2014 was split down the middle. Up to August I remained at the college I had worked at for five years. The academic year 2013-2014 was the worst of my life, with no exceptions. We had an Ofsted inspection in the spring term, the outcome of which, and the decisions then made in our department, broke my heart. Worst of all, it finally impacted on my teaching. Throughout my teaching career, I had been able to avoid stress, bureaucracy and bullying affecting the quality of my teaching, but some of my students could tell I wasn't on top of my game. I still performed very well - my graded observation (oh yes, FE still has them...) was good, I successfully got the department through the BTEC external verification and HND external examination for the second year running, and my students got the best pass rate in AS and A2. But I was losing the spark, and I was dangerously close to burnout. My husband and I sometimes wondered if we were just being over-sensitive, but everyone we spoke to in the education field responded with a variation on "Damn, that's terrible."
So it was time to move on. I probably should have moved on a year earlier, but the 2012-2013 year was so awesome that I was lulled into a false sense of security. I interviewed for a job in July and was offered it the same day (which is actually pretty unusual for FE, though not schools). It is pure A Level teaching and a tutor group. I work in a department where people are genuinely friends, where it is always possible to find someone willing to help, and where my managers encourage us to minimise our workloads and leave the office promptly. There is a lot less paperwork, and a lot more time for teaching. I have survived my first term at the new college, and have thrived. I have amazing students, brilliant colleagues and nurturing managers. Some of the edited highlights:
- My manager offered to buy me a skeleton for my classroom (duly bought and named Silent Bob), and agreed to buy me a microscope with USB camera, which is used nearly daily.
- My classroom is so welcoming that, even though it's the coldest room in the department, my students still like hanging out there between classes.
- Every time my manager walks past my classroom I seem to be talking about something utterly random and possibly inappropriate to the lesson (e.g. David Nutt and "Nuttsack", colorectal cancer, how a rolled Ammophila leaf resembles a roach), and because she teaches biology too, she laughs - she gets it.
- During a game of biology-themed Pictionary, one group of students got the word "turgid" in under two seconds because their artist drew a penis.
- My efforts to educate my students on intersectionality are starting to pay off, even if they're not quite there - on a hexagons revision table I saw the Bundle of His renamed to the "Bundle of Sexism".
Season's greetings to all, and a happy new year.