The Seven Ps

Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.


A frequently used adage in the ranks of, well, the ranks (you know, the ones that wear uniforms and charge ahead with no fear in the knowledge that *someone* has a plan). It came to mind as I rallied against my original/better instincts with several reluctant classes today.

I first heard it went I began my own uniformed service in life BT (Before Teaching). It was shouted at me from within an inch of my face by a short Scottish woman who rrrrrolled her r’s (impressive at any pitch) and was convinced of my utter inability to do anything but vex her. Her rrrrepeated attempts to impart the value of planning fell on (understandably) deaf ears. However, I had yet to venture into the front line of teaching and so yet to learn the true idiocy of being unprepared.

Back then, I interpreted the 7 Ps to mean that if the powers that be planned properly, I would be saved from a ‘piss poor performance’ (and, one presumes, death in some cases). These days, I am the powers that be and it has to be said, that poor mad shouting Scottish Sergeant was right. Generally speaking, the only thing that prevents me from crying at the end of every day is good planning.

Today is a case in point. Five lessons, five plans, 150 students, hundreds of activities, one frazzled TA and several partridges in a detention by lunch time. Why? Because I got disappointed and cross that they didn’t appreciate my planning. Never mind that I spent more time explaining how to do the activities than why they were doing them. Never mind that by the end of third period even my most loyal year 7s were at a loss as to what I expected of them.

And all because the teacher loves a shiny new resource…

It appears that I still like planning like I am a student with a significantly reduced timetable and infinite laminating time. I tend to find a resource, go ‘ooh, that’ll be fun’ and then spend hours trying to create a lesson that fits around it. It’s utter madness. The perfectionist in me won’t entertain the idea of using departmental plans and yet I know that if I don’t, I will lose my painstakingly regained will to live teach very soon.

With this in mind, I have rewritten the 7 Ps for teaching:

Properly Prioritising Planning Prevents Premature Passing

This and the following image will be laminated above my desk by this time tomorrow.

Those that can…teach.

Apparently.

I think this is most certainly how it starts out. With a bag of tricks (issued by the training provider) that includes best classroom practice, best intentions and (advice to) best forget your other life. By the time you finish your training, you will literally stink of a unrepentant desire to change the world.

Then gradually (over the first half term as a trainee) it becomes ‘those that still want to’. After a year of placements and university coursework that literally amount to nothing, this earlier desire to change can soon become a simple wish to survive.

By the time the first term of the NQT year is over it’s become a case of  ‘those that still have the energy’, culminating a few years later in ‘those that really should give up’.

Teaching you see, it’s a life style choice.

Sometimes that choice is about having no life at all just so you can be good ok at it.

No really. That is honestly how it works. You have to give up your life to make it work. Or at least that’s what countless NQTs up and down the country tonight will be telling themselves (and what remains of their nearest and dearest). That it will be all worth it in the end. That after they pass, things will be calmer, less stressful and – the biggest lie of all – that less will be expected of them.

This blog is about my journey through the NQT maze. The trials and tribulations of a non-core subject teacher in a typical ‘secondary modern’ in the UK.

Will I come out the other end as someone who ‘can’ or will I join the many thousands of NQTs that simply leave the profession for good and chalk it up to ‘something interesting’ to talk about in the next round of interviews?

I honestly don’t know. I’ve been alive long enough to have done a few other things since signing up to be a teacher and I can say that while it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it is also the funniest and most rewarding. It just takes up too much time. Last time I checked, we only get one turn on the planet and I have to ask myself, do I really want to spend mine being (mostly) tired and grumpy? Do I want my job to take up 90% of my life? Did I really go to university twice to feel this way?

Tonight is my last night off for seven weeks. I don’t mean in the typical sense of Monday to Friday, I mean it’s the last night where my thoughts and fears are not almost 100% based on what tomorrow will bring.

Over these next seven weeks I am hoping to document a few of those thoughts and fears as well as giving some practical on-the-job advice for any current trainees who will be in this position next year.

I may even find the time for social commentary. Don’t hold your breath though.

As the clock edges ever closer to midnight, I am resolved to enter this term with the ability to manage my work load, teach past behaviour and find time to see my friends.

Until then, it’s Big Fat Quiz of the Year time and the last of the Christmas wine.