I remember my Dad telling me when I passed my driving test that now I could start to learn to drive. At 18, I knew it all and was rather miffed that he thought I now wasn’t the world’s best driver. A few weeks later, my first crash proved him right, and experience has taught me more about driving than the mechanics of the process I learned for the test.
I am already realising that the same is true of teaching. I’ve passed the official PGCE ‘test’ but my NQT year is where the real work starts, gaining the experience of doing so many things I didn’t do on the course, and beginning to learn to teach.
This week I have been into my new school for three days to set up my own classroom for the first time. It has been exciting and terrifying all at once. Fortunately, I had my NQT mentor (the Head) and Deputy Head on hand to help. The first piece of advice they gave me was to put all the furniture in the middle of the room. This helped me to find all the rubbish that was secreted underneath the cupboards and behind the bookcases, and let me see the room without any pre-conceptions of where furniture should go. With my children helping, this didn’t take too long and then the staring began. I had no idea where to put anything! There was too much choice! Paralysed by indecision, I retreated into going through all my cupboards and sorted out the paper from the schemes of work and random keys that don’t fit in any doors.
In a pattern that then ran through the next three days, our Deputy showed up at just the right time, and offered suggestions of what could go where and why. She listed the boards that I would need – reading, literacy, numeracy, RE, SEAL. When I looked like I couldn’t choose between any of the options, she said, let’s just try one and you can change it later. Eventually, it dawned that the choices I make now are not irreversible and once I accepted that I just needed to start and try something out, the pressure to get it all right first time was off and I could get on!
The next piece of good advice, was to concentrate on one area at a time and get it finished. So I started on my numeracy area, getting the backing up, sorting my resource drawers out, finding out what resources I had missing by going into my colleague’s beautifully organised year 3 room and riffling through her drawers! Next I tackled the literacy area and then the book corner.
It took me ages to put the tables out, going round with a chair and trying to see if I could see the whiteboard with some writing on it at 28 pt from all the tables. I’ve promised my daughters that they can come and test if children can get in and out of all the seats for me next week! I’m not sure they are right, but they are probably the easiest thing to move and the hardest thing to know where to out. I have a really big room, but the whiteboard is on a side wall, making it difficult to see from the whole room which will limit where the tables go. I’ve 33 year 4 children to fit on the carpet, so I’m sure that will take up much more space than I think!
Deciding on backing colours for the display boards was really difficult. I was very influenced by how my Head’s year 6 classroom looked at the end of last term. The rooms had been recently decorated and so she tried a new scheme, leaving more blank wall space and using toning colours on the backing and boarders (e.g. pale yellow backing with deep yellow boarder) . The colours were quite muted and the room felt spacious and calm. So I am trying hard to stick to a single dominant colour in each area, mostly blue in the maths area, mostly lilac in the literacy etc.
I will post photos of the finished room next week, there is still plenty to do – a lot of labelling and laminating, but I am getting there. There is a it trip to Ikea on the cards for pots and plastic boxes!
Finally a quick list of what I did (to remind me for next year!):