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Could do better: my first half term as a maths teacher

来源:FT中文网    2017-11-06 07:29

        Seven weeks ago, on my first day as a trainee maths teacher, a lost 11-year-old in a brand new, oversized blazer approached me. “Miss,” he said, “where’s room 211?”        本学期刚开学时,在我开始当实习数学老师的第一天,一个迷路的11岁娃,穿着件超大的夹克衫走近我。“,”他问,“女士(注:英文为Miss, 这是英国中小学对女教师的叫法),请问211室在哪?”
        I had no idea where the room was — or what I was doing standing in a school corridor. I felt as if I had been snatched from my comfortable life as an FT columnist and dropped into the alien territory of Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney, east London. I shook my head helplessly and he looked as if he might cry. I felt inclined to join him.        我不晓得哪是211——也搞不清自己干嘛站在一个学校的走廊里。我原来舒舒服服地当着英国《金融时报》的专栏作家,现在我感觉好像谁把我从那种安逸日子中揪了出来,然后抛在了伦敦东部哈克尼区(Hackney)莫斯布恩社区学校(Mossbourne Community Academy)的陌生地盘。我无助地摇了摇头,这个娃看起来要哭了。我也想跟他一起哭。
        Half a term later I know the answer to his question. I strut around the school wearing my red lanyard that says “staff” on it, and the word no longer feels like a lie. On an open evening in my third week, prospective parents took one look at my grey hair and assumed I had been teaching for decades rather than days. I saw no reason to disabuse them.        半学期过后,我知道该怎么回答那个孩子了。我昂首阔步地走在校园里,戴着自己写着“教员”字样的红色挂绳,不再自觉心虚。在我任教第三周的开放参观夜,准家长们一看到我花白的头发,都以为我教了大半辈子书,而不是短短几天。我也找不到纠正人家的理由。
        Yet there is another question that still floors me. It is one I get asked by almost everyone I meet: “How’s teaching? Are you enjoying it?”        然而击败我的还有另一个问题。这个问题几乎每个我遇到的人都会问我:“教书怎么样?挺享受不?”
        A lot seems to hang on my answer. Nearly a year ago I co-founded Now Teach to convince other middle-aged professionals to ditch their cushy jobs and retrain as teachers. Nearly four dozen are training alongside me in assorted London secondary schools, teaching mainly maths and science. Now we have started recruiting again, aiming to persuade an even larger group to join this noble profession next year.        我的答案似乎关系重大。大约一年前,我和别人联合创办了Now Teach,去说服其他中年专业人士放弃他们舒适的工作,重新受训当教师。大约有40人和我一起在伦敦各式各样的中学培训,主要教数学与科学。现在我们又开始招人了,想劝说更多的人在明年加入这一崇高的职业。
        Unfortunately, the word “enjoy” fails to describe how I feel about my new job. Since September I have lost half a stone and live in constant fear of making an idiot of myself. It is not enjoyable to get in such a muddle that you write on the electronic white board with a felt pen — as I have done. Neither is it enjoyable when you are trying so hard to remember names and be vigilant for any sign of inattention that you get your own sums wrong and a student points it out.        不好意思,“享受”这个词无法表达我对自己这份新工作的感受。九月以来我体重下降了7磅,总怕自己出洋相。像我这样,卷入要拿着白板笔在电子白板上写字的麻烦事可没啥享受的。还有,费劲吧啦地去记一大堆名字,还得时刻警惕学生是不是开小差了,结果不留神自己算错数,被一个学生给指出来了,这也不是什么享受的事。
        A word that better describes my early classroom experience is obsession. It is a bit like being at the beginning of a tumultuous love affair. I feel euphoria one moment — when I have successfully explained how to turn a recurring decimal into a fraction — and despair the next. Even at the weekend, when I do not have to stumble out of bed for pre-school meetings, I wake before dawn with my head full of snatches of lesson plans and the faces of my new charges.        有个词能更贴切地描述出我的教学“初体验”,那就是痴迷。这有点像刚开始一段充满激情的恋爱关系。我时而感到开心——当我成功地解释出怎么将循环小数转换成分数时——紧接着又陷入绝望。即使周末不用为课前会议挣扎着爬起床,我也会在天亮前醒来,满脑子都是零碎的教案和我那些学生的脸。
