I was planning to write a post about food and my new love of cooking, but I’ve been reading and listening to so many different things related to that subject recently that I was finding it difficult to condense my thoughts into a coherent post. Instead I’ve decided to write about my new job. Partly for myself, to remind me how far I’ve come in the past month or so, and partly in case any of you might be interested in reading about my progression from joblessness and despair to feeling like a useful and productive member of society again.
To re-cap, I finished my masters course last summer and then started looking for work as an assistant psychologist or research assistant. After applying for many different jobs, only having interviews for unpaid positions and being told I needed more experience in order to get even those roles, I decided I needed to widen my search considerably, so I applied for a few teaching assistant (TA) and learning support assistant (LSA) jobs, which were advertised as being suitable for psychology graduates. A couple of agencies got back to me VERY quickly and invited me for interviews. I got my current job a couple of weeks later and I’m now working as an LSA at a primary school.
I never, ever thought I would be able to do this kind of job. My “nightmare jobs” – i.e. things I never imagined I would be capable of doing – included nursing/care worker roles and teaching. I have never been “good with children” – even as a child I found it difficult to communicate effectively with other children! My brother and I never had any young cousins and I have no nieces and nephews, so I had very little experience of being around young children before this. So I was very nervous about working in a school environment. I did have a trial day at the school before I started working there, which was actually immensely helpful, because it meant I had at least a vague idea of what the school was like before going in for my first day of work.
In the first week, in particular, there were several incidents which I found almost completely overwhelming, the most memorable one being on the third day, when it was raining at lunch break, so the kids were inside their classrooms during playtime. I was left in charge of a class of about 25 6-year-old kids, on my own, for about half an hour. It was terrifying. But I survived it and it was an excellent learning experience, just like pretty much everything else I’ve done since I’ve been there, really! Most of what I’ve learned so far has been picked up from observing how other teachers deal with things and then putting that into practice when I have to deal with a similar situation myself.
Things I have done for the first time since starting this job:
1) Supervised a whole class of children on my own for brief periods of time.
2) Comforted and applied first aid to injured children
3) Sorted out playground disputes
4) Used Scary Teacher Voice on naughty children
5) Used facepaints
6) Attended a professional review and arranged personal goals and targets
Things that I have found unexpectedly joyful and brilliant:
1) Listening to kids read (I have 1:1 reading sessions with five children each week)
2) Hearing their cries of amazement at an arts-and-crafts thing I made as an example for the teacher to show the class (seriously, you would have thought it was a masterpiece of craftsmanship from the reaction it got!)
3) Being recognised and waved at from some distance away in the playground/lunch queue etc
4) Seeing them smile in response to encouragement, praise or even general interest in their chosen activity
5) Using my Scary Teacher Voice on naughty children (to good effect, I might add).
Conclusion: I have learnt an incredible amount in the past few weeks. I’m doing a job that is challenging, tiring and sometimes still slightly overwhelming. But I love it. I don’t know whether I love it enough to completely change my career and become a teacher, (especially now I’ve seen how much hard work, responsibility and strength of character is required for that role!), but it is a good job at a lovely workplace with great colleagues and I am enjoying it very much, which is more than I could possibly have hoped for back in October.