I wrote many but didn’t send any.

Then the penultimate day before the Easter break I eventually broke down in front of a class. The poor handful of students that wanted to learn in this particular group – their enthusiasm for learning slowly declined; their patience for others dwindled. I hated seeing this and burst, tears rolled down my face in front of the class and between my sobs I asked “Why? Why will you not respect your peers? Let them learn, if you don’t want to fine. But let those that do learn.” I remember my speech/rant going on for a bit longer than that but I don’t remember the rest of it. I probably rambled about the opportunities they’ve been given; how great the teaching and learning is at the school and how the school rules state that ‘everyone has the right to learn and the teachers to teach’.

I tried to enjoy the Easter half break but instead I ended up working most of it, marking assessments and planning for the next term. When I returned to school, I couldn’t do it.

I walked into my classroom and walked right back out again. The anxiety was too much. I walked away. Where was I to go? Since my other half would drop me into work so he could have the car, I couldn’t exactly go home. Instead I made my way inside the main building a member of staff caught me, asked if I was okay. That was the it, tears streamed. I sat in the quiet meeting room for what felt like hours sobbing. I eventually went home. I couldn’t return the next day or the next and eventually I was signed off. Three weeks I spent away from the classroom in total and although it helped I still didn’t feel ready to head back without a bit of medical help.

During my time, off I’d received notification that I’d been offered an interview for a job I’d previously applied for. I went to the interview and whilst I liked the school and they liked me, I felt I needed time to process the offer. In the interview, I’d asked about staff wellbeing and this essentially confirmed to me that it would be a good school to work at. After speaking to my current Head, I decided that accepting the offer was definitely the best thing to do.

My return to school was hard, I wasn’t ready but I was pressured into returning – I won’t go into the details. I returned and the kids were amazing. They were happy to see me and even those that had been difficult before Easter had somewhat improved for me. I didn’t share why I’d been off, but the kids made up a wonderful story about fighting crocodiles in some far off tropical land and being injured and so on. It was a relief when they just made a light-hearted joke of my time away.

I struggled through the remainder of the year and left feeling loved by the students. The array of gifts and messages were heart-warming. It’s not until you leave that you realise how appreciated you are. I do miss many of the kids, I’d formed some fantastic bonds with some of my classes and it was hard to say goodbye to them. But if I hadn’t accepted the job after support from the Education Support Network, I know I would have ended up leaving the school and teaching.

Year 5

This year has been the best year of my career so far. I’ve seen my career and happiness flourish. I’m glad I stayed in teaching and tried one more school. I can see this as my forever school.

There have been a few ups and downs, a struggle here and there but on the whole, it was nothing compared to my prior experiences. Nothing I couldn’t handle with a bit of determination and dare I say it… resilience.

The number of times reducing workload and ensuring staff wellbeing has been discussed in meetings this year has blown me away; to have a senior leadership team that cares so much about its staff and students really has meant a lot to me. I’ve felt appreciated and respected as an educator and member of staff. I wish every school could make their staff feel this way.

What has 5 years in teaching taught me?

The answer to that is a hell of a lot.

I know how I teach now, I know my preferences. I know how to learn about learning. I know what I like in the classroom and what I don’t. I know what makes for good practice for me and I know what doesn’t. I know how to be flexible but also how to be consistent. I know how to balance my work and my life.  I know I’ve grown as a practitioner and will continue to do so.

But I only know all of this because I’ve tried so much and learnt so much. I’ve experienced good times and experienced bad times. I’ve had the opportunity to explore and try new things. I’ve taken the time to read and research, to talk and discuss, to share and to steal (ideas). Without all my prior experiences in how to deal with behaviour and being overburdened with workload from marking and feedback, assessment, data analysis, planning etc. I wouldn’t have become the teacher I am today.

I honestly believe it takes finding the right school to really make you enjoy the job and love this all-important career. If you’re not happy where you are, try a few places before making the big decision to leave teaching forever. You just have to find what’s right for you.

I’ve now come to the end of my fifth year in teaching and thankfully I’ve remained as a statistic of survival. I’m staying in education because deep down, I love teaching those young humans who will one day be grown up humans that will make decisions about our world. I want them to make responsible ones that benefit and support each and every one of us; that respect their future colleagues and their kid’s teachers, that look after their communities and wider environment, that abolish homelessness and poverty, that fight diseases and find cures, that innovate and design. I want them to be able to learn so that they create a better world than we have today. And that’s why I’ve stuck it out and will be staying.

