Finding my Voice

10 October 2017

Author: Russell Brookes

As an NQT starting at a new school every teacher has advice to give you. They have a wealth of valuable experience to share and combining that with all the policies you are being introduced to, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. I’ve spent my first few weeks of teaching here at St Mary’s absorbing all the information people can give me. From laboratory technicians, to office staff to the teachers and pupils themselves, everyone has something to say.

One thing that has already stuck with me is something both my mentors told me early on. Both worded it in different ways but I’ve summed it up below:

‘Learn from others, but don’t try to be others.’

I realised that in my efforts to fit in at St Mary’s I was emulating my entire teaching on the methods used by other teachers. Despite finding things that worked for me during my teaching training I wanted to be like these amazing teachers I now call colleagues. I suppose it is natural when you see something that works you think ‘I could do that in my lesson’. Thanks to my mentors I realised that I’d fallen into a trap already. While learning from others is valuable and techniques can certainly be used by various teachers, a style that works for one person won’t always work for another.

As a relatively small, young teacher who can, and has, been mistaken for a member of the sixth form (or a year 11 if you are the local bus driver), some things just don’t work for me right now. Some behaviour management strategies are a classic example here. I can’t rely on looking scary and towering over the students, some tower over me. My natural face is a smile, so the idea of ‘don’t smile until Christmas’ is not only something I’m against doing but for me it’s also an impossibility.

I’ve seen some excellent teaching and learning strategies (smca_science, shameless plug) just in the few weeks I’ve been here. While I’d love to use some of these ideas with my own classes I’ve been holding back. My thought process goes something along the lines of ‘What if it doesn’t work? What happens if Bob decides to throw a bouncy ball across the room, do I need that hassle?’. Of course I don’t want to make things more difficult than it has to be, but when the model itself helps to explain the process in a way that they’ll understand, surely I can make it work? For me it all comes down to confidence, I’m still finding my feet and although I’m a big believer in breaking out of my comfort zone I want to be comfortable with what I do first. My mentor said to me today, I heard you through the wall and you sound in complete control of your class. Right now it certainly doesn’t feel like I’m in control, it feels like I’m just getting by.

I don’t want to ‘just get by’; I want to get better until I’m the best I can be. Then I’ll carry on finding ways to improve so that my students get the best individual experience and teaching strategies. Finding my voice is discovering what works for me and applying that to my own style. It will take lessons where I’m going to say afterwards I’m never doing that again, but the journey and process are experiences by themselves. I am lucky to work in an amazing Science department where the variety of teaching styles is clear to see just by walking past the classrooms while my colleagues are teaching. I will be learning lots of techniques from my fellow teachers over the course of the year and beyond; not all those techniques will work for me, and I’d be foolish to think they would, but I’ll give anything a go once.

 

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Posted on 10 October 2017
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