You're surrounded by students every day. Some find school easy, some find it hard. Some find it interesting, some find it boring. It is an everchanging environment where quite literally no day is like the other. Especially since this new lockdown has begun, Lockdown 3.0 lets say. I get cabin fever incredibly easy so the prospect of being forced to stay indoors for near three months was positively excruciating. it was going to be a downward spiral so I volunteered to go into Key Worker School and look after the students.
It's not easy, I have the Year 10's who will openly discuss, debate and question what will happen with them for next year given they've near missed out on two years of teaching potentially. Yes, we are also 100% online now which is a fantastic achievement; but it will never top face to face teaching for students who are below 17/18. I say that because in University, with assignments and projects there is an expectation that you are learned in study and research skills. There is an understanding that you can do independent research off your own back whilst being given subject lines by lecturers and an expectation that you attend lectures. Then again, you're paying for it so why wouldn't you? Can only blame yourself if you don't go to online lectures, just like you can only blame yourself if you didn't attend lectures in person. You've specialised in potentially your career choice and passion; these students are studying 5-10 subjects, on average they'll enjoy only 4-6 of them.
At the same time, working with the Year 10's I can help to guide them; I can ensure that instead of thinking "why do I have to come into school, it's boring!" I can change that to "Today in school I got lots done and really enjoyed it!"
Maybe it is wishful thinking, so far it is working though. This is a mixture of positive rewards and developing a strong and positive pedagogy and rapport with them. They know that I will work hard to help them either 1 to 1 or as a group. They respect that and understand my expectations. Whilst I understand just how unnerving and upsetting this time is for them.
That would lead me to Teacher Legacy. What do we leave behind for students to pick up? What do we achieve? Some teachers might be proud regarding their students grades, others sports or progression or simply getting through school. What was I like as a student? In terms of the ole Cornish Maids "he was a Heller!"
Not in a malicious or bad way, more of a .... vigilante justice way! I was so sporty that my nutrition was terrible, I would train with Exeter Chiefs at 7am in the gym, get to school for 825, shower, change and be ready for class at 845am. I'd then have rugby with school after school and games before homework. If I did it that is. I'd fall asleep in lessons, my temper was frayed because of the pressures that I perceived were on me to deliver my best each time I went to Chiefs, School, County, Region... I wanted to be the best and I trained to ensure I was. This affected my behaviour. In one way, my Mum reminded me of the time I got into trouble at school because my friend was being bullied by members of the 1st XV rugby team, I was a year younger, locked them into the changing rooms and bollocked them. When they left, the all apologised to my friend, their behaviour was more acceptable and I got told off by my Head of Year. Many times I would get in trouble for things like that, or falling asleep, lack of homework, quality and the usual stuff; but not malicious things.
I had three teachers at school (outside the PE department) who found ways to re-engage me when I was at my worst. Mrs Murphy, Biology Teacher, Mrs Cobner Biology / PE and tutor and probably the teacher I most think of when I think of who I am today, Mrs Rainbow.
With Mrs Murphy, I would fall asleep in class, not because I wasnt interested, I had no energy, I was 4.2% body fat and could not stay awake. She organised with Mrs Cobner food stashes (healthy ones of course) and then within Biology every answer i got right I was at times given a doughnut. In her module in GCSE I achieved 98%, highest in the year. She talked with me, not at me. Mrs Cobner would check daily if I had eaten breakfast or if I had completed my homework, did I need help? if I did she would stay behind at lunch and let me use her classroom to catch up. Having a teacher like that really improves rapport and pedagogy. I was never an easy student and there were times I am sure she would pull her hair out over me, but nevertheless, I've never not appreciated what she did for me.
That leads us to Mrs Rainbow. Tough, enthusiastic, interesting, debatable, determined, knowledgeable, world travelled and caring. Words I would use for her. She was an amazing leader, an amazing teacher. There were times she would turn around and tell me quite frankly, how I was letting myself down, how I could do better. there were times when she told me how proud she was on my progress. She would allow us to debate key areas or discuss school policy and even further (and my favourite) introduced Cake Fridays. This allowed us as a class to develop positive relationships and after a stressful week we could sit down, catch up within our 10 minutes of relaxation before getting back into it. She once turned around to me, looked me in the eye and said "there is a lot of anger within you isnt there? It's just bubbling."
At the time, she didnt know how close to the mark she was and I remember the impact it had on me because at the time, I was. I didnt know why or who I was angry with but I couldn't get rid of it and had no avenue to expel it. I was ina dark, swamped place that was suffocating me and her acknowledging it nearly broke me into tears. Funny how 8 years on I remember that conversation like it was yesterday.
So what were these three academic teachers legacy for me? This last week, I introduced Cake Thursday within my Key workers school class, I brought in cake to acknowledge and encourage their hard work before pointing out our 'Goal Board,' which showed their progression and tasks completed. I've introducced a snack stash pile for one of the students i mentor who was at risk of expulsion due to sleeping in class etc. All it took was me asking him if he had had breakfast or made lunch. He hadn't, and I organised staff to have stash boxes for him in case he needed it. His behaviour improved, not massively, but he stopped falling asleep in lessons. My students will know that I will try hard for them, I will go the extra mile to encourage positive engagement, to encourage them to try hard and to open their minds to debate and discussion; and not just keep on a narrow minded point of view of the world. To try and give their best, because that is all we can ask for. That is the legacy of my teachers, I hope that they would be proud,of the teacher that I am becoming.
All that and we haven't even gotten to how my PE teachers have affected my teaching within the sports department... I'll save that for another time, because they were the reasons I went into teaching.
The Nomads journey is a wondering line of adventure and guidance; we help each other achieve and bask in the glory of knowing that in some way, we played a small part in helping others. Sometimes that small part is all that is needed to encourage a lifetime of difference. Outdoors in climbing, indoors in education, adventure in life.