Gardening for the mind

A friend asked me how the teacher training was working out so far.

“Great,” I said, “Really well.”

He looked at me quizzically, perhaps detecting a slight twitch in my eye.

“Must be tiring though?”

He’s right of course; it is exhausting. I’m not going to be the life and soul of any party for the foreseeable future. In fact, I struggle to stay up past 10 p.m. I fall into bed each night, my mind whirling with plans for the next morning, and critique of the day just gone. The hours in school are full-on and the evenings completely taken up with being a mum. Only when I finally lay my head on the pillow, do I get chance to catch up with my own thoughts.

Meticulously, I rake through all the memories of the day, trying to bring them into tidy piles, so that I can sleep. In one pile there are the things I should (or should not) have said. In another are the things I could have done differently. Next to them in a dark corner, the things I messed up. _45608624_flowers_istock_466.jpgI force myself to add to these piles some cheerier thoughts: a piece of positive feedback I’ve had, something I did which helped my pupils learn, or made them smile. In the dark stretches of the night, I turn each incident over, examine it, either cursorily or at length, before laying it down. I think it helps.It helps because reflection and self-criticism are at the heart of this year. In fact, I am beginning to realise that reflective practice is going to be essential for many, many years to come if I am to become the best teacher I can be. It is the cornerstone of the school-based course, where the cycle of reflection is iterative from the very start. Read, Listen, Observe, Teach, Reflect, Repeat.

The reflection part takes many guises, informed as it is by feedback from multiple sources. It is the insightful comments of my mentor, the targets in my TPF, the scribbles in the margin of a lesson plan, and the discussions in my weekly tutorials. It is the asterisk on my GPS handout which says *could this work with my top set year 9? and the moment in a lesson observation when I think I would have done that differently. It is comparing notes with other trainees, it is noting down thoughts for this blog, and, yes, it is my “mental gardening”, sweeping my jumbled thoughts into manageable heaps, as I wait for sleep to come.

I look at my friend and smile.

“Tiring, yes.” I say, “But worth it.”

Jenny, English trainee teacher, Greensward Academy

3 thoughts on “Gardening for the mind

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