As I walked in half the class was talking about the lesson they had taught on Monday; everyone else was talking about how they’d prepared for theirs. Panic started to build: how had I missed something already? When it hit me that they meant lessons they had taught I went into full on panic mode; externally of course I kept my cool: never let anyone know you are the only one in the room whose messed up my brain told me. I borrowed a laptop to check what everyone was talking about. I logged into my email and saw the teaching schedule had been posted a while ago. I was certain I’d missed a lesson on Monday; surely this was some kind of cosmic justice for an otherwise free day… As it turned out I was due to have my first lesson that afternoon, an hour after this lecture ended. I hadn’t researched the subject or prepared any notes but there was still a chance to make it: I hadn’t missed anything yet!
Somehow that first lesson went without any issues. I managed to get some research in on the drive over and it was luckily stuff I knew well. I made it to my first lesson. It was fun, we got to know the classroom, the teacher was lovely and the pupils were well behaved. We introduced ourselves, went over the planned materials and even had a small play of Romulus and Remus performed. I still remember one of the pupils' outrage that, having put his hand up too fast he had volunteered to play the part of “a giiiirl” (his emphasis). Overall it was a great introduction to the class and massively reduced the stress that had been building until that moment.
As the Tuesday afternoons rolled over we got to know the class better. There was a slight lurch when the name badges were removed a bit too early for my liking but it worked well. Our group arrived, rarely early but never late, and peeked through the window. A couple of pupils would notice and a hush would go through the room until the teacher allowed us in. We were lucky to get a well behaved class, not that it couldn’t get hectic, but they were eager to learn. They enjoyed time-travelling visitors such as Wollos the Celt and Titus the Roman though they were never quite fooled as they proudly told Harry and Tom (my fellow teachers) when they returned next week sans costumes.
Around the 4th week we sent them home with some simple homework. A template to be cut out which would form a paper gladius which they could bring in next week. Little did we expect that next week we would not be greeted by some paper swords but rather find out that a couple of them had gotten a little overexcited. Some fathers had clearly gotten involved when their children came home and said “we need to make a sword for next week”: there were more than a few miniature wooden swords but the crowning achievement was one father-son team who had returned with a wooden claymore about the height of me. An amused teacher had rounded these up as they had come in that morning and we briefly announced a winner and runner up for best sword rather than the battle re-enactment we had planned.
We began introducing new concepts and were amazed at how quickly they soaked up information. One section of work on Roman numerals the week before and they were ready to do maths using them the next. Seeing improvement was one of the most satisfying parts of teaching. One student who had insisted she could not read asked for help while I was leading the class. I asked her to keep her finger under the words and to follow along. If she put a mark near difficult words I would help her with them once I had finished leading the class in the reading exercise. I kept an eye on her and was pleased to see that she did as asked and was following on perfectly. A couple of red marks at the end were quickly resolved and she informed me as she left class that day that she beat the rest of her table in the comprehension questions.
I wanted to write this blog about the best moment I had while teaching over the term. I didn’t want to single out one moment or sound cheesy and say something along the lines of “all of it was great.” I think the thing I look back on most fondly isn’t any discernible moment but rather that now, as I look back on it, I wound up spending my Mondays looking forward to heading back to school for Tuesday afternoons.
Eurgh, isn’t that sickly sweet.
Written by Thomas Atkinson, 12 January 2015