NQT Special: Surviving your PGCE year

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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This year’s SecEd NQT diarist is well into his first term at the chalkface. As part of SecEd's autumn 2019 NQT special edition, he offers his advice to the current cohort of trainee teachers on surviving and thriving during your training year

My PGCE year was without doubt the most challenging, stressful, but ultimately rewarding year of my life. Never before has the term “like a rollercoaster” been more appropriate...

As a PGCE student you can have days when you feel completely broken, lessons have not gone to plan and when you are left thinking that, quite simply, you are not cut-out for teaching.

Then fast-forward 24 hours and you will have had the best teaching day of your life and you will be leaving school feeling on top of the world.

So, for those moments when you feel down in the dumps, here are my top five tips to surviving your PGCE year.

Do not try to reinvent the wheel

I cannot stress enough how long it took me to plan lessons when I first started teaching. It is natural to feel nervous about delivering your lessons and you will be tempted to over-prepare to make sure everything goes smoothly. However, spending hours preparing every single lesson you teach is not sustainable, especially when your teaching timetable begins to increase (and certainly not in the longer term).

When I first started teaching, I would spend ages accumulating resources for every lesson, as I was always fearful of running out of content before the lesson finished. In reality I ended up with two or three lessons’ worth of content for every lesson I taught. In addition, I would try to create all of my own resources for everything.

However, as great as creating your own resources is, you do not need to do this for everything you teach. There are already some great resources out there. Do not be afraid to use them. For example, Twitter is amazing for resources, with many teachers sharing great content that you can utilise in your lessons.

So, do not stay up all night making resources for lessons or over-preparing – you need your sleep. It is going to be no benefit to anybody if you turn up to teach when you can barely keep your eyes open.

Be consistent with consequences

Chances are that the school you are training in will have a consequence system that should be adhered to. Make sure you learn this, as your pupils will probably know it off by heart.

Learn the consequence system and stick to it, regardless of the pupil. There will be pupils with whom you need to use the consequence system more than others, naturally. However, if one of your “better behaved” pupils misbehaves, it is really important that you apply the consequence system in full with them just as you would for any other pupil.

It is vital that pupils do not feel targeted, so if you are consistent with the consequence system then there can be no complaints and the class will quickly become accustomed to your boundaries.

Print your seating plans...

...and keep them on your desk during lessons. The use of seating plans really helped me out in my PGCE year. You are going to be teaching a lot of pupils and you will not learn all of their names immediately.

Having a hard copy of a seating plan in front of you will really help in this regard. It also helps with targeted questioning and for boosting your confidence when addressing pupils in general.

There is nothing worse than trying to speak to a pupil and realising that you cannot remember their name. A quick glance at your seating plan can resolve this. In addition, do not be afraid to change your seating plans if they are not working. As you progress throughout the year you will quickly establish who does and does not work well together. Just because you have already created a seating plan does not mean that you cannot make changes to this as part of a behaviour management strategy in your lessons.

Always back-up your work!

Be it making multiple save files, using more than one hard-drive, or emailing yourself the work you have done, it is critical that you back-up your work. You will have lesson plans, evidence for your folders and essays that you are completing throughout the year – the last thing you want is to lose those because of a hard-drive malfunction. Make backing up a part of your daily routine.

Do not be afraid to ask for help

It is okay not to be okay. You are new to this and your colleagues will have all been in the same position as you at some point. Whether it be asking for advice on how to deal with a tricky class, asking if they have any good resources for a particular topic, or simply asking for help with your work, do not feel embarrassed to do so.

Teaching training is tough and your colleagues are there to help you. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness – it simply shows that you are committed to improving your teaching practice.

  • Our NQT diarist in SecEd this year is a science teacher at a comprehensive school in the West of England. Read SecEd’s Diary of an NQT via http://bit.ly/31wU0md

NQT Special Edition: Free download

This article was featured as part of SecEd’s 10-page NQT Special Edition, published as part of our June edition. To download a free pdf of all 10 pages, which offer advice for new teachers across a range of topics including behaviour, classroom practice, wellbeing and more, go to the SecEd Knowledge Bank: www.sec-ed.co.uk/knowledge-bank/nqt-and-trainee-teachers-advice-and-best-practice/


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