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Quality not quantity

Looking back at his probationary year Iain Purdie discovered the importance of finding a balance between work and personal life.

I'll get rid of the fluff first. This will be a hard, but incredibly rewarding year. I don't care how old you are - straight out of school and university, or 20 years in industry and retraining - this year will really change you as a person. You will find things out about yourself (partly how much stress you can handle!) that you didn't already know.

Out of school activities

Over the course of nine or so months in school, I did so many things that I find it hard to list them all. Highlights included running a 3-day out-of-school football skills course at the end of the year, starting up a school SCUBA club, creating a 6-week run of lessons for our entire S1 including a huge amount of cross-curricular activity, generating our S4 prelim… oh, and of course developing a rapport with well over 250 different pupils!

The human side of teaching

The school I taught at is the dictionary definition of "comprehensive", making my year as good an experience as any probationer could hope for. We had children from all backgrounds and all ability levels. Remember all those lectures and tutorials about differentiation? Well, they weren't all hot air. Trust me on this. My classes varied from S1/S2 with the expected range of abilities to bi-level S3/S4 classes where pupils were studying towards two different sets of exams.

Dedication

I landed lucky with staff as well, I think. Surely not every school can be as full of hard-working, helpful co-workers as mine was? Actually, I'm fairly certain the vast majority of you will prove this statement wrong. Good teachers aren't there for the money - as I'm sure you'll be aware after the recent budget cuts. They're there because they love the job and believe in what they're doing. That doesn't stop at teaching the pupils, it very much includes helping other staff out and that will include you.

Avoid 'burn out'

I'm supposed to offer you all one piece of advice. That's hard as there are so many things to choose from. I guess I will go with "don't spread yourself too thin". It's both enjoyable and, from an employability point of view, very attractive for you to involve yourself in a great number of clubs, projects and the like. However, it's also far too easy to volunteer for far too many things and burn yourself out, or simply not do a good job as you haven't got the time or energy to keep up.

Quality, not quantity, is the key. Find a balance, make sure you have some personal time and don't let everything swamp you.

OK, one more piece of advice - enjoy yourself.

Iain Purdie
New Secondary Teacher