I just reread my last blog post, which I had utterly forgotten the content of because it was so long ago, but interestingly I already had ideas of what I wanted this post to be about, and it flows on nicely from my last.
You see, my last post was about the anticipation of the end of year school holidays for teachers that may be feeling somewhat exhausted. The reason for the delay between blog posts is that my work circumstances have changed — I am now part of a team of higher education teachers revolutionising the first year of university. Let me tell you, being revolutionary is hard work! So, my start to the academic year has involved some of the hardest months I have worked; however, they have also been some of the most rewarding, particularly while working in the higher education sector.
One of the most significant changes has been that I now see my students for nine hours per week over four weeks rather than two or three hours per week over twelve weeks.There are pedagogical reasons for the shift — mostly that the immersion in a four-week unit affords students and teacher a depth of understanding and exploration that can only be touched on when students are studying multiple units at one time. But that is not what I want to discuss. Teaching in a four-week block has reminded me of the joy teaching can offer.
I started my career as a primary teacher, working closely with a small group of students for at least fifteen hours per week for about forty weeks of the year. As most of my secondary school appointments were in alternate settings, my secondary teaching experience followed a similar pattern. When I moved into higher education, I often felt like I missed working in schools and now I know why — I missed the growing relationships with students — the emotional connection. In a four-week-block, I get that connection, and it feels good for me, so I can only imagine that it feels good for my students too. Research tells us that the relationship between teacher and student plays a crucial role in the success of students. Aside from that, my students are telling me it feels good for them too in a way. I get little emails or comments telling me how much they are enjoying the class. Now, I have not drastically transformed as a teacher, and the content is relatively similar to what I have taught previously, so I do believe it is the connection. The more I know my students, the more invested I am, and the more they know me, they are equally invested.
So, reflecting on the predicament of an exhausted teacher at the end of the year — yes, teaching is emotionally taxing, but it is also the same element of the job that can bring, joy, satisfaction and thrill. Albert Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy tells us that with a challenge comes reward. I have just had the hardest and the most rewarding months working in higher education. It has been a welcome reminder of why I became a teacher in the first place — because I enjoy and value the relationships that stem from it — and now we just need to figure out how to keep riding that emotional high without burning out!