What Mary Berry and observers have in common…

When did we forget that a lot of SLT/Ofsted’s suggestions do help kids? 

Note: Please read the caveat in the final paragraph explaining that this is a generalisation and does not apply to all teachers/styles/OFSTED guidance etc. 

It is rare for me check Twitter or the education news without seeing someone complain about pressure from SLT or Ofsted piling on too much unnecessary pressure. Sometimes I do believe that suggestions can be superfluous and are just there so that schools can be seen to be effective in the eyes of inspectors. However, most of the time, I see teachers complaining about things that genuinely can help kids and improve teaching and learning in schools. 

One of the most frequent complaints aired is regarding marking frequency and detail. Do not get me wrong, I completely agree that not every piece of work needs marking and that verbal feedback stamps are a waste of ink. However, marking demonstrates that we care about what students produce and it gives students direct, detailed feedback to improve and progress. Is that not the point of our teaching – students improving and making progress? 

In this regard, if your books are not marked and you do not do things like mock assessments and extended writing (if your subject is a writing based subject) because they’re too much work, are you confident that your students are better off? The unfortunate truth with some teachers is that, when pulled up by SLT on their lack of marking, they say “don’t worry, I’ll catch up in the holidays”. This is the problem the profession has: some teachers have forgotten the fundamental rule that everything we do is for the kids. If you “catch up”, you have ultimately missed the boat as kids don’t need the feedback weeks later, they need it ASAP to build upon. Thus, you’re marking for SLT who have probably already clocked that your marking is not supporting the kids. 

Targets, success criteria and data: 

A Secret Teacher a little while ago implied it was unfair for observers to ask “demanding questions” such as whether kids know what they’re doing and what their targets are. In my experience, students who know exactly what their targets are, are pushed to constantly exceed their targets and have success criteria in nearly every lesson (and marking that also helps with this) are the ones who excel. Just like a baker making a cake needs a recipe, students need to know what to put into their work for maximum success. If you are not providing that, you can’t expect Bake Off worthy outcomes. Mary Berry wouldn’t put up with excuses such as “I’ll catch up later” or “you’re being too demanding”. Therefore, why do we expect our SLT to accept it…or, more worryingly, our students. Just like the Bake Off, our students are now being pitched against each other for the best grades. Therefore, if I was a student, I’d rather have someone telling me the ingredients I need rather than coming up with every reason for Mary Berry being unreasonable. 
Nonetheless, I do completely appreciate that there are many teachers who put in 110%, get great results for their students, develop their students pastorally and do not follow the classic Ofsted model. However, when teachers deliver sub-par lessons and excuse it with lines about being under too much pressure, even though they don’t spend their time on progress-efficient tasks (for example), I start to see exactly why our school system is internally and externally regulated. 

Teaching is a lot of work. However, when you’re on top of your marking and your planning makes progress transparent for students and observers alike, students fly and you can still be home by 5:30pm and look forward to minimal work in the holidays. 

Thus, instead of fighting the system, why not embrace it? If you mark little and often, make peer/self assessment meaningful through scaffolding, take the time to create success criteria and utilise data management to help you target students, you will find that you need to work LESS because the kids are ticking along nicely as they know what to do to progress. 

Some schools can be overly demanding. Some Ofsted inspections can pose questions about reliability. Many teachers can forge their own path successfully. However, if you’re not an off-piste Maverick, maybe we should make sure we think about the kids at the heart of it all… Are they getting the best from you? If not, maybe SLT are not the big bad wolf..

Please drop me a comment below or follow me on Twitter @miss_trainee 🙂


Trainee Tip #7: Why “annoying but alright” is a good place to be

This week it came to my attention that a student I teach had described me as “annoying but alright” on social media. Whilst I’m not a fan of students discussing teachers online for various reasons, I wanted to take the time to focus upon the sentiment in his description. I believe that a teacher should never be students’ friends. Therefore, I would take “annoying but alright” as an almost exact description of how I would want to be perceived.

Annoying is negative though?
From knowing this student as I do, I believe his perception of annoying is that I will not put up with him chatting or slacking. In this respect, despite the fact he is top set and a very able student, he will come back at lunch if he has not worked well enough and I will not let him get distracted/distract others. In this regard, I suppose I am “annoying” as he cannot get away with cruising at 70% effort like he possibly can in other classes.

