Now that I am venturing into my second year as a trainee teacher (yay me!), I’ve learnt a lot, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, made friends, made enemies, delivered some brilliant lessons and some so bad, I’ve wondered if maybe, just maybe I’d be better off sitting in the class, rather than teaching it.
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The original post can be found here.
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What all this experience has given me is a lot I can look back on, that I’d like to have been told when I started out and that may have helped my first year to go a bit smoother. So I thought I’d share my top 20 tips for anyone embarking on their first teaching experience whether that be through a PGCE, SCITT, Teacher Training or someone who is starting out as a TA.
Twitter it up!
I cannot begin to explain how helpful Twitter has been to me and I encourage every teacher to be active on Twitter. So many times I have found great ideas for lessons, displays and activities on Twitter. Not only that but there are some brilliant minds on Twitter and you can find help on almost anything, I’ve got advice on Twitter for everything from ideas on lessons for bar charts to advice on an essay about social constructivism!
Kids are like dogs (I mean that it in the nicest way possible!), they will sniff out someone who is being phoney in a second. If you are the sort of person who is normally bubbly, bouncing around and a bag of energy, use that, embrace it and let it shine out in-front of the class and they will love you for it as you’ll love them. By the same token if you’re normally quite a calm and relaxed person use it to your advantage, don’t feel you have to turn into the grinch and be overly strict to compensate.
Keep a hobby and don’t give it up!
One of the things that kept me sane during my teaching placement was cycling, I love cycling and always will do. Sometimes when work was getting a bit too much or I just needed to clear my head I’d go out cycling for an hour and come back to whatever I was doing refreshed and ready to tackle the problem.
It doesn’t have to be cycling of course, a few of my friends love reading and used that to give themselves a break, some played cricket at the weekend and some weekdays. Just make sure you have something outside of teaching, it will take over a lot of your life, but make sure it doesn’t completely take it over!
Something you really struggle with or that you’re not confident with at the moment? Read up on it now! I really struggled with my handwriting prior to going into school and also for some reason had completely forgotten everything from a connective to a simile! I’m not saying become an expert, but giving yourself that little bit of subject knowledge and confidence will help you massively when you go into school.
Keep a diary.
My diary kept me sane, with remembering all the deadlines for university, when bits of work are due in, when lectures are, when I’ve got a haircut booked and most importantly when we were playing our monthly 5 a side! Then when it came to being in school with all the different lessons, staff meetings, observations and link tutor visits a diary really does help keep you on top of everything.
If you are at university, get involved in everything. Looking back now I could almost point out the people within my group who wouldn’t do as well by the effort and interest they showed within seminars or lectures. The more you engage yourself, the more you put yourself into it, the more you will get out of the experience. Even if its something you struggle with at first, practice makes perfect.
Seize all opportunities to progress yourself.
Now is the best time to learn, if you’re at university and you are offered an opportunity to do something outside of your course take advantage of it. Don’t bombard yourself with too much work to handle, but if there’s an opportunity there, even if its a simple history forum one night, take it, as it’s likely you will pick up some things you didn’t know before that you can use in the future. Doing that bit extra will benefit the kids you teach, and that’s what we are all in this for!
Get to know people as soon as possible.
Some people find this quite hard, it can be daunting going into something completely new with a group of people you’ve never met, but chances are, they are all in the same boat! Start conversations with people, introduce yourself early on and getto know them as that support network will be vital for the coming year. People don’t bite, well, most don’t.
This also applies in school, don’t hide away in class at breaks and lunch, make the staffroom your friend and get chatting to
some of the teachers. It can be quite a difficult task at first but its something that will help you settle in much quicker and those members of staff are much more likely to give you a helping hand if you’ve made the effort to chat to them.
Think carefully about social media.
In this day and age anyone can find you through the power of the internet, take a good look at your Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Bebo, Instagram or whatever else you may have and think to yourself, ‘Would I want kids in my class to see this, or parents?’ If the answer is no get rid of it.
Alternatively you could do what I do and delete my old Facebook, start a new one with a different name (middle name as surname is always a good out) and re-add your friends. Heck, this helped me thin the herd out of people who I actually wanted to have my details!
