At this time of year, with Monday morning looming larger than I’m comfortable with, I am filled with good intentions – ones that I abandon mid-way through September when I am heaped miserably on the floor surrounded by exercise books and reluctantly re-visit in January when resolutions are made by normal people who can wake up at a normal time and buy a coffee on the way in to work. I always look back in August and shake my head at just how naive I was to make them in the first place. But here I am, like a woman who has forgotten the pain of childbirth, making vows again for this coming year at school.
I vow to dress to impress and be the professional I know I can be
You know that you’re a teacher when you have ‘buying new shoes’ scheduled in for the weekend immediately before 1st September. You know that you’ve been a teacher too long when you’ve not only scheduled it in, but researched the specific shoe that you want in advance of the shopping trip. I’d like to pretend that I have only now starting doing this, but I have to confess that’s not true. Every year, I promise myself I will be as smartly dressed as I on the first day back, but every year, I catch myself falling into decline. The tailored dress has been abandoned in favour of the slouchy trouser and the coffee stains on my lanyard are almost pleasing to the eye, if you like modern art. The morning internal dialogue becomes fascinating because those new shoes inevitably hurt like *snitches* (even though you are still convinced the leather will give at some point) and you end up debating whether anyone will notice you’re wearing trainers. You examine your trainers to see whether you can claim that they are orthopaedic and therefore entirely essential for you to do your job. I say ‘you’ like this is something that many teachers do, but I think, in this case, it might just be me.
I solemnly swear not to get wound up by news headlines about English teaching or to utter the words “It’s all Michael Gove’s fault”.
It’s coming to the official end of open season on teachers and exams in the news, although I have noticed a disturbing trend over the past few years that suggests that open season has been somewhat extended. News headlines about teachers and teaching seem to be prevalent throughout the year; from what I can gather, if there is a social ill, you can rest assured that The Telegraph will point a bony, accusing finger at the nearest teacher, and follow it up with an ill-advised column by La Birbalsingh or Toby Young. I heard somewhere that teachers are about to be blamed for Syria. Get in line, Ban-Ki Moon, we’re still busy being blamed for domestic issues like obesity and riots. It’s all Michael Gove’s fault.
I promise to stay on top of my marking and do it diligently and without complaint
Now that Speaking and Listening has been abandoned as a concept at KS4 by the powers that be, I am sure that the volume of written responses from my students will increase and in this case, I must be better at marking – as must we all. This means that I must attempt to cover my exercise books in meaningful red/green pen (let’s not go there) and not have that sinking, guilty feeling when I think about my Year 7 books. Every year I implement what I like to call a ‘system’. This ‘system’ usually involves various pieces of coloured paper that track progress in exercise books (last year I downgraded and just used white paper – it was liberating) and scheduling in ‘marking parties’ with others who have my unfortunate habit of ignoring the call of mock exam papers and homework until it is absolutely necessary to deal with them. Dealing with the marking is better than having to answer to Year 10 asking when their work will be finished ‘being moderated’. And yes, they say it sarcastically, because they’re not stupid, most of them.
I declare that I will get around the problem of it being ‘too late to go to the gym’ when I’ve finished work
As far as I can see, this one is only going to be solved by learning to incorporate gym based activities into my lessons. Forget Brain Gym, it’s Actual Gym and I’m probably going to be the only one doing it in the room, but I shrug nonchalantly in the face of embarrassment. Mine or anyone else’s. Yes, kids, two squats before I lean in to assess your work, a star jump or three when you get something right and some seated glute compressions when you’re doing controlled assessment. I’m quite amused at the thought of this resolution. I have visions of myself using the time spent handing out worksheets for sprinting around the classroom. It’s not quite the same thing as described in Lemov’s ‘Teach Like a Champion’ in that it doesn’t create a marginal gain for the children – but it does create a marginal gain for the teacher. Every bit counts, folks. For anyone who is thinking of adopting my resolutions, this is one you may want to miss out. You can achieve the same effect by just joining a gym that opens late and actually going.
I strongly believe I can schedule in time to see family and friends
So, the last time I visited my mother in term time was, let me think, when I was school myself and went home at the end of the day. Seeing people is hard when you’re a teacher. You can’t see people who are not teachers because they say that thing about 9-3 and long holidays which makes me want to stick a fork in their eye and play Taylor Mali’s ‘What Teachers Make’ like water torture until they stop speaking. I have to confess that I become victim to a vague sort of martyrdom during term time that involves me feeling hideously sorry for myself for working ridiculous hours and needing the weekend to myself to recover. This inevitably means that I promise to see people that I actually like and admire, but cancelling because I can’t shift myself out of bed by 4pm on a Saturday and then it’s too late to do anything, isn’t it? I am resolving to schedule in my Life. There, I said it. I will see people and I will not be too tired or too grumpy or tell too many stories about what happened in form time. Friends, you may hold me to this.
I intend to like all my students without fail
Okay, I won’t use bad words about them. I promise. Does it count if I adapt the bad words or use euphemisms? While 99.9% of the students are lovely in some way, there’s always that child that you just can’t abide. It’s usually not the child’s fault; it’s something in you that is triggered by a facet of their personality, which results in a relationship that can, euphemistically, be described as ‘poopy’. They don’t even know they’re winding you up. I intend to give them the benefit of the doubt and to be compassionate about their character flaws. I know I can do it. This year I am stronger.
If you have any resolutions as a teacher, take a moment to affirm them. While I am about as far removed from a self-help guru as a human being can be without being in space, breathe in and let the air flow out, leaving the year you’ve just had behind. Feel the Vitamin D stored in your skin from the holiday you’ve just returned from and savour that feeling of being refreshed and resolute.
It won’t last long, my lovelies. Have a great year.