Surviving an EBD school – Guest Post from Mr Thurlow @njthurly
What, you mean I don’t get 10 bottles of wine at Christmas! This was going to be the least of my concerns.
As I pondered life as a 30-year-old primary school teacher I took stock: I’d been through the trials of University; coped with the NQT year; worked my way through two different schools and developed my teaching though many year groups –apart from reception… that’s scary! Now I sat comfortably in the tempest world of year 6. I had become accustomed to the sweet spot on my chair; my fridge shelf (yes I had a whole shelf!) was respected as mine; the children from past years would visit and massage my ego. Ahhh, what should I do next? What would a mature 30-year-old do? I thought to myself that the time was right to make a big decision: perhaps a new car; paint the living room a ‘bold’ colour; or even make a career-changing decision – a new job.
That’s it, I shall venture into the world of teaching children with severe emotional and behavioural needs.
So here’s how it went…
Firstly, I was teaching a brand new year group and curriculum – year 8. Secondly, I was soon to realise that I would have to teach in a new and diverse way. Thirdly, no one liked me (apart from the staff). These three factors made me realise that there is so much to teaching that I didn’t know and ‘oh boy’ was I going to have to learn quickly.
Year 8 science: Hydrogen Sulphate? Chloro-what? These were big words that I was having to learn, teach and use. Not only science but the full array of the year 8 curriculum made me feel like an NQT again. Sifting through documents and text books; trying to consume as much information as I went; hoping to sound and look confident.
Being confident, that was something I had to do. Entering a new school is hard enough but entering a new school with a class of children, who do not like you because you’re new is very different. I didn’t have the trump card of being the football manager: knowing the boys would sit perfectly because I had the key to the school jerseys. I didn’t have ‘passed on’ respect because of older siblings saying I was “well-strict”. I had nothing. I had to bite the bullet and start from scratch.
This was a theme that was ever-so present in my first year. I give you this scenario: a well thought out lesson, with a range of styles and opportunities to progress (and colour coded). A selection of resources all pre-prepared with expert lamination. I feel confident, I thought. I feel these children will love it, I thought. They’ll love me!
You’re crap sir! We hate you and we will hate you tomorrow too! I’m not doing this! I don’t care if I’ve got a detention – I’m still not doing it!
…hello Roald Dahl…hello Friday afternoon story time…how I want to hear your sweet sound now…
So all that planning went out of the window and so did the next two weeks’ worth! What I learnt very quickly is that anything I did, touched, used or liked was rubbish (they used other adjectives but those words shall be kept off this page). So from giving hi-5s to kids down the corridor and receiving the annual Christmas wine uptake. I was now presented with the deafening sound of defiance.
Where am I now? I’m one year in and loving every minute of it. What a difference a year makes! I don’t have any of the barriers to progress that I had when I first started. I don’t have the constant wave of poor language directed my way! I don’t have refusal just because it’s me! I’m normal. I’m accepted. I’m part of their world now. Their desire to learn is there. Their willingness to develop and understand their behaviour is there too. They are amazing kids. They like what I do! They like me (I think). I understand it now: I was new; I was different; I was seen as an outsider; I had to earn respect.
The emotional and behavioural needs of the young people certainly tested me. But in life we need to push ourselves; we need to break our comfort zones; change our ways. And now because I took that step, I’m having the best time of my life. Teaching is amazing!
*Emotional Behavioural Difficulties School