My rollercoaster year

It's been a bumpy ride! Jill Prentice describes her journey on the probation rollercoaster.

Primary Teacher, Merrylee Primary School, Glasgow

When I look back on my probationer year so far, I remember my first day on the PGDE Primary course at Strathclyde University and the picture used to symbolise the journey ahead: the rollercoaster! Well, I've certainly had my ups and downs.

While I've been lucky enough to find myself in a lovely, supportive primary school, the first word that springs into my mind would be "pressure". Pressure to develop and maintain a successful teaching practice; pressure to fit in to the school community; pressure to maintain some (even though desperately small) piece of personal life.


My first challenge was receiving the news that I was getting a Primary 7 class. My initial thought was, "Oh no! Half of them will be taller than me!"

After I got over the initial shock and stopped trying to prove that I was old and mature enough to successfully guide a class of 33 children through their final year at primary school, I really began to enjoy myself and embrace the challenge.

In some ways I feel I've grown tremendously both professionally and personally over the past six months but there are definitely times when I do feel like the student again.

Looking at the big picture I am extremely lucky that my school has constantly shown that they not only feel I am more than capable of successfully teaching my primary class but that I am actually a valued member of the teaching staff.

Sharing experiences

My biggest piece of advice would be to talk to other members of staff whenever possible and share your experiences. I'm lucky enough to have been able to build great relationships with my mentor, 0.3 teacher and Senior Management Team.

I've found the staff in my school are more than willing to listen to me talking about both my successes and failures, with advice and support readily available. I still make 'mistakes' or think I should have done something differently each week but the trick I have found is never to be shy about admitting them.

Sharing your practice enables you to grow and refine your craft enabling you to be a truly "reflective practitioner". Talking through your day is such an important part of the learning process for all teachers and pupils alike.

Onwards and upwards

With the year rushing past so quickly, my other advice would be to hang on, strive to do your best and try to enjoy yourself. The ups, downs and moments of stress are constantly outweighed by the tremendously rewarding moments you experience on a daily basis.

Small moments stick in my mind, like the look of achievement or accomplishment on a pupils face, a "get well soon" card, or pupils eagerness to find out more.

Inevitably my thoughts have now turned to ensuring I have a permanent job for next session. At this moment in time this seems like a horrific, daunting process but I can only hope that my commitment, determination, teaching and learning will be recognised.

The probation year is certainly full of opportunities and no matter how small the rewarding moments are, as long as you have a positive impact on the lives of the children in your class, then you too will find this rollercoaster has been totally worth it!