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What do you wish you'd known at the beginning of your PGCE year?

Discussion in 'Trainee and student teachers' started by gailrobinson, Nov 8, 2010.

  1. 1) Use the free's you have whilst on placement in a school - they are so precious - I rarely took all of my lunchbreak or break times either becasue if you can get most of what you need to get done in school time the demands on your personal time should be less - not loads less, but less.
    2) Accept that when it comes to behaviour, there are some classes that you just wont crack - you can never underestimate the power of a regular teacher - ask them what routines are already in place (fingers crossed that there already are some) and stick to what has gone before as much as you can in terms of classroom management.
    3) Be as helpful and wonderful as you can - many trainees end up teaching in a school they have already worked in or done a placement in.
    4) write detailed lesson evaluations - yes they are a pain but so helpful when it comes to being reflective and understanding where you went wrong/right and how you can be a better teacher.
    5) Dont be too disheartened when you feel your feedback isn't as good as you'd like and when you seem to get contradictory comments - you can take as much or little from it as you want; in the end you will realise what works best for you. Take the comments on board as much as you can (you are allowed to disagree or contest the feedback if you feel strongly, but I found it was best to just smile and say thank you!)
    6) you have so much time on placements to plan your lessons and I still use a lot of the lessons and resources I created in my training year - you will NEVER get that amount of time to plan again so use it wisely!
  2. mr_history

    mr_history New commenter

    I wish I'd known...

    there were no jobs and I'd spend a year on supply. I didn't pay tax last year because I didn't earn enough. This year looks to be shaping up the same.

    that some mentors only care about money and that a trainee brings a big chunk of cash to their department. Why should they care if you pass when they get paid anyway?

    about counselling earlier rather than waiting until the final month to have a break down.

    about unfair practices placed on some trainees. Being forced to plan lessons for other staff, doing the department's photocopying, being used as a cover teacher. We took it because the mentors were "good friends with <course tutors> and one word can get you thrown off the course."

    it is not always right to do the right thing and you should just keep quiet or suffer the wrath of the mentor. Don't, for example, be taught about dyslexia friendly teaching and then incorporate that into your lessons. You could find that the mentor will ridicule your lesson in front of the students.

    not to have faith in others, especially when they say they will give you a resource or sign something by a deadline.

    about the absence of mentors. Our mentors were never within reach during a lesson, never observed our lessons unless the course tutor was in, disappeared last thing if we had their class.

  3. Realise, accept and be comfortable with the fact you will have bad lessons, bad days, bad weeks and if you're unlucky bad terms or whole placements. Embrace it and use it to get better at what you do but don't dwell on it.
    Never ever treat the children like they're stupid, they will spot it and resent you for it.
    On that note don't get stuck in the trap of thinking (especially if you do a secondary core subject) that your subject is the most important thing in the world. Accept that some children will do less well than others and that if you're lucky 10% of children will ever carry your subject on to somewhere meaningful. Children appreciate honesty far more than "If you don't learn this you wont get a job".
    Don't ever get mad. By all means raise your voice from time to time if absolutely necessary, but smile afterwards - it's disconcerting for the children and twice as effective as a scowl.
    Don't let your classroom management waver, but do be human. You weren't infallible at school, neither are the children you teach.
    Don't take everything you're taught in university as gospel. Being argumentative for the sake of it isn't a good move, but questioning a strategy or initiative that doesn't seem quite right can show that not only are you listening, but you actually care about what's best for the children, not just about passing because it's what the LA/mentor/lecturer thinks is best.
    Most importantly: Learn how to bake and surprise people in your department with home made goodies. I swear this is the one that keeps me in a job.
  4. Make your lessons as exciting as possible, its way to hard to make them all singing in your NQT.
  5. As I am coming to this thread 20-odd posts in I expect most of what I would say has been done already. I am just finishing my final placement of my PGCE now (my 2 main placements were postponed as I was ridiculously ill last xmas and couldn't return to uni for half a term whilst recuperating).
    I think one of the main things to remember is that you are learning. You will make mistakes, you are bound to over- or under- plan, if you're anything like me you will prattle on in the teaching so much the kids have no time for their tasks. You will get better with practice. Expecting to be perfect straight away is just going to cause you stress.
    The PGCE is your chance to experiment and find out what works and what doesn't. Move the tables if you want to, or introduce a reward system that works for you. Every class is different and what works in one may not work in another, but you will have had a chance to test your ideas and see how it went down.
    Make the most of free time in your personal life. You won't get much, so make sure you appreciate it when you do.
    It is ok to use pre-made plans, don't re-invent the wheel. However you MUST make sure they are appropriate for your class and differentiated. Alter them in a different font/colour or print them out and handwrite on them so that others can easily see your changes. At first you may think you have to do everything from scratch but you really don't, there are a lot of good ideas and resources already made. This will also provide you with a little more free time (see above point) - not much but a little.
    Try to get ahead with planning if you can. Planning your whole week at once might not be the best idea as things are bound to change and it can make you inflexible if you stick too rigidly to plans, but try to get at least a day ahead and have an idea what is coming after that. This can be easier to say than do, but it really eases some of the night-before panic.
  6. Haven't read the whole thread but some of the things that helped me are:

