“You call it grey hair… I call it stress highlights!”

In the run up to my wedding last year I found my first grey hair, and was filled with many feelings – mainly of the ‘Oh no! I’m so old’ variety. Of course, I am actually only 27 and, despite the thoughts of some children in my class, I am not old. This academic year, though, has seen even more of these grey blighters popping up all over my head. Although this year has been stressful beyond compare, and even beyond what I had imagined, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on some of the highlights of my NQT year so far, with only 58 school days left before the summer holidays.

 

1) I survived my first residential!

Despite sleeping very little, and cooking for 64 fussy 21st Century eaters, I had the most amazing time away with the lovely Year 3 and 4 children: exploring Birdoswald and Hadrian’s Wall; playing Hide and Seek in the dark; and dressing up as a Roman soldier. Another plus for this trip was spending time with colleagues in a less formal setting, allowing friendships to form.

 

2) “I think Sweden has the largest population because it has less mountains and lakes than Norway and Finland.”

This is just one example of a repeating highlight which makes the days brighter: when a child understands what you wanted them to understand. In this instance, we had spent the afternoon looking at physical features of Scandinavian countries. We started solely with maps, thinking about what we would see if we were stood on certain points of the map. We then moved on to pictures, with the children making educated guesses about where each photo was taken. The children seemed on the ball and interested, so I threw them a curveball: “Which country do you think has the largest population, and why?” And they blew me away with their answers – one of which is the above quote. On days like that, it’s easy to be a teacher.

 

3) My first class assembly – WOW!

There are no words, just pride and joy. My children did themselves proud, and me proud, especially when they sang Goodall’s The Lord is my Shepherd so beautifully.

 

The truth is I have been blessed with a lovely class, supportive managers, and hilarious colleagues. Every time the job gets hard, there is yet another moment which reminds me why I’m doing this job: children come to me with their triumphs and tribulations; someone tells me I’ve done a good job; a child suddenly grasps a tricky concept; all of it, so worthwhile. So, you may call them grey hairs, but to me they’re stress highlights. Highlights in a stressful year, but highlights none the same. And I will cherish them.

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“Tell me, what is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

This beautiful line, taken from a poem on today’s Daily Post, is the pressing question in my life; the theme over the last 18 months, haunting me in the triumphs and failures of both my final year at university, and my NQT year so far.

 

At first, it was so important to answer because I fell into the belief that God has one single plan and final destination for my life, and that I needed to make sure I made the ‘right’ decisions so as not to put off this plan. This led to me deciding early on that I wasn’t going to do my NQT year, as I knew I didn’t want a career in classroom teaching. But… then my questioning mind started to wonder, “What if…?”

 

What if… I am just running scared?

What if… I am wasting my training and investment of time?

What if… I am meant to be a teacher?

What if… I have heard God wrong?

 

Out of curiosity, I visited the Local Authority’s Teaching Vacancy page, and saw an advert for a school that I had driven past many times, but knew very little about. So, I went to look around, after much persuasion from my dad. And I loved it. So, I applied and waited, and was invited to my first teaching interview. I was terrified, even more so after the interview when I thought I had put in the worst possible performance. I left the school, deflated, and cried all the way home, knowing that I’d be absolutely devastated to receive that disappointing call later on that day. It was only once I thought I’d messed it up, that I realised how much I wanted the job. After a stressful afternoon, I was offered a position teaching Year 4. I couldn’t believe it!! Once again, my questioning mind started to wonder…

 

What if… I was just running scared?

What if… I was to invest my own learning in children?

What if… I was meant to be a teacher?

What if… I had heard God wrong?

 

I realised then, probably not for the final time, that there is a possibility that God has a plan that includes flexibility and deviation from the original route. I remembered then, that God promises his people a plan for prosperity and hope, and not for harm. So, you may be thinking, why have I continued to question what my plans are for this wild and precious life?

 

Because teaching is hard. Because I have never done anything, in my whole life, that is so all-consuming and exhausting. Of course, it is not even that simple; nothing ever is. The truth is: I love my class; I love the variety; I love my workplace; I feel supported; I LOVE teaching. Yet, this is not everything to me. This may be dangerous to admit, but I have dreams outside the classroom. I have dreamed for 5 years of teaching in Sierra Leone; I have dreamed for 7 years of writing a book (though the subject often changes); I have dreamed for 3 years of studying a Masters at Harvard University. Yet more recently, I have dreamed of reading for a Masters in Global Development and Education, at Leeds University. And this, this is what has caused me to question what I will do with my life. The few people I have talked to about the programme in Leeds have all asked, why? What would you do with it? To be honest, I don’t know. I really do not know what I want to do, not even in the slightest. Right now, I want to teach. I want to invest everything I can in the children in my life, so that they may grow up to have questioning minds. I do not know what the future holds, and it unnerves me… because I no longer even know what I want my life to look like ‘when I grow up’.

