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Keep away from self-service

For any trainee, stepping out in front of a roomful of pupils and taking charge is a pulse-quickening prospect. Anthea Davey offers advice, and PGCE students and tutors offer more

Even though you are just starting out and need as much feedback as possible, focus on the pupils' achievements rather than your own, urges Andy Ash, above

"It's difficult to give generic advice to beginning teachers because it's all so personal - they come from different backgrounds and with prior learning.

One of the most important areas in the early stages is that rather than reflect only on themselves as in "How did I perform? What did I achieve?", students can make a big step forward by thinking about the pupil and asking instead "How did the pupils perform? What did they achieve?" If you can counter the emphasis on self and remember the pupils, you will become a more reflective teacher. It can take time and guidance, but it also solves a lot of problems.

The introduction to teaching should be gradual, structured and progressive.

Many students are eager to get started, but you can't be in full control from the very first day you enter a classroom.

It's very important to have good relationships with colleagues. It's not a common occurrence to have difficulties with a mentor, but it can happen.

Beginning teachers (BTs) should be open and honest. The students should remember that they are postgraduates and so come with experience and knowledge and are responsible for their own learning. It's wonderful to have that control, but with it there are responsibilities. BTs must make sure they communicate frequently with their mentor and set up good links so their learning is negotiated.

Some BTs find teaching practice a shock. Even with all the visits and observations, they can't grasp just how demanding it is. The flip-side is that most say it's the most rewarding thing they've ever done.

We have more than 200 schools in inner and outer London in our partnership at the Institute, and student teachers should remember it is a partnership between schools and higher education. That collaboration is vital."

Andy Ash is senior tutor and secondary PGCE course director at the Institute of Education, London

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