This is part two of my blog where I’ve been looking back and reflecting on my experiences of initial teacher training. You can read about my initial worries in part one, but as my training draws to a close, here’s what I wish I’d known before I started.
What advice would I give myself now if I could go back?
- Wellbeing - I can’t stress this enough. ITT is hard. NQT year is hard. First year as a qualified teacher is hard. So is the second year. It gets easier but it never gets easy. You must look after your own wellbeing. Twitter is a fantastic way of doing this. There are thousands upon thousands of optimistic, helpful teachers willing to help you out with anything. Take the scheme of work I mentioned in part one of this blog. When the new GCSE came out people were throwing potential schemes of work around to each other, people they’ve never met, just to help out the profession. Teachers want to help other teachers. You are embarking on a journey to enter an outstandingly helpful group of individuals who pull together to improve the profession as a whole, day after day. I personally find Twitter a far more friendly place than Facebook for teachers, and I use Twitter solely professionally which I’d recommend. Should a student ever find you, it’s worth your account being solely teaching based. Definitely follow Martyn Reah and the #teacher5aday movement for wellbeing. You need to look after yourself.
- Hobbies - Similar to above (I really prioritise wellbeing!), if you have a hobby now then keep it going. Something to take you away from teaching for a few hours. It is all consuming sometimes. I’ve found myself lying awake planning the perfect lesson; while this makes me seem like a dedicated teacher to some, to others they’ll see that this can be a road to ruin. I [try to] play golf, I have a dog who needs plenty of exercise and I have a wonderful family including a three year old boy called Rufus. These provide wonderful distractions for me which mean that when I focus on teaching again I’m fully fit and motivated.
- Organisation - Especially in terms of your ITT assignments. You don’t want to get to the stage where you can’t keep up because the work has got on top of you. The assignments are doable – don’t believe the hype. You just need to be strict on yourself and organised. Do the assignments when they’re set, not when they’re due. Again, if you’re struggling, Twitter is here to help. I’ve asked people for references, for alternative points of view etc. which has really helped.
It wouldn’t be right for me to promote Twitter so much without mentioning #ITTchat. This group was set up by a pair of wonderful trainees to give other trainees a central conversation in which to help each other. All you need to do is include #ITTchat anywhere in your tweet and anyone can see it who is following that conversation. There is a scheduled chat on Wednesdays where there are some leading or open questions to promote discussion around a particular topic, such as strategies people use for behaviour management. It doesn’t matter if you’re Early Years, Primary, Secondary or Further Education, everyone is welcome.
Over the summer I was fortunate enough to become one of the people who manages and runs the @ITTchat account, along with two other trainees - @martingsaunders and @trainingtoteach. We have helped people who are having a bad time on placement or who aren’t getting along with their tutor, we have offered help to people who are feeling overwhelmed and we have also connected trainees with qualified professionals to help them with a particular issue. Mostly though, we are just there to connect trainees and to chat. To be a friendly port in a storm as it were. Sometimes we even have guest hosts – recently Ofsted contacted us to arrange hosting a chat and the head of their ITT provision networked with trainees which was an amazing opportunity for us all, as well as helping them.
The world, especially the teaching world, is becoming a far more connected place, I urge you to get involved. Even if you are just thinking about a career in teaching you are welcome to join in with #ITTchat, or just watch from the side-lines and maybe message us privately with any concerns and we’ll put them out anonymously to the wider community.
Don’t believe the press – teaching’s marvellous
So that’s it, two blogs and almost 2000 words later and I’ve scratched the surface of getting into teaching. Teaching is hard, but a lot of jobs are hard. Teaching is, however, far more rewarding than almost any other job on the planet. You’ll have bad days, but the good days will utterly eclipse them. Get on Twitter, connect with others. Look after yourself from day 1 and prioritise your health.