I won’t bother mincing words or spend time using flowery language to describe how things have been for me at the moment. I’m miserable. As someone who loves to write and feels as though it’s easy to express himself and make sense of my thought process, it’s incredibly disheartening to have reached this point in my life. I’m depressed, I can’t be bothered, and everything I’ve worked for over the last ¾ years is coming crashing down around me, and it doesn’t feel as though it’s my fault. I’ll try to find the best ways to try and articulate what the problem is specifically, but in general, it’s my PGCE. It’s not going well, I’m turned off putting in the effort to be a teacher, and all in all, I often feel ready to pack everything in and stop bother. I still want to work with children though, more than anything. Maybe I should start to check my expectations more realistically, and look into becoming a TA? All the benefits of working with children and influencing their lives, but without the politics, stress, and constant fear of being inadequete.
Well…I’m not there quite yet. But it’s getting there. It seems unusual, however. Things have really changed in the last 3 and a half months. When I started on my PGCE, this was my thought process:
“I can not wait to get into teaching and schools. I really want to use my experience of influencing childrens lives in the work that I did at my last position. I want to use all my passion and enthusiasm to deliver the absolute best lessons I can so that the children can really enjoy school in the same way that I did”
This is my thought process now:
“I can’t wait to leave here at the end of the day. Any energy I once had has been systematically drained out of me by a combination of an unsupportive school mentor, a labyrinth of expectations that are so unclear that they seem to change day by day, and an all in all poor experience in my first placement school. I want to give up and become a TA. I hate my life and have nothing to look forward to.”
How did it come to this? What happened to erode all my enthusiasm, and destroy any and all confidence I once had? Well, I suppose these are some of the things that spoilt things for me:
I dont have a timetable at school. When I brought this up with the person I live with, they thought it was a joke. “How are you supposed to know what you’re doing day by day then?” “How are you supposed to know what your class is doing for the week?”. Well…I guess I don’t. I just kind of live as the day goes on. Unless I specfically ask if I can be doing something planned, I don’t really know what I’m going to be doing the next day. Now, I can maybe understand this a little. Primary classrooms are quite dynamic and things can change as and when they need to. But when I say I have no timetable, I mean that NONE of my time is planned. I don’t have any time to spend doing any of my university allocated work. When I brought this up, I was met with what felt like almost hostility. I mentioned this, and how the university suggested I have more time to spend time in school as “non contact time”, which is basically being in the school on placement, but not in the classroom. I can be using this time to plan, update my ePLPP (Online portfoilio) and other non class related activities. When I brought this up, my mentor said to me that I should have just said to her that I need that time to go off and do these things. I can’t think where the blame should lie. Speaking to other people who are associated with previously having, or being PGCE students, they find the very idea of this to be absolutely ludicrous. One explained the idea that it was definetely the schools priority to explain to me exactly what they expected me to do to ensure that I am reaching the potential I need to be. How am I supposed to learn and emulate from this kind of “Wing and a prayer” style of organisation? It’s difficult as hell, and it’s making me distressed.
Confidence lost due to professional matters.
A little while before the Christmas holidays I was concerned. I wasn’t entirely sure what was the matter, but it was clear that there was a definite tension and at times, feeling of animosity towards me in the class. As I was leaving for the day, however, I noticed a piece of paper on my mentors desk that had my name on it. Naturally, I was drawn to it and looked at it.
On it, it explained that my school mentor was having some concerns about my progression on the course. She felt that I had a lack of iniative, I had a difficult time communicating with other members of staff, and that there was just a general lack of willingness on my part. I was apparently having some problems communicating with the groups as a whole, and I focus too much on one child who might need extra support. I’ve already worked on that. But the point that really struck me was the fact that I just…stumbled across this letter. It wasn’t like it was hidden away, either. It was just left on the side, clear as day where anyone could have seen it. And they did. Me.