Don’t you want to be more than “alright”?
With his class particularly, I have to be very careful as they are lovely students who genuinely make me laugh. There are a number of cheeky and friendly students who genuinely can multitask by working and chatting at the same time. Therefore, I have to keep myself in line by ensuring that I always remain as their teacher who has the authority to make them get their heads down rather than being seen as a pushover.

I always say to newbies that the “cool fun teacher” that they often aspire to be only exists because they have silent rules and routines lurking in the background. With this class particularly, I’d say that this is exactly what “alright” means. They know they can have a joke and enjoy the lesson but they know that I will stop them if they go too far. It is my job to ensure they all meet and exceed their target grades. Therefore, it is my job to make sure the fun side does not sacrifice that or set a precedent that less than 100% effort is okay.

Okay but how do you establish the knowledge that you’re in charge but enjoy a joke too?
For me, it is all about going hard on rules and routines at the start of the year (if it’s a bit late for you, go for a re-load where you spell out your rules clearly and then apply them). From here, students to see that you will apply the rules. This means that they know the rules are there and know that they are not just for show. Thus, once you start building the relationships with the students, they start to relax around you, enjoy your lessons but they are reassured that you’re not running a “doss” lesson and will clearly reiterate boundaries as appropriate.

So there we have it…
In terms of what -I believe- makes a successful classroom, “annoying but alright” is as good as you’re going to get from a mischievous student who often clashes with teachers. Don’t be afraid of clear, strict rules. Don’t be afraid of applying them. But also, don’t be afraid of enjoying a joke; you are a human being and students will “play ball” more if there is an element of give and take. Nonetheless, remember, you are not their friend and they should never feel that “oh but miss, please!” is ever their ticket out of getting the job done.

Please drop me a comment below or follow me on Twitter @miss_trainee 🙂

The Truth About Teach First-ers – Beat the myths!

Recently, I have spent a lot of time trying to assimilate county NQT protocol with the demands of the TF programme and expectations within the school. The conclusion that I have drawn is that not many people ACTUALLY know what a TF participant is and what we do.

You’re just like any other trainee/NQT, right?
For those of you that don’t know, we teach an up-to-80% timetable from day one after 6 weeks of intense training. We have two mentors in school and two mentors from our university. The idea is that we will very quickly learn to swim because we are “high achievers”… Or at least that’s what people say. In my experience, minus a few hiccups along the way, we have no choice but to swim because we would drown if we didn’t… Not because we are super human.

Moreover, we get our PGCE whilst teaching…Therefore, we often teach all term and write essays all holidays… Madness! Nonetheless, it does mean that we are just like any other PGCE student apart from the fact the distinct majority of our experience is in one school and we have a lot more teaching experience by the end of the year.

Ah, so you’re a “high achiever” coming in to make us all look bad/make out you’re superior to everyone else?
No… And I do genuinely apologise on behalf of anyone associated with TF who has ever implied this. I have observed many Twitter arguments where members of staff who have taught for ages and (often) followed the traditional PGCE route into teaching feel like TF are there to imply they’re rubbish. This is not the case.

HOWEVER, TF does focus upon schools where many students are disadvantaged in some way. These schools COINCIDENTLY sometimes tend to be the requires improvement/special measures schools where teaching and learning is slated. Nonetheless, in my school and many TF schools I know, their issue is not necessarily the current members of staff in those schools (these tend to be the unsung hero worker bees who hold the school together), it is that they cannot hire and retain good teachers. Thus, when someone leaves, the school is often left plugging the gap a good teacher left. This is often where TF comes in.

So you’re saying that my school should hand over classes to someone who has minimal training and minimal experience…? Surely that’s harmful to the kids?
What’s more harmful? Giving a class a supply teacher or non-subject specialist for a year or giving them a fresh trainee who specialise in their subject and will not rest until everything is perfect?
Yes, they’re new and naive. Yes, they are bound to make mistakes. Yes, maybe a teacher with 20 years worth of experience and a glowing exam result track record may be “better” for the kids…at least in the short term. However, independent research (possibly IOE? Can’t remember the source… I’m sure I can find it if you’d like!) has found that TF trainees have no impact on the students. This is a strange piece of data. However, it is oddly positive. The study found that the students were no better or worse off with a TF trainee in terms of results than with a “real” teacher. Moreover, from personal experience, I believe that TF trainees can generally have a great impact on students in terms of percentages of students reaching their targets.

