Breaking in the new

Finally, sometime on Sunday afternoon, the pain stopped. The first week of the new school year had caused an unanticipated amount of hurt, aching and misery, all of which had continued to have an effect through the first half of a much needed weekend break. Despite the relief, complete relaxation was not possible as the knowledge that the following morning I would have to face it all again lingered like a dark cloud on the horizon…

“Poor Dave,” you may (or may not) be thinking. “His new classes must be really difficult.” If only it were so. Difficult classes I can handle and hopefully change for the better. I am in fact talking not about my new students but my new shoes: blisters, red raw skin, pinched toes and an aching that goes right to the centre of my sole…s (pun very much intended!)


Not my shoes as it happens but rather the random shoes of some bloke called ‘blond avenger’ who uses Flickr.
They seemed quite comfortable when I tried them on in the store but the rigours of a full week of teaching (on my feet throughout the lessons, walking around the class, going from corridor to corridor and pacing the playground on lunchtime duty) really hit me hard. The first blister was forming on my little toe by Monday evening and more appeared as the week (quite literally) wore on.

Of course, I could have opted for more comfortable footwear later in the week to make life easier but I persisted, hoping that I could break in these new shoes quickly. Indeed, I got through yesterday with considerably less aching and today the pain is barely noticeable.

Here is comes… the tenuous link to my teaching that turns the opening paragraphs into a metaphor!! Image by ecstaticist

And that’s kind of how it has been with the new school year. I am going to six different classes, all new to me. Going into some classes is like putting on a pair of my summer sandals. Everything is comfortable and easy to manage from the beginning and it’s easy to do our lessons in a relaxed manner. With other classes, it’s been like stepping into new shoes - I am trying to get everything in place but the class (or some parts of the class, much like the area above the heel or around the toes on a new pair of shoes) is pushing back and causing a few problems, aches and pains.

But, as with the new shoes, time is needed to break them in. All I can do is be patient (one of the most important qualities in a teacher of young learners). They may not be ready for the lessons on time now, they may be reluctant to write or speak in English and they may be shouting out answers and comments or overly talkative but with time, persistence and (perhaps most importantly) consistency from me, it will get more comfortable and relaxed as the year goes on. Maybe they will never be as snug as my winter slippers, but those feelings of discomfort will soon go away.

But it’s not just a matter of breaking in the new shoes. They will need an occasional polish, just as I’m sure will students will need a reminder every so often about the best way to create and maintain an environment suitable for learning. And with the comfortable shoes, I’ll need to make sure they don’t get holes in them or become too scuffed up and start to fall apart. Even the best-fitting footwear needs a bit of sprucing up.

Over to you
So, if you made it to the end of this post, well done. Smile

And what about you? What metaphors do you have for ‘breaking in’ new classes?