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Stressed and scared on placement

Discussion in 'Trainee and student teachers' started by helenlk1, Nov 18, 2016.

  1. helenlk1

    helenlk1 New commenter

    I am in my second week of my first teaching placement. The school is lovely and the kids mostly brilliant, very mixed ability.
    I have come to the end of my first week and I am terrified I can't do it. I struggle so much with the creativity, I feel I just don't know how to come up with constant ideas and be original. The school want me to create my own series of lessons and use the resources as inspiration, but I can't seem to do it. The 2 lessons I created entirely from scratch were unfocussed and not good.
    I don't feel I know how to improve.
    I'm also so tired and feel so down that I'm losing the will to push on. I feel even worse because I recognise that I am so early in my career and yet I am struggling.
    I want to do better but I'm scared I won't, and I'm fearful of just completely failing. How does everyone do it and still have a life and sleep and eat normally?
    Apologies I realise I sound so bad pathetic but honestly I just feel lost and alone right now, my uni are useless and if I tell the school I think they'll just tell me to get on with it.
  2. pcsmush

    pcsmush Occasional commenter

    You do not sound bad or pathetic at all. We've all been there. :)
    I think you need tonight off. Go and try and relax.

    Tomorrow I recommend logging back into this site and searching for resources here. Do not try and reinvent the wheel. :) There are countless lesson ideas and plans that can be easily edited. :)

    Good luck! You're going to make a fabulous teacher. :)
    ribeiro3 and pepper5 like this.
  3. lunarita

    lunarita Senior commenter

    First, don't worry and don't feel alone. School placements are stressful and scary, most of us would admit to having felt like you at the beginning.

    Second, what you're suffering from is not lack of creativity, it's lack of experience. Creativity isn't something that can be forced and absurd as it may seem, the appearance of creativity comes with time. That teacher you see using creative, apparently original ideas every lesson? S/he's probably been teaching for years, a few more creative ideas and flashes of inspiration come every year and you remember them for next year. Just this morning I did a Y10 class on a topic I've been teaching for years, but this time in a new way (thanks to the suggestion of an ex-colleague) and it's one I'll remember for future years.

    Come up with a few ideas for this series of lessons and then, however dull and boring they seem, share them here or with the teachers you're working with (or with your fellow PGCE students if you've got that kind of network) - people will offer constructive criticism and help you with their own ideas.

    Now relax and try to enjoy your weekend (I know it's hard on your teacher training year!)
  4. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    You're being so hard on yourself - it's only the end of your second week!

    You don't necessarily have to be creative all the time, you can get ideas for activities from other people at school/uni or on here and use them.

    For each lesson, think about what you want the students to learn, or what what skills you want them to develop, by the end of the lesson. Base your lesson plan on this. Then, have a starter to get their brains working or interested in the topic, a task, take some feedback (i.e. ask questions or have a few students read out what they've written), do another task, take some feedback again (maybe ask what have they learned in this lesson, what was the most interesting thing they discovered, etc). Follow the same structure in every lesson until you feel more comfortable.

    Every so often throw in things like peer assessment (swap books), self assessment (traffic light - red, amber, green), a quick quiz, ask them to write down any questions they have etc. Depends on your subject, of course.

    Your mentor should give you feedback, and tell you how to improve. They should pick one thing in your lesson for you to work on.

    Why do you think you should not be struggling early on? That's when it's hardest! The PGCE, and your NQT year, will be extremely busy. Make sure you sleep and eat and rest as much as you can. After you have taught a topic for the first time you will be able to reuse your resources, so that will make things easier, but the truth is that the nature of teaching means you will probably be working 60-70 hours per week, and during half term/end of term as well.

    Good luck!
    jarndyce and pepper5 like this.
  5. Informant

    Informant New commenter

    It's because you are early in your career that this is so challenging. Lots of experiences are stressful first time, but become routine after some repetition. Like many professionals I suspect you are your own worst critic. Your 2 lessons from scratch were probably viewed less critically by others, so by all means strive for continuous improvement, but don't despair.

    If you have someone at home to talk to about your day, that will bring some relief and perspective, otherwise make time to have a drink with a friend and enlighten them. Too much solitude brings high anxiety at this stage.

    Sorry your uni aren't more sympathetic as this is the hardest term. You need as much positive praise as your pupils, so consider this; you rate the school as lovely, the kids as brilliant and nobody is harrassing you at present. Sounds like you're doing OK and although it's demanding, experience makes the task easier.

