On Probation – Early Thoughts

A term and a bit in to teaching in a Scottish secondary school, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it so far. I had a year with my own classes in Japan before I started my PGDE, so that’s probably made the transition a bit easier than it may have otherwise been. I often felt frustrated during my student year that I felt obliged to teach classes in the style of the teacher I was taking over from. There was also the nagging thought that, if I was to get on the wrong side of the wrong person, then I wouldn’t pass. Having more autonomy this year has made life a little bit less stressful.

I would say that the workload is certainly manageable. Not teaching a full timetable obviously helps. Even so I think you have to make time for yourself at evenings and weekends. The work is potentially endless, and the line has to be drawn somewhere. Teaching in Japan has also offered perspective. Teachers there will work 12 hour days 6 days a week routinely, and have only a few weeks off each year. I think of what my old colleagues would say if they heard me moaning about my lot over here!

In terms of the day to day in the classroom, I thoroughly enjoy it. There’s no formula, but varied lessons, treating the students with respect and being warm but strict are my starting points. I always try to remember what a privilege it is to be, literally, “teaching Scotland’s future” (!)

What I have found a little bit uncomfortable about this year is that, once it’s been established that you’re a competent teacher, the onus shifts to “extras”. With reference to securing the elusive permanent job, emphasis is placed on your communication, organisation and management of “whole school” activities. It does feel strange that, after a period of time where your classroom skills have been quite intensely developed and evaluated, you finally secure your place in the teaching profession by what you achieve outside of the classroom.

I’ve mentioned this elsewhere before, but I do feel that teaching (at least in the UK) is quite an unusual profession in that, for your entire career, you can feasibly never see anyone else doing the same job as you! I guess the transition to full time employment is the beginning of that. Employers have scant information on what teachers can do in the classroom so have to select people based on other factors.

From the point of view of a probationer, it’s a difficult situation because you sometimes feel as if the best way to get along is to devote a disproportionate amount of your time to extracurricular activities and just keep things ticking over in the classroom. I’m pretty sure that’s not what the probation year was intended to be. It is, after all, a dedicated teacher training programme. When I finally look back on my probation year, I imagine that being able to strike the balance between what I did inside and outside the classroom will have been the greatest challenge.

More to follow later in the year….

1 thought on “On Probation – Early Thoughts

  1. Paul Cochrane

    Thank you for that interesting perspective Callum. I have certainly been on panels for appointment where you get the dreaded discussion, ‘I know X was better but look at what Y has offered the school, taking football teams, discos and trips galore…’ Imnteresting to read other people’s views.

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