What a year! What a journey! What a WOW! I have survived my first year as a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT). I have celebrated. I have cried. I have been over the moon. And I have been depressed.
My first year as a teacher, teaching high school kids and “young adults” (20 to 24 year olds) Mathematics, Mathematical Literacy and Economics, has been nothing short of a new surprise everyday. Some of my learners are at risk and/or vulnerable. Some are in their second (maybe third or fourth) chance at education. Even so, high school kids will be high school kids – the experience is no different to a “normal” high school of learners up to 18 years of age, thats in terms of discipline, not doing homework, not studying for tests/exams, and somehow still expecting to do well. I keep saying, you’d think someone who wants a second chance would do better in their efforts but that really is not the case. I am not saying I expected perfect kids but they did make me realise that structure is missing in their lives and that’s why kids act out, no matter how old they are.
The school was a relatively small school, only 171 learners or so, at the beginning of the year that was the number, along the year some dropped out and one student passed away, MHSRIP :(. On the teachers side one resigned, respectfully, while others “dropped out” (basically, woke up one morning and decided not to return). It is always a sad thing for a child to give up on their academic potential future, especially in this country where one has basically nowhere to go even with just a matric certificate, hence many resort to drugs and other crimes. Then I find it inconsiderate for a teacher (or any adult in their right mind) to just up and leave children who actually need you at crucial times, literally. I will admit, I had such a horrible start, that I considered leaving, but not haphazardly. More like, end of term or end of year. It is true when they say that the people you work with truly make the difference on whether you want to be at work or not. Fortunately my reasons to stay were a little bit stronger, or I am just a bit too resilient.
In this year I battled an inconsistent school timetable. I battled having no classroom of my own (and being made as though that was my fault). The first battle made the second one 10x more challenging because my learners never knew where to find me and I was lost myself too. I battled loads of rejection and lack of support from within school walls. I battled a lack of support from outside the school from the curriculum advisor not doing what I ask after he has said he will do it. I battled myself, my youthfulness and my own style/s of teaching and dealing with admin, testing, classroom management and all that nice stuff. If I am not a certified warrior by now, I do not know what I am.
There have been some pretty cool things happen this year at school. There was a change in leadership mid-year. I eventually scaled down to 3 stable classrooms for the various grades that’s I teach. Heck, I even got promoted which came with a salary increasing stipend and a large increasing about of responsibility. It’s pretty cool that I overcame some of my imposter syndrome and eventually learned to bring my voice to the table without too much fear, however I am still growing and learning on the job as I go. There are some really cool new ideas in the works for next year and it has been exciting to hear about most of them first hand.
My take aways from this year is that working with people 24/7 (not literally) is exhausting, and your work will never be done as long as there is that one or two people that are reluctant. I learned that I hate marking after the fact, meaning a learner that submits a task late or decides to skip a test/exam. I find it astonishing that any learner finds that okay. I guess I also feel disrespected by the fact that they write late, giving themselves extra days to study and then still basically fail. I also have learned not to take poor results personally, instead I become the petty one. I’ll take an exact question from class one that I emphasise and place it into the exam just to remind them of the day that they chose not to hear me on purpose. Evil teacher laugh inserted here. I take away that my self-care, mental and physical, is super important, absolutely cannot pour from an empty cup. I forget sometimes and I need to work on that.
This year has been about growth, new ideas, making mistakes and finding ways to fix them, learning to be at peace in chaos and calling for help when it is not too late. It has also been important to be intentional about why I do things so that I can reflect on them and turn things around if all goes wrong. I have enjoyed the challenges and I have enjoyed my successes as well. Such is life, especially the life of a teacher.
Thank you for your time