Teaching with my eyes shut written on a blackboard

A guest blog by Sarah Ruse – Eyes Shut Teacher @eyesshutteacher.

I’ve been teaching in Scotland for over 12 years now having changed career in my 40s. I’m not an expert but I do have some experience. I have worked in schools with rolls of 15-400+. I’ve taught composites, multi composites, NCCT, probationer & PT cover, job share, full time and part time. Like everyone else I’ve had a wide range of additional needs to include. I’m not teaching with my eyes shut because it’s easy for me, although there are some shortcuts that I‘ve discovered and am happy to share.

I’m also not teaching with my eyes shut because I want to ignore what’s happening and I’ve had enough of teaching. I care deeply about what happens in my classroom and how my learners are impacted by it. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort building my teaching toolbox, researching effective methods and increasing my understanding to support for pupils experiencing barriers to their learning. I endeavour to run a kind and nurturing classroom where all can flourish. However my focus is classroom work, I have no aspiration to lead although I support my SLT as much as I can (see teamwork below).

Teaching with my eyes shut came to me late on a damp Saturday afternoon. We’d finished the chores and put on an action movie. I thought it looked interesting at first but they all merge into one after a while so I started scrolling through my social media whilst keeping one eye on the movie. The main character went off to see his martial arts guru and was advised that he should practice with his eyes shut to find his focus, sensitivity, balance and timing. The penny dropped.

This is exactly how I feel about my teaching. It’s how I’ve been trying to explain my teaching practice for the last few years. As I’ve mentored the student teachers who have come through my class I’ve tried to explain to them the importance of the split seconds when we stop and decide how to act. Does this child need me to go loud or quiet?  What do the children watching need to see and feel? How do I make everyone in this room understand what went on? Teaching is unusual in that it is both a science and an art and timing is absolutely everything.

As the adult in the room it is my responsibility to self regulate and demonstrate appropriate responses. In that nanosecond that I take a deep breath, blink and select a response I’m running on my learning, experience and knowledge. It relies on me knowing that that behaviour isn’t personal, I’m just the nearest adult.

Choosing that response depends on many factors, but primarily it’s about self care. I cannot respond appropriately if stressed, tired and overworked. I rarely take work home and prioritise ruthlessly. I need evenings and weekends to reflect and process. I also try to walk every lunchtime as it allows me to see the bigger picture. Some might feel it’s a waste of time but I find it gives me headspace and makes me more productive.

For me to keep my pupils positive I have to remain positive. I absolutely love my job (although I know it would take every hour of the week if I let it). I like going to work on Monday and look forward to my week. I enjoy my weekends and holidays but I’m not wishing away my life counting down to them. I know this job is tiring but there are ways to reduce that and grumbling about it isn’t one of them.

Most of all teaching is a team sport. Asking for advice and support is a strength not a weakness. My colleagues and I listen to each other, gripe, share resources, problems and successes and make each other laugh at some of the ridiculous situations we find ourselves in. Most importantly they tell me when I’ve done as much as I can and when I need to accept I can’t fix everything.

So I’ve set up @eyesshutteacher on Twitter to share some positivity, laughter, time saving tips, offer advice, encourage self care and hopefully make you reflect on your teaching practice to find your focus, sensitivity, balance and timing.

Hopefully I’ll see you around 😊

Eyes Shut Teacher

I believe in helping people be the happiest, most effective and most authentic versions of themselves. Through my work as a teacher, coach and wellbeing expert, I nurture self-belief and self-awareness and remind you that not only are you not alone, but you have more control than you might imagine. You deserve, not just to survive, but to thrive.

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