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Challenges, achievement and satisfaction

Rachel Tsai reflects on a year of challenges and achievements as one of Scotland's first ever teachers in Mandarin Chinese.

Mandarin Teacher, St George's School, Edinburgh

In 2008, I finished the first ever PGDE Mandarin Chinese course offered by Moray House, and soon after that I found myself in a probationary role at an Edinburgh school.

I was lucky to be one of the first six probationer teachers in Mandarin Chinese to be trained in Scotland. At my new school, which is a Confucius classroom where Chinese has a very high profile, I was also very honoured to be given responsibility for teaching the first ever class of Intermediate 2 Mandarin Chinese, a brand new qualification.

What concerned me most was that the students were due to sit the exam at the end of my probation year!

Vital support

Looking back, it was a very tough and challenging year. I was fortunate to have a very supportive principal teacher as well as very helpful and experienced colleagues in my department. I don't think it would have been possible to get through such a tough probationary year that had such heavy responsibility without the support of the principal teacher (PT) and the help of my fellow colleagues in the Modern Languages Faculty.

In my opinion, it is vitally important for probationers to have good solid support from their PT and colleagues. The Chinese qualification that I taught was so new that there were no past papers available or teachers with experience of teaching for the exam.

My PT helped me to gain an understanding of the exam and to develop my lessons to bring the students up to exam standard. I also got a lot of tips from my colleagues about motivating my students to work hard.

It's also very important to keep in touch with your friends from the PGDE course, so that you can share the ups and downs of life as a probationer as well as sharing professional knowledge and resources.

High expectations

The school I work for has a history of high achievement, which has naturally resulted in high expectations. Like all teachers, I couldn't help feeling responsible for the success of my students; as a result I worked extremely hard and did everything in my power to support them.

Preparation and time management

I was teaching from P4 all the way to Higher and A Level. I developed all of the syllabi and course work in the summer before I started my probationer year.

I would advise new probationers to develop their own work as soon as they have finished their PGDE course, as once teaching, so much time will be taken up with other things such as writing reports, going to meetings, courses, taking students for trips and such like that there just won't be time for lesson planning.

Most probationers I've spoken to have said that they felt rushed off their feet and struggled to catch up with things.

Challenges, achievement, satisfaction

If I was to summarise my probationary year in few words, I would have to say: Challenges, Achievement and Satisfaction. I wish all this year's probationers the best in their probationary year. It's worth it! Go for it!