May 2, 2011

A baptism by fire

Back to the trenches.  Term 2 is already in full swing after three teaching days and it’s nearly 2am – I’ve just finished marking.  And I’ve got so much left to do.  Crap!

The Federal Department of Education put out this report evaluating the first stage of Teach for Australia (click to download).  It was conducted by the Australian Centre for Education Research and in the conclusion it had this little gem:


If Associates are to gain the maximum benefit from their Placement School experience it would seem wise to ensure that their first year is more ‘swim’ than ‘sink’, and certainly – to mix metaphors – not a baptism by fire.

Looks like it’s going to be a while before I’m going to be swimming.  The theological reference seems quite apt considering this period really does feel like the most difficult period of my life, so far. 


“But you’re enjoying it, right?”  ask people when I tell them about this sea change.  To be honest, no, I didn’t enjoy much of Term 1.  But that’s ok and I accept that it was difficult and because every day I’m working on something I want to keep building on and continuing or a very long term I know that it takes determination, hard work and perseverance.  And of course there were plenty of positive moments.  I go into the classroom everyday optimistic that this will be a better lesson than the one before.  Every little teaching technique I learn, I can file away into my toolkit and put into my spread sheet I’ve made to use again if it works well Smile  Ultimately, I am happier doing this than anything I’ve ever done. 



First day back term 2, probably about ten minutes into my year 10 class:  One student stabs open a deodorant can with a pen (he must’ve been pretty angry) and it sprays everywhere, suddenly and in a few seconds the entire classroom is filled with the sickly sweet stench I can taste in my mouth.  I suppose now that I’ve had previous experiences dealing with phallic-like objects in the classroom,* I dealt with it promptly and evacuated the class outside.  It was nice to “teach” outside in the sun.  The kid was sent home and was back at school the next day.  He didn’t turn up to my next class. 

*Last term, I had a kid bring a dildo to class.


And then in my last class on Friday, only one student turned up because all the rest wagged.  Wow.  How can I not take that personally?  I called up the parents to tell them and the first one I talked to said it was his responsibility and she’s sicked of hearing from the school and to “ring the police cos they’re the only ones that would know where he was.”   Well at least I got through to her because she hadn’t barred the school’s number from her phone, and her phone line was working.


I feel culture-shock every day.  In a place where I was charging over $300/hour for legal services, and now I offer to help my students for free, all the time, and they just don’t want it and reject my help, outright.  “Q, just let it go.” advises one of the senior teachers, “She’s playing a game.  You’ve done as much as you can.” 


Sigh.  I’m not about to give up just yet.  But now – to slumber.

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