Time is not on your side

23rd September 2005 at 01:00
I watched them leave school on that last day of term, so excited at the prospect of horizons new. Sad though it is, the time is right and they're ready to move on. With a spring in their step and heads full of dreams, they head out into the world. You're hoping against hope that reality doesn't crush their spirit, but you've done all you can and now it's time for the NQTs to have a class of their own.

As they leave, they ask that baffling question :

"Have you got any advice?"

What can I say?

There is no doubt that there is a lot of rubbish to get through in the early years once you've left induction behind. For some of us, it acts like manure; not very nice, but from it good things may grow. For others, the smell is too repulsive and the early years become the only years.

While wading through the porridge, though, there are some moments of joy that can refocus the mind, if you remember to notice them.

A glance through an old teaching-practice folder of mine reminds me of my biggest training fears.

Free time during my lessons was what obsessed me. I look at my plans and see timings written down the side of my notes. Meticulous thought and planning in every minute and always far too much material, lest the "Beast of Time to Spare" should raise its ugly head and devour my classroom management.

I did, occasionally, deploy the mighty weapon of "Heads down, Thumbs up", but always with a feeling of imminent disaster.

I remember some periods during lessons - maybe they lasted only 10 minutes - where the clock seemed to move ever slower and my heart beat ever faster.

Here is a difference between training days and working days.

What price spare time now?

I suppose this is symptomatic of the secure feeling that comes with having your own class in your own classroom. It is also indicative of the pressure of teaching all day, every day. Experienced teachers make it look easy.

They have a level of competence you could never conceive of achieving when you were a student. You only know how hard it is when the pressure drops for a moment, when you decide the written recording of a lesson may hinder the learning rather than help, and you find yourself with spare time.

So here is my advice for those in the early years on how to fill that time.

Enjoy every spare minute that you get. Organise a quiz, put on a record and dance, tell a story, sing songs together, do something that you wouldn't have dared do on your teaching practice.

You will realise how far you have come and have just a moment's reprieve from feeling everyone is telling you where to go.

The writer is deputy head of Dovelands primary school, Leicester

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