Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Celebrating Triumphs - the Big and the Small

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Celebrating Triumphs - the Big and the Small

Article excerpt

In the final part of our series, a teacher from a special school looks back on the highs, lows and lessons from the last academic year

Returning to school after the Easter holidays, I found myself in a debate with Jake about why stealing cars is not, under any circumstances, OK. Not even when you are doing your mate a good turn because he has missed the last train home.

This kind of conversation is pretty common between Jake and me. We have discussed the police, cigarettes, drugs, girls, stop-and-search rights and the benefits of returning home after a night out rather than sleeping on friends of friends' floors. I often find the conversations surreal, and then secretly hope that when my children hit teenage years I don't have to repeat these exchanges with them.

I am in my 11th year of teaching, six of which have been at Carwarden House School. I started my career as a primary teacher, predominantly in key stage 1, and I now teach in a secondary school for children with moderate learning difficulties.

I have spent these years teaching a variety of subjects, from music and history to RE and careers. This year, I have taught literacy and have loved the new challenge.

I needed it. I have three small children of my own and I teach part-time. Sometimes I feel as though I've been treading water for six years while I balance family life and the needs of my children with the financial contribution I have to make to the family and my own needs as an ambitious professional.

Although I have found teaching slightly easier as the years go by, it is always challenging. This year in particular has brought interesting conversations with colleagues, particularly about life without levels.

In our special school, progress is measured in much smaller terms than in a mainstream school. For some of our children, being able to enter the classroom on their own or hold their head up when walking around the school is an amazing feat. It deserves to be celebrated just as much as being able to write from left to right or use adjectives and connectives.

The challenge we now have as a school is to develop our own system of assessment that measures these small steps, as well as the academic ones. We have some interesting debates ahead of us and I relish the endeavour.

I love the freedom that working in a special school allows me. Teaching literacy this year has enabled me to be really creative in order to meet the diverse needs of my students.

But it is getting harder to find the joy in the job. Somewhere along the line, the paperwork and accountability has got out of hand and I often wonder if teachers' professional opinions, judgements and creativity mean nothing. I spend hours of my life filling out forms - uploading pictures from student books and transferring notes from guided reading sessions to online assessment pages. I feel like screaming: "Just look in their books!"

I completely understand the need to measure progress and compare statistics. However, it is no consolation when I am knee-deep in paper, trying to put together three pieces of evidence for each of the 10 criteria in every sub-level, for 13 children, across three subject areas. Even writing it down makes my head hurt.

I feel desperately sorry for young teachers entering the profession now: without my many years' experience, I think I'd feel overwhelmed, overworked and seriously underpaid.

But although teaching is a tough profession - made harder by the government's constant demands and changes of policy - I do love my job. The joy of watching children learn and become confident, independent young adults never diminishes. …

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