Job Security Coming to an End

I have just finished my job-share and have just over a week of work left in Learning Support. I was sad when my time was up with the mainstream class, but excited to see what Learning Support would be like.

I’m finding that I’m less tired in the evenings, although the individual lessons seem to take an age to plan and prepare for, between gathering resources and photocopying.  I’ve found that it’s best to have a place for resources that you use every day and having a small bag or box to make them portable makes a huge difference. The area I’m struggling most with is time. It takes 3-5 minutes to get the children into the room, another five minutes to settle them, more time to correct last night’s homework and explain the ones they were stuck on and by the time you’ve all that done there’s only 10 or 15 minutes left.

I also realised that I’d forgotten a lot of the 5th and 6th class Maths, so much so that I brought home a text book one evening to do some questions to refresh my memory. It’s been so long since I had them on placement that I honestly hadn’t a notion of some of it. Working away on it for the evening brought me back up to speed fairly quickly though and even gave me some ideas for teaching the following day.

I’m still applying for jobs, although I’m being far more selective about the schools that I choose, particularly in terms of the distance of the school from my house. I’ve realised from subbing that there’s only so far you can travel when you’re expected to arrive at 9 o’ clock. Not much of a response so far, although I’m remaining optimistic as I’m working on my SAF and CV all the time.

In the back of my mind the day when my secure(ish) employment ends is looming. I can feel the daunting prospect of an empty diary swelling a bit more every day. It’ll be the first time this year that I won’t be sure of a few days subbing the following week. The phone has been ringing nearly every day and even though the security is great, I can’t take up any of the offers from other schools. Hopefully the phone calls will continue!

Not a minute to spare

Hi all, it’s been awhile since I’ve added to the blog but here it goes. I’m nearly two months in as a NQT and all I’m wondering is is everyone else as exhausted as I am?! I naively thought that if I put in enough work during the Masters that I would get used to the normal teaching routine but I was wrong. It’s Wednesday and even though I know there is only 7 teaching days left before midterm I am struggling to find any energy.

I have been lucky enough to get a temporary resource post and I love it. Unfortunately due to recent (unfortunate) changes I am not able to get my restricted Dip done. I’m over that now and am finally getting somewhat used to the routine. Truthfully, when I started I really was lost. One thing I will say is that I don’t believe that many colleges are currently preparing NQT’s for resource positions. During the Masters we completed one week observation in a resource setting and it was just not adequate.

My biggest worry is that due to my inexperience I will cheat a child out of proper support or that I may miss something that I should see. I work with many different children with many unique abilities, personalities, attributes as well as difficulties. The area that is most complex at the moment is SSLD, there are so many areas under this umbrella term that it is difficult to know if you’re tackling the right area for each student as their needs vary so much. In order to do my best I’ve been staying late almost every day and working Saturday and Sunday mornings and I’m not even doing my Dip yet!

My advice to anyone starting in a resource post is to:

  1. Look at your students IEP’s and psychological report
  2. Talk to the class teacher and the students SNA (if they have one)
  3. Get to know your students, find out their interests and try to take them individually to have a one on one chat
  4. Ask LOADS of questions, ask the current staff anything and everything as this is very different to mainstream teaching

Once you start with those and gather yourself then you can look at all the programs currently available in schools, look at books and work your butt off as you’re extremely lucky to have a job!

Resource is a completely different job to what I’ve studied, I’ve learned so much that will only add to my CV. That’s all for now, I’ll enjoy every minute in resource but I’m not going to lie my heart lies in the classroom.

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!

Light at the end of a dark Summer

I hope everyone reading this is having a lovely, relaxing Summer. I’ve almost finished up at work for the Summer and am looking forward to some free time before school starts.

Firstly, I hope this blog post gives hope to my fellow NQTs who haven’t secured a job for the year. As I said in my last post, and like many others I’m sure, I’ve been bracing myself for subbing this year, making lists of things I need to get and reading articles, lots of dos and don’ts! Then I got a call out of the blue from the principal of the school where I did TP telling me he had part-time mainstream subbing for me for a couple of months! Naturally, I was thrilled, especially as it had been so unexpected. It really is true what people say – things can turn around quickly for you in teaching.

