Where can trainees turn when things go wrong?

No one finds their training year easy, but it’s important to be able to ask for help when the going gets tough.

Your training year can be a rollercoaster of emotion, with highs and lows, and times where it’s hard to see past the next bend. As you make your way through, you’ll probably feel a little bit shaken but, ultimately, stronger for going through it with people sharing the same experience.

Teachers come into the profession from a variety of backgrounds but they were all once trainees and they all had days when they found things a struggle. 

Don’t think you’re the first

Jane Coleman, a course leader at Tes Institute, says that no matter what problem a trainee has, it’s unlikely that they’ll be the first.

“Whether it’s planning, behaviour management or paperwork, your mentor will have had another trainee who has struggled with the same problem,” she says.

“There are also different stress points in the year. As you become more skilled in your delivery of your lessons, for example, the planning actually becomes more challenging, as you become more knowledgeable about how students learn.”

First-term jitters

Many trainees struggle with the worry that they don’t know what they’re doing after an initial first flush of confidence at the start of their course.

“Around November and December time, it is totally normal for trainees to go through a crisis of confidence,” Coleman continues. “It’s important for trainees to know that this is to be expected and that it won’t last forever.”

When the going gets tough, speak up

So, what should trainees do when they find that things are becoming difficult? The worst idea, says Coleman, is to keep quiet about it.

“Nothing is resolved by keeping quiet. Leaving a problem for too long can only make it worse. Your mentor is an experienced teacher and they will be able to signpost you to the right next step. That might be a resource, some behaviour management tips or practical support in the classroom.”

Whatever the problem you have, there are certain steps that will always help in reaching a resolution.

1.Speak to your mentor
“Your mentor will be trained in how to support you and will be very happy to help. A lot of trainees worry that their mentor will be too busy but no trainee should concern themselves about this. Everyone in ITT is focused on wellbeing; the mentors are there to help you and they want to help,” says Coleman.

2. Accept help
Accepting help is not a sign of weakness. Everyone is learning during the ITT year and there are no medals for those who do it without help from others. Accept the help on offer and don’t try to be a hero. Most training providers will provide a counselling service and you should be given details about how to access it.

3. Talk in confidence
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to those around you, remember there are other options. The Education Support Partnership runs a 24-hour helpline for the education workforce. You can contact the organisation by phone, text or email and it has trained counsellors on hand to listen, whether you’re suffering from professional or personal problems.

4. Look after your physical and mental health
At the end of the day, your health should be prioritised above anything else. If you don’t show yourself empathy, then you won’t be able to offer that empathy to the children in your care. So be kind to yourself.

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, you may need to make an appointment with your GP. You can read more about the warning signs to look out for here.

Other useful links:
Mind advice for stress
NHS guidance for stress
NEU advice for trainees
Tes advice: Dos and don’ts for trainee teachers
Tes workload tips