Friday, 22 May 2015

Trainee teachers - don't panic and read this

Teacher trainer James Williams offers advice on how to emerge from your teacher training course unscathed

“You’re training to be a teacher? Are you mad?” Has anyone said that to you recently? If you‘re about to start teacher training – perhaps you’ve just started – then soon enough you’ll get such comments when you meet people at a party.
Of course you’ve been told by your tutors that over the next year partying is out – in fact, cancel your social life. Teacher training is the Formula 1 of professional courses: high speed, needing your full concentration, plenty of twists and turns and only time for a quick pit stop during the whole race for the chequered QTS flag at the end. Some of your peers will crash and burn and have a DNF placed against their name next June. Hopefully you will come through unscathed.
Yes, teacher training is hard, stressful and not for the faint hearted, but while you may be suffering from information overload (or you will quite soon), there are things you can do to help reduce the panic and stress.
A major mistake that trainees make is not reading important documentation or looking in the handbooks you have been issued with for basic answers to your questions. You tutors, seasoned professionals, are there to help, but they’re not your keeper or your personal assistant. A colleague of mine in teaching some years ago had a notice in his lab that he took great delight in pointing at with the metre rule: “Clean up your own mess when working in my lab, I am not your mother!” OK, not very PC – fathers do housework as well, but I’m not getting into that argument right now. His point was about more than just messy children. Spoon-feeding is very tempting, providing the answers or the work on a plate so that the children have to do next to nothing in the lesson. That road is a road to disaster. Interestingly, trainee teachers can get into the habit of being spoon-fed.
Although you will have lots of handbooks, pamphlets and paper pushed at you in the next few weeks. Don’t ignore it. Do take the time to read it and, before you fire off that email to your tutor or colleague asking what it is you're supposed to do or where you're supposed to be, just check the handbook, timetable, or your online virtual learning environment. If you become familiar with the handbooks you may well find that you have fewer questions, become more organised, use the right referencing system in your assignments and save many hours of heartache for the want of knowing what you should be doing and when.
If you are not naturally an organised person, you need to get a system in place – and soon. The information you get at university will help you get organised and is there to support you. By all means contact your tutor or your colleagues for help if you really need it, but don’t treat them like an on-tap Ugly Betty devoted to helping you 24:7. Finally, rest assured that if you really need specialist help and not just a reminder of the hand-in date for your assignment you’ll get it.

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