Once more unto the breach, dear friends…

So here we are, about to start another school year. Much like the 31st December, I always see it as a time for reflection on the last year and to think about where we want to go in the following year. I’ve read a few blogs recently where teachers have talked about their plans for the year ahead and thought I’d consolidate my own ideas in a blog post, which in a year’s time, I can re-read and weep at how badly I have failed at…

It’s alright to enjoy your job.
One thing I have learned over the last year, particularly through the medium of Twitter is that there are actually people who love teaching out there. In fact there are hundreds of them. Over the past couple of years it has seemingly become the norm to think that teaching is the worst job ever – and this seems to mostly come from teachers themselves. It is almost as if the constant bashing from Gove created a self-fulfilling prophecy where teachers decided that they weren’t good enough and therefore felt the need to express their hatred for their profession at every opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, there are numerous negatives in the current climate, the perpetual need for data, the losing sight of a child as an individual as they increasingly become a percentage point on graphs and in tables, the constant pace of change that piles ever more tasks on to an average teacher’s workload. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like, indeed love, my job; there is nothing better than spending the day with young minds with children that can entertain and frustrate in equal measure and I shouldn’t have to mumble so behind my hand. 

Of course things do need to change, the rising teacher shortage is testament to the problems facing teachers, but day to day in the classroom, I do love my job and I know I’m not the only one. 

The Guardian Education tweeted the other day ‘How will you beat the back to school Blues?’ It was enlightening to see several teachers tweeting back that they were actually really looking forward to going back because, believe it or not, they enjoyed their jobs, with many quite annoyed at the assumption that they would be crying into their cornflakes. 

Perhaps I’m just lucky that I’ve found a job that suits me. But believe me, there are many many people out there, who are blogging, tweeting and sharing ideas who really do enjoy what they are doing and who have spent much of their holiday creating wonderful lessons and resources ready for the next year. Indeed, I am astounded by the stamina of some people who appear to have been working every day of the holidays. And yes, I am someone who has spent a lot of the holiday working on bits, but I won’t apologise and I will tell you why. 

I came to teaching later in life, although I had worked as a Teaching Assistant for many years before. Previously, I had had many incredibly boring jobs, with the average four weeks holiday a year and felt like my mind had been numbed. This also explains why I get a little annoyed at people who think that it is their God-given right to have every second of that 6 week holiday off, but that’s probably me being a bit petty. The point is that teaching stimulates the mind, there’s always things to be researching, reading up on and getting your head round – and that’s a good thing. 

Teaching is a profession, it is ever-changing and we need to keep up-to-date with new research, new initiatives and our own subject knowledge. That’s what being a professional is, if we went to the hospital and our doctor had no idea of new medical research and ideas, we would be concerned. Surely we are no different? Perhaps that is partly why CPD can be so prescribed; some teacher’s are not doing it for themselves. So I made it my mission last year to catch up a bit and get more involved in what was out there. There are some amazing books, research, blogs and generally people out there, that we can and should learn things from. Plus, I’ve really enjoyed sharing ideas, trialling initiatives in my own classroom and becoming becoming better in my own teaching. 

So I shall carry on, particularly as it is becoming increasingly obvious to me that we need to learn from each other, we should be sharing ideas and resources not only amongst our immediate colleagues, but across the country. The minute that we see ourselves as not needing to change, is the minute that it all goes wrong so we should be constantly striving to be better, because we are professionals and because we enjoy what we do. I also won’t apologise for sharing what I find; if it helps/enthuses one person, then it is a job well done. 

So what will I do…
With all that in mind, I will be working on the idea of challenge that I have already blogged about. I have some brilliant growth mind set displays that I have stolen from others and I shall be continuing to look for and trial new ideas and strategies. 

I used DIRT last year when marking, and will continue to work on this as a strategy to encourage challenge in the classroom. I’m also going to trial various ideas in an attempt to streamline marking and to make it a quicker process, whilst providing clear and effective feedback. 

Lastly, one of the really important things I want to do this year is to expand my subject knowledge. Like many English teachers I have spoken to, I have spent much of the summer reading the new GCSE specs and getting my head round the new texts. I’m a great believer that in order to teach a text, you have to really study it yourself in order to be more of an expert than the students. Having said that, there is nothing better than students coming up with their own ideas and opinions, but you do need to be one step ahead. I would also feel incredibly uncomfortable not having made sure that I had a proper understanding of the objectives of the course I was teaching, and what was expected and therefore what I expected of the students. 

There is also a real need in the new GCSE for a good knowledge of a wide range of texts. So this year I want to read more, I want to read lots of texts from the 19th century both fiction and non-fiction and the same for the 20th and 21st century, although more non fiction from the modern eras. My subject knowledge is good, but it can be even better and is actually an essential skill to have for teaching the new GCSE. I need to have an understanding of a wide range of literature in order to teach students the skills so they become confident in analysing a range of texts. 

I also want to read more children’s literature, I started to do this last year, but want to read more, particularly for the school’s accelerated reader programme so I am able to recommend good literature to students. 

I’d quite like to take some students to see some good theatre this year, but that’s another story…
So, basically I won’t apologise for working and enjoying it, and I want to challenge students so I can mark less and therefore read more. Easy!

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