What I learned from the past seven months of teaching

The year began when Tommy told me that the key thing is to endure. I thought about his words a lot, I kept them as the bottom line when all other words failed to motivate me. I just have to endure. I learned that I could endure anything by looking to Jesus. (here)

I feel like I have learned more in these seven months of teaching by experience, by trial and error, than in any previous season of teaching. I have survived. I woke up one morning recently and wondered at my lack of bouncing energy. And then the thought came that when you have survived a season, you rarely bounce over the finish line. You walk slowly and purposefully, with energy expenditure carefully measured and reserved.

I asked the Lord to revive me. Revive my energy and enthusiasm and expectancy. And I believe that He will. He enabled me to survive. After He revives me, He will enable me to thrive.

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I feel a calm content, a sort of immovable peace. Perhaps this is more valuable than bucket-loads of bouncing energy. This knowing that I can put one foot in front of another for what seems like an endless road, knowing that I can be quite content in prolonged challenge, or extended uncertainty or difficulty of indefinite duration, knowing that in Christ I can, this steadies me when I look into the utterly unclear future.

Because at no point did I rely on my own strength. Not one minute of this school year was lived without a conscious leaning on the Lord. The Lord never once let me down! He gave me every ounce of strength I needed! And having experienced this constant provision, I know by experience that I don’t need to fear anything on the horizon. Since nothing can separate me from His love, then no desert, no difficulty, no season will be able to separate me from His intense care and provision.

So in this note of humble victory I want to reflect on the practical things that I have learned this year.

I learned that I need time to wake up mentally before I am ready to engage with students. One week we had a lot of late evenings in school, I was tired and I wanted to catch up on sleep. So on the Thursday morning I slept until the last possible minute and just got into school on time. I wasn’t awake enough to cheerfully handle ordinary classroom challenges. So I never did that again. Better to wake up early and be alert for school.

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I learned that first thing in the morning is when my brain is at its freshest, sharpest, most efficient. While I need time to wake up to social alertness and to interact with others, my inside brain is at its prime first thing in the morning. On the other hand, my brain functions at about half speed in the evenings after a day of school. So I have concluded that next year I will divide my activities into morning and evening duties:

Morning Evening
High quality concentration

Tasks with creativity/initiative required

Low quality concentration

Monotonous tasks

Planning ahead, lesson preparation, reading through upcoming topics and summarising, making notes on a topic.

Creating topic tests and marking schemes.

Correcting tests using marking scheme

Correcting copies or homework for AfL

Reflecting on learning/mistakes/success

Attending evening classes

SAM_0198I learned that I need to have a balance between quick and easy meal options and meals that take more planning and preparation. Some evenings I need to eat immediately without spending time preparing, for example, if I have a lot of work to do or I am exhausted or I have to travel to an evening class soon after getting home. Other evenings it does me good to be creative and methodical in the kitchen, to use recipes and improvise and spend time detoxing from the day. So in my week I need to plan for both. I also realised that I can’t always anticipate when I will need to eat fast and when I will be able to enjoy cooking. So when planning meals and getting groceries I need to remember this.

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I learned that there are a few things (maybe a lot of things) that I am not naturally inclined to be consistent in. They never really bothered me or anyone else before, but now that I am a teacher, all of my flaws are on display under glaring fluorescent lights for an audience of up to two hundred young people plus their parents. So I need to get this right. No pressure. Although two days ago, just when I was finishing up with a class, and I must have been repeating something to a student, well he turned to me, sized me up with a sight squint and then slowly said “why do you have to be so annoyingly consistent about this?” HURRAY! He thinks I am consistent! Hallelujah! He made my day.

Summary:

Get up early enough so that I am alert and ready for social interaction.

Make the most of the times when my brain functions best.

Balance convenience with creativity in meal planning. Be realistic.

Identify important factors and be infinitely consistent in them. These will be the pillars that hold up the structure. I can be creative in the spaces around them. Without consistency there can be no creativity.

I also have made some notes about practical learning from the classroom which will follow in a few days… but first, here is a song I found just after I finished writing this. In Christ I have survived… but now He will enable me to thrive 🙂

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