The tales of a young teacher - Don't believe everything you see
Isn't it funny how we sometimes forget that our students are people? You know instead of little monsters put on this earth to vex us. But it's true, students are people and as such the process of teaching them is a complex one, because let's be honest... when is working with other human beings ever easy and straightforward? That's a rhetorical question, just in case you were wrecking your brain trying to find an answer. When a student comes to class there's so much that we don't see and that we don't know. Did they eat that morning? Did they sleep well, are they cared for and loved? How is their living situation? Hundreds of questions that we don't ask ourselves because honestly, who has the time? What we see is a student who is putting of disinterested vibes by laying their head on the table and ignoring us, what we don't see is the fact that the same student was up all night listening to their parents argue.
So I think it's pretty safe to say that we should never make assumptions (you know the old addage right? Assuming makes an ass out of u and me) But then how do we find out all these things about our students? How do we get to the nitty gritty of their life? And more importantly, is this something teachers should even attempt? Personally I think it's not our job to know everything about our students, when you teach 7 classes of about 30 students it's impossible knowing every detail about each seperate student and still you know... be able to eat, sleep and breath. I do think that it's important that we always try to talk to our students from an inquisitive and understanding point of view. Don't snap at them, don't roll your eyes if they, for the millionth time, haven't done what you've asked. Have a conversation with them, sit down with them and talk about what's going wrong. This won't automatically fix any problems but it might give you some insights as to what is causing them and hopefully better your understanding of their actions. It will also give the student an idea of who you are as a person and about the things you value.
In short you should try to create an atmosphere of mutual respect wherein you don't treat your students from an authoritive position but treat them as actual valuable human beings. The time of the absolute teacher is over, students don't need yet another person talking down to them, they don't like it and they are no longer accepting it (nor should they). So try talking with your students and try to form a connection based on mutual respect. Your students will walk 500 miles and 500 more (10 points if you get the song reference) if they just feel like you appreciate them even when things aren't going that well.
Now that's a nice sermon right? And to be fair I believe every word of that, but putting it into practice? Not as easy as writing about it, that's for sure. Because knowing the story behind a student doesn't always make it easier to accept their behavior. Sometimes I still wanna scream at them to man the fuck up and behave like a person instead of a creature of satan. Yet.... it really doesn't get you anywhere. So like everything this process of understanding, of patience and of respect is a difficult and slow one. Yet I think the goal is clear: we should stop assuming the worst of our students. We should realise that when we look at a student we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg while there is so much more going on below the surface. We have to accept that we won't be able to 'fix' our students and we have to learn how to work with what we've got. And this is not something we will always accomplish. Sometimes we will screw up, we'll l react from our emotion and we'll treat our student in a way we might regret at a later time. Which is sad and frustrating but not unforgivable, we are only human after all, and as long as we keep reflecting upon our own actions and keep looking for ways to better ourself and our understanding of our students we should be alright.
The tales of a young teacher - An emotion-fuelled rant
Wednesday June 6th 2018
Today I have no new insights to share with you guys, no interesting literature to share, no webinar to review and no blog post to respond to. Today my blog will be filled with some old-fashioned whining and ranting. If that’s not your cup of tea, get out while you can because this may get ugly.
Let me paint you a word picture: It’s four o’clock on a sunny Wednesday afternoon at Wellantcollege Naarden, the hallways are deserted, the cleaners are already in the building, the bosses have gone, the students ran away as fast as their legs could carry them and a total of maybe 5 teachers roam in empty classrooms, working their ass of. They are all alone.
