I learnt quickly, in teaching, that time is a pie chart. You can move the radii around, you can make preparation time bigger, and marking time smaller, you can minimise time spent in meetings and maximise time spent creating resources. You can, for a time, enlarge the pie chart by working harder, but no one sustains this for long and remains a joy to be with! What you can’t do is create more time.
Having stepped out of the classroom, the thing that I miss most is the relationships. The learning is important too of course, but what made me deeply happy, was that it happened in the context of a relationship. Teaching someone to calculate percentages has a much greater sense of reward when you actually care about the person; you chat to them, you have a sense of what’s going on for them in and out of the classroom. There is less reward when you mechanistically impart information, and tick the page.
Of course, no teacher does that. But what strikes me now is that what made my class run smoothly (ok, fairly smoothly, most days…) was the set of relationships upon which the work of the day rested. And they didn’t happen by accident. Either the job became busier and more demanding (which I think it has), or I became more aware of the full scope of the demands of the job (which I think I did), or both, but the squeeze was definitely put on relationship-building time. In the battle for raising standards, it was the first casualty.
How did that look? There were certain indicators.
-At Art time, when the class had started work, I would mark books instead of chatting to individual pupils about what they were doing.
-At break time, I’d be preparing the next lesson back at my desk.
-With a literacy group, there’d be no time for warming up or small talk, or deviation into an interesting discussion, we’d be straight to the point because there were other groups to see and other things to do.
It became a fight to make myself available. And sometimes it was ok to lose; a teacher doesn’t have to be away from their desk, ready to enter into conversation all the time. It strikes me now that there’s a pressure for everything to be purposeful and productive, all the time. The reality for me, was that small talk greased the wheels to get the big stuff done.