I survived.I don’t know how I did it. But I survived… and when I say I don’t know how I did it… I really do not know how I did it…
I set my alarm last night resigning myself to the fact that being the first day back of term, I was never going to get a phone call. Sure enough, my alarm went off, and I lazily flicked it off, warm and cosy in the knowledge that I may spend another day drifting around beautiful old London yet. As I was drifting back off to sleep, my phone started buzzing. I was off to work! And with little time to spare at that! With just enough time to lock up my room and grab a frozen soup that I was organised enough to prepare the night before (come on, I’m not living THAT spontaneously, can’t seem to shake that organised nature of mine!) I was off on the train to Roksley Junior.
When I arrived at the prison, I mean the school… I was in for a complete culture shock. I have by now accepted the majority of people in Britain are miserable twats, but I thought there would be some sense of cheer at a primary school! Yeh!? Um. No.
I know I have a widespread collection of readers. So I must be sensitive as to what I say and how I say it. I am by no means an expert teacher; hey, in Australia I am still considered a grad even being 3 years out! However, it does not take a genius to see that these kids are well and truly bored, unstimulated and disengaged. And what’s worse is… I don’t blame them… I was bored ALL DAY LONG… And I WAS TEACHING! The content was so dry, the tables laid out row upon row like I was visiting Sovereign Hill on school camp, the formality of their assembly and the harshness of my fellow teachers – where is the laughter and the fun gone from these classrooms!? Was it ever there to begin with?!
I had a few cheeky buggers in my classroom. That’s ok! I can deal with that! They even made me smile a couple of times – anything better than the dry Greek Myths we were looking at all day and the difference between a phrase and clause… Um… WHAT?! And assembly… what a sad, sad exhibition. We were led into a tiny hall (the school was adorable with only 330 students!) where my kids were shushed the whole way along by other various teachers (is it just me or do you get protective of your students even as a CRT… I was thinking in my head, DON’T YOU SHUSH MY KIDS! To me, if there’s no reason to be telling the kids off, then you shouldn’t be telling them off… why should they walk in silence to the hall? Is this a pilgrimage or what?!) and ushered in to the tunes of Abba’s Dancing Queen. I shit you not. I had to stifle a laugh! I mean, it’s cute! It’s different! But I would have had the kids dancing in and singing along! Not marching in rigidly and silently to one of the greatest songs of all time… But that’s just me – and probably why I am not in charge of a school.
Anyway, so once the kids are all in (constantly shushed by the Head Teacher aka Principal on the mic and other teachers who are flanking the sides looking as miserable as the early morning commuters I had to cuddle with on the tube earlier that morning) the head honcho who looks like a tamer, no nonsense (and no fun) version of Whoopie Goldberg gets up on stage and starts talking about the new years resolutions at the school. Great! Until she basically told the whole cohort that her new years resolution for the kids was to not have punch ups in the yard and to make sure kids don’t throw their food on the floor and to make sure they all do super well on their end of year exams… Sad face.
I know she was making a really big effort to talk about educating the whole child. I know she was! She even said it! She said, “we really want to make sure you leave here not only with amazing exam results, but with all types of other knowledge; but we can’t give you those opportunities if you are too busy fighting in the school yard!” HOW ABOUT LETTING SOME LIGHT AND LAUGHTER IN THE SCHOOL HALLS! I felt like screaming. But I just shut up. Cos hey, what do I know.