        One of my fellow Now Teach trainees, who in a previous life was a top civil servant, says teaching is a bit like having a baby. It is more shattering, more difficult — but also more rewarding — than anyone can prepare you for.        一位和我一起在Now Teach参加培训的朋友,原先是一名高级公务员,她说教书有点像养娃。无论事前别人向你传授了多少经验,真的做这件事时,你都会猝不及防地发现这件事有多么可怕、多么困难,但又多么令人满足。
        For me, it is like having a baby in a different way. When my eldest child was born 26 years ago, for the first time in my life I had something more pressing to think about than myself. Becoming a teacher has performed the same miracle professionally — teaching is no longer about me. It is about the students, and more precisely about getting them to learn some maths.        对我来说,教书像是另一种意义上的养娃。26年前我家老大出生了,那是我这辈子头一回有比自己更迫切需要我去关心的东西。成为一个老师就已经在职业上实现了同样的奇迹——教书不是为了我自己,而是为了学生,更具体地说就是为了让他们学一些数学知识。
        The second unexpected pleasure comes from being the most inept novice in the school. I had expected to find this humbling, but instead feel weirdly liberated by it. No one expects me to be good straight away — I am a trainee. All I have to do is get better, and given how bad I was to start with, this is quite easy.        第二种出乎意料的乐趣是我成了学校里最秀逗的新手。我原以为这会很丢人,但却奇怪地感到被解放了。没人指望我能立马胜任——我是个实习老师。我要做的就是每天进步一点点,鉴于我的起点如此之低,这实在太容易了。
        Already, I know how to give instructions; the most efficient way of handing out sheets; not to talk so much — or so fast. I still see the electronic white board as my sworn enemy, but I am sometimes able to make it bend to my wishes.        我已经知道怎么教学生;怎么给学生发放资料最有效率;说话不要太多——或太快。虽然我与电子白板仍不共戴天,但有时我也能让这玩意服从我的意愿。
        Each of my lessons is taught with the door open so that any teacher can wander in and tell me where I am going wrong. This is a shock, as I come from a world where feedback is spasmodic, belated and generally unwelcome. Now I have to get used to being told in precise terms what I am doing wrong — and how to put it right.        我讲课时都敞着门,这样任何老师都能走进来告诉我哪儿做得不对。这着实令人震惊,因为在我以往的世界里,反馈总是零星的、姗姗来迟,而且通常不怎么招待见。现在我不得不习惯听人家准确地指出我哪里做得不对——以及如何改正。
        While I teach, my mentor — a formidable maths teacher who is a quarter of a century my junior and takes no nonsense from anyone, including me — stations herself at the back of the classroom, frowning and ominously taking notes. After one lesson, she presented me with a list of 18 Ts, each with a circle around it. T stands for target, but it might as well have been for terrible.        在我讲课时,我的导师——一位比我年轻四分之一个世纪的令人敬畏的数学老师,她从不受任何人忽悠,包括我——坐在教室后排,眉头紧蹙,十分不妙地做着笔记。一节课过后,她给了我18个T,每个T都画了个圈。T代表目标(target),但也可能代表糟糕(terrible)。
        In my old life if I had been told by an editor that there were even two things wrong with a column, I would have taken it amiss. Now, though I do not adore being presented with 18 “targets”, the better part of me is grateful. I know it is the only way I will get better.        以往如果我被一个编辑告知专栏里哪怕只有两处错误,我都会往心里去。如今,虽然我不愿意被人家一下给出18个“目标”,但我知道应该心怀感激。我知道这是我改进的唯一途径。
