After a year of hard work and getting to grips with a new profession during my PGDE course, I am about to begin my probation year in teaching. I am in a very lucky position – I will be returning for my probation year to a school which I worked at during one of my course placements.
In many ways, this is a huge benefit. I already know the staff of the English department in which I will work. I have found in the past that at the start of a new job, getting to know a new team can make existing levels of stress seem even higher.
It will be a weight off my mind to be able to get to grips with the practical side of teaching straight away, as I will have slightly less focus than some of my peers on getting to know people.
It is also a lovely thought to return to a school where I know a good number of the pupils. I taught four classes during my placement, and observed more. The school has a diverse mix of pupils from many different areas of the city, as well as a huge range of social and ethnic backgrounds. I loved getting to know some of them, although briefly, and look forward to developing my relationships with my classes. I was fascinated by some of the personalities and stories of the young people I met.
Knowing some of the teachers and pupils at the school already will hopefully be a small aid to me in settling in to the school. I will certainly have many issues to contend with during my probation year and I am aware that there is a massive difference between "student teacher" and "teacher".
One of the big differences, I think, will be that I will be expected to show more initiative and willingness to take risks during my probation year than when I was "just" a student. The staff at my new school were fantastic during my time as a student, offering endless advice and thoughts on my lesson plans.
However, I feel that I cannot ask for them to give me this level of input for a full year – six weeks was probably enough, from their point of view!
A main concern which stands out to me is my lack of experience in teaching qualification classes. During my three student placements I did not teach many senior classes, only one S4 class. Being in charge of teaching National 4, National 5 or Higher classes is therefore a daunting thought. I have spent a good deal of time over the summer trying to research the certificate courses to ensure I am as familiar as possible with them.
I have also been preparing introductory lessons for my classes in which I go over the course structure with them in a simple, understandable manner. I feel that if we can go through the course together, with clear intentions and expectations from the start, it will be less stressful for both myself and my pupils.
However, there is only so much preparation that can be done before teaching these classes. Undoubtedly, a great deal of my own learning will be done "on the job" and with the support of other more experienced teachers.
The other worry I have is a simple one – I sometimes have niggling thoughts about whether or not I will actually be "good" at this job. I have had three successful student placements, but what if these were somehow a fluke, and I can't reproduce the same levels of confidence and success in my lessons when in an actual position?
Of course this is an irrational fear. I am comforted by the realisation that many of my peers will be feeling exactly the same way.
The fact that I have worried about how good I will be as a teacher is probably not a bad thing; I will be holding myself to high standards.
There was an incident only last week which made me smile, and shed a positive light on the profession I will be entering. I was working during the summer waitressing at a local restaurant and got chatting to a customer who I soon found out was a teacher.
After exchanging a few pleasantries about schools, the profession in general, and her career path so far, she offered me her email address and volunteered to share some resources with me which she finds useful and thought I would too.
Our exchange lasted a few minutes in total, but the kindness of a stranger who saw that she could help out someone in a position where she had been previously resonated with me. I was delighted but not surprised. Most teachers I have met so far share this characteristic of being willing to give thought and time to their colleagues, regardless of how long they have known them.
- Alison Wood is a newly qualified teacher of English at a comprehensive school in Glasgow.