Some of you already know, maths and me have never been friends. Ever. And over here, it would appear we have once again set off on the wrong foot. The worksheets left by my teacher were riddled with pouds and miles and negative degrees Celsius’s in the worded problems and I knew this was not going to be fun. What made it even worse was that in this year 6 class filled with 10 and 11 year olds is that every single method I would personally use to work out these dreaded equations (apart from using my old mate the calculator) the kids had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA HOW TO DO. I started to panic. Luckily I had a teacher’s assistant in at this stage who bounded around happily showing me her superiority as she was able to assist kids left right and centre. WHAT THE HECK IS THE BUNCHING METHOD? I know I’m not great at my times tables… but these kids were doing 24 x 5.47 by doing 10 x 5.47 + 10 x 5.47 + 4 x 5.47 (where they then proceeded to added 5.47 to itself 4 times……..) What the actual fudge! But hey! The British system is old. I mean really old. I’m sure it works! I JUST DON’T GET IT! Then they were using this funky chart to work out multiplication and division that meant doing all sorts of complicated stuff and taking up half a page in their maths book per question… From this day forth I promise never to complain about my grade 4 maths curriculum in Australia ever AGAIN!
Don’t get me wrong, I was helping these kids! Although, instead of walking the kids through the sum, I just discreetly suggested they perhaps skip that one and come back to it later….I had about 3 different groups of kids come through my classroom. The school had 3 year 6 classes that were obviously broken into ability groups for the various subjects, and so, I could barely get to know my group of kids at all which always makes life harder. I was a little pleased with myself at the end of the afternoon when one precious cherub said to me, “Miss, you’re doing a better job than Miss Quinn usually does! It’s normally really crazy when she’s here… And Ali and Azmeet are usually going wild and running around when there’s a supply teacher comes in! That’s what usually happens!” Well! There will be laughter and happiness and love and fun in my classroom but there will be NONE OF THAT THANK YOU VERY MUCH! I had to use my cross voice a couple times and slap some names on the board but all in all I think it was quite a successful day. After walking my kids out in the afternoon to be greeted by their parents underneath the beautiful grey skies and setting sun, I caught up with a handsome male teacher who had kindly helped me get settled earlier that morning. He said he was very surprised I survived because ‘Class 11’ was notoriously a tricky bunch. He asked how I had got on with Morris. When I replied that regretfully I didn’t learn all their names he looked impressed and said if I could get through the day without knowing who Morris was then I must have had things under control. Half an hour after school (Kids let out at 3.15! BONUS!) and my marking was all done (SO MUCH EMPHASIS ON THE MARKING! They are NEVER going to read my comments anyway. I promise! If you don’t mark it with them standing with you, it is POINTLESS! Anyway what do I know…) I packed up and was on my merry way before 4pm. Not a bad day’s work!
A call from my agency on the way home to check that I was alive and not stapled to the cork board and another impressed colleague at me surviving ‘Class 11’. Also an offer of a fixed 6 week contract that would see me up until the mid term break in Feb. I was hesitant at first, only because I didn’t really want to commit to one school and working 5 days a week. But I was somewhat considering it because working 5 days a week for 6 weeks before my travel adventures really get started in Feb and March may eliminate some of the guilt that I’m certain will come with travelling excessively and not working. At all. For weeks on end. Eeeek. Anyway, as I was umming and arring, I somehow sensed some form of desperation from my agency. It turns out a girl who was meant to start tomorrow got delayed and cut a long story short, the school is not happy with my agency and I would ultimately be saving the day if I took this position. Well. I am not one to be greedy… However… My daddy didn’t raise no fool… I played it up, asking about location, requirements etc…. money… Let’s just say, the agency has come through on their word to this new school, and I am on an offer that was way too good to turn down… And the best part… I STILL don’t have the responsibility of my own class! I will be relieving teachers for planning and marking and testing time so I could be in a prep, 3 and 6 classroom all in the space of a day! That’ll keep things interesting regardless of the hours of thoughtless planning I have to implement!I am well and truly excited and proud of myself for driving a hard bargain. Kritz would be pleased with me! 🙂
So, all that being said, I not only survived my first day, but am looking forward to going to a new school tomorrow where I will spend the next 6 weeks. Apparently there are 3 other Aussie girls also teaching at the school so hopefully there will be more friends to be made! I hope I live to tell another tale after tomorrow!
Thanks so much for all the kind words of encouragement and support, I cannot tell you how much it means to me… I really can’t. So thank you.