How do you think I felt about this? The fact was that she had a few issues with my development at school, but couldn’t bring it up with me. These comments were to be directed towards the university and deputy head independent of my own input. Why couldn’t she have brought it up with me firstso I could have adressed it? What ended up happening was me grabbing her at the end of the day, and referring to what she’d written down, and really asked her to give me advice on how I need to improve as I’m going on. After I pulled a few helpful comments out, she wanted to go home, and I couldn’t really argue with it. It was almost the end of the school year, and nobody wants to hang around. I came back to school and everything just seemed…grey. What was the point? She obviously doesn’t think much of me, so I felt very unwelcome in the classroom. Which brings me on to the next point of contention.
Us and Them
There’s no space for me in this classroom. My mentor has her desk at the front where she sits and does her work. Across the side from her is where the TA sits. They have their own little “area” where they frequently discuss what’s been going on in the classroom, and where they think would be a good area to visit next. I don’t get a chance to get in on this. They clearly have already developed a good working relationship, of which there’s just no part for me to fit in to. Any time I try to join in and fit in with this, I’m made to feel very unwelcome, as I find myself just hovering around, begging for little scraps of attention so I can feel like I deserve to be in the classroom.
Discussing this is just bumming me out, so I’ll break down a few of the other more ancillary concerns into a bulletpointed list.
No extra help with planning
Expectations of me are based upon last years student teacher (Who now works in the school and is perfect)
I can’t teach whole class lessons. I am not allowed to do this. My mentor feels as though I dont have enough confidence to take on the task of teaching whole lessons, despite the fact that I’ve had 2 oppurtunities to do so, both of which had very positive feedback regarding my actual lesson. I have been relegated, for the ENTIRETY of my second phase (until the end of the half term) to doing group work. That is all I get the opportunity to do now. I am not getting to take any risks with doing whole group lessons, despite the fact that several comments have been raised about how precise and well rounded my actual planning is. Despite this, the TA in the class, who has just recently began her higher level training is being allowed to do full lessons. Yes, you did read that right.
The student teacher, me, is doing a lot of the TA style of work, which is effectively a supporting role working with groups, and the TA is allowed to be planning and implementing her own lessons, of which she gets substantial support from my school mentor . How is that right?
I’m almost at my wits end, to be honest. I just don’t know where to go from here. I had a support day at my university in which they had to bring me in so that I could address all the issues I’ve been having. During that day, I felt very positive. For a brief moment, all of the worries/concerns/fears I had were gone. Everything felt like it was falling into place, and talking to my subject leaders at university made me feel really confident and eager to get into the swing of things. The action plan seemed reasonable, the goals felt like something I could accomplish, and I just felt like it was worth going through the hard times. Then I got back to school, and the foundations seemed to fall apart. My mentor seemed hesitant to follow it, but agreed because it’s a much easier way of progressing. It’s a sliding scale of objectives to accomplish that are compartmentalised to such an extent that it’s very clear cut exactly what I need to be doing as the next 4 weeks go on. But…I still don’t have the drive.
I spoke with my mentor at the end of the day about my general performance review. It was a lot to swallow and think about. After a lot of doom and gloom about my progress, I was at breaking point. Maybe I’m just not good enough, I thought. I even proposed to her “Am I just wasting my time here? Can I really do this and is it worth me carrying on?”
Naturally, she couldn’t answer, and said as much. But what she did say was very clear, and resonated with me a great deal. She said that maybe I could have gotten more experience in schools before I applied to train to be a teacher, and that could have helped me in understanding the roles and responsibilities of what it means to be a teacher. Also, that it was clear that to some people, teaching just doesn’t come easy, and that she could see I was having to really put in a lot of effort, and really try hard to do what I need to do if I want to succeed. As she was leaving, she said that teaching can sometimes be something quite difficult to intuit. She didn’t say it in as many words, but the implication was there that sometimes…teaching just can’t be taught. And I’ve come to realise that. Maybe I just don’t have the necessary skills I need to really work in a primary school. I have difficulty expressing and articulating myself verbally. I’m awkward and lack confidence. A lot of the “required skills”…I just don’t have them. And I’m not sure if they’re the kind of thing you can develop after a lifetime of bad habits.
I’m still trying my best. I’m working every day to try as much as I can to be the best I can be.
I just don’t know if my best, is good enough.
And if it’s not…where do I go from here? I used to think the future was golden, and filled with limitless opportunity. But how can I get there when the present is so dark.