They love this profession and 'are raring to go'

18th June 2010 at 01:00
This year's probationer teachers share the highs and lows, and their advice to new recruits

Aliya Shah, P4 teacher, Blairdardie Primary, Glasgow

It has been an absolutely incredible year with opportunities to do everything and anything, and with a very supportive staff you could go to at any time. To observe so many good practitioners has been enriching. I've been sharing a P4 class with another probationer, which I thought might take some of the shine off the experience. But it proved the opposite. At the beginning it may have been a bit like the blind leading the blind, but we were able to learn from each other as well as from the staff. So that added to the experience.

The highlights were many. With the school eco team, we collected 1,500 recycled bottles to build a greenhouse, and we created a wiki page, The Energy Challenge. We have turned our classroom into a `secret garden' which will be shown to parents this week.

The whole experience here has been better than expected, because we've been allowed to run with our own ideas - including, on my part, setting up a wee Bollywood Dance team who performed at the end of last term and perform every Friday this term during golden time.

I can't think of any "lows" as such, but working through the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence was challenging and extremely hard work. Yes, it took over my life.

I've got a job in the United Arab Emirates, in Sharjah, near Dubai, a two- year contract. I'm lucky to get this job, but I'm angry I've had to leave Scotland. Maybe things will be better in two years' time.

Advice to new probationers: enjoy your year, which passes incredibly quickly. Don't worry about report cards and so forth. They'll always be there. The main thing is - enjoy!"

Emma Goodall, P3 teacher, Flora Stevenson Primary, Edinburgh

I have had a great mentor and been in a school which allows you to develop your own ideas. It's been an extremely valuable year, excellent to have that day-and-a-half out of class to help with preparation, to shadow and observe and to visit other schools.

I like the cross-curricular approach and one of my highs has been organising "Enterprise Afternoons", where parents came in to be taught by the pupils about all sorts of things, from famous Scots and Scottish castles to map-reading and textile weaving, and poems and songs.

This kind of approach helps develop your organisational skills and allows you to get to know pupils and parents better - and it's great watching the children learn through teaching their own parents!

I also set up a whole-school eco committee - we're going for "silver" status - and it was fascinating watching the enthusiasm of the infants as they were paired with older pupils, and held their own in terms of ideas and expressing them.

The only low is filling out application forms at night. I've applied for some 15 posts, but no luck as yet. I know I'll get there eventually. I've no regrets. I really love this profession and I'm raring to go.

Advice to new probationers: get stuck in to every aspect of school life that you can, but remember to keep quality time for yourself at weekends. You need to be refreshed for the job. Observe as much as you can at all stages and seek out good practice in other schools too.

Mary Welsh, P7 teacher, Priorsford Primary, Peebles

It has been a fantastic year in a very supportive school and, I have to say, Borders CPD is excellent. My first success was making it to the October holidays, paddling as madly as I could, but by Christmas I felt a real teacher and that it was MY class.

You start a day at a time, then a week at a time, and then you're there. I feel a great pride in what the pupils have achieved, watching them grow in confidence, taking on more responsibility and becoming independent learners.

I was worried about teaching writing initially, but they've done so well that we're making booklets of all their stories to take home at the end of the session. I'm really pleased.

Transition was a challenge. The pupils were worried about going up to secondary at Christmas but, working with secondary colleagues, I now feel they're confident, enthusiastic and excited - and that's great.

Paperwork and creating resources was also a real challenge but now I'm much quicker and more adept at tackling new topics and lessons.

I've no permanent post and it's not looking good in Borders or neighbouring authorities. It was brilliant having this guaranteed year but now I'm worried about continuity.

Advice to new probationers: get to know your mentor well and build rapport. Make use of this year to learn about other stages and visit other schools to see as much good practice as you can. Be optimistic!

Robin Greenwood, Chemistry teacher, Alloa Academy

Coming from six-week placements while at college to taking classes right through a year, the continuity which allowed you to build a relationship with classes was by far the greatest benefit of my probationer year.

