Tales from new teachers

Overloaded with optional extras

The problem

I wasn't sure that I really needed the hassle and additional work of setting up an extracurricular project in my first year. I had a vague plan to start a group based on my passion for street dance at some point. But this was a future goal - I simply didn't have time to consider anything other than making it through my training year.

However, my mentor mentioned in one of our catch-ups that she was thinking of setting up a creative writing group and that it might be a good idea for me to get involved. She planned to run one lunchtime and one after-school session per week, but we would have to plan tasks and give feedback, too.

I knew I didn't really have enough time for this, but I felt as though I had little choice but to say yes. Within three weeks of starting the group, I was already beginning to fall behind on my work.

The options

When I first started to struggle, I just resolved to organise my time more effectively. But with the amount of essays and other tasks I had to manage for my training, I discovered that this was impossible: I was already at my maximum output (unless I was going to forget about sleeping and eating).

So I had a chat with some other teachers on my course and asked if they were running any clubs. One of the guys was helping to train a rugby team, but this involved only one after-school session a week and his presence was optional. No one else was doing anything.

I then spoke to some of the other teachers at my school. They told me to talk to my mentor, as my priority had to be getting through the course and I would only fall further behind if I continued trying to help with the group.

The result

I worked up enough courage to talk to my mentor. I had feared that she would be really disappointed in me, but in fact she said she was surprised I had said yes in the first place.

She explained that she had offered me the opportunity so as not to leave me out, as she had planned to ask the rest of the English department, too.

She said she was glad of the help but was by no means expecting it. I had obviously interpreted her request in completely the wrong way. I now help out as and when I have time and things are much easier.

The writer is in her training year in the North of England

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