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Balancing probation priorities

Managing priorities during probation can be a balancing act writes Lynda Banks.

Primary Teacher, Smithton Primary School, Inverness

Beginning this is almost like beginning a career as a teacher. There's so much, where do you start? How about at the beginning?

Allocation day

The start of the story so far is the day that the letter came in June 2007, informing me of my school for the year. I cried: it was 35 miles away!

When I called the school and was told it would be a P5 class I cried again (after I had put the phone down!). My heart had been set on an infant class.

On discovering that the P5 class consisted of 33 children, 'bawled' is a more appropriate adjective to use to describe what I did!

That was it. I had given up before even stepping foot on the school grounds. The Alternative Route seemed a viable option. Not, however, to my husband, who had put up with a 'Year from Hell' whilst I was doing the PGDE.

A steady income was foremost in his mind and he reminded me that actually this was what I had wanted for a very long time – a class that I could call my own.

I knew he was right.

Preparations

Before dwelling on the whole will I/won't I scenario or indeed, can I/I can't do it, the very next day I drove to the school.

Then a funny thing happened. As soon as I entered the school I knew immediately that it would all be just fine. The vibe, the staff and the children – that's what did it! I would take up the post that I was offered and I would drive the 70 miles a day. All the negative thoughts from the day (and night) before had gone. Roll on August was my thought (but not too quickly!).

August did arrive rather rapidly, but I approached it with great excitement and even greater nervousness. I had chosen to go into the classroom the week before we officially started for a couple of days.

Labels on drawers, posters on the walls, backing paper up, and the huge task of deciding how to organise the tables and chairs, all took time (well spent!). Before I could do any of this I had to cross the threshold of my very own classroom.

I remember standing at the door for a number of heart stopping moments before making the great leap! First thing was to put my name and class on the door (which had, by the way, changed to a P4/5 with 21 children, something which I was more than a little relieved about!).

It was real, all of it. I spent the next two days filling the library with cushions, bringing in plants, labelling everything so that both the children and I could find things in an instant (this is ESSENTIAL!).

The first day

The day that we met each other...wonderful, glorious, exciting, and in the end, not the least bit nerve racking. It was all meant to be.

By the end of the first week it felt like I had being teaching for years! This is meant in a positive way. I simply loved it. I was driven. I was intent on being all singing, all dancing, all, well, everything!

I did learn very quickly (or perhaps it took longer than I am admitting) that this kind/level of commitment is possible for a very short time without completely burning yourself out.

Getting the balance right

One of the most important lessons I have learned over the past few months is to strike a balance between home life and life at work. As a teacher you are never done, ever. Your 'to do' list always has something on it. You cross off the top one or two and meantime add another ten at the other end!

That's just it, there is so much. I've learned that I can only do a certain amount: I can't do it all. I've learned to prioritise and because of all this I am a better teacher. I have more energy and am not run ragged.

I do what I can to the best of my ability and then I go home! I love my life as a teacher and I also love my life as me, a wife, a mum and a friend.