After a particularly hard class during my first term of teaching, one of my older students said ‘Sir, why do you even bother?’ It was one of the more raw questions I have been asked and one I hoped I wouldn’t receive only a few weeks into teaching.
When I decided to teach, I had this image of myself as someone who’s desire to help students to learn and follow their passions would be evident through my teaching. I believe actions should speak louder than words and I thought that the way I treated students would ensure they knew why I was there.
While Term 1 has been made up of good, average and bad days, I have walked into my school every day with the knowledge that I’m there to make a difference. I explain to my students that at the end of Year 12, I want them to be able to choose what ever they want to do. The choice is theirs to make, but I don’t want their choices to be limited because I allowed them to disengage in my classroom. I try to support this mantra with action in my classes.
A few weeks later another student in the playground came up to me and said ‘thanks for being so nice to me’, then quickly ran off to play with their friends. This student had been one of the more difficult in my classes, but getting to know them had helped turn their behaviour around.
The two anecdotes from student interactions above sum up my experience as a first term teacher.
It has been a journey of confusion, full of questions and frustrating answers. It has also been one that has shown me that empathy and understanding must be at the heart of everything we do in schools.
Those first ten weeks were a huge learning journey filled with questions of ‘why’. Why we teach, why do students learn, why do we have tests, and why do we structure education in the way that we do? It has been frustrating, humbling, inspiring and full of ego-crushing blows from particularly witty students.
Discipline, classroom management and giving a students a reason to want to be in my classroom have been the most challenging aspects of. I know my many, many lessons from Term 1 will help to make Term 2 a better experience for my students.
Teaching is far more challenging, rewarding and interesting than I had ever imagined. Responsibility is omnipresent and the pressures faced by staff are incredible but there is constant gratification. I wouldn’t want to do anything else with my life right now and am grateful for the opportunity to teach with a wise and supportive staff team at Melrose High School.
The highlight from this term has been getting to know students outside the classroom through the Year 7 Camp and working as one of the school’s SRC coordinators. Seeing students organising events, speaking at assembly, sharing ideas on how to improve the school or working on projects reminds me how important it is to focus on teaching students skills in our classrooms.
As Helen Hayes once said, ‘The expert in anything was once a beginner’, and the remnants of my ego that lay scattered on the floor of my classroom are proof that ‘Mr Duggan’ has a lot to learn. Thank you to all the people who have helped me over the past few months with advice and support.
While I know that it will take many years to become a quality teacher, I hope that in the future my students won’t have to ask why I bother and through my actions, will know how much I genuinely care.