This day 6 years ago I set up Irish Primary Teacher. I’m writing this blogpost as a reflection and think back over that time. It’s something I try to do regularly as a teacher and I try to do it every year on IPT’s birthday.
So here it is;
I was teaching in Brighton in the U.K. and had had a very tough year of teaching. It was my 3rd year out of college but teaching in the U.K. was a whole different ball game than teaching in Ireland. Although it was a tough year and there was so many moments where I questioned if I was a good teacher or if teaching was really the career I wanted, I also learned a huge amount of things from my experience there. I taught in 3 schools, the first was an absolute disaster. The school was in ‘special measures’ (after a recent Ofsted inspection) so it was a really tough environment. There was no support and everything was criticised. I’d arrive before 7.30am and I’d often be there until 6/7pm. The principal criticised every single thing, from displays to corrections, lessons, the children’s behaviour, even what I was wearing. (I once wore a pair of black trousers but they had a pocket in them which she deemed unsuitable.) I left the school after only 2 months, completely deflated and had no confidence in my ability as a teacher.
I subbed for a while and was then offered a 6 week contract in another school which was also in ‘special measures’ however a new principal had been appointed who was incredible. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching there (after a bit of a rough start as parents were very wary of me as their child’s teacher as there had been a different substitute every few days since September and this was January). I loved it there but as it was only a 6 week contract, I kept looking for positions elsewhere and got a job in a different school. I ended up staying in the second school for 10 weeks, and moved just after Easter (despite being offered a job and subsequently a permanent position in the second school.)
The third school was in a very disadvantaged area and there was no day without a major incident in my class. The staff were friendly and looked out for one another but day to day teaching was incredibly difficult. It took me a long time to learn how to manage the class – it was a very different environment than I had been used to and it took a huge amount of time to build up any kind of relationship with the children and their parents. After about 4 weeks, I began noticing different things that interested me and were a bit different to the way things were done in Ireland. I began to take photos of displays, resources, lessons and ideas and one evening I spoke to my boyfriend (now husband) about starting some sort of blog. English was never really my thing so I think we both kind of thought this would never last and no one would ever read it or be interested.
My first blogpost was on subbing, written on 3rd May 2014. (I loved polka dots even then) Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop. The blog was really only ever intended to be for me, a way to keep track of things, to share my thoughts/views/ideas. I genuinely never expected many people to read it. I definitely didn’t expect to have tens of thousands of followers.
Over the last 6 years, I’ve learned a lot as a teacher and also as the person behind Irish Primary Teacher. As I teach full time myself, I know the day to day challenges, the joys, the fun, the laughter and the stress. I’ve also taught in 9 different schools since I qualified so I have quite a varied experience. I’ve taught across a range of levels in Ireland and the U.K., I’ve worked as a mainstream and as a support teacher. I’ve been in really tricky situations and difficult teaching environments and I’ve worked with very difficult people. I’ve supported children in incredibly difficult circumstances and dealt with my fair share of tricky parents (as well as hundreds of really supportive parents too.) I also think having the blog gives me a unique insight into the real challenges that teachers face on a day to day basis. I receive hundreds of messages and emails every week looking for advice and support and so I’ve learned to think outside the box to work as an effective teacher and also to support other teachers around Ireland.
The stand out moments
While I never started IPT to gain followers or views and this is really not my focus. I do still celebrateI still celebrate significant numbers of followers or views on the blog. I still remember the first 100,1000, 10,000 views on the blog.The first followers on Facebook and Instagram. The excitement when I reached 100 followers was amazing and thankfully this has continued to grow. The most amazing thing for me is getting a message or email from a follower sharing their experience of using one of my resources or ideas. Thank you messages often make me cry and I think that it’s really so incredible when someone takes time out of their day to send a quick message to me.
Building the IPT website. I created the blogspot account in 2014 and moved to WordPress in 2015. I built the site myself (with a lot of Youtube tutorials), and I’ve made lots of changes over the years. I even managed to delete the whole thing one evening and had to rebuild from scratch.
Over the last year or two the big stand out moments would have to be reaching 10,000 followers on Instagram and getting the swipe up feature. Generally I don’t care about the number of followers but I really wanted that feature. I remember lying in bed and being 2/3 away from it and jumping up when I get 10,000 and running around the house celebrating. It sounds silly but it was so exciting to think that 10,000 people were enjoying what I was doing.
Reaching 1,000,000 views on my blog
Recording a podcast with Seán Delaney (Inside Education). I was so honoured to be asked to record a podcast. I was terrified but really enjoyed doing it. Seán is a lecturer in Maths education in Marino Institute of Education. Maths is my favourite subject to teach and I’ve always had a real interest in it and pursuing further study so it was fantastic to chat with Seán afterwards and get some tips and ideas. Meeting Seán also opened up another opportunity for me and now I help student teachers in with maths methods in Marino (something which I absolutely love doing each week). It also opened up the opportunity to get involved in an Erasmus + Project with other teachers in my school and that was something I thoroughly enjoyed. Being recognised by my voice in one of the Maths sessions will always be a stand out moment for me too!
Meeting fellow instagram teachers and bloggers. I’ve gone for lunch/coffee and a chat. I really love meeting like minded people so IPT has been a great way to connect with teachers around Ireland.
Writing ‘The NQT Year‘ last summer – an ebook for newly qualified teachers in Ireland. It was a massive project which had fantastic feedback so I was really delighted with that.
Collaborating with Rahoo – Last year I met with Ciara from Rahoo and we discussed creating a course for teachers. I created a course on classroom management with Rahoo which will be available during the summer months to complete. This was something completely new for me and I thoroughly enjoyed creating the course.
Irish Primary Teacher Planner – Anyone who has followed me for a long time, knows how much I love stationery so creating a planner was like a dream come true for me. I worked with ABC School Supplies to create the IPT planner which was published this year. When it arrived last Saturday, I couldn’t believe my eyes! I absolutely love it and I’ve received lots of messages from teachers all around Ireland who have purchased it and they love it too.
Creating IPT Courses – IPT courses is a new part of Irish Primary Teacher which I started this year. My first course is on Job Applications and Interviews but I hope to create a lot more over the coming months.
What’s next for IPT?
I’ve a lot of plans and new ideas for Irish Primary Teacher so I’m hoping to put those in place over the coming weeks and months. Projects for IPT often take months before they are ready to be shared so I’ll also continue with blogposts, resources and question sessions.
As schools remain closed until September as a result of Covid19, I’ve started a series of ‘What’s working well for me’ posts where teachers can share their own experiences of what is working for them and their classes. Some of the posts are helpful for teachers and others support parents with home learning.
I’d like to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to every single person who follows IPT and supports IPT through reading the blog and engagement on social media as well as buying my resources, planner and courses. It really means the world to me and I can’t thank you all enough. I’ll continue weekly question sessions, regular posts and blogposts and will share everything that works for me in my classroom (currently an online classroom). Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have a question or need help with something.