My year in primary teaching: 'It's the small things that make me content'
I am an inner-London primary school teacher with 18 years of experience. When I started teaching, I had a free-standing rolling blackboard and didn’t have an email account.
Schools and teaching have changed a lot since then; luckily, one thing has remained the same. It is the reason that I haven’t left the profession and the reason I can say that, on an average day, I come home happy. That thing is, of course, the children.
But this year has been a particularly hectic one. I started at a new school that was almost immediately thrown into rapid change by an Ofsted downgrade. It’s one of the nicest schools I’ve ever worked in but now “requires improvement”. Like so many judgements in our increasingly data-driven system, this is not the whole truth but it carries unfair weight.
Despite the downsides, my job is satisfying in many ways. Working in education means that I never stop learning. If I did, I would know it was time to leave.
So here are my 12 months in review.
Some obvious high points have been: seeing a girl’s pure joy when she received a response from the author of the book we were reading in class; another was when my class was watching a black screen depicting the massive distances in the solar system. When Pluto (or, rather, a dot encased in a red circle on the rapidly moving simulation of space) finally appeared after 15 minutes, my pupils all cheered so loudly that they could apparently be heard in classrooms three floors down.
It is the small things, though, that make me the most content. Each and every day I am greeted by a series of students offering a bright and cheerful “good morning”. The smiles, the laughter: these are what really make every day enjoyable.
There have, of course, been things that have made me sad. Witnessing the emotional impact of the loss of a close family member on a child is one of them. It is at times like these that teachers realise how powerless they are in the face of children’s personal circumstances – there are some things we just can’t change.
I have also heard of more than one close friend and brilliant teacher leaving the profession this year; I am sad that the system is pushing out experienced staff.
What I learned this year
Each year my bag of teaching tricks grows more full. In September, I began using a method called reciprocal reading in place of my usual guided reading. I have been so impressed by the small-scale results that I gave a presentation on it with two of my colleagues and seven of my students at a primary literacy conference.
For more highlights, read the full feature in the 31 July issue of TES. You can read it on your tablet or phone, or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.