Our secret trainee talks about their first experiences of teacher training

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I know, I know, that’s not what I’m supposed to say. It’s meant to be the hardest year of my life (although sources vary on this – I’ve also been told I need to wait until my NQT year to claim that particular accolade). I’m meant to be stressed out, with no social life or hobbies to speak of, desperately trying not to cry in front of the kids.

Received wisdom states I definitely shouldn’t be having fun. But I am.

Before I start to sound horribly smug, there are a few caveats to this. I studied some education modules during my undergraduate degree, so I am familiar with some of the theory. I’ve worked in the education sector, so I was well aware of what I was getting myself into. And, believe me, I haven’t underestimated the impact of being placed in a school with great behaviour and attainment (and no one else will let me forget it).

But here’s what I think really helped me. I made myself a promise when I started training that I would actually listen to the advice I was given beforehand. This was controversial for me, as normally I would choose the path of making life difficult for myself for a term, before coming to the same conclusions myself.

The first thing I was told was: 'PGCE students spend forever trying to find the perfect resource. Know when something is good enough.'

The second was: 'Make some time for yourself, you have to have a life outside teaching.'

So I've been doing both of those things, though both need a degree of judgement that I'll tweak with experience. Unsurprisingly, it's pretty great advice.

When my lesson planning load increased exponentially this week, I only panicked for a few minutes, before using my new-found 'searching on TES' skills to find some decent resources to shape my lessons around.

I boldly booked a half-term holiday before I’d even started the course. As a result, I spent the few days I had left feeling relaxed and got loads of work done. (I’m starting to sound smug again).

I wonder if the hyperbole around teacher training just isn’t helpful for the trainees. Of course it’s demanding. Every week you do things that would have terrified you two weeks ago. But speaking to other trainees always reminds me how damaging the idea of such a high stakes, high expectations course can be. We expect everything to be scary and difficult, so it becomes that way. Lesson plan didn’t take four hours? It’s probably not good enough. Went out for a nice dinner with your friends? You’ll probably have a disaster with Year 10 on Monday.

I just don't think that's the case. Sometimes, things will go wrong in the classroom. Most recently, I drastically overestimated my Year 8 class’s ability to use Bunsen burners. Sometimes you could have prevented it, sometimes you couldn’t. But learning to do one of the most complex, interesting and varied jobs in the world is always going to involve some mistakes. And learning to do it really well means you have to take some risks.

So, do you have any more advice for me?

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