This is impossible…

This post is probably slightly premature because I haven’t yet officially completed the GTP Year and until they (don’t know who they actually are) send a badge, card or pigeon carrier with QTS written on a gold post-it note then I won’t consider myself an actual grown up. However, I am nearer that point than I was a year ago so I have a few pieces of advice or pointless musings to share with potential GTPers.

This last term has been a blur. Partially because since Easter I have a whole real life class (of children!) to myself and furthermore because I think people expect me to know what I am doing by now. The week before half term I hurriedly forced three of my colleagues to observe me so as to reach the required 30 observations and I spent 6 hours yesterday typing up my evaluations and ‘record sheet’ of the past year’s antics. It all seems a bit bizarre, but whilst writing up said ‘record sheet’ and sorting through 3 lever arch files of paperwork I realised I have learnt quite a lot in a year: even though I have very little idea how. The issues I faced as a GTP are littered below in no particular order. To potential GTPs they may be useful. To anyone else I’m guessing you have work to do but are trying to avoid it and that ‘Deal or No Deal’ isn’t on television right now. Don’t be too disappointed but the highlight probably will be the bit where I describe my disastrous ‘too tired to know I’m tired’ week where I burnt myself, walked into a door and lost a cup of tea all in the same day. That was a great week.

1) First problem: “Why do people think I know what I am doing?”

When I started I did not know what I was doing. I would argue that I still don’t know what I am doing around 80% of the time. I obviously know what I should be doing, how I’d like to be doing it, how it looks on the plan, how it could be were I as great as half the teachers I know, how I would do it if I were taller, smarter, prettier, funnier and basically less average. I am beyond doubt the most average person I know. I’m not particularly scared of trying anything; I’ll always try it but it doesn’t mean I’ll be any good at it. This applies to almost everything apart from being sarcastic, bossy, eating cake, applying eyeliner and skiing. Those things I am good alright at.

It was a mix between ‘I hate being watched’ and ‘don’t leave me on my own’-itus when it came to my first classes as a GTP. I’ve always thought I was rubbish at acting but it turns out that actually acting in front of kids is something I am okay at. So I acted my way through the first term really – I’m expecting a call from RADA any day now. The unnerving thing was people seemed to think I knew what I was doing and when every now and again I would slip up and reveal that actually I hadn’t a clue (as in blank in front of a class or forget my own name) then I felt like I’d let everyone down. I can’t say I was confident at all because I wasn’t and I kept getting told off for saying that I didn’t know what I was doing in reviews and reflective meetings but I only said it as it was true! The main thing I would change is I would have realised earlier that I didn’t have to, and couldn’t, know it all straight away. More importantly no one expected me to.  The odd thing about all of this is that at the time I began thinking ‘why do people moan about the GTP year?’ I had a lot of free time still and just felt like I was learning so it was like being back at school for me too! For me the first term was not the hardest but it was the one where I learnt the most about my style of teaching. Turns out I’m not that funny but I also realised rather quickly that I was lucky enough to have the ‘Personal Attributes’ side of things sorted. If there’s one thing I can do well it is talk rubbish for a really long time. For once in my life this was turning out to be a good thing.

The GTP year is a ridiculous learning curve – one that often makes no sense and is probably more of a steep straight incline than curve. Just for the record – I understood why people moaned about the GTP once it hit November…and February…those are dark months.

2) Ask loads of questions, but carefully…

The first week at school was terrifying because, as lovely as everyone was, it was a little like walking into a war zone. Timetables flying, children lost, teachers lost, keys not working, log ins not working.  I got my first tour after 5 weeks (cue funny looks when I said: “so that’s where PE is”). The important thing was I did take the advice of someone from my last school which was to ‘keep asking questions’. To be honest I don’t think I stopped from day one and I still ask a lot. Bear in mind though I did it tactically. For example, one person would walk in to the office and I would ask them where something was, so they would tell me, I would smile and nod, then they would leave.

Someone else would walk in, I would ask them how to use said item, they would tell me, I would smile, possibly nod and they or I would leave.

Then someone else would walk in, I would ask them where to leave what I had just used/photocopied/name of person to ask next and so on…never ask them same person two questions in a row. You look needy.

Needy isn’t good. They said so in Cosmopolitan a few years ago and I believe them.

