Nice to be sticking around after probation

20th October 2006 at 01:00
Already the summer is a melting memory and plans for prelims and the school show are underway.

My registration class assures me that they are using their homework planners efficiently, by updating me on how many days there are till Christmas I every day.

The term so far has been fairly non-eventful (touch wood). The dread of starting a full timetable - now that I'm no longer a probationer-was alleviated by teaching an almost full timetable for the last four weeks of last year.

Gone are the supporter meetings, probationer's free periods and monthly professional development days. In fact, we newly qualified teachers have been actively seeking out our supporters from last year to continue any kind of professional relationship that extends further than the network emails. I can suddenly see how teachers could trot through a 20-year career in a school without getting beyond a "good morning" with other colleagues.

In addition to the loss of these under-appreciated perks, this year introduces to us the dreaded "please take" sessions. Here's how to undermine any sliver of professional respect among pupils in less than 50 minutes: 1) Turn up to a class late because, despite working in the building, you have no idea where the requisite classroom actually is.

2) Enter (slightly flustered) with no clue of half the pupils' names.

3) Generally flounder over the subject-related questions or where the absent teacher might keep lined paper.

The pupils seem to have had a successful return to school. The first years are finding their way around and the S2s are enjoying being the bigger kids again, strutting around with the summer's growth spurt helping them to tower over the quivering S1s.

My S2 registration class is so much more confident and generally more established as members of the school community now. It is a feeling I can relate to and I think it is down to having continuity with the pupils.

This is one of the biggest benefits of doing a year's training in one school: you have the time to form working relationships.

It made me reflect on some of my student colleagues who left during their PGCE training and whether having placements within the same school might have encouraged them more. As it was, good teachers left the course, buckling under the pressure of upheaval and feeling more like crowd controllers than subject specialists.

I have to admit, it is only now that I am starting to find the real enjoyment in the job that I knew was buried somewhere under the planning papers for lessons.

The more established you are, the more chance you get to show the kids you really want the best for them. Children are shrewd and it takes a long time to earn their trust. Even then, it may be clear that some just don't like you and never will, and they can be stubborn and difficult to coax through their work, perhaps too accustomed to previous styles and feeling a bit abandoned.

A colleague in the English department returned to teaching in Northern Ireland this summer and for the first time I realised that a certain amount of emotional guilt is a hazard of the job, whether it is because you feel you can't do enough for a challenging class or a simple change of job for you means a way of learning is changed for the pupils.

Whenever you move on, you will have to leave pupils in progress and you may fret about how they are going to do in future. Pupils are emotional, habitual creatures; so it is nice for me to be sticking around for a second year.

It is with good intentions, then, that I'm trying to wind back up this term and somehow reach the superhuman speed we were working at before the summer. Perhaps it is caffeine build-up through the year that keeps us manically manoeuvring and multi-tasking until the end of June. So I'll proceed with a coffee in hand and best foot forward.

Nicola Clark teaches English at Lockerbie Academy, where she did her probation last yearIf you have any comments, email

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