I am not sure how much sleep I actually got before my first official day as a teacher. The night was a muddle of thoughts about school, lucid dreams and anxiety about how little I was sleeping. At six o’ clock, it was finally acceptable to get up and I forced myself to eat a good breakfast before making my way to school for our first INSET.
On Friday night I left my classroom in good spirits but over the weekend I had somehow squeezed out a ridiculously long to do list of jobs. One of my greatest weaknesses is the ability to create work from thin air. Luckily, just as I was considering swapping displays over and moving furniture around for the tenth time my mentor arrived. She told me I’d created so much light and space and brought a stream of teachers to confirm her verdict. I felt a huge sense of relief and support.
At 9 o’ clock, we gathered in the hall for a whistle-stop tour through the school’s many procedural documents. It was also a chance to meet colleagues and drink about a litre of tea before we met with our phase leaders to discuss the coming weeks.
In the afternoon, I was given time to finish preparations in my classroom. However, this time I was not alone. I had two TAs on hand to help me. One of the hardest things this week has been learning how to manage a team and I think this is the biggest challenge from moving from being a TA to a teacher. I had planned some jobs for my TAs, however, I had not considered how long they would take. These tasks were soon completed and I wasn’t sure how to best utilise their support without the children in the classroom.
Our second INSET day moved to a focus on pupil progress and data. This was a valuable opportunity to consolidate my understanding of how pupil progress is measured, analysed and recorded in the school. Once again my mentor and phase leader were extremely supportive, taking time ensure that I was able to navigate my way through a new vocabulary of acronyms and terminology. My mentor helped me to understand what systems I needed to set up in order to monitor each child’s progress and together we drew up focus groups for the establishment phase.
In the afternoon, it was time for some planning. I met with the other teachers in the year group to draw up activities for the first couple of weeks. This really helped to boost my confidence, as I was able to draw on the experience and advice of last year’s NQTs as well as some very experienced teachers. Everyone was encouraging and welcoming and I knew that everything was going to be ok!
I spent the remaining time before school closed setting up activities for the next day. I left at six o’ clock when the Janitor came to close the windows in my classroom!
Wednesday: The First Day
I woke up feeling surprisingly calm. I was nervous but more than anything I was excited. Out in the world 30 little people were getting ready for their first day in Year 1 with me as their teacher!
I arrived at school with plenty of time to get a cup of tea and check that everything was in place, before going up to the staff room for our daily briefing. In no time at all the Head has released us and we bolted out of the staffroom like race horses from the traps.
It was five minutes before the children arrived and there was nothing left to do. I sipped my tea. I greeted the first arrival from breakfast club and we watered the class plant together.
With one minute to go, I took a deep breath. My mentor arrived, and I opened the doors to a sea of parents, book bags, tears, smiles and SO MANY CHILDREN! They sat on the carpet before I even had to ask, while I was reminded by mums and and dads that Katie would need her asthma pump and that Sani always forgets to eat his lunch. By five past nine everyone was inside and we were ready to start.
The children were incredibly compliant to begin with. We told them about the classroom. We showed them around the school. We showed them how to do good lining up, listening and sitting. We talked about what would happen at lunchtime lunchtime. Then, we PLAYED!
This was my favourite part of the day. The uncomfortable silence evaporated and I was finally able to get to grips with 30 names, as they begin circulating around the classroom. I found out about each child’s summer holidays. I found out what they liked and what they didn’t like. The play dough was a huge success and the children were very impressed as I showed them how to mould it into shapes using a bright pink press. We made the most of the September sunshine by putting big troughs of water in the outdoor play area and the children were grateful for the opportunity to put their hands in the cool water as they told me the names of the plastic sea creatures.
Everything felt very natural and while I know that there is still a lot I need to work on I enjoyed myself and I don’t feel quite so nervous anymore!
I fell asleep at 10 o’clock.
The children have settled in well and feel confident enough to go to the toilet without an adult, a fantastic step! However, this new-found independence has sparked some small acts of rebellion: today the children have rooted through my drawers, walked play dough into the carpet and they frequently forget to tell an adult before going to the toilet independently! My mentor suggested that it was time to draw up some class rules, which the children agreed to with solemnity, volunteering their ideas enthusiastically: ‘It’s not kind to snatch dinosaurs from Ishmal’. The rules provided me with an excellent deterrent to any mischief makers as I was able to merely point to our flip-chart poster and their lips would curl over in embarrassment. I am not sure how long this phenomenon will last but for now, we’ve got things under control.
I’m was also delighted to discover that my class share my love of music! When, in my biggest slip up so far, I forgot to take the register, I decided to teach the class a song, while my TA dashed to the office to explain! By the time she returned we had mastered ‘London’s Burning’ with actions AND dynamics. Our TA was very impressed and the children were duly rewarded with two marbles for our rewards jar and a promise of a third on completion of a successful rendition to my mentor in the afternoon.
I am getting on well with my TAs but I am worried that I am not communicating very well and I don’t want them to feel confused or at a loose end. I want them to feel valued in my classroom, so I am going to use the weekend to think about what I can do to improve this.
Day 3: IOE
We were back at university for the day for some discussion, consolidation and to find out about expectations for the coming weeks. Everyone said that they feel tired but I was surprised at how fresh everyone looked after a few weeks away from Summer Institute. I was also surprised at how much easier it was to reflect now that we have some real teaching experience!
We left the IOE with a lot more paperwork but I’m not letting it worry me too much. I have a fantastic mentor and I’ve just discovered who my IOE tutor will be. The support system is in place. Now it’s up to me to put the hard work in!
Plan for the weekend: catch up on Educating Yorkshire and get as much sleep as possible!