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Advice for an Incoming English Teacher?

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by Cosmic13, Jun 28, 2019.

  1. Cosmic13

    Cosmic13 New commenter

    Hi all,

    I've never posted in these forums before so I'll apologise in advance if I have posted in the incorrect place (please point me in the right direction if need be).

    I'm wondering if you can help me figure some things out about teaching. I'll be starting my English PGCE in September but I know very little about what is actually going to happen throughout that year!

    Here’s some of the things I’m wondering about:

    1. Are there any specific things I should be doing over the summer in order to get a jump on the workload? Creating resources or lesson plans for example? Or is this best saved for later when I have a better idea about what is expected of me? I’ve cross-referenced the most popular GCSE English texts and plan to read these at least.

    2. What are trainee teachers expected to do in the first semester? Are we able to teach early on or are we classroom assistants for a while?

    3. What is the most important piece of advice you would give a trainee teacher? The most common I’ve heard so far is to develop a thick skin and to make sure to spend time with friends and family outside of school.

    4. Which books really helped you develop teaching ideas/philosophy?

    5. I’ve already encountered prejudice from a well-established English teacher whilst doing my work experience; she said that I shouldn’t have even been offered a place due to my ‘ignorance’ (since I don’t have an English degree). What advice would you offer someone who hasn’t studied English at degree level but will be teaching it at secondary level?

    6. I’ve heard a lot of people suggest that new teachers ‘go in strict and soften up over time’ in order to establish order in the classroom. What is your opinion about this advice? I don’t think this approach suits me, I’m firm and keen to set parameters and rules but I don’t think ‘making an example’ of a student in a first lesson is an approach I consider fair. Am I being naïve?

    7. Is it polite to ask other teachers if I can sit in on some of their lessons so that I can gain some more insight whilst I’m training? Or is this disruptive for their classes?
    8. How is teaching structured within the school? Are teachers simply told what to cover during a semester and left to design their own lessons? Or are they given a lesson by lesson focus? Does this depend on the school?

    Thanks for all of your help everyone, I'm sure a lot of you answer these questions frequently from trainee teachers. I'm hoping that knowing a bit more about what I'm walking into will help reduce the jitters!

  2. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    Don’t over think it.

    Be aware of philosophy / ideas - these may shape in the future what kind of teacher / teaching environment you want to be / contribute to ...It’s not about a ‘manual ‘..

    Making an example of a student is not the same as following the school’s Code of Conduct. Yes you need to be consistent, persistent and insistent and deliver the school’s sanctions / rewards policy to the letter. You are not there to be someone ‘s ‘mate’

    Lesson proformas / format / coverage / assessment procedures / S of W - depend v much on the setting

    I suspect not having an English degree and being expected to teach it means that you will have your work cut out on many levels. Hopefully lots of support mechanisms in situ and you are quick on the uptake

    Advice - watch and learn . Skilled practitioners make it look easy and it is not
  3. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter


    1. As well as reading some potential GCSE texts, also read some young adult literature to prepare for KS3, and to help you get to know what young people are reading so you can relate to them and discuss books with them. Familiarise yourself with GCSE specs from the exam boards AQA, OCR, Edexcel and WJEC, and look at sample assessment material and past papers. You can't plan lessons until you know your students, so there's no point doing anything related to that, but you could familiarise yourself with TES resources.

    2. When you start teaching, and how much you initially teach, depends on you and the school and the training provider. Try to remember that it's not a competition between you and other people on the course. Do what's right for you and your development.

    3. Advice: 1) The people at your training schools are not your friends or colleagues, so be careful what you say to them. Maintain professionalism and distance. Be careful that comments from you could be taken personally by them, e.g. comments about the school and behaviour. 2) Do whatever it takes to get through it. If you need to go to bed at 8:30pm, then go to bed at 8:30pm.

    4. None. Observe others. Talk to others (not just at school, but other trainees).

    5. Look at the curriculum for KS2 and 3 (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/national-curriculum), especially the terminology in the glossaries, then do a knowledge audit (this is one of the first things they'll probably ask you to do on the PGCE) - what do you know already? what do you need to know? Look at the A level specs for Lang and Lit and do the same (esp. Lang as there's so much terminology).

    6. Pay attention to behaviour in the first few days at your placement schools. Follow the lead of the teachers there. Make sure you understand the behaviour policy and how it works. Fairness and firmness need to be the same across the school as much as possible, from the student POV.

    7. You will be expected to do this in your first few weeks at schools - this is part of the normal training process. You'll probably also shadow a child across all their classes, not just your subject.

    8. Depends on the school.

    Good luck!

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