Teach and be happy

30th March 2001 at 01:00
For those of you valiant enough to have embarked on a teacher training course this year, here are a few "unofficial" pointers to make what can be an arduous course less stressful.

I took a PGCE in 1989, and it was a very difficult year. I had few friends on the course. I found the coursework a nightmare, and barely scraped a pass, but I loved my teaching practice and it set me up well for my later career. Looking back, there were things I would have done differently.

Student life Enjoy it. Don't study all the time. Indulge your interests. Remember: student days are a perfect time to get into something new. Try to keep fit - teaching requires stamina.

Don't try to be something you're not, and try to incorporate your interests into your teaching. Students love finding out about teachers' interests, and extra-curricular clubs earn you brownie points. Get good on computers, laugh a lot, ask for help with coursework when you need it, and ensure you have something to look forward to after work.

Accommodation Try not to live on a campus. If you have a low temptation threshold, preparation and marking can go out the window when the sounds of nearby partying begin.

A shared house or, if you can afford it, your own digs, is far more conducive to a student teacher's lifestyle.

Paperwork Bits of paper will come at you from all directions. Have two files - one for important bits and one for rubbish. Have a certain time each week when you throw out something and sort out your file.

In school, whenever anyone hands you a piece of paper, accept t gratefully, give it the once-over (just in case) and then bin it.

Interaction As a student, I tended to be your "Hi - what's your name?" sort, while others chose to keep a stern distance from their pupils. Training is a good time to find the balance that suits you best. If you're too stern, kids will be afraid of you and aim for the middle rather than their best. If you're too friendly, pastoral issues may affect academic ones. In training, you can get very close to your students - they know you are a student teacher and may confide in you more than a "real" teacher. Don't let popularity go to your head.

Colleagues Staying on the right side of colleagues is an art. Practise it as a student. Who knows how useful the grumpiest old bag on the staff might be?

Teaching is a very social profession and gossip can be irresistible. Be very careful who you chat with in the pub on a Friday, and remember that a school is a competitive environment - some people will be waiting for a chance to make you look bad. Seek out supportive types and ask advice.

First post Start thinking now about what kind of school you'd like. Don't think anything will do: you can choose - NQTs are welcomed into any school, from the well-resourced selective grammar, or the failing inner-city comp. Some NQTs choose supply work for their first couple of years - if this is you, get into a borough pool, or apply directly to schools.

Agencies offer attractive carrots, but eat into your salary. Ask college tutors for advice.

The author is a supply teacher in Essex

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