On probation

I have often heard during staffroom conversations that Christmas can be a turning point for probationers. Having reached this stage, I should feel more in control of my planning, the class and routines within the school.

Looking back to where I was in August, I do feel more confident in my ability as a primary teacher. At the start of my probationary year there were so many things to learn and it was difficult to know where to begin. Now, I feel I am clear on what I need to work on.

This term in particular, I will be trying to employ more strategies relating to A Curriculum for Excellence. Co-operative learning, active learning and formative assessment will be areas I develop further.

Undertaking these "modern" teaching approaches has proved rather daunting in previous lessons. I remember worrying how the active learning might become active in the wrong sense, and the children might swing from the lights; or during co-operative learning, they might think it was an opportunity to discuss their weekends' escapades.

Talking to staff and other probationers was reassuring, though, as they all had similar anxieties. On occasions, I think many teachers lack the confidence to give children ownership during co-operative learning, as they worry it might spiral out of control. I certainly have had this thought when delivering such lessons.

Now, having been in the school for nearly five months and knowing the children very well, I feel adopting these lessons should cause me less anxiety. Having knowledge of which children to group together, or what time of day is most appropriate, has proved crucial to the effectiveness of these lessons.

Not only has it taken until Christmas to build a sound knowledge of the children, it has also taken till now to build effective working relationships with them, which has been key to improving my confidence.

I recall a headteacher telling me that once I established strong relationships and earned the children's respect, I was well on my way as an effective teacher. Having done that, I hope they do as I ask, and my "new" classroom strategies are the success I intend them to be.

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