At last, I have discovered joy in teaching

19th May 2006 at 01:00
Recent staffing changes mean I am now spending half the week in a Primary 3 class and I can actually say that I am enjoying teaching for the first time.

For the past year, it feels like I have been doing battle with a Primary 7 class who are notorious for their bad behaviour. I have had to deal with children fighting, arguing, swearing, talking back, and refusing to follow instructions on a daily basis.

As a result, I have been reduced to tears many evenings and have questioned if teaching is really for me. But now, gone - at least for part of the week - are the sleepless nights spent wondering what outbursts the following day will hold. And gone are the feelings of dread as the school bell rings at 9am.

Instead, I ask the P3 pupils to stop and listen, and they do. I plan group and class discussions, and they don't end in disaster. And I can see an enthusiasm for learning in the children's eyes that's exciting.

Unlike the P7s, I don't feel the need to reach for a hard hat when I take them for PE and I certainly don't wish I could crawl under my desk and hide.

Maybe the P3s were better trained to begin with. Maybe I wasn't tough enough with the P7s when we first met.

Maybe my approach was different when faced with the P3 class for the first time. Or maybe the P7 class contains an unworkable combination of children.

I was, after all, warned by experienced teachers to expect a year of survival.

Of course I am aware that there are things I could do better, but it feels more like a challenge than a war of attrition.

It has, however, left me wondering about the future.

Is it the case that there are just some "bad" classes out there that can lead to a year of misery?

From talking to other teachers, I am aware that some years are certainly easier than others and a lot of teachers seem to have had classes they would rather forget.

Is it a reflection on you as a teacher if you have a class that is difficult to control, is it a reflection on the children, or is it a combination of the two?

And how do these so-called "bad" classes come to exist? Teachers are certainly aware of which ones they are, and breathe a sigh of relief if they manage to dodge them the following year.

As a new teacher, I know I always blame myself for every little thing that goes wrong in the classroom, whereas others can put changes in behaviour down to a windy day or a full moon. But maybe it is time to realise that it is not always my fault.

This year I have had a class that I would rather forget, but the experience has taught me a tremendous amount about the kind of teacher I want to be and the kind of teacher I have to be.

I have learned the need to set standards and expectations of my own and stick to them. It is no use thinking: "I wonder if other teachers would let them get away with handwriting like that?"

I have also learned a lot about the importance of good discipline - not in a Draconian sense, but in a way that enables you to earn the children's respect. I failed to do that this year, and am determined not to let it happen again.

So while I am counting down the weeks to the summer holidays and looking forward to waving the P7s goodbye, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and it feels like things are looking up.

And maybe the same is true for the P7 children. At this stage in the year, many of them have outgrown their primary surroundings and are more than ready to move up to high school.

An application has also been made to get the most disruptive boy in my P7 class a place at a high school for children with behavioural difficulties.

It is a situation that should have been addressed much sooner than this, but I hope for his own sake that the application is successful.

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