I feel a bit spoiled because this will kind of ease me into teaching, as I can still make plans for a specific class. I am starting to get nervous now – the reality of it is slowly beginning to dawn on me. I’m happy knowing I’ll learn a lot and get a bit of experience under my belt. It’ll also give me the chance to get known in other schools from subbing on the days I’m not working, with the security of knowing I have a wage coming in every week.

I also think it’s important to point out at this juncture that lots of people rant and rave about nepotism and cronisim in the teaching profession – except when it works in their favour. As the principal explained to me on the phone, you’re going to ask in people you know. I wouldn’t have got subbing in that school if I hadn’t done a teaching practice in there.

So, in theory at least, all NQTs have to do is get known and try to make a good impression. I highly recommend having a look at the ‘Limerick Teachers’ facebook page for advice on this – they included some things that other Irish bloggers had failed to mention with regard to your years of service.

I really hope this has given some dispirited NQTs a boost. I know myself I was kind of dreading going into schools, the pressure of teaching in a strange environment and trying to navigate a different staffroom every day – hopefully I will get the chance to experience this on my days off! Keep going, make new lesson plans as if you are going teaching and gather your resources because you honestly never know what’s around the corner!

The Next Chapter

The summer is coming to an end and unfortunately I have not been lucky enough to secure employment in my county. As much as I would like to say I’d be happy to sub I’m really not sure if I’m comfortable with so much uncertainty. At the moment there are less than 15 jobs advertised in my county so the positive vibes are at a bit of a low. I’ve applied for everything, with only one interview but I won’t let it get me down. There are maybe about 4 people from my class that have work so it’s not just me which is somewhat reassuring.

I’m currently preparing to become the best sub around, I’ve read up on various sites what a good sub is and what teachers/school’s look for. I’ve bought and created little games and stocked up on various activities. There seems to be more learning support/resource jobs so I’ve researched a bit about what an actual learning support/resource teacher does. One thing that I would say about college is that I’m finished and I feel that I have so much left to learn, I hope that the next year will fill in some gaps.

Of course I could move to places like Dublin or Cork to get a job or at least have more of a hope but I’d rather stick it out. Many of my friends are two or three years out of college and although it has been difficult for them they have something, nothing permanent but something.

Looking down the road is a bit trickier, I’m at the age now where I’d like to think about a home, marriage and motherhood. It’s hard to know should I wait until I’m permanent until I think about any of that. It wouldn’t look great if I became permanent and then got married/pregnant straight away so it’s difficult to plan for the future. I would also love a house of my own but I can’t secure a mortgage until I’m permanent.

Being completely honest there was times where I reflected on why I decided to become a teacher and put myself and my partner through such uncertainty but then I remember this is what I wanted, I’m really good at what I do and in a few years’ time this difficult time will all be a distant memory. Towards the end of this week I’ll pop into schools with my CV, fingers crossed!

Transition Day

So with a job organised, the wheels were truly set in motion for the big move to the UK. The agency organised for me to go back to my school in July in order to meet the staff again and to meet the class I would teach in September. I arrived at the school with a list of questions as long as my arm but the majority were answered without me even having to ask. I was panicking about planning and the difference in the curriculum (be thankful for strands and strand units!). But as an NQT, I am appointed a mentor to provide support and guidance through the induction process. My mentor provided me with vital information and as well as reassurance which helped me no end. Each teacher is given a slot in their timetable for PPA (planning, preparation and assessment time) in order to help with their existing workload. I will be entitled to that as well as an additional slot for NQT time in order to further relieve the workload. Music to my ears!

Before the holidays begin, the school has a ‘Transition Day’ where each class spends the morning with their new teacher. The head teacher had asked me to prepare ‘getting to know you’ activities to do that morning and I enjoyed it immensely. When I gave the children an opportunity to give me advice about living in the area, they made sure I knew there was a McDonalds nearby but also suggested some tourist sites I might like to visit. I couldn’t help but laugh when one child asked if we had electricity in Ireland. I played games which allowed me not just to get the children, but them to get to know me also which I feel helped a sense of trust to start developing. I also created a worksheet to provide me with information about how the children liked to learn, e.g. I work best sitting at my desk, yes or no. As well as meeting my class and my mentor that day, I also met with their current class teacher in order to learn some more about the children and the various supports that they might need.