 

Life is precious. We get one shot at living it… and I don’t want to waste one moment. That is why the question has been, and will continue to be, so pressing. But right now, in this moment, I know I need to focus on giving my children all they need, and all they deserve.

Teacher’s Pet

Normally I don’t feel all that inspired by The Daily Post’s prompt for the day, but yesterday’s really struck a chord with me, as an educator. Of course, I’ve known for a long time that a teacher has a larger impact than just imparting knowledge. I’m not sure I knew the influence some teachers were having on me at the time, but on reflection I can see very clearly now. Throughout my training I aimed to become more and more like some of my former teachers, whilst becoming less and less like others.

 

I have 2 favourite teachers… Mrs Sneddon and Miss Wilson. They were so different, but yet so similar.

 

Miss Wilson was my teacher for 2 years at a British Services School in Germany. She reigned with a fearful reputation, and I remember waiting to be told whose class I would be in that September… and internally wishing ‘please not Miss Wilson’ over and over again. I’m not sure why, after all she had never taught me before. I’m almost certain, though my memory is foggy, that she had, in fact, never spoken to me before, either. Neither of these things mattered, though, as her reputation as a mean and strict teacher went before her. Except, she wasn’t mean; she was fair. She wasn’t strict; she had boundaries. She was an exceptionally talented teacher; one who made me work the hardest I had ever worked before… and probably since. I adored being in her class, and I like to think she enjoyed having me. Imagine my delight when she stayed with my class for Year 4! I can only remember a few actual topics, but I do remember that it was in her class that I learned to write with legible cursive handwriting. I learned to spell, and I fell back in love with reading. She nurtured me as an individual, and took an interest in my life after we moved away, back to the UK. All in all, she was just fabulous. I wonder now where she is, whether she is still teaching, and if she remembers me.

 

Mrs Sneddon was not really an actual teacher to me – I think she maybe taught me a PE lesson once upon a time. She was, however, an incredible influence in my life. Firstly, she was my housemistress when I was an unruly teenager who didn’t want to do their homework. Secondly, she introduced me to sailing – my opportunity to both enjoy and achieve something outside of normal academic life. What an enormous boost to my self-esteem, and my emotional wellbeing! Mrs Sneddon was always there, cheering me on, even when I didn’t want it; even when I messed up and made her working life very difficult; even when I left her care and school and went elsewhere. Amazingly, I was able to invite Mrs S and her husband Mike (who helped teach me how to sail) to my wedding in the summer, where I got to tell her of my First Class Hons degree and my impending NQT year. I finally felt like she could be proud of me… but she encapsulated a truly excellent teacher and mentor when she said ‘I’ve always been proud. I’ve always known you could do it’.

 

Two exceptional teachers; two different periods of my life. I hope that in my teaching I can inspire and nurture my children in the same way Miss Wilson and Mrs Sneddon did for me.

Who I am and why I’m here: Redefining my blog

A recent conversation with my husband about finding enjoyment whilst getting through my NQT year left me with a question: what is it that I miss most from my pre-teaching life? The answer: writing. The solution? Get on with my blog this year. So, I have joined Blogging 101 on here, to encourage me throughout the year, whilst providing a variety of writing assignments that will, hopefully, make me a better writer at the same time. My first assignment: to write and publish a ‘who I am and why I’m here’ post.

It is 2015. I am a newly qualified primary school teacher in a large school in the North West of England; I am a wife; I am a homeowner; I am a Christian. Life has its challenges, as it does for everyone, but it also has its blessings, which I am grateful for. Outside of writing, I enjoy cooking, reading and singing. I do not enjoy marking, or housework. I also dislike inequality and injustice. I am still interested in academics and research, but I’m also interested in the day-to-day intricacies of teaching in a modern British school. I’m becoming interested in how my dislike for inequality and injustice fit into those intricacies.

 

Originally, this was a blog set up as part of a module in my final year at university. It was a way of engaging with educational topics, whilst also allowing space to continue any internal dialogue or debate from lectures and tutorials. At the time, I was a final year trainee teacher with more of an interest in academics and research. Now is the time to reflect on what I’ve achieved so far, and where I’m going now. Since I started my blog, I have been genuinely surprised and encouraged each time someone has left me a comment, or even just visited my site. It is hard to choose a particular highlight, but finding that a very personal post about bullying has had 127 views is encouraging. What I would like to achieve this year, is more views from a wider audience. I would like to reach other professionals, student teachers, and academics. I would like to become part of an online community of educationalists; to learn more; to read more; to know more. I would like to encourage just one fellow NQT, or to spark an interest in one person somewhere in the world.

