Meeting My “First Year Self”

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working with a group of student teachers and a few new relief (substitute / casual) teachers, and been given ample opportunity to reflect on my early career experiences. I still have vivid (painful) memories of my student teaching practical experiences, and remember how I graduated from university in 2008 with high hopes and a completely unrealistic sense of my readiness to teach.

It is hard for my current colleagues to believe that the eccentric relief teacher that they see now was the epitome of the ‘angry young man’ just a few short years ago. Nevertheless, it’s true. It took me years to accept that my university had not properly prepared me for the profession, and that teaching was a much harder, more savage profession than I’d ever imagined.

This is my fifth year ‘on the road’, although I’m only just entering my fourth year of teaching (in terms of days worked). I’ve yet to have a class of my own, despite spending three months in a school (an unpleasant story with unexpectedly positive outcomes). It has been an interesting journey, but despite all the setbacks and disappointments, I’m actually a better person for it. And besides, with most graduates quitting within three years, I’m one of the survivors.

I’ve come a long way

I am a different person, a different teacher than I was just a few short years ago.

It has taken me over four years to feel competent, to feel like that I actually know what I’m doing. Yes, I make my mistakes, but I’m making fewer of them … Yes, I still struggle to manage some classes, but I have a better classroom management toolkit and approach to help me get through the difficult situations. And perhaps most importantly, with an extensive national and international education network, I no longer feel angry, isolated, and alone.

So, as I reflect on my pre-service and early career teaching experiences, I found myself mentally composing the advice I wish I’d been given all those years ago. For those of you about to graduate your teacher training, and those starting out in our profession, this is for you.

 

First Year Teaching is Hell Hard.

 
cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by wakingphotolife:

Please don’t enter this profession with rose coloured glasses. Please don’t expect to easily get a teaching position in a good school, in a good class. Don’t expect to be the perfect, well organised competent classroom teacher from Day One …

Teaching is not an easy profession, and your first year will be, to put it mildly, hard slog. It is a matter of survival, resilience, and perseverance. The meetings, the dealings with parents (who can be difficult), the planning, the extracurricular activities, the classroom management challenges … and the list goes on.

It is easy to be disillusioned, isolated, and alone as a new teacher, particularly when you’re a relief teacher or new graduate in a ‘horror’ class. Research shows that virtually all new teachers go through a process of survival, disillusionment, and rejuvenation, although some people take longer to go through a phase than others.

Image via http://www.weac.org/professional_resources/new_teacher_resources/beg_handbook/phases.aspx

(Image source:  http://www.weac.org/professional_resources/new_teacher_resources/beg_handbook/phases.aspx. BTW, I highly recommend the Survival Guide at this link)

As a relief teacher, I didn’t have the support network that most new teachers have when they’re posted to a school. I was lucky that I had a few schools which were willing to forgive my horrific management mistakes, and give me the teaching experience I so desperately needed.

I am indebted to those relief coordinators who gave me a chance to learn and improve, who didn’t ‘spit me out’ after one or two days in their school. I went through some very traumatic experiences, yet I was one of the luckier ones, as I wasn’t stuck in a horrible class or supportive school for my first year of teaching.

It isn’t really possible to adequately prepare for the challenges of first year teaching, but there are some strategies and resources you can access to help ease the transition.

 

Develop your PLN / support network BEFORE you graduate from your teacher training course!



cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Alec Couros

If I could go back in time and change one thing about my university teacher training, I would have started building my online support network as a first year teacher. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest teacher trainers should provide some information about online education networks and support communities as part of the first year teacher curriculum and graduate teacher programmes, as this would make a significant difference for many early career teachers.

My online support network has helped make me the teacher I am today. From providing emotional support behind the scenes through some of the most traumatic episodes of my career, to giving me the empowering chance to present at my first online conference, and to the ongoing collaboration that I contribute to, my online network has stood by me, and helped me grow over the past few years.

And remember, if you’re employed in a school community, don’t forget to develop your local support network as well. You’re not expected to know everything (although we often think we should), and don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues (teacher next door) for help and advice. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, as you can’t survive in this profession if you try to go it alone. You’re working to create a learning community in your classroom and school, so don’t be afraid to practice what you preach!

 

Engage in State/Union Graduate Teacher Professional Development opportunities. 

In Western Australia, I was lucky enough to be one of the few relief teachers to progress through the Education Department’s teacher induction programme. It is called different things in different states (see here for details) and different countries, but early career mentoring and professional development programmes are truly invaluable. You’d be truly mad not to participate if you’re eligible, and I was certainly glad I did so.

