I'm a newly certified teacher, teaching in the UK, and I'm getting eaten alive. How do I survive the year?
I completed my teacher training in Canada and almost immediately started teaching in a public high school in rural England. The year started about 3 weeks ago, and I am having serious issues in my classroom. My school has a reputation for being behaviourally difficult, and is not strong academically, according to the GCSE exam results (the school has improved over past years though).
I am having particular difficulties with my classes. I am very friendly and good-natured in my everyday life, but once in the classroom, I don't really have that chance. My kids talk and walk around when I try to explain something. They playfight and throw things in class. I've been sworn at on at least 3 different occasions in my 3 weeks there, including getting threatened at one point. One of my classes is known by another teacher as a "nightmare class". The school has a consequence system, and I have given detentions, but the students don't seem to care if I give them detention; they just won't show up. I have called home and left a message with some parents, but that doesn't deter the students either. In some of my challenging classes, there are almost 30 low-ability students, whereas in Canada there would be no more than 16 or so.
I have a pretty good support system of friends and teachers here, and I want to gain the most from the experience. One of my fellow teachers today told me to have a "quirk", something that makes me unique and (presumably?) likable among the students. I feel like I spend so much time putting out fires that I don't have time to let my personality show through. My lessons are far from great and I feel I should put more effort into my lessons, but even when I do put in the time, there are so many behaviour issues that I barely get halfway through what I want to get through. The kids who behave well look at me with pity, and I remember the bad teachers I had when I was younger, and now realize I am one of them, and it sucks.
I have observed other teachers, and they don't have the problems I have; of the 3 or 4 other teachers I've observed, the most trouble they have is low-level talking. Meanwhile, there are other teachers who also seem to have real difficulties. With behaviour. The UK system is also a lot more bureaucracy than the one I came from, with lots of red tape and very specific standards and ways of marking that have to be done that I am completely unfamiliar with. It doesn't help that the head school inspector is not exactly supportive
I know that many people recommend to set a precedent at the beginning of the year, but I feel like I've missed that chance already. How do I regain control of my classes so I don't lose my mind by February?