Four things teaching practice taught me

Now obviously on teaching practice I learnt a lot. I learnt how to plan and teach and mark and manage behaviour and marshall 32 youngsters into straight, quiet lines. It was a few years after I began teaching that I learnt how to go to bed at midnight, wake up at 6am and still be a fully functioning human who is nice to small children. But it’s the little incidental lessons I learnt along the way that have stuck most in my mind. I had four teaching practices in my four year degree, and I was fortunate enough to have friendly, generous teachers who wanted me to succeed. And here are four lessons I learnt along the way.

Hospitality makes people human. 

On the evenings of performances, for which I apparently managed to be around a lot, I was invited to partake of dinner, and sometimes to stay over at my mentor teachers’ houses*. I nervously accepted these invitations, from people who were essentially kindly strangers.

Once you have opened your home to someone, you give them a fuller understanding of you and your life. The photos on the walls, whether shoes should be removed at the door and the particular books on the shelves all give an insight into the person behind the door. A person’s home shows their rounded personality, they are no longer a single facited person and you find many other talents, skills and interests.

While my teaching desk, and desk now, give you an insight into my organised chaos, it wouldn’t tell you anything in particular about me.

Teachers can easily appear to be their vocation. And they are. They give their time and dedication to their job. But their hospitality and opening up their home to others shows their generosity, and reveals their wider character. I’ve enjoyed visiting colleagues at home, and welcoming them to mine, although I do wonder what my home says about me… Somehow we become a little more human and kindly.

*Teachers don’t live in a cupboard at school!

Gratitude goes a long way. 

It might be that you are expected to perform certain tasks in your job but there’s nothing like gratitude to make you feel it was worth it. When your job or your role goes disregarded it feels unvalued by those around you, which can have a huge impact on your desire to fulfil that role.

I was given the sage advice to always thank my LSAs (Learning Support Assistants). Not only do they make a teacher’s job run ten times more smoothly, it’s almost impossible to describe the impact a good LSA can have on children’s learning. This is aside from the monumental impact they can have on you as a teacher; I can’t overestimate the way my LSAs got me through 2012-2014, without them – I dread to think!

I tried to thank them every evening at the close of the school day, which initially they found funny – every day? But it was a way to show how much I appreciated all that they did, because they did so very much that I probably didn’t see. Gratitude stops us taking things for granted.

Travelling distances you from work. 

As I may have mentioned before, I love to sing in the car. Belting out ‘Roxanne‘ from Moulin Rouge was a good antidote to any kind of day. By the time I was home, even though there was still work to do, I’d had time to process and mentally file any events from the day.

Now I commute for hours a day, and I generally love it. It’s a buffer, albeit a lengthy one, between work and home. Just a bit of time to clear your head can make such a difference to the day.

An unhappy child doesn’t skip. 

If you’ve watched Miranda Hart, love her or hate her, you may have seen her galloping. You might feel this is ridiculous, but in my third teaching practice, I heard these words that struck me: ‘an unhappy child doesn’t skip’.

It transformed the way I viewed children’s play and my own walking. It’s true. Unhappy children simply don’t bounce along. Neither do adults. The days I have a spring in my step are days I feel good about life. The days I’m running along and sliding on the trolley in the supermarket, or genuinely galloping along the street or across parkland are the days I’m happy and enjoying life. I don’t care what people think, I’m expressing exuberance in motion.

Now I delight when I see a child skipping; there goes a happy child. When I watched my children on the playground, you could see the joy and the tension. Next time you’re feeling good, try a little skip or a gallop and see if it doesn’t delight you that little bit more.

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