 

Try and maintain your health

This is vitally important, and something that I probably should have paid more attention to in my first few years. Eating healthily, aiming for regular exercise, and maintaining an outdoor hobby are critical to surviving first year teaching.

I must confess that while I became a skilled ballroom dancer during this time (it was my only social outlet), ignoring chronic stress-related health problems saw me end up in hospital. I know for a fact that I wasn’t the only first year teacher who went through this experience, and I can only stress that setting some time aside to look after yourself, however hard, is critical when you’re starting out in this very stressful, and time-consuming profession.

 

Document the Journey

As you progress in your career, there will be times where you will want to look back, and see how you thought and acted in your early years. In fact, I’m doing that now …

A private journal or blog is an essential medium for first year teachers. Believe it or not, it really, really helps to just take a moment to write down what you are doing, how you are feeling, and what you’re planning to work on. In my first year, I took a few hours each school holidays to sit and write, and what I wrote makes for interesting, if admittedly painful, reading.

In more recent years, this blog has replaced my journal, although I have always maintained a separation between the raw emotion of the journals & the more professional tone I use here. I’m not sure I could have publicly blogged my first year experiences, although I do know, and greatly respect those teachers who do so.

Keep hold of your dreams, passions, and reasons for entering teaching.

Each person comes into teaching for different reasons, and there will be times in your early career where you’d will be wondering if it is all worth it, whether you’re actually achieving anything, or making a difference.

Don’t let go of your dreams, find something to cling on to – through the good and the bad. If you’re lucky enough to discover a passion for something, hold on to it with both hands. Having a sense of purpose and direction makes a huge difference when you’re going through the rough times, and will help you stay in what is, at the end of the day, a wonderful profession.

Remember, you’re never alone. And you ARE making a difference.

 

Enjoy the ride

First year teaching will be a challenge, but it is just the beginning of what we hope will turn out to be an amazing journey. As I enter my fourth year of teaching, the painful memories and traumatic experiences have faded, replaced by the triumphs, successes, and positive learning experiences of the past two years.

They say “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”, and that seems to have defined my teaching journey. For all the highs and lows, I’m a better person, and a better teacher. I’m looking forward to an exciting future in my chosen profession, and can’t wait to discover where it will take me.

Yes, I may not have (yet) had my own class, or a school to truly call home. Yet, I’m a teacher, and I’m proud of it.

All that remains is to wish my student-teacher and first year colleagues ‘good luck’ for your future. You have the potential to become great teachers, and I look forward to working with you in the years to come. Welcome to teaching.

 

Life is full of surprises

Over the course of this year, I’ve made some amazing connections through this blog, including some unexpected connections with local Western Australian relief (substitute) teachers.

Relief teaching can be a lonely profession. To the best of my knowledge, there are only a handful of relief / substitute teacher bloggers, yet I’ve discovered that there are quite a few reading my blog.

Flickr CC-NC-SA Image by Todd Berman

 

I know my content has evolved significantly over the past (nearly two) years,, a reflection perhaps of the “Journey” mentioned in the title, yet my musings on relief teaching and classroom management continue to drive most of my blog traffic.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I was contacted by several relief teachers, and one recently graduated teacher, working right here in Western Australia. We’ve corresponded via email and Twitter; swapping ideas, sharing experiences, and supporting each-other behind the scenes.

It’s a beginning

We may work in a lonely profession, but there is a wonderful opportunity for us relief and substitute teachers to share, connect, and collaborate virtually, and maybe later, face-to-face. We all have a story to tell, and it is time we started sharing them.

It has taken several years for my work to start attracting attention here in Western Australia, and while my work is well known internationally, these local connections are something I particularly treasure. I know I’m not alone, and I look forward to becoming further involved in the growth of my local education networks.

We live in interesting times.

Twitter™ for Teachers

A very informative video for Twitter™ newbies like myself – I wish I’d found this earlier, as I contains many of the lessons I learnt by trial and error … as usual …

 

Twitter for Teachers

My First #EdChat

Today marked an important milestone in my ongoing efforts to build a Personal Learning Network via my blog & Twitter™.

At 8AM Perth time, I joined in an international #edchat conversation on the topic of participatory / inquiry learning.

Following the conversation via Tweetdeck™ (for Google Chrome™), I started out by retweeting other teachers’ ideas, and throwing my own experiences / questions into the mix. I soon found myself conversing with several teachers (including a fellow Aussie in the US!) about rubric assessment, science teaching, and curriculum differentiation for seriously at-risk students.

