tales from new teachers

managing a mixed bag

The problem

Taking a triple composite class in your first year of teaching is both daunting and exhilarating.

Most small primary schools comprise two or three classes, depending on the influx of new P1 pupils (aged 4-5) each year, and will alter things to best suit the structure of the school. Imagine my surprise - OK, my shock - when I met my mentor on my induction day as a probationer, fresh from a year as a postgraduate student, and was told that I would be the new P2, P3 and P4 teacher.

I had taught composite classes on placements before, but I could feel the panic rising as I considered the responsibility of such a spread of ages and abilities. During the summer, I read up on the benefits and drawbacks of multi-composite classes. I was daunted by the differentiated grouping and by the necessity of differentiation within each group.

The options

I began at the beginning: getting to know my new class. It was clear from the outset that behaviour would not be an issue. These children were well behaved, receptive and, on the whole, hard-working, so it was over to me. How could I provide them with a year of quality teaching and learning?

The first month went by in a blur, with only one mini meltdown. My colleagues were supportive and encouraging. Thanks to their advice and the support of my mentor - along with a lot of late nights - I developed a pattern that was manageable.

After the October break, with a change of mentor and a growing eagerness to impress, I felt ready to do more. I was becoming comfortable with my day-to-day teaching, so I volunteered for an after-school club and worked with parents and the wider community. Meanwhile, my mentor encouraged me to try new ideas with my class.

The result

After a stressful beginning, when I started to wonder if teaching was the right career for me, I ended my year on a high. I have built alliances with my colleagues and am over the moon to be working with them again for another year. I was overwhelmed by comments from parents, who were delighted that I would be returning.

What will this year bring? A new class. New challenges. Different teaching and learning. Lots of fun and, if my husband is to be believed, a few more grey hairs.

Lorna Luke teaches at Sorn Primary School in East Ayrshire

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