    Give yourself a break and congratulate yourself for being so close to the end of a difficult term. Sounds to me like you have potential, so it would be a pity to lose you.
  6. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    I actually think your school is being quite unreasonable in asking a very new teacher to create a whole heap of lessons and resources. In the second week of a first placement, I would expect my students to be observing lessons, team-planning starters and activities, using department schemes of work and perhaps beginning to adapt resources and work on their communication within the classroom. I would not be asking them to plan whole weeks worth of lessons and demand creativity.

    Firstly, ask for help. It's actually not OK for them to tell you to get on with it. You are learning how to do something and - like all skills - it takes time and support to get it right. After a week, you're expecting an awful lot from yourself: I've been teaching for 15 years and I still get it wrong sometimes. Ask someone in your department to show you an exciting lesson they have taught and get some ideas from that. Ask your mentor or someone in your department for some pointers - what strategies would they suggest, what resources worked best etc.

    Secondly, use online resources and adapt them. I did lots of making resources when I was a PGCE student and NQT and, honestly, it was a waste of time as older, more experienced teachers had already produced very similar things and in much better ways. This does not make you lazy, incapable or unable to produce your own stuff: it makes you smart. Making resources takes huge amounts of time, so make your life easier and pinch what you can.

    Thirdly, play to your strengths. What is the thing you do well in the classroom? Are you (for example) good at coming up with quizzes? Or running group work? Or questioning students? Think of something you think you do well and then go with that. If you're good at running group work, think of ONE thing you could do to be a bit more creative. Could you get them to present their work differently (in tableau form, posters, spoken format...)? Or add a jigsaw element where one person is the 'expert' and goes to the next group to teach them what their original group has discussed?

    And finally, give yourself a break. You're new to this. Were you Lewis Hamilton after a week of driving lessons? Heidi Klum after a week on the Atkins diet? No? Then why would you be Superteacher after a week or two? Give yourself time, a decent rest, and ask for support.
    jarndyce, pepper5 and oscillator like this.
  7. helenlk1

    helenlk1 New commenter

    To all above,
    Thank you very very much! Your kind words and comfort have made me feel so much better! I didnt really expect anyone to answer, never mind so many so quickly!
    I will take your advice and try to aply it when I start my planning afresh tomorrow morning.
    I will try not to let my fear and stress get on top of me, and I will definitely take a night off tonight, hopefully sleep will cure at least some of my brainfog.
    Thank you again for your kindness! I don't feel so lost now!
  8. pickles124

    pickles124 Established commenter

    Dear Secret Siren,

    I completely agree with your advice but out of interest, do you think its a good idea for trainees on their first ever placement to start planning lessons? In your opinion (and it is only an opinion that we are all entitled too) do you feel that instead on the first ever teaching practice placements, students should concentrate their efforts on the delivery of an already planned lesson to work on key skills and then the second placement has more of a focus on the lesson planning elements?

    I'm only asking this because I can clearly see the stress many trainees are under on their first placement due to lack of experience. Personally I think its hard enough in itself without having to keep thinking of things that are creative, interactive and will cover differentiation.

    I think the main problem is that a PGCE is 9 months. It really does pack in a punch but I think a gradual immersion into planning lessons may be better? But then again the whole course would need to be extended.

    To the OP, what support are you receiving? Do you feel that you are receiving enough support that makes sense? Are people readily available to help?
  9. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    No, I do not agree with your suggestion.

    First of all, trainees are all at different places in terms of skills, ability and experience at the start of the PGCE, and do not all need the same level of support. When I started my PGCE I already had more than 4 years' experience teaching EFL, so had no problem planning lessons. I had to get accustomed to lesson objectives, AFL, and the standard sort of tasks and activities that schools like to use or lend themselves to the subject and producing the skills/knowledge required by the students.

    Secondly, it can actually be more difficult following someone else's lesson plan.

    Thirdly, on your first placement you teach far fewer lesson so have more time for planning than on the second placement, and are (or should be) in a safe place where you can make mistakes and try new things out without real consequences.

    Fourthly, you will need to be able to plan lessons by the end of the course, so just spending the second placement doing this is not enough. Perhaps baptism by fire is the best way.

