Just how old do you have to be before you are classed as a ‘real teacher’?
More and more teachers are coming into the profession at an older age. They are adults who have decided on teaching having already experienced the working world in another industry or profession. However, there are also fresh-faced, only-just-out-of-uni students who have decided on this challenging profession, perhaps without ever having worked elsewhere. I have huge admiration for anybody even considering teaching as a career. It’s a bold move to make, for anyone, at any age.
Being a RQT myself, I am aware that I came into the profession with huge aims and even larger ambitions. I was young, I had good ideas and things that I was desperate to try but couldn’t until I had my classroom. I wanted to make a difference and hey, I was going to! I spent hours and hours in the summer holidays decorating my room, wanting it to be perfect for September, consistently adding more touches because it might just make it that little more special.
I spent sleepless nights thinking about how maybe my hundred pages of planning wasn’t quite right or that the level of challenge wasn’t tailored to every single child in the class. How I worried about the behaviour of the children and whether I would be able to control them on my own. Bearing in mind that by this point, I had already had a class for a year, but it seemed that having that extra adult in the class watching your back made everything less real, less scary.
When You Look ‘about 12’
As with most things, there are problems that can arise when you are starting out in your career as a teacher. And often, these are the last things in the world that you consider.
Here are two examples from my first year of teaching:
- (Substitute Teacher) ‘Sorry, would you be able to tell me where the class teacher is?’
- That would be me. Thanks though.
- (Pupil) ‘But Miss, you’re only 12 years older than us!’
- Yes, I am. Still not going to be your pal on Instagram though.
These may be comical examples of issues that young teachers could come across, but there are some more difficult examples that could rear their heads.
Difficult Issues And How To Cope
- Stand up for yourself: unless you’ve done something blatantly wrong, no one should have the right to make you feel as though you are less than them. More experience doesn’t always make you a better teacher. A passion for learning and a love for children can go a lot further.
- Share with someone you trust: make sure that you keep things well documented, confide in a friend, make sure someone knows if you’re not being treated as you should.
- Don’t get involved with Staffroom Gossip: idle talk is inevitable anywhere that you work. But as an NQT, remind yourself that teaching is the most important thing – not having a chinwag about Mrs So-and-So who never pays her tea money and eats all the biscuits. (I am unfortunately Mrs So-and-So in this scenario).
- Expect the odd ‘bad’ lesson: whether it’s ineffective because of behaviour or lack of planning, we all have them. The most important thing is how you choose to deal with it. The ability to think on your feet is paramount as a teacher and this is the best way to practise!
I could write a book with all of the lessons that I learnt in my first year as a qualified teacher, but quite frankly I don’t have time – being a teacher is exhausting.
Becoming a teacher was the best decision I have ever made. And I haven’t yet lost that passion for learning or love for children. In fact, every day it just gets stronger. I am still learning, I am definitely still growing as a teacher and my aims are still up there with the best of them – I want to be Deputy Head by 30, 7 years to go. Maybe by then I might even look a bit older.
Keep dreaming, keep inspiring, but keep believing that you can.