Starting an initial teacher training course can be daunting. Everyone embarking on initial teacher education brings with them a range of expectations and experiences. If you’re about to begin training, you may be coming fresh from university or have several years of teaching experience. You may be working full time, part time or fitting the course in around family commitments. It can be an intense and often hectic time, so getting off to a good start can save you from a lot of headaches and hiccups later on in the year.
1. Get organised
You need to factor some regular “study time” into every week. At least 3 hours or so and ideally away from your staff room if you are already teaching. After the initial course induction, go through the information you’ve been given. Start to set up your portfolio, whether electronic or paper-based and keep your work in order. This will pay off handsomely when you come towards the end of the course. Spend time exploring the supporting Virtual Learning Environment if you haven’t used it before. This can provide a fabulous resource.
2. Take risks in your teaching practice
Your tutor is not your line manager, or an Ofsted inspector. They will work with you to develop your teaching practice. Don’t be afraid to try out new stuff whilst being observed. If an activity falls flat, it doesn’t matter. It’s your ability to evaluate your teaching that we’re really interested in.
3. Make technology work for you
Twitter provides some of the best CPD around. Many teachers use it solely as a professional platform, following academics, awarding bodies, fellow lecturers and colleagues. There is a wealth of links here to relevant ideas and articles. If you set up a bookmarking tool such as getpocket.com you can also keep all the articles or webpages you find in one place and can access them again at the click of a proverbial button. Vital, when it comes to writing your assignments.
4. Forge contacts with your classmates
You will learn just as much from each other as you will from your tutor. Peers can provide invaluable support when you hit a wall with your assignment, can’t find that reference or need inspiration for a creative resource. Hook up, meet up and use online forums.
5. Keep your reflections up to date
Reflect on your experiences as a learner, as well as a teacher. Undertaking teacher education is a unique experience, where you get to observe an experienced teacher every week (ie your tutor(s)). Don’t be afraid to pinch our ideas. Your observers won’t hesitate to pinch yours. It’s not stealing, it’s called sharing good practice.
6. Get to grips with the Minimum Core.
It might appear complex at first, but you will start gathering evidence of your own maths, English and ICT skills from the outset of the course, so it pays to keep any tracking sheets chugging along, rather than leaving them until the end.
7. Read lots
Yes, you will be given extensive reading lists, but the trick is to read selectively. Dip into the relevant chapters from course books, use the links and e-books, as well as online newspaper articles, journals, blogs and websites. Include articles relating to your subject specialism. This will create interest in your written work. Twitter will help with this (see 3 above).
8. Use your course tutor
Your tutors and mentor are there to support you. Never hesitate to email with a query, or book a one-to-one tutorial if you need longer. Let them know as soon as you run into difficulties. What drives them mad is when you leave it too late to tell them if something is wrong.
9. Ask questions
This might seem obvious and is probably what you tell your own learners, but if you have a question, then the chances are one of your peers is probably wondering the same thing. See 8. above and again use an online forum, if you think of something after class.
10. Enjoy the experience
Initial teacher training provides a unique opportunity to spend time talking about teaching with peers. This is often what students miss most once they have completed their course. Creative teaching and creative problem solving are both hugely rewarding experiences. Relax and join your tutor and peers on a journey, which will hopefully include lots of laughter and not too many tears!