New things can be challenging, and first year is no exception. There are just so many new faces, experiences and uncertainties that it’s bound to fill anyone with a mixture of excitement, curiosity and fear.
This ‘first year feeling’ isn’t normal for me at this time of year; but this year is an exception. For the first time in 27 years the Junior Certificate/Junior Cycle Business Studies specification (previously know as the syllabus) has changed, and while I didn’t always love the old one syllabus, at least I knew it and was well practised in teaching it. On my most confident (or delusional!) of days I might even have considered myself an ‘expert’!
But now, despite having spent the last couple of years dissecting the new specification and developing teaching resources I’m back to being a ‘novice’.
So, as the school year begins, I prepare to embark on a new course of study, boldly going where this man has never gone before. I try to remember all that I’ve learned…but most especially the bit about keeping one page ahead of the students… and trust that it will be both an education and a worthwhile experience for us all.
Before I met the students I had concerns about the new material and how it might be received by such a mixed ability grouping. I wondered how and indeed IF, they would engage with the topic. I also wondered if they would engage with me, and more importantly with each other… I was, after all, planning on having a more student focused approach with lots of thinking, pairing and sharing going on!! Above all I doubted myself. Would I have sufficient insights to be able to ‘keep the ball rolling’ or would I be too slow to react to opportunities for learning which might present themselves during the lessons?
Despite these fears and reservations I developed a strange, almost perverse envy of my teaching colleague who has more than one first year group on his timetable. I was jealous because he had the opportunity to make mistakes and quickly put them to right when the next group of students filed through his door. His timetable is the teacher equivalent of Groundhog Day, and this will allow him lots of instant replays, whereas I’ll have to wait a whole year to repeat the experience. It was a strange mix of emotions, bookended by fear and excitement and certainly not normal for a teacher with 22 years’ experience.
In the weeks and months ahead I intend to recount my classroom experiences as I tackle the new Junior Cycle Business specification. I imagine many other teachers will share my mixed emotions and I hope you value and enjoy my observations and experiences.
Fingers crossed I can disprove that old cliché about an “old dog” and “new tricks”.
Co-author of Time for Business Joe Stafford teaches Junior Cycle Business Studies in a mixed ability setting in a co-educational school with four 40 minute classes per week.
Click below to return to the 'Time for Business' website