This is the first part of my Reflection Series – a self-reflection of my year teaching in the UK.
What are some things you accomplished this year that you are proud of?
The thing I am most proud of, but also a little ashamed of, is the fact that I stuck it out and did not quit. You may think it’s a little silly for me to be ashamed of that, but I will always wonder if I could have enjoyed my time here a little more, had a little less stress, if I had done something different.
Finding my voice
That negativity aside, I am proud of the fact that I found my voice within the department. Up until now I had almost always held my tongue at meetings, and when people came up with new things for us to do. I was told at my previous school to ‘not rock the boat’ by ‘being that teacher’, but I have learnt that sometimes it is necessary.
It took me a long time to be confident enough to voice my opinions in meetings. It came about quite simply though, and now seems a bit silly. I would go to my colleagues after meetings, and even my head of department or the person who ran the meeting, with my opinions and ideas. Even if my opinion or idea was a bad one, I was always met with kindness and encouragement by those I spoke to. I soon realised that my voice was appreciated, and started to slowly speak up during the meetings instead of after them. This quickly snowballed into speaking during every meeting (but only when I actually had something to say, I don’t speak just for the hell of it!).
I realised that I have a very logical way of thinking about things, and am very good at solving organisational problems. My thoughts seemed obvious to me, hence why I never used to share them, but apparently I have a slightly different way of thinking about things to some other people. Once this realisation hit home, and I became more confident with sharing my solutions with my colleagues, I was soon the go-to person for solving such problems. This expanded to the departmental-level, and I am excited to see it expand further once I find my place back in Australia. It is something I have discovered I am good at, and very much enjoy doing!
Standing up for my ideas
Alongside this I am becoming more confident at standing up for my ideas and opinions. I have worked with some very confrontational people, and through these experiences I have learnt how to deal with professional conflict and how to defend my position without being unprofessional. This is definitely something I am proud of—I hate confrontation, I hate unprofessionalism, and I am naturally a shy person. Being able to stand up for myself is a big learning curve, one I hope to be able to pass on to my future students!
The last thing I am very proud of is my new-found ability to step up to a leadership role when others couldn’t or wouldn’t. We had a member of staff leave, which meant that there was no longer a dedicated KS3 coordinator. I immediately stepped up to the job as soon as I realised someone needed to do it, taking responsibilities off our already over-worked head of department. I learned more in my short time in this leadership role than I possibly could have on a training course, but it has also highlighted my desire to take such courses to become a good leader, maybe even one day a great one.
Dealing with extremely strict, ever-changing deadlines, challenging students and staff, an influx of new ‘must be done immediately’ end-of-year tasks, and still teaching my full load of students in a system I am not fully comfortable with was such a good experience for me. I am aware now of my leadership strengths and areas that need improvement, and it has fuelled a fire within me to work my way up to a leadership position back in Australia. I know that I still have work to do (saying you are perfect at teaching is a sure sign you’re not doing the job right), but I know what work needs to be done and how to do it in order to better myself as a teacher and an aspiring leader.
About the Author:
Emily is a secondary science and math teacher in Australia. She enjoys blogging about her experiences, facilitating the ‘light bulb’ moment in her students, and drinking tea and wine. Emily is currently on maternity leave with her first child. You can read more teaching articles from Emily here, or about her life as a new mum over at Actual Mums.