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Where do I start?

Sara Bubb offers advice to students and NQTs

Q: You'll think I'm dim, but how do I justify the relevance of my English literature degree to primary teaching for my PGCE interview?

A: This can be hard. What about: "English is the medium by which almost all learning takes place, so children need good levels of literacy to help them learn all subjects. The knowledge gained in my degree will therefore be used throughout the curriculum, but particularly in teaching literacy. I am widely read. This will be useful in choosing texts. I can analyse text well, and during a visit to a school helped Year 6 children understand metaphor, homophone, and alliteration. I write and speak well, and can, for instance, explain how uses of grammar affect meaning. Perhaps, most importantly, I have a powerful love of stories, plays and poetry that I will convey to the children to turn them into avid readers and keen writers."

Q: I've been working part-time as an unqualified AS chemistry teacher since September while doing a part-time PGCE. We have studied learning theories and learning media, and had teaching observations, but done nothing on the curriculum. The practical side of the course is causing me problems. My classes should have done practical assessments by now, but I don't know how. I teach away from the main site, and feel isolated and intimidated by the other teachers. I've tried asking but they're always too busy. I'm in despair.

A: Get help quickly. Arrange a decent length (half an hour) appointment with your head of department - oddly, someone you haven't mentioned. Make a list of everything you need to know, every document you think you should have, and what help you require to build your confidence. Be honest, including drawing attention to feelings of isolation and your unqualified status. Go through each point, noting down actions that heshe or you are going to take. Lab technicians may also be involved. If you don't get help, raise the matter with the headteacher. Students' futures are at risk.

Let your PGCE tutor know what's going on and how you feel. It is strange that subject and curriculum knowledge hasn't been covered yet, but there's nothing to stop you asking for help with it now. At least you should be directed to the most useful books on the topic. Look at the exam board's website and the Association of Science Education materials. Don't be afraid to ask.

Are you a student or NQT? Email your questions to Sara Bubb's A Newly Qualified Teacher's Manual: how to meet the induction standards is published by David Fulton, pound;16

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