The Long Trek
by James Keep – Curriculum Area Leader – Modern Foreign Languages
Warning! Clichéd, extended metaphor coming
up in 3, 2, 1…
Colleagues, you are on a long and arduous mountain trek. It’s been tough going so far; some have stumbled, others have sustained bruises and many have been on the verge of giving up. You’re all running low on energy, yet the steepest, toughest climb, for which you and your team have been in training for so long, is just around the corner. Sounds like a sticky situation. Oh and just to top it off, you’re the group leader, so the buck stops with you to get everyone to the top! How are you going to stay positive and keep both yourself and your team going?
This time of the school year is fraught with opportunities to feel miserable and the temptation for us or our pupils to give up, so how can we resist and persist as teachers and leaders of our classes, when our year 7s have suddenly returned from the Easter break with all the signs of turning into a bunch of overly-confident, too-big-for-their-boots year 8 wannabes, and our year 11s are showing more than a fleeting sign of nerves, having suddenly realised that they possibly should have done some revision after all.
Firstly, when things occasionally and inevitably feel like they’re all going pear-shaped and you’ve just taught what felt like the worst lesson that the British education system has ever seen, just remember, it’s really not the end of the world! You are still a good teacher and there are tweaks you can make for next lesson that will make all the difference. If you’re not sure what they are, ask your coach/mentor/C.A.L. or anyone you trust to come and see if they can help.
Secondly, record the wins; each time someone finally grasps that complex idea, answers a question in a coherent full sentence, or even just sits in the right seat for once, celebrate to yourself or share it with a colleague. Then cling to those things because you made them happen and don’t dwell on the negatives.
Next, every so often on your trek, remember to look back over your shoulder at how far you’ve climbed, how your teaching has improved, how individual pupils have developed in their grasp of your subject, how the pupil who refused to do anything in September does now actually care enough to do their homeworks.
Finally and most importantly, remember why you started the trek as a teacher in the first place; it was probably because you wanted to lead your pupils up the toughest climb of their lives so far. You’ve been in their shoes in the past, so be assured that you are making a difference in their lives. What greater moral purpose could we remind ourselves of to keep us going each morning as we come through the school gates?
Whatever you do, stay positive right up to the summit of results day or the end of term. After all, we’re all in it together, we’re two thirds of the way there now and the view from the top is spectacular.