Catch Up Post – Part 1 – Teachmeet Student Edition

Going to try and catch up with some blog posts that never made it out of the ‘good intentions’ stage of development whilst I have some elusive “spare time”. Thought I would start with the student version of TeachMeet organised by David Muir on 9th June in the University of Strathclyde.


First of all, I need to talk about the organisation of this particular event, which I was very impressed with. After his initial mooting, David had some rather more pressing issues to deal with and found himself up against it in the time to event/amount of work to do ratio. And that’s when the magic happened. Within days, there was an almighty collaborative effort to organise the event. Educators from across Scotland came together to help – publicising the event on websites, booking the Flashmeeting, sourcing sponsorship and – the bit that most impressed me – organising themselves to get in touch with all the local authorities asking if they could forward an e-mail on to their NQTs. This involved collaborative Google Documents being created, accessed and updated and really gave me an insight into the potential for their use. In the end, it all came together nicely, and a more than respectable number of people turned up to a very nice venue in the McCance building. Crowd-sourcing at it’s finest.

Then came the day itself. Far from managing to arrive early to help David with set-up, events at school transpired to make me late, and as a result I was about an hour late arriving. All was not lost however, as I was able to communicate and keep track of what was going on by following Twitter on my mobile (yes, yes, a mobile, not an iPhone…). Naturally the mischievous Fruit Machine had picked me to speak before I arrived, but I was kindly given time to gather my thoughts (and a couple of beers) whilst David Noble and Gordon Brown (no, not that one) gave their presentations. When it was my turn to speak, (I’ll give a quick summary of what I said at the end of this post) I clattered through my ramblings in a reasonable fashion although watching my performance on the FM replay I’m sad to say that whilst I had improved since the last presentation I gave, I still suffered from a mild dose of the ’emmmmm’s. Another problem was that I experienced a wardrobe malfunction during my presentation, where my shirt ended up looking like a tent from side on (the problem’s with the shirt, not my gut – did you see that? ;-p) Nevertheless, my experiences seemed to be well received and I even managed to survive a dose of virtual heckling from Ollie Bray and Andrew Brown (when I say survive, it was more like a complete lack of awareness….).

I managed to miss most of John Daly‘s presentation whilst calming myself back down from all the excitement, but a convenient refreshment break helped me regain my focus for the other presenters, and was suitably impressed by all the contributions I saw. I particularly liked Krysia Smyth ‘s comment during her talk that “it worked, and that’s what mattered” echoing many of my own classroom sentiments!

A special mention has to go to the students and probationers who gave presentations during the evening. I don’t know that I would have had the bottle to stand up and do it at that stage in my career – I nearly didn’t have the bottle at this stage in my career! I also got the feeling that there may have been a three-line whip operating somewhere up in Glasgow University judging by the attendance, and it certainly helped make the night such a success having so many attendees from the ‘target demographic’! Good work whoever!

The evening finished with the now-obligatory TeachEat at Khublai Khan’s which was an overwhelming success for everyone in social if not culinary terms (you choose the ingredients, so you only have yourself to blame…).

The Presentation

Creating my presentation was actually a really worthwhile experience, allowing me the chance to look back at my probationary year with the luxury of having a bit of detachment from it. I soon found that 7 minutes isn’t a long time – I could have spoken for 77 minutes on the subject, although probably nobody would have been listening! – and had to think carefully about what I was going to say and what I would have to cut out. I eventually settled on 5 things and thought with a minute on each and a bit of intro/outro that’d be the 7 minutes done. Some themes quickly emerged and, as a result I called my presentation “Rolling with the Punches, and Seizing the Day”. If you were there, I hope you enjoyed it.

Roll with the Punches

1 – YOU WILL MAKE MISTAKES – Accept this now. Some of them will be small, and some of them will be big. Don’t try and hide them – everyone makes mistakes – but do make sure that you learn from them. Try not to repeat my gaffe of sending all your p7s home with a piece of journalism with the word ‘b@5t@rds’ in it to read for homework. Oops.

