(FYI, this is the one of the few blog posts I’ve written in one sitting. Without much thought. Just raw memories and emotions. Unchanged. Unedited. Nothing added, missing or spiced up).
I could finish the blog here, it would suffice. But i have so much more to say!
Scared is an understatement! Teenagers can be quite scary, honestly.
Although I was teaching for half the year of my teacher training course. It’s nothing like the real thing. Nothing!
Imagine paddling in the shallow end of a big swimming pool for a long time. Even though you’re only ankle deep, you have your own personal lifeguard. You’re not at fault if you make mistakes trying to swim! Even if you drown (how is that even possible?). Yes, it’s possible, but remember, the lifeguard is there to pull you up. It’s his responsibility to keep you afloat. Oh, by the way, you have an audience too! However, you will never see those people again, so it doesn’t matter how stupid you look like trying to swim in ankle deep water. Your aim is to not drown.
Now, imagine the day, at the end of your swimming course, you survive. You’re now aware of the pedagogy of swimming and have had a little taster into the swimming world. So your next step is to walk all the way around the pool and to dive in at the deep end (as opposed to easing your way in from the shallow end). Do a somersault on your way in, look like a dolphin as you leap in and out of the pool whilst breathing like a professional Olympic swimmer doing marathon laps, oh and you’re not allowed to get wet! Why? Because you’re a qualified swimmer now, dummy! There are no excuses. Oh by the way, you’re also a swimming instructor and you must make sure those kids don’t drown, even if they’re purposely trying to drown. All the while, you do it with a smile on your face and you’ve just realised you don’t get paid enough to do this madness!
Basically, that’s the best way to describe my first day as a qualified teacher.
Problem is, my 1st job as a qualified teacher was at the same school I trained in. So I had to face those same students who obviously knew I was training because the school is openly a training school and the students see ‘’teachers’’ come and go year in, year out. Very few stay. I was one of those who did.
I was advised to enjoy the summer before I start. So I went on a lovely holiday. What better way to enjoy the summer, ey?
I remember getting my outfit ready the night before. Newly bought, washed, ironed and hung up in the living room so I wouldn’t wake my husband. Because apparently, that’s what teachers do – get up before the birds do. I barely slept a wink. Butterflies in my stomach. Scratch that – scorpions in my stomach! Tossing and turning the whole night wondering what the best route out of the building would be if the kids chased me out. Seriously, teenagers can be quite scary, and they don’t even know it!
I came into school an hour early so that I could sit down in my new classroom, organise my desk to look professional and relax with a cup of tea – the calm before the storm. Because that’s what British people do. In the face of adversity, we drink tea. (Seriously, what do they put in those tea bags?!).
I was the newbie in the department. So I went to my mentor for a few words of wisdom from his bank of wisdom advice. He said, ‘’you’ll be fine, I trust you’’. In all honestly, I was disappointed. I thought, how can I be fine? What if I’m not fine? What if they eat me alive? But I awkwardly smile. He laughed, patted me on the back and said, ‘’Nabila, just relax, you’ll be fine! Just be the Nabila I know in the classroom. Be the Nabila I saw potential in and employed before she even graduated. I have faith in you. Just be you!’’.
Now, let me explain something before I go on. I’ll be honest. When it came to my teaching career, I was a bag of nerves walking into an interview or the 1st day of a new job. For 2 reasons.
- I am often misjudged based on my appearance.
- 1st impressions go a very long way in this career (which often makes or breaks you).
As for the first, there’s nothing I can do about that. I am a 5’’2 petite 18 year old looking covered girl. That often gets interpreted into, ‘’she’ll get eaten alive in an inner London school’’. Luckily for me, jobs for teaching consist of a lesson observation as well as an interview. So all I have to do is to convince the panel that I deserve a lesson observation. So I let my passion talk and CV prove my worth. Usually, highly experienced teachers hold the interviews, and they know not to judge a book by its cover.
