E is for Essays

C (2)Oh essays, how I do not miss you.

I handed in my final essay in April and it was the greatest feeling. What you can’t prepare for during your teacher training is the amount of hats you have to juggle. There is the hat that you wear when you are on training days with the other students, there is a different hat that you wear when you are in the classroom and there is a third and final hat you wear when you take part in university days and work towards your assignments.

The purpose of essays and assignments during your training year is to research and learn the theory behind teaching and use this when you start teaching in the classroom. Every teacher training course does assignments differently, depending on your provider or whether you do the school direct or university based route to teaching.

On my course there were a few assignments staggered throughout the year and in between there were lots of university modules to complete including Raising The Achievement of Children and High Quality Learning and Teaching.

When you’re not juggling university, placements and training sessions, you are constantly working on the dreaded FILES. I could create an entire post on my dislike for evidencing and files but it would quickly turn into a rant of how much I hate paperwork (I prefer to be in the classroom actually teaching!)

My best advice for tackling essays and assignments is research and reading. However, finding the time to actually achieve this is tricky. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘make the time’, but on your teacher training year… there actually isn’t enough hours in the day. You could get up at 6am and leave school at 6pm and then work solidly until midnight (I did this on many occasions… bad student teacher) but you still would not have the time for all the ‘extra reading’ the university wishes you to do. Just try your best and blag where you can. Prioritise reading the texts that will help you write your essays and improve your overall practice.

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D is for Development

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Development is the big umbrella which you stand under during not just your teacher training but your whole teaching career. Professional development is an ongoing part of your journey and you will always find ways to change and improve your practice to become a better teacher. There are a variety of extra courses and training opportunities to ensure that as practitioners, we are always the best we can be to give our children the best possible education.

Sometimes your lack of development as a teacher can feel like a dark cloud looming over you, well, that’s my experience anyway. During my teacher training, I have not been fully supported by my mentors in the way that I truly needed. I often felt stifled and unaware of what my targets were and what I needed to do to improve my teaching practice. As a result, my development was affected and I didn’t make the big strides that I expected to make by the end of my training year. Nevertheless, I have a stronger support system at my school in September that will ensure I reach my full potential.

Development is a long process. But sometimes development can happen almost overnight. I remember one specific time this happened to me on my second placement. I spent the first week feeling unsure of the class I was in and what I was teaching, then one day, almost instantly I started to flourish. It all comes down to one thing… confidence. Unfortunately, I was in short supply of this for a long time due to a few circumstances that made my teacher training journey an unhappy and unsupported one.

Development as a trainee can be a bumpy road and how you develop and improve as a teacher will depend entirely on your personal teacher training journey. I was unfortunate enough to have some negative experiences during my training that damaged my confidence, made me question my ability to teach and even made me question whether or not it was the right job for me.

Fortunately, I’m a strong bad-ass woman who takes no shit from anyone and eventually after a few moments of tears and tantrums, I rose from the ashes stronger than ever, believing that I could do it… I could teach. My teacher training course has taught me to fight for what I really want. It has taught me that I can do it on my own if needs be. It has taught me that if I am surrounded by the wrong people, it makes a negative impact on my overall happiness and confidence in the classroom.

The rainbow in my dark cloud is landing the perfect job in September. At a school that are warm, caring and supportive. That truly want me teaching there and believe in my ability to succeed. I like to think that the negative experiences and obstacles I faced were to teach me a valuable lesson on having resilience and never giving up and I guess it worked!

C is for Children

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Every teacher teaches for the same reason – the children. It’s all about the children. The workload, the pressures of the job, the data, the headaches are all worth it to see a child progress.

The joy you feel when you see a child have a light bulb moment and everything falls into place in their mind. The happiness you feel when children squeeze you tight and tell you how much they adore you. The pride you feel when children do something amazing because of what you taught them. Those are the reasons you teach. To make a difference and help to raise the next generation of kind, loving and ambitious human beings.

For me, the reason I fell in love with teaching was the children. The pay isn’t amazing, the hours are long and it well and truly takes over your life. However, the children make it all worthwhile. The jokes they tell, the look of wonder in their eyes, their attitude to life and learning. It amazes me how their minds work and they always have the ability to surprise me.

During my teacher training, the only thing that has kept me going is their little faces every day smiling up at me. Whenever I had a bad day or felt too tired to carry on, I reminded myself of why I was doing the job. The children. It really is an amazing career, but you have to be a strong person to keep getting back up when you fall down, you have to be able to think on your feet when everything goes wrong and you need to be able to devote yourself to a life of lesson plans, paperwork and laminating resources.

