Christmas turning point

Post-Christmas, Fay Macgregor found she was more in control of her teaching.

Primary Teacher, East Craigs Primary, Edinburgh

Looking back

The start of the year now seems like a haze of panic, excitement and fear. After working in the ruthless world of sales and recruitment, moving into teaching was like a breath of fresh air.

Initially I found the long hours I worked in sales didn't quite disappear as everything was so new to me that it took longer than expected to get into the swing of things.

After Christmas I was able to organise my time more effectively, including:

  • updating my forward plan weekly
  • preparing lessons at a maximum a week in advance
  • keeping on top of marking and introducing self and peer assessment
  • setting aside specific times for preparing wall displays, profile updates, organising visits to other schools and observations within school
  • introducing strategies to speed up the pace of the class e.g. timers, a rewards system for those ready on time
  • speaking to teachers at the same stage and promoted members of staff for ideas on areas I needed support with.

I know that most of this sounds like common sense but at the start of the year I felt that there are so many areas to tackle it's hard to know where to start.

Observing other schools

After the quick year as a PGDE student I found one of the most beneficial parts of the probation year was visiting different schools, observing the same and other stages and speaking to colleagues for ideas and advice.

This provided me with new initiatives and strategies to enhance my teaching, reassuring me as to how I was managing.

If starting the probation year again I would try to ensure I went to observe either within school or out of school on a fortnightly basis, going to see as many different schools as possible.

This is also a good idea in terms of networking and building up a rapport with different teachers and schools, which may be useful when looking for a job.

Class behaviour

It's impossible to have every area of the curriculum, the classroom and behaviour working like clockwork. What I found best was to focus on one thing at a time in terms of priority, starting with behaviour and then moving on from there.

One of the first things I adopted in my class was a morning song, which I have found introduced a positive atmosphere and encouraged the stragglers to get ready quicker.

This song is sang to the tune of "When the saints go marching in" and goes like this:

"Hello my friends, hello my friends
How are you today?
We have a busy day before us
With lots of work and lots of play"

This song worked very well with my class and the routine of singing it each day settled the class.

I also picked up a good tip at the end of the day from my mentor, which was to shake each child by the hand on the way out when saying goodbye to them.

The majority of the class loved this. Although it appears quite a formal gesture it encouraged manners and I found the children were very keen to do this on a daily basis. Another great advantage of this gesture was that it also ensured that I had spoken to each child.

I am pleased that I changed career and have entered the world of teaching. The first term was a steep learning curve, as the year progresses you settle more into your role and hopefully gain in confidence.

Teaching infants is hard work although very rewarding and even on a bad day a simple compliment, hug or a smile makes it seem all worthwhile.