Starting on my brilliant career

Roughly two weeks prior to the start of the session, my nerves kicked in. What on Earth had I been thinking during the past year at university? That I could actually pull this off? That someone at some point wouldn't blow my cover and reveal my sheer inadequacy at this business called teaching?

I don't know what was worse, the insomnia, the weird dreams, or the sheer paranoia that I had made the biggest mistake of my life by going into teaching. No amount of cajoling from former work colleagues and the predictable "Think of all the holidays you'll get" could convince me that this was indeed my vocation.

But, thanks to the great support and reinforcement from my family, friends and college mates, I managed to reach a state of equilibrium where I could remember why I had decided to go into teaching in the first place and again feel that it was indeed a privilege to make a living educating the future generation and be able to do my bit for society. (That's a tad idealistic but it wouldn't do to be cynical at this early stage.) After a few visits to the classroom and meetings with various staff members, I felt good about the first week and was ready for action.

I have thought long and hard about how to approach writing this induction year diary. For years, many newly qualified teachers have had to rack up their quota of experience for full registration through inconsistent periods of supply work, sometimes travelling all over Scotland to do so. Therefore, to make any criticisms after being given a full-time, one-year post in a school that is close to home may seem ungrateful in the extreme.

While I do appreciate how privileged I am to (hopefully) achieve full registration by working in one school, with the help of a dedicated mentor and courses at local authority level, it is fair to say that it won't be all plain sailing. I hope, therefore, not so much to criticise as to share my highs and lows and, at the very least, let others know that they are not alone.

The highs so far are that the staff in my school seem very pleasant and friendly and are all eager to give advice, if sought or not. The children in "my" class are a nice bunch overall and my mentor (the deputy head, no less) is lovely. She has assured me that I'll be great, that the first few weeks will seem a bit topsy-turvy as everyone settles back into routine but that she will be there for me, come what may, and that no matter how experienced the staff are, the F word (forward plan) still installs a feeling of drudge and dread (which is of some comfort to an NQT!).

The lows so far mainly concern the sharing of class contact time due to the 0.7 requirement of the probationer contract (the remaining 0.3 is for development). To have your own class was often the only thing to keep trainees battling throughout the tough times at university, the school placements and the dreaded tutor visits. In my first week here, I have felt again like the student on the sidelines, never fully in charge, nor given scope to do so.

The teacher taking the remaining 0.3 contact time was ever present and wished to teach the class throughout the week, in order to get to know "her" class. Not willing to make waves in my first week, I worked under the strain of not knowing when I was taking the class but to have resources at hand if called upon to teach.

This was not done maliciously, nor with any unpleasantness. In fact, the teacher is very pleasant and helpful, but perhaps boundaries are unclear as to how our roles are to be developed.

Planning the class work has also yet to come into being but it is early days, or so I keep telling myself.

If I had one suggestion at this early stage, it would be this. Rather than have one local authority induction day for probationers and a separate one for mentors (or supporters), one meeting should be arranged where the mentors, the probationers and the teachers who are covering the remaining 0.3 contact time are present, and thus everyone is clearly aware of their own and others' responsibilities. Yes, we have been supplied with booklets outlining these, but the voice is mightier than the authority booklet and, to cite an old cliche, we would all be singing from the same hymn sheet.

I'll leave you now with hopes for a better September and if in doubt, repeat after me: "It's early days, it's early days."

PS A thought for existing teachers: if you have to ask NQTs, especially mature new teachers, why they have chosen to come into teaching, shouldn't you be asking yourself why you're still there?

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