My sanity in danger

PD náš svět (17)July will soon be over, but there’s still another month of holidays ahead of me (precisely 24 days). Although I’m currently keeping my mind busy reading and writing, I’m pretty much in a relaxed mode. Still, I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night to discover that I’m thinking about school. That would be fine if I reminisced and reflected; except that I worry about the future, not the past.

I’m not implying that my job is at stake or something that gloomy. The thing is that every September brings changes and, inevitably, some innovations are to the good while other reforms are less pleasing. Also, the transition from the relaxed mode into the working mood is usually drastic. It’s nothing near gradual; it’s like jumping into an ice bath after you’ve spent some time in a warm whirlpool. So whenever I think of the freezing water awaiting me, my warm whirlpool immediately becomes much less comfortable.

Here are a couple of things that I’m currently worrying about:

1) Seen from a perspective of the head of the English department:

  • Early in October, my colleague and I are travelling to London for a week. We’re taking 20 students but at the moment we still don’t have all the information concerning the trip which is part of an EU-funded project.
  • In the same month, a huge event is awaiting the English department – a competition in English conversation. Schools from different parts of the Czech Republic nominate their ‘best English speakers’ and send them to our school to beat the rivals. We used to do a project part of the competition too, where teams of students made big paper projects on a given topic, but that was simply too much to handle with the staff resources shrinking every year so we’ve dropped this for the time being.
  • At the end of October, there’ll be a huge Halloween event we organise each year for local primary schools, but that’s already been running at our school for long so I’m not too worried about that.

2) Seen from a perspective of a homeroom teacher:

  • I’ll have two new students in my class, who I’ve never seen and don’t know much about. One of them is a boy from Hong Kong who speaks no Czech. The other one is a girl who lived in Germany. She speaks Czech but will probably have to work hard in Czech lessons to catch up.
  • On September 21, five students from my class are taking part in a one-day shooting for the national TV. It’s an educational programme for kids and it should be fun, but somehow I can’t shed the feeling of responsibility. Also, I’ll have to arrange a couple of things before that.

PD náš svět (26)

3) Seen from a perspective of an English teacher:

There are three classes I’ll be teaching next academic year that make me feel slightly anxious.

  • One of them is a relatively large class of 23 senior students. I already taught the same class last year and it was a challenge even though they were smaller by one student back then. Such a big class gets quite noisy during speaking activities and correcting their written work is not child’s play either. The fact that next year is their graduation year, i.e they’ll be seriously preparing for their final exams, inevitably changes my perspective.
  • The other class is a class of senior students as well, but I’m not going to prepare them for their final exam directly. Although I’ll be one of the assessors, it’s my colleague who’s going to do the dirty work throughout the year. The trouble is that it is a notorious class with a long record of minor violations of the school rules (I’ll have to keep reminding myself of the presumption of innocence rule). Moreover, we’re going to use an upper-intermediate coursebook, which is always a problem with a class (or a majority of it) that is far from upper-intermediate.
  • The last but not least is the opposite of scenario number 1. Last year I grappled with another class of 23 students (14-year-olds). Although it was hard, we finally found strategies to make learning possible. In September, since two students are joining us, the class will be split into two groups again. Thus, most of the methods I used last year won’t work anymore. We’ll have to get used to new approaches again. I sometimes feel like on a rollercoaster.

To conclude and amplify my worries, I’ll add that late in September, our school is celebrating the 80th anniversary of its founding. There will be a lot to do before and around September 25. Although I’m not directly in charge of the organisation, I kind of dread the magnitude of the event. It’ll probably be plain crazy! Keep your fingers crossed for my sanity.

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About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for more than 20 years. I love metaphors and inspiring discussions concerning teaching, learning and linguistics.
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10 Responses to My sanity in danger

  1. Ludmila says:

    “I’ll have to keep reminding myself of the presumption of innocence rule.” This sentence sounds really nice.

    Dál už budu psát česky, abych se neztrapnila svou angličtinou. Nejdřív bych chtěla poděkovat za tento blog. Takto přemýšlivých textů českých učitelů se najde pomálu, proto byl pro mě trochu jako blesk z čistého nebe.

    Zadruhé, koncem školního roku jsem si říkala, jestli já sama jsem vůbec schopná další kolečko takových akcí zvládnout, a doufala, že si na to o prázdninách dostatečně odpočinu. Často totiž o některých akcích pochybuji – např. olympiáda z češtiny a angličtiny, v nichž uspěje pouze jeden. Recitace, u níž o skutečnou interpretaci básně většina z porotců ani nezavadí. O co raději bych svou energii investovala do nějakého projektu, ve kterém děti spolupracují (Digital Learning Day, noc s knihami). Takže rozumím vašim obavám. A myslím, že pro nás, kteří se pohybujeme ve virtuálním prostoru, můžou být zdrojem energie právě takové nápady, články a blogy podobně smýšlejících učitelů. Přeju hodně sil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hana Tichá says:

      Děkuji za komentář a hezká slova. Já se naopak obávám, že česky psát už ani neumím, což je celkem ostuda.

