How do teachers pick themselves up after a series of poor judgements?
This year hit me straight in the chest like a bull! I have reached the final week of my second year in teaching and what a roller-coaster it has been for me personally.
Working in year 2, we have seen the rise and fall of SPaG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar); trickier tests and a lot more work thrown at me and my year partner then we could ever imagine. This, as well as being in a car crash and working with an extremely tricky student. However, we have battled through and have made it to the end of the year. But the thing I am most proud of, is getting ‘requires improvement’ for my planning folder twice, ‘requires improvement’ in my marking for literacy and numeracy once and a lesson observation in which I received ‘requires improvement’. I also applied for a new job and I was unsuccessful!
Maybe proud is the wrong word, but I am proud of the person I have become because of this.
In my NQT year I was incredibly fortunate. I had a fantastic class, a supportive mentor, and received either ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ for all my lesson observations, planning folders and the marking of students’ books. We had been fully moderated by the local authority, observed by OfSTED and achieved the best results for key stage 1 SATs our school had ever seen!
I felt as if I could just continue on the upward trajectory and continue doing what I was doing. I hadn’t faced any adversity, so personal resilience wasn’t what it should be.
Then, this year hit me straight in the chest like a bull!
Requires improvement, then another requires improvement. What was I doing wrong? My confidence took a dip and then the ‘requires improvement’ judgement for my lesson observation came along too and I fell to my lowest ebb. Colleagues rallied around me, but I felt worthless, rubbish and most of all, I was failing the children I was there to care for.
The students deserve better than a teacher who ‘requires improvement’, right?
So, I asked for advice from the teachers across the school and from people outside of the profession.
- How do you respond to a setback?
- How do you build up your resilience?
I took these knock-backs as an opportunity to discover who I was and what teacher I should be.
How do you respond?
I took them for what they were, merely other people’s ‘opinions on pieces of paper’. I looked at the targets I’d been set, looked at myself and made the commitment to push myself and achieve even more for the children in my class. I stuck the ‘requires improvement’ forms up on the inside of my cupboard at home and looked at them every morning. It made me determined to prove others wrong and to show that my last year wasn’t a fluke; that I can be consistently ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.
Over time, I was observed five more times and received ‘good’ once and ‘outstanding’ during the other four occasions. The one I was really proud of was from the headteacher; it made me feel like I had proven her right for taking a chance on me when I graduated from university as an NQT.
I suppose what I am really trying to get across in this blog, is that setbacks happen and it depends on your resilience and how you respond to them.
Teaching is a tricky profession (from what I have experienced in my two short years) and I feel that as teachers, we are great when the ‘chips are down’. We naturally rally around one another and if support comes, then only good things can happen. If you suffer a setback, show that your willing to learn from the advice given, rather than stick your head in the sand and not listen, then it’s only a matter of time before things start to improve.
Advice can come from anywhere – even if your school is still grading NQTs and lesson observations – and it all depends on what you do with it that makes the difference.
Jack Gulston is a second year primary teacher and writes for Teacher Toolkit.