There will always be days I feel like walking away from it. But I am thankful that I get to spend my life doing what I love…. being a teacher.

 

B is for Balance

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Balance. The one thing that will get you through your gruelling, rigorous and tiresome year of training to become a teacher. If you can’t find a balance between work and life, planning and teaching or sleeping and making resources at midnight, the chances are – you are going to get burnout. Burnout is when you reach physical and mental exhaustion and find it difficult to do everyday tasks. You reach a level of exhaustion that can’t be fixed by sleep and as a result you become irritable, stressed and feel like giving up. I have experienced burnout twice and I am only halfway through my teacher training course. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say that teacher training or being a teacher is easy, because it’s not!

I like to think I am an organised person, I am a stationary-obsessed-post-it-note-colour-coding Type A kind of person. I thought the time-management part of the teacher training course would be easy for me but I was so wrong! No matter how organised you are, there are not enough hours in the day to do everything you need to do – this is the harsh reality that you need to learn as quickly as possible!

The key to finding balance is to just accept that not everything will get done, your to-do list will never be empty and there will always be a deadline looming over you. It’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘oh I will get everything done, then have time for myself.’ This was my mentality for months. However, I soon realised that the ‘me-time’ I was going to have once I had finished my work, never came. It made me miserable for weeks that my life  would be: get to school at 8am, not leave until 6pm, get home, cup of tea, shower, food, then I would work on my laptop doing planning and resources until midnight (without taking a break). Don’t do this. I only realised how unhealthy it was in hindsight once my placements were over.

My advice is to prioritise what needs to be done first. Lesson planning and resourcing should be done before filling in paperwork in your file. Once you have completed the few things in your ‘top priority list’, take a break. Take anything from half an hour to a few hours to just relax and escape from the overwhelming stress that comes with teacher training. I found that towards the end of my placement (when I realised my way of doing things wasn’t healthy for me), that when I took some time to read a book, watch some TV, spend some time with my boyfriend or played my guitar, I was a lot calmer than when I tried to get everything done at once.

Half term is when you achieve maximum relaxation. It is currently half term for me and I actually feel like I have my life back for a short amount of time. I have had time to update this blog, I have the brain space to think of non-teaching related things and I have also had the chance to spent some quality time with the people I care about most. I know that Monday is fast approaching and I will soon be pulled back into the vortex of university assignments, training days and eventually my final placement.

However, if there is one thing I have learnt from my teacher training in the first six months and something I can pass on to those who are thinking about becoming a teacher or are even currently on a teacher training course – find your balance. Your balance will look differently from everyone else’s. Don’t get too caught up on what everyone else is doing. Take a break when you need it. Have a good cry if you must. Enjoy the time you get off and find small snippets of time when you’re on placement to just….breathe. If I can do this, so can you!

 

A is for Appreciation

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This is something that some teachers crave, whilst others see it as a nice bonus to the profession. Although we don’t actively wait around for it, appreciation is a nice gift to receive after all of your hard work. Whether it be appreciation from parents, other staff members or the children you teach. Feeling appreciated somehow makes the late nights of planning, endless piles of paperwork and frustrating moments in the classroom worth it.

There have been many moments during my teacher training that I have felt underappreciated. Times when I felt like I needed someone to say ‘you’re doing a good job’ or ‘thank you for doing that for me.’ Teaching is a stressful profession and sometimes I think we all get caught up in the busyness of the day, that we forget that a simple ‘thank you’ makes all the difference.

There have been moments during my training that I have felt on top of the world. Overwhelmed by the appreciation I have received from other staff members and the children. I have smiled at the adorable pictures that children have drawn for me. Felt valued by people saying ‘thanks for that’, ‘you’re a star’ and ‘you really didn’t have to do that, thank you.’

Something that I have realised after completing both my beginning and developing placements was the difference was in the people that worked in the school. Some staff members act like a family, constantly reassure each other and keep up a positive spirit (even when it’s the last week before the half-term break). Others focus entirely on their on teaching, walk around with sour faces and don’t even appreciate their own class, never mind the other staff members that work with them. I know what type of school I would prefer to work in.

There are many ways that people can show their appreciation for what teachers do on a daily basis. Yes, it’s nice when we receive gifts and cards from children and teachers at Christmas time or when we leave to go to another school. But I have found that just a simple word of appreciation can keep you motivated and remind you that you are training to do the best job in the world.

 

 

A-Z of Teacher Training

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Starting a new blog series. The A-Z of teacher training. The series will reveal my honest truths of what it’s like to be a trainee teacher, the good and the bad. What to expect during your training year and what you should consider before becoming a teacher. I will be writing up the first few on here shortly.