Teaching placement is just around the corner for lots of teachers (and lots of people are in the middle of it too) so this blogpost is going to share some of my top tips for student teachers.

Use the observation week wisely

This is so important. During the observation week don’t spend all your time on your laptop or writing notes in your notebook. I know you will prob have assignments due and things that need to be completed during the observation week but this time needs to be spent getting to know the children you will be working with.

Use your initiative

Don’t be afraid to help out with groups and support children throughout the school day. During the observation week in particular be a second pair of hands, eyes, ears.

Build relationships

This week is a chance for you to get to know the class you’ll be working with. What are they interested in? What are their names? Who works well together? What activities suit the class best? Make connections and use the different things you learn about the children to plan interesting and engaging lessons.

Ask for help

The class teacher is there to help and support you. They are there to model best practice and to guide you throughout your placement. Ask them for help with your lesson ideas and plans – if you’re not sure of something they will be delighted to share what works for them. When you’re qualified your colleagues will be the people who will best support you throughout the school year so don’t be afraid to ask for help from the class teacher. I ask my colleagues for help and advice on a daily basis even as an experienced teacher.

Label your displays/corrections/ things around the classroom

Don’t forget to give yourself credit for the work that you do. Print out the college logo and put it somewhere on your display to make it clear that it is your own work. And don’t forget to point it out to inspectors when they come to visit. This also goes for corrections in copies etc. make sure to sign and date (even just your initials so it’s clear who has done the corrections and the work in the copies too)

Write down your reasons for doing things in a certain way (especially if they are different from college guidelines)

I think this is really important as often the college will give certain guidelines on how they want something done. However, the class teacher says that this is not possible (they know their class best) so you have to adapt to suit the class you are working with. It’s important to acknowledge this and show how you have thought it through rather than just choosing not to follow college guidelines. This also gives you a bit of support if an inspector questions you about it and you have clearly structured reasons on why you aren’t doing exactly what the college wanted.

Be open to feedback

Your class teacher may offer feedback on your lessons. Listen to the feedback as they are trying to help you. They also know what works best with the class so they are best placed to support you when working with their class. Try not to focus on the negatives – hopefully tons of positives will be shared too with some small areas of improvement.

Be prepared

This is kind of obvious but also really important. Make sure to have everything you need in school with you for the lessons that day. If possible be a little bit over prepared for the day with a few extra transition type activities in case lessons run short or an activity you had planned doesn’t take as long as expected.

Use Google Drive or Dropbox

Don’t rely on memory sticks because they are not reliable. Using something like Google Drive or Dropbox will ensure that you can save everything in one place and access it at home, in school or on the go too!

If things are not going to plan – STOP

This is something that takes a long time to realise as a teacher but if things are not going to plan and are getting a bit out of control it is a good idea to stop the lesson and move on. Sometimes the things we have planned don’t work out or the children are not at the level that the lesson is pitched at so it’s a really good idea to stop and move onto something else. This is a good skill to have as it shows you have good assessment skills. Trust me there have been plenty of times I’ve started a lesson only to realise that the children were 3 steps behind (or sometimes ahead) of the lesson objectives I had planned. There’s no point in continuing just for the sake of it. Move on and give yourself time to replan something more appropriate or relevant.

Don’t be afraid to disagree with the inspector

Inspectors are just one person in for a short period of time and see only a few lessons. They don’t always have the right answers and sometimes they may question what you’ve taught or why you did something in a certain way. Don’t be afraid to (respectfully) disagree and explain why you decided to do something in a certain way. Again this is something that takes a lot of courage but in many cases the inspector is not familiar with the school you’re working in or the class dynamics and you may have spent huge amounts of time and effort tailoring your plans to best suit the children so don’t be afraid to share this with them.