Top tips on getting through ITT and enjoying it

An illustration of a rollercoaster to illustrate the ups and downs of teacher training

Source: © John Holcroft/Ikon Images

Ride out the highs and lows during your ITT year

Well done! You’re successfully progressing through what, even in normal circumstances, you may have been warned is the ‘hardest year of teaching’: your ITT year. You’ve probably spent endless hours creating lesson plans that are all neatly filed away and worrying about how much evidence is required for each teaching standard before the end of the year. But, fear not – we’ve all been there; it’s important to step back and take a breather! Here are some top tips for thriving (and not just surviving).

Reflect on your lessons

The ability to reflect is vital as a teacher. You’re dealing with multiple students every day, making umpteen split-second decisions, so obviously you’ll get some wrong. Remember that you won’t be the ‘finished article’ for a long time (spoiler alert: you never will be), but the good news is that you aren’t expected to be.

Training providers and employers look for the capacity to reflect on a lesson and be self-regulated enough to suggest possible reasons why something didn’t work but, more importantly, how you plan to address this in the future. This metacognitive cycle is something we try to develop in our students, but it’s just as important that we instil it in ourselves, too.

You will already be doing this in the weekly discussions with your subject mentor. What went well? What could be improved? How will you address it in your next lesson? Teaching constantly provides you with opportunities to improve on your last results – how you bounce back and learn from these inevitable mistakes is what matters.

Don’t be afraid to try things out

There will be those who claim to have the ‘perfect’ teaching methods. While you must ensure your teaching is based on sound pedagogical research, remember there are rarely any silver bullets in education. As Dylan William states in Creating the schools our children need, ‘Everything works somewhere, and nothing works everywhere.’ Retrospectively, I may feel that how I taught a topic in my training year wasn’t good enough, but it was probably good enough for my students at the time. It takes time to develop the confidence in your behaviour management to teach in a certain way.

In your training year, it’s essential that you take the time to try out new things to see if they work. If they don’t, then you’ve gained something from the process – you know to try something else next time. It may be that your idea needs some tweaking, or perhaps it’s not the most effective method in your setting. Now is the time to make mistakes, and learn from them.

Ask questions

Use the expertise available at your school. While you are learning on the job, remember that asking for advice about anything is never a weakness. It shows you care and want to give your students the best. And this should never change throughout your career – there will always be people with more experience that you can learn from.

Keep in mind the bigger picture

It’s easy to become bogged down in not meeting all the requirements for the various standards and milestones, but at key points in the year you should take time out to consider how far you’ve come. In such a short space of time, you will have grown so much as a teacher. Remind yourself of how much more comfortable you now feel in the classroom and of how your skills have developed. Remember, teaching is a marathon, not a sprint.

Be yourself

It’s essential to just be yourself, for three reasons:

  • First, students can see through you­ – they both want and deserve the genuine article.
  • Second, when you are fully yourself in the classroom, it will inevitably calm you down and allow you to put your own spin on things. Tell those awful dad jokes, make fun of yourself and share the silly mnemonics, acronyms and stories that help you remember the difference between anodes and cathodes.
  • Finally, the time spent in your classroom will be more enjoyable – putting up a facade is very tiring.

Remind yourself why you’re teaching

There will be plenty of highs and lows. There were times during my training year, and even more so since, when I have wondered whether it’s all worth it. It’s helped massively to remind myself of why I started teaching. For example, it gave me fresh perspective when I read a blog I had written in the past. Writing isn’t for everyone but taking time to write down how you feel can provide you with milestone markers or reminders for the future.

Enjoy it

Between deadlines and folder submissions, it’s easy to forget to enjoy it all. Although teacher training is challenging and stressful at times, you also have the opportunity to develop yourself, surrounded by highly experienced colleagues who really want you to succeed. And sometimes, when you’re feeling low, a student may do something that makes you laugh ­– enjoy those moments. As my fantastic subject mentor and friend said to me at the end of my training year, ‘It has been a good laugh. Something we sometimes forget to do.’