Come at me 2017!
This year is going to see a lot of changes for me. I finished off 2016 at my old school – a low-socioeconomic public school. It was my first teaching job after graduating, and the one I came back to after my time in London. It meant going back to exactly what I knew, what I was used to, and what I was comfortable with. I needed to recenter after the tumultuous time in London, but now I’m ready for new challenges.
New year, new school!
It was a complex decision to move on, but an opportunity came up at a private school I’d been liking the look of for a while, so of course I had to take the chance. The interview went absolutely swimmingly, and I feel like a big part of that is my new-found professional self confidence. I was able to talk about my strengths and weaknesses with a real sense of understanding and purpose, and able to articulate exactly what I could offer the school. The interview panel obviously liked me, because they started talking about the processes of induction and what happens next. It was such a good feeling walking out of that interview room, but also nerve-wracking seeing other people waiting outside. But, needless to say, I was offered the position!
I was so happy, but also sad to be leaving my old school. I had a long serious talk with myself about the fact that I needed to take this opportunity to develop my teaching skills in a different setting. I have no experience with the private sector, and both the schools I’ve worked at were very similar in terms of the students I taught. I feel like I have a lot of practice at behaviour management, but because that was such a big part of my practice I haven’t had as much practice as I’d like at all the other aspects of this job. I know I will have those chances in a private school, where the behaviour management issues are a lot less significant. That, along with the uncertainty of my contract being extended in the public sector (an ever-real possibility, no matter how ‘good’ of a teacher you are), meant I was very excited to accept the opportunity!
So now I am two weeks away from beginning at the new school, and I’m getting very nervous. Starting at my old school was an absolute whirlwind of an experience – I got the call 2 days before staff went back, asking if I was available for work, and I didn’t even do a proper interview! I didn’t have time to be nervous or even really excited, I just had to go. Starting at the school in London was a whole different experience again because it was coupled with settling into life in a whole new country.
I’ve had a couple of months to mentally prepare for this change, and it’s a blessing as well as a curse. I’ve been thinking a lot about what the other teachers and the students might be like, about the fact that my workload is going to increase again (not an issue for me though), what extra-curricular activities I might want to be involved in. So many people have ‘warned’ me about all the differences between the public and private sectors, but I’m more curious about them than worried. I know full well that I’ll expected to be a lot more immersed in the school community, going to all the events, staying later for meetings, etc, but that’s no different to any other business really, so it doesn’t phase me.
Will I enjoy it?
The biggest thing I am worried about is whether or not I’ll enjoy it. As I said before, I’ve never experienced the private sector. I’ve been in the public sector my whole schooling and working life, and is has moulded my teaching persona to suit. I don’t know if the same persona will suit the private school students and their parents, and I don’t know how easily or ably I’ll adapt.
The expectations will be a lot higher, and that means accountability will be too. I already hate the levels we deal with in the public sector, so hopefully it won’t be too chafing this year. I have no problem working to high standards, I just hope they’re not too restricting and stressful.
I’m really used to dealing with the types of students I’ve had too. I really enjoy interacting with them on a daily basis, and can relate to their struggles and desires. We never had a huge amount of money growing up, and that brings a specific set of mind sets that I identify in a lot of my old kids. I know how to talk to them, how to lift their spirits, and how to get things moving. The students at the new school will have a completely different mind set, and it will be interesting to see how I go with it.
I’m sure I’ll like these new kids as much as my old ones, but it also means starting all over again as the newbie at the school, and that’s always hard. It will take time to build the relationships I’ve been enjoying, but I can use that time to really get to know them and know how I fit with them. Because I have a few more years teaching under my belt, I feel like I am much better able to tackle this challenge than when I first started!
I’m also not sure how they run their curriculum, so that will possibly be a big learning curve for me. I’ve had a pretty free reign over my teaching so far, so I’m hoping that isn’t taken away from me. I like working within a set framework, but having the freedom as to exactly how I teach the content. It allows me to diversify and adapt according to the students I have and how I’m feeling that week (sometimes all you want is chalk and talk, sometimes it’s enquiry all the way).