2 – DO NOT PANIC ABOUT JOBS – First of all, shouldn’t you worry about getting through probation first? And take some time to appreciate what you do have – a guaranteed post for a year. It’s not so long ago everyone was doing probation via the alternative route, it just wasn’t called that then! Make the most of your probation year, which you won’t if you are constantly stressing about what happens next. There’s not really anything concrete you can do until after Easter anyway, so just enjoy what you are doing for a while.  That said, jobs aren’t easy to come by, although they’re not as hard to find as the doom-mongers in the press would have you believe. Don’t apply for evey vacancy you see unless you absolutely have to – what if you end up with a job you don’t want, and have missed out on one that you do want as a result? Don’t waste your time sending out a ‘standard’ application for jobs – have a template by all means, but you need to tailor each application to the particular  job you are applying for.  Focus on facts and give examples from your experience for each thing you say.

Seize the Day

1 – YOU WILL NOT NEED TO SEEK OUT OPPORTUNITIES – Just through being in post, opportunities will come along. You will however need to recognise them. Offer your skills by all means, but don’t try and steamroller your way in or take over things that are already happening – ‘gradient in’ your assistance. Look for areas where there are gaps that you could help fill whether they are in your field of expertise or not. See opportunities not problems – if you can do something, do it; if you have to do something, make the most of it.

2 – INVEST IN YOUR CAREER – It’s your career after all, so take some control. It could be money (paying for a course yourself, buying some resources you need or subscribing to some tool that you want to use) or it could be time ( after school coaching, lunchtime club). Think of it as an investment – although you are giving something back, you will benefit from it. Apart from anything else, pupils know the enthusiastic teachers and the ones who care and those are the ones they like. Getting them onside can make things way easier for yourself in the classroom. Also, these kinds of things are noticed by SMT, and will be remembered when it’s time to write your report!

Also, invest patience in your career – it is a career after all! You don’t need to do everything today, this week, this month or even this year! Keep some of your tinder dry, plus focussing on a few things at a time will help you get most benefit from them

3 – LEARN TO SAY “ENOUGH” (AND MEAN IT) – Teaching is a job that is never ‘finished’ – how can anyone be ‘finished’ learning? As a result of this, you could teach for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 (.25) days a year, and you still wouldn’t ‘get it all done’. With the pressures of deadlines, tests, assignments, profiles it can be too easy to let your job take over your life and turn you into a 24-7 teacher (in a bad way). Keep time for yourself, and listen to your friends (particularly non-teaching friends) and your family if they are telling you to rein it in a bit – you won’t make it through without their support. Remember – you won’t perform to your best ability if you are too wound up.

Think that covers the main points.


  1. I liked the special mention for all probationers!

    Were you there for my presentation? I have a hazy memory of before and directly after due to the intense feeling of needing to vomit!

    I remember yours and Stuart’s in particular. It was good to have someone discuss what goes on and it makes you realise that you’re not alone and that everyone feels the same! Have to say this isn’t my favourite line: “…not as hard to find as the doom-mongers in the press would have you believe…” Apart from that however, a good post based on a good presentation!

  2. Thanks for the comments you two!

    Think I was barreling up the stairs of the McCance building having sprinted through town as you were finishing Cassie, and I definitely missed Stuart’s. Of course, given that I currently have access to superfast broadband, I can go and check you both out on the FlashMeeting replay!!!!!

    It’s not as bad as the Press would have us believe, they’d make you think that nobody has got a teaching job of any description anywhere in Scotland for the last 3 years, although obviously things are particularly slow right now; during the holidays isn’t a very ‘active’ time. Wait till you see it all kick off in August………

  3. I really enjoyed your talk that night – I think the story about the homework piece will stay with me and be of great comfort whenever I make a mistake, which I assume will be often!

    I signed up for a slot and David accidentally left me off the list on the night.. I foolishly pointed it out to him! Glad I did though, because so many good things have come from it, which is proof that saying yes to opportunities is a very good thing; even if you’re a bit nervous about trying something new, you always learn something from it!

  4. I wasn’t entirely comfortable sharing the story – obviously! – but I think it’s important that people know that they aren’t the first one to make mistakes like that. ITE and the NQT year is such a pressurised situation, and you never *NEVER* hear anyone talking about making a mistake of such magnitudes. But it does happen, and people need to know that it does, and that it’s possible to get through them. I was ready to fall on my sword, but my HT told me not to be so stupid, to keep my head down and to get on with things. In the end up, never even heard anything about it. But I’ll never forget that feeling of absolute horror.

    Glad you reminded David, thought your presentation was really good – liked the tag team approach especially.

    And you’re right about saying Yes – just ask Danny Wallace!

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