Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Coping with your PGCE course

In our lecture at university today, they were telling us about the dates for our graduation. Although it's in July, we will only be in university three more times between now and then. We're flying the nest, it would seem...

1. Be kind to yourself:
Make sure you take regular breaks, don't overwhelm yourself with extra responsibilities (just trying to impress people), try to keep to a routine where you finish work at a certain time, don't set all of your classes huge assignments at the same time (marking is time consuming!), don't work all weekend, save at least a couple of days at holidays for an actual break, keep in touch with friends, drink lots of tea and coffee, know that you're not perfect (and that nobody else is either).

2. Learn from the 'bad' teachers:
It is easy as a trainee to sit at the back of a classroom tutting and shaking your head at somebody's teaching practice. Even if you think the person you are observing is the worst teacher, they will be doing some good. It is infinitely easier to pick out the flaws in someone's practice than it is to reflect on what they have done well. There will always be something they've done well.

3. Don't leave university assignments to the last second
It may have worked with your undergraduate degree but leaving your assignments to the last second on a PGCE just means a whole lot of extra stress that you can definitely do without.

4. Don't fear observations
Nobody likes to be judged. Especially if the judge is sat at the back of the room writing and highlighting furiously whilst you're trying to concentrate on teaching. It can be really distracting! Put it to the back of your mind - prepare as much as you can in advance (but don't expect it to be perfect), adapt if necessary, and accept their comments and advice afterwards.

5. Don't blindly follow all advice
When you're training to teach, suddenly everyone is an expert. From my hairdresser to relatives and family friends, everyone thinks they know what teaching is like because they were a student once. Smile and nod. Smile and nod. Similarly, don't feel obliged to follow all the advice trained teachers give you (you may find a lot of it contradicts). Try it out - if it works, keep it, if it doesn't, forget it.

6. Kids (probably) won't kill you
There are behaviour policies in schools that ensure that disruption is dealt with and problem students are removed from a lesson. Know this like it's the back of your hand and don't be afraid to use it. There is a network of support available to you as a trainee and you definitely don't need to deal with it alone.

7. Informal chats about teaching are key
I found that just having a chat with fellow teachers about an issue or student can be really productive. It allows people to share ideas and practice in a way that isn't forced. It also allows you to get to know your colleagues better. Plus you're under no obligation to actually follow their advice...

8. Make friends with people on your course
This one is the number one lifesaver. Don't isolate yourself from your fellow trainees. There were some people on my course who were desperate to establish themselves as 'proper' teachers so didn't really come to training sessions or socialise with us. I know that I couldn't have done this course without my friends. Knowing that there was somebody else out there going through the exact same thing as me was a constant reassurance. Sharing ideas, resources, or just having a good moan....good friends are priceless!

Remember: you will have bad days and you will have amazing days. Keep the amazing days in mind when you're having a bad one and forget all about the bad ones as soon as they're over.


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