I was thinking last week, that learning to teach is a lot like learning to drive. When I first learned to drive, I had a tendency to look directly in front of the vehicle. This would cause me to swerve slightly, back and forth, in order to stay in the center of the road. My eyes would get tired as well. Driving instructors tell you to gaze into the distance rather than in front of you. This helps to keep a more steady path. This is tricky to do at first, because I was not sure about how far to look. Looking too far into the distance is not good either and it feels unnatural.
When I first started teaching I think I was looking directly in front of me. I was working too hard to get everything perfect, overcorrecting myself so much in order to have every detail planned for each lesson. This caused me to be planning for each class usually in my free periods before the class, or early in the morning and late after school was over in order to be ready. I became very tired after about 6 weeks of this and then gradually began to care about nothing, leaving school as soon as I could and winging every class directly from the textbook. This got me through the last 4 weeks. The last week I nearly had a meltdown and did end up crying in the staffroom from anxiety over a certain class.
I think that I was looking too close into the future in the beginning and too far in the end. Just like driving.
After a nice two week break that is given between terms I have been doing much better. I think I’ve figured out where to set my gaze. I have even given myself a goal and boundary for each day. It goes like this: I am not allowed to stay at school past 4:00 pm. When I leave school, I am not allowed to work on school or think about school. I also require myself to plan the next day’s classes one day in advance. I am not allowed to plan for a class on the day that I teach it. So, if I’m not ready, I will just ‘wing’ it.
And after doing this for a week and a half now, I havent had to ‘wing’ anything. I’ve left every day at 4. I haven’t done any planning outside of that time. I have a life outside of school and it feels great. I think what this has done for me, is to force me to make pivotal decisions so that I’m not spending hours looking up possible ideas and not actually getting anywhere. I pick something, write it down and move on. I’m not longer worried about everything being perfect, and to be honest, I think it’s making me more creative.
Another thing that has happened recently is that I was trying to order some organisms for an experiment in biology called ‘planaria’. They are these cool little 1 cm worms that can be used in many different experiments such as testing if they prefer light, or being at the top or bottom, or if they like certain ‘smells’ etc. They also grow back as two if you cut them in half. I looked online and to my dismay there are no biological providers in New Zealand that will ship these to me. And it’s not just planaria, it’s anything. You can’t buy animals that have been preserved for dissecting, you can’t by certain species of algae for experiments… You have to catch or grow it yourself…
I really do think it has to do with the New Zealand mentality of, ‘she’ll be right’, and ‘do it yourself’. So, I emailed a guy at the university in town and he gave me some instructions he found on how to catch planaria. At first I was really sceptical, and the first 3 times I tried it, it didn’t work. But, I did find a stream that has them, and caught 35 of the worms! The method involves putting some cooked egg yoke in a tea bag and suspending it inside a jar that you place in the mud so the edge is just above the muck at the edge of the stream. The planaria smell the egg and crawl in and stay there. My lesson went great and the students had fun. I got to go wading in my gumboots and learned something new. It’s still a bit frustrated that I can’t just buy what I need, but at the same time, I’m really glad that I couldn’t this time.