Those who can… Teach!
Teacher Training is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do. It is also one of the most challenging. This post is about how to handle this challenge. You’ve chosen to embark on a career that will have a profound impact on thousands of lives, so we must get it right. Our future and the future of the next generation depend on it.
Below I’ve outlined FOUR practical tips that I’ve been asked countless times by trainees during my career. Take a look and please share with fellow trainees if you think they’d be useful.
1. Before Starting Teacher Training
Firstly, decide why you want to teach. If you are “in it for the right reasons”, ie the desire to make a difference, to help shape the world, to guide young people to make good decisions, etc, then this on its own will keep you motivated. If you have decided to teach for the money (what money?), the holidays (which you will work during) or the 3pm finishes (good luck!) then perhaps now is the time to re-assess. Either way, it’s a good idea to speak to a variety of newly qualified and experienced teachers, just so that you know what you are getting into!
Some people going into teaching may need to update or refresh their subject knowledge. Particularly if they are going into teaching several years after being in full-time education themselves. My advice would be to pick a decent GCSE level textbook and swot up on some areas you wouldn’t feel confident teaching about. Don’t worry about being an expert though – that comes with practise and trust me you will get plenty of that!
2. First Few Weeks
Trainees often ask the beginning of a course, what should I focus on? Behaviour management? Time management? Making creative resources? The truth is, there isn’t just ‘one’ thing trainees should focus on, but there is one ‘main’ thing. Learning. Engaging students in learning is the single most important function of a school, a lesson, a task. Get that right and students will behave (usually). Get that right often enough and you will improve at managing time in the lesson. Get that right and homework will be completed well and on time. Teacher Training is all about Learning.
3. Developing your Skills
Once you have a few weeks ‘experience’ under your belt, you should start to focus in on some of the details. In order to become an outstanding teacher, you must be able to analyse and evaluate how your teaching impacts on specific groups of students. These groups are often compared against the performance of the class, to see whether a group is performing to a disproportionately high or low level. Your job as a teacher is to put strategies in place to raise the attainment for these groups so that they achieve their potential. Some of these groups include boys; girls; more able and talented students; students with special educational needs; students with disabilities; students from areas of socio-economic deprivation; students who speak English as an additional language; etc.
4. Passing the Teacher Training Course
To pass your Teacher Training course you will need to demonstrate that you’ve met the government standards. To do this, you will have to create a portfolio of evidence, ranging from academic essays to records of lesson observations, extra-curricular activities you’ve planned to resources you’ve produced, etc. You will probably have to keep a reflective journal as part of your portfolio. This isn’t something to be feared – nobody enjoys writing down their weak points each week! However, if you want to be taken seriously as a professional, you need to demonstrate that you can self-evaluate truthfully and in detail. This journal will become your best friend once it comes to interview time!
Gathering evidence can be an overwhelming task or just a task. You choose. Organisation and adding frequently to the portfolio are your best tools for success here. Make a point of adding and annotating a piece of evidence every single week and ideally more often if you can. That way, you won’t end up (as many trainees do) with only a couple of weeks to go until they are assessed, with almost a term’s worth of evidence to create and file away.
There are lots of other things that you’ll have to deal with during your Teacher Training (workload, homework, behaviour, jobs, etc), but I’ll dedicate specific posts to them at another time. Just remember, your job is to make your subject engaging and relevant. If you do this, your students will learn and they will make a difference to the world once they leave your classroom.
I hope you found this useful. Leave a reply if I’ve missed something out!
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