Teaching & Education

PROBATION YEAR? TICK.

Oh hey there!

Today, I’m talking all about being a probationer teacher. Yesterday marked the official end of my first year of teaching however I have been ‘signed off’ and ‘fully qualified’ for about a month now. And obviously, because of COVID, I have been out of the classroom since March but still working full time, just from home like so many others. 

Obviously, my probation year has been unlike any other and I really hope no one else has to experience a probation year like this. It hasn’t been awful, but I’d much rather have been in the classroom for the full year – not working from a laptop. 

I want to share some wee nuggets that I have learned throughout probation for anyone who may be away to start their probation year or is considering going into teaching, or is just nosey – no judgement here. These are more ‘wellbeing’ tips rather than CPD or lesson plan kinda things… Looking after your own wellbeing is key to being present for the children in your class.

First and foremost – CHILL OUT OVER SUMMER.
This is the most important piece of advice I can give anyone going into probation, and realistically it’s probably just a good pointer for any teacher. The school year is BUSY. Take full advantage of your holidays to chill out, relax, recharge and take time for YOU. Because when you’re in your classroom teaching and inspiring however many pupils you have, it’s not about you even slightly. Most teachers are a certain ‘type’ of person and I appreciate it can be hard to chill, you always want to print off one more worksheet, or laminate one more header, or look up one more behaviour management technique but please, put the brakes on and enjoy your Summer. 

Ask for help
A nugget that should just be applied to all life situations period. Please don’t struggle through your probation year. There is no such thing as a ‘stupid’ question and I hope you are in a working environment that makes you feel you can ask as many questions as you need. This won’t necessarily be asking 20 questions in the middle of a staff meeting but find your ‘people’ and ask ask ask. 

Be organised
Again, another point that can be applied to any situation – work or personal. I am very proud to say that throughout my probation year, I did not work a weekend – not a one. I am not here for the ‘teacher workaholic’ rhetoric that X is a better teacher than Y because she works until 10pm every night and every single Saturday and Sunday. That’s not cool – you are going to burn out and honestly? It’s just not needed. One of my university lecturers told me to ‘Work smarter, not longer’ and that has stuck with me. I am an early bird so I tended to be in school by 7.30 each morning and was usually the first, or second, person into the school. But this did mean that I was usually one of the first to leave. I had a 50ish minute commute to my school so I tried to leave each day by 4.30pm and actually have time in the evening to socialise or chill out. Find working hours that actually work for you. And yes, there will be busier times where you end up staying later than you’d hoped but a work-life balance, in my experience, is totally possible if you are smart about it. 

Go to the Staffroom
I was really bad at this at the start of the year. It takes time to adjust and there were morning breaks when I just wanted silence – and occasionally that is okay. Teachers understand that. But it is important to walk away from your classroom, have a coffee or a tea, have something to eat. It’s also important to get to know your colleagues and as teachers, we’re not sitting with them for 8 hours a day so make the most of going to the staffroom and chatting. 

Be Yourself
Perhaps the most important nugget – and again, one that is applicable to multiple situations. We all know, I am a huge Harry Potter fan. There are adults that think that’s ‘weird’ or it’s for children and a) that is incorrect and b) let people like what they like and c) don’t be nasty. But beyond that, I embraced my love of Harry Potter and used this in the classroom because that is who I am. If someone, at work or in your personal life, is going to judge you for liking something then in my experience, they are not the sort of person you want in your life anyway. If you are eccentric and outgoing – don’t let a work colleague change that. – Of course I am talking about work appropriate behaviours. 

Things Will Go Wrong
Bottom line. And that is OKAY. I had some really great work colleagues throughout probation and even the teachers who had been in the job for 20, 30, 40 years had moments in lessons that did not go to plan. It’s how you deal with and recover from things going wrong that really matters. In my experience being transparent is key. I have had moments where I have just straight up told my class ‘Okay, I apologise. This lesson isn’t working how I thought it would’. Take responsibility.

Most importantly?
Have fun and enjoy it! You will never have your first year of teaching again. It is busy and it can be stressful but it is also lots of fun and so rewarding. 

I have been so lucky with the staff team during my probation year. I have learned a lot and felt so supported every step of the way. It saddens me that this isn’t everyone’s experience and please reach out and find your ‘out of school’ support network if your working environment is less than ideal.

Have any other tips for new teachers? Let me know!

Until next time,
Shona x

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