Saturday, April 9, 2011

The End of my First Paid Working Week

As I sit here in the Saturday morning sunsine sipping freshly brewed coffee, I contemplate the week I've had. Obviously, it was exhausting, and a little less obviously, I grieved for the things I've come to love lately: being able to hang my washing out to dry, walking my dog while listening to Op Shop and Snow Patrol, popping into my local for a flat white, and most importantly, taking my kids to their classrooms in the morning and helping with the children I love at St. Pat's. But it's been a good week for clarifying a few things for me:
1. I should not work full-time (qualifier: at least straight away or not in an environment I don't enjoy.)
2. My days as a high school teacher are numbered due to workload and environment
3. Having said 2. above, I still have what it takes
4. I can teach 5-year olds
5. Tutoring in the evenings is easier on the family than working during the day.

It's been a week worthy of a blog but of course I haven't had the time or mental space to do it. I'll admit I struggled with the sudden change in our lives, going from stay at home mum to working all week in an environment I simply was not used to. The ugliness of the high school was glaringly obvious from my first step on the premises--the language, the innuendo, the apathy, and the arrogance. After a bit of soul-searching on my second day I decided as the mother of four little children who still needed positivity and sheltering, I did not want to get used that ugliness. Having said that, by Thursday my last day, I was already developing some positive relationships with some of the kids and was starting to feel like I was getting somewhere and could make a difference. However, knowing that I couldn't be their teacher full-time, there was no point investing much of myself at that point.

The best moment at I.H.S. was with my year 9 remedial reading class of 9 kids (7 boys, 2 girls,). Easy teaching you might say because of the numbers. Not so easy when you have five other classes which demand so much more planning, assessment and marking. I know for a fact that these remedial reading classes are in name only and that the teacher would just give them some books, some worksheets and leave them to it while they worked on something else. Cold hard truth because of time pressures in teaching. So the first time I met them, they would not engage with me other than to be rude, referred to themselves as cabbages, and just wanted to sit there. That's what they were used to. My second class I was more prepared and had some storyboards for them and asked them to write their own story (adapted from my St. Pat's HPP training). They all did it and asked at the end of it, "can we do another one?" I admit, that was the moment I faultered in my resolve not to be there next week. If only I could just teach those kids! One of the boys in particular wrote a whole page and it was a fantastic story. Cabbages indeed!

And then it was Friday and I had to switch gears entirely to relieve at St. Pat's and teach the new entrants: sixteen 5-year olds. I was nervous and so very grateful for good planning by the teacher and the assistance of a trainee teacher's aide. The children knew the routines well so I needn't have worried about that side of things. It was more hands-on demanding than what I was used to, but also a lot of fun and I loved it. There were no catastrophes and I even managed to avert the tears of one little boy who discovered someone else had eaten his banana at brain food. There was another very nice looking banana sitting there, but his had his name on it. I knew what was coming, saw the tears well up in his eyes and was inspired by an old half banana sitting there and an even uglier banana peel to make a joke out of it. He got the joke, managed to laugh and while he was throwing the peel in the rubbish, I wrote his name on the banana that was left. Problem solved and he even opened it himself. My only other challenge was a little girl who simply could not keep her hands to herself. That was wearing thin by the end of the day! I did discover that if I told her she would have to sit on her hands she would manage to keep them in her lap for a few minutes at least. The things you don't learn in secondary teacher training! I even had duty at lunch and managed to find 3 ice packs for 3 different bumped heads. An everyday occurence apparently. Duty at primary school is a lot more interesting than duty at secondary school. The last hour of the day was much more relaxed with Buddy time. I was very pleased with myself for getting the children to march out to the verandah in excellent order and to sit so well while Mrs. Pryme explained the activity. I suspect it had nothing to do with me but everything to do with the routines already established, but I felt good anyway. And that was also the first time I thought to myself, "oh! I'm actually a teacher here today!" And the highlight of the day was when Sam come out with the widest smile on his face, so glad to see me there as a teacher. That was a moment for me.

The big question on everyone's lips should be, "how did you manage teaching Violet and Abigail?" I was worried that Violet in particular would dig in her rebellious toes in at some stage and that all the other children would follow her lead. I was wrong, they were both fantastic and I rewarded them with lollies at the end of the day. A bribe, did I hear you say?

I loved teaching primary school, much more than high school. But I still know that the time is not right for me to consider working full time. Hopefully I can get more relieving and will pursue tutoring for the time-being. My first student starts next week and I already know what to do as I've been teaching him this week. I will still relieve at the high school too, but I've told them I can't do more than two days a week. A block like that was too hard on our family. Too hard on me as I considered my HPP kids at St. Pat's, the PMP I've been helping with, dropping the kids off at school, my walks, my coffees, my shopping with my friends. I think I've said this before: the good life. Why on earth would I give that all up?

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