I remember the days, not that far from today, when I was a completely inexperienced teacher. I arrived to a country having no idea what teaching would be like or whether I would make it out alive. When I arrived to the UK I was simply happy for having been given the opportunity to try something different and learn from it. My whole life has been a series of experiences that have shaped me into who I am today. This was no different.
After having had the most traumatic start as a teacher and having wanted to quit two terms in, today I am nothing like that teacher. I have been teaching for a year and a half, and believe me, I am still an undeveloped tadpole in the grand scheme of things. However, my confidence has grown, my resilience has gotten stronger and perseverance hasn’t left my side. Each day I still want to be better and feel a bit prouder of myself.
To this day, I don’t know how the broken teacher turned into who I am today. Going from “Needs Improvement” to “Outstanding” lessons is something that still blows my mind. If I had the recipe for it, I would share it but I can’t really say what exactly helped me in my radical change.
Last term I was given a teacher to train; a trainee. I didn’t understand why they would give me someone to train when I don’t really know what I am doing half the time. Also, I am not fully qualified in the UK yet (I am in the process of being fully qualified, hopefully I will be by the end of this academic year), so theoretically, I shouldn’t be given anyone to train as I am training myself (if that makes sense). That was my first experience as a leader out of the classroom.
I am used to being a leader in the classroom; it’s every teachers role. We lead the way, show, demonstrate, inspire, encourage…students. I thought it would be the same with adults. Having to do the same thing with teachers was extremely hard and I didn’t understand why. I don’t think I did a very good job with my first trainee but I told myself it was a new experience for me too, and it was all part of my learning process.
I didn’t think I would be given more trainees. To my surprise I was given two more trainees this term and I don’t think I am doing a very good job either. In all honesty, I don’t know if I am doing a good job or not. They look up to me and they have a hard time believing I was once where they are today. It’s funny, isn’t it, how people seem to ignore the fact that to get where we are we had to fight the most difficult battles, get knocked down and get up again. They keep telling me there is no way I was ever a “bad teacher”.
I simply don’t know how to be a leader in this instance. What am I meant to really do? So far I have been too honest with my feedback. However, I don’t know if honesty is what I should be using. They really are struggling but sugar coating reality doesn’t seem to be the solution to their problems.
Last week I was alone with them in the workroom and gave them a “wake-up call” speech. I think I was pretty intense and I did feel bad afterwards, mainly because I know the feeling of failure and embarrassment. While I was giving the speech, one of the DT teachers came in the room. I wasn’t finished with my speech, so while I was talking to the trainees, the DT teacher heard everything I said.
Later in the day, the DT teacher told me I had done a good job talking to the trainees the way I did. That comment took me by surprise as I thought I had crushed their dreams and hopes of becoming teachers with everything I had said. The DT teacher told me I was firm and clear, that I didn’t sound upset. He eased my mind by saying I gave them some good constructive criticism and that one day they would thank me for it. He also said very few people would have had the courage to speak up the way I did.
It’s worth pointing out, these two trainees aren’t only mine. They are also being trained by other teachers in the department. However, none of my colleagues seem to want to hurt the trainees’ feelings which means they never get told what they need to improve on. So that leaves me to do all the difficult talk.
Training teachers is something I didn’t see myself doing so soon. It has given me a lot to think about as these some-day-to-be-teachers consider me their leader. But am I being a good leader? I have no clue. All I know is I am the kind of leader who says things as they are. I was born with a very honest nature. I don’t believe in sugar coating. I believe in making change actually happen. Saying things as they are doesn’t equal to you being a mean person. Maybe it just means you care. This experience has definitely given me the opportunity to get to know myself better as a person and a leader.
I think karma will pay back next week as I have to do a placement in a grammar school for a week. I will be observed in every lesson and I will probably be told how terrible I am at teaching. Oh well, we shall welcome constructive criticism!
Leaders around the world, don’t worry. We all struggle sometimes (:
Not always good at leading-ly yours,