Starting a 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 sometimes hectic time, so getting off to a good start can save you from a lot of headaches and hiccups later on in the year.
I have worked as a teacher educator for nearly 15 years and have learned through experience how my students work best to keep themselves on track with their course. I’ve designed this list for newcomers to the profession, but it might be useful for experienced teachers when undertaking CPD activities or when seeking a quick refresher in their own practice.
1. Get organised.
You need to factor some regular study time into every week. At least 3 hours or so (for part time students, longer if you are studying full-time) 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 your course’s VLE e.g. Moodle if you haven’t used it before. It’s 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 while being observed. If an activity falls flat, it isn’t the end of the world. It’s your ability to evaluate your teaching, which we’re really interested in.
3.Use Twitter and Delicious.com
Twitter provides the best CPD I’ve ever experienced. I 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 delicious.com account, you can also keep all the articles or webpages you find in one place, which is 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 an online forums on your VLE.
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 (that’s me and the other tutors!). Don’t be afraid to pinch our ideas. We 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 and logging evidence of your own maths, English and ICT skills from the outset of the course, so it pays to keep this chugging along, rather than leaving it until the end.
7. Read as much as you can.
Yes, we will give you extensive reading lists, but the trick is to read selectively. Dip into the relevant chapters from course books, use the links on Moodle and the e-books available, 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.
We are happy to give you as much support as we can. Never hesitate to email us with a query, or book a one-to-one tutorial if you need longer. Let us know if you run into difficulties. What drives us mad is when you don’t tell us if something is wrong, then hand in your work late, or cancel an observation.
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
I have what I consider to be the best job in the world. Working with trainee teachers means I get to discuss teaching for at least half my working hours. What an opportunity! Creative teaching and creative problem solving are both hugely rewarding. I hope at least some of my enthusiasm rubs off on you, so relax and join me on a journey, which I guarantee will include lots of laughter (and not too many tears) I hope!