I was really surprised with the intensity and quality of the Twitter™ #edchat conversation, and marvelled at teachers’ willingness to share their ideas, resources, and insights via their Personal Learning Networks.

Untitled


Twitter as a Professional Networking Tool

I’ve been using Twitter™ for less than a month, yet it has already started to transform aspects of my professional knowledge and practice. Aside from collating an incredible range of educational weblinks, I have found an empowering medium for sharing my ideas, and learning from experienced educators around the world. 

Twitter™ has made me a more collaborative teacher. I have always been happy to share my teaching resources & relief teaching materials with other teachers; which are generally ‘borrowed’ from, or politely shared by the amazing colleagues I meet on my relief teaching travels (See Learn to Steal on the Success in the Classroom Blog). Today, I had the opportunity to share my recent differentiated science project – Energy Sources Investigation (Year 6) with several teachers on the other side of the world … in America!


Twitter™ &
Me – Read, Learn, Reflect & Share

I have often said that relief / substitute teaching is an amazing professional development experience, as it enables me to explore & learn from other teachers’ practice. I now know, that when I eventually have my own class, I won’t lose the learning experiences and networking opportunities my day job provides.

I won’t feel so isolated, shut away … too busy to talk about teaching with my colleagues. I’ll have my PLN, which continues to grow day by day. For a graduate teacher, this is empowering and really exciting!

A big thankyou goes to @clivesir, @enrichingkids, @Edu_Traveler, @nykat, and @franklin_h, amongst others, who have actively supported my tentative forays into the online educator community.

Why not join me as I continue to read, learn, reflect and share via my online PLN?


Recommended Weblinks

Twitter for Teachers: A Guide for Beginners (Creative Education Blog)

Do Something: Twitter 101 (Stumpteacher Blog)

Connect to the World Through Twitter (Teacher Reboot Camp Blog)

Twitter as a Professional Development Tool (Social Media for Working & Learning Blog)

2010 – My Journey So Far

Well, 2010 has been an incredible year. It was a year in which I passed some significant milestones in my fledgling teaching career, and it was a year of immense, transformational change in my personal and professional life.

As my year draws to a close, I am finally starting to realise my aspiration to become a knowledgeable, connected, and reflective 21st Century educator.

Looking Back

I’ve learnt some valuable lessons this year –

  • Relief Teaching is a professionally and personally rewarding career option.
    • I have the freedom to experiment, develop a collegial network, collect resources, learn from my mistakes, and celebrate my successes.
    • I am now able to teach K-7, and work in a variety of Government, Independent, and Religious schools.
  • In my line of work, experience & a positive reputation mean a lot.
    • As I became a more experienced, and I hope, well-regarded relief (substitute) teacher, I noticed a dramatic increase in my work bookings over the course of the year.
    • This enabled me to actively experiment and improve my teaching practice, as I moved away from my relief ‘time-fillers’ to actually teaching and assessingstudents’ learning.
    • I am extremely grateful to those relief coordinators; (Hans, Deb, Sue, Jane, Cathy, amongst others), whose long-term support helped facilitate this empowering evolution in my teaching practice.
  • Writing merit-select job applications is an incredibly useful way to reflect upon and share your teaching practice with prospective employers.
    • On a personal note, I realised that while I can clearly articulate my practice through written mediums, such as my blog, I need to work on my ability to ‘sell’ myself in interview situations. Practice makes perfect, and I’ll have another go next year.
  • The Personal Learning Network (PLN) – Every teacher should have one
    • I believe the PLN is one of my greatest discoveries of my (short) career. I am an increasingly active member of the OzTeachers network, and have more recently realised the value of educational blogging and Twitter™ as professional learning tools.
    • My forays into this ‘connected’ world of global educators are still in their early days, and I will blog more extensively about this topic in 2011.

Image: ‘Arrival on my Way
http://www.flickr.com/photos/16230215@N08/4722297430

And Looking Forward …

While I don’t really know what 2011 will bring, I hope it will be a better, more productive year.

I enjoy my job. It is a wonderful feeling to walk into a school in the morning, and have students (and staff) greet you by name (or in my case, various derivations of it!). I hope I will have the opportunity to build upon the personal and professional relationships which I have worked so hard to foster during my relief travels in 2010.

