All the chaos

This post talks about what happened with the move professionally and where I am now. It might come across as a rant and you might have guessed that things didn’t go as planned.

Accepting a job remotely just based on lots of interviews and solving question papers without having a first-hand experience of the place and the audience might have been a bad shout on my side. But hey, it takes two to tango. There was an element of trust that was involved. People who hired me as a teaching faculty for their school believed me to do my job and do it well and they did offer a very good package. And I trusted them to keep up to their word on what they said my roles and responsibilities were and how my growth would be. They needed a commitment of 2 years which I was willing to provide because this was part of a growing school (international syllabus) and I was happy to be part of that journey. This made us change our plans of relocating towards the end of 2022 and we made our move much ahead of our scheduled time.

In India, the school academic year starts in June. I got an email from the school that they had teacher inset days/training days planned in May so they were expecting me by the 2nd week of May if I was available by then. They also told me of their management decision to additional responsibilities to my role. I was to be a year 6 class teacher along with being an ICT faculty for GCSE and A levels and maybe do some maths. I have already done these combinations (apart from the class teacher) in my school in London and I know how to manage my work so I said yes to it. When I landed in India, there was a training schedule sent around which was for three-plus weeks, 6 days a week training for all teachers. WTH! Why would we need almost 22 days of training to start a year? and 6 days a week at that? Wouldn’t the teacher be exhausted even before they start the school year? For the first week, I went for half a day (as I still was setting up house and had so much other stuff to do having landed only 2 weeks by then). It definitely gave an insight into the school and their philosophy. They are huge into mindfulness and are very child-focused which is a good thing and which is what I expected. To be honest, all schools should have that as part of their day-to-day functioning and most actually do. They just do it in different ways and honestly, some schools just don’t bother with it. We as teachers did a lot of art, music, movements etc. etc. which was good for team bonding and may be getting some ideas for primary and kindergarten but I wasn’t very sure why I would do this instead of my planning for higher secondary and year 6.

Even on the first day, there was some confusion as to which part of the school I belonged to, middle school (because I am not a year 6 class teacher) or upper school (GCSE and A level teacher). I was classified as a middle school teacher by the coordinator. That was a warning bell for me. Because my primary role was for upper school and additional responsibilities were for middle school, here I am roped into learning activities for my year 6 students. And also as the training days went by and the roles and responsibilities were discussed I realised that the class teacher role goes above and beyond the school. I have to be with them *all* the time and do evening special sessions, night schools, trips, home visits (that was a strict no for me) etc. It involved a lot more than what is done within the framework of the school. I wasn’t comfortable with some of them because of the travel time. Ironically, when they told me that my travel and food will be recompensated, it wasn’t explained how. They provided food and snacks (which were great!) but the travel was a sticky point as there was no pick up from my place which was furthest (almost an hour from the school). In order to get to the school, I had to travel half an hour from my place, leave my vehicle with someone, then board the school bus and do the same in the evening. Except in the evening because of the traffic, by the time we reach the last bus stop it is already two hours into the journey. I felt that if I was given the money instead of just the bus available I could have got my own vehicle and done the hour-long travel myself. But that wasn’t an option.

Apart from all the responsibilities, they also added teaching science to my list which wasn’t discussed with me. I got to know when the timetable was published. Now my days were too full to have any time to think or take a breath. This didn’t sound very healthy both for my mental and physical sanity. When the second week of training rolled by, I decided to discuss this with the concerned folks (there was confusion about whom I should be talking to… middle school coordinator or upper school coordinator… ) but they kind of brushed me saying that between the move to India and setting up house and new job I am getting stressed out unnecessarily and once I am all sorted it would be a walk in the park and that I would have support from the management to help me out. It felt like they were making this my problem rather than a mistake in their management decision. No other middle school teacher was handling any other upper school subjects so there was a clear distinction of roles and responsibilities. I was the only one who got shunted between the two sections of the schools. When I went back to them after a few days of thinking about it, they were ready to take me off the GCSE ICT teaching responsibilities and get me to do that later in the term. I was shocked to hear that because that was why they hired me in the first place. But it looked like their priorities changed when they were doing their management planning in April. Now they wanted someone to be a year 6 class teacher and since I was already hired they decided that I would be able to do it and they decided that I would be ok with it.

