“it always seems impossible until it’s done” – Nelson Mandela
How exciting! Finally, you get to experience first hand what it will take to be a teacher and make a lasting impression on the lives of children.If your emotions are rising and you are feeling overwhelmed before you even step into the classroom, don’t worry,relax. Go grab a cup of tea and a biscuit, come back and I will share all the advice that helped me get through this stage of my teaching journey.
First thing I would like to say is don’t be afraid to start a week or two in advance. It really will make life so much easier. It will help reduce stress and raise your energy levels when you begin. If you get an opportunity to speak with the class teacher before you start, grab it with both hands. They can guide you towards strands that need to be covered and give you a bit of insight towards the class.
Tip: I like to make a checklist of all the tasks I have to complete before I begin. Headings such as planning, research and folder organisation should be at the top of your list.
Planning can seem a daunting task for those who have never planned a lesson, let alone a fortnight plan of lessons or a Cúntas Míosúil. I would suggest pick a theme that interests you. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and use your own creative style in your lessons. This will help you stand out. Your lessons will need to integrate with one another so make sure you pick a theme that will enable you to do so with ease.
Note: You are allowed to share lesson plans with your fellow student teachers. Once you make it your own on paper and in the classroom, it is perfectly ok. Make sure you document what worked well for you, what didn’t, what you might change in the future.
Themes I have used and enjoyed in the past were:
We are what we eat
Stories People Tell
Once you have picked you theme it is time to put in a bit of elbow grease.
I like to do a lot of research for my lesson plans. I always begin by opening the planning tool on the ncca website, click here to open the page. I choose the strands and strand units I want to teach and mark them out. This is a fantastic tool. I highly recommend using it.
Once I have done this, I start my google engine and look for interesting ways to bring my classroom alive.
At last you have started and get into your own rhythm, it will become like second nature to you. It will take time at the beginning, don’t rush it. An hour or so later (possibly 3 or 4) your planning should be completed. An instant sense of relief will overcome you, embrace it and make it last as more is now to come:). Congratulations! You have made it past the first, and in my opinion, the most important hurdle.
Tip: Your weekly, fortnightly, monthly or termly plan (whichever you are required to create) is a working document. When you complete a lesson, tick it off and date it. If you need to extend a lesson, change a lesson or have an idea for improving a lesson, write it down either directly on the document or as I prefer, on a post it note which I place on the appropriate page. Not only will this help you with your future planning it will definitely aid you in getting some brownie points with your inspector as you are working directly with your plans and it is immediately noticeable.
Next, I would recommend focusing on finding or creating your resources. Please, do not leave it to the last minute, resources can take time to create and source and you will add un-necessary pressure to an already stressful few weeks. Where your resource folder is concerned I would recommend that you section it off by subjects, and have them in order by date, most recent to the front. If the resource is bulky, for example laminated sheets, clothes, play groceries etc… keep them in a separate box nearby and easily accessible for your inspector. An alternative option is to photograph the items used, print them out, date the page and place in the corresponding section in your folder. I used this method for my final teaching practice and it saved a lot of space and un necessary clutter in the classroom.
Tip: Always date your resource sheets. I cannot stress the importance of this enough.
An essential note would be to purchase a printer that allows you to change the cartridge colours separately. Invest in a good printer, you will be depending on it, and you don’t want to be printing the night before and suddenly it breaks. I personally like HP Printers as they are reliable and the ink is affordable. This printer is available at Argos at a reduced price. Argos are great for deals on printers throughout the year, so keep your eyes peeled.
Another must buy will be your laminator and paper cutter. I wouldn’t recommend spending too much on your laminator. There really is no need. €20 to €30 is enough.
Key Tip: The best places to purchase your laminating sheets are Write Away (next to Smyth’s Toys in Cork City) writeaway.ie or Aldi. You can get 100 laminating sheets for around €5.Bargain!
I am lucky enough to have a forward thinking and extremely thoughtful mom. She purchased my first ever paper cutter and honestly it saved me so much time. Not only does it save your thumb, when it comes to cutting out your resources it is so much better than an scissors as it gives you a clean, straight cut every time.
One last thing I would recommend in preparation for resource making would be to purchase enough white paper, coloured card, a good scissors, a good stapler, some pritt-stick and glitter glue.
I loved organising my folders. I bought two A4 Lever Arch Folders in different colours so they were easy to distinguish, not only for myself but for the inspector too. I kept the colours neutral. I did opt for a purple and a beige folder for my final tp, however they were not vibrant.
Key Tip: I would recommend purchasing these dividers. I was complimented on the organisation of my folder by all my inspectors. They loved the clarity and easy access .
These dividers are only €2.99 and are available in Write Away or Easons. They are basically polly pockets with plastic tabs. Each tab comes with a cardboard cut out for you to label each divider clearly and insert securely to the coloured tabs. These dividers really are number one in my opinion as they stick out slightly over your sheets. Amazing!
I did print out title pages for each divider and pasted the college logo for added clarity. I did this for both folders.
So there you have it. My introduction to preparing for yourself for teaching practice. I hope it has helped give an insight into what to expect.