Teaching can be such pleasure and extremely rewarding
In my years of teaching at a grammar school and largely the top set and the sixth form in good comprehensive schools, teaching was a joy as the boys and girls were on the whole, very bright and it is such a delight to interact and lead the very best of young people. They are willing to learn and explore and you get drawn to them more when you know that most of them are either talented sportsmen or musicians. The glee in your eyes when you are on the touchline cheering them to score a try in a rugby match or seeing them play the saxophone in the orchestra.
What you find is that in the top set, there are about 30 of them to teach and I have no problem whatsoever teaching the 30, despite the fact that the ability range still varies and they produce volume work for marking.
There are usually over 20 students in the middle set and managing their behaviour is a little challenging.
It is not all gloomy in the bottom set – it can be rewarding, until …
The students in the bottom sets are usually so docile and despite the near psychopathic ones there are really pleasant but weak pupils who work hard but are struggling academically. Usually as long as you set your expectations quite low you are okay. The problem is that setting your expectations low can be quite depressing; however, you are pleased if you know that the students are doing their best. It is not all gloomy. It is such joy when you work with that hardworking but weak pupil to do well in tests and move up to the middle set. The bad news is that you are a little disheartened when they get to the middle set, only to be disrupted by that obnoxious semi-bright arrogant so and so, whose only interest is to show off and throw paper aeroplanes about.
Where the rubber meets the road…
I remember those days very vividly and when I look back to that time, I can see why many schools have to resort to using supply teachers on a larger scale than they should. All the enthusiasm you feel when you are doing your PGCE and couldn’t wait to get into the classroom is dampened when you get into schools and you spend so much of your time managing students’ behaviour instead of spending your time teaching the subject you love to enthusiastic and cooperative young people who want to learn. For me, this is really where the rubber meets the road and I feel we teachers are not facing the facts. Not enough teachers are willing to accept that students’ behaviour is really the biggest issue. Some teachers are not particularly interested or too keen on teaching the very able students. They are very happy to spend so much of their time putting up with poor behaviour and writing detention notes instead of investing their time in a more productive exercise that aids the learning process.