First Day Back

So, despite loving every moment of my holiday (when’s the next one?), today it was actually quite nice to start work: to get stuck into something that I know that, despite all the anxiety, I’m going to end up loving.

Having spent just a year doing the PGCE, rather than 3 or 4 doing the degree, I knew there were going to be gaps in my knowledge.  However, the consensus is that, despite completing whatever course with however many placements, Uni does not prepare you for real school.  Even though throughout those placements you are planning and marking and working to ungodly hours trying to get the hang of it all, no one can prepare you for the responsibility that flying solo places upon your shoulders.  

I knew, and prepared myself, for the overwhelming thought that I will have 30 little lives depending on me.  But it goes beyond that: there is so much intricacy, so much that goes into that fact.  They’re really depending on me: there’s no one else to share that with now.  

I’m in charge of adults, too.  I have to manage people and they’re going to be OK with that (as long as I do it well).  Something I was discussing today was the fact that I don’t necessarily want to delegate wrongly and result in people being cross with me.  But at the same time, I can’t have bored, unused staff and I can’t be doing everything.  And I have to be OK with that.  It might take some getting used to.

So, today was intense.   There was a lot to think about and remember and I wasn’t expecting so much.  And I’m going to have to get used to the pressure of it all, because slipping isn’t an option: I want to do the best for these pupils and they don’t need an anxious teacher!

First Post: The calm before the storm

So, after a year of studying, and non-existant blogging, I return to this account on the eve of my contract starting for my first post.

On the one hand, I’m excited: the prospect of starting what has been a dream career is so thrilling. I love my job. Beyond the stress of the PGCE, beneath the surface, I love the environment, watching children learn and play within that, listening to what they have to say.

On the other hand, I’m scared.

Above everything, I want to do right by the 30 little lives I have charge of for the next 11 months. I don’t want to let anyone down. And I realise by thinking that I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself. And to do that, I need to be on top form: I can’t burn out, but I can’t slack.

I want to remember that I am a twenty-something-year-old woman who needs a life of her own just sometimes. Who wants time to live and love and remember what it’s like to be me. Because not only will it make me happy, and those who I love, but it will make me a better teacher. I’m sure of it.

And I don’t want to get to the end of the year, like some Newly Qualified Teachers, regretting the path I’ve taken. I’ve worked too hard for that! I can’t let the pressures upon me to make me forget why I took on this path in the first place.

And the placement begins

After 10 intense days at University, I started my placement today in a small school in my town.  The school has a fairly good reputation, and I remember friends’ parents working there in the past.

My first experience was an Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) class.  Although my interest is in Key Stage 1 and 2 (5-11 years old), this was very interesting and is bound to be of use to me later on, if only so I can understand where Year 1 pupils come from.  There was so much to observe; so many pedagogical angles to see, from the point of view of the teachers, TAs and HLTAs (High Level Teaching Assistants) covering.

It was so interesting to see what children could achieve when left to their own devices.  It’s sometimes difficult to expect and allow children to fail a couple of times before they succeed at maybe building something or trying something out.  But it’s all a part of it: it teaches perseverance and also self-confidence.

It’s a fallacy that EYFS classes don’t do anything, or don’t have structure, because they play all day.  It’s not the sort of structure I would possibly choose to work with straight away, but I am aware that I prefer working with older children, but it’s so clear, even from a day, that learning through independent play is fantastic at teaching, especially on a social level, and there is usually always space for a teacher to watch and guide this.  The children have not been there for long, but they already have a clear idea of their daily routine: nursery school is a distant memory now.

Without going into specific cases (I want to remain professional at all times), it’s also very interesting to see how children react individually to school so early on.  It was clear that some of them were finding it daunting.

Their level of trust in adults is amazing: one small gesture and they will want to hold your hand for the rest of the day.

I can’t wait to get to know the children and the school a lot more.  I understand there are a lot of children who need help, and I can’t wait to find out how I can do this for them.

Summer Term

It’s been a while.  I have no excuse, because so much has been happening.

The biggest thing has been that I’ve been given TA3 duties.  That is, I’ve been covering classes pretty much every week.  This has involved being in every class from Nursery to Year 6 (11 years old) as a TA or a teacher.  I’ve really loved all of it.  I’ve enjoyed being with little ones more than I thought I would, but I think my heart’s still in Key Stage 2.  Actually, my heart’s still in teaching.

I’ve had so many learning curves in the past few months.   I feel like I’m well on my way with regards to my classroom technique – the tone of my voice, how I have my hair, how I stand.  It was complex, but it’s becoming more and more natural.  Now I can go to University ready to focus on the tricky stuff like planning the lessons.

I’ve been asked about my favourite age group by some colleagues.  They all have their positives; I’m not sure I can choose yet.  What I do love, though, is the sound of working.  Even if it’s not silence, it’s the sound of children helping each other, or absentmindedly working things out.  I love when I’m explaining things and they’re listening or, even better, participating.  Even if it’s an ‘ooooh’ or an ‘oh yeah’.  It can be really difficult.  One class has had several cover teachers, so they’re a bit fed up and have learnt how to play them.  Another class, although lovely, just can’t keep quiet and I have to keep punishing them.  I don’t like doing that.  I have to find a way to not feel guilty about that.

