It’s been a summer of uncertainty and there is uncertainty yet to come. I know this, but sometimes you just have to focus on what you know, and what I know is that next week I will have a whole load of students to teach. The politics is still there, of course, and the anxiety is not going anywhere any time soon, but there are students to teach, and a whole load of new and interesting experiences to be had.
I’ve got a varied timetable this year. I actually don’t think I’ve ever had just one level, certainly not since starting my current job, and I like it that way. There is a certain appeal to teaching mainly one level: you can repeat things, try something with one class and refine it later with another class, but unless those classes are running slap bang next to each other with only a short break, I rather like the challenge of a gear change from a level 1 / 2 class (roughly high intermediate) in the evening, and beginners the following morning. I’m also teaching ICT for the third year to 16-18 ESOL students, and I’m going to nail it this year for sure. I just need to remember to say “no” any time anyone wants to do Level 1. Then I have one low level ESOL and maths class which is mainly a worry because I was merely average at it at school, mainly through disinterest and a lack of work. This means that there is a cluster of neurological connections that have been lying fallow for the last 20 years or so which will need reviving. However, I suspect this will be mainly the language of maths rather than the actual maths, and being only Entry 1 or maybe Entry 2, my major personal mathematical gap is not going to be an issue. (Long division, if you were wondering. I did it at school and have been shown many times since by well meaning colleagues, but somehow it has never ever sunk in. My other “gap” was the whole brainache of the 7×8 bit of the times tables until a colleague taught my a handy mnemonic. 7×8 is 56, or 56=7×8… 5678. I’ll tell you now, that was genuinely like having a veil lifted from my eyes. The other tricky one was 6×7, but that stopped in my early teens, when I first read Douglas Adams…)
However, I’m not going to obsess about the maths like I did a couple of years ago when I was teaching ICT & PSD. For one, life is too short, and in some respects I have a little more confidence teaching maths. I do actually have a qualification in maths, albeit a 24 year old GCSE grade C, unlike ICT. As well as this. maths seems to me to be about patterns and systems, with some stuff you simply have to just remember. This reminds me a lot of language teaching, which is also about patterns and systems (grammar) and remembering and making sense of stuff (vocabulary). It also lacks the taint of having to pretend to be some sort of role model for a young person, which was what I think I felt most insecure about in PSD. So it’s a more comfortable switch.
Plus I have the return of my favourite class from last year, who have progressed to a higher level but who I have, due to student numbers etc., ended up teaching again. This does, of course, mean, that I can use nothing at all from last year, but you know what, that challenge is totally my bag. I like designing lessons, thinking of resources, all that stuff. It’s a high level group as well, which means lots of authentic materials and exploiting texts until they burst. All of this is good.
So yes, we have a year ahead of anxiety. There are some major challenges, and there will be more angry blog posts and some campaigning to do. The government has well and truly shafted ESOL learners and teachers. But I still have a job, for now, and there are still students in my classes waiting to be taught. And that is still by far the best part of my professional life.