I’m on the final furlong: the last 8 weeks of teaching 80% and preparing lever arch files of astonishing complexity, which will hopefully end in QTS, a bottle of champagne and a long summer holiday. It’s been good to return to the class which I was with at the beginning of the year. It was a lovely relief that they were happy I was back, and a surprise (in a good way) how much they’d progressed in their learning since Christmas. Now I’m teaching more, it’s possible to have more fun – finding slivers of time to watch a Michael Rosen video, practise songs for the class assembly or to read a story in the outdoor classroom. Bizarrely, given that this is the heaviest workload I’ve had so far, and that I’ve been worrying about coping with it for months, I feel pretty relaxed. It certainly helps that I’ve been lucky enough to get a job for my NQT year.
I cleared the decks of weekend plans for these two months, as I felt there was no point even hoping for a social life during my final block practice. Even so, it’s almost (fingers crossed) manageable, which bodes well for next year. I’m still in the process of understanding how all the different threads of being a class teacher weave together: spelling tests, and reading levels, times tables, delegating tasks to TAs, classroom displays, homework setting, report writing, progress data, class website content, intervention timetables and behaviour awards. September is still going to be a bit of a shock. Teachers are multi-taskers, multi-managers and multi-thinkers extraordinaire.
It is intense. I occasionally feel quite jealous of those 1980s teachers of my childhood, who seemed to wing it through long-running projects on cathedrals or the Romans, and never noticeably levelled anything. Over the course of this year, working 12+ hours a day has started to feel normal. Teaching invades your subconscious. Dreams are wasted teaching punctuation to imaginary classes of children. Those dreams are better than the stressful ones where I arrive in class with 5 minutes to spare, with a broken laptop and no idea what I’m supposed to be teaching – the TAs fixing me with doleful, disappointed eyes. In fairness though, teaching’s never boring. My worst job (other than the one cleaning urinals) was one in retail, where hours were spent standing and waiting, hoping for a customer to pass by; in teaching, you are never waiting around.
Last term, one of the veteran teachers retired from my school. She had been there since the 80s – since my own childhood era. The SLT threw her a fantastic party: the school hall has never looked so civilised. I absolutely loved her leaving speech, however sentimental that makes me. She talked about how when you get back home at the end of the day and you feel exhausted, you also think about how that day’s been for the children in your class. Sometimes it’s the children who are most difficult to teach, and who have the most difficult lives, that you’re actually making the most difference to. She thought teaching was the best job in the world. It was hard to imagine her actually leaving, when she was so passionate about the work. The head teacher from her first school, who had appointed her as an NQT, came to the retirement party. There was a giddy-ness to it: the way her teaching life was concertina-ed like this. It made a teaching career seem a real long-haul possibility in a way I hadn’t imagined before.