Entre l’enclume et le marteau

Previously, on ‘A drop of ink…’

“I’m looking forward to reporting back again in a couple of weeks, and seeing if I can start to tackle the other things playing on my mind – marking, feedback, promoting the four skills, the new GCSE, memory, creativity, culture – in the meantime.  But I love this new way of doing things so far, and the kids seem both keen and a little bit more empowered.”

I’ve been trying to write this post for the best part of two weeks, as evidenced by the fact that my first draft started thus:

“The Summer term is now in its third week, and school is settling into a pleasant rhythm.  I get to school at 7.00, have breakfast and coffee, and conduct a vital, ten-minute mise en place that sets me up for the rest of the day. I’m lucky that, although I work a long day (7.45 – 5.30), I have a relatively light timetable, so there is time to plan, mark and think between lessons.”

This is all still true, but I have felt a little more pressured over the last few weeks.  The honeymoon period of the new way of teaching (see previous posts) has given way to some small measure of uncertainty and frustration, a lack of clarity as to how to proceed.  I have found myself thinking wistfully of Powerpoints, of my tried and tested (and thoroughly lacking) techniques.  I have to keep reminding myself that the hours spent on putting together clickable resources add far less to a pupil’s classroom experience than those same hours spent thinking about how to introduce, practise, rehearse and repeat good French.

The reason is simple.  I am caught, per the title of this post, between the devil and the deep blue sea; between the hammer and the anvil.  I am doing unfamiliar and interesting and challenging things with pupils who are not used to them: some of those kids are getting HUGE amounts out of it, others are pushing back, as can be expected.

But I’m also caught between what I know will benefit these pupils in the long run – sticking with it – and the suddenly pressing need to prepare them for their end of year exams, to meet the national curriculum criteria, to demonstrate progress.  That, and the fact that in the five weeks we’ve been back I’ve seen some classes just six times – nowhere near enough time to allow those new routines and practices become habit, for me or for them.

Last week, I became deeply dissatisfied with my lessons and the outcomes my kids were achieving.  I became lost in this lacuna between the school’s expectations and what I want to continue doing with my pupils.  This is not necessarily because my school demands unreasonable things, or even that the way I’m teaching cannot work within the strictures of the school’s agenda – merely that I haven’t the time with the kids to make the new approach work with the old.

I now have to think about this end of year exam situation in earnest – set assessments, test for valuable things, make sure that even though I’m teaching in a completely different way to my colleagues that neither their nor my pupils are disadvantaged in the final analysis.  It’s going to be an interesting challenge.

I’m going to keep up the rich input, keep repeating and practising and going over the things that I know will prove valuable in the end, and work out a way of ensuring that the kids can show off some of that stuff in the exams.

Wish me luck!