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September 27, 2016

“School is much more than just teaching your subjects” - JP Foley, Post Primary graduate

Four years ago I was working in Financial Services. It was a good job, but somehow I felt unfulfilled by it. I needed to change. This brought me to teaching. It was a risk to change career, but looking back, I have no doubt that my decision to take the plunge and change has been worth it. Here are a few of my observations and experiences of the past three years.

Teaching jobs are hard to come by. I advise PME students to see their teaching placements as an audition for a real job with the school. It is easy to get caught up in the thoughts of lesson plans, evaluations and visits and to spend every spare minute focused on course work. Yes, this is very important for you personally, but a school is a workplace, and it is also important to show that you are willing to integrate with other staff and not just focus on your own needs. Get involved with extracurricular activities and take your head up out of the laptop to have a chat with other staff at breaks or lunch. From my experience, the Principal and staff are always keen to help, but they will also want to see the person you are, not just how smart you are.

To further emphasise this point, I am now in my second year working my own hours in the school where I completed my final teaching placement. I was a total stranger to the staff when I started my placement, but I made sure I got involved and made friends with the staff through social and sporting events. When it came to the interview process for the job in the school, the staff were recommending me for the position and the Principal contacted me personally to make sure I was available. I appreciate that this is lucky, but by networking and getting involved in school activities, you can make your own luck.

My first year teaching involved my own hours and covering a maternity contract. I was working a full timetable almost immediately. Was it stressful? Honestly, at times yes. I had two exam years and the pressure associated with finishing the sixth year course and preparing them for the Leaving Certificate. It was important to acknowledge the stress and pressure I felt. Again, at times like this, having a good relationship with colleagues is important. They were a great support and assured me I was doing a good job. This is something that it is easy to forget if you have a bad lesson. This can happen, and it is important to acknowledge it, learn from it and move on.

Your role as a teacher is about so much more than just teaching your subjects. In my first year teaching, I was an acting tutor for a first year group; I was also involved in after school computer coding; a second year trip to Italy as well as various field trips and a sleep out to raise awareness for homelessness.

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