So, you wanna be a teacher – cue Bugsy Malone style inspirational montage with singing – well, there’s lots to be done before you are placed in front of that class of tiny people who need to be steered, encouraged and cajoled in the right direction.
First up, you’ve got some teacher training to get through. Think of it like a high impact interval training session that throws you in at the deep end with in depth theory lessons in a classroom environment and then practical sessions in an actual classroom with actual students all looking to you to teach them. Scared yet? Don’t be.
Here are some great ‘hacks’ (well, helpful tips) to get you through that year of teacher training and on your way to becoming someone’s new favourite teacher.
Find work experience
If you have a spare afternoon in your training regime don’t think about lying at home lounging around. You are not a fresher now. Instead, ask for work experience at a school in your area – it will give you the inside scoop on what’s going on until your training course places you in one permanently.
There are plenty of books and articles out there on teaching to sink your teeth into – like a predatory teacher on hallway duty telling students not to run. To stay on top of those important developments in education you should be reading up on things, even once you are qualified.
Read some more
Here’s a list of great books to get you started. Yes, extra homework for you! The Tough Kids Book is a great guide on how to deal with those one or two disruptive children (and they will always be there) in a classroom while Letters to a New Teacher, by Jim Burke, gives the reader some insight into exchanges between a new teacher and the author and highlights how important your mentor will be in that first year.
Erin Gruwell’s Freedom Writers Diary is another great book to get your hands on and details a real teacher’s account of turning an underprivileged class who were deemed incapable of learning into respectable students.
You need to be the expert in your specialist subject so be sure to revise the latest curriculum. You don’t want any awkward, ‘I’m not sure, let me check moments’ in front of a class of smug ten year olds.
Students need to understand how what they are being taught impacts on the world, always be on the look out for ways to tie current events into lesson plans, VE Day is the perfect opportunity for a history lesson on World War II or a new development in electric car technology can support a lesson on the importance of caring for the environment.
Many students go through teacher training without any idea of their ‘style’ of teaching. Are you going to be loud? Reserved? Friendly? Scary? Teaching can be compared to acting, the best teachers are the ones who can take a boring subject and make it exciting for a class through sheer enthusiasm and style. Practice your teaching style on your family and friends, borrow small children or just talk at your dog and see if it holds their interest.
It’s funny how some people can join a course and not speak to anyone. You’re all in the same boat, make friends with your fellow trainee teachers and the year will go a lot smoother – plus you’ll have someone to turn to when you’re struggling with an assignment or had a tough experience with a class.
Watch other teachers closely
While training you will get to sit in on lots of different lessons, watch closely and see how the masters do it. You might pick up a fun trait that works well for them or make a note on how to avoid a certain situation based on their actions. In your teacher-training year simply be a sponge and take everything in.
Fictional teachers are also great inspiration
John Keating, Albus Dumbledore, Mr Feeny – there are so many inspirational fictional teachers out there whose slightly unorthodox ways might raise eyebrows but they get the job done. So while you might not be a wizard or fancy jumping on desks shouting ‘oh captain, my captain’, it’s still a good idea to watch some of these inspirational teachers in action for some tips on how to inspire your students.
Once you’ve passed that scary teacher training course (okay, it’s not really that scary) but aren’t guaranteed a position in a school it’s time to look for a job! Bookmark a site such as Edustaff or start reaching out to local schools early and get a head start on the competition. You’ll thank yourself later.
Finally, be prepared for how small the children will appear to be then be prepared to marvel as they all grow taller than you. What are parents feeding kids these days? Miracle-Gro?