I swapped with a fellow trainee to write about how to survive being a trainee teacher because she questioned if she was surviving. I thought it would be easy and offered to swap. I sat down after a particular testing day and questioned it myself. How can I be ‘surviving’? I felt completely snowed under with planning, assignments and folder work and I went to placement that morning with my cardigan on inside out and I didn’t realise until a child told me at 10.30am! During which time I had been to briefing, spoken to parents and taught lessons- cringe! However, when I really thought about it I realised we are surviving. We’re not just surviving we are doing a blooming great job. We are effectively doing a full time job (for free), studying, applying for jobs and being parents and partners- we should be proud. I say ‘we’ because I think that brings me to my first point in survival…
You are not alone
Even though at times it feels like you are on your own, there are other people on your course and they have probably felt like you. Happy because they have got their first outstanding observation-celebrate it. Upset because they had their heart set on a dream job at their dream school- talk about it. Completely overwhelmed with the work load- share it. Talk to fellow trainees and talk to your mentors. They are in the same business and who better to talk to than them? Share your feelings with your family and friends they might not fully appreciate what you are going through and might joke that you get 13 weeks’ holiday (a joke that never gets old!) So make them understand. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for my supportive family and friends. We teach children to talk about their feelings so we should take our own advice: a problem shared is a problem halved.
I would have put this first a few weeks ago but I think support is essential in this game. Anyway, I have always considered myself organised but this course has taken it to the next level. I mean I write a to do list and then write a list of how to tackle the to do list- no I am not that bad. However, I do get satisfaction from ticking things off and I even write things that I have done that weren’t on the list so I can feel that sense of accomplishment- maybe that’s just me. My point is if you keep everything in your head you are going to feel like you have firework display going on in there. Get it out so you can prioritise what you need to do and see things clearly without the workload smog descending over you. You’ll be amazed how easier tasks become when you have decluttered your brain. So buy a teacher planner, a diary and obviously the matching stationary- who doesn’t like a good excuse to go shopping? Slightly off topic but have a notepad, post its or your phone on you at all times. You’ll be surprised when and how great ideas for lessons pop into your head. You never know you could be asleep in the middle in the night when you wake up and decide to teach children the phases of the moon using Oreos.
You find out you are going to be a trainee teacher months in advance. Don’t waste time between finding out you have bagged a place and starting in September. Use that time to familiarise yourself with the course handbook and the teaching standards. You will be amazed the difference it makes. I’ll be honest- I didn’t and I was completely overwhelmed when I first started (I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as teaching standards.) Anyway, I learned my mistake very quickly and once you have got you head around the standards and sub standards gathering evidence is easy. Now I will mark work, plan a lesson, make resources and make the connection that I can use them as evidence because I know the standards inside out. I didn’t read the handbook either- it stayed in my car all summer. It is going to be your Bible throughout the course so read it, organise it and pull your school based tasks out. Once you have an understanding of the school based tasks you can often tie them in with planning you are already doing so actually they aren’t classed as extra work. Prepare yourself to make your life easier.
Have a life
I am not going to lie this course kind of takes over your life. You could quite easily become a hermit and submerge yourself in work 24/7 but it is important to still have a life. One thing I am proud of is I have still continued with my hobby of dancing, who doesn’t need a good boogie to de stress (it is also beneficial to my waistline as an essential item when planning and marking is chocolate). Do things with your family- at times I’m sure they think I am neglecting them (especially the cats- they give me that disappointed look). I have found this difficult at times until my professional mentor suggested I book activities (bowling, cinema, meeting family etc.) so I have to put my laptop down and be a mum and a fiancée. You are so much more than being a trainee teacher so don’t let it take over.
Time goes fast. You are probably embarking on one of the most stressful years of your life. I am about to enter the qualifying phase and I don’t think I have stopped once to appreciate the opportunities I have had as a trainee teacher. As humans I think we naturally focus on the negatives but I am setting myself a personal target for this next phase; I am going to stop and appreciate what I have achieved and feel proud because – we are doing more than just surviving!