Learn from your mistakes

Les Fulton shares some of the rewards he gained during his probationary year.

Probationary Primary Teacher

My probationary year was spent with Falkirk Council where I taught a class of 27 Primary Three pupils.

It was, at different times, very hard work, very straightforward, incredibly rewarding, unbelievably frustrating, but never, ever boring.


Probationers' CPD time is to be much reduced in future, which I think is a mistake. I am a better teacher, (and my children were better taught), because of what I learned and observed as part of my CPD. Simply having more class contact time will not develop your teaching, or your pupils' learning at the same rate. Use your CPD for anything other than planning lessons. I observed other stages in my own school and observed my own stage in other schools. It can be eye-opening and humbling to see how well other teachers manage their classes, and how the respect just flows out of 'difficult' children towards those teachers who work hard to earn it. And it can be funny……..


Does any other job enable you to return home with so many great stories with which to entertain your friends and family? Our school went to see Miracle on 34th Street (the 1947 version) at our local cinema. Ten minutes in one wee boy turned to me and said "Mr. Fulton, what's wrong with the colour?"

Learn by your mistakes

I made many mistakes, but the fact that I was able to acknowledge them and learn something from them, helped me improve my own teaching as the year progressed. When I started I knew I had to build relationships with my children and other staff, but I underestimated how important, yet fragile, the parent-teacher relationship is. The dynamics between a parent and a teacher can change in an instant over a single, apparently trivial, incident, so never take your parents' appreciation for granted.

Top tips

My other top tips for surviving and flourishing are:-

  • Get in early and leave late. You can work 9 to 4 when you're older.
  • Update your GTC profile each week and it will cease to become a burden.
  • Attend PTA meetings, discos, Fayres, anything extra curricular. Get your face known.
  • Start a club - homework, knitting, ICT, netball, savings, craft......... anything.
  • Write to your parents/carers in the first week about what they can expect of you. Tell them about yourself.
  • If your school doesn't already have one, arrange (with permission) a 'Meet the Teacher' day where the parents/carers can see you and talk to you.
  • At Parent's night, have (at least) a full A4 typed sheet of paper for each pupil - they will appreciate it if you can demonstrate how well you know their child.
  • Don't get involved in staffroom gossip.

Everyone will tell you to "have fun and enjoy yourself", which I always think is the most pointless, lazy piece of advice. In the end I did have the most fun I have ever had in a year's employment, but it was a consequence of how much I embraced my new career.