NQT and others in their first few years, I really hope this insight into my first 5 years, gives you hope for the future. Don’t become a statistic of despair in the system, instead become a statistic of survival and change in the system.

Mrs Humanities

 

 

 


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Proud Moments from Twitter

As I spend some time reflecting on the year, despite all the downs I’ve remembered there have been a number of ups. I thought I’d share with you some of the more positive parts of my teaching year.

  1. DIRT sheets went international… here’s a message I received from China

2. Attending and presenting at TMHistoryIcons

along side many great historians and history teachers…

3. Setting up Magpied Pedagogy

4. Attending and presenting at #PedagooHampshire…

…where I got to meet many of the greats for the first time (or again) and take part in a number of interesting workshops/presentations.

5. Setting up #Teacher5adaybuddybox and being able to support so many great educators. From the first one…

…to having over 400 participants in a year….

 … that have sent loads of fabulous boxes…

…with extra big thanks to all those that sent a back to school surprise box or two

Get involved…

I’ve been really lucky the last year to have connected with so many incredible educators and academics as a result of twitter. They’ve kept me going through the darker days of teaching and have helped me to remain in a job that I love (well when it’s just me and my classes, forget the politics and data, along with progress tracking and the covering your back paperwork etc. etc.)

So what we’re your proudest moments of 2017? Let me know.

I hope that 2017 leads into lots of positive teaching experiences for all.

Best wishes for the year ahead.

Mrs Humanities


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One small memory, one big impact.

Whilst out for a stroll this afternoon I was reminiscing about my high school days.

Whilst I have some fantastic memories of friendships, teachers and trips I also remember how rough and poor my school was. I remember discussing life and death around a broken table in the ‘garden’. I remember being shot with a BB gun in a French lesson. I remember a boy in my class launching himself across the table and punching my music teach square in the face.  I remember my proud GCSE results day. I remember my first trip abroad. I remember the sayings of my favourite teachers.

school

But there was one memory that was standing out.

Here’s how it goes…

My friends and I had been discussing the theory of evolution (as you do at the age of 14) in form time. Our current tutor was a devote Christian and didn’t believe in the theory or possibility of evolution. Rather than joining us in the debate he set out to prove us wrong. He spoke some time about the eye and the intricate nature of it. He spoke about how God created the eye and there was no way that nature could possibly have had anything to do with such an intricate creation. We listened, we listened some more, but did not speak. He would not allow for debate or discussion.

The next day he brought in an old radio.  He also brought in a hammer. Then there right in front of us he smashed the radio into pieces. As he did so he explained that if evolution really existed this radio that was now broken into over a hundred pieces would eventually put itself together.

radio

We attempted to debate it with him, but little did he listen.

He put the radio in a box and left it on the desk.

The next day, he asked “has evolution worked yet?” and shook the box to demonstrate it was still in a hundred or so pieces.

The same thing happened the next day. And the next day. And for a few more days.

As teenagers, it’s not that we weren’t open to the idea of God and religion, but we wanted the opportunity to discuss and debate. We wanted to the opportunity to discover and learn. We wanted to make our own opinions of the world.

Since we didn’t feel listened to, my friends and I decided to do something rather rebellious. This was out of character for us, the usually ‘good’ ones.

One lunch we snuck into our form room. We’d gotten hold of some glue and decided to attempt to piece the broken radio back together. From what I remember we did a pretty good job of it. We carefully placed the radio back in the box and returned the box to its original position so as not to raise suspicion.

The next morning our form tutor went to prove his point by shaking the box. To his surprise there wasn’t the calamity of noise one would associate with hundreds of pieces of metal and plastic bouncing around. Instead there was a loud thump to one side of the box, sliding to the other side as he shook the box.

I’ll never forget the look of bewilderment on his face. I always imagined that for a moment he may have lost faith in his argument, his belief that he held so strong. For that one moment I’ve always felt bad.

But quickly his bewilderment led to curiosity as to what had happened. He opened the box to find the radio almost looking like it had several days before the hammer was taken to it, of course though with the addition of cracks and vast quantities of super glue.

That’s as far as I remember. I can’t remember the consequences of our actions.

But I remember why we did it. We wanted to be heard, we wanted to discuss, we wanted to discover. We didn’t want to be told what to think, we didn’t want to be put down, we didn’t want to be told our beliefs were wrong.

None of us were against the idea of God, against the idea of being part of God’s creation. Some of us were religious, some of us not. But we wanted evidence from both sides of the debate and the opportunity to explore the theory.

I thought for a while of how this experience influenced my future. My desire for knowledge. My desire to see evidence. My desire to understand. A desire and skill I’ve tried to pass on to my students.

