2019 - 2021: A reflection
I have been sitting on this blog for quite a while, not sure whether I should post it or not but in a moment of bravery I am going to post it – Maybe…..
Normally at the end of each school year, I write a reflection of the school year. Looking at the new strategies I have tried or come across and thinking generally about the year that has past. However, I didn’t last year and almost didn’t this year not because I didn’t have anything to reflect on but because I genuinely didn’t like much of how I taught for the past 18 months. I often felt like I was an NQT (ECT now) again and learning to teach all over again. I didn’t like how I was doing things, I was trying to teach the way I had always done but the COVID situation meant I couldn’t, and all the changes that were going on meant I never felt that I could get to grips with how to teach in the new normal.
I did try new strategies and activity ideas, some through choice and some through circumstance. There were lots of elements of using Teams that I liked and found really useful. I really struggled with the live lessons and videoing lessons during the lockdowns and hybrid learning. The first time I was told I would be required to do a live lesson in Lockdown 1, I had a full on panic attack, one of the worst I can remember (even the cats avoided me). The thought of my lessons being recorded and that other people would have access to the videos terrified me, not because I thought my lessons were inappropriate but after surviving a toxic school where every moment was monitored, twisted and used against me, I was worried this would happen again – I shouldn’t have my current school are not like that, but sometimes your brain won’t let you hear the rational. I did overcome this, as I had to, and I although it still makes me uncomfortable, i have found a way of working that I can manage.
When we were back in school, I also struggled with the nomadic teaching. I knew it was necessary to keep everyone safe but not having a base was hard. My classroom is my safe space in school, a place I had ownership over. With nomadic teaching I constantly felt I was invading someone else’s space and was intruding, which put me on edge and I am sure that no matter how I tried to hide it, the students would have picked up on it. This also meant I didn’t have my normal resources with me as it was impossible to carry everything with me, this limited what I could do in my lessons.
That isn’t to say that some good things didn’t come from or happen over the last two years.
The lockdowns and concerns about wellbeing inspired me to create a weekly reflection journal for my tutor group to help them reflect on their week and their academic progress. It provided a chance for students to take a quite 15 minutes each week and just breathe – these are available here.
I have also liked the use of Teams for homework tasks, sharing resources, messages with students and letting students know what is happening. It has led me to rethink what I am setting for homework and got me thinking about using class notebook as a type of Learning Journal for students to regularly reflect on their progress as well as think about what they are learning. This is something I am working on for this coming year so will blog about that later.
This year I wasn’t able to do the workshops I had started doing in 2018/2019 due to Covid restrictions – I am hoping that next year I will be able to go back to visiting schools and students to help with sociology examination technique or support with PSHE. However, I was given the opportunity to do some online CPD with Keynote Education to support new teacher’s to sociology and supporting MAP’s and LAP’s in sociology. I think these were well received and have been asked to do them in person next year.
It hasn’t just been the professional side of my life that has been impacted in the last 18 months – as I think most people have been. I have been very lucky that I haven’t lost anyone to COVID or had anyone close that has been badly effected, but all the time at home – which I actually really enjoyed – did give me time to really reflect on myself. Although I have been in counselling for a number of years, I found that over the last 18 months I was really able to focus on myself because I wasn’t trying to be what others wanted me to be, or feeling the pressure of social situations where I am constantly on guard. I could finally just be me.
This led me to some revelations about my self and about what I want both professionally and personally. I think the biggest one for me was finally accepting my asexuality. In talking this through with my counsellor I felt relieved to realise that there wasn’t anything wrong with me in that I had no desire to be in a physically intimate relationship with anyone, that my aversion to physical touches like hugs and cuddling didn’t make me a freak. This acceptance felt like a weight had lifted from me, that I was more peaceful in myself, I no longer felt I had to pretend that I wanted something I didn’t or that I was a freak for what I did want. Achieving this peace, as small as it might be, allowed me to the focus on who I wanted to be, rather than who I should be. I even felt a little less anxious in the day to day (however this could also have been the lack of social interaction in general). Since then I have started to exercise, become pescatarian, revamped my wardrobe to clothes I would never have worn before (I love my super wider elasticated jeans) and changed my hair to a colour I love (red/brown instead of blond). These might seem like really small things but I am starting to really feel like me and not who people want me to be. I don’t think I will be coming of my medications any time soon but I feel lighter and stronger. I feel more able to stand up for myself and set boundaries I am happy with. There is still a long way to go with my other issues linked to family and the toxic school, but I am heading in the right direction.
Professionally, I have known for a while that management wasn’t for me, but periodically I would worry that my career is stagnant or that I was stuck. I have come to realise that my path is just different, Hectic Teacher as a brand has taken off (much to my surprise) and I am creating more resources that others like and want to use, including a set of study support books for A Level Sociology and a textbook for yr9 introduction to Social sciences (Pre GCSE course). Neither are professionally published but I have written them. The Genius Hour program is going from strength the strength in my school, despite the adjustments for COVID and has become a highlight of the school year for teachers, students and parents. I have also recently taken on the role of co-Ordinator for TM Sociology Icons and we are presently planning our first event. I have other projects that are taking off and ideas that I want to develop. So although I might not be ML or SLT I am still moving forward in my career and I am lucky to be in such a supportive school that I can develop these ideas and projects.
I am hoping that as we head into academic year 2021/22, things will become a little more settled, that I can have my classroom back and I can go back to face to face support and trainings. I also hope I can continue on my journey of understanding myself. It might have taken nearly 40 years for me to accept elements of myself but at least I have started and I hope it will continue however slowly.