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!

Teacher Training Diaries: Final Placement.

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The finish line is close enough for me to see it! I find it hard to believe that I am almost at the end of my teacher training journey. It has been a year of highs and lows but in just two short months, I will be a qualified primary school teacher. My last assignment has been submitted. I am 4 weeks into my final 9 week placement in year 1/2. Due to some circumstances within the school, I will be moving to another year 1/2 class. This is not ideal but I am learning to embrace the change and get to know some new children.

I am so excited to announce that I secured my first teaching job for September. A permanent job in Year 5 (my favourite year group to work with). I am looking forward to the new challenges that await me during my NQT year but first, I need to finish my training. I am so happy that I got a job secured, it’s one less thing to worry about! I still have my files to do, lessons to plan and reflect on and resources to make but I feel confident in myself at the moment. I am finding a work/life balance, I am happy with my development as a teacher and even though I still have things to work on, I know I will reach my targets by the end of the year.

When I look back to September, I am amazed at how much I have learnt and how far I have come. Teaching is not an easy profession. This year has been mentally and physically draining. I have had moments where I wanted to give up and go and do something else. I have had moments where I felt that teaching was not for me. But I have also had moments of happiness and joy. I have had moments of pride and achievement. I have had moments of true gratitude because I really do have the best job ever. Teacher training takes over your life and can put a lot of pressure and strain on your relationships, your personal life and your mental health. Teaching as a profession, is a constant obstacle course of jumping through hoops and ticking boxes. Teaching can leave you in a constant state of exhaustion. But despite all of that…. I am still going, growing stronger every day, learning something new every day and looking forward to having my own class in September.

 

 

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-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. 

Teacher Training Diaries: Developing Placement.

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Last week I finished my second placement, I spent five weeks in a lovely Year Five class. I have to say I really enjoyed it and felt more at home in KS2. Although it was fun, it was an exhausting month of lesson planing, late nights and paperwork. I am thankful that it’s finally half term! One week off to relax and enjoy some well-deserved rest. So far, my half term has consisted of lazy lie-ins and catching up on missed TV show episodes. I will also be going for a nice weekend break with my boyfriend to celebrate our 8 year anniversary together.

On my first placement, I found myself low in confidence and feeling uncertain about the placement that followed. At the start of my developing placement in a Year Five class,  I was nervous that my subject knowledge wouldn’t be good enough, especially in maths. After two weeks in my new classroom, I had settled in, I had started to build relationships with the children and I was feeling more confident in my ability as a teacher.

After my observation, my tutor complimented me on how much I had grown as a teacher from the very first time she saw me on my first placement to the last time she saw me on my most recent placement. She told me she was proud of me and I definitely feel proud of myself. I am so surprised on how far I have come in the last six weeks. I have overcome many hurdles on both of my placements. It hasn’t been an easy ride but I am still on the crazy roller coaster that is teacher training.

I can’t believe how much time has already passed, in five short months, I will be qualified and be a primary school teacher. It’s a scary thought but also an exciting one.
I have many things to look forward to over the next couple of weeks. I will be going back to my home school, so I will get to see my little’s again. I will be returning to my university and training days and I even have a short placement in a special educational needs school in two weeks time.

It’s also the time to start applying for teaching positions for September. Me and the rest of my school direct group have mock interviews next week and I am hopefully going to start writing out a template application and a personal statement this half term, so I can start applying for positions in March.

Teacher Training Diaries: First Placement.

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Four weeks I ago, I started my first teaching placement. I had been in my home school for seven weeks, I knew the staff, the children and the way the school day worked – I felt prepared. Little did I know that the following month was going to be the hardest, busiest and most tiring month of my life.

The pre-placement stage of my training was a lot of observing, taking notes and settling in to the classroom environment. During this time I still felt like a teaching assistant, I was in my comfort zone and naive about the thought of starting my first placement. On my first day of my placement, I was still very much in the teaching assistant role. On the second day of my placement, it was my turn to teach.

My knees were shaking, my heart was in my throat. I started to panic about the thirty little faces staring up at me from the carpet. I remember thinking why are you scared of a group of five and six year olds? It wasn’t them that I was scared of. It was the realisation that I had a responsibility. To teach these children. To get everything right. Well, I guess I worked myself up, put too much pressure on myself and the result was – my first lesson was a disaster!

My class teacher and mentor informally observed me and she was quite positive considering how bad it really was. We both agreed on the ways forward and I forgot all about it. The next few lessons I taught after that were better, the nerves started to melt away and I actually started to enjoy teaching. My mentor and my course leader came to observe me in my second week and their feedback gave me plenty to work on including deeper questioning when teaching the input to the children, work on pace and transitions within the lesson and most importantly have more faith in myself and have a can-do attitude.