To say I was livid is an understatement. I don’t like being taken for granted like this and in a way abusing my trust in them. The other issue that got on my nerves was that they did not have any IT lab at all and were in the process of setting it up. Two years of online teaching and teaching by part-time staff for ICT didn’t prepare them for in-person ICT teaching. That is bad management that is, given that they introduced ICT because of popular demand from students. As a school, their philosophy is to have as much less tech in school as possible which didn’t bode well for my subject now. They were also adding training sessions on an ad-hoc basis thereby wanting me to attend a training tailored to their philosophy for a whole week including the weekends after which we were supposed to attend a school retreat. There was literally a 1-day break between three weeks. I don’t know how the other teachers do it, but I was exhausted just after a week. All the training that they had could have been done in 1 week and let the teachers do their individual planning. But they spread the training for two hours per day over 6 days and the new teachers had to do more training over the weekends. This is totally uncalled for. It looked like they didn’t give any thought to the work-life balance of the teachers especially when the school hadn’t even started yet. I had a good long discussion with Mr M about how I felt and then Mr M suggested that I think twice before continuing because when the students come in then it would be very hard for me to leave the school. It would be unfair on the students especially year 6 ones as it might be difficult to hire a new teacher by then and I might be stuck in a very unhappy job.

When my concerns went to deaf ears again, I decided to ditch the week-long training and sent a very long email to the person who hired me and also the founder of the school highlighting my concerns and my decision to leave the school. I had refrained my signing the contract when it was given to me the first week. The package was very good, the school was in a very lovely place, and the physical environment was very good too, but there was an underlying current of slight dissatisfaction and when I spoke to the other teachers, not all were happy about what’s going on, but they were happy to continue. I wasn’t. The management accepted my resignation not because of any other concerns that I had put forward but because of my travel time. That was typical and made me laugh because that was the only thing on the list that wasn’t their problem. It was my personal decision to travel that far off even though it wasn’t sustainable in the long term and I was willing to do it if the school and my work were good.

So after three weeks of training and a week, before the students were about to start their academic year, I left the school and was back in the market looking for options. Given that most schools already had done their recruitment for the current academic year, I was left with no other option other than to take a break and try for alternatives. Finally, after a month of job-hunt, I have landed a part-time teaching job so I am set for this year at least, but this experience has taught me to be careful and not trust everyone at face value especially when it comes to career changes. I have never had a career break ever since I started working many moons ago but this one-month of break (forced) was a much-needed one especially, after the move and setting up the house. All this might have been a blessing in disguise but that one month of balancing everything else (getting the move sorted, house sorted) the chaos of the job was, in hindsight, something that could have been avoided. At least I have learned my lesson and made a few friends in the process.

A new year, a new change

Changes are never easy. For a person who loves plans and scheduled agenda, life does throw a lot of curve balls. In all honesty, it also threw me enough lifelines to survive through those changes.


The decision to leave a high paying software industry employment and to join the education industry wasn’t an easy one. It was done after a lot of thought process and a few voluntary works in the school (after my DBS checks were cleared, of course) to ensure I was making the right choice. That I still had it in me to pursue my favourite profession of younger years. No one was proud of me than my mum when I did make the change as she was a teacher for a while before she had to give it up and she knew that I had always planned on being a teacher, no matter the subject.


I was also lucky to be in the right place at the right time because here in the UK, there was a need for teachers who could teach the science behind computing rather than the ICT that was taught in the schools. My move could not have come at a time better than this. I landed my first ever teaching job in a private school who were looking to expand their computing curriculum in their secondary school and there I was. Win-win for both. I was thrown at the deep end to figure myself out, but thanks to all the resources and online courses that were available and the help of my lovely colleagues, I swam safely to the shore.