I will also be working towards several important professional learning goals, which I have decided to share here –

  1. To continue to build my instructional toolkit; learning how to apply teaching and learning strategies, and reflecting upon my performance.
  2. To further investigate, and hopefully experiment with, the practical implementations of Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom.
  3. To build and contribute to my Personal Learning Network through my blog, Twitter interactions, and the “Blogs I Follow” via my RSS Reader.
  4. To revisit my First Steps™ informed literacy and numeracy planning approach, seeking feedback from experienced educators on my planned literacy block organisation model.
  5. To familiarise myself with the new Australian Curriculum, and rearrange my Curriculum Resource Bank (now containing over 4000 documents!) to reflect its’ structure and organisation
  6. To begin working towards my Accreditation to Teach Religious Education.

A New Year Begins …

Well, that’s it for A Relief Teacher’s Journey in 2010. I have quite a few posts in the pipeline, and I’ll be back to my regular blogging endeavours in January 2011.

I wish to thank all of my readers, around the world, for your readership & support over the past six months. A big thankyou goes to Veronica Chase (Substitutes FTW!) who made the first (and to date, only) comment on A Relief Teacher’s Journey. Also, thankyou to all my new Twitter™ followers – I look forward to talking to you next year.

I’ll be participating in the 2011 Edublogs™ Teacher Challenge, starting on Jan 10.

Happy New Year!

Image: ‘Happy New Year !!!

Forays into Upper Primary Science

As the Australian school year draws to a close, I have had the time to reflect upon and review my experiences teaching upper primary science during 2010.

March-May 2010 – Year 6/7 Science & Arts

Earlier this year, I replaced a science/arts teacher in a small independent Christian school in Perth’s southern suburbs. I taught Science and Art one day a week, working with a group of 20 students exhibiting a challenging range of literacy skills, learning difficulties and special needs. It proved to be a professionally rewarding relief assignment; one which required me informally plan, teach and assess students’ learning, rather than acting as a gloried (although well-paid) ‘babysitter’.

As a general rule, I tried to follow the absent teacher’s notes, in expectation of his imminent return. After discussing the situation with the regular classroom teacher; however, I increasingly drew upon my Curriculum Resource Bankand developing  ‘instructional toolkit’ to translate the teacher’s suggestions into more engaging learning activities.


A Professional Experiment – Modelling Concept Maps

On my first day, I was asked to complete a unit on the Human Body, implementing a (poorly written) blackline master test. In a personal first, I decided to model the use of a concept map to assist students’ test preparation. The results were rather surprising, as I detailed the next day in my reflective journal:

“After the recess break, students had to revise for a test on the human body. I experimented with modelling the use of a concept map as a revision tool; using different coloured markers to highlight the levels of detail.

I was surprised to find that the use of this strategy enabled one student, who finds writing very difficult [and has an undiagnosed learning difficulty], to share his significant knowledge of the topic.

He was later able to complete most of the test, despite taking twice as long as his peers.”

Flickr CC Image: ‘Science Activity – Ecosystems

Putting this in Context

Throughout the Graduate Teacher Professional Learning Program, an extremely valuable mentoring / support program for graduate teachers in Western Australia, our presenters have discussed how effective teachers have a toolkit of instructional strategies which they can use to support and assess student learning.

imageRather than using a strategy haphazardly, teachers can select a teaching strategy for a defined purpose, and use it to improve student learning outcomes. I believe this is an important aspect of ‘instructional intelligence’ (Bennett & Rolheiser, 2001), an area in which I have undergone significant professional growth over the past two years.

The seemingly trivial anecdote above marked the very first time I personally selected an instructional strategy with a clear learning purpose in mind (rather than following another teacher’s instructions).

Shortly afterwards, I recorded a professional learning goal to practice and evaluate my use of other instructional learning strategies in my relief teaching practice. As I will outline in my next post, I was extremely surprised and pleased with the results.

 

Reference

Bennet, B. & C. Rolheiser (2001). Beyond Monet: The Artful Science of Instructional Integration. Toronto: Bookation

 

Reflections on Classroom Management (Index)

My Experiences, Philosophy, & Reflections

  1. My Jigsaw Approach to Classroom Management
  2. The Conscious Competence Ladder (Skill Development)
  3. The Four Stages in My Teaching Practice
  4. Classroom Management – Summing Up

The 3 R’s of Effective Learning Environments

  1. Setting the Scene
  2. Overview of the 3 R’s
  3. Transforming a Year 3 class into a learning community
  4. The Third ‘R’ – Shared Responsibility for the Learning Process
  5. My experiences with the Third ‘R’

