Oh, hello. I didn’t see you there. You’ve caught me writing words about the lessons learned during my five years working in education. The title of this blog post is inspired by Maroon 5; not only is this the name of their second hit album, but it served as the bands motto during their first world tour. It is similar to the phrase ‘hurry up and wait’ in that it literally doesn’t make sense, but I believe it is designed to suggest that patience is a virtue.
My journey into education began during early October 2012. I had grown tired of the same humdrum day. McDonald’s is a fine place to work, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the allure of £30k would die a quick death once the realisation kicked in that I would have to do the same thing over and over until I was a husk, being wheeled out of the store in a mop bucket. Instead of continuing in monotony, I chose to take a leap of faith and dive into the career I had always dreamed of – teaching.
For a long time, I refused to believe that I was capable enough to teach others. There were a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, I was afraid that OCD, anxiety and depression would all impact on the health of children, colleagues and my effectiveness. Secondly, I didn’t believe that someone like me could possibly inspire others to love learning, especially because I was comfortable NOT learning at the time.
The first step on the long road to success was a teaching assistant job at an inner city high school in West Yorkshire. I had a vague idea of the challenges that awaited – I was educated in a deprived and depraved school, so troubling behaviour was common place. It was usual for kids to jump out of a second-floor window to escape Geography, for example. My suspicions were confirmed when, within seconds of my first day, a student told a teacher to fuck off because the work was shit.
My first year working in education was used to scope out the landscape. How much influence do work place politics impact on work? What are the traits of a good educator? How can I improve? These were some of the questions I vividly recall swirling through my mind. The final question listed was a turning point in my career – for the first time in a decade, I was hungry to learn. Within two days of starting my vocation as a teaching assistant, I asked if there were any books I could read to help me acclimatise myself to the job at hand. For the first time in my life, I wanted to study and grow.
Toward the end of my first year, a kid joined my school who forever changed my life. A fragile, thin, petrified pupil had taken a torturous journey to escape unrest in her native country. Sat before a computer, with little grasp of English, she stared vacantly at a wall of text, listening to an Australian woman attempt to teach her the language that was the key to unlocking her potential. I could feel the desperation emanating from this girl, so I asked if she would like to do something else. I popped open some multiplication on the screen, and her demeanour changed instantly. Perhaps the biggest strength of mathematics is it’s a universal language – everyone has, at the very least, a basic grasp of number. Within two weeks, we were manipulating basic algebraic equations. She beamed with joy at every high five. I saw her confidence soar.
I’d be foolish to suggest that this pupil’s resurgence was solely down to me – I worked with a bunch of dedicated professionals, all of whom undoubtedly has an impact. Yet this student affirmed that I had embarked on the right path.
She left our school with a C in GCSE maths – I can’t help but feel proud that I had a small part to play in her achievement.
I have much more to write about my five years in education, but I feel if I leave it here, I’ll be motivated enough to write at least one blog post a week. I hate leaving things unfinished!
I urge you to fill the comments with stories of inspiring teachers. They may not even know you helped them!
Until next time, take care of yourself.