We have a solid team around us who come running whenever we call in a flap. Moreover, we have dedicated, free, regular CPD on the topics that directly help student learning. Finally, TF research has found that something close to only 10% of participants do not get good or outstanding in their PGCE observation grades (yes, they’re still graded…)… And, of that 90%, it is roughly 45% of each.
Therefore, whilst you may see us bumbling through at the start and whilst there may be a few TFers who are not making progress, generally, we’re okay!

So you’re a whizz who we should be holding to high account?
Yes and no…
Generally, we like to be pushed. However, if we do well in an observation (for example), please do give us a pat on the back otherwise we will spend that evening picking it apart to identify how it could’ve been improved. Nonetheless, once we’ve given you a small smile for the pat on the back, our minds will flick back to the job in hand and how to get even better next time and so on.

This is both a good and bad thing. Please keep in mind that we’re actually only trainees and, so, we do not know everything. Therefore, when setting us targets etc, please be aware that we should only really be graded as compared to a typical trainee, not a qualified teacher. Nonetheless, if I am anything to go by, I would like to know what else I need to do to hit that step up ASAP.

Moreover, as an NQT, I want to keep being stretched. My school is great as they have given me the freedom to get experience in all the areas I would like so that, when the times comes, I can start applying for more and/or swiftly work through performance management. However, this is a tricky path to follow because my mentors and SLT know what I am doing and why but other members of staff can sometimes come across as a bit sceptical that I’m not even fully qualified and I’m hosting CPD on various bits and pieces. Therefore, for the record, I know of no TF trainees who want to actively clamber over colleagues to reach up the ladder. Personally, my department (for example) is great and I have learnt a lot from them. Thus, I would never want to put anyone’s nose out of joint. Nonetheless, it is a direct part of the second year of our two year “Leadership & Development” programme (2 year training) to have to gain leadership experience. Therefore, we’d fail if we just sat back and chilled…Seeing as we have had access to CPD on the newest pedagogy, why not work with us?

But surely not everyone who goes through TF can be great?
No, certainly not… As shown by the stats above.
Nonetheless, the participants I know who did not do so well last year were often in schools where the capacity for good mentoring and support was not there. Moreover, some of the participants were simply not strong enough to handle the sink-or-swim pressure. However, in my experience, you get out as much as you put in due to the fact that TF wants you to succeed. Therefore, realistically, whatever you need, TF can provide. For example, some schools link up to provide extra support and/or TF calls in consultants.

If you know of a TFer who is struggling, it is often simply that they haven’t accessed the support available. Give them the nudge!

Finally, what’s this about a 2 year course? Surely we can’t have teachers jumping ship afterwards?!
We are in a 2 year contract and do not HAVE to stay longer. TF does have a steady stream of participants going off into the City. Nonetheless, a higher proportion of participants who leave after the 2 years go into education-related careers – for example: working for TF, setting up charities or working with the Government.
Furthermore, what is the difference between a fully-qualified, good teacher coming to a school for two years and then moving away and a TFer moving away? Of course, ideally all TFers would stay and offer that long term stability to students. However, that would be an impracticality and I know that (personally) I would prefer to be taught by a great teacher for two years than a supply teacher/non specialist.

Hopefully this has answered any questions and dispelled any myths. The bottom line is that the majority of TFers are hard workers with a drive for continued self-improvement and continually want to help their school community for the benefit of the kids. Surely that’s not too far off how you’d describe yourself?

Please drop me a comment below or follow me on Twitter @miss_trainee 🙂

Hitting the ground running

All has been quiet on the “Miss Trainee” (confession:I am now a NQT…but surely we should all never stop learning. Therefore, the name is staying…) blog front recently as my river of ideas to share has run somewhat dry. However, today I felt inspired by a fellow Teach Firster reaching out for help.

