What challenges have you faced so far?
I will try to avoid mentioning COVID in this blog, as the pandemic is causing challenges in many different areas of life and school is no exception. However, there are many areas of teaching impacted by COVID that I did not expect.
One area that has been particularly challenging, especially as a maths teacher, has been the lack of self-belief displayed by students in classrooms. I was aware of this as a problem before the pandemic, but after talking with other teachers it is clear that this issue has only been amplified by the lack of face-to-face teaching that some of these students have had over the last 2 years due to the pandemic.
Students enter the classroom with a defeatist attitude, already feeling negative about their own abilities before the content has even been presented. It is incredibly challenging to introduce new topics when they are so discouraged.
Another challenge I have faced is experiencing imposter syndrome. This feeling certainly isn’t helped by the fact that I haven’t had a formal graduation from my degree (again, due to COVID), so I almost feel like I haven’t closed that chapter in my life. In my current school, I am closer in age to the students I’m teaching than the teachers who are mentoring me, which can lead to a strange dynamic in classrooms. I have to remind myself sometimes that I am the teacher and not still a student, especially when in a supporting role in the classroom. While I feel teachers should try to relate to their students, I sometimes find it difficult to know at what point the boundary should be set at, especially with Year 11 classes who are often very friendly with their established teachers. I know that with time this feeling will subside, but for now it is a challenge that I must actively overcome.
The last challenge has been with time management. While I entered this course aware of the workload of teachers, I’ve found the workload as a PGDE student to be greater than expected. Around 6 weeks into the course I started becoming overwhelmed by paperwork. I had lesson plans and reflections to do on top of a looming essay deadline; I cried on the drive home from school one day because I felt like I was failing. I had a very productive chat with my subject mentor and professional mentor the next day, which calmed my nerves immensely as they were reassuring and kind in a moment of weakness. That same day I taught my best lesson yet to a class I had been struggling with – it was an incredibly affirming moment.
By Emily Woodward