There have been better days than today, and I am sure that better days are coming. Today, not even a run was enough to clear my head, so I guess that leaves me waiting it out. I have to trust that it will get better.
How is it even possible to feel burnt out by lockdown? The whole world has hit the pause button – and I think it’s the enormity of this that has hit me like a bus today. Ironically, I may have crumbled under self-heaped pressure to be productive every day. Exactly what I wrote about being a horrible idea, just a few days ago.
But I have to remind myself that it’s just one day, and tomorrow may well be better. I should be an old hand at this by now, trusting in the reappearance of Good Days!
Instead of writing all doom and gloom, the rest of this entry is centred firmly and positively around today’s prompt of ‘trust’ and what that means to me as a teacher.
Trust – A firm belief in the reliability, truth or ability of someone or something.
As a Year One teacher, it is a huge privilege to know that my children hold this value of me. It is remarkable how quickly some children can form a trusting relationship, on the basis that even at their young age they know that teachers are good people and to be trusted. I know this isn’t the case for all children; for many children it is something that must be earned, which can take a while. But once it is earned, it is a precious, precious thing.
My first placement saw me in charge of a class in an inner-city school in Liverpool. I hold memories of that class dear, for all that they taught me and all that they opened my naive, eighteen-year-old eyes to the real world. Year Four can be a powerful place.
Over the course of that placement, I worked frequently with one particular child. (Oh, the joy of only teaching one lesson per day and having the opportunity to work 1:1 so often!) I’ll call her Annie for the purpose of this blog, purely so she’s not reduced to a number or a letter, but she remains unidentifiable. Annie was a very sweet girl, all pigtails and sparkling eyes and hair clips to perfectly match the school uniform colours. She was quiet too; perhaps spotting this is what drew me to her. She was also near the bottom of the class, though not for lack of trying. She worked hard but just couldn’t understand maths, just couldn’t put her ideas in order and on the paper in English. Her lack of self-belief was crippling – after a few lessons I could see that she just didn’t think there was any chance she could get it right, so she was too worried to put pencil to paper. I saw a bit of myself in her, though I’d been much older when that fear took over.
Most student teachers will identify with being regularly stationed with the “bottom group” and now I’m an NQT, I understand why. While it’s a great opportunity to learn to explain concepts as simply as possible, as a teacher if I’ve got a spare pair of hands in the room and children who still don’t ‘get it’ then I will use everything I’ve got to get those children to the finish line. It might take longer and those children might take a different route, but now I have a class and a similar group of my own, I know I will do anything to try and get them there.
So in a lot of maths lessons, I was on this table of children, and while I tried to balance my time, I often ended up with Annie more than the others because she came unstuck nearly every lesson.
I remember the first time I saw her cry in frustration and humiliation over not understanding, and it reminded me so strongly of my sixth-form self that from there the fire in my belly was lit. Even if it would just be for one lesson, come hell or high water Annie would trust me and she would get through at least some of the work, or I would die trying.
I was a passionate first year student, barely out of the aforementioned sixth-form, so forgive the dramatics.
I can’t remember what I said exactly. I think I channelled the things my mum would say to me in similar situations. What I do remember is pulling out a pile of plastic cubes and not giving up until Annie had answered the question. We got there, and her smile and palpable relief cemented for me there and then, this was the job I was born to do.
There were not always tears, but maths remained difficult. She was a determined girl though, and she worked so hard. She often looked to me for help in subsequent lessons, and oftentimes the help needed was not mathematically demonstrative at all. Sometimes it was enough to remind her that she knew enough to try, and she knew that I would always be around if she still got stuck.
I hope I will always remember her. Tucked away safe, I have a hand-drawn card from Annie, shyly presented (as was her way) to me on my last day.
Thank you for helping me in maths.
Trust was reciprocal in this situation – Annie eventually trusted me a lot, something I knew from the reduction of maths-related tears. I trusted her too, always, becasue I knew she could do it, I just needed her to trust herself.
So often, trust goes both ways, and it can be earned by the smallest of acts which carry enormous significance. In making a teacher, the blueprint would be incomplete without a liberal sprinkling of it. Trust makes the world (or at least, the world created in the classroom) go round.