Call me old school, but I love the idea of a uniform. It saves so much time in the mornings, especially because I don’t have to agonise over whether or not my outfit is high school teacher appropriate and lets my non-work wardrobe be as free as I want it to be. It does mean more ironing though, and that’s never a good thing.
This new school has a staff uniform, and I’m really looking forward to it. If the kids have to wear a uniform, I have absolutely no problem doing it too. Makes things a little more equal and a little more professional (no more spaghetti straps or shortish shorts that have you questioning whether the teacher should really be wearing that).
Working in the private sector does mean slightly more pay, usually to go along with the higher expectations and longer work days. For the first time since I started teaching I actually feel like the pay I’ll be getting is in line with the work I’ll be doing.
It is true that if an employee feels appreciated, they put in greater effort. And what better way to feel appreciated than to be paid more! We’ll see if I still hold this same view once I actually start working there though, I may be unpleasantly surprised by the workload even though I feel very realistic about it at the moment.
As with any new year, I feel like I should be spending my remaining holiday time planning. I don’t know whether I’m happy or if it’s making me a bit more stressed out, but I don’t have a timetable yet. All teachers know that the timetable isn’t finalised until the end of the first or second week of term (if you think otherwise you’ve been extremely lucky!). I don’t understand why people get so up in arms about the draft timetables. I’ve seen some incredibly unprofessional behaviour over this, which I really don’t understand. We’re employed as teachers, and we can’t all possibly get exactly the classes and students we want. Stressing over it until it’s actually finalised and locked in is a pointless waste of energy.
I have a draft timetable from the new school, so I’ve collated my resources for those subjects. I have a hard drive with over 40 gigs of resources that I’ve collected and made over the past 3 years, so I’m really hoping it’s relevant and useful! As I don’t know what their curriculum is like it is really difficult to know if what I have is appropriate, but at least it’s a starting point. I’m hoping they have a good resource bank and helpful people within the department to set me off on the right track once I’m there and know for sure what my classes are.
I’m going to make more of an effort to get to know my students quickly this year. As I have a 12 month contract, I want to set us all off on the right foot from word go. I want to start building good rapports and relationships from the first lesson, so depending how they run things there I’m going to do a beginning of the year get to know you survey (see my next post for it!) and create a profile folder for each class. I want to have a little run down of each student written down in the folder so I can better plan and help them learn the curriculum. I’m a true believer that if you understand your students well you can deal with any issues that arise and, to the delight of admin, get better results from them based on their individual capabilities.
I am the type of person who really struggles with remembering names, so I’m aiming to get that down this year too. Having 420 odd students in London saw me just giving up all together with getting to know all their names, I’m just not that good with that particular skill. I learned many over the year, but not all of them. I’m going to be completely blunt with my students and tell them that I really won’t remember their names for months if they don’t help me. I think I’ll try asking them to say their name each time they want to speak in the first week, and greet them as they come in by telling me their name and having me repeat it back to them. It will be amusing and tedious for them, but it should help me out a lot. Having the profile sheets should help with that too – I’ll put a picture of each student with their sheet for easy reference.
As mentioned in previous posts, I’m planning to get stuck into the mindfulness this year. Once I’ve started working again (in only 2 weeks, ahhh!), I’ll be able to work out how to fit it properly into my personal life. Once that’s set and I’m more comfortable with the practice on my own, I’ll organise doing the training so that I can teach it to the students. Ideally I would work it into the school’s pastoral sessions, working with the at-risk students and the seniors who are stressing about their end-of-school exams. If that goes well, I’d like to extend it out to more students, even as an extra curricula activity if it can’t be worked into the curriculum.
I also have ideas to look into for a PhD in this area, but I know I’m at least a year, if not more, away from that yet. I need to be fully competent at mindfulness as a professional, not just as an interested practitioner, before I can contribute anything truly meaningful and worthwhile to the research in the area.
Overall I’m really looking forward to this change and the new challenges it will bring. As much as I’ll miss my old school and my old kids, I know I will have opportunities to further develop different aspects of my craft in this new paradigm. I should make me a more well-rounded teacher, and will show me whether I enjoy the private sector more than the public one.
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.