    If your personality is vastly different to that of 'the teacher' (true of most people to begin with) just do your damndest to adopt that persona while in school. It can make a surprising difference just being in character.
    Find some sort of prop to assist this character and build confidence be it power dressing (many female students I knew wore heels and a suit)or something else - mine is a moustache which I've grown to like over time!
    If your lecturers are getting you to sing songs / make things / dance around the room it is not just for the hell of it - pick up on both the lesson idea (as an NQT I'm now stealing so many from last year) and the pedagogy of what is going on.
    Sometimes life comes first - Even though it feels all encompassing the PGCE is not your life. That essay is good enough, go and spend time with your significant other / kids / pet. This is all too easily forgotten yet crucially important. It's not worth making yourself miserable over.
  7. I agree whole heartedly with the last point....Never forget you have a husband/partner! I worked so hard and stayed up until stupid o'clock so many times during my PGCE year that my husband thought I was having an affair on the internet!
  8. Hi tulakittycato
    Just thought I'd share a couple of things with you. I did a D&T PGCE last year and I felt exactly the same as you.

    1) Make sure you outline your expectations for behaviour, especially low level disruption like chatting, right at the start ( of each lesson if you have to) . Kids seem to think that you don't notice them whispering away at the other side of the room. I simply say that when I am talking I expect that they will make the right choice to listen. I then wait until they are all quiet again, however long this takes or however often. They do eventually get the message. If I need to stop students during the lesson to explain something, I wait until they are all 'listening' but say that for every minute I have to wait, I will add it to the end of the lesson and mark it up on the board. Sometimes it works but they do get wise to it so you have to carry it through.
    2) In order to remember everything in the lesson, I used to put key points onto post-it notes which I stuck in order on the desk. Get the brightest notes you can find and write in big bold letters! Always write a list of equipment you will need (especially in DT) so that everything is to hand and ready before the lesson.
    3) Remember you are the adult, you have to show that you are in control & are confident. Don't let them rule you or you have lost stright away. Kids will see immediately the tiniest *** in your armour and use it to their advantage.
  9. audreyt

    audreyt New commenter

    I sympathise with your list Mr History! Things I wish I'd known; Quit now and have a life! But then again I'd have nothing to moan about! Still, can't see me staying to retirement, so maybe I wish I'd known about getting an exit strategy, too...
  10. Thank you !!
    I know your advice will prove useful. I have been told similar things regarding the interaction with staff and pupils.
  11. It's not quite the same as what you're going through, but I was thrown in the deep end as an instructor of A-level Chemistry last year, with no prior training or even formal lesson observations or anything. My mouth opened and unintelligible words came quivering out, and my hand shook so much as I wrote on the board it was all but illegible. The urge to run from the room was (almost!) overwhelming.
    You would be quite exceptional (and probably arrogant) if you didn't have a rush of "stage-fright" when you start teaching. Being in front of a room of strangers all looking at you at the same time is going to be nerve wracking anywhere, whether they're aged 6, 16 or 60!
    A good piece of advice that was given to me was that you could avoid making eye contact with them. Do it in such a way so they don't notice. Pick a point on the wall between two heads and talk to it! Otherwise start by focussing the class on the projector and stand behind them. Give them an activity in which they need to focus on something other than you. I find even now that I'm jumpy in classes with people I haven't met before, but I fall back on my practical skills, and I can talk to a room of people so much more easily with something in my hand.
    The loss of confidence comes from the fear of making a tit of yourself. Stick your neck out, take a risk, and either get it right, or look a wally. If you look a wally, you will probably be laughed at, but even if you don't feel like it, laugh yourself. A failed lesson full of laughter is still better than a failed one full of embarrassment, and the children will still feel at ease with you. It's important to learn how to cope when things (inevitably) don't go according to plan.
    Most importantly, there is so much to be said for blind faith. After all, you are on the PGCE course because somebody somewhere has seen that you have what it takes to make a good teacher. Decide what your strengths are and don't forget about them, ever!
    All the best.[​IMG]
  12. joedoggyuk

