Now, on to the next milestone

10th January 2003 at 00:00
The holidays are quickly becoming a dim memory. I managed to keep them relatively work free (apart from an occasional bout of educational research) and held the guilt complex at bay.

I have always, even in my previous lives, upheld the view that teachers deserve the number of holidays they receive. Now that I am in a position to argue the case, the irony is that it will seem a biased argument.

I cannot believe how tired I was before the break, mentally as well as physically. It took about a week to become relaxed and then, just as I was feeling semi-revitalised, it was time to roll up my sleeves and become embroiled once again.

I made a point of not making any resolutions. professionally or personally. The target setting that is part of the probationer programme provides ample challenge. As well as trying to reach our goals, we have to document them and they must be linked to a professional standard. In essence we should be documenting our classroom practices and, through observations, research and sharing of experiences, reflecting on our performance and adapting where relevant.

This paperwork, I am led to believe, will make up the bulk of a portfolio which is to be maintained throughout a teacher's career, in particular if you wish to opt for the chartered teacher route. I have not yet seen a portfolio, nor had any formal guidance as to what it should contain or how it should be organised. However, I do recognise that what I currently may call a portfolio is no more than a few forms and some observations. So it is something I must address early in the year. I have already asked to see some fellow probationers' portfolios for some help and guidance.

The portfolio is probably one of the most important things that a teacher can work on, but it is a struggle to maintain the momentum when faced with all the other administrative and recording tasks, planning and preparation and the steep learning curve that is the probationary year. Perhaps that is why I felt so mentally fatigued at the end of last term.

Falsely and naively, I thought that the end of my course marked a break in the theoretical side of teaching and my first year would be a chance to experience the practical details. Not so. Many of the obligatory local authority courses we attend are similar (if not the same) as the lectures we attended during training. I am just at the start of my journey into teaching but already I have to be analytical and reflective, when sometimes I feel I have very little experience to be reflective about.

I guess what I am saying is that so far I am finding this year difficult. Not that I expected it to be easy; far from it. At least I'm honest, if nothing else!

However, months pass like days in teaching and for many, I'm sure, surviving past Christmas is a mini milestone in the first year, particularly if you received a "satisfactory" recommendation in your interim profile report.

The standard of input in this report varied, depending on what school you were placed in. Some probationers I know have yet to be observed or have intermittent supporter meetings, though this has failed to show up in the reports. Others have had targets placed on them and there was very little headteacher involvement. Then there are the exemplars where formal meetings have taken place with supporter, probationer and headteacher present, and frank discussion encouraged, which is very heartening. Again, the first year of any new programme will be tumultuous at times.

One issue I am still trying to receive a formal answer to is the question of when probationers can apply for positions in 2003. Some people are under the impression that we can apply whenever we like, while others have been told that we should apply post recommendation.

Roll on Easter.

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