September... I hate September... Do not get me wrong I love the job that is very much interlinked with that month but still I hate September. So now that we have got that out in the open I can just state that my first week back at the educational hotspot was as expected 'chaotic'. Nothing new. I even consider it part of the job description. Believe me, I had been planning ahead and I even had tried to stay ahead of some red tape. Well, like every year over and over again September won from August. The chaos I did try to stay out of so desperatedly found a way back in.
It is all around to be spotted and to experience:traffic jams, longer waiting times at cash tills, messy&busy supermarkets, hairdressers invaded by under the age of 18, busy tones when you call a dentist, sold out trainers, over 30 different versions of a time table (I am afraid that when I state that the version that I have now in my folder is the final one I will be doomed for sure), not being able to locate your smart phone and car keys when you want to beat the morning traffic, a photocopy machine that over the summer seems to have forgotten how to spit out the correct copies of your worksheets, lost textbooks, lunch money, sold out bakeries when you only arrive 5 minutes before closing time, passwords that can't be retrieved or you seem to have forgotten while hanging out at the beach, pushing the wrong button on the coffee machine at work, parking lots that are so full that you would rather go home without groceries then having to face the crowd, forgetting to put the trainers in your son his gym bag, preparing lunch bags and making sure that everyone gets out of the house in time, the alarm that goes of in the morning at an hour that you do consider insane and now and then you then ran into even more annoyed people who seem to have forgotten that we all face September once a year... No, I am not a happy teacher when dealing with those aspects when the S*** (pardon my French here)-month pops up on my desk calendar.
Now, I have been told that one tactic in order to survive September is that you have to embrace all of the above. Still if I could I would now push the fast forward button and go straight to Oktober. My mind is bursting and I every year again wonder how I ever in the world have managed to get through that month before. I don't get it or yes I do... Every year a certain collision takes place in my mind and it feels a bit like the icebucket challenge. Brainfreeze and headbanging are daily activities. Ones that I don't like to face but seem to be the only way to survive this month.
I also face that one thing that so many teacher face at this time of the year and that are new teaching sets. Surely it is not a good idea to assume that every academic year involves just copy and paste actions. Every single student under my wings is an individual with their own talents and personal traits. Every single class room is a different story and in September I get to face a blank canvas and I do then always keep my fingers crossed when walking into my 'fresh' classes that our first encounters or reunions are positives ones. That our kick off of the school year sets a positive tone for the weeks and moths ahead.
So this month is also coming to terms what involves teaching. Not that only nice elements but also the ones that make you wonder why I went into to teaching in the first place. Like yesterday, yesterday I faced that one moment that makes me feel so helpless that I wonder what I have done wrong or could have done differently. I had ran out of breath and that after only lesson. I left empty the classroom and was not satisfied. The best comparison I can come up with is that I felt like a surgeon who walks into a fully equiped OT and considers him/her experienced enough to face this complicated procedure with confidence (hey, you have experience under your belt...so what can go possibly go wrong on your watch) but THEN having to face half way through the operation a cardiac arrest. One that even ends in a flat line. The patient is declared dead. And you walk out of there with bloody scrubs and sweat on your forehead and wonder how in the world you will be able to face yourself in the morning. Yeah, that is what Stallie then faces.
That I here now admit that I after 17 years of teaching still have not found the secret of class management 'in all weather conditions' some of you might consider a weakness. Well, fair enough... it then means that you have your own bag of tricks that seem to work for your teaching sets and that you have the magic touch that some us envy you for. Good for you! But it does not make my life any eassier. Not in the coming hours or days. That I yesterday went from teaching on cloud #9 one moment (ace poetry lesson with my IB students who after the Summer have become more mature and can make me smile and LOL) to the what I can only describe that one spot you as a teacher hate to hang out at is not easy. It even hurts and fills me up with a sensation that goes so deep. Very deep!
I have been there before and yes believe me, it has caused me sleepless nights. I do meet up with myself in a classroom in such situations because I then suddenly become so much aware that I need to face the fact that my lessonplan has not covered every angle. And believe me, I have not just spend a quick five minutes on such lesson plans. It also does not help that I then have coworkers that are expressing that they are rather happy that they are not teaching certain challenging sets. NOPE!!! In all honesty, it only makes it worse and does not sugar coat things. Because you know what? I do feel then like a major FAIL!!!
