I can’t remember the last time I felt so mentally and physically drained. For the past 3 weeks or so, I have been waking up at 6, or even 5am nearly every day of the week (even weekends as my body became conditioned into waking up at that time of day), leaving my temporary accommodation before 8am, and only returning at 8 in the evening. The days have been long, with constant cramming of information, experiences and other activities, and by the time I get back in the evening, I just about have enough time to make myself some dinner, shower and sleep. (That’s why I’ve had an unintentional hiatus)
I’m currently undergoing a 5 week training institute (or intensive as I think it should be called) in order to prepare me for the teaching job I am due to start in September. Our days are filled with placements at nearby (or not so nearby) schools where we undertake observations or subject-based sessions, and late seminar-style training sessions where techniques, principles and other knowledge is crammed into our exhausted brains. With two more weeks of this left, I can already sense my batteries running low.
Don’t get me wrong, I know why this is necessary, and I’m well aware of the working world being incredibly intense and long when compared to a university lifestyle (which I had just recently come out). Had I been eased into this routine, maybe I wouldn’t be feeling so concerned about my wellbeing, but we can’t always have it the way we want it.
Wellbeing – that’s something I’ve been hearing a lot from the people who run this programme. ‘Make sure to take care of your wellbeing,’ they say, over and over again. However, every time I hear it, I can’t help but think that we could, if our days weren’t so long; we could if we actually had time to. We’re either spending most of our days undertaking activities for this programme, and the rest of the time, we are expected to work on tasks that have been set for us that we need to complete by the end of the 5 weeks. Some of these are quite short and simple, such as writing two weekly journal entries of around 250 words. Others are more time-consuming or tedious, such as reading recommended material, reading over our curriculum and subject specifications, planning our first few lessons, completing workbook tasks and uploading ‘evidence’ to prove our progress. It just feels like they are trying to buy as much of our time as possible, but trying to cover their tracks by vocalising their concern for our wellbeing.
The knowledge I’ve gained is amazing; they idea of me becoming a teaching wasn’t a thought that made me feel uncontrollably anxious but the things I’ve learnt over the past few weeks about behaviour, teaching techniques, some psychology related studies and so on, have been really eye-opening and I have found truly interesting. However, it’s all fully of strange irony. We are taught about working memory and long-term memory – how to best feed knowledge into a student so that it is retained and recovered better – yet we are taught in a way that is counterproductive to this study. We are taught about how best to engage our classes, with the use of our voice, motions, interactive activities, yet we are made to sit at our desks and take in the information fed to us, with occasional discussions or walking around. We were even taught about the productivity of the human brain – how long it’s at its optimum function during a day and after how many hours it would be inefficient to continue studying/working etc. Yet for the whole of last week, we were in at our schools from 8am until 6pm, the first hour and last 3 hours being just seminars.
On top of that, I found out that the subjects I have been trained in aren’t the subjects my school is asking me to teach. Which bares the risk of me not being qualified at the end of my first year as the subjects I have been asked to teach might not count towards my qualification. You’d think for an institute, a charity that was so adamant about change and this vision they have, they would have checked this through before placing someone there and potentially jeopardising the whole qualification. And I’m not the first person that has encountered such an issue.
It’s a great cause; I would never say otherwise. But I wish it was handled differently; organised differently; I wish they were as concerned about our wellbeing, abilities, time and concerns as they are about the children’s. I wish the more time I spend around these people, it seemed less like a cult and more like a charity – but strangely, it doesn’t. I want to be a teacher, I want to help children find the best in themselves and slowly help overcome the issues in our education system such as inequality. But I’m not sure this was the right route to take.