That’s right. I’ve been back at work a week and I’m counting down the weeks until the summer holidays already! In fact, I’m actually only counting down the days until our next day off (only 13 more school days until we get a Monday holiday, then it’s only another 24 school days until we get a week off in October). I know teachers get a lot of holidays, but believe me, we need them!
My first week back at work was far from plain sailing. Actually, it was pretty bloody awful. Quite aside from the fact that I had to wake Toby up two hours earlier than normal, leave him at nursery for nine and a half hours a day and only see him for an hour before it’s bedtime, work itself has not been an enjoyable experience.[I apologise now but the rest of this post is a bit of a rant and a moan…thanks if you decide to keep reading, I just need to get it off my chest!]
To start with, I only got the job in the middle of the summer holidays so until in-service day last Monday the only time I had been in the school was for my interview. I didn’t know my timetable or what classes I would be getting, I hadn’t seen my classroom, I didn’t know who I would be working with or any of the school policies or procedures. What I also found out on the first day was that I was replacing a teacher who had been suspended under a cloud of scandal three weeks before the end of last term. What that meant was that her classes hadn’t been taught for the last three weeks (and in Scotland that is important, in secondary school the timetable changes in June and everyone moves up a year so the last few weeks of term are the start of new classes). There was no handover about where the pupils were up to or what to expect from each class as I would expect when starting at a new school. It also meant the classroom I moved into was in a state of disarray – it seemed the teacher I replaced just shoved all her paperwork, resources, even dirty dishes and rubbish, under the desk! It was so bad I couldn’t get my feet under the desk to sit at it.
And so, on Tuesday I had to face my first classes with very little clue as to what I was doing. No-one had really had time on the in-service day to explain the school’s discipline policy so when I had to deal with poor behaviour (and unfortunately there was a lot of it) I didn’t know what options I had available to me. Every school has different ways of dealing with bad behaviour – issuing ‘punishment exercises’ (lines to you and me) is common in Scotland but this school doesn’t have them. They do use detentions but in my experience in the last week the kids aren’t really bothered if they get a detention, it’s only 10 minutes of their break time anyway.
As a new teacher I would always expect the kids to push me a bit to say what they can get away with but some of the classes I had to attempt to teach last week were horrendous – kids refusing to stop talking, constantly shouting out, not following instructions, not doing anything they’d been asked to do, ignoring warnings and punishments…. and I didn’t feel like I had any support to deal with them. On Wednesday night I came home and burst into tears because it had been so horrible.
I like being a teacher, I really do. And I know that managing the kids’ behaviour is part and parcel of that but there is a limit to just how much rude and disruptive behaviour I can cope with. After four years of teaching in some very deprived areas I am used to poor behaviour often from kids with lots of issues who get no support or structure at home, but even so I was astounded at just how bad some of the behaviour I saw last week was. And, even more so since I’ve had Toby, I just don’t want the stress of spending most of my day in a state of conflict with pupils who have no interest in learning a modern language, or even any interest in being in school at all.
I will admit that my week did improve slightly on Thursday and Friday and it turns out I do actually have a few nice classes. I’ve found out a bit more about the school discipline policy and so feel slightly better equipped to deal with poor behaviour. The other two languages teachers are nice and have been doing their best to help me. And I’ve managed to clear up the desk (to a degree) and can now at least get my legs underneath it!
So, things are already looking a bit better than they were last week. There’s still a long way to go before I’m really settled in but I’m not despairing quite as much as I was. And at the very worst, it’s only 44 weeks (and counting) until the summer holidays!