When I think back to this time last year, I was frequently down in the dumps due to poorly behaved students seemingly throwing back my efforts. However, instead of sinking further and further into doom, I started adding more strategies and interventions (see previous blogs). This transformed my teaching and the students’ learning leading to over 90% of students meeting or exceeding expected progress including EAL, SEND and poorly behaved students. I never thought I would achieve that, this time last year. Therefore, it is something for all you newbies to think about. You have only just begun…

In contrast, I have definitely had an entirely better start to my NQT year compared to my training year. Even though I teach some of the most notorious students in the school (some new to me and some who I am teaching for the second year), I found that I rarely thought “oh no… I’m going to struggle with this class” because I was “ready” for them. I now have many weapons in my armoury and I am systematically working through them/layering them up to ensure success once again for all of my students. Admittedly, some have not been as effective as others but that is the point… I am now experienced enough to not blame the student or blame my own ability. I just stop, have a think and reload with a new idea.

The first half term is tough because it is all about building relationships with your students and setting a tone for the quality of learning you apply through the year. This is a really hard thing to do when (like me) you have extremely high expectations (e.g: almost every student to make 4+sub levels of progress in the year) and the students you face doubt their ability/find your lessons hard. Getting the students to distinguish between “This lesson is hard because I am being pushed to be my absolute best” and “This lesson is hard because I suck” is really hard but…again…hindsight has prepared me for this and through rewards and quirky games, I am seeing their confidence flourish before my eyes.

Therefore, newbies, stay strong and keep going. Trust me when I say that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and you will look back upon this gloomy time with an appreciation of how it has made you a stronger teacher. It is tough and it can sometimes feel like the worst job in the world. However, it can also feel like the best job in the world. Therefore, pause, reload with a few suggestions from my previous blogs (for example) and remember that tomorrow is a new day with a new start.

Please drop me a comment below or follow me on Twitter @miss_trainee 🙂

Trainee Tip #6: First Impressions Count

Teachers’ Standards: 1, 7

All of you newbie Teach Firsters out there, NQTs or general other trainees/teachers will currently be thinking about the first lesson you have with each of your classes. This is the prime time to lay down those ground rules, motivate the masses and set you up for a great year. However, this time last year, I was concerned about how to spend that first hour with my classes so that it was meaningful. Therefore, here are a few suggestions based on my experiences over the past year and what I will be doing come September.

No second chances at a first impression

Luckily, I spent quite a bit of time talking to peers about what they did in their first lesson. This meant that I am generally happy with what I delivered last year… despite the fact it was the first time I ever taught. However, it easily could have gone a lot worse and it certainly was not perfect. Here is what I included:

As they enter- Straight into their seating plan.
I have a whole blog on this. Don’t fall into the trap of “getting to know the kids first” as I believe that you should start as you mean to go on. Whilst I think the phrase “don’t smile until Christmas” is OTT, I do believe in not trying to be seen as too nice and friendly at the start. No one wants the kids to slap them with the label of “doss teacher”!

1- Who am I?
I was a new teacher to the school so I felt it important to introduce myself.

2- Brief run though of what we will cover during the year
First lessons fly by; therefore, I do not think this was necessary for the first lesson.

3- Rules, routines and rewards
See my “Behaviour Tips” series for the exact rules, routines and rewards I use on a daily basis. Whilst not all of them were introduced on the very first day, I did introduce the big guns like raffle tickets (something I swear by… Go check it out!) and my basic rules right from the start. This meant that everyone (including me) knew where they stood and I could legitimately start picking kids up for low level disruption as they had been warned.

4- Boring admin stuff
These are the essential things like giving out exercise books. However, I did make it into a bit of a game and time each class giving things out. The following week, the class who whizzed through it all the quickest won lollies.

5- Getting to know you game
I made every student stand facing each other in two rows. We threw around a ball and the student holding the ball would say their name, best/worst subject and what they’d like to be when they’re older. I played too and this was really interesting as it showed me how many students appreciated English (or not) and also highlighted who had the stereotypically low aspirations common in my school.

WHAT?! No real work?!

With lessons only being an hour, after you have done rules and routines and the admin, you’re halfway through. Therefore, I believe in getting through the above so that I do not have to waste time at a later date re-hashing rules, for example.