Sounds like the beginning of a bad horror movie, right? Unfortunately, it’s just a typical afternoon at my school, especially when the weather is as good as it has been in the past few days. Spring is here and with it the well-known end-of-the-year frustrations. This is the period where summer vacation is only 6 weeks away and everybody knows it. It’s a period of longing, of hoping but mostly a period of whining. So … much …. Whining……
Right around this time of year teachers believe to be busier than at any other moment of the schoolyear, which is ridiculous, because you’re not busier you’re just exhausted. This is actually the moment a lot of my colleagues have very little to do. Our fourth years have finished their exams which means that some of my colleagues are down to a blissful 6 hours of teaching a week! Meanwhile little-miss-idiot over here is teaching 33 hours a week (not including prep time, meetings, correction work and the like) because she has a pathological need to please others. Which I do, and therefor the amount of work really is my own choice and I don’t mind, it’s only six more weeks after all. But the incessant whining and sighing and groaning about the so-called ‘excessive’ workload is starting to piss me off. And when I’m pissed, I start ranting, never to the people who actually deserve to hear it (I do not do confrontations well) No, I rant to you guys and to my boyfriend (the poor thing) So thank you for being there for me in my time of need.
What bothers me most is that I have always known that teaching is not a nine to five job. It’s something you take home with you, something that requires a lot more than simply showing up and teaching your lessons. There’s of course all the preparation time, the correction work, the meetings and the classes. But there’s also school parties, graduation, class outings, excursions, sport events and so on. The end of the schoolyear is when most of these last ones coalesce, which means that it can be a very busy time. But this is something that you are aware of when you start teaching, and if you’re not, it’s certainly something you find out in your first year, so why the hell are there people who have been teaching for decades and who are still whining about this?! This is how it is people…. It’s the job, you can’t escape it, so accept it and bear it gracefully of get the hell out of dodge. But stop the incessant whining, for god sakes, these people are talking ME into early retirement with all the moaning and groaning, that’s how depressing it is.
I do have to be honest: I complain all the time. I will grouch about being tired, I will drone on about how my classes are a drag and I can’t find the energy to prepare them all properly. I will come in on Monday and I will ask whether it’s Friday already. I’m Dutch, complaining is in our blood, it’s how we show we care. What you will never find me do is complain about things like giving goodbye speeches to students at graduation (which is a hot topic for complaints with my colleagues right now) or complain about the fact that we have to go out to dinner with all the fourth years before they get their diplomas (which is really fun!) No, I have accepted these things and I have learned to embrace them. These activities and special days are what makes working at a school so fun! It’s a change of pace and it helps move the schoolyear along a bit.
So that was rant number one, let’s move on, shall we? Let’s talk about this new work ethic where teachers seem to think they can walk in at 8:25 AM and walk out at 03:30 PM. What’s up with that? Like, I get in at 7:45 AM and when I’m lucky I finish at 4:30 PM but usually it’s a little later. I need all the time I can get to get all my work done and usually I still end up taking it home with me. Yet other people drop everything the moment their last lesson has ended and then when they have to teach the next day they just put on Netflix and watch a movie “It’s almost summer after all” ……. I don’t want to generalize (I’m sure a couple of people have good reasons) but to me this attitude really sucks. If you’re sooooo busy, then how come you can leave early every day? If the workload is too much, then why aren’t you at school busting your ass every day from dawn to freaking dusk? It seems to me that someone, somewhere isn’t being entirely truthful. And you know, honestly, I don’t care. You wanna leave after your last class to go home and lie on the couch? I completely support you! You do you. But don’t come in the next day, half an hour after I’ve already started and whine about how busy you are. Because that will eventually end with me accidentally hitting you in the face …. With a chair …. Repeatedly. Or me dreaming about this a lot (again, Rianne and confrontation generally do not mix)
So that was the end of my rant. Honestly, I feel a lot better, it’s nice to just get it all off your chest sometimes. I do promise you that my post next week will be more academically inclined. And I will also post something on Friday, I haven’t for the past two weeks due to the fact that I started covering 6 additional classes and have been really busy trying to keep everything on track. But I have done some pretty fun things in the past couple of weeks that I would love to share with you guys so keep an eye out and thank you for bearing with me!
*This rant was brought to you by: a frustrated teacher. No feelings were meant to be hurt in the process*