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Getting started

Miss T talks about her first few days as a probationer teacher.

Primary teacher, East Dunbartonshire

Hello, my name is Miss T and I am a Primary Teacher. Just typing that has given me a mini panic-attack! I’m no longer the pretendy teacher I’ve been calling myself for the last year. I’ve been given a P4 class of 26 in a great school in Central Scotland. I’ll be cataloguing all the ins and outs of the year and hopefully any current students will pick up helpful tips and learn from my many mistakes along the way. Any other probationers reading this will probably (hopefully) laugh along or sympathise with the ups and downs that this year will inevitably bring.

The calm before the storm

After speaking to those in the know, I decided to really relax during my summer holidays, deciding to only go into school the week before. I naively assumed that that would be plenty of time to get my classroom in order. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! My first few days involved clearing out the endless amount of junk that had been left by many teachers over the years. I would definitely recommend doing this as you occasionally hit jackpot and find some really cool resources you can use. Some great finds included 3 boxes of whiteboard pens, some great fast finisher tasks and readymade Bloom’s fans. A word to the wise, hide any great finds. Teachers are magpies and will try and scam any freebies they can. Myself included!

Support

After the great clearout I met up with my supporter. This proved to be a great opportunity to meet before the mayhem hits. We talked about what I would be doing in the first few weeks. The initial meeting was very scary. Teachers talk in their own shorthand language using terms that seemed totally foreign to me. I felt incredibly overwhelmed by it all. After a mini panic attack (can you see a pattern emerging?) I decided to collect my thoughts. I wrote a list of questions and the next day took them to my supporter. I figured it’s better to ask stupid questions and get the answers I needed rather than leave it and find that I’d missed something crucial later on.

Planning

One thing that really struck me is how relaxed teachers are about planning the first few weeks. Having to plan every lesson down to the last minute during my PGDE I found this way of working rather stressful. I would advise as a NQT to plan as much as you can, just to feel reassured. If I learnt anything during my training it was that I felt much more confident about my lessons if they had structure. A rough outline of each lessons proved to be enough for me to work from. I tried to organise photocopies and resources the day before so I wasn’t doing any last minute rush around.

Organising your classroom

One thing I am kicking myself about, still, is not organising my classroom well enough before the children came in. The laminator has become my new best friend. If I had to give any advice to any probationers is make sure you have your labels printed out before you start. Labels for trays, coat-pegs, golden time, helpers, desks, jotters and some spare because you will likely need them for something else. Make sure you organise and label your equipment; scissors, rulers, paper etc. Do you have enough of the essentials? Jotters, tables, chairs. All of these things seem so stupid but making sure the essentials are in place at the start makes everything run so much more smoothly.