This was a regular day for a classroom where I was in charge until last week.
Partway through a temporary contract, and despite my many pleas for help to manage the third of my class who had behavioural issues, I was done.
I’d exhausted all my behaviour management strategies and then some. So, I gave notice.
A new teacher like me wasn’t going to earn their respect in a hurry. My arsenal was empty.
The students' with behavioural issues were each quite a handful on their own, let alone in the classroom with each other.
There were also a batch of very needy, anxious students. This was a class predominated by chatterers, wanderers and those up for physical combat.
Amongst the violence and peer assaults, there are students ready to learn who, with my sanctioning, donned their own fluffy earmuffs as their pacifist weapon against classroom noise levels.
To cut through the noise, I tried a bell, xylophone, rain stick, banging my hand down on the table, of course the raised voice and then – hence the earmuffs’ arrival – off-key singing. None of it worked for long.
Sure, as a casual teacher doing occasional days and small blocks in other schools I’d encountered these behaviours, but there would always have been at least one school learning support officer aka teacher aide.
At my latest school, that wasn’t being offered, but my peers would trot past my open-door classroom and wave.
Above the cacophony of my class (many needed ‘more practise in their listening skills’, I would say euphemistically) and the mayhem, they would just manage to get my attention – I’d nod – and that peer would smartly trot off again.
“How’s your day been?” they’d ask me later as our paths crossed towards the staffroom.
“I feel like throwing in the towel,” I replied.
“You’ve got some doozies in there,” they’d acknowledge before heading back to class.
At the end of the school day, I’d catch up with my online welfare reporting, fattening up the database with dangerous and harming behaviours.
Occasionally a senior teacher would check in on me and offer support and advice, but the day before I quit, she declared that she and the others could no longer help me. I could understand that.
They wanted me to direct my pleas for help to my direct supervisor (which I’d been doing consistently anyway).
It just wasn’t working sending the worst misbehaving student to a nearby classroom when things got tough. Even if I did send the student over with work to do.
It then became clear I was a pawn to lobby management to get a teacher’s aide in this classroom.
The much-experienced teacher who’d taught the class for most of the year until I arrived before me hadn’t managed to do so, although she’d reduced her working days from full time to part time.
In my last week, I’d been discretely sounding out casual teachers about their availability to take on my class, but without being too direct. There was interest!
So, when I pulled the pin on this teaching gig, I was able to say there were casuals interested.
The one who got the role was wised up to the chaos and demanded a full-time teacher’s aide before she walked into the classroom. She got it.
And with that, I felt I’d finally done something right: for me, I was out of there; for my replacement, she was well-armed now; and for the students whose learning outcomes would no doubt be a tad higher than I was able to muster, they had another chance to lift their game.
Oh, I didn’t mention what year level the students were? Year 1. That’s right: six and seven year olds.
I’m still classed as a beginning teacher, a provisional with just under two years’ casual teaching experience who’s yet to secure a supervisor to start my road to accreditation.
I wasn’t ready for this class and don’t know if I ever will be.
I’m questioning whether teaching is for me, but this profession still calls like a muse from afar.
I’m taking a break for a few weeks, doing some naval gazing and figuring out how I can define myself as an educator maybe elsewhere or in another way, or even keep teaching, jump back on the horse, so to speak (I hate horses with a vengeance, by the way).
Online English tutoring to students overseas, offering an in-house editorial coaching service for businesses (I’m also a writer), or casual high school teaching interest me.
But then again, a sponsored post on my Facebook news feed posed the question “fed up with teaching?” I’ll take a stab at that too, thanks.