Partnership London SCITT
Sydney Russell School
Dagenham, RM9 5QT
I’ve been a full-fledged member of the 5AM club since I was 14. It’s arguably the best part of my day – waking up early gives me time to stretch, enjoy a cup of tea and to listen to the birds chirping outside. I did this as I prepared for my first day of teaching in September.
For context, I’m a salaried trainee Science teacher meaning I teach 14-18 hours per week (7 different classes). I’ve also never taught before – the furthest I’ve delved into this field was some individual private tutoring, so the thought of walking into school and being in front of a classroom was incredibly daunting. Although I try to be positive for my 5AM starts, I couldn’t help but think – what am I DOING? Am I seriously about to be responsible for 200 students’ education this year when I’ve never stood in front of a class before? Who decided this was okay?!
Regardless, I went into school with my head held high and a ‘fake it till you make it’ mentality; as far as these students knew, I have always been a teacher and I’m not about to behave otherwise.
It was a massive adrenaline rush to be on the other side of the classroom for the first time. Having managed a blood donation centre before I’m no stranger to responsibility, but this was an entirely new feeling. As teachers, we are moulding the minds of the next generation. The hour we get in a classroom is our opportunity to significantly influence the future. And it’s more than the education – we are in loco parentis, we have a duty to anticipate the wellbeing of our students and take steps to help protect them. We have been given a seat of considerable power, which we are entrusted to use wisely every day. Am I ready for this?
Being a part of the 5AM club also gives me time to reflect. I’ve been reflecting a lot since the PLS program began (partly because of the never-ending ICT, partly because it naturally comes with the job). As I look back on my first day now, at the end of my first half term, I’m realising how much I’ve grown in the past 7 weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I still walk out of most lessons thinking what on earth just happened in that classroom? – but I’ve come to realise that as a trainee, this thought process is truly beneficial.
PLS puts so much emphasis on reflection because it really is one of the strongest tools of self-development. To be able to evaluate my own work, criticising and congratulating where appropriate, and to be able to use colleagues’ feedback constructively is a skill that has highly benefitted me and my lessons; my practice has consciously improved. I look forward to reflection opportunities because I feel that out of all the things I do as a trainee teacher, taking time to think about my practice has enhanced it the most. Speaking to colleagues I’ve realised that the best teachers are the ones who consistently reflect on their work, be it their 1st year teaching or their 20th year.
Most importantly I feel like I belong in a classroom now. I get really excited about my lessons, and often that energy rubs off on the students. I enjoy teaching my students so much – there is truly nothing like the incredible feeling of witnessing their ‘lightbulb moments’ and knowing that I was behind that. Equally, it feels just as awful at the end of a lesson that hasn’t gone so well (I’ve definitely had my fair share of that!). The best part of being a teacher is that every day is a new day, and there is always an opportunity to do better.
I am finally used to being called ‘Miss Mahmood’. I’ve come to realise how much of a privilege this title is. ‘Miss’ is the starting point of most questions, confessions, excited stories, requests for help. In such a short space of time I have heard so much from my students. They all lead such unique lives, and unfortunately many have backgrounds that are not particularly favourable. So, when my students knock on my door and ask ‘Miss, is it okay if I sit in here?’ I take pride knowing that my classroom is a safe harbour for them. When they come rushing back after their assemblies to say ‘Miss, thank you so much for my award’ I feel glad that they have seen the fruits of their hard work and dedication in my lessons. When they stay behind to mumble ‘Miss, I’m sorry’ I realise that even if they didn’t learn much in the lesson, they learned to be accountable for their own behaviour. And when they put their hand up to ask ‘Miss, can you help me?’ I remember why this job is so important to me; every day, I aim to do my best to make sure that my students know I will always, always be there to help them.
My 5AM starts lately have been all about realising the privilege of being ‘Miss’. It’s easy to forget when you have an intense workload, a never-ending to do list, some difficult lessons – I do sometimes end up feeling incapable and overwhelmed, like I’m not cut out for this job. Impostor syndrome (feelings of inadequacy despite your education, experience, and accomplishments) has followed me throughout all big changes in my life and if I’ve learnt anything so far, it’s that I always manage to land on both feet. I am in the best position – I have a huge support system from my school, from PLS, from friends and family and even somewhat from my students. So, despite the uncertainty and self-doubt, I am choosing to trust the evidence – that I have made it this far, so I will be okay. I’m Miss after all – and as a student so eloquently put it last week, ‘Miss, you are amazing!’