My (not so) critical incident

DonutWhen I think of the term “critical incident” it makes me imagine that something quite frightening/exciting/crazy has happened. This year has been stressful and demanding, but I have not experienced anything “critical” just yet- nothing that has made me completely change my teaching methods and habits. Yes, I casually reflect in the car about what has gone horribly wrong and how I can change it (as well as what sometimes goes fantastically), but nothing has really stood out for me as “critical”.

Apart from this Friday.

What happened? I hear you ask. Unruly student behaviour? A clash with management? A bust up in the staffroom? A break through moment in which a student realised that reading is the key to all knowledge? No. I’ll tell you what happened…

Rewind to the rest of the week. Disengaged learners, piled on marking, covering the basics all over again, walkthroughs from senior management, if you work in FE you’ll be reading that list and nodding your head and agreeing like a true comrade. Or not, if you work in some wonder college. In that case, let me know where that is and if I can come work with you?

Anyway. I was drained beyond belief. Usually I plaster on a smile and keep going. Only not this time. Nothing particularly bad happened in this lesson. Just nothing good either. This was the first time I have not been at all fussed. Simply not bothered, this is what worries me.

This was critical moment because, for the whole of one of my lessons, I just stopped caring. Usually I push and pester the challenging learners until they at least attempt some of the work. Usually I support and encourage my learners who are actively trying so hard. I always do this, always make an effort to go around and around the classroom checking and observing and chatting to my learners. This lesson, I didn’t.

Afterwards I felt terrible and deflated. I wished I could have scraped some energy from somewhere. I wanted to forget about it and scurry away as quickly as possible as I felt cowardly and a bit frightened, like I wasn’t in control somehow.  

Writing in retrospect of this critical incident, I realise that this is not any fault of my learners. They weren’t any different to any other day. It was a result of fatigue, stress and boredom (on my part). I feel guilty that I couldn’t hide this in front of my students and I am worried my attitude will have rubbed off on them. Looking back on the things you’ve done wrong is always tricky, like remembering something totally humiliating that you’ve done and recalling it over and over until it whizzes about like a tornado in your head. My thinking has to change and become more positive, immediately; looking back on these difficult incidents seems to be the only way to do it.

McAteer et al state that as well as reflecting on your critical incident, you should attempt to learn from it too. To do this you should think about what you have learned about your practice through the incident. One thing that I have realised is that you must always remain professional and in control, never let the situation control you. This incident has made me realise more than ever that it is me who is the expert, the adult, the teacher, the one in control therefore I have to take responsibility for my own behaviour, responses, body language and attitude.

This week I plan to set about my prioritises and do what I can in order to keep myself sane and calm and ready to take on my classes in a professional manner.

It is hard to admit your mistakes, I’ve written this and cringed throughout. I know people will read this and empathise. I know people will read this and be heavily critical. But surely the fact that I am reflecting, (on essentially nothing) is the sign of someone who does care? Even though, last week, for at least forty five minutes, I could not give a flying doughnut.