Last week I wrote a post about tips and advice for starting University and this week I am going to do a very similar post, but focused specifically on teacher training. It can be a unknown and apprehensive time as, sometime very soon after starting, you’re thrown out there into your choice of profession. On most courses you can keep a low profile for the first term – find your feet, learn how to cook something other than baked beans and noodles (although maybe not together) and begin to understand the complexities of your course. On a teacher training course, within the first few weeks you’re in schools either for one-off days or for an actual placement. You need to be ON IT.
While it sounds scary, there are things that can make it easier and actually, it’s very exciting! You’re already getting experience in the career of your choice, and not many courses can do that for you. All said and done, here are some tips and assurances for your first year of teacher training.
It’s OK to feel nervous the first time you enter a classroom (and the second time, and the third…)
So long as the nervousness doesn’t always reach the level where you’re vomiting, you’re normal. At the end of the day you are putting yourself out there, it’s not safe. You can’t hide when teaching. But to me, that is what makes teaching such a brilliant career. Particularly on your first placement you may feel like you are completely unprepared and in no way ready to stand in front of a class of children but everyone feels that way. Listen to others, ask questions, observe great teaching and face the fact you will make mistakes. But you’re also going to learn from them too and that is invaluable.
2. Prepare. Especially where technology is involved.
I’m a big advocate of technology in the classroom, as you may know if you’ve read some of my other posts. But I also admit that technology can be very temperamental. I guess the advice here is, always prepare before you start a lesson, in all aspects, not just technology. Some lessons are heavily reliant on technology, but if for some reason it decides to pack out on you, is there a way the lesson can still be completed without it? It may not be as effective as you had planned but can the main message still be delivered? Just something to think about, especially if you are being observed. However, I think if you were incredibly unlucky for something like this to happen during an observation, so long as you keep your cool and make sure there are other things to keep the children engaged, your examiner should make allowances.
The more you prepare, the more confident you will feel about your lesson. I feel another crucial piece of advice I wish I knew comes out of this point, – preparation doesn’t have to be time costly. Is it more effective, for example, to spend two hours on one SMART which is all-singing-all-dancing, or to spend less time on a more basic set of slides which you can reuse several times? Just a thought.
3. Understand that there will be times when normal Uni life goes out the window.
There are going to be periods of time, usually increasing as you move through your course, where you are going to be living the life of a teacher and everything becomes a bit of a juggling act. It will basically be like you have started work. This means, that the Uni life you knew at the start of term just won’t work anymore. When you are on a placement, you cannot go out on weeknights with your friends. You can’t watch TV all night, every night and avoid work. You need to make sure you get enough sleep, that you are up in time every morning. Sound obvious, but I used to find the switch between being on campus to being in the classroom quite tricky, mainly because it happens so quickly. I think very few people wouldn’t find it difficult. It’s an adjustment, but you can do it. It’s a bit rough having to miss out on things your friends are doing but it’s a means to an end and will be so worth it in the end!
4. Get yourself on social media!
I received this advice at the start of my course and I’m so glad I did because it is one of the best pieces I have had. Twitter in particular is SO unbelievably helpful as a trainee teacher. Follow accounts of educationalists, lecturers, fellow trainees, NQTs, RQTs, experienced teachers, educational companies etc. There is a wealth of information and help available at the press of a button. So many of my lesson ideas, advice and assurance have come from Twitter and people are so friendly! It’s also reassuring to know there are others in your position who are also feeling scared/anxious/terrified.
Also use apps such as Pinterest which have a host of ideas including displays, lesson ideas, time-saving and general teacher hacks.
5. You will join the grammar police.
Voluntarily or involuntarily, this will happen to you. Even if you think you haven’t, your non-teacher friends will care to disagree because compared to them you are. You will find yourself correcting people’s texts/Facebook messages/Whatsapp messages, you will remind them of using apostrophes for possession and you will almost certainly correct their spelling. But it’s OK. It’s ingrained in you. It’s a habit. But in my opinion, using correct grammar, spelling and punctuation really isn’t the worse habit to have! 😉
6. Get enough rest and time-out.
Being on placement is shattering. And switching between placement and assignments makes it hard. And switching between placement and assignments and having a social life makes it harder. Make sure to get enough sleep and make time for yourself. Sometimes that means being selfish but you’ll thank yourself for it later.
7. Finally, enjoy yourself and be proud of your achievements.
While I know it’s inherently British to be modest about our achievements, make sure you celebrate them sometimes. ITT courses are notoriously tough and if you make it through having tried your best then you should be really proud of yourself. Whilst on placements you may feel like you can’t do anything right but afterwards you will look back and think “Wow, I actually did all that!” It’s a huge achievement and you should be very proud. Treat yourself!
Good luck to all starting an ITT course in September! Feel free to follow me on Twitter (@MissBartlettNQT) and I will follow you back and we can exchange some good ideas between us!