That night back at the hotel, I was once again filled with a mixture of anxiousness and excitement. And tiredness. Can’t forget the tiredness.New terminology and unfamiliar acronyms floated around in my head. After a few deep breaths and comparing notes with my friend who had also been given lots to think about, I thought aboutthe promises of support my mentor (and many other staff members) had given me and hoped it would all eventually fall into place. The information I had received was important and valuable so I took to my journal when I got back to Ireland to try and make sense of it all.

After the transition day, we headed straight to apartment viewings as it was something we wanted to organise sooner rather than later. The following day, we found an apartment we adored and we collected the keys this week. The ferry is booked so we will be setting sail in 2 weeks.

The next step is to get planning and organising my classroom and displays. Wish me luck!

Jayne

The Non Standard Applicant

Upon completing year 4 of the B.Ed., your thoughts are supposed to turn straight to subbing worries, how to fill a standard application form and how youwill ensure that you stand out from my newly qualified colleagues, right? Wrong. Not if you were successful at interview for a full time teaching position at the end of March. The catch, I hear you ask? The first leg of my commute to work begins with a trip across the Irish Sea.

At a time when final exams were looming and assignment deadlines were fast approaching, we were sitting on the steps of our house discussing what the future might hold. A friend had told us about her experience with an agency in England and as she shared the details, it all sounded too good to be true. The agency book your flights, pick you up from the airport, ferry you around to schools with positions available and put you up in a hotel. I felt as though there was nothing to lose so my friend and I got in touch.

One phone call later and a hopping WhatsApp group was formed, flights were booked for the end of March and the wheels were set in motion. It was so straight forward that I spent the next few days wondering what the catch would be. So often, we had been warned about the dangers of teaching in the UK – the parents are impossible, the standards are too high, the paperwork is insurmountable and the behaviour is unimaginable. I decided to get some more balanced advice rather than listen to these sweeping generalisations and soon after we landed in England.

I had no expectations for the trip, which I think worked in my favour. Because of the mountain of college work and other commitments I had, I didn’t have long to prepare for the interviews and I didn’t know the names of the schools so I couldn’t learn anything about them! I just knew I had to prepare a 20-minute numeracy or literacy lesson, so I put most of my effort into that as well as reading about the curriculum. I was told that the interview would be ‘informal’ so I didn’t worry too much about it.

On the morning I arrived, I was picked up and taken straight to school. We visited four different schools with various positions available over the next two days and the only complaint I have was that it was pretty tiring! The interview process involves 3 separate steps making it quite different to the Irish system. At each school I had to teach a lesson, complete a written activity and have a short interview. Each school did this differently which kept me on my toes but because I had no expectations, it was hard to be too nervous.

I was thrilled to hear from the agency that I had been offered a position at a Catholic Primary School which seemed similar in set up to an Irish Primary School. The interesting thing about working with the agency is that they want to ensure that the school suits you and not just the other way around! I accepted the position and since then I have been excited (and nervous) for the next chapter of my life as a newly qualified teacher. One of the best things about all of this, of course, is that upon successfully completing my NQT year in the UK, my qualification will be converted back and I will have completed by induction process with a year of teaching experience in my back pocket.

Moral of the story: don’t panic! There are other ways and means of getting to where we need to be. I hope to share my other experiences and escapades with you soon.

Jayne.

Interview Blues

You may remember from my last post that I had a huge problem finding interview clothes and had finally settled on a cardigan and suit trousers. I was promptly told by several people to go and get a cheaper suit for the interview and invest in a more expensive one later. So I ran into Dunnes the day before the interview and got a navy suit and a white top. While it was stressful trying to find things to wear when time was tight, I have to say that I did feel a lot more confident and in control in my cheap suit than my expensive cardigan and trousers and I was told when I asked for feedback that I was dressed ‘beautifully’.

