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Saturday, 22 April 2017

#TeamEnglish







As an NQT, I have had plenty of dark days whilst I try to figure my way through the maze and hurdles of teaching. I have had terrible months where for days on end I have not left work earlier than 12 hours after I arrived there; where I have been called a "bitch" by angry teenagers just for doing my job; where I have felt confused and inadequate and the very opposite of an 'expert' in my field; where despite all this, HMRC has overtaxed me, meaning that I can't afford my rent. There have been plenty - and I mean PLENTY - of days where I have cried and called family members and shouted at my partner that it is just too hard, there is just too much to do, they don't listen, it's not possible. I have felt the green eyed monster of jealousy for my friends who clock off work at 5pm and their evenings are entirely theirs. I have felt rage at pals who have managed to organise group holidays for bargain prices - outside of school holidays. I have felt a lot of anger indeed at Mr Tax Man, who has managed to over charge me on 3 separate occasions now since September (Stop taking my goddamn money already). I have never yet got to the bottom of a to-do list.

I have felt like giving in and giving up more times than I can count.

When I have been drained of all energy from flu, and still I have been sat in bed, sweating, sneezing, desperately trying to create cover work for the five lessons I am missing that day, I have thought: "Well, Chloe. You are a bloody idiot to choose this as your career." What a stupid, idiotic, unfair career to choose, where you have to produce work to be delivered while you are too ill to work...? I've felt incredible jealousy for those able to casually take a day off work whenever they choose to...for shopping, or a wedding, or because they need a mental health day. Did you know, fellow teachers, that other people in the big wide world can do that?! I am already too indoctrinated into the teaching fold - this concept blows my mind.

There are so many reasons to give up on this career. I feel overworked, underpaid, frustrated and most of all, tired. And I'm only in my first proper year. The stats and panic-stricken headlines stating that teachers are quite literally sprinting in opposite directions, getting as far as they physically can away from this career as quickly as they can do, do not surprise me in the slightest. In fact, I see their point. Some of the recent changes in the education system - with budget cuts and on my particularly bad days the entirety of the new GCSE syllabus top of the list - seem like utter madness. It's easy to get yourself cross over it all.









Amongst this rather strong storm cloud of negativity, I have realised that the only way teachers do survive, is through each other. The times I have had a terrible lesson, where I've felt like a failure, like an idiot, like I've totally lost control, seem so much less monstrous over a cup of tea in the staff room. Where at the start of my NQT year I felt ashamed to admit my failures, my failings, still desperate to impress and succeed, I now understand that sarcasm and a self-deprecating comment actually diminish those feelings of incompetence. Other teachers - wonderful, smart, kind, helpful, caring human beings that they are - will 9.9999 times out of 10 (I'm not a Maths teacher...) pull up a chair and a brew and commiserate with you. Even those I admire and aspire to be the most, have had lessons that have not gone as they planned. And that makes me feel human, and normal, when mine don't go right either.

The other brilliant thing about teachers is that there's so many of us. And that we exist all over the country, in all different environments, with all different perspectives. And that - slap me and call me silly - we can all communicate in the fantastic space of the internet.

In one particularly dark end-of-term patch I decided to venture a little further than TES for inspiration for my last few lessons (I am too poor to afford £5 a pop lesson plans). I was grinding to a halt. My marking pile was overwhelming. All I wanted was sleep.

I took to social media. The hope and the help that I found there has been beyond revolutionary.




The first venture was this Facebook group all about the new GCSE English Language paper (AQA), which I discovered after a fellow teacher shared a post on his wall. Not only was this full of teachers discussing the pros and cons of their experiences, but it was also full of amazingly helpful resources. As an NQT, the new GCSE is a source of great terror to me (not that it isn't for everyone else) - I really desperately do not want to mess it up (I'm still trying to keep this blog PC - give me a few more months and the swears will surface). The pressure I feel that my students' futures depend on my abilities to convey to them the requirements of this exam TERRIFY me. I genuinely feel that I would bomb the new GCSE if asked to take it now...yet I need to help them access it, understand it, succeed at it. The requirements make me, as a supposed "expert" (loosely, loosely used term) in this field, feel stupid. So I empathise massively with my 15-year-old students for kicking off and tuning out when our Language lessons roll around fortnightly.

However, this Facebook group is helping me through the fog of my own insecurities. Here were living breathing real-life teachers using these fantastic resources, and they were working. They were even sharing their own resources. For free! Their resources were excellent. I downloaded them; they made sense to me. They helped me understand. I trialled them on my students...they understood too.

Revolutionary.

My favourite resources have to be the Alphabet of Awesome Adjectives - which I am planning on building into starters with my KS3 classes and/or potentially using as display materials - its videos, and its collation of links to other blogs with amazing content and resources. It linked me to this fab resource by Mr Hanson using the Goblet of Fire to teach Paper 1 Structure. The new GCSE often has my students fidgeting and misbehaving due to sheer disinterest, but it is resources like this that give me ideas to help bring this paper and this question alive. When overwhelmed and overtired it can be hard to think of innovative ideas to open up our students and their capabilities - but resources like this help me to help them do that. The Facebook group also features loads of walk-through practice papers which helps to add variety to my students' tasks - particularly by using texts that they find relevant/interesting/enjoyable.

One of my placements during PGCE I was lucky enough to spend at a special school, and I became very used to using Twinkl for resources. Always beautifully made with great fonts and images, it was only recently that I discovered that they offered a secondary school provision. Although you do have to pay to access a lot of these resources, it was still a revelation to me that they provided resources for older students. They even have a KS5 section. Good in particular for SPAG and would definitely be worth it if your school paid for a departmental membership.

By far the most useful tool to me, however, has been the most unlikely. Twitter.

I have been a casual Twitter user for years, but it wasn't until someone in my department said that they'd found some great Language paper resources there that it occured to me to check it out for teaching resources. The gold mine I have found has been unbelievable and I'm hoping to discuss how truly valuable it has been in an upcoming department meeting in order to encourage others to venture in the same direction. The range of resources and the volume of responses to queries is just fantastic. The hashtag #TeamEnglish and the Twitter handle @Team_English1 in particular are now daily haunts of mine. Links to interesting blogs, informed discussion, prevalent issues and sharing of creative, inspiring content are all to be found there. At a time when I was feeling burnt out and demoralised it has provided me with a new way of looking at teaching, a community to be immersed and supported in, and new ideas where mine had dried up. I honestly cannot stress how overwhelmingly useful it is, and will no doubt continue to be. To have a 24/7 sounding board for ideas and projects is helpful no matter how long you have been teaching.

Not only have I been linked to fab downloads (and huge banks of resources at that - whole dropbox boxes and SOW's), but I have through Twitter discovered Mr Bruff's Youtube videos, unbelievable media packs with posters that should cost big bucks if sourced through any other avenue, and creative ways of approaching content from those who are working on the front line of teaching daily. They are resources I trust. They are resources that improve my teaching. They are resources that encourage me to create more myself in order to give back.

So for all of those creators, commenters, hashtaggers and sharers: thank you. At a time when I was seriously doubting some of my choices, you have been the caring, smart, brilliant inspiration I needed. Please keep up your fabulous work.





x.







Psst, don't forget to follow me on Twitter too. I retweet resources almost daily and am always open to engaging in discussions.










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