Top Ten Tips To Train To Teach: advice for student and newly qualified teachers

“It Is the most stressful year you will ever experience”
                                                                                                           Lots of trained teachers

Was it my most stressful year ever? No! No it wasn’t. Do not get me wrong it wasn’t easy however it should be enjoyable and should not stop you doing what you normally do.

My placement schools could not be further from each other. My first was a tough 11-19 city secondary and my second placement was a small independent school. Throughout my second placement my feedback was mostly ‘it was good’ however on reflection I didn’t want to hear that I wanted to know how to be better and how I could support my students better.

I secured my job for my NQT year and a year later I was the Science Departments ITT PGCE student mentor. I did this role for 9 years and only recently in the summer of 2019 stood down due to a promotion and how it impacts my workload. As I mentor I was not given extra time or any extra money – if you are a mentor, you do a cracking job.

Every student teacher required individual personalised support and feedback just like our students. I have found myself reflecting a lot on the responsibility and feel I could offer some generic tips for all student teachers and also NQT’s.

1. The first is nice and simple: Sign up to the best source of advice and free CPD out there – twitter. Lots of teachers give up their free time to offer support and resources. It really is a no-brainer.

2. I wish I knew about the tonnes of research out there. Maybe I was too naive but there was plenty more than the required course documents. The following might be a good start for you:

A to Z of Cognitive Science

20 ideas & strategies for Student Led Dual Coding

20 Ideas for student led retrieval practice

14 Research Papers on Dual Coding

10 Research Papers on Retrieval Practice.

3. Linked to number 2. – Embrace this research. Spend time reading what interests and what is relevant to you. Use this a discussion on twitter – number 1.

4. Write a blog – reflect. The blog doesn’t have to be read by anyone but you. You will most likely be asked to write a lesson/weekly reflection, this is more than that. This is your career and not a chance just to jump through hoops.

5. Take advantage of the CPD offered. Again maybe it was my naivety and/or just a chance to get out of school for a while but I did not take CPD seriously. I didn’t know how to, I didn’t why I had to. It took me years to see the importance of it all. As a new teacher, you have a lot  more chance of getting on courses that you request to your SLT.

6. Poster lessons are mostly a waste of time – spend the time asking quality questioning and challenging your students. In my early days as a teacher the LA (local authority) had subject advisors. The science advisor had a catchphrase which we laughed off but again it is only now I can see what they really meant when anyone suggested an activity or learning task they said. It sounds good – but “where it’s the learning?” Think about the tasks you offer to students. How and what are they going to learning. Knowledge is far more important than keeping the hardest classes quiet for an hour.

7. You will be expected to plan lessons especially as you start your career – take advice of how to do so effectively and efficiently. I remember taking hours to plan 1 lesson during my training year, only to change the lesson again and again and then go back to the original plan. I scoured the internet high and low for resources – taking the best bits from each to plan a lesson.  It was often  a mish mash which hardly made sense to me. Please don’t spend hours reinventing the wheel however make sure you at least make the lesson your own. I have seen many a student teacher come to stop in a lesson because they have no idea the meaning of the slide. Also please don’t take credit for resources if they are not yours – I once had a student teacher who planned a great practical lesson. The lesson I remember was much better than a previous one. They lost my trust when they said it was because of the investigating planning sheet they had created. Only they hadn’t – I had! They had just downloaded it from my TES account. If you are interested this is what they used:

https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/science-investigation-writing-frame-6034723

8. Time management during these years is important. Teaching never ends. You can say you have nothing to do. There is also a lesson to plan or change, always a book that needs feedback and always a parent/carer you can ring. Be prepared to say ‘no’ and be honest about this. What you don’t want to do is make promises to your school, department, mentor and even worse the students only not to do it and you let them down.

9. Arrive organised – most student teachers contact schools before hand. Some want lots of information some of which is now impossible to give under GRDP data protection however if you are request and are given schemes of work etc. look through them. Print of the weekly and lesson observation sheets before lessons. It also goes without saying make sure your lesson resources are pre-printed. Asking the class to go and collect printed doesn’t look good – especially if you are also being observed by the university. Along these lines most schools have their important policies on the internet – safeguarding, teaching and learning and behaviour for learning. Read them – it is also a good idea to read these in preparation for job interviews.

10. Subject Knowledge – never think you know enough. Keep reading and learning.

Above all remind organised and focussed. Enjoy everyday –  and just ignore the moaners. Every profession has its complainers – those that have been around the block and think they know more. Stay away from these and stay positive.

Join me on twitter

 

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