This post was written by an external contributor. Starting your teaching placement? Here’s some top tips from Jenna Farmer to get you off to a good start.
However prepared you think you are for a career in teaching, many find the transition to their first placement a bit of a rollercoaster. Whilst research and lectures are all well and good, nothing quite compares to the first time you stand in front of a classroom. If you’re about to embark on your first teaching placement, here’s 10 tips to make it just that little bit easier.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
With so many teachers rushed off their feet, it can feel awkward reaching out to staff for help. But remember the point of your placement isn’t to be a fully-trained teacher from day one but to learn from others. You won’t be expected to know it all and asking colleagues to check over your lesson plans or observe their lessons shows you’re keen to learn.
Set strict hours for downtime
Newsflash: whether you’ve been a teacher for five minutes or fifty-five years, there are never enough hours in a day. You’ll always feel like you’ve got something to do which is why it’s vital for your mental health to set aside at least an hour or two each evening to unwind with a good book or chill out in front of the TV.
Don’t fall into the friendship trap
If you’ve entered the profession straight from college or uni, you’ll probably feel you have more in common with some of the A-Level students than you do some of the older teaching staff. However, maintaining strict and professional boundaries are vital from day one to ensure students see you as an authority rather than a mate.
Consistency is key
The first rule of classroom management is consistency. So never go back on your word and stick to the same rules and routines each lesson. It might be a faff handing out detentions when half the class doesn’t hand in their homework but it’ll soon pay off.
Not every lesson has to be perfect
Some will have you believe that every lesson needs to be ‘all singing, all dancing’ but unless you want to be cutting out visual aids at 3am each morning, you need to be realistic. Whilst its crucial to keep students engaged, you (and the students!) will burnout if every lesson is perfect.
Accept disasters will happen…
Sometimes you can plan an amazing lesson on paper but things just won’t go your way. Whether a fight kicked off the period before and your class won’t settle or you’ve over or underestimated your students’ abilities, don’t take it personally and let it go. It happens.
…but do keep adapting
On the other hand, if you do figure out early into the lesson that things aren’t working out, don’t be afraid to ditch the lesson plan and try something different. Your observer will be impressed you can adapt to the needs of your class and haven’t kept flogging a dead horse.
Fake it til you make it
Have zero confidence? Keep feeling as if there’s no way you can control thirty teenagers? Everyone feels like this at times—the difference is they’re much better at not letting on! If it helps, you can even invent a different persona. Whether it’s a spot of power dressing or wearing your hair in a completely different style than you would do usually, it can help to distinguish between you as a person and you as a teacher. Make sure you’re always introduced as a teacher rather than a student too!
Always have challenges and extensions on hand
Never give students an opportunity to be bored. Having a quick extension task or challenge question on the board ensures even lightening-quick workers don’t run of something to do.
The staffroom is your best friend
Don’t contemplate eating lunch at your desk (or worse, skipping it altogether!). The staffroom is the place where friendships are formed and much-needed intel is gained. Not only will you gain much needed downtime but you can often pick up invaluable tips and compare notes on classes.