I do see the logic in diving straight into work and “starting as you mean to go on” in that way. However, I believe that you cannot teach an outstanding lesson without embedded rules, routines and rewards. Therefore, at some point, you have to stop and get those R, R & Rs clear…why not at the start?

Do I have to be all doom and gloom?

No. Certainly not. My aim is to establish what I expect and to show my personality. Lacing the rules with games and rewards is essentially how I operate throughout the year. Therefore, I would rather establish that from the start than pretend to be evil!

Bottom line…
Start strong. Start clear. Start as you mean to go on. Even if your rules, routines and rewards are strict, students will respond better to knowing exactly where they stand than bumbling through a haze of fluffy friendliness. The “cool” teacher persona every newbie desires will evolve from there… Don’t worry!

Please drop me a comment below or follow me on Twitter @miss_trainee 🙂

This is somewhat out of sync in terms of the Trainee Tip numbering. However, it is a pertinent point for the time of year it is at the time I am posting this (end of August).

Trainee Tip #5: Sleep your way to success

Note: I am talking about genuine shut eye…!

Teach First is tough. You receive your minimal training (which, upon reflection, prepared me much more than I thought 6 weeks could…) and then are chucked into an 80%ish timetable. Sink or swim.

Many newbies find that they can flounder around okay for the first few weeks whilst the students are in their “honeymoon period” of an exciting new term. After that, the metaphorical tide takes you and you are swept closer and closer to the waterfall of DOOM. (OTT? Sorry…).

I found that I was facing some really tough classes and their behaviour and seriously low ability was crippling. It led to the physical exhaustion of running around the classroom trying to keep everyone working and the mental exhaustion of students seemingly being constantly disengaged. As a perfectionist, my natural response was to analyse each lesson in great detail and try and work out how I can adapt the next lesson so that they are focused and progressing. This resulted in some really great outputs (see my previous blogs!) and also set me firmly on the path to the successful end to the year that I have just experienced. However, it was highly unsustainable and made the bad times so much worse. Here’s why:

I’m struggling. Therefore, I must spend more time planning so that I can improve. NO!
In my first term, it was the norm for me to work long hours every day and then spend both days working on the weekend. This meant no free time unless I had “booked it in” way in advance. When I was doing okay, this was fine as I could see a direct correlation between my efforts and the success I was enjoying. However, when the students started to return to their old ways, it meant that my stress from them struggling was massively intensified by the fact that:
A) I was annoyed that I had “wasted” all this time on ineffective practice
B) I was becoming an emotional wreck because I was massively over tired.

I’m struggling. Therefore, I need to stop, step back, re-charge and attack from a different direction. YES.
The best thing I ever did was wean myself off working 7 days a week. In my opinion (and this tends to be echoed by everyone I know), if you give yourself all weekend to do a task, it will take all weekend. If you give yourself one day to do a task, it will take one day. If you give yourself just Sunday afternoon, you will still get it done in time for XFactor or any other mindless stuff that you need to do to relax. Now, with a few tweaks to my weekday schedule, I can occasionally have all weekend off and still have lessons planned, books marked and a social life during the week. (Theoretically, I could do this more but choose to have the earlier home times as I don’t mind a Sunday afternoon session).

Moreover, since I stopped allowing teaching to take over my life, I am not disheartened by students misbehaving as I feel that I have planned the lessons well, I am rested, thinking logically and I am confident enough to back myself by thinking “there is nothing more I could have done in terms of behaviour and planning”. Obviously, I do occasionally have lessons where I can see that I have pitched too high, for example. However, I feel that, due to the fact I am rested, I can think better on my feet rather than feeling that the walls are closing in on me.

Surely it’s not as simple as that?
This naturally does come with a lot of caveats:
– You need to know how to plan and how to manage behaviour for this to work. There is no point giving yourself a short period of time to plan, for example, if your planning/pitching genuinely is the reason that you are struggling. However, your ITT mentors will be able to help with this. For me, once I had learnt my craft to a manageable standard, I then progressed more in terms of my own development (and the students progressed more as a result) by stepping back and “enjoying” it,rather than forcing myself, because I wasn’t dreading work.
– I am a TF trainee. Thus, I naturally have one of the heaviest timetables out of any ITT route and it has worked well for me. However, I am not fully qualified so I do not doubt that the teaching load and extra add ons that a teacher must do to merely survive will test this. However, hopefully, because I am not burnt out in my training year, I can strategically adapt my schedule to cope with more of a workload rather than sinking and becoming another statistic for leaving the profession. I’m sure the seasoned pros of Twitter will say I’m naively optimistic!

