As my first term as a trainee teacher has come to an end, I have been reflecting on how I managed to thrive through my first SCITT teaching placement. And as someone who has survived, I wanted to share by five top tips to inspire anyone who is about to take the leap into the toughest, I mean best profession in the world.
- Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
In the world of teaching, organisation is key. Before starting your teacher training, get yourself a teaching toolkit (bag or box) and fill it with everything you could possibly need, whiteboard pens, post it notes, rulers, spare pens, because I guarantee you will need them. Also, a hard drive with plenty of storage, so you can save, steal and store every lesson you ever observe or teach.
I recommend that new trainee teachers make the most out their last summer before becoming a teacher by doing plenty of reading. The biggest help during the summer leading up to my training year was Sue Cowley’s ‘How to survive your first year in teaching’. This book was incredible in helping me mentally and physically prepare for the start of life as a teacher. She has also written an amazing book called ‘Getting the Buggers to Behave’ which I credit for my success managing behaviour during my first placement and leads me to my next point…
- Behaviour and rewards
As someone who has been on a real roller-coaster with behaviour management. I know that behaviour in your classroom can make or break your lessons. Before you start any placement, read your school behaviour policy very carefully and ask someone to explain it to you, so you can follow through with what students know is already expected of them. If you, like me find yourself in a school where the behaviour policy is pretty minimal, don’t be afraid to introduce your own sanctions and more importantly reward systems for your lessons. Never underestimate the power of a sticker (even for sixth form). In my placement school, I became famous for my ‘tin of tat’ as it was affectionately known, which is simply of tin of treats for my students who have worked hard to be rewarded with, and I have found this to be a real motivator and a great way to build relationships.
- Routines, rules and relationships.
Routines and rules, keep them simple and stick to them. Before teaching any of my classes I prepared a slide with my rules and expectations for my students, along with the sanctions and rewards that they could expect. This is great as students know what to expect, and can’t say that you didn’t warn them. Routines are equally as important, one thing I have found invaluable is planning ‘silent starters’ for all of my lessons, it’s a routine that sets a good tone and a bit of calm for the whole lesson.
On relationships, smile at everyone from the head teacher to the cleaner, you many be surprise how first impressions last and how you need the cleaner on your side after a long day of cutting and sticking. This is especially important if you are looking for employment from your school. Your relationships with your fellow PGCE-ers will be invaluable so make sure you find your crew and use them, for ideas, somewhere to have a moan and as your general support network.
- Take your time
There are no prizes for a trainee who teaches more than everyone else of their programme during the first term. Take your time, go and observe as many teachers as you can no matter what department. Not only will help you develop your teaching practice, but it will help you build vital relationships with students and other members of staff. Ask students, who they think are good teachers (and possibly bad) and email these teachers to arrange an observation, you would be surprised how much you learn.
Make the most of your first placement as you will probably never get the opportunity to observe so many great teachers ever again.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself
Its okay to have a ‘meltdown’ We all do it, and sometimes it might even last a whole week or two, but I promise you will come out the other side. Share what you are going through with your fellow trainees, remember a problem shared is a problem halved.
Enjoy yourself At the end of the day, your placements are temporary, enjoy them, try new things and meet as many new people as possible.
Make time to switch off Teaching can be an all-consuming profession at times, but I suggest three key things.
1) Work 9-5 every day and don’t procrastinate, this way you will rarely take things home.
2) Do not have school emails come through to your phone and finally
3) Make time to do the thing your love, exercise, see your friends, walk the dog I promise these are the things that will keep you sane.
So basically, keep calm and carry on. If you know what you’re doing all the rest will fall into place. Know who you are, have your support networks and don’t be afraid to make some pretty epic fails. Keep things, in perspective and learn to let things go.