Having, for example, three S1 classes, teaching the same topics at the same time allowed me to improve each lesson over the three days. I could literally improve my teaching from one day to the next.

I felt at home here within an hour, in a very friendly and supportive department and school. I found the teaching challenging. Pupils can ask really good questions that you have to go away and think about!

Among the highs was getting involved in extra-curricular activities. I started and ran an S1 science club, which was hands-on and very rewarding. I also got involved in an S2 "Carbon Capture" project with the Scottish Earth Sciences Education Forum and Scottish Power. The pupils had lectures from Edinburgh University scientists and visited Longannet Power Station, and they shared what they were learning with associate primary school pupils. This was massively rewarding for us all. A tremendous experience.

I'm lucky. I have a full-time post.

Advice to new probationers: get involved in all aspects of school life, be open to ideas and build external links. Get involved with pupil support and guidance and observe other teachers in your department. If I'd had time, I'd have loved to watch other subject teachers in class. Also, be organised from day one, as the workload is very time-consuming. And be self-reflective. Always seek advice.

Claire Gill, Modern studies teacher, St Margaret's Academy, Livingston

College did prepare me well in terms of lesson plans, preparation and so on, but nothing can teach you the pace of school life in advance. It's been a good, challenging year, with a steep learning curve.

You are learning all the time how the school runs; and keeping up with the different aspects of teaching, tracking and monitoring is demanding. With one difficult class, I had to learn to assert myself pretty quickly.

I think I've learned a lot about psychology, about behaviour, and about making the subject interesting for pupils, making it accessible and fun.

I was a political researcher for seven years for an MP and a group of MSPs before coming into teaching, so I was used to fast-paced work. The real high is the rapport with the kids, getting them interested and enjoying the classroom banter.

It has taught me patience - but once you've dealt with politicians, kids are a doddle! Teaching was always in the back of my mind and I think it's a better way to change things than working with politicians.

I've got a buzz out of seeing young people engaged, learning something new and picking up different skills.

The school is well ahead in implementing Curriculum for Excellence and it was great having a genuine input into cross-curricular units.

I've got a temporary contract at St Margaret's for one year, so I'm fortunate. Hopefully, it might be extended or something else will come up. I can't grumble because I came into teaching with my eyes open. You can only do your best. My future is in teaching - no matter what.

Advice to new probationers: embrace change, take all the advice you can get and learn from colleagues. And don't be in a hurry. You can't achieve everything you want immediately. Pace yourself. You have a year to revolutionise yourself!

Jennifer Geary, Biology teacher, Harris Academy, Dundee

It has been a brilliant year. I've learned to enjoy my subject even more through teaching it, especially to S1 and S2, because laboratory experience is new to them and they share in the enthusiasm and love practical experiments.

Time has zoomed by with different milestones in the various topics and tests giving you a sense of achievement. I was teaching up to S3, who have just sat their first prelims with very good results. That's given me a real sense of satisfaction, feeling my hard work has paid off.

The workload was hard-going but if you have the right attitude, it's fine. You have to want to do it. I would say, I spent two hours a night in preparation, planning and marking, which is challenging but manageable. Being on a 70 per cent timetable as a probationer is a real help and the support from my mentor, from the department and from the senior management team has been superb.

The most stressful thing has been completing my GTC profile and filling in job applications. I've had three interviews so far and am still applying. I'm hopeful. I know something will come up, even if it means going into supply teaching at first.

I love being in a school and I want my pupils to enjoy school as much as I did when I was a pupil.

I did get to work with senior pupils through the Young Enterprise Group, taking them to conferences and trade fairs, helping them to make and market their products, such as candles, cushions, charms and baskets of toiletries. It's great getting to know them and supporting them.

One highlight was taking part in a talent show as part of a staff dance team, which meant getting to know your own pupils outside the classroom and your own subject - finding out who they are as people.

Advice to new probationers: get involved in school life as much as you can. The more you give, the more you'll get back.

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