What I wish I’d been told….

I was reflecting on my experiences of being a mentor this week, and thinking how the role has changed over the years I’ve done it, both for PGCE,  NQT and other roles. It led me to think about what we as teachers expