Reality Check

I read a blog post this week about “Why Twitter isn’t representative of teaching but Secret Teacher isn’t either”

It really got me thinking. When I read through my Twitter feed there are many tweets about great lessons, activities and positivity. And while there are some about workload and stress, the majority leans to the positive side. On the other hand, I am constantly hearing negative stories about teachers and teaching in the press.

So what is true for me?

I have been teaching for almost 12 years now and I feel that this year has been one of the toughest yet. In my department we have had two/three staff short since October which has put a huge strain on all the remaining staff. The school has tried to cover the situation as best it can but there is a shortage of maths supply out there. This has led to the remaining staff changing classes,  planning extra work (which we do without complaining) and taking more after school study classes. The real issue is with the pupils. Some have not had a maths teacher for months and are starting to have a negative view of maths and their behaviour is deteriorating. This leads to extra stress and work for my PT and the rest of the department.

On top of this, the workload seems more than ever. With exam classes (I have two National 5 and a Higher) there are unit assessments (with tedious grids to complete), resits to complete and second prelims to mark. Getting my pupils to put the work in is a nightmare. Many seem incredibly relaxed about their upcoming exam and lack motivation to revise. I often feel that I put more time into getting them to pass their resits than they do. But these resits have to be passed or the pupils can’t sit the final exam. This leads to pupils coming in after school, at lunch or in my non-contacts to catch up and take the resits. Other pupils, the more motivated, appear after school, at lunch or in my non-contacts looking for extra help and support. I love this – I am happy to spend my time helping pupils who want to learn. But, the paperwork still needs completed, parents have to be called, reports to be written, homework to be marked, spreadsheets to be updated, planners to be filled in, … the list is often endless.

Behaviour – while I don’t often have to deal with extreme behaviour – I spend a lot of time dealing with low level behaviour issues.

Here are a few of the common issues:

  • arriving to class pushing and shoving
  • not being prepared for lessons with a jotter and a pencil
  • shouting out
  • talking at inappropriate times
  • swearing
  • eating in class
  • swinging on chairs
  • being rude to each other
  • hitting rulers off the desk

These behaviours are not all happening at the same time, but can distract and take away from the learning and teaching.

This doesn’t sound like a great advertisement for teaching. True, it can be a very challenging job. But I love teaching. I enjoy sharing my love of maths with pupils and trying to get them enthusiastic as well. Seeing the progress of pupils over the year and getting the occasional thank you makes it worthwhile. I run a maths club on a Monday lunchtime for S1-3s. The pupils that turn up every week have done so since they were in S1 and now in S3 they tell me that they are going to keep turning up next year despite being in S4. Maybe I am doing something right some of the time.

That’s where I really appreciate Twitter and Maths Blogs. Reading messages of success and positivity are so inspirational. I don’t take them as messages of bragging and gloating but of sharing. I try to reciprocate by sharing my good points of a day or week. When I’ve been having a tough day or week it is uplifting to gain new ideas and remind me to focus on teaching maths.

If I can provide my pupils with a good lesson where they are engaged and learning then I get a buzz from that. I rush down the corridor to tell someone about the lesson. I think we need more of this.

My conclusion, teaching is an incredibly tough job, especially in the current climate of teacher shortages and curriculum changes. This is where I could use Twitter in a better way. Not always focussing on the successes but giving a real picture of what it is like on a daily basis. This doesn’t mean being negative and complaining but seeking advice and support from other teachers who understand what I’m going through.




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