They're not mine any more

8th August 2003 at 01:00
My first summer as a teacher - I still find it hard to believe that I have completed my probationary year and am now a fully-qualified bona fide teacher, but the six-week holiday is helping the news to settle in.

As someone who has entered teaching after working in the public sector, I am feeling slightly guilty at having all this time "off" and now and then I feel pangs of anxiety that I should be doing something "worthwhile" and work-related to ease my conscience. But then I have my support network of friends who tell me that it's a reward for all my hard work over the past year, and to remember all those late nights and working weekends and the daily grind of the job.

They are all teachers, granted; those friends who are not in the profession seem to burst into spasms of rage at the mere mention of school holidays, so that it is safest if I don't mention the subject to them at all.

This prompted a discussion among my teacher friends - would they forsake some holiday time for more pay? The answer was, surprisingly (for me), no.

Being used to the "normal" amount of holidays I would forsake holidays for more pay, but then ask me in 10 years' time and maybe I will have changed my opinion.

During my first week off I had to complete an assignment for a probation qualification offered by my local education authority, South Lanarkshire.

Although it was the last thing I wanted to do, trawling through all my notes and observations and development targets made me feel quite proud about all that I had accomplished over the year, and about the masses of information and learning that I now had under my belt, ready for my next class.

I am one of the lucky probationers; I have a full-time permanent post in August in a local school, but I am aware of the many who are not so fortunate and have to go down the inevitable supply route.

I know there are some local authorities where very few probationers will be in a post come August, so I feel doubly lucky to have completed my year in South Lanarkshire, where efforts were made to try to retain probationers and allow them to build on what has been a successful year for the vast majority.

Leaving a class for the first time must be more emotional than if you've been teaching for 10 years, I'm sure, and I certainly had grown attached to my class. It was not until the last day that it sunk in that they weren't "my pupils" any more, and the inevitable lump came to my throat. You get to know the children so well and just when you have achieved this great connection and they know you and your moods and you know theirs, then suddenly it's time to leave. But that's the nature of the job and I'm sure it gets easier. And as much as I'd like to think I've had a Robin Williams Dead Poets Society-type effect on my pupils, I feel certain that most will have forgotten me as soon as I walked out of the door.

The one-year probation placement has been an excellent experience for me, and I feel far more confident and ready than this time last year.

The pressure will be slightly higher, because I am no longer a probationer and should know what I'm doing, but I'm under no illusion that I still have a long way to go and will still require the support and help of colleagues, as each new stage brings a whole new area of learning.

Yes, I will be nervous and am already experiencing the new job butterflies but while I will be adapting to another school and its system, at least I know the types of questions I should be asking and what I should be looking for in terms of resources.

It's amazing how quickly six weeks can fly by, but I have been able to relax, quite considerably, over the summer and am genuinely looking forward to going back to work and getting "stuck in" again . . . honestly!

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