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Tales from new teachers

perfection to a fault

perfection to a fault

The problem

Having been given an "outstanding" target for my training year, the pressure was on right from the word go. It was flattering to be seen as such a promising new face in the world of teaching, and I was damned if I was going to let myself, my mentor or my course down.

The problem came when I reached the summer term without having been deemed fully outstanding in any observation.

No matter how much I tried to learn the lessons of yet another underwhelming judgement, colour-coded my resources or filled my lessons with active learning, I just couldn't cross the elusive line between good and outstanding. I began to believe I wasn't cut out for teaching.

The options

There weren't enough hours in the day to fit in more preparation time, and anyway, I knew that flogging a dead horse wasn't going to bring it to life.

I asked for observations from anyone and everyone - I was desperate for someone to finally see the spark that had once glimmered in me, but which I was convinced had now been snuffed out.

After a few weeks of this and no result - great feedback, but no outstanding lessons - I decided that perhaps it wasn't meant to be. Maybe I would eventually reach that pinnacle, but I certainly didn't have the energy to carry on desperately pursuing what seemed to be a lost cause.

The result

How could I have ever thought that good wasn't good enough? There's an insidious epidemic among teachers of believing that only perfection is acceptable. If you don't achieve this lesson in, lesson out, then the 14-hour days you're working must not be enough. It makes you wonder if outstanding teaching is a talent that simply can't be learned.

Ironically, many of us opt for a career in teaching precisely because of its unpredictable nature. Surely the best teaching is inspiring in ways we could never have accounted for, and as far away from rigid perfection as possible?

This attitude helped me to finally achieve my first outstanding rating. I had planned a lesson that was required in the scheme of work but didn't have the nuts and bolts of outstanding as I thought of it. However, the students engaged in an insightful debate that I could never have anticipated. I simply did what I was there to do: facilitate, not dominate.

As soon as I forgot about my teaching and focused on the students' learning, I could begin to see what my mentor saw in me: an outstanding facilitator.

The writer is a trainee teacher in the East of England

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