    joedoggyuk New commenter

    1. Wish I had known... keep it simple stupid.

    Forget planning fun lessons; plan simple lessons. Don't be ashamed to use textbooks, copy or answer questions off the board. It has been done for centuries for a simple reason: it works. Get this right, then move onto the more adventurous things.

    2. Start of lesson routine: kids copy date, title, aim, then answer easy questions. Gives them something to do, and gives you the chance to settle the class.

    3. Silence works. Group work (often) fails. It will be hard to get silent work, but kids concentrate--and often learn-- more when in silence. Don't spend the whole lesson in silence, but I like to start and finish a lesson in silence.

    4. It's what they learn that matters, not how much fun they had.
  13. HIA


    Great idea, please do not restrict this to those in the Uck (spelling mistake intentional).
    Tips from a seasoned international secondary teacher ..
    There are many of us poor soles doing/have done our PGCE through distance learning with a Uni in the UK. We complete in the same manner except being on the international circuit don't get QTS. We do however (some not all) work a full time contract, have tutor groups, break duties; compulsory extra curricular activities AND parents evenings!. My consession as a PG student is I teach 2 periods a week less than my trained counterparts (and get paid a lot less)!
    The plus side is that the sun shines every day; the staff swimming pool is 4 doors down, classroom management is a breeze and school finishes at 2.30pm! Oh, how could I forget; my peers are fab; as yet though I have not convinced them enough of my plight as a poor hard-done-to student that they should cover my canteen duty or exterior roam in 40 degrees of heat; c&eacute;st la vie!
    My advise to those taking up distance learning..
    If you aren't computer literate forget it; any attempts to access e-books, submit through 'turnitin'(oh how that has a different meaning when you are tearing your hair out); fight the Great Wall of China; governments banning facebook, Utube, etc and even trying to get onto the Tes website, or even just researching on google for lesson ideas and those dreaded lesson objectives... take up heroin at least it will put a smile on your face!
    Best advise... chill. listen to your Mentor, liase with fellow students, get on the discussion boards;do the QS evidence en-route 'cos it's a real bind to play catch up; if your heading to a developed country that sells real books go shopping (Forget the girlie tops or boys computer games) ! Most of all listen to yourself take a break (so saysshe still working on that case study at 3am!). Get someone else to read your work.
    Best advise ever... hook up/marry a kind qualified teacher of excellence it's so the way forward especially when it comes to 'teachery speak'!
    Remember that those lengthy lesson plans DO focus you and DOES help with classroom managment; at the end of the day it's so worth it just to say ''I did it!'' Just imagine how you will feel after the year when you qualify!

