Student Teachers: they come and go. Actually, very many come and then never leave, having shown enough promise to be recruited as NQTs. It is one of the main attractions for any school taking on PGCE students: the hope that they might stumble across one or two they want to give a job to.
I am being too cynical. No, the real reason we devote so many of our energies to training is the money. The £400 or so per trainee can go a long way in a cash-strapped school.
No, not that. It must be the mission then: we are into teacher education because we are simply into education. We are excited at the prospect of introducing the next generation of teachers to the current generation of young people. It is a great privilege, blah, blah.
Well, of course it is. But let’s not get too dewy-eyed about it. Learning how to teach is very hard for almost everyone who tries to do it. It’s hard because their university tutor talks to them about ‘learning intentions’, while their placement school has a firm policy on ‘learning objectives’. It is hard because they really want to inspire young people with a love for their subject, but those same young people just refuse to be courted. It is hard because they have to plan the next lesson, reflect on the past one, and upload an assignment for their course. It is hard because, just when they were getting used to the kids in their first school, they are forced to up sticks and start all over again somewhere else. It is hard.
How do they manage? There are few things worth bearing in mind.
- Don’t pretend this is anything other than hard. Don’t suggest to your mentor that all is well, when palpably it is not. By the same token, don’t just moan about it: do the thing we all have to do when faced with something hard – work hard at it. It might well take hours to plan a single lesson right now. Well, spend the hours on it if needs be. It won’t always take that long, but if that is what it takes now then you have no option.
- Don’t take the easy way out. There are so many more resources available online than in my day. (Who am I kidding: there was no ‘online’ in my day. I remember buying History Today merely for the pictures I could cut out for my handmade worksheets. Hours they took…) By all means look for what is available, but don’t assume you can find a ready-made lesson. You have got to plan your own, if you ever want to learn how.
- Be humble in the face of this hard thing called teaching. Realise you have a lot to learn. Appreciate those teachers around you who have learned how to do it. Ask for their advice. Avoid saying too loudly in the staffroom things like, ‘I don’t know why Miss Simpson finds Charlie so hard to handle. He’s great with me.’
- Teacher Standard 8. I never used to think it, but it’s the main one for me. Being a professional means doing all those things above. Standards 1-7 don’t inevitably follow, but they won’t come at all without taking a thoroughly serious approach to your own learning.
Second placement for PGCE students starts soon, thus the timing of this blog. I hope one or two find their way here. I hope also that one or two mentors take a look too: it’s worth all of us remembering how lucky we are to be involved with trainees at the very start of this great profession. That’s why we are in this game after all. Isn’t it?