I love teaching. I love working with teenagers. I love my school. And I really, really love my subject!
Whilst Lockdown brought many challenges in terms of juggling teaching, childcare and homeschooling, for me, it also brought some pockets of time to get my geek on.
Most years, my timetable includes a class from every year group: Years 7 to 13. I experience the full gamut of human emotions and teach the whole curriculum. Whilst it is massively rewarding, it is pretty challenging to keep a whole tranche of knowledge and literature rattling around in a head that is getting on in years and is full of life management – both domestic and professional.
We have worked really hard in the English department at creating a curriculum model which follows a clear map and journey from aged 11 to 18. In terms of language and grammar skills, it’s pretty much the same knowledge from Years 7 to 11, becoming much more specialised at Key Stage 5, which I am happy to leave to the excellent linguists in our department!
In terms of literature, with the exception of revisiting one Shakespeare play (as per Curriculum 2015 guidelines), every text is different and the challenge starts in Year 7 with a thematic approach, looking at childhood through David Almond’s The Fire Eaters, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Jamila Gavin’s Coram Boy.
By the time we get to A level Literature, which I am privileged enough to teach most years, I’m juggling: a couple of challenging Victorian texts; love poetry from the Renaissance to the present day; Shakespeare’s great tragedy, Othello – all under the thematic umbrella of ‘Love through the Ages’. This is where my imposter syndrome kicks in. I still never really feel like I’ve nailed it – despite successful results and a very generous observation from our most recent Ofsted inspection. I also put great pressure on myself to be a font of literature wisdom: to be able to pluck out textual and contextual knowledge from my tired old brain at will!
During Lockdown, I invested some personal CPL time in accessing the fabulous resources available from the world of teaching English Literature. An avid, Tweeter, I regularly ‘bookmark’ resources so generously shared and follow #teamenglish – I would imagine there are equivalents for most subjects. I also discovered the fantastically kind and brilliant @funkypedagogy (Jennifer Webb). God knows when this woman finds time to sleep, but in-between being part of SLT and raising small people, she manages to share the contents of her frankly planet-sized brain. I have taken part in some of her outstanding online CPL sessions which make some of the most challenging texts and critical theory we deliver, seem accessible and fun. I’ve even bought Jennifer’s three books. As Lauren Laverne would tell you, when I fangirl, I fangirl hard!
In all seriousness, it’s given me a little self-esteem boost and a renewed vigour for the subject I will always love but not always feel terribly confident about delivering. I may not have learnt how to make sourdough, written a novel or even got dressed during Lockdown, but I’ve grown my brain a bit, got my geek on and flexed my teacher muscles beyond pedagogy, and I’d highly recommend it!
Katy Wayne, English