    I actually decided to teach EFL because I wanted experience of teaching, planning, assessing and everything else before starting the PGCE. I'm so glad I did! Perhaps the problem is that too many trainees have too limited experience? Perhaps the minimum requirements need to change, in terms of time spent in schools and previous experience...
  10. pickles124

    pickles124 Established commenter


    I hear what you are saying. I do feel though it can be unfair on the one hand to accept candidates with minimal experience. Unfortunately I fall into that bracket. I tried my hardest to obtain a teaching assistant job in a mainstream primary school but was unsuccessful. I did not possess the right qualifications.

    Also I think it depends on how quickly the individual catches on and learns how to plan lessons. It was the most hardest part for me. And yes- a baptism of fire is one way of putting it. Its a shame then that some people with minimum experience struggle. I'm not saying that everyone with minimum experience will struggle but they don't have much to draw on.

    Its quite a sad state of affairs to see people struggle.

    I respect all opinions and comments, and I truly salute those of you that battle on through the difficulties and hard times.
  11. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    So if you think it depends on how quickly people catch on, how can you think that trainees should only plan lessons during the second placement? You understand that not everyone needs that extra time, you are agreeing with me!

    During the PGCE you leave the first placement with targets, so if lesson planning is still a problem by the end of the first placement then it's something that can be picked up during the second placement. In fact you leave the second placement with targets too. You aren't meant to be the best teacher you'll ever be right after the PGCE.

    Besides, if lesson planning is something people struggle with there will be other things they don't struggle with, such as building rapport, using effective questioning, etc.

    Although some people do struggle with everything... but perhaps those people have chosen the wrong job, I'm afraid.

    I think the real problem is support from training providers. According to the teacher standards we must differentiate according to the needs of our students, even if they have just arrived in the UK and no one has bothered to measure their English language ability, but do training providers differentiate for trainees as much as they could? Teachers are not always the best trainers, as well! If someone doesn't understand the idea of lesson planning, their mentor should sit them with them and take them through the process. They should show their own lesson plans and explain the how and why of them.

    My best friend on the PGCE was 21, straight out of uni. I was 35. We got on so well, I loved our Friday uni sessions from Sep to Oct half term, and Jan to Feb half term. She had limited experience, but she and I had similar crazy ideas for lesson plans. It just comes more naturally to some. Behaviour management comes more naturally to others!

    I feel more sorry for those who are naturally rather meek and quiet. There's this PGCE student at my current school (generally middle class students with supportive parents), he's rather posh and effeminate - he'll struggle so much if he ends up at a school like my second placement school (rough as hell comp in a run down town with high unemployment). Plus he looks like a cross between a sixth former and Harry Potter!
  12. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    I would recommend a mid-way path, personally. When I've had PGCE students in my department, I've shown them examples of lesson plans, talked through expectations of what should be in lessons (as this may differ from school to school) and then done some joint planning. If they're good to go, I'd then check some plans before they taught the lesson just to make sure they're OK and then fine - off you trot. But actually, I do think there needs to be some sort of coaching through the process. Different schools have different plans and actually, learning to pitch activities, organise timings (again, lesson times differ from school to school so even if they are experienced planners from previous jobs, this may need a tweak or two), make sure learning objectives are objectives and not outcomes...it may need fine tuning.

    Joint planning to start with, continue with it for as long as the trainee feels they need the support, offer support where needed and then leave them to it.
    jarndyce, Rehkitz27 and pickles124 like this.
  13. pickles124

    pickles124 Established commenter

    You seem like such a caring and supportive mentor and teacher!! I admire how in your post, i can see how much you really try to think of ways to help the trainee teacher and guide them. The first placement is the hardest. I think joint planning to start off with is a great idea, and talking through the lesson planning too. Keep doing what you are doing, because it really will be appreciated.
  14. RedBedHead94

    RedBedHead94 Established commenter

    Creativity doesn't come easily. Up until I left teaching I still struggled with it! Some people have a natural flair for it, others don't. And that's ok, you won't fail your PGCE over it - I was passed with a 'Good' grade with no creativity whatsoever! Just show awareness of it and have a go but don't worry too much.

    The key is not to reinvent the wheel too much. Look on TES resources for inspiration, and replicate other teachers' ideas! I only ever did three creative lessons in the 18 months I was teaching and none of them were my own original ideas, just inspired by stuff others had done!

    And remember - you aren't supposed to be 'any good' yet. You're still learning and will be for the next year or two. Have a go, learn from what went well or not, and keep trying!

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