Teacher Training Diaries: Summer Preparation.

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I have decided to start a series of blog posts about my experience on my teacher training course, which begins in September. It will be submitted as evidence of my progress, a reflection of my pedagogy as a trainee teacher and a perspective of my journey from PGCE to NQT.

It is four weeks until my course begins. My summer preparations include: taking as much time as possible to relax before the craziness starts, reading up on the national curriculum and familiarising myself particularly with KS1 (as this is my main school placement), learning about phonics and all the jargon that goes alongside it and doing a short course online provided by the university to remind myself of the academic writing standards and referencing systems.

I am training to become a primary school teacher through the school direct route. What this means is that I learn all of the practical aspects of being a teacher in a chosen school and two days a week, I complete the academic side of the course, the PGCE, with a university.

I decided to do this route because I wanted the hands-on approach to learning. It’s been three years since I graduated university and I didn’t want to begin my training by returning to a lecture hall. I wanted to observe, be in the classroom environment and see every side to teaching, the good and the bad. I have one years experience as a Teaching Assistant, but I doubt it will prepare me fully for how difficult it is to be a teacher.

I feel a mixture of nervousness and excitement as September approaches. My biggest worries are my overall confidence in the classroom, managing behaviour and juggling the academic side with the practical aspect of the course. Luckily, I am one of those organised-obsessed-colour-coding-highlighting-everything kind of people, so I will have no problem with staying organised. I am good at managing my time and creating to-do lists is second nature to me. I also think the reflection part of the course will be naturally easier for me, as the basis of my Creative Writing degree was learning to reflect on yourself and your writing. The only difference is, I will be reflecting not on my writing, but my teaching practice.

The next blog post will probably be after my first week on the teacher training course. I can only guess that I will probably be exhausted, I will be running on caffeine and adrenaline and I’m sure I will be feeling overwhelmed but excited about the year ahead. Wish me luck, I’m going to need it!

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Reaching A Mental Health Milestone

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During the past few years, I have struggled with my mental health. I have General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which means I constantly worry about everything and experience high amounts of anxiety for no reason at all. It took me a long time to accept that my anxiety was part of me, something that I couldn’t erase, something that couldn’t be ‘cured’ with a prescription of pills from the doctor.

A few months ago, when I reached a dark place with my anxiety and depression, I finally admitted to myself that I needed help. I would go days without leaving the house, I would sometimes sit and stare into space, pondering on the bad things that have happened in my life or bad things that ‘could’ happen in the future. I felt like I was trapped by my own mind, it’s a horrible feeling and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

Having an anxiety disorder is unpredictable. You may go through periods of time without any anxiety at all and then all of a sudden, it’s back and suffocating your thoughts like a dark cloud. I thought I was strong enough to battle my mental health issue on my own and convinced myself that I was ‘in control’ and my anxiety would get better over time, but it didn’t.

I had tried all of the ‘self-help’ options and nothing worked. I was crippled by anxiety, always worrying about the future or feeling sad about the past. I reached a dark place, where I thought medication was the only option for me to proceed. Then, a shining light appeared and everything changed for me. I found the strength to ask for professional help. It was a waiting game but I finally got on the list for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

I have to be honest, I was sceptical at first. I had convinced myself that my natural way of thinking, the negative way I approach life and every situation couldn’t be reversed. After a few weeks of therapy sessions, I started to notice a change. I had unconsciously started to think more about my ‘unhelpful thinking style’ and started to rationalise with the voice in my head when negativity surfaced. The great thing about CBT is that it strips back to the bare bones of how you think, how this effects your behaviour and how you can change this in the future.

David, my therapist was amazing. He was honest, critical and helpful in our sessions. Always sending me home with ‘homework’ to do, such as thought diaries and weekly schedules, he discovered what my triggers were and how to remove them from my life. For me it was during my alone time that I experienced more anxiety and more depressive thoughts. The answer for me was to always keep myself busy and distract myself by colouring, reading, doing yoga or simply doing some meditation.

Ever since I started CBT, I managed to pull myself out of the depressive state that I found myself in for months, started to fight against my negative thoughts and made small changes in my life that were going to improve my overall wellbeing. I am going to do yoga as often as I can, learn how to meditate, practice mindfulness and make sure I find time to relax each day. I’m going to still have bad days and now I realise that it’s okay to feel sad sometimes and it’s normal to worry, as long as it doesn’t take over your life.

I feel like I am reaching a mental health milestone. I have learnt in the past few months that anxiety cannot be ‘cured’ it can only be ‘managed.’ I have discovered that if I give attention to my anxiety and say to myself that I am mentally ill or there is something wrong with me, it only fuels my negativity and it will probably erase any progress that I have made.

I feel like I have reached a pinnacle of understanding. I accepted my anxiety was a problem, I asked for help and now I no longer feel alone on this journey to achieve a positive mindset. I have a long way to go but I finally feel like I can see the light at the end of a dark tunnel of worry, insecurity, anxiety and doubt. Like a butterfly, I feel free to go anywhere I want to go and do anything I want to do. I want to believe in hope instead of fear. I want to see the glass as half full instead of half empty. My anxiety will never ‘go away’ but I’m confident that I’m now in control of how I think, how I feel and how I behave.