First Days as a Primary School Teacher

The first few days in school have been busy and challenging. I found the first day in particular hard going. There was a lot of noise and I didn’t get half as much done as I had planned. On teaching practice you don’t really get a sense of how much time is devoted to teaching procedures during the first weeks of school – I learned this the hard way this week. You don’t get a lot of teaching done because so much time is spent showing the children how to do simple tasks such as writing in their copies, as well as creating expectations and sticking to them from day one. So much of the early weeks of the year are about forming relationships with the children as well.

At the moment, I am introducing a group reward system, as well as individual rewards at the end of the week. I have also purchased stickers (€1.49 in Easons for 218) to put on their weekly tests and am thinking about investing in a few stampers to use on their homework if they’ve made a big effort/done really well.

Teaching is also different to teaching practice in that you are expected to follow certain schemes linked with books, particularly in literacy, which is practically the opposite of what you’re told on TP. The children have bought the books and parents expect them to be used. They take some of the pressure off teachers in a way because when you’re using them it means you don’t have to plan things like spellings and phonics from scratch, but it also means that you’re very much tied to them and the way in which the work is laid out. I’m also finding the core subjects are also very repetitive in the junior end and it can feel like you’re doing the same thing every day – Maths, tables, mental maths, spellings, phonics, Gaeilge, litriú, etc…

I read somewhere recently that teachers make more minute-by-minute decisions than brain surgeons and that’s why we’re so tired in the evenings. Whether or not that is true, it certainly feels like there are a million and one things whirring around my brain all day until I’m finished for the evening.  I found myself making some silly but avoidable mistakes, such as forgetting to tick every copy and then finding that some homework wasn’t done when I looked at them later. I’m not going to be too hard on myself though, as I’ve only done a few days so far. I think it takes a while to find your feet and that’s okay. As regards health and well being, I make sure I do a half hour of exercise every day, have good food and the odd treat and stop work by 8:30 in the evening. This requires using time wisely and a bit of discipline, but I think when I work like this the children learn a lot more, I’m a better teacher and I feel better in myself.

I haven’t been as on top of the job hunt as I should be. I did, however, get the opportunity to have my application assessed by Education Interview Hub and I have to say, it was well worth it. I went to one of their seminars and used a lot of their advice, but getting it assessed formally really made a difference. They give detailed, objective advice, no nastiness, just really helpful and informative. I feel a lot more confident about applying for jobs now that I have the application assessed by a professional in the know.

Beginning life as a sub Teacher

The school year has begun and it is both overwhelming for those who have jobs and those who are subbing. I was lucky to get a few days subbing on the first week of school. It was a great experience as I was able to see the work that’s put in by all staff to get the school ready for the children. As well as that, a lot of the first day with the children is sorting books, copies, seats etc., so it can be a busy day.

During my subbing, I used both books from the classroom and lessons I had used on teaching practice. This worked very well and left no time to spare during the day. Preparation is key when subbing! However, this can be hard when it’s a last minute call so remember to have a bag ready with resources!

I used some classroom management skills that you could use when subbing that worked well. I love using a Mr. Potato man. If the children get all the pieces on by the end of the day/week, they get golden time or a treat. I also did teacher vs class, this is a clapping game. The children must  copy the teacher’s clapping rhythm and if they do not repeat it right, the teacher gets the point and if they do, the children get the point.

As substitute teachers, I think classroom management is something we should really focus on. Children can often see substitute teachers as a “day off work” or not take us as seriously as their own teacher. Before beginning my first day, I showed a minion video of classroom rules. The children enjoyed it and were very engaged in the video. I would refer back to the video at times throughout the day to remind the children of the classroom rules.

The start of the year can be quiet for subbing, so do not be disheartened if you are waiting a few weeks before you get a call. Good luck to all starting teaching this September!