Professional Practice can be a daunting experience, especially the first time.
I remember how nervous I was for my first placement – all of the classes you complete in the first semester of University don’t quite prepare you for the classroom.
I prepared everything the night before – my uniform (I decided to wear the same thing every day, so that I did not have to waste time deciding), my laptop bag, my portfolio and my lunch. Everything I did was to make a good impression as I really wanted the school to like me. If you do well on your placement the school may take note, which could lead to an employment opportunity in the future.
I was extremely nervous the first day, and if I am being honest that feeling never quite went away.
Not everyone continued to feel nervous. I spoke to my peers during University tutorials, and they admitted that while they did get nerves before taking a class sometimes, they had started to fall into a rhythm. I, on the other hand, felt as if I never really fit in at my school.
For me, the mixed emotions were based on my background. I came from a school opposite to the one I was placed at, and I think it showed in my approach to education.
It was on my second placement that I found a sense of rhythm.
I was at a school much like the one I came from, although it had a much higher student population. I felt nervous the first day, but I remember feeling comfortable after that. The staffroom I was in was always supportive – the teachers offered for me to sit in on their classes, and my mentor teacher was a saint. She shared all of her resources with me and encouraged any new ideas I wanted to try with the students.
The point is, the school you want to teach at once you graduate shouldn’t be based on its reputation, but rather how welcomed and at ease you feel. My second Professional Practice made me realise what it really meant to be a teacher. It wasn’t creating one set of resources for your class. It was about collaboration with others, the sharing of resources, and altering material for your low literacy students. It is extremely easy to become lost in the content, in pushing your pupils through the requirements of the lesson. But never forget that teaching is not about you – it is about them, these teenagers that look to you for guidance.
Yes, you are still a student yourself, but you are also on your Professional Practice to bring new ideas to the classroom. New ways to teach students who do not understand, or struggle to grasp a new concept. Create differentiated resources. Take the time to hear their thoughts. And always remember – we are all human. You will make mistakes. But instead of allowing them to get you done, learn from them. Alter what didn’t work. Try something new. If you have the right mentor, you will flourish.
I am in my third year of Education now, which means I have successfully completed two Professional Practices. I have also decided to complete volunteer work in my third year, so that I can touch base with a school again. A year without being in a classroom is a long time, and in my opinion deciding to volunteer at a school will not only aid you in becoming a better teacher, but will also look great on your resume!
So, here are my tips for Professional Practice survival:
1. Prepare everything the night before
There will be a lot of early mornings and late nights, but it will be worth it if you want to become a great teacher. I promise. If you prepare everything the night before – what you’re going to wear, your lunch and your bag – mornings will be a lot easier. Not only can you sleep in, but you will have a few spare minutes to go over your resources and portfolio.
2. Pack a healthy lunch
If you eat right you will have more energy, which means decreasing the likelihood of becoming sick. It doesn’t have to be a salad, but make sure you are eating fruit and vegetables, not deep fried food from a service station.
3. Complete your daily reflection before you do anything else
If you go home with the intention of relaxing before updating your portfolio, you will fall behind. A lot of pre-service teachers fall into this trap. They leave their reflections for the next day – and it just keeps on happening! Daily reflections are important because they allow you to grow as a teacher, and taking ten minutes to half an hour to write it before you switch on Netflix will save you a lot of work in the future. #dontletdownyourfutureself
4. Collaborate for lesson plan ideas
Teaching is not about keeping your resources to yourself. When you go to your University tutorials share your ideas with your peers, because they may have something that could work well in your classroom. Or vice versa. Collaboration is key. (Pinterest also has some great ideas!).
5. Take care of yourself
Late nights, early mornings, stress and food choices will take a toll. It is unavoidable. Make sure you take time on a Saturday to relax. I understand, with University classes still running, it can be hard to find time for yourself. But the further you are into your Professional Practice the easier lesson plans and Daily Reflections become. Use a planner to organise your assignments, study time and lesson plans. Schedule in a walk, gym time or a movie session. Just make sure you don’t procrastinate too long!