Walking the tightrope of frustration

Not quite sure which theme park my roller coaster belongs to. Mostly it seems to have been steady undulations, tiredness and a sense of overwhelming lack of knowledge forming the dips, with the odd high from a child’s comment, piece of work or the marking actually done before I’ve left for the day.

I’m pretty exhausted, my mouth is full of ulcers, I rarely work less than 15 hours a day, I don’t think I’ve finished a cup of tea since the beginning of September and my posterior definitely hasn’t placed itself on a seat in the staffroom… is this the point where the but comes in with a glowing positive statement about how I love the job anyway and I wouldn’t change a thing?

The rollercoaster appears to have shifted theme parks.  The primary gradients aren’t caused by emotions of the NQT life – those I can deal with, but it is the uncontrollable speed of the learning (or lack of) ride that my class and I seem to be on that is distressing me at the moment.

I am discovering the pitfalls of Abacus and team teaching amongst other things. I’ve realised I need to compromise. I have lowered my expectations of myself, and what I can achieve but I am reluctant to lower my expectations of the children. Therein lies my biggest issue.

There never seems to be enough time! We lurch from one lesson to another, constantly building up a pile of unfinished work. I always feel one step behind my team teacher. The standards of presentation and quality are an added issue – but there is no time planned in to spend a lesson teaching and practicing the expectations. There doesn’t seem time to breathe, let alone stop and smell some enjoyment. We haven’t found time to read our class book or do any sharing for a week. I feel like I am losing a grip on all the things I love and want to share about learning, reading, thinking, exploring and instead am chasing a curriculum that isn’t taking into account that we are human, let alone individuals.

As soon as the lightbulbs of understanding just start to flicker, we move on. Half my class didn’t understand division after 2 days, but I was told we need to move on, we will visit it again for 2 more days later in the year. A third of my class don’t know their number bonds to 10 – so how can we securely start to understand number pairs to 100 or 1000? Why can’t I slow down (or even better – get off!) and find some creative ways to secure the basics before tackling more complex concepts. I’m a visual hands on learner, but find the Abacus process very dry. Even the books are hard for many children to access. Why can’t we spend one lesson a week making something that will aid our learning?  I have incorporated 10 minutes most afternoon for maths activities which are mostly hands on. They are great when we do them, but I haven’t had the time to set them up properly in a ‘tumbleboard’ fashion.

I was gutted this week to be moved on from a literacy unit after reading, talking, acting and drawing – to a point that I felt we could write, only to be told that we needed to move onto another unit so we could ‘time’ our first of the month assessment writing correctly!

Our topic is dry – I’m bored with it. The children have written three comparisons and watched a dull video. I want to draw a line and start again. Lets go back to picture books – why can’t I try Made in China as a starting point. Lets all pack a bag and pretend we are going to China (we’ll need to research to know what sort of things to bring!), lets follow the paper butterflies journey, lets document our findings in a travel scrapbook. We can work out how much money we will need, different groups can go and explore different attractions then we’ll ‘meet’ to discuss, we can share a celebration meal. I know I am capable of more but I’m not enjoying the shackles I find myself bound with at the moment. Frustration abounds.

It’s a game. Not just the learning game in class, but a game in the corridors as well. I’m struggling with the time, the desire to be creative, but not stand on toes, the balance between enthusing children, trying new things and getting the basics right in a traditional manner. I want to be accountable to my children and their learning, not always to the policies of ‘we’ve always done it that way’.

And I really want to learn how to help children learn – not how to ‘teach’. Another post.

I wonder at what point ones brain just spontaneously combusts?

I guess I will end with the message I got from a parent this week – and cling onto some thread that I must be doing something right, even though it feels like I’ve hardly started on the things I want to do.

“Don’t know what you’ve done but A came home last night, picked up a pencil and wrote an A4 sheet …… We were amazed. He has done more in the last couple of weeks than all of last year. Thank you.”

4 Responses to “Walking the tightrope of frustration”

  1.   Lara Says:

    Don’t lose heart. It is a shame that you are working in a school that is not able to give you the opportunities you need. But hold on to your convictions about what is important – you are right! And yes it really is MUCH more important to know how to teach children to learn. Good luck!


  2.   Fiona Johnson Says:

    Oh my goodness, I’m so worried for you:( I don’t know anything about the English curriculum or the policies of the school you are in but can I just tell you, from what I have just read; you are right and they are wrong. In Scotland we have just moved away from a curriculum where everything was timed down to the last minute and we had to keep moving on as there was so much we ‘had’ to cover. We now have A Curriculum for Excellence which is exactly what you have described – creative, responsive, inspiring, digging deeper etc. I really hope things improve for you…..I just want to give you a hug.


  3.   Thomas Says:

    All I can say is that you sum up the feelings of many people very eloquently. I know it’s hard, it can be for a while. You are going to struggle to break the habits of people – especially as an NQT. It’s obvious that you have great ideas, understand what your class needs, and have voiced your frustrations calmly and clearly. How to move forward? Well, let me say that I have been in a school for three years and feel the same way you do – irritated at stubbornness, confused by the approach of some other professionals, upset when you are severely constrained. I would ride it out, keep pushing for your views to be heard – they may get division the second time, but I doubt it. I would quietly develop my own lessons for the Abacus ones that you feel won’t work. Shared planning is great, but make sure you put your own spin on it. And, finally, never forget those good points. Don’t forget that philosophy that you’re unable to put into place right now because it will come in handy in the future. As someone else commented, you’re right.


  4.   Primary_NQT Says:

    Thank you so much for all your encouraging and supportive comments. It really does make a difference! Had meeting with DH today and she has suggested I just team plan 3 days for Num and Lit and have two days to use as consolidation/class based activities. The SLT is apparently going to suggest this to all KS2 staff. Sounds like a pretty good compromise to me.


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