If like me, you came to university with the express purpose of gaining a degree to teach, then you probably feel relatively well prepared. You have likely undertaken voluntary work in schools and feel sure you know both the positives and shortcomings of the profession. You may even have parents who are teachers, and family members who scoff at the inevitability of your joining of the family ‘trade’. This certainty is likely to be blown away within the first few weeks of your training; I know mine was. Therefore, I have compiled a list of tips to survive your teacher training year/s. Even if you are only beginning to consider teaching as a career path post-graduation, I hope this list will aid in your research and your decision.
1. Research the course thoroughly. There are many different routes in to teaching, ranging from the salaried Teach First to the more traditional PGCE, with various SCITTs and School Directs in between, all of which are different, meaning that you need to do some research to work out which one is the best fit for you. You will need to consider where you want to make a difference: do you want to work in disadvantaged areas with high levels of pupil premium, or do you want to push the top end academically in a grammar school? Where do you want to be located, and what are the schools like there? What bursaries and finances are on offer etc.?
“Resilience is perhaps the most important trait a trainee must develop.”
2. Prepare early and take advantage of the holidays. Everyone knows that teachers get the best holidays of any profession (an assumption that will soon become the bane of your life); however, these are not to be wasted. The no. 1 thing that will get you through your training is using your time wisely. In term time you are likely to be working flat out just to keep up. But some of this can be alleviated with clever use of your holidays and general good organisation e.g. batch plan as many lessons as you can in your holidays, and then in term time you will only need to make small tweaks, saving some of those late nights, potentially freeing up weekends and evenings for rest and respite, and come January, applying for an NQT post.
“Remember that you are the adult and should always be in control”
3. It will go wrong and that’s okay. Resilience is perhaps the most important trait a trainee must develop. (Un)fortunately children and teenagers are not robots, and neither are you, meaning there will be times where things don’t go to plan. Just remember that it happens to everyone, and it’s okay! You’ve simply not got the time to beat yourself up about it so don’t. There is always something good in the worst lessons and reflect on why it didn’t work out – fair warning, it’s sometimes just down to the way the wind’s blowing (literally). Spend some time cultivating a tough-as-nails persona that even the most catastrophic lesson can’t budge. This doesn’t mean you can’t be nice, but does mean that you are hard to flap, will reap your dividends when it does hit the fan.
4. You are the adult. Leading on from my previous point is something that can admittedly be easy to overlook when you’re only 5’7 in a class of Year 11 giants. Some kids can be cruel and will do their utmost to get a rise out of you, some will be over-familiar and will want to act like your mate. You are not their mate, nor are you there to have a shouting match, remember that you are the adult and should always be in control – there’s little point taking it personally even when you are told to “f*** off” because you asked to see their homework.
5. Remember why you chose to teach. I won’t mince words, there will be times when you feel awful because teacher training is tough, and nothing seems to be going right. It can be super easy to dwell on your shortcomings or those of a student. The lows truly are the lowest. It is important to cling on to why the bright-eyed, enthusiastic graduate chose to teach in the moments when your eyes are dull and enthusiasm has become an alien concept. Whether it was to guide a young person to the elation and success of breakthrough moments, or to help a young person with a pastoral need, you must hold on to your purpose for doing it to motivate you even when you have nothing left. Alongside those lowest lows, teaching also has the highest highs, and there’s very little that compares to the buzz of a good lesson or overhearing a student enthuse about a lesson you taught to a friend in another class.