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!

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.

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!

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.

Called to Interview

After painstakingly writing, re-writing and printing twenty-three applications to date, I have received my first invitation for an interview. Interestingly, the school rang me before they sent me a letter, to make sure that I was still interested in the position (for fear I would have managed to secure another job in the week between sending that application and getting the call!). As you can imagine, I was ecstatic, jumping for joy, telling the kids I was minding like it was big news, which I suppose it was. Even the fact that they didn’t believe me when I told them couldn’t dampen my mood. I was happy out until about eight o’clock that evening, at which point panic began to set in. Who would be in there? What kind of questions would they ask? Would they ask sneaky ones? And most importantly – WHAT WILL I WEAR?! So I began my preparation by going over the notes I received from Education Interview Hub’s seminar – which I would highly recommend going to, by the way – and started adding in little notes for myself. Next, I went searching on the wonderful World Wide Web for some inspiration. Educationposts.ie has a list of questions that you can write out the answers to and some of the teaching bloggers have posted about interviews as well, with some even giving their answers. I wouldn’t recommend copying anything they say though. If you’ve copied their answers, chances are someone else will have as well and the two of you will end up looking like a complete numpties.

Yesterday, I went shopping for clothes for the interview, shamed by the many articles on the internet which advise that Penneys and Dunnes just don’t cut it. I went to Next first, but as a petite lady, I found nothing in there that looked right on me. Next, I went to Wallis and was pleasantly surprised at their range of petite office-style attire. I picked up a nice black trousers and a pair of shoes that looked fairly fancy. I got a cardigan in Dorothy Perkins – also petite, as I found it impossible to find a blazer (even in the petite section) that didn’t make me look like I had borrowed a friend’s one that was too big for me. From this I have learned several things:

  1. Buying interview clothes in the summer is hard as everything seems to be see-through and flowy – start looking in the Christmas Sales and go from there.
  2. Along the same lines as no.1, don’t wait until you get called for interview to get your clothes, it’ll cheer you up if you’re hearing nothing back and you’ll feel prepared when you do.
  3. Research petite/tall/plus-size ranges in shops BEFORE you go, it saves time.
  4. Take someone sensible with you for advice – I went alone and found myself wishing I had my friend with me for moral support as much as clothing advice.

Marie.