Also don’t post pictures of kids in your class, nothing good can come from it.
Get yourself some snazzy pens and a pencil case.
Maybe this is just me, but I love buying a few new pens or board pens. Not only do they make the tedious task of marking that bit more enjoyable, it can also save a lot of hassle in class when you’re desperate for a pen and you can’t find one if you’ve got your own.
I had a nice diary as well, might sound a very small thing but it kept me entertained!
Watch and learn.
As soon as you get into school watch what the teacher does, how they interact with the class, how they deal with misbehaviour, how they open up lessons and even how they distribute pencils. Everything has a reason behind it and picking up on these little things will make your life much much easier when it comes to the fun part of you teaching.
Whilst it is important to learn from the people who have been doing this for years, its important to not try make yourself a carbon copy of them. Use what they have shown you and implement that in a way that suits your personality and teaching style.
Ask for help.
This is something I was extremely guilty of not doing at first. People are there to help you, and most importantly they WANT to help you! If you’re struggling with ideas for a lesson, or you can’t work out how to engage a particular pupil, ask your class teacher, your school based tutor or even just another teacher, they’d much rather you ask than do something wrong because you didn’t want to disturb them. I learnt that the hard way and will be taking that forward into my next practice!
Think of teaching like climbing a mountain, every now and again you’re going to need someone to pull you over the next ledge or give you a foot up to the next rock. We are all in this together so don’t try go it alone!
Whats that old saying? A smile is contagious, you can catch it like the flu. Something like that anyway. The same goes in your classroom, if you are smiling, chances are your kids will be smiling and you’ll foster a happy classroom. If you look miserable all the time, kids aren’t.
Set expectations and stick to them.
First thing you want to do, make sure your expectations are clear. If you don’t want the children to talk over each other (and rightly so) make it obvious and don’t let it slip, especially early on. Make sure your expectations are fair and achievable for all the pupils and that they are ones you can implement consistently.
Set yourself goals.
If you’ve got two big piles of books to mark, there is nothing worse than sitting there marking all 60 of them in one go. Set yourself little goals of say 10 at a time and then give yourself a break, whether that be to have a brew or read a book, it will help to keep you going!
Make sure you stick to your goals as well, don’t feel that you need to work into the small hours marking everything. Prioritise the jobs that need doing and get them done, everything else can wait.
Make mistakes, but learn from them.
We all make mistakes, I make them daily! But the most important thing to do is use those mistakes to make yourself a better teacher, as long as you are learning from them, you’re doing the right thing.
Get to know your children as more than pupils.
I’m not saying go round to their houses for Sunday lunch or anything like that. But on a Monday morning ask them what they did at the weekend, find out their hobbies and interests, little things like that can become really powerful later on and children love it when you show an interest in them personally rather than as a whole class.
I had a weekly highlight of 2 pupils on my class page (I was only there for 10 weeks, but the teacher carried it on!) celebrating something each pupil did outside of school, we did a q and a with each one about it and the kids loved being the centre of attention.
Be a willing helper to other staff.
Especially in your first few weeks, if you see an opportunity to help out, take it, even if its something as simple as help with sending an email or attaching a file to an email, chances are that member of staff will help you out in the future and you’ll be setting a good example of yourself at the school.
Keep a day for yourself and don’t feel guilty about it!
It can be easy to get caught up in the marking, planning and essays but make sure you keep at least a day or even half a day aside to do something for you, remember to have a life outside of school, keep in touch with friends and enjoy the occasional beer or glass of wine, it won’t hurt, intact it will do you a lot of good! (disclaimer- alcohol isn’t good for you…….well, not health wise anyway)
The most important piece of advice I can give- ENJOY IT!
If you embrace it, put yourself into it fully and give it your best you’ll soon see there is nothing you’d rater be doing. Is it hard? Yes, Are there tough moments? Too right. But all that washes away quickly and the positives of shaping young minds and seeing little Timmy get something he couldn’t do two weeks ago all because you’ve helped him is something you’ll cherish forever. Laugh, cry, despair and relish every moment.
Thanks for reading, follow me on twitter and any feedback is appreciated!