Bottom line?
I drove myself into the ground by being overly critical of my teaching. Despite observations coming back incredibly positive, I saw bad behaviour (for example) and could not step out of the mindset that my inexperience was the cause. Upon reflection, devoting more of my life to the minority of “notorious” kids was the worst thing I could have done. Therefore, if you’re doing okay, step back and wean yourself off. I have peers who still work “ridiculous” hours because they are not smart with their time. They give themselves too long for tasks, work all weekend and don’t have evenings either. No wonder that when their school goes through massive change (as is normal for TF schools) they panic about how they can cope as they are still only just ticking along.

If I had not learned how to work smart (doing work at work -apart from a couple of hours on a Sunday, marking in free periods, developing effective peer assessment, planning lesson sequences based on pedagogy that can then just be applied to each assessment), I don’t think I would be here today… Let alone facing a very successful end to my PGCE.

Moreover, in my PGCE “exam” process and the external examination(PGCE moderation) process I went through, the compliments were great but were followed by: “Keep an eye on her…Her quality of work is unsustainable and she will burn out”. Little do they know that I have been there, done that and have now reached a point where I feel guilty for leaving school “early”.

My sights are now set on additional responsibility and completing a masters. This does not disturb me in terms of workload as everything is ticking over as it is and I have the time to deal with any unexpected events. If you had asked me to create a departmental marking policy in November, I probably would have drowned. Now, bring it on!

Please drop me a comment below or follow me on Twitter @miss_trainee 🙂

Teach First Summer Institute: Advice for the start of your “journey”

As if by magic, it is time for the next cohort of eager Teach First participants to start their two year Leadership and Development Programme. It seems like only a few weeks ago that I was there, rolling up with the blind hope that someone was going to tell me how to teach before d-day in September. The truth is, Summer Institute (SI) is what you make of it and -luckily- I almost made the absolute most of mine and have reaped the benefits since. Therefore, here are a few top tips from me… An old hand at this TF game.

1)Become a yes man.
Seeing as TF focuses on on-the-job training, a large proportion of the “lectures” you need to sit through to obtain a PGCE are put into the SI. Therefore, if you go to the bare minimum, you will learn a lot. However, think about it this way: do you want to be chucked in at the deep end, with minimal swimming experience and without armbands? In hindsight, I know I wouldn’t have wanted to…

Around those compulsory sessions are a plethora of voluntary (or TF says they’re compulsory but participants very quickly catch on that they’re not) sessions. These are the ones that will be the difference between you bobbing up to the metaphorical surface with armbands to starting treading water and you floundering under water for a while. Therefore, as quickly as possible, get into the mind set of “I’m only here for 6 weeks. Yes, I could clock off at 4/5pm but, in reality, an extra hour’s session isn’t going to hurt”.
In all honesty, some of the most valuable sessions I went to were in the evenings. They gave me theories and techniques that I still apply to this day.

2) Learn to sift through what you’re hearing for the golden nuggets
Teach First has an important charitable aim surrounding providing fair education for all. It essentially boils down to helping every child succeed in the classroom despite a range of complicating factors. During SI, you will find that, at least once, you will sit back in awe of the dedication and drive of the organisation you are a part of. You will be motivated to step forward and do your part. You will not be able to wait for September so that you can get going and “make a difference”. However, one of the Summer Institutes slight flaws is that TF likes to remind you of this goal every day… Often multiple times a day…

In some ways, this is great as TF’s vision can help you step out of a dark day facing challenging kids because you do see that you are doing something really good. Nonetheless, many participants find they become temporarily apathetic and reluctant to attend events and sessions because they are a little sick of “journeys”, “visions”, “missions” and “impact”. Therefore, if you feel this way, don’t let it take over as it will pass. Think of TF as a really excitable puppy that just wants to play even when you are very tired and just want a quiet day of plodding along. It can’t hurt you. It is actually a really nice thing and you would genuinely enjoy playing a nice game of metaphorical fetch if it wasn’t pawing at your leg.