‘The Theory of Bumps’ (Bennett & Smilanich, 1994)

  1. The Key Principles
  2. Explanation & Suggested Strategies

The 3 Keys to Working with Challenging Students

  1. Introduction
  2. What is a “problem” or challenging behaviour?
  3. Part 1: Building Positive Relationships
  4. Part 2: The Classroom Learning Environment
  5. Part 3: The Teacher’s Attitude, Actions, & Management Approach
  6. Responding to Anger

Building Positive Relationships

  1. Small Talk: “From little things, big things grow”
  2. Relief Teaching – Chalk & Small Talk!
  3. Get Involved with Breakfast / Lunchtime Clubs
  4. The Importance of Active Listening

Top Tips for Teachers – Behaviour Management (Video)

Cracking the Hard Class

Giving Something Back: Mentoring Student Teachers

I excelled in my academic studies at university; however, as a result of my youthful inexperience, I always felt vulnerable and unprepared during my practical teaching experiences. While I had some excellent mentor teachers, on several occasions I found myself working with unsupportive, and in one case, overly critical teachers. One almost drove me to quit my teaching degree.

image_thumb24Now, many years later, I have come to love working with student teachers at various stages of their teacher-preparation courses.

I may be “just” a graduate teacher, but my diverse relief experience and engagement in professional learning has enabled me to meaningfully mentor several future teachers in the areas of classroom management, planning and instructional strategies.

Working with “Terry”

While I’ve worked with many student teachers over the past two years, one really sticks in my mind. I met “Terry” (not his real name), earlier this year, when he was about halfway through his 10 week second year teaching experience. To be honest, he resembled me on my final year school experience. This was not a pleasant memory.

Through our discussions, it became clear that Terry lacked confidence in his teaching ability, and seriously struggled with lesson preparation and behaviour management. Watching him teach, I could understand his supervisor’s critical performance assessment; however, I was not particularly impressed that no-one had taken the time to teach him practical strategies for improvement.

Through the course of the day, I explained some behaviour management strategies for gaining student attention and managing the who, what and when of lesson transitions. I was pleased to see Terry experimenting with a few strategies, although he needed to work on his consistency.

I also went through the stages of effective lesson planning; stressing the need for an explicit learning purpose and observable assessment criteria. While I don’t bide much by the excessively prescriptive lesson planning preformats student teachers are expected to use, I have learnt, through painful experience, that a clear lesson purpose and explicit criteria are key to effective teaching.

After school, I spent an hour helping Terry plan a maths lesson on fractions, painstakingly persuading him to halt his rush into calculating improper fractions with numbers. I taught him how to plan using the First Steps Number resources, and suggested ways to introduce and conclude his lesson.

While Terry seemed much more prepared for his ‘model’ lesson, I was unable to return to the school to see how he went. I would have appreciated some feedback; however, this experience helped me to clarify and translate my First Steps professional learning into real-world practice.

Professional Learning: A Two Way Street

I find these informal mentoring experiences personally and professionally rewarding, as I find myself becoming more confident in my own abilities and instructional practice as a result of sharing my professional knowledge with other teachers.

I once read that learning is enhanced when we teach someone else, and this has certainly proved true in my case. Teaching and learning is a two-way street. I learn from my more experienced colleagues, swap teaching resources, and support student teachers in areas of need. Now, I benefit professionally from sharing my learning journey with my Australian and international audience via A Relief Teacher’s Journey. It has been a truly empowering experience.

Cracking the Hard Class

As a relief teacher, I’ve come across many tough and extremely challenging classes, taught by graduate and experienced teachers alike.

Walking into, and taking control of the ‘hard class’ is one of the greatest challenges of my job, and I have learnt that there is no “one size fits all” approach. These classes are hard work, but most can be won over in time.

As I write this penultimate post on my classroom management approach, I thought I would share my experiences in a Year 4 class, in July 2010. Over the course of three days, I managed to take control of one of the most challenging class I have encountered as a relief teacher, marking a personal triumph of my first year.

Extract from my Reflective Journal (July 31, 2010)

This week, I spent my second and third day teaching the class. The first time was hell – students were generally unruly, refused to follow instructions, and I had the Principal dropping in at frequent intervals to ‘keep an eye’ on the situation. As usual in this school, I had not been warned that I would be teaching a really tough class. I left that day with a sore throat, almost losing my voice after raising my voice to excess.

On the second day I taught the class, I was surprised to find a number of students were actually excited to have me return. I wasn’t too impressed with having no work left for the two days, but I was much happier with the other (experienced) Deputy Principal, who properly prepped me for the class.

