What keeps me awake at night - Head down, eyes closed, mouth shut

3rd August 2012 at 01:00

As a trainee secondary citizenship teacher, I felt as if I had no voice. I had to bite my lip on numerous occasions when I saw or heard something I didn't agree with. After all, it's the professionals who know best, isn't it?

What can you do when the PE teacher, who has been at the school for more than 40 years, interrupts your lesson, saying "It's like a cafe in here with all the chatter going on", and proceeds to take over the class using all the old-fashioned techniques you are being trained to avoid? The "chatter" is actually discussion, but you wouldn't dare challenge this highly experienced and respected member of staff, especially when permanent staff members are too afraid to challenge him themselves.

Or how about when your mentor and head of citizenship tells you not to bother with group work in a lesson? How are you supposed to teach skills of participation and responsible action without doing group work? Better not challenge them on that, though, or you risk coming across as awkward and you may not meet the standards for the placement.

The same person then points you in the direction of some resources that teachers in the school have been using to teach citizenship. These resources have obviously been developed by a non-specialist because they contain inaccurate information. You shouldn't be afraid to point out these mistakes, but what if it was your mentor who made them?

Let's face it, you are in a very difficult situation as a trainee teacher and rocking the boat is not really an option. Tutors make it quite clear that you have to suck up to your mentor to ensure you meet all the teaching standards and get your qualified teacher status, and you have to impress in the hope that you may be offered a job at the end of it all.

Though there are occasions when I am sure it would be right to do so, challenging your mentor or other established teachers carries a risk and could end up having a negative impact. Should it be like that?

Thinking of all the trainee teachers currently in this position, as I once was, keeps me awake at night. It may not stop once they qualify. If they end up on supply as they try to secure that all-important first job, they will be in exactly the same position all over again.

The writer is a citizenship teacher who completed her PGCE in 2009. To tell us what keeps you awake at night, email david.marley@tes.co.uk.

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