Learn First, Teach Later

In the beginning, there were students. And these students would soon (hopefully) become the masters.

As part of the first step towards my new adventure, I (and the 552 other London TeachFirsters) have gone back to school. For some, university ended a few weeks ago; for other, a few years ago; however, I don’t think anyone can quite recall studying to be so incredibly draining, emotionally challenging and exciting as the last 3 days have been.

Sitting in a classroom, listening to someone else as they model good practice and help you engage with all the important aspects of being a great teacher is incredibly difficult. On one hand, I am acutely aware of how important the insight I am getting is and how valuable it is to watch a great teacher teach. On the other, being a student from 9am – 5pm every day is amazingly hard – the smallest distraction or discomfort (feeling sleepy, hungry, bored etc) wreaks havoc on my concentration and I find myself having to pep talk my brain into listening for just 5 more minutes fairly often.

In addition to the academic and theoretical underpinnings, there is also a lot of time being spent modelling best practise. Essentially this means that we are treated like the students we will soon teach: if late to class, you have to stand in front for your “telling off” and then wait¬†behind at lunch time; if tempted to bring food or hot beverages into the room, be prepared to throw them in the bin; if whispering to the person next to you or talking out of turn, awkwardly say sorry as you receive the infamous death stare… As much as you know it’s all part of the course and regardless of how great your tutor is otherwise, there is an overwhelming sense of being back in the 4th grade.

However, there is no time to digest all the implications of being treated like school children or even sleep enough to ensure that you aren’t late again tomorrow – Friday marks the first day to be spent in school and next week we even start with a few lessons. Accelerated learning anyone? My desk is already a dumping ground of assignment instructions, notes, readings, text books and post-its with important dates to remember.

This whirlwind experience already promises to take as much out of me as it gives, be relentless in its pursuit of greatness, drown me with the importance of the undertaking – and I, kind of, can’t wait. Because as hard as the days have been, they have been filled with the friendly smiles and kind eyes of hundreds of other people all feeling the same way and all still striving to get there; the late night chats over a glass of wine in the pub or huddled around the communal kitchen tables, the greeting on the bus, the lunch time reflection of what has been covered so far, the bonding over schools/ subjects/ areas/ visions, the desperate urgency to make a difference – this is what is going to help me in my journey to become a great teacher and these are the people – the friends – who are going to be standing alongside me as we all take the mammoth step together.