3) Being needy is bad but being an overt thief is fine: 

Sharing and caring, caring and sharing…it’s a funny job really. You depend on other people’s ideas, creativity and time just as much as your own. The funny thing about it is you don’t have to. I see and have spent two years watching teachers that live in their own bubble. Their bubble looks really well ordered, tidy and safe but it’s only since coming outside of my own little GTP bubble that I’ve realised this is only a great job when you share and care your ideas. Unfortunately my ideas are few and far between and I’m much better at sharing others ideas! Twitter has been the most useful tool I’ve ever used apart from a nail file. It (Twitter, not the nail file yet) has saved my life/career/sanity on a number of occasions and those most responsible for all of the above are listed on the ‘other blogs’ page.  Twitter is amazing. Use it. Follow some lovely, clever, kind, considerate sharing and caring people and then follow your horoscope to see what the day will bring…

4) Time out

I went to a great afternoon at a local secondary school who put on a number of talks for their NQTs and GTPs. I gatecrashed. I am ever so glad I did. During the beginning of my second term I learnt the most important piece of advice. Put your social life first. I’ve done it ever since – ish and I am sure it’s the best thing you can do. We got asked to put in to priority order a list of ‘typical’ teacher jobs for that week. For example: marking, prepping for parent’s evening, uploading resources, more marking, planning GCSE revision session, writing reports and finally a friend’s birthday party. All the good kids put ‘friend’s birthday’ at the bottom. How could any one in this important year even think about putting it at the top?!

I put it at the top.

I felt like a bit of an idiot to be honest but I didn’t really care. If I had a party to go to I would a) be excited b) be out shopping and c) be excited. I would put it at the top of the list and then make completely sure everything else was done on time. It would MAKE me do everything else. Obviously you have to be wise but I don’t have separate work/home diaries anymore. Everything goes in one diary and I circle fun things (parent’s evenings/marking obviously are circled). That means that I know I have something to look forward to and I will get all my work done. It does work. I can’t think of anything worse than having to miss a party because I haven’t done my work. I will always do all of my work to the best of my ability but that advice stuck with me. Have a balance, have a life and always leave a bit of extra time to make sure you can get it all done. GTP  does not stand for Giving Teaching Priority. A bit like referring to pupils as G&T doesn’t mean their alcoholics – who knew?

5) Keep everything

That’s it really. Keep everything. Everything has its place in either your GTP file or the bin. There’s no way of knowing if you’ll need it or not so keep it. Do your filling as you go along if possible…if not then don’t and do it all at the end. Truth is you’ll end up doing most of it then anyway. Computer wise you’ll end up printing off a whole forest. It’s inevitable and necessary (apparently). Oh and along with keep everything, take everything you can from anyone who will give it to you. Worksheets, ideas, resources, tips. Remember ‘take everything’ when you go to those ‘job fairs’ and ‘Training days’ too….get as many free pens as possible.

6) Learn to sleep.

I’m rubbish at this. I hate stopping and having nothing to do. Holidays can seem like a real life nightmare sometimes. But there are points in this year where you have to stop. In fact I should probably be doing that right now but instead I’ll preach about it. I had an awful week where I was so tired I began imagining I’d done things. These things included opening a door. I remember I was brushing my teeth and I was so tired that I closed my eyes and imagined my day ahead…that included opening the door. I then walked into said door that I had imagined was open. The same day I ironed my arm by mistake, set off a burglar alarm and walked into a table. IN THE SAME DAY! This wasn’t just an ‘off day’ scenario though. The same week I poured tea down myself by walking into something else and put my next cup of tea in the fridge when I meant to get the milk out. I really was very tired and this wasn’t due to point number 4 but due to prioritising school over everything else. I was sleeping, walking, talking, eating, drinking, ironing, walking and sleeping whilst thinking about school. Thankfully a few weeks later and it’s now half term. I’m not a good teacher when tired let alone a good person. So now I foolishly take back what I said at number 4… before anything else maybe prioritise sleep every once in a while.

7) Don’t think your finished

I certainly feel like I’ve just started. Particularly with my new found love of SOLO. However, my new found love does not mean that I know what I am doing…not by a long way. I have used SOLO once; I like to think of that day as a mini-success despite some disasters. However, I don’t think I’ll be doing it again until I have really got my head round it. There’s no point in rushing in because I think as teachers we do that too often. A new fad, craze or strategy comes along and we are either told to ‘try’ it and see how it goes or given a steely glare that means ‘you have no choice but to try it’ because someone somewhere told Gove it works really well. The problem there is it is just ticking boxes. Thankfully I haven’t seen a SOLO tick box yet so I don’t mind using it in class with trepidation but I want to know why and how I am using it first. I think it is important to keep learning but keep learning in depth and in detail. Being told what to do is not learning for us or for our pupils. It is definitely best to work out why you are doing something before doing it. That is why my research into learning objectives has helped my planning and why the hours spent researching different perspectives on SOLO have aided my one time only use of it. I hope that as long as I remember to learn in as much depth as I can that my use of new ideas and strategies will be worth while. Otherwise it’s just putting on a show…and as I have realised I’m not very good at that!

I really hope I never think I’m finished and presume I know what I’m doing. Even if there’s ever a time that people really and truly think I am at my best at teaching then I hope I can prove them wrong and show them that really, there’s still a lot of room in my very average brain.

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