Time for a pep talk

8th January 1999 at 00:00
Don't waste time worrying over nothing, says Kevin Berry

It's 4pm and the end of a truly awful day. The head glared at you when he crossed the hall during your PE lesson; an irate parent has complained about your attitude towards his son; the Orange group did not com-plete their maths assignments. But what's really happened? Not everything can have gone wrong.

The PE was lively, children were doing things they hadn't tried before. Thirty parents didn't complain. Indeed, when you saw them at the school gate they were smiling. The Orange group might not have given you written evidence of their endeavours, but they were taking a lot in and tomorrow they will be whizzing through their assignments.

A terrific amount of learning was taking place. You may find tomorrow that Tommy has made great progress with a particular assignment, that one group has put together something astonishing, but you hadn't noticed because you were feeling low.

You have to shrug off the negative thoughts . . . focus on the plus factors, the achievements. That is what experienced teachers do. If any do go home looking shattered it is because they are tired, not downcast. The comparison trap can convince you that you really have had a bad day. A teacher wanders into a colleague's classroom, looks around and thinks "Wow. My room isn't a patch on this one. My pupils can't do work like that. Where am I going wrong?" The other teacher may well have excellent work on the wall, but so do you. Other classrooms look striking because you are not familiar with them. The other teacher has obvious talents, but so do you. Take pride in your strengths, work on your weaknesses, but don't compare yourself or your work with a colleague. It will serve no useful purpose.

In my first term an inspector dropped in and gave me a rough time. I was crestfallen. Then I found out she was always like that with new teachers. And the deputy head told me of three commendable things he had noticed in my room, three things I hadn't noticed. I went home feeling rather pleased.

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