So, when I step into a classroom, this little shy looking girl becomes ‘the life of the party’, ‘centre stage’, ‘attention grabbing, jaw dropping, ‘’I didn’t expect that!’’’ type of teacher. It’s almost as if you see the expression on their face change, like they definitely didn’t expect that. A little like Ariana Grande apparently. (A student of mine once likened me to her because of her singing ability not being the ‘expectation’ of someone so young and petite). So I googled her, and I definitely took it as a compliment.
I never knew what being in your element actually meant until I stood in the classroom as a teacher.
In the classroom, I am in my zone.
So, after I put my game face on, I walked out into the playground where my year 11 form group were lined up waiting for me. My mentor pitied me so I was given the smallest class of 10 boys and 4 girls (but felt like it was 10 x 4!). I wore my 2 inch heels that day (I don’t usually do heels unless there’s a dance floor somewhere, but I read that it can alter how you are perceived, and so I decided, ‘actually Nabila you do do heels!’) and hoped to God I wouldn’t trip on what felt like the 3 mile walk through the playground where it seemed like all eyes were on me!
Did I mention that teenagers can be quite scary?
I get to the poor excuse of a line where the girls scanned me from top to bottom followed by a ‘dirty look’ and the boys dismissed me like a leaf blowing across the floor on an autumn afternoon.
I was a leaf! Seriously.
Remember 1st impressions? So I became assertive Nabila.
‘’Get in line’’. ‘’Put your blazer on’’. ‘’Sort out your tie’’. ‘’Pull up your trousers’’. ‘’Stop talking’’. ‘’Take out your gum’’. ‘’Pick up your bag’’. All the while I was pinching my thigh and contemplated several times doing a runner.
They were not impressed!
We walked in the classroom, and I remember thinking, ‘oh gosh, this is it. My life guard isn’t here to save me if I begin to drown’, whilst they ignored the seating plan I had on the board and took their own seats – all at the back of course! I thought I’d better not sweat the small stuff just yet so I ignored the seating plan.
I introduced myself whilst leaning on my desk, one leg crossed over the other trying to look somewhat relaxed, yet confident, yet had my ‘’you better not mess with me’’ face on. (I’m usually a very smiley person).
As I spoke, a boy at the back interrupted me;
‘’Look Miss, listen…’’.
I stopped him before he could continue.
‘’Please don’t interrupt me whilst I’m talking’’, I so confidently said (to be honest, I was expecting him to throw his book at me).
So I finished what I was saying before prolonging it a little while longer (petty, i know!).
Anyway, I then go on to ask;
‘’Young man, what was your name?’’.
He tells me. So then I ask him if he’d like to say what was on his mind.
‘’Look Miss, no offence (too late), but just make your life easier’’.
‘’How so?’’ I ask.
‘’The last time we had a teacher like you, she ran out of the school crying and we never saw her again after the second week’’.
To soften the blow, he finishes it off with;
‘’Like you???’’, I thought. What is that supposed to mean?! Now I contemplated what would be the best response, without sounding so defensive and rude (that obviously proved difficult, but I tried my best).
‘’Why? Did she forget something important at home then forget her way back?’’ I sarcastically ask.
‘’No. She couldn’t handle us. So we made her cry’’.
‘’Well, lucky for me, I’ve taught ‘bigger and badder’ boys than you, so I’m unlikely to cry and quit my job’’.
His friends chuckled whilst covering their mouths.
He wasn’t impressed.
Obviously I lied. I hadn’t. But it was difficult to think of a response on the spot. I tried. I was young and inexperienced. I didn’t know how else to respond. I admit I wouldn’t say that now, but as with everything else in life – with age and experience, comes wisdom and wittiness.
I finished the day the same way I started it – a bag of nerves.
I went home to my husband eagerly wanting to know how my 1st day went.
‘’So, how was it?’’. He asks, as he takes my bags and places them on the floor.
‘’It was amazing!’’ I responded. ‘’I can’t wait for tomorrow!’’.
…and that wasn’t a lie!
I was in my element.