A couple of things have really got to me about children.  Any child, whatever age, will do these things, and I don’t yet know what to do about it.

  1. Children who tell tales.  I don’t like hearing them, and most of the time they’re just trying to get their peers into trouble.  It’s so difficult to tell what’s the truth and what’s a lie or a mistake.  And when you tell them to stop telling tales, they hear ‘stop lying’.  Another kettle of fish opened right there.
  2. On the same lines, children who wind each other up because they can.
  3. ‘I’m bored’.  Some children are bored about everything.  Some children don’t know tact yet.  It’s so frustrating, especially on school trips (probably the subject of another post).
  4. Attention-seeking badness.  That is, when they’re being naughty and looking at you (sometimes right in the eye) whilst they’re doing it.

But it’s OK.  I’ll figure it out.

My colleagues have been encouraging, though.  That really makes a difference, which is why I hope I get the same school for training.  Teaching is so life-consuming, I’ve realised it’s important for the school to be a close-knit community, for my own sake as well as that of those I work with.  And the children.  Especially the children.  I just can’t wait to be good at it!

Data & Progress

So, this week I’ve been helping the school to process data about pupils’ progress into little tables.  I’m kinda lucky that I quiet like numbers and tables and graphs, so I find it really interesting, which helps me go.  I’m on my second day of it, with at least one more to go, and I think I would find it a drag if I didn’t.  It’s also something that I’m enjoying learning about now, at my own pace, rather than when I train, and I’m so grateful that the school trusts me with such precious statistics. (This isn’t sarcasm.  Statistics are possibly the most important part of inspections.  If those are bad, the rest is moot.)

I don’t, though, really remember being tested so much when I was younger.  It wasn’t that long ago, and I don’t remember doing a test every term.  Unless I just wasn’t aware of it happening.  It’s just a couple of days, up to a week, a term, but I look at data for these little ones and wonder about how much it’s all changed in those 12+ years.  I haven’t been in this long enough to be able to tell if it’s for the best or not.  For the children that is, not for the school.

I had my own flagpost of progress, too.  When I first started, a teacher-friend I worked with recommended I try, what I call, the scary-deep-teacher-voice on misbehaving children.  It’s a controlled way of shouting at them, without losing your grip and getting involved emotionally.  The first time I yelled at children for bad behaviour, I had to leave the room to cry.  I decided that was the last time I was going to let that aspect of teaching get to me personally.  Discipline is important, especially as, in many cases, children are just left to it at home, for better and for worse. Of course, it’d make my job a lot easier if I made it clear that I’m the alpha female straightaway as well.  So, I decided I needed a trick, and this one was offered to me with a very good success rate.  I hadn’t had to use it as more than a menacing growl until yesterday, when an unidentified someone made a mess in a classroom that was being tidied.  After calmly asking, my scary-deep-teacher-voice came out of nowhere, and everyone went silent for the first time in my career.  And then I went back to what I was doing, victorious against a class of 25.  Oh, and the mess was tidied away.   Success.

If anything shows me that I can do this thing, it’s that moment.  I’ve always known I can do the calm, balanced, fair, teaching side, but I’ve always been made to feel nervous about the discipline and strictness, more by other people than my own misgivings, because I am a calm, ‘nice’ person who is not terribly prone to yelling.  I feel so ready for September to come now, but I know I have lots of things to keep watching and learning for myself.  The best teachers, I know, have the children who progress the best.  And succeeding children, however much they’re counted and graphed, are never a bad thing.

First Steps

That’s it.  I’m on my way.

Having passed the QTS Skills Test in Numeracy yesterday, today I followed suit with the Literacy.  It was a very comfortable exam, confirming what I already knew about myself. The numeracy was a little scarier, because I hadn’t done much Maths since my GCSEs, but apparently it’s like riding a bike and was just lying dormant.

So, a little bit about myself.

I am a graduate in French and Spanish, and spent this year trying to find myself, having graduated with little idea about what direction I wanted my life to go in.  The idea was to find a job, maybe my career, experience being unemployed after living the student dream.  I had no idea it would go this well.

I’d played with the idea of teaching before, mostly Secondary Teaching, but within a few weeks of working in the local Primary School I knew I’d found my career path.  Every day in that place opens my eyes a little wider to the joys and the pitfalls of teaching.  So, in November last year I decided to apply for a PGCE.  At the end of January I had an interview, and received an offer pending my skills test results.  Which is where I am now, waiting to confirm them with my University.

I’m very excited for the next 18 months of my life.  It will be difficult and life-changing and I can’t wait to experience it.  Challenges are what I do best.

I intend for my blog to be anonymous so I can show my real views and stories about my experiences.  I hope my followers who know me can keep to that too 🙂