I received a second call for interview shortly after I wrote my last post. There were five vacancies coming up in the school. There was about a week between interviews and unfortunately I was unsuccessful in both. I asked for feedback from both schools and only one replied. The principal told me that you can’t ask for feedback, you can only ask for the points you got for your answers. However, because they knew me, they told me that for a few of the jobs, teachers were just re-interviewing for jobs that they already had and the rest were given to teachers with a couple of years of experience. As for the other interview, a teacher who had worked in the school for the previous year got the job and put it up on Facebook three days before I got my rejection letter. While this might seem unfair, I didn’t really mind because  I feel that if it were me who had been working in that school for a year, I would have been annoyed to have lost the job to an NQT with less experience.

As regards the interviews themselves, I was nervous but tried to remember to sit forward, make eye contact, smile, wait to be asked to sit down and all the rest of it. There were three people, the principal, the chairperson and an independent person. The questions were pretty much what was on the list on Educationposts.ie. The following questions caught me off-guard: What is your experience of using ICT in the classroom? (I have nothing beyond using Powerpoint) How would you maintain good relations with parents? Would you feel confident in preparing children for Holy Communion and Confirmation?

Since the interviews, I have gotten quite a number of rejection letters, which I am saving to show the dole office in September as proof that I am applying for jobs. Even though these are all negative, it is nice to get a reply, an acknowledgement of your application.

I have accepted that I will be subbing for next year and hopefully will have enough experience to get a contract next year. It’s been a dissapointing start to my teaching career, but I’m glad I got some interview experience and feel that I will be better prepared for the next ones. I am told that subbing is an excellent learning experience and might be a good opportunity to try out new lessons and approaches, so I’m looking forward to that.

Hope you found this helpful and good luck to all the teachers still applying.

Marie.

Catch 22

Well, believe it or not, I got an interview! I received an email a few weeks ago informing me that I had an interview for a resource job. The school is a DEIS Band 1 school. No word of a lie, this school is my dream school. The school culture and atmosphere is great and the resources and class sizes are also very appealing. Out of all the schools I completed my placement in I felt most at home there.

When I received the email I was subbing in a school about 45 minutes away from home. The staff were so helpful and gave me loads of advice, I’ve never been so excited to get an email. Previous to the email the school had rang me twice asking me to sub, I had to say no as I was subbing in a different school so I was even more surprised when I was called to interview. Leading up to the interview I studied every night for hours, I looked up the new curriculum, made 5 pages of notes about the school and local area and learned of the usual piece about gaeilge a chur chun cinn sa rang.

The weekend before I was so pumped, I was ready; I bought a very formal suit, practiced my answers out loud and was 100% ready. Imagine my dismay when I got a call from an inside source to say that the job was gone. The job was going to the person who went subbing in the school after I had said no as I was subbing in a different school. I genuinely felt devastated, many told me that I should have dropped the other school and subbed in the school I wanted but I had committed myself to the far away school. In my opinion it would have been very unprofessional to drop a school.

I continued my study anyway and said I’d still give it my all. Upon entering the interview I was met by the Principal, the chairperson and a representative of the Diocese. The interview could not have gone better. The questions all went very well and at the end of the interview the Principal asked me was this my first interview, I said yes to which he replied ‘that was a fantastic interview’. Well by God I was delighted. I left feeling like I still had a chance.

A few days later I received a call from the Principal, he informed that I had not been successful and that the job went to a girl who had 5 years’ experience in a DEIS school in Leinster and she was moving home. The girl was the person who took the sub work when I said no. So here I am now, feeling very sorry for myself, it was a complete catch 22! The worse part about this experience is that I truly think I won’t get an interview in any other school as the two other school’s I did my TP in are quite small so this was really my main chance for a job this year.

To make this pity party even worse I’m here at the Gaeltacht and loads of people have been called to interview and are getting jobs, I didn’t tell anyone I was called to interview so I don’t feel so ashamed but it does tinge the heart a little bit, my jealous self is peering out. So I’m just going to focus on the Gaeltacht for now and my upcoming oral exam and then worry about my life. Bye for now, promise next time I won’t be so glum.