8 insider tips that every PGCE student should know

Teacher training applicants are already thinking ahead to September – Rebecca Lee offers top tips for preparing to teach

Rebecca Lee

Teacher training: A survival guide for trainee teachers about to start their PGCE

It's exciting to see the increase in numbers for teacher training – and I'm sure those applicants are already thinking ahead to September and preparing for their roles.

It's normal to feel a bit out of your depth in your first few weeks, but here are my best tips for keeping your head above water:

Teacher training: A survival guide for trainee teachers 

1. Know your stuff

Your training year may throw up gaps in your subject knowledge; every school covers different content, so it’s not down to your training provider to remedy this.

Find out what’s being taught with the classes you’ll be taking and make sure you gen up.

Don’t be afraid to ask your mentor for help with this or head over to Twitter, where you’ll find lots of resources and ideas freely available.

Quick read: How teacher training is tackling the workload issue

Quick listen: How to train a teacher

Want to know more? The research that shaped me: retrieval practice

2. Learn the names of key staff

Depending on the size of your training school, there could be upwards of a hundred staff members.

You won’t be able to learn who they are all straight away (and if you’re only in a placement school for a few weeks this would be unrealistic) but make sure you know the names of key staff, such as the designated safeguarding lead.

3. Learn all student names, sharpish

One of the most powerful things to know as a teacher is your students’ names. Learn them quickly and use them liberally. Not good with learning names? Write out a seating plan and have it in front of you.

4. Read key policies

What’s the school behaviour policy? What should you do if you’re going to be absent? What are the expectations for marking and feedback?

A good training school will give you access to key policies but you may need to ask your mentor for them. It’s important that you follow school policy even if you don’t entirely agree with it.

5. Make the most of observing

There will come a time where you’ve had enough of observing and just want to get stuck in. But don’t wish the observation time away.

Teaching is not as easy as it looks; you’re watching experts do something they’ve done for years and they have a habit of making it look effortless (or, at the very least, less effort than it actually is). 

The trick is to find new ways to unpick what they’re doing while you still have the chance to watch them at their craft. What routines do they have in place? What questions do they ask? Who do they direct their attention to?

6. Fake it 'til you make it

An aphorism to live by. You may not feel confident when you teach your first few lessons but play the role: stand up; speak up. Behave in the same way you’d expect any other teacher to and don’t be afraid to give sanctions for poor behaviour. Maintain high expectations.

7. Smile

You might have been told not to smile before Christmas. Ignore that. You’re not an automaton, don’t act like one. It’s important to have boundaries – definitely don’t try to be mates with your students – but it’s also important to build relationships and show that you care. Smile.

8. Take your own mug

It’s probably best to avoid drama in the first few weeks. So take your own mug. I’ve never worked in a school where there hasn’t been some fuss about mug thievery.

Don’t get caught drinking out of Linda’s "Flirty and 30" mug. Pick one that’s so ugly nobody else wants to take it.

Rebecca Lee is assistant headteacher at Wyvern St Edmund’s Learning Campus, part of Magna Learning Partnership

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