When I did my PGCE to train as a secondary teacher, I had to spend 2 weeks in a primary school as part of my course. At the time, this scared me far more than any formal observations, even more than Ofsted!
I turned up on my first day, looked down and already I had about 10 children attached to me! I was in my early 20s, enthusiastic and passionate about a teaching career, but maternal I was not, so I was not comfortable with these small people invading my space!
15 years later I spend the majority of my teaching time in primary schools. I love it to bits but as I fell into my current post almost by accident I’ve had to do a lot of learning on the job and have made (and continue to make) many mistakes along the way. I feel like I’ve had a total career change some days so I thought I’d share 10 things I wish I’d known before I took that leap…!
1. You are your main resource! As a secondary school teacher, I used lots of PowerPoint and visual resources in addition to the obvious auditory resources as a music teacher. Most primary school children are still learning how to read and write and as a secondary teacher I took these vital skills for granted. Even in Key Stage 2 many are still learning these skills. Don’t get me wrong, I still use other resources, but I don’t rely on them like I used to.
2. The children are capable of far more than you think they will be. When I was the Lead Teacher for my subject across the County, the pace and challenge in my lessons was often praised. Since working in a primary school however, I’ve started to question whether there was actually enough challenge in what I was doing. I frequently get wowed by the work the children can produce and by the creativity of their little minds. I have on occasions given children extension activities that I would have given to Key Stage 3 children and they usually rise to the challenge.
3. Hormones have a lot to answer for! This links in with the previous point really. Inihibitions are not something we are born with, rather something that we learn. Sadly, by the time children move up to secondary school they are already ingrained. Add to that mix the inevitable hormones and suddenly creativity and flair, two buzz words that feature in the highest levels of attainment in many subject areas become a very rare commodity. This is quite possibly the thing I love best about working with younger children – it’s cool to be clever and they will feed off your every word embracing new ideas with enthusiasm, eager to please!
4. You will always know how you really look. Just this morning I walked into school and a Year 1 child commented to her friend “Ooh, Miss has got a new bag!” However this was preferable to a class I was teaching last year whilst I had some eye problems resulting in severe eczema around my eyes – the second I walked in I was greeted by a unison “What’s happened to your face, Miss?!” If you wear the same outfit 2 days in a row it’ll be noted. If you spill anything down yourself it’ll be announced to everyone and if you make a fashion faux pas you’ll be told. Don’t ask your partner what they think, just take your class shopping with you (could you imagine?)!
5. Never bank on your teaching space remaining exclusively yours. You know how annoying it is when you’re in the middle of a lesson and a member of your class is called out to go and do something else? That’s nothing! Don’t think that just because you’ve been told to take a lesson in a particular room with a particular set of children that this stands for the whole lesson. If you’re in the middle of recording a song, don’t be alarmed if another class come in and decide to make pancakes around you. Be prepared to react to anything as if it’s a little unusual, it might be a first for the little faces in front of you – embrace it!
6. Children have far better memories than you will ever have. This one speaks for itself. Children remember everything. EVERYTHING. On the plus side, you never need to worry if you’ve forgotten something about the last time you saw the class because you’ll be the only one who has!
7. You won’t share the same sense of humour. Banter is one thing I really miss about being in secondary schools full time. You get to know your classes as individuals and have running jokes. I’m getting there but subtle jokes are completely lost and that’s my natural default when it comes to humour. It’ll only work if it is literally spelt out but then you are the funniest person ever!
8. Never underestimate the power of stickers! I have so many to choose from now. Stickers give you power, especially if they are unique to you. I was doing so well with stickers, until last week when I colleague of mine brought in smelly stickers! Now I’ve been gazumped, even my own children have ditched me for scented sticker lady!
9. Think very carefully before you ask if anyone has any questions! This is clearly tongue in cheek, but I try really hard to preempt any potentially genuine questions because you would not believe the questions that children can come up with. Last week I was teaching Samba to a group of children and the first question I got asked was “Why is your daughter 8?!” Luckily I had another enthusiastic member of the class who quickly answered for me: “Because she used to be 7!”
10. Never wear sparkly shoes! My sparkly shoes are great! They’re flat, slipper like inside and so versatile. Perfect for a job where you’re on your feet every day. Unless you have Reception at which point they seem to switch on magnetic qualities – suddenly I have children at my feet. Some just want a feel, but most want those sparkles. They want them so badly that they will go to any length to detach them from my shoes! It’s just not worth it – go and buy a new pair of shoes – that’ll get noticed just as much!
This is a re-blog post originally posted by Off the Classroom Wall and published with kind permission.