Do you have any memories from school that influenced you?

Would be interested to hear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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#teacher5aday 2015 Review

With just a few days left of 2015 I thought now would be a good time to reflect upon my personal well being journey, a journey that started thanks to Martyn Reah and #teacher5aday.

My journey started on the 30th December 2014. It began with a blog post. It developed into 5 promises. It continued throughout the year.

Let’s rewind to 30th December 2014

After seeing inspiration on Twitter, whilst being rather anxious about going back to work in the New Year and just downright unhappy about the hours I was working I promised myself the following for 2015:

#connect – say yes more; see friends and family, socialise frequently, connect with other educators. Be less lonely.

#exercise – more adventures outdoors with my Mr Humanities

#notice – notice those I love; stop noticing imperfections in my work

#learn – learn from others

#volunteer – go back to my conservation/environmental roots

How did it go?

Whilst work has remained stressful and work related anxiety has continued, 2015 has enabled my overall sense of happiness to improve and this has been evident in the classroom.

January and February was great, I really got on board with limiting how much time I spent working on weekends to ensure I had every other weekend off (except for the Sunday morning lesson planning). See how it went with the End of January Review.

However March and April didn’t run so smoothly, stress related stomach problems resulted in a hospital trip and a few days off sick. I was on the verge of leaving teaching by this point. But with some focus on myself, a re-focus on my #teacher5aday promises and an invigorating trip to #TMLondon helped me to get back on track and remember what I love about the job.

By the time summer came, my reflections showed a relatively positive journey. On return to school in September I tried to keep this in mind.

If I’m honest the period between October half term to February half term I find the hardest and the run-up to this year’s seasonal celebrations were no different. The one thing that changed however was the fact that I allowed myself to say no. When I was too tired to work in the evening, I stopped, I refused to do it and instead allowed myself to rest. None of us should have to work 6 days a week, 5 of which are 7:30am – 9pm; It’s too long and unsustainable as I’ve learnt. It has meant however that I’ve had to prioritise, planning first, deadlines second, marking if I have time.

Taking part in #teacher5aday this year has given me the confidence to say no, to see it’s okay to look after myself and a chance to connect with other educators across the country – removing the sense of loneliness.

I recently started the discussion on staff and student wellbeing in my school’s first Teaching and Learning newsletter.The same evening a fellow colleague sent me a lovely email in regard to staff wellbeing, it was really nice to be able to open up the pathway for such discussion.

I’m really pleased to have taken part and want others to get involved with wellbeing , it’s made such an impact to 2015. Although I didn’t stick to each promise everyday, just having a wellbeing focus helped me to look after me.

I’m excited for 2016 now, it’s goint to be the year I get out of my comfort zone. Eck!

Hope you have a great new year.


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#Teacher5aday Digital Skill Share

Originally posted on Staffrm

#Teacher5aday

How often do you take time to learn something for yourself? For fun?

This November the #teacher5aday emphasis will be on learning, therefore the digital skill share encourages you to learn something new for yourself for your own enjoyment.

How does it work? 

In simple terms you sign up to a skill in a digital format and in return offer a skill.

Sign up to share

Firstly we need people to offer their skills. Skills can be anything you think somebody else would want to learn for their own enjoyment, this can include anything from crafts to musical instruments, from a jam recipe to the use of computer software. In the ‘Skills you’d like to share’ column outline the what you’re offering, see the examples below.

Once you’ve decided on a skill you wish to share, decide upon your sharing format. We recommend a video or step by step instructions posted on blog or shared as word document; other formats are possible dependent on what works for you. #teacher5aday #digiskillshare

If you have a preferred date in November that you wish to share your skill, pop it in the ‘Date to Share’ column. Otherwise leave it to us, we’ll nominate a date for you to share the skill and send you a reminder.

You can offer as many skills as you wish, feel free to share one or share more.

Sign up to a Skill

To sign up to a skill simply take a look at the ones on offer. You can sign up to just the one or all of them. Take your pick. Simply add your name and twitter username to the ‘Sign up for this skill’ column.

#teacher5aday #digiskillshare

Sharing the skill

In order to share the skills, each skill will be given a date to share.

The skill sharer will then send a link out to all those that have signed up to the skill via twitter on the relevant date; this could be a link to a video, blog post or cloud storage.

If you think you might have problems sharing on the stated date, send the link in advance to @MrsHumanities and it’ll be shared on your behalf.

Where do I sign up?

Join the #teacher5aday #digiskillshare here goo.gl/wEvl5Y or scan the QR code below.

twitter post qr code