Oh yes, I am fully aware that expressing my failure out here makes me vulnerable. I bet that there are now teachers out there that will be having a ball. Well, you know what? At this stage I do not even have to time to be upset with you. It won't be helping me out and please do me one favor do not start sharing your teaching tactics and class management at this stage. Because you know what? Chances are likely that in 99% of the cases they won't work for me or for the teaching sets I am working with this year. Please don't advise me to start reading the newest insights about dealing with teenagers in the classroom and don't start me on new approaches. Don't get me wrong. It is not that I am not interested. That it not the case. I am because I do but not right now. And sorry (don't take it personal, please don't), it does not help me out that you walk into my classroom shortly after such a lesson because I need more than just hearing 'So how did it go?'. First of all what I need is a hug and a bar of chocolate because I am very sorry but in the teaching business you do sometimes feel lonely. I am the one that will have to walk back into that classroom and face the 'enemy'. Not you who is so lucky not to be teaching that particular set of students.
Why does the above not work for me? Well, the year I started out as qualified teacher I have found out that 'copy&paste' when dealing with class management does fail. For weeks I had been trying to be that one teacher that I looked up and who had been mentoring me. She was ace with the students. Her rules were straightforward and in her class there never ever did seem to be any disorder. More than once I had told myself that I was going to be just like her. Well, talking about rude awakenings that second week of September surely qualified for such a thing!!! The September of my first teaching year I faced the fact that her teaching style was not mine. But I did wonder why her tactics did not work when I was teaching that exact group of students. I had observed her so many times and worked along her side and her classes were always spic and span. WHAT IN THE WORLD WAS I DOING WRONG?
Never I will forget that one day the school nurse found me in my classroom and I guess that my face must have told her that my day had not been such a big of a success. No, she did not even ask me how things were going. She did something that saved my day (I am even tempted to say that she saved my teachig existence at a certian level) and that is telling me what she had seen me doing. She just plainly told me the facts and she did express her feelings about that. No, she did not sugar coated the situation and nope she did not give me any advice. That day she did point out one that what I had been doing was 'copy and paste'. She even knew who I was trying to 'copy&paste'. What surprised me. 'You are an individual. You are not C! Students are aware of this. You need to be true to yourself.' So I had to let go and find my own approach. And yes, that did involve trial and error. Step by step I did discover that teaching is not set in stone. But I am now very sure about one thing and that my students face is the genuine Mrs S.
Well, let me just be even more honest with you all. I don't have a teaching degree that qualifies me to teach at Hogwarts. I don't have a bag filled up with trics that will make it work every single day of the academic year. I don't have the ability to anticipate every single situation in my classroom. After all, I am not a MI6 agent. In the first place I am Stallie, the teacher who is not afraid to admit that (and this even after 17 years) I don't have got all the answers and that I have got flaws. Not matter what I try to be an honest teacher who also has those days that are not that big of a success and wish I could do over. So don't hold back when you find me in a classroom with no smile in sight and bring chocolate or Haribo candy along. I need a hug nothing more and nothing less.
Now Stallie has not the intention to just give up. No, I am too commited to do so...and so the only promise I can keep at the beginning of an academic year is that I am planning to keep true to my teaching style and principles but this with an open mind and also have the intention to give everybody the benefit of the doubt. I am the one and only Stallie and I do hope that the original version will be strong and creative enough to survive the coming school year. So welcome back! And to all fellow teachers out there in the world I wish you as well a very smooth going September and a year ahead that mostly can be called fun. Please try to be original and let the copy and paste-version at home.
PS: The song that I picked out to go along is surely an oldie and will even make some of you LOL. The thing is that while I was on my back to work after two months being nobody's teacher this was on the radio. Yes, I did turn up to the volume and yes I believe that this song will get me through the year when things are a bit less sunny I did run out of energy and ideas. Plus I have also met up with great cast of the awesome (and must see) movie 'Inside Out' in a Powerpoint presentation at work. Next time I see a paper plane heading my way I will start LOL for sure.