This week I had the opportunity to spend a day in a local secondary school. It felt a little strange returning to the classroom after four years and to be honest I was dreading it!
My mind was buzzing over the weekend, worried that I’d lose control of the class and there would be mayhem. However, I guess teaching is like riding a bike, once you’re in that classroom, you just know what you have to do. So it went relatively well, the mind stories were wrong again.
The first two lessons were year 9 Maths, not my specialist subject or my strongest but you just have to get on with it. When I first saw my timetable for the day I was a little worried, I mean year 9’s? I’ve often said they are the most challenging year group, a kind of limbo year, not quite keystage 3 or 4, just there preparing for when things get really serious!
It’s interesting to watch young people as they walk into a class, notice their normal teacher isn’t there and then start working out how they should behave with this random stranger. This is when it’s absolutely crucial to make sure you as the teacher gain control because if you don’t have them in the first few moments, it’s very difficult to bring it back. Lesson learned from working in a special measures school for many years, nip it in the bud before it gets too hard to control. Both classes went well considering my freshness in the classroom or maybe the students didn’t notice, I’m guessing they didn’t otherwise I’d have been slaughtered!
In lesson three I had a year 10 group (ages 14 to 15 year olds). Now I felt there was a little heightened energy with this group. They just returned from their first break of the day, probably starting to tire after a couple of lessons and all the other dynamics that are in play for a teenager at school.
What’s Mindfulness Got to Do with It?
Here I was in a classroom full of hyped up teenagers, feeling slightly vulnerable when one of the young ladies asked me what I do when I’m not teaching. I explained that I teach Mindfulness and she asked if I would show them how to meditate. And that’s exactly what I did. I guided them through the posture process and asked them to close their eyes. Some were very up for it, others were a little self conscious. We only spent a couple of minutes doing a short breathing practice. I certainly needed it and from the comments, the students said it helped. Well the lesson was much calmer after, so it was worth doing.
I continued the day with year 7’s (11 to 12 year olds) who were a little lively but by that time I’d pretty much settled back into the familiar role.
By the end of the day I was absolutely exhausted, as I was driving home I wondered how I had managed to do that for almost a decade, along with having three children of my own to look after. And I renewed my respect to all those adults who work day in and day out with our amazing but often challenging young people.
Whats more, I confirmed my belief in our young people who are mostly kind, thoughtful and well behaved. However I was also reminded just how easy it is for young people to be influenced and led into behaving against their own better judgement so they can to fit in. It is precisely because of this that we need to support teachers to do their jobs as best as they can. We need to support our school leaders to lead without having to look over their shoulders constantly. And we must ensure our young people can learn and flourish in a safe environment.
The Life of a Teacher
Sometimes I wonder if there are many jobs more stressful than teaching? A teacher isn’t just someone who turns up for an hour to teach in a class, in reality a teacher has many roles. They must be master planners, each lesson must be appropriate for each group at the same time as being personalised for the varying abilities, special needs and progress capabilities. Then throw in behaviour management, I’m going to say this is probably one of the most challenging roles because children are children, each with their own personalities, emotions and family life. Oh and these young people know how to play the rules, so a teacher has to be on guard to stick to the rules or be ready to be challenged!
Teachers are held to account by their line manager, senior leadership, Ofsted inspectors and parents. I can think of a few professions that could do with such scrutiny but don’t have anything close to it.
Then teachers have to be kind and understanding, even if they are being challenged or just plain tired. And for the most part, teachers are good at what they do.
Mindfulness made all the Difference
What I noticed was how different I was on the day. My attitude made all the difference, my constant awareness of how I was speaking, moving and projecting, mindful self awareness. This is where Mindfulness comes in, the ability to self regulate throughout the day so your own stress levels do not increase and are kept in balance. If teachers can help themselves to stay still inside, then the outer environment is easier to handle and that’s got to be a better way to be throughout the day.