My university lecturers sure have a lot to answer for. I spent four years and thousands of dollars sitting in musty, drafty lecture theatres, frequently nodding off and wondering idly how many times one should use the word ‘notion’ during a 60 minute dictation about Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, only to discover that it was a giant waste of time. What about the real issues? Not once was I warned that I may have to ask a 12 year old child to hand me the chocolate biscuits that they’re eating noisily with their friends during a whole school assembly. Not once was I told that perhaps that child would stuff them all in their mouth, and then put them in my hand half chewed and wet. Not once was I told that I would then need to sit with those biscuits in my hand for the rest of the assembly because there was no bin nearby, crumbs caught between my fingers and saliva slowly seeping into my skin.
I don’t think any amount of university training can prepare you for being a teacher. I honestly believe that only about 30% of what I “learnt” at uni was useful. There was a whole lot of sitting around listening to lecturers banging on about stuff that I’ve never heard about or thought about since I burst out of that stuffy lecture theatre, eagerly anticipating my next tooth cleaning or lobotomy. In addition, the methods the lecturers used to teach us completely contradicted the methods that they told us we should be using when we became teachers. For example, making people sit down and listen to one person talking for two hours straight is not a good way to teach them. They were always telling us to make our lessons interactive, to involve all participants, to encourage different points of view, yet would do the complete opposite while trying to teach us. And to make matters worse, most of them hadn’t seen the inside of a classroom since Piaget sat them down in person and subjected them to the M&M test.
They certainly never told me about all the other crap that I’d end up having to deal with every day. The politics. The lack of resources. The completely different ways that each school operates, even though in theory they exist to achieve the same basic goals. Difficult parents. Late lunch orders. Chasing a feral cat off school property so that the kids will stop running after it at lunch time. Repairing broken hurdles because the school can’t afford to buy new ones. Constantly asking kids to be quiet and to sit down, to the point where I hate the sound of my own crabby voice. Spending countless hours worrying about other people’s children. The list goes on.
I have to say, I’m not entirely sure why I’m even writing about this, since all I’m really doing is making myself miserable. Some of it has probably got a lot to do with the fact that I’ve just had two weeks holidays, and went back to school today. And when you have a break from your job, after the initial euphoria of the first few days of freedom, you often go through a period of reflection in which you evaluate what has just passed. Or I do anyway. The first day back is tricky too, since my body clock is still tuned to ‘freedom’ and not ‘sparrow’s fart’ (early morning, ie. when the first sparrow awakes and releases any night time buildup). I also think that some of it might be because this is only my third year out of uni, and that after teaching for two years in a school where I had a lot of freedom to do as I pleased (covering all the required curriculum of course) I find myself a lot more constrained at my new school.
Maybe I’m just being a big sook. In fact, it’s highly likely. And despite what you may think, I do actually love my job. Not the extra crap that goes with it, but I do love it when you’ve been plugging away at a topic in class, and that one kid who is a bit behind the others finally looks at you in wonder and says “oh yeah…I get it now!”. I think my most treasured moments too come with the more ‘difficult’ kids, the ones you’ve really got to work to win over. There’s a real sense of accomplishment that comes when this kid who has spent weeks throwing all kinds of obstacles at you (figuratively speaking guys) finally decides that you may be alright after all, and you’re not there to make things harder for them, but that you want to help them achieve their best. It’s a nice feeling.
Anyway. I think this is the most self-indulgent I’ve ever been here at It All Started, and I feel that it’s time to stop swimming in my own self-pity before my fingers get all pruny! I was so busy drowning (in) my sorrows that I couldn’t find a suitably relevant track in my music collection, so instead I’m leaving you with a track that I came across the other day at Music For Kids Who Can’t Read Good. It’s by David Vandervelde, it has a lovely melody, cruisy vocals and is the perfect antidote to all my nonsense. Enjoy!