Fast forward four weeks and I am a different teacher entirely to the quivering wreck that I was during those first few lessons. I am more confident, I laugh things off if they go wrong in a lesson now and think on my feet to change them (rather than panic and get myself into a state), and although I have a long way to go, my mentor must believe in my potential or she wouldn’t have let me teach three lessons every morning during my last week on placement and even teach every lesson (Maths, Phonics, English and Science) on one of those days.

I have many ups and downs on this first placement. I have had days which have ended with me in tears wondering if I can actually do this and I have had days which have ended with me humming Christmas play songs at home and smiling about how good my day has been and how much I love to teach. There have been a lot of obstacles that I have overcome to get to the place I am in right now. A few weeks ago I couldn’t plan a lesson, I couldn’t manage the behaviour of thirty children or know how to track pupil progress but now I do and there is still plenty more to learn in these areas and others too.

During the past month, I have seen how strong, confident and capable I can be when I set my mind to it. I have worked through exhaustion and illness to show not only my mentor what I can do but prove to myself that I can actually do this – I can become a qualified teacher. People were not kidding when they said this would be an intense course and the career I am going into is challenging and exhausting but it is also the best decision I have ever made and I know all of my hard work this year will pay off.

I am getting ahead of myself because I’m not even halfway through my course yet and there are plenty more training sessions to have (they resume this week now my official placement is over). But I know how quick this year is going to go and soon I will be a qualified teacher and terrified of having the responsibility of my own class. Although this is a scary thought, I feel a little more hopeful now that with more time, training and guidance, I will get there.

 

Teacher Training Diaries: First Week.

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I survived my first week of teacher training!

I’m studying a Primary PGCE through School Direct which means I am currently in school three days a week and training for the other two. It has been a long and tiring week but I have loved every second of it.

The week began with a visit to the university that is providing my PGCE, I went there with the rest of the school direct cohort and we have really bonded as a group. It’s nice to be on this journey together and to talk about any worries we might have about the upcoming year. There were many inductions on that day including: how to use their referencing system, how the course is structured and a short seminar on systematic synthetic phonics.

I was really nervous on Tuesday morning, knowing it would be the first day in a school as a trainee teacher. St George’s is my beginning and extending placement, which means I will be there for the majority of the school year. There is a short amount of time after Christmas where I will be at another school in KS2. In this placement, I have been put in Year 1/Year 2, a lovely mixed class full of happy five and six year olds.

I was a little apprehensive on my first day, but after the second day I was settled and felt really welcome, not just in my classroom but the whole school. My mentor (who is also the class teacher) is really supportive and I’m sure we will have a good working relationship this year to get me qualified to a high standard.

On Thursday and Friday, I did training session on unions, teaching and the law, safeguarding and behaviour and learning. There was a lot of information to take in during a short space of time but I know that the knowledge I have gained will be beneficial to my teaching practice.

Some of my highlights of the week were: playing with the children on the playground and pretending to be dragons, learning about the teaching standards, singing phonics songs and helping the children with their cursive writing. I’m eager to be back in school next week and excited to see what I will learn on my training days too.

The Best Resources For Teachers & TA’s.

Teaching Resources, Primary Resources, Twinkl, Primary School Resources

Twinkl is one of the best places to find teaching resources. Some of the lesson plans, resources and worksheets are free but it’s definitely worth purchasing a premium account with your school.

There are a variety of primary resources for EYFS, KS1, KS2 and EAL. Secondary resources for KS3, KS4 and SEN. Another great thing about Twinkl is that it is universal, providing resources for England, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Wales, USA and Canada.

Twinkl also has many support communities on Facebook, a place where you can get answers from thousands of other Teachers and Teaching Assistant’s.

www.twinkl.co.uk

 

Sparklebox is another great place to find resources for class. The amazing thing about Sparklebox is that it is all free to download!

Whether it be topic worksheets, maths or literacy activities or signs and labels to brighten up your classroom, Sparklebox has some good resources to chose from.

 

primaryresources

Primary resources is another free website to download worksheets, signs and labels and activities for various topics such as Literacy, Numeracy, Science and ICT.

There are lots of powerpoint presentations that can be used as lesson plans. The website also categorizes the content into year groups, so you can find the perfect fit for whichever class you are teaching.

 

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TES is a wonderful community for teachers, you can find plenty of free lesson plans, assessments and activities by age range and curriculum subject. Similar to twinkl, you can buy resources and there are a a variety of different licenses.