I found the students challenging, but not as bad as that first day. Working with the experienced teacher’s aide, I set out to teach some tried and tested relief activities and games, including Graffiti Walls (spelling) and a comic strip text innovation activity. I took an assertive management approach, insisting on every student’s individual attention, giving explicit instructions, and using the “hands up for quiet” signal.

On several occasions, I took the students outside the classroom for games. When they couldn’t line up without fighting and yelling at each other, I sent them back into class, and bluntly explained that their behaviour was completely unacceptable. They got the message … eventually.

The difference on the third day was amazing. I marvelled how I didn’t have to raise my voice, and at how much faster students responded to the “hands-up” signal. I did have to teach the class how to line up after Recess and Lunch, pulling a group of diehards out of line for a “chat”. Watching the class ‘perform’ for their Health teacher, I came to appreciate just how much better behaved they were for me.

I tried to make the activities interesting, and emphasised students’ sharing of their work with their peers. I also used the Find Someone Whostrategy for the very first time, marking the achievement of a recent learning goal. The students loved it, and even the shyer / more socially isolated students were able to get involved. Recognising that some students couldn’t read, I read through the items first, and encouraged them to ask for help if they weren’t sure. Sure enough, one did.

Marking students’ graffiti walls and comic strips at the end of the day, I was extremely impressed with some students’ efforts. I shared some of the funniest comics with the class, and kept a few for my records.

Drawing Parallels with a Year 7 “Class from Hell”

Leafing through my journal (Volume 1), I was struck with by the parallels with a class that ‘tore me to shreds’ in 2009, one of my worst ever teaching experiences. Comparing the management approach I took into these classes, I can see how much I have grown in this area.

The Keys to my Management Success

1) A confident assertive attitude and stance (body language is important)

2) Insisting on total compliance and attention prior to issuing instructions or explaining a learning activity. I also moved amongst students to ensure this happened.

3) Praising and rewarding the ‘allies’ – refusing to use collective punishment

4) Explicitly teaching (and if necessary) making students practice my expectations for their behaviour.

5) Using interesting learning activities

If you have a “class from hell”, it pays to be proactive, consistent, and persistent.

These classes are really hard work, but most can be conquered.

Celebrating my First Year of Teaching

Today marked the end of my first year of teaching.

I have awaited this day for a very long time, and it has come about through my work in 23 schools across the Government, Catholic and Independent school sectors.

first_year_of_teaching_tshirt-p235963430503565914q6vb_400

To commemorate this day, I thought I would share excerpts from my very first reflective journal entry, and publish my Top 5 list of First Year memories & special moments. Here goes:

My First Journal Entry: Week 8, Term 2 2009

“In the final days of my university degree, I recall my lecturer advising us to keep a diary or journal during our first year of teaching. She said that this record of our experiences would become a keepsake in later years. Now, as I begin my first entry, I hope that this marks the start of a more frequent reflection on my experiences. …

Over the course of my first 50 days of teaching, my conscious reflection on my teaching strengths and weaknesses has led to a remarkable transformation in my teaching style and confidence.

I won’t forget my first class, a Year 6 at [name removed], in any hurry. I replaced a graduate teacher (an old university colleague) whose father had died suddenly. The class was naturally unsettled, and their relief teacher was a nervous wreck. These two factors ensured a rather ‘interesting’ day, and I even walked out the wrong entrance on my way home!

As the weeks went by, I was gradually exposed to more schools, and started implementing my pet astronomy project. I encouraged my classes to write to NASA and the Perth Observatory as part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

This activity generated a lot of discussion and interest, and [name removed] did eventually receive a reply from NASA. In hindsight, I would have planned the activity more thoroughly, contacting astronomers and observatories to find people willing to engage in the project. As my relief activity repertoire grew, I ultimately abandoned this activity.

As Term 1 turned into Term 2, I spent a significant amount of time working at [name removed]. I am grateful to the staff and students of this school, who have supported and stimulated my professional growth in the areas of behaviour management, fitness games, and as a facilitator of student learning. “

As I look back on my early journal entries, I can see the incredible personal & professional transformation I have undergone in my first year of teaching.  I am no longer a “nervous wreck”, and have vastly improved classroom management and relief teaching skills.

Remembering the terrible stress & exhaustion of my early days, I am grateful for the opportunities & professional growth relief teaching has afforded me.

I’m on a journey, and its’ been one hell of a ride!