Sunday, 5 April 2015

Why my 2014 literary challenge didn't work

Picking up this blog again has taken a long time. Partly out of shame. Partly out of apathy. Partly out of being incredibly busy. And partly because of simply not knowing where to begin again.

Needless to say, I failed my challenge to read 50 (very literary) books in one year miserably. There are several reasons why. One was, quite simply, laziness. My other "excuses" are perhaps more, well, excusable.

One reason was that in the 2013-2014 academic year I was very busy completing my teaching certificate. This meant a lot of extra administrative work outside my normal working hours - time that I perhaps would have spent reading. When I did read, it was very often books to do with educational theory as I tried to improve my own practice and prepare as best as possible for interviews, exams, placements, observations, and final assessments. Part of me thought that a) I shouldn't write about these books as they weren't part of my challenge, and that b) people would not be very interested in reading about these books anyway [after all, this is not an education blog. I have one of those too, which I've also neglected horrifically of late].

Being so busy has also inevitably meant less time for blogging. It's also made me extremely tired. I often read as a way of winding down before bed, and when you're tired (due to your work during the day and the time at which you're choosing to read), such weighty tomes appeal less. This meant I ended up reading a lot of fluff at night-time, which again, did not fit my challenge criteria. I also felt embarrassed to post about these as these were not very highbrow choices. Silly to feel embarrassed - it's my blog after all, dammit - particularly as probably nobody reads this thing anyway (the blog has always been more of a record for myself than for others in some respects).

Even once I qualified as a teacher in July, I didn't get any less busy in the second half of 2014. I took over a new course at school for 16-18-year-olds that was much more "lit-heavy" than the one I'd previously taught. This meant reading all of the texts that my colleague had put on the syllabus, as well as annotating them and planning lessons around them. Many of these books were not on my original challenge list either. Once I actually started teaching the course come September, I felt like a zombie for my entire first term as I tried to get to grips with the course, mentor two new members of staff, accept the fact that my school refused to send me on the requisite training for this new course, and somehow digest the sinking feeling that of all the set texts mentioned, my former colleague had only covered one with the second-year students (leaving me with three texts to do in two terms alongside two oral assessments, two written coursework tasks, and an entire language module. Yep.). This "sink-or-swim" feeling meant I had little time for other reading, and what I did read was stuff I could read on the fly - mainly newspapers and magazines, as well as the aforementioned pre-bedtime candyfloss for the brain.

Plus, having just qualified, you'd think this would make it quicker and easier to do my job. Nope. All of your lesson planning takes longer now that you know how to do it properly; furthermore, you see everything that's wrong with all your old lesson plans, and need to modify these. On top of this, changes within our school due to new management have not always been easy to cope with, and tend to leave you feeling more like pounding out your frustrations at the gym (a useful foil for the days when your despair makes you feel like gorging on chocolate) or blasting your eardrums at a gig rather than reaching for books by Ayn Rand or Thomas Pynchon.

I'm really hoping that come September 2015, all of this will flow more easily. The new management will be in their second year, and I'll be in my second year of the new course as well. I can already feel myself getting more confident with it, and feeling in the second year that you've been here before does definitely make a huge difference. 

So what strategies for going forward? I'll definitely be focusing on the list again, but also not feel so ashamed of just reading whatever else is around - and telling the blog about it - even if this is complete fluff or takes the form of a redirect to my education blog. I also intend to do this far more regularly. Whenever I do get round to blogging again, I'm always surprised by a) how little time it actually takes and b) how much I do enjoy wittering away into the blogosphere (even if nobody actually reads it after all). So it looks like I'll be taking up bandwidth for a while, hopefully. If you're out there, do leave a comment saying hi :)

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