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April 26, 2016

Update from newly qualified teacher Antoinette McGuinness

This year has truly passed by in a whirlwind so far. With so many different initiatives in my school including a school musical, my first year in the classroom is flying by and I’m enjoying every minute.

The most important piece of news to report is that I’m finally dipped! I got my first inspection in February. It was definitely a long time to wait for a first visit (since September), but it was a huge relief to finally get the feedback I was waiting for. Spending every weekend planning for a visit is exhausting, and does really take its toll. That first visit is so important as first impressions are made – but once the inspector sees that you’ve established good classroom routines, have a comprehensive assessment folder, good long term and weekly plans, and most importantly, that you’ve forged a good relationship with the class, he/she will be impressed you’re doing a great job. Remember they are not looking for perfection and are fully aware you are new to teaching.  I was lucky enough to get good feedback (and critiques), and the second visit which happened only four weeks later felt like a formality. Finally I’m dipped and it feels wonderful, I can now plan for my class in a more focused way, without worrying about what I think the inspector might be looking for!

In November, the dreaded parent teacher meetings loomed. I was actually surprised they were so early in the year, and I worried I hadn’t properly connected with each of my 31 students enough to give a comprehensive report to parents.  Naturally I was dreading them. Something I found very useful was I got the children to complete a worksheet asking them how they believed they were doing in each subject area prior to the p/t meetings. This gave me great insight into the child’s particular area of concern and also of confidence. To couple this information with my own knowledge of the child’s development (both socially and academically) allowed for a more holistic report for parents.  I was definitely able to have a more meaningful conversation with parents as any underlying issues the children may have had in a particular area came to light.

Since September, I’ve definitely learned that as a teacher, being intuitive is vital. You must be tuned in to the children's mood and engagement, and tweak the lessons accordingly! If I sense the kids are really engaged in a lesson and grasping a new concept I run with the lesson a little longer than I had scheduled. The flip side is also true, if they are not focused, tired or giddy, I'll cut it short and do a suitable transition, like a song or game to energise and focus them, or mindfulness breathing to calm them down, depending on the situation. Intuition is key. Trust your instinct!

It’s now April and I’m very happy to report that not only am I still in one piece, but I’ve actually had an absolutely fantastic journey since September when I first met my class (who I adore).

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