Tales from new teachers

4th April 2014 at 01:00
breaking with tradition

The problem

At our school, Year 6 is split into two classes: I have one group of 10- and 11-year-olds while the other is taken by a woman with 30 years' experience. As a new teacher, this has been both a blessing and a curse.

On the positive side, there is a lot to learn in the first year and it has been great to have an experienced professional to turn to. But when it came to our planning and meetings, we had problems.

My colleague was critical of any approach she did not use herself and suspicious of technology. I felt I couldn't stand up to her and generally ended up abandoning my ideas.

The options

My friends, tired of having to listen to my whingeing, told me to get on with it and ignore my colleague's criticisms. Tempting as this was, it was easier said than done. She had been really helpful in other areas so I did not want to seem rude. She was also the one member of staff the school leader always singled out as an example - if I went against her way of teaching, I would be going against the school, too.

I turned to an old tutor of mine who had a better plan: when I wanted to propose a something that I thought she would object to, I should prepare notes on why I wanted to take that approach and provide evidence of success to back up my ideas.

The result

The first time I used this strategy, I was really nervous. I stumblingly explained that I wanted to take the children out with cameras to our local pond to document nature and then create a blog of the pictures alongside facts about each insect or animal they had found. I would then get them to share it with their families.

My hands shook as I greeted my colleague's reproach of "Oh no, you don't want to do it that way" with a pile of notes and examples of where this activity had worked in other schools. She went a little red and said, "Well, you seem to have it sorted." She was quiet for the rest of the planning session.

Since then, however, she has been much more open to my ideas. When she is critical now she does tend to have a point, which has been great for my development - there are always two sides. I feel we have a much better relationship now and I even caught her trying out one of my ideas.

The writer is a newly qualified teacher in the North of England

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