Last few hurdles 'til the race is run

6th June 2003 at 01:00
The countdown to the end of the school year has begun but the work is certainly showing no signs of slowing down and it's all to be done in the shortest term.

On the checklist were national testing, parents' evenings and reports, planning and preparation of hand-over documents and pupil reviews and a flurry of activity to ensure all programmes of work have been completed to the best of my (and the pupils') ability.

I felt the most pressure when implementing national testing with my pupils, as I was strongly aware that the results were not just a measure of the pupils' learning over the year but an evaluation of my teaching. I could imagine the comments (wrongly): "Well, she is only a probationer."

I sought advice from fellow colleagues on the amount of acceptable preparation that pupils might require and the amount of guidance teachers were allowed to give during the tests. Apart from giving out completion instructions, it was minimal.

I tried to avoid any atmosphere of pressure for the pupils, but if they had only known the thoughts going around my head as they completed their papers, they might have thought differently about the importance of their results. Trying not to emit groans and sighs as I read some of their answers while "hovering" was difficult. So in the end I just sat at my desk (for the first time this year) and corrected work.

I am happy to report that, to date, the test results are good, with quite a few surprises, but there's still some work to be done. I'm now paranoid that people will think I've "pockled" the results because of my fear that I had to do well as a probationer.

I have become aware that as I have grown, so have my pupils. They are becoming quite the independent learners and are happy to receive less instruction from me, which is a big change from the start of the year.

I can honestly say that I am now enjoying my job, as my confidence and my familiarity with the curriculum and the school resources have grown. I have started to think about my next class and the pupils have started to think about theirs, so we are all becoming a little teary eyed at the prospect of change. Maybe all new teachers face this, particularly with their first class, but I know I will miss this collage of characters.

In my last diary entry I mentioned that I had applied for jobs and that the process of filling out application forms was quite difficult, never mind going through an actual interview. Well, it turns out that completing an application form is the easy part.

I have been called for a few interviews and I can't say they were positive experiences. I probably put too much pressure on myself, knowing that to have a permanent position at the end of the probationary year is the icing on the cake and not too frequent an occurrence.

The interviewers, headteachers and senior staff, were kind enough and seemed to smile at the right times, but knowing that you have to mention key terminology was nerve-wracking and trying to fit all my experiences into the four or five questions was difficult. Yes, I am selling myself, as in so many other interviews, but there are right answers and wondering if you have given them is so frustrating once you have left the interview room. I spent the days after the interview lambasting myself for not mentioning such and such, almost wishing I could go back for a second chance.

I am still awaiting the result of one interview, so fingers crossed.

It is frustrating not knowing where my future lies and trying to explain it to my pupils is even harder, but it is part of the territory of being a new teacher, I guess. At least there is plenty going on to keep my mind on other things.

I have been thinking about my own teaching over the past year and whether I have given the children a positive learning experience and a fruitful one.

I ponder just what they have learned over the year and what I have actually taught them. Then I stop and think that this is my first year and, at the end of the day, it hasn't gone too badly. I haven't had any major disasters (touch wood).

Is it enough that I've survived?

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