First year teachers find their feet

Imagine if your first year of teaching took place during a global pandemic. It did for many teachers this year. Two of them share their experiences of a tumultuous 2020.

Dana White, St Joseph’s Primary, Goulburn

I am teaching a Year 5 class of 29 students with various learning abilities and needs. To say the least, 2020 has been a rollercoaster and certainly not what I expected my first year of teaching to be.

This year has been challenging, confronting and stressful at times but it has also been a positive and motivational time for me as a teacher. I absolutely love my job and being able to make a difference to the lives of our future leaders.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted my first year immensely. Not only did I need to adjust my teaching program to suit remote learning for 29 students, but I had to become very familiar with current technology in a matter of days.

I went from teaching my students face to face in the classroom to all of a sudden recording myself teaching concepts and uploading them to our online classroom for my students to watch from home.

I wouldn’t be as familiar with digital technology if it wasn’t for the pandemic. My students are more confident as well. It is crucial for students to be competent using technology, especially in the society they are growing up in.

I have built strong professional relationships with my students and received positive feedback from parents during our phone-in parent-teacher interviews. It was comforting to hear.

The pandemic has allowed me to develop my craft as a teacher rapidly and I am confident the experience of teaching in 2020 will assist me throughout my career. I learnt the importance of flexibility and resilience, and that we will always develop our profession and ability to teach our students because of the experiences we face.

My first year has been challenging, confronting and stressful at times but it has also been a positive and motivational time.

Lucy Cheetham, St Matthew's Catholic School, Mudgee

After finishing my degree in 2018, and travelling the world in 2019, 2020 was the year I was going to kick start being a “real” adult. My first full time teaching role is at St Matthew's where I teach science, geography and history.

The biggest struggle for me this year has been the pressure of trying to ensure everybody else’s wellbeing while staying sane myself. But the smiles on the students’ faces when they came back to school made it all worth it – and although they’d never say it, I think they’re happy to be back.

No one could have foreseen going into to full online teaching mode, but I really enjoyed working from home, and I got to know my students in another context without the worry of everyday classroom distractions.

This has helped my classroom teaching. One of the highlights was getting to know a student who attended school throughout. It really helped me understand his learning style and personality, and seeing him succeed in the classroom has really been a high point.