Rollercoaster ride

19th September 2008 at 01:00
The first year of teaching can encompass dizzying highs and discomfiting lows. Sara Bubb guides you through the next 12 months and explains how to survive with aplomb

Your first year of teaching will be rewarding and stimulating, but also challenging and stressful. Some days the lessons will go well and you'll love it; some days it will turn to madness and you'll hate it.

Learning to teach is a developmental process characterised by devastating disasters and spectacular successes. Knowing how the year might go will help. How you feel about teaching will probably change daily, if not hourly, at first. One lesson will be great and leave you feeling positive and idealistic, but the next will be diabolical. This is completely normal.

Use induction to help you. In England, you'll be on a 10 per cent reduced timetable during your induction, and 10 per cent of your teaching time should be set aside for planning, preparation and assessment (PPA). In Scotland, 30 per cent of your teaching time can be devoted to this. You will have met your induction tutor, and hopefully have arranged a regular time to meet, ideally every week.

Most teachers start on a high, but it sometimes doesn't take long for reality to strike, and then you'll live from day to day, needing quick fixes and tips for survival. It's hard to solve problems, because there are so many of them. You'll be particularly concerned with behaviour management, but too stressed and busy to reflect. Colds and sore throats seem permanent. Getting through Christmas activities is exhausting.

By the end of your second week, the honeymoon feeling will be over. In England, that's a good time to complete transition point 2 of your career entry and development profile, so if you haven't done it already, then do it now.

In Scotland you should think about drawing up your professional development action plan for the term and setting up your initial supporter meeting. Draw up a list of priorities for development, to help you meet the required inductionprobation standards.

Bear in mind how you were just before achieving Qualified Teacher Status. Don't be too ambitious. Focus on the basics. Set up your own programme of activities (reflection, observing, reading, discussing, study, courses, etc) and do them in the time set aside for induction, as well as in meetings with your induction tutor and other staff. You'll need to work at keeping to a routine, so prioritise planning and organisation.

You may already have been observed by now, but if not, ask, as it must be within the first four weeks (in England only). Tweak your objectives and your induction programme as necessary. You are bound to feel overwhelmed as September progresses, so ask your induction tutor to help you prioritise your time and work so you can learn to plan more quickly.

After this, you will need to prepare for your first parents' evening. For many schools, this will be in October, so make sure you know what's expected of you.

Half term is a good time to make sure you're eating well, getting exercise and generally looking after yourself - you don't want to spend the holiday in bed feeling ill.

There are also lots of festivals in the autumn term: Harvest Festival, Ramadan, Yom Kippur, Halloween. How they affect you depends on the degree to which the school and local community celebrate them. Be aware of pupils and staff who may be fasting in Ramadan. And the build-up to Christmas can make children over-excited and difficult to teach.

January can be great or ghastly. Pupils return calmer and ready to work. You can identify difficulties and think of solutions because there is some space in your life, but the post-Christmas period can also feel flat, with a seemingly endless succession of grey, short days that can be depressing.

However, it's also a time when you can get into the groove. Hopefully you will start to feel that you're mastering teaching and you're beginning to enjoy it. But be careful of becoming over-confident and trying anything too radical, or taking on new initiatives.

If you're in a secondary, you're likely to have your work cut out trying to get pupils to complete coursework in the spring term. You need to keep track of when it needs to be done - and keep on their backs.

The Easter holiday is great - enjoy it because the summer term is epic. April and May are busy times for revision classes in England, with exams starting in June, and revision will begin even earlier in Scotland. Indeed, some secondary teachers will be involved in revision classes in the Easter holidays. Preparing for and marking tests will be another hurdle. Secondary teachers have to write reports for different year groups at the end of term, but in primary you will be snowed under with them in June. Try to break the back of them during the May half term.

Life gets easier for many teachers from the end of May when GCSEStandard and A-levelHigher pupils stop having regular lessons and go on exam leave. The downside is leavers' days can be a bit crazy.

The final weeks of the school year are great. You'll be ready for further challenges, want to try out different styles of teaching, new age groups, take on more responsibilities. The better weather helps and there are lots of fun events, such as school journeys, trips and sports days. But all of these events need organisation and can be exhausting.

As a result, the end of term can seem like a long haul. It's hard to keep yourself motivated, let alone pupils, but the busier you keep them, the better they'll behave.

It's tempting to make plans for your long summer holiday now, but don't. Guard against going away right at the start of the break. You're bound to need days when all you want to do is sleep and unwind, so it's best to spend them at home.

Then you can go off on your adventures refreshed, bearing in mind that if you're a secondary school teacher you'll probably want to be around for exam results in August. Then you can slowly start getting into gear for the new school year.


Zeeshan Ali felt so strongly about the ups and downs of his year as a newly qualified teacher that he kept a record. Zeeshan teaches ICT at Hornsey School for Girls in Haringey, north London and completed his NQT year this summer.

He admits to being nervous at the beginning of the year: some bad experiences covering lessons had damaged his confidence. A month in, and he still felt unsure about school policies in some areas.

But things gradually improved, and by the end of the first term they were looking up. Behaviour management was no longer an issue and Zeeshan felt he was teaching well. Then he fell ill in January. He was exhausted and got behind with his marking. Pupils were not so settled and parents' evenings were an added burden.

By March the picture was looking up. His Year 11 classes were more focused and he had completed two successful observations, which gave him a real boost. After Easter he felt overwhelmed with exam preparation, revision classes and paperwork, but he ended the year on a real high. He could see the impact he'd had on pupils and he was looking forward to taking on more responsibility in his second year in teaching.



Draw up your individual induction programme with your induction tutor

Have your first observation


First parents' evening


Lesson observation


End-of-term assessment meeting

Complete form for term one and send to the appropriate body (your local authority or the Independent Schools Council Teacher Induction Panel)


Set new objectives for term two

Lesson observation



Review progress


Coursework deadline

Lesson observation


Assessment meeting

Complete form for term two and send to appropriate body

Revision classes


Lesson observation

Key stage 1, 2 and 3 tests, GCSEs, AS and A2 exams

Year 11 and 13 classes end


Observe lessons in other schools

End-of-year reports due

School trips


Final assessment meeting to judge whether you have met induction standards

School sports days and prom parties





Set up initial supporter meeting and draw up Professional Development Action Plan for term


Observed sessions should be taking place - five by December


Make sure you are keeping progress on the online CPD Tracking Record up to date


Set up formal supporter meeting this month


Interim profile should be completed with information and evidence from this term


Continue documenting professional development for your portfolio, revisiting timetable, action plan, tracking record


Supporter meetings continue - 12 recommended between January and June


Observed teaching sessions carry on - four advised between January and June


Make sure your CPD Tracking Record is up to date


Completion of final profile with information and evidence gathered since January


Final profile to be submitted to the General Teaching Council for Scotland



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