    Quick quote: (Eienstien)
    A teacher should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty .
    Same applies to doing your PGCE... Enjoy

  14. Keep your artefact simple.
    No matter how hard you try, it wont be original, so countless hours spent making something are not really needed. I spent an entire weekend ( and I mean entire from Friday night to Monday morning) making something that I then found as a much more effective Powerpoint on the TES resources.
    I realised afterwards that had i made the powerpoint myself I would have learned a much more valuable skill than being up to my eyeballs in glue all weekend. The school I was at was so beleagured that I never got a chance to properly trial it anyway :(
    keep it simple, read the TES, and spend all your energy on the brilliant write up
  15. Oh dear, sounds like you went to the same sort of establishment that I did.
    I truly believe that I passed in spite of my mentor, not because of her. She was the invisible woman, failed everything I did, and gave me bottom set classes wherever possible.
    my comment on leaving was "teaching? I'd rather starve..."
    The only reason that I persisted was that sheer logic told me that not all schools and teachers could be that **** or vindictive.
    I now work in a fab school, and happily can say that I have never come across her like since.
    Have faith, and understand that over worked and unhaappy teachers make lousy mentors, and make sure you dont turn into one yourself [​IMG]
  16. keep it simple. Training bangs on and on about creativity and originality. In my experience you spend hours being brilliant, and the kids dont get it at all.
    Dont be ashamed to shamelessly copy from others what was good - nuts to originality!
    Dont be ashamed to give them stuff they have seen before - they kick off big time with new concepts, and you wont believe how much they have forgotten from yesterday.
    Kids are generally compliant when they can do stuff and talk about themselves. A lesson where they can each stand up and give a sentence on something is a good hinge/plenary (insert your own latest bit of teaching jargon here) and helps tp change the pace.
    Hope this helps

  17. crampsfan

    crampsfan New commenter

    My PGCE year was twenty years ago now but I still sometimes get a cold sweat remembering it! Since then I've had years being great, rubbish and mostly in between. Advice that would have helped would include:
    You do have to "get into character" but it helps if you can make the character as close to your own as possible.
    People tell you not to smile till xmas but humour can be very effective, For example if students are getting in each others faces, putting on a scouse accent and saying "all right calm down, calm down" (not sure if that would work if you are from 'pool) seems to work well even though they are too young to remember the Harry Enfield types.
    Try to remember it's not personal if they're giving you a hard time, that's their job.
    Watch as many lessons as possible, especially by less experienced teachers and your fellow students.
    Don't announce you are a student - but don't worry too much if (when) they find out.
    Make sure you get some me time but don't be surprised if you lose track of a film, book etc. as you're thinking about the dreaded 9P3 the next day. Try to talk to your partner, close friends about other things as well as the dreaded 9P3.
    Don't stay up too late and try very hard not to go in with a hangover.
    Try and make friends with the office staff and the caretakers - they're great to have on-side.
    There are usually some nice people in a staffroom but try and avoid the cynics. If they go to the pub on a Friday, that can be a good time to see them being more human.
    Be prepared to fall asleep/pass out when you get home.
    It ain't easy but if you don't weaken you'll get there. Good luck.

  18. Don't assume that your school placements are going to be outstanding, top-notch teaching environments. My college was really short of teaching placements and we had no choice about who or where we were sent. Make the best of it, and spot the good and bad points.
    On your second placement, try to find out everything you can from the student who went to the same school on the first placement.
  19. Hey, just remember they are people too. Try to look at them in the eye when ur at the front, if that's too daunting look at their eyebrows- they always look funny and give you something to concentrate on (it works on adults in the room too). The best thing is that they don't know your looking at the eyebrows and not the eyes unless your really close.
    I found my first experience covering a lesson to be quite nervous. I looked at the sea full of faces and remembered the old trick of the eyebrows- it worked! Then I refocused the classes attention to each other in a little chat about 'the best thing ever would be to .......', they really warmed to me which made me feel more at ease- he rest of the planned lesson flowed gorgeously!
    Hope it helps[​IMG]
  20. Hi.
    I'm in my first placement of my teaching practice. The single most important piece of advice which I wish I'd known before commencing my practice is to <u>always wear a watch!!</u>
    Yes, I know it sounds simple, obvious and even quite daft. However, I cannot begin to describe the feeling of despair when the bell goes and your Year 7 class are midway through an extrememly messy cutting and sticking activity. When this happened (on my first EVER lesson!) I hadn't realised that the classroom clock had stopped and the clock from the computer was not on screen as I was using a powerpoint that lesson.
    The classroom teacher was, in a word, annoyed as I had to scamper around the class clearing up all of the mess as I went and she had her next class waiting outside!!
    Just ensure that you are wearing a watch! [​IMG]

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