A guest blogpost by Caoimhe Quinn who runs the Instagram – Ms Quinns Classroom

Now well into my third year of teaching since finishing college, my dip seems like a distant memory! Not long enough ago though that I can no longer remember the long days (and nights) spent lesson planning and resource making! I did my dip in two halves the year after I finished college. I was extremely lucky to get a class for the start of September. It was a multi-grade classroom in a two-teacher school. I was going to be teaching Junior infants up to second class. There were twenty-eight children between the four classes. I was so excited to get started, I began planning in August and even went in to the school three days early to set up my classroom! I was there until Christmas. This was undoubtedly the toughest teaching experience I have had to date (even now two years on). It was a steep learning curve but I came out the other side all the better for it! The second half of my dip was a senior Infant class in Tallaght. I had less children in this class than the multi-grade! A complete contrast to the first half! It was still intense but not nearly as demanding as the multi-grade class! I knew that if I was able to survive the that first dip class, I would be able to survive anything! (Still feel that way!) However, if I could go back and give my over-enthusiastic, sleep deprived, pinterest addicted self some advice, I would choose these five nuggets of wisdom that hindsight kindly gifted me!

Don’t bite off more than you can chew!

Take your time and ease yourself in! You do not need every inch of wall covered in displays on the first day! It will happen gradually! Don’t try to implement ALL of the classroom management strategies your learned in college in one go! It will end in confusion and chaos! Give your class time to adjust (especially the junior infants). Focus on the main procedures to begin with, morning routines, lunch routines, class rules, etc. Be organised but don’t try to reinvent the wheel! If you have your planning in order everything else will fall into place! Don’t sweat the small stuff! Displays don’t have to be perfect, the library doesn’t need sorting and taping name-plates to the desks is a terrible idea!

Don’t be so hard on yourself!

The perfect classroom wasn’t built in a day! (plot twist it doesn’t exist!) Teaching isn’t perfect you will learn as you go! You will feel like you aren’t doing enough. You will feel guilty for not giving more attention to the non-academic side of things. You will stress endlessly wondering are you even teaching correctly, are the children learning, and are they having fun? Don’t stress about the lessons that didn’t go to plan. Don’t worry about the to do list that just seems to get longer!? Don’t put so much pressure on yourself! Take time each day to focus on what went well. If you spot things that need improvement, make a list and pick three things to focus on that week. Trying to do everything at once is overwhelming, ineffective and downright impossible! Most importantly, know that you are doing enough! It is your first year out, you are doing your best, your class are happy and most importantly they are having fun!

Ask for help!

Starting out is tough! The constant worry that you are not teaching the “right” way will be the cause of many a sleepless night and tearful outburst! Asking those who have taught in a similar situation will be helpful! It is amazing the amount of things that you can only learn through experience. Such as; how much homework should infants get, the best way to teach reading, how to get a class ready for a concert! It will be overwhelming without a teacher in the school to advise you! Ask advice from teachers you know, college friends, family, etc. You will figure out what works best for your class (it may just take some time to work out the kinks). Give yourself time. Planning isn’t so bad once you get into the swing of it! Plan as many weeks in advance as you can! Get extra hands involved with the resource making (siblings make for great slaves). Give yourself permission to get things wrong! Have confidence that what you’re doing is enough. Hard work and a good attitude will see you through!

Take time for yourself!

The dip is important but don’t forget about self-care! You will spend a lot of time commuting. (The school was an hour and fifteen minutes away. The joys of country life!)  Use this time in the car to switch off from school. Podcasts, audiobooks and the radio are great ways to clear the mind and escape the intensity of the Dip! Don’t stay too late! Set a limit of 5pm and only do the jobs that really need to be done! Come home at a reasonable hour so you can have a bit of time to unwind before bed. Most importantly, take time at the weekend to meet friends and treat yourself! Don’t underestimate the importance of clearing your mind! You and your class will be the better for it!

Be proud of yourself

During the dip you will doubt yourself and feel overwhelmed at times. You will worry about inspections and assessments. You will hope that what you have done and the hard work you put in is enough for the teacher you are covering for! Trust that you did enough. Be proud of all you achieved! Don’t forget that you worked hard and did your best! Your class loved their time with you and learned a lot! Use the mistakes, the lessons learned and tough times you encountered along the way to fuel your passion and determination. Through this experience you will become more confident, self-assured and resilient. You survived the dip! Now you can relax and focus on “real teaching!”

A huge thanks to Ms. Quinns Classroom for writing this guest blogpost.