So the Junior Cycle is here but the burning question on most people’s mind is where do I start?

So you have just come back from your CPD training with the Junior Cycle for Teachers freshly armed with your posters, templates, and handouts. Your brain is like a firework display on new year’s eve with new ideas fighting with each other for attention or else it’s like an old overworked computer with just an error message that says something like “Out of Memory”. In either case you’re wondering where do I start?

The Starting Point

We can all relate to opening the shiny new gadget or trying to put that flat-pack furniture together without any reference to the “instruction manual”. We tend to “wing it” until we are stuck, can’t find that cool feature or are staring at something that does not even come close to that new desk you bought.

Jeopardising a good start and taking that gamble with something so important as your students education is the mistake any good teacher does not want to make. That is why taking the time to even become “familiar” with your specification document is so important. You don’t have to know everything inside out but understanding what makes up your subject will be to your benefit.

The Takeaway’s

When I am on-boarding teachers with our first training session I would always recommend reading the first 7 or 8 pages and the last 7 or 8 pages of the specification document. The reason for this is that even if you just get to know the following;

  • The key skills relevant to your subject
  • The statements of learning relevant to your subject
  • The strands and elements
  • The learning outcomes

Then What?

So this is where things can get tricky! If you have attended CPD training or watched the excellent JCT webinars then you will be familiar with “units of learning”. I have found that “unpacking outcomes” as the starting point is well… sometimes a step too far.

Let’s be straight – there is a lot of moving parts in the Junior Cycle (without even talking about the new terminology). So jumping straight into learning outcomes, that span across strands, into units of learning, that… wait – what were we talking about again?

Yes you can get lost very quickly and your head explodes. We like to talk about Strands first as in – what is one and what am I supposed to do with it, can I create my own, can I change the name, etc. etc. Yes it does provoke a lot of questions and every single one is relevant.

So Just Bin Everything Else Then?

Let’s be clear – No! You do have to adapt and there is a change in how you should approach the new syllabus as with any new shiny gadget or innovative coffee table design (or else it would just be the same – and that is not what you want). At the same time you cannot force what you have (square peg and round hole come to mind) so like anything PLANNING is essential and COLLABORATION with your colleagues (if you are the lone driver – talk to others in theirs)

We will be running a series of posts on each moving part of the new Junior Cycle to give our take on it. If you would like to learn more about how we can help jump over to our main site.