The reason I say this is that at roughly the same time that you have this blip (probably due to a lack of sleep and feeling grouchy), it will be time to attend those voluntary sessions I mentioned above. Don’t shun them just because someone will remind you of what a big difference you’re going to make. Sift that out and wait for the golden nuggets. By the time you have washed and ironed all of your TF SI branded t-shirts, sharpened you TF branded pencil, rinsed out your TF branded water bottle and unpacked your TF branded bag, what will you be left with? The realisation that you should have sat through a few more of the cheesy lines or a stack of really good pedagogy and techniques for Septmeber?

3) Look after yourself.
The SI is long. Especially if you take my advice and attend nearly everything, you will find that sleeping, eating regularly and relaxing become a sideline. This is not good and certainly shouldn’t be justified with “well, I’m not going to get much sleep in September so may as well start now!”.
At around week 3-4, many people get the SI’s version of “freshers flu”. Therefore, here I am as your friendly neighbourhood party pooper: get a few early nights, eat well and schedule in some time for a bit of Netflix or a good book. You are going to be stuck with your SI flat mates for the whole six weeks and you are likely to regularly see them from September onwards too. Therefore, taking one or two eves out for some chill time is not going to make any difference.
For example, behaviour sessions fill up within minutes so you don’t want to be in a position where you are cooped up in bed ill on the one day you actually managed to get into a session!

4) Plan ahead
Planning planning planning. You will be told loads about planning. However, Number four is not about lesson planning, it is about planning for what you need.

Understandably, a big concern for you as an inexperienced teacher picking up an 80%ish timetable from September is how on earth you are going to manage classes full of kids. Therefore, there is a huge temptation to fill any element of choice you have with behaviour sessions. Whilst this is a hugely important area of study for a newbie, do remember that you need to know how to teach the kids once you’ve got them behaving. See my previous blogs for my view on the almost inevitable (wrong)advice that you will be given that behaviour is not an issue if you teach well. This is not what I am advising. However, I regretted not spending longer thinking about SEND when I met my SEND/low ability heavy classes. Luckily, I had a great university tutor who helped me out with what I needed to know and I taught myself a lot via Twitter. However, make sure you tick all boxes with the knowledge you gain and then go back and lather on the behaviour sessions.

5) Enjoy it!
Yes, you are starting a really tough job in a matter of months with minimal training. Yes, it is not going to be a walk in the park. Yes, you may think that everyone else knows more than you. However, the SI takes six weeks from your remaining freedom before meeting the students. Unfortunately, every holiday you have in your first year is going to feature writing a PGCE essay. Moreover, if you choose to do the TF funded masters, your NQT year is going to be just as busy. Therefore, do remember to enjoy it. Enjoy the fun and social side but also enjoy the fact that you have access to some of the leading academics, thinkers and practicing teachers in the world. The people who’s books you will study over the year will be there to talk to you. Therefore, don’t get bogged down with worrying about how you are going to cope come Septmeber. Leave that until later. Now, just enjoy the fact that you are on a “journey” towards reaching Teach First’s “vision” of no child being limited by their socio-economic backgrounds. You will have a positive “impact” on the students, even though you have no clue how you’re going to manage it.
(…you can tell I have done the TF training!)

In all seriousness, Teach First is incredibly tough but incredibly rewarding. I have seen the change in my own students over the year and it is great to see. Therefore, cheesy TF lines aside, you are now part of a movement towards good education for all. If you take nothing more from this post, make the most of the SI as it is some seriously good training with some really friendly people.
See you all in Leeds (and at any other SI events I help out at)!

Please drop me a comment below or follow me on Twitter @miss_trainee 🙂

Note: This post makes no attempt to imply that any other ITT route or current teachers are inferior to TF. Please see my first ever blog for my view on the negative press TF can receive on this topic. A huge part of the TF process is being mentored by colleagues… Many of these will not be TF Ambassadors. I wouldn’t be the teacher I am today without my great non-TF colleagues.