Maths Scholar Michael Walden tells the truth
Before commencing my teacher training I had prepared myself for the prospect of late nights, early rises and general stress, but the reality ended up exceeding all of my expectations.
My fear of not being fully prepared for a lesson, for not having adequate extension material for my most able students, for my lessons not being too boring, for not having prepared for challenging questioning and so on, meant that I would over-prepare for every lesson.
I would often run through my plan and accompanying slides multiple times in my head before I stepped into the classroom, juggling a hundred different thoughts in my mind: “What do I say at this point? What if someone should say this? What are the class doing/learning whilst this is happening?...”
As a result of this intense preparation, I felt like my skills as a teacher grew quite quickly. The reason was I knew my lessons so well and was therefore able to anticipate where the potential problems with its execution would lie. However, this fastidious approach became near unsustainable as I adopted my full timetable at the end of the first term.
Still feeling like I needed such a high level of preparation to maintain this high standard I’d set for myself, I worked long hours (around 70-80 per week) often well into the night without a break and often all day Sunday in preparation for Monday.
The fact is that when you work as a teacher you are constantly working to lots of mini deadlines: books that need marking for the following day, a lesson that needs planning for two hours’ time, a homework task that needs uploading in the next 20 minutes. This means that you are constantly flitting from one task to another, making quick decisions as to what is the most important thing to do and what has the least consequence should I not get it done in time. For a trainee teacher, it is a highly stressful time and I found myself at the point of burnout by the end of each half term.
During this time, I would be frequently reminded by people that “it will get easier” and - to be fair - it did, but not until after Easter. As over time you grow to know your classes and their particular educational needs, lesson planning time drops dramatically as you can quickly determine which tasks will or will not be successful.
Furthermore, I found that as my experience in the classroom grew there became less need to have rehearsed everything in my head prior to the lesson; I know the class, what they will most likely say, what instructions to give, and so you learn to just walk into the room and teach.
Now that I am approaching the end of my ITT year, I can see how far I have progressed and also how much more comfortable I am in the role now. Although I still work evenings, I have far more free time and am enjoying my work life far more as a result. As daunting as the above makes the training sound, upon reflection I can see that my experience was like this because I cared so much about my work which is a clear indication that I am doing the right thing with my life.
The training is hard and completely all-consuming, but once you begin to emerge from the other side, the reality is that you spend your days working with unpredictable and enquiring minds, speaking about a subject about which you are passionate, and being part of an exciting school community, which makes all the effort, late nights and exhaustion totally worthwhile.
Michael is a Maths Scholar and is just the kind of passionate, hardworking and caring individual we are looking for. If you are up for the challenge why not apply to be a Maths Scholar? If you are looking for a challenge, a rewarding career then teaching Maths is both.