I am writing publicly for two reasons: I hope my ramblings will entertain, amuse or inform someone; and by writing publicly I am making myself accountable to others, to get better and to keep at it. If I do keep this up for the rest of this year, my hope is that I will have more friends with similar interests to mine; that I will have a better understanding of social justice and education; that I will be a better writer, and a better teacher.

New Year’s Resolution

It is that time of year; that moment when people across the world resolve to do things differently in the new year. It got me thinking: does anyone actually hold to these resolutions? If not, why not? Are our aspirations for the year ahead just too hard to achieve in reality? Or do we just give up once we go back to work and things get us down? I’m not sure I believe in ‘Blue Monday’ (see previous link), and I have certainly never achieved a new year’s resolution. This year, though, I am determined. I am determined to intertwine my intricate life of faith and failure with my all-consuming life as a teacher; I am determined to be purposeful in my resolution, by making my resolution about who I am now… and who I want to be throughout 2015.

 

“Fear less, trust more; take less, give more; whine less, thank more; talk less, say more; hate less, love more.”

 

I purposefully resolve to do the above, to be the above, in 2015. I recognise now that there will be times when I fail. I am certain that I will whine at least once even within the first week back. But this is where I must remember that this year is the year I interlace my faith in God with my job: where my faith saves the day once more. Why? Because God is in the business of endless forgiveness and umpteen second chances; He works in me to make good changes, to make me more like Him; He gives to me, and loves me endlessly.

 

Of course, this might be a little controversial. I am a teacher in a state-funded primary school. I am also a Bible believing, Jesus loving Christian. But I am convinced that this can work – my all-consuming life as a teacher, and my all-consuming faith. And that is the first hurdle, to give God room to make my faith all-consuming.

 

This week, I will look at each part of my resolution, in an attempt to show how each makes me a better teacher, and a better me.

The Calling – Roger Fields

The last two weeks have been tough… really tough. But tonight at church a friend came over with this for me. It floored me, and then gave me strength.

 

I am a minister. I minister to the largest mission field in the world. I minister to children.

My calling is sure. My challenge is big. My vision is clear. My desire is strong. My influence is eternal. My impact is critical. My values are solid. My faith is tough. My mission is urgent. My purpose is unmistakable. My direction is forward. My heart is genuine. My strength is supernatural. My reward is promised. And my God is real.

In a world of cynicism, I offer hope. In a world of confusion, I offer truth. In a world of immorality, I offer values. In a world of neglect, I offer attention. In a world of abuse, I offer safety. In a world of ridicule, I offer affirmation. In a world of division, I offer reconciliation. In a world of bitterness, I offer forgiveness. In a world of sin, I offer salvation. In a world of hate, I offer God’s love.

I refuse to be dismayed, disengaged, disgruntled, discouraged or distracted. Neither will I look back, stand back, fall back, go back or sit back. I do not need applause, flattery, adulation, prestige, stature or veneration. I do not have time for business as usual, mediocre standards, small thinking, outdated methods, normal expectations, average results, ordinary ideas, petty disputes or low vision. I will not give up, give in, bail out, lie down, turn over, quit or surrender.

I will pray when things look bad. I will pray when things look good. I will move forward when others stand still. I will trust God when obstacles arise. I will work when the task is overwhelming. I will get up when I fall down.

My calling is to reach boys and girls for God. It is too serious to be taken lightly, too urgent to be postponed, too vital to be ignored, too relevant to be overlooked, too significant to be trivialized, too eternal to be fleeting and too passionate to be quenched.

I know my mission. I know my challenge. I also know my limitations, my weaknesses, my fears and my problems. And I know my God. Let others get the praise. Let the church get the blessing. Let God get the glory.

I am a minister. I minister to children. This is who I am. This is what I do.

 

 

A Teacher’s Angel

My TA (Teacher’s Angel) is just wonderful. And here’s why…

1) She makes amazing cups of tea.

2) She knows the school and the staff and all their quirks.

3) She knows the children and their families and their stories.

4) She gives good hugs.

5) She has many years experience and has gleaned the most wonderful collection of activities and games that we can use together to impact our children and their learning.

6) She does any jobs I give to her.

7) She works with any group, and has a fantastic instinct for what children need to help them on to that next step.

8) She includes me in her thoughts for the lessons she is planning/teaching when I am on PPA.

9) She supports me and backs me unequivocally.

10) She has an amazing sense of humour, allowing us to bounce off each other in lessons.

 

So, all in all, she is wonderful. All of these things help me to be a better teacher, and many of them are gently guiding me through my first term as a teacher.

If you have a fantastic TA (Teacher’s Angel), I challenge you to write a little post for them. Tell them why you’re grateful, and why they’re amazing.