I write this with tears in my eyes, and a feeling of terror and failure in my heart. Today has been incredibly challenging, and I do not think I am any good as a supply teacher. I don’t seem to have the requisite skills: Am too confrontational (through fear, mainly) and panic when behaviour slips out of control. I fear I have lost the ability I once had, that I am too old and have left it too late to go back into the profession, even on a part-time basis.
I am having to face up to my utter fear of being laughed at – and it is proving to be very very hard. I cannot go into details because it would be unprofessional to do so – but I am scared and unhappy, and my belief in myself – never the strongest part of my character – is wilting and waning.
Part of the problem is that I have stupidly high standards – of the kids I teach, but mainly of myself. I beat myself up at any opportunity, and am incredibly critical of my own faults and failings. I know that the problems I have faced have been of my own making in the sense that my handling of these difficult situations, and volatile adolescents, has been crap – and there is no excuse: I am a highly-trained and very experienced teacher; I should be able to adapt my approach, to avoid shouting, to deal with the bolshie kids in a better way. It is no good blaming them. They are teenagers. I am an adult.
I feel deeply ashamed of myself – not for the first time – and am thinking, ‘What if I can’t get this right? What then?’
I am trying so hard to be positive, to get my life back on track, to carve a new path for myself – and tears trickle out at the thought that I could so easily fail; that my own anxious and fleeing nature could already be jeopardising this second bite at the educational cherry.
I have to learn not to react, not to over-react; I have to learn to still my over-active amygdala. Trouble is, I feel intensely threatened by aggression and loud naughtiness and refusal to co-operate. I am terrified of losing control, of being abused and hurt and attacked, of not being able to wrench a deteriorating situation back. So I tend to go to the opposite extreme and shout a lot – which, as anyone with any experience of teaching will know, rarely works and usually simply puts the kids’ backs up and makes them even less inclined to co-operate.
So, here I am: 59 years old, with thirty years of teaching experience behind me – making the kind of mistakes Newly Qualified Teachers are prone to making; digging a trench for myself to fall into; failing to calm down and breathe; failing to remember that it doesn’t matter of they don’t do all the work.
This has triggered a very deep fear – of failing, of being helpless, of a whole class turning against me (when I was eight, not as a teacher), of not being able to stand up for myself, of being small and unprotected in some odd way.
But I also realised, as I started this piece, that I have kept an awful lot of emotion under wraps, inside; that I have been very busy – deliberately so – since moving here and that this, in part, was a way of putting my grief or stress (or the cumulative horror and distress of the past two years) on hold, for a more convenient moment. Hoping, perhaps, that it would go away so that I didn’t need to feel that vulnerable and fear-frozen again.
Perhaps I needed the trigger. Perhaps, at some level, I sought it in teaching – unconsciously searched for a wall of fear to confront.
I write this with tears in my eyes…