      Líbí se mi výraz ‘kolečko’. To je hodně výstižné shrnutí toho, jak já sama vnímám školní rok. Jak říkáte, mnoho akcí je nutno brát s pochybami a mnoho z nich je pořádáno jen za účelem propagace školy. Ty pak jenom přidávají práci už tak zaneprázdněným kantorům. Na druhou stranu, studentů není mnoho a my se musíme snažit. Navíc, většina gymnázií je v tomto ohledu ohrožena ještě více než jiné školy.

      Stejné obavy mívám každý rok touto dobou, ale nakonec se vše nějak vyvrbí a já zase přežiju 🙂 Je fakt, že psaní blogu hodně pomáhá.

      Ještě jednou díky za podporu.

      Like

  2. I totally feel you right now and I can only imagine how overwhelming the first weeks of school might be. What helps me a lot is to create to-do lists with my priorities using 3 different colours. Red are the must-do ones, orange the ones in the middle and green the optional ideas. Maybe it will help you get a clearer view of what in fact it is you have to deal with during the first weeks. 🙂

    Like

    • Hana Tichá says:

      Thanks, Maria. I like your idea of creating to-do lists; I guess that might help a lot. I’ve never been into planners and ticking things off, but when there’s too much to do, it’s certainly the best way. I’ve recently started reading this blog (http://jamesclear.com/), where there are lots of useful ideas for staying well-organized (and sane). Although it’s absolutely ELT unrelated, it’s suitable for people who want to be successful in what they do. I love how all the ideas there can be applied to every job and everyday situations – even teaching. This reminds me, I once attended a workshop where the presenter mentioned that we tend to underestimate the importance of life skills – we rarely teach our students how to become well-organized or how to plan effectively. Now I truly believe that life skills are as important as listening or reading skills and that they shouldn’t be neglected in education.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for sharing the blog with me, it will definitely prove useful! I couldn’t agree with you more on life skills. In fact, I realized last year that most of the homework and studying issues I’ve had with my students happen because my kids don’t know how to manage their time effectively. That’s why this year I’ve decided to start by working on trategies on how to manage their time, plan their homework and sharing ways to organize their materials. Unfortunately, life skills are definitely left out from most educational systems worldwide. This is probably why so many of us grapple with the everyday demands of adult life.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Action plan | How I see it now

  4. swisssirja says:

    Oh yes, the beginning after the long holidays. I always find that tricky. On one hand the looooong summer holidays are an amazing luxury, but one the other hand they do me a big disservice as well. Having all these weeks at hand, I dive into a completely different world far from teaching and educational worries (my little blessing aside). So getting back on track is emotionally and professionally difficult.
    Keeping my fingers crossed for you! Keep us posted on how it’s foing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hana Tichá says:

      Absolutely. Long holidays is something we really deserve – no matter what all the envious people outside the field often say 🙂 It’s definitely a luxury, but a well-earned luxury, I should stress. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Keep rebooting your energy, Sirja!

      Like

  5. ven_vve says:

    I’m curious – how old is the boy from Hong Kong? Which grade is he in? I should think he’ll find it pretty challenging to keep up with his other classes – other than English, that is. I’m assuming English is not a problem? I remember we once had twin girls at our school (Chinese, I think), whose family had recently moved to Croatia. They were third or fourth graders and spoke neither English nor Croatian. We put them in a group of second graders (this was in a language school, not their regular elementary school) but I remember it was really hard, both on them and the teacher. The teacher wasn’t trained or equipped to deal with a situation like that, and we had no idea what we could do to support her, in practical terms. We did try talking to the parents – we asked them to bring along an interpreter – and suggested that the twins first focus on their Croatian, as they were going to a regular Croatian elementary school (meaning they should take a break from attending English classes outside of school for the rest of the year), but they didn’t take up our suggestion. Unfortunately, I can’t remember how the school year finished. Good luck with the new student! I’m sure things will be easier if he speaks at least a bit of English.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hana Tichá says:

      Thanks for your encouragement, Vedrana. I’d really love to answer your questions, but I don’t have enough information at the moment. l hope to learn more in a couple of weeks and I promise to keep you posted.

      I remember we once had a student from Vietnam studying at out school for one year. Although he spoke no Czech, he attended all the regular classes with his peers. I never had an opportunity to talk to him, but I guess it must have been hard for him as well as his teachers. Honestly, I haven’t a clue what the point of these exchanges is (they aren’t really exchanges because I don’t remember any of our students going to study in Vietnam). Is it learning Czech or gaining experience? My colleague came up with a crazy idea; maybe it’s a form of punishment for the student or an attempt to take him away from a harmful environment (drugs, crime). I hope she’s wrong!

      Liked by 1 person

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