Having been in the teaching profession for almost a year and a half, I can confidently say that I made the right choice. There is never a dull moment. There are so many stories that surround you every day that it would be foolish to not enjoy them and soak in the experiences. It also taught me something or the other every day. I never knew or understood about the SEND inside or outside schools. I did not know anything about ADHD. In India, these aren’t specifically addressed in any way in any schools in my time (not that I am that old). I am not sure how it is now. At least from what I know of my nieces and nephews schools, they aren’t any significant changes so far, but there is recognition. I never realised how varied the abilities of the children in a classroom would be and how difficult it actually is to cater to all of them. I had forgotten what it was to learn as a child, how fast they assimilate things and how lazy they can be too. The challenges that come with the children of this day and age being digital natives was another thing. They had an air of self-confidence that comes with them handling digital devices with so much ease that they think they know it all.


It took me a term and a bit to dispel the belief that computer science was all about coding. That the curriculum caters to much more than Scratch and gaming. It was hard work because I did not have anyone to help me through my subject and I had to learn from the results and change my delivery accordingly. I had to make a conscious effort to make the lessons more accessible and more interesting every single week. After 6 terms (which is 2 academic year) I am very happy with the results. There is always room for improvement on my side, but I am very glad that my efforts have started to pay off and at least 75% of the students are interested in the subject and want to pursue it well. I have seen some students who were shy and reserved in the previous year starting to engage and do well in all aspects of the subject (theory and programming). This is the part of the job which makes it very satisfying. I couldn’t have asked for such lovely and warm colleagues, who made some of the tough moments bearable. I wouldn’t have handled the job with such confidence without their help and care. The job, sadly, also comes with a lot of data handling. Sometimes I think there is too much focus on gathering the data rather than doing the teaching. The ratio of actual delivery of teaching to the creating and managing of the data related to teaching is almost 1:3, which ain’t good, as far as I am concerned.

In the software industry, there is always something provided by the organisations for a better work-life balance as the work can be very strenuous (irrespective of whether the employees end up using those facilities or not). I wonder why such a thing is not enforced for teachers. Considering the amount of stress involved in the job and the lack of funding in the education sector, each school should have a way to help the teachers manage their stress and give them a proper work-life balance. I tried to throw in some ideas related to that but it never took root. Hopefully, it will be considered in the future.


I will always be grateful to the school for taking a chance on me and giving me an opportunity to do what I love to do most and I am equally glad that I could deliver to the best of my abilities. As it always happens, there has been a new development and that means a new change. I have been given a new opportunity in a new place in a new setting with regards to teaching. It is an opportunity which is too good to be missed. So, I will be missing my school, my students, my awesome and always supportive colleagues and making my way to a new and a different pasture this new year. Any change brings with it some anxiety, some doubts, some worries, but hopefully with the help of the love and support of the people I have in my life (Mr M, of course, and my friends) I will find my strength to swim my way through this sea of adventure.

Pens

#musingsofateachersspouse Too many bloody pens in the house

Wow!

One whole year of teaching completed successfully and by the look of things that happened on the last day of school, I think I did a pretty decent job. To top it all, I haven’t had a single day off. Granted I got enough holidays during half terms and term breaks but even when I was sick with cold, flu, acute sinus and other such common ailments, I managed to go and teach. I didn’t feel like sitting at home and nursing myself back to health.

I loved going to work and enjoyed all the chaos and confusions and the frustrations that came along with it. Some kids made it worth the while and that is all that mattered. I wasn’t there to change the life of those kids, neither was I there to ensure that they are well equipped to take over the ever-digitizing world, all I wanted to ensure was they know the myths and the facts of the world of computer science and make the decisions for themselves.

Given the range of “Thank You” cards (and loads of chocolate), I have received I guess I did make a teeny tiny impact 😉 My trick of playing some annoying subject related rap-songs (especially in Maths) might have something to do with it too 😀 It felt so good to hear from those leaving the school to pursue their education elsewhere that they were going to miss my lessons and miss arguing with me about the various technologies. Even though I wasn’t there to witness it, I was told that some of those kids thanked me during their graduation ceremony. It was so sweet of them. In return, I learnt the “floss dance” and did it along with them on the last day 😉

All in all, it was a very well spent and very satisfying year. I hope this continues for as long as I am teaching and I plan on teaching for a long time. thankyouteacher.jpg