        An even more radical change is that I have come to love rules. Pre-teaching, my life had been almost entirely rule-free. I was educated at a liberal school that viewed rules as an impediment to creativity. Later, as a journalist, I made a point of disregarding the few rules there were. It was my job to mock corporate rigidity. I even wrote a column once, boasting about how I had never read my own company’s code of conduct.        一个更剧烈的变化是我开始热爱规矩。教书之前,我的生活中几乎没有规矩。我上的那所学校校风自由,认为规矩阻碍创新。后来当了记者,我决意不理会仅存的不多的几条规矩。嘲讽公司中的僵化作风是我的工作。我甚至还写过一篇专栏,自豪地说我从未读过自己东家的《行为准则》。
        Now I live in a world where rules rule. Mossbourne is famous for its strict ways — uniform is worn perfectly and students move around the school in silence. “No excuses” is one of the school’s two values (the other being excellence) and that applies to the staff as much as to the students.        目前我身在一个规矩为王的世界。莫斯布恩以严格著称——大家都好好地穿着制服,学生们在学校里安静地走动。“杜绝借口”是本校两大价值观之一(另一个是追求卓越),这对于教员和学生同样适用。
        There are rules governing where I need to be, what I wear and how I comport myself. Bells ring every 55 minutes, and as students move between lessons I station myself on the staircase and try to bark “hands out of pockets!” as authoritatively as my colleagues.        这里有规矩管着我应该在哪、穿什么以及我的行为举止。铃声每隔55分钟就响一次,当学生们课间走动时,我站在楼梯上,试着像我的同事们一样发号施令“都把手从口袋里拿出来!”
        These rules, and the punctilious way in which they are upheld, daily save my bacon. It is thanks to them that no one has thrown furniture at me. That no one has sworn at me. That instead, students come to lessons ready to learn.        这些规矩,以及对规矩的那种一丝不苟的执行,每天都在救我的命。多亏有这些规矩才没人朝我掀桌子扔板凳。没人骂我。学生们也乖乖来上我的课。
        I welcome the rules in another, less obvious, way. They have freed me from the ambiguity that has dogged my professional life. For the first time I know precisely what is expected of me — with the result that I feel oddly calm.        我还以另一种方式默默地感谢着这些规矩。它们让我摆脱了一直伴随我职业生涯的那种模棱两可。我第一次明确地知道别人希望我怎么做——结果我感到出奇地平静。
        From my first half-term have come two other minor surprises. The first is how much I love school dinners. By lunchtime I am so ravenously hungry that I fall on a plastic tub of soft pasta in orange tomato sauce as if it were the best food I have ever eaten.        我的前半学期还有两个小惊喜。第一就是我超爱学校的饭食。到午饭时间我就饿得两眼发慌了,我埋头吃着一塑料盆软乎乎的浸在橙红色番茄酱里的意大利面,好像从没吃过这么香的东西。
        The second is how agreeable it is, at the age of 58, to be called Miss. Last Friday as I prepared to go to the pub with my delightful 20-something colleagues, I thought fondly to myself that teaching has knocked 30 years off me. Alas not everyone seems to agree: that very day one of my fellow maths teachers cheerfully told me that I reminded her of her grandmother.        第二就是,到了58岁还被人叫做“女士”,心情简直不要太好。一个周五我准备跟一群20来岁朝气蓬勃的同事去酒吧时,还一厢情愿地以为,教书让我年轻了30岁。唉,但不是每个人都这么认为:就在那天,另外一位数学老师兴致勃勃地告诉我,我让她想起了她奶奶。
        I have survived the first half-term, but I suspect the hard part is yet to come. My school has started me off lightly — I teach only for seven hours a week, but after half-term I will be given more classes. I do not expect to enjoy it. But with every week that passes I am feeling more confident that one day, when I know what I am doing, I will reply to the question “how’s teaching?” by saying: “I love it.”        我已经成功度过了半个学期,但我猜想艰难的时刻尚未到来。因为我才刚开始教书,学校给我的教学任务很轻——每周教7个小时,但半学期后他们会给我安排更多的课时。到时候我大概不会觉得“享受”。但每度过一周,我就感到更自信了些,某天,当我知道教书是怎么一回事了,对于“教书怎么样?”这个问题我会这样回答:“我爱教书。”

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