Today, abruptly, marked the end of my erstwhile teaching career.
FLEXIBILITY was the order of the week (or at least Monday) as I received news of my replacement the first day of the three weeks I thought I was supposed to finish teaching; I had even marked out all the classes on my planner!
I was mostly dismayed at the thought of having to occupy myself for the next 15 days … and leaving my girls a few classes before their final assessments felt a bit like unfinished business, of course, but in hindsight, there would have been no getting around the fact that I wouldn’t be around to mark the five classes’ worth of exam papers.
It has been an exciting and incredibly rewarding month/five weeks, regardless. Tiring, undoubtedly, and I must have spent the last four weeks with a permanent tickle in my throat (the kind that warns of impending sore throat and voice loss, but my preemptive measure of drinking 3L of water a day at the minimum seems to be working for now), but I can list a few tangible and intangible outcomes:
- I speak louder! I remember my soft voice/inability to project used to be the bane of my LD experience. Teaching a class of thirty-odd kids definitely cured of me that (somewhat).
- Dare I say … I speak clearer? When I remember to, at least.
- I am a little more sympathetic towards teachers. It is a disorienting feeling, I must say, to remember that I had been very dismissive of, if not even scornful towards, the English department in my time at RGS, and now to work alongside them, however briefly, as respected colleagues, is a little ironic. It is also interesting to see how the professional image teachers present in the classroom is really just an image, and in the staffroom, they are every bit as human and jocular/sweet and casual as anyone else. I do not have that authoritative aura in class; I rather think I’m simply a milder, more presentable version of myself, but my reactions, mannerisms and responses are still quite peculiarly natural. An indication of my inexperience, I’m sure.
- More than ever before, I now believe homework is very often entirely arbitrary. At lower levels, that is – I’m sure self-directed learning in university is incredibly useful, if only because it’s independent and organic and relevant to one’s interests. In class, I sometimes found myself defending answer schemes I personally disagreed with simply because they were the official benchmarked solutions.
- If some homework do possess extrinsic utility in skill development, marks, on the other hand, are entirely, intrinsically worthless, I think. Marking is arbitrary in the sense that it is almost impossible to quantify unless an exhaustive and time-consuming list of discrete criteria is drawn up – and most rubrics aren’t like that! While accurate enough that people will generally agree that a solid A is a solid A, a solid B a B, and so on, for the borderline cases, it is often quite spur-of-the-moment decisions. Again, perhaps another flawed observation stemming from my inexperience/lack of teacherly training, but nevertheless, putting too much stock in your numerical grades is a little excessive, I think.
Meanwhile, I will be supervising a class for the coastal clean-up service morning at East Coast park, which should segue neatly into a windsurfing session. Today, I also had a lovely lunch with two old friends I hadn’t properly talked to in years (two going on three). It’s always a cheerful surprise to reconnect with people in your past and realize that you now have new reasons to like them! Tomorrow, I’ll meet a former teacher running a tuition centre to see if he wants my help with writing up some literature/philosophy notes and then have an early dinner with more dear friends.
My immediate plans are to catch up on sleep, meet the requisite people tomorrow and then … start packing my clothes! After that, I will begin the laborious process of writing thank you notes to all the girls who gave me Teacher Day’s gifts. I forgot to mention that there was a perk to being a teacher over the period of Teacher’s day (; I cunningly skipped the school’s Teacher’s Day celebrations, so I returned to school yesterday after term break to find my (borrowed) locker stuffed with presents. It was a decidedly warm and fuzzy feeling, though tinged with a little guilt. I now have enough chocolate to last the next fifteen days. No, not even kidding. The more cynical part of me cannot avoid thinking that Teacher’s Day is a non-monetary way of incentivizing and motivating teachers, a sort of emotional blackmail on … society’s part to compel teachers to stay in their apparently underpaid and overworked jobs.
But I am also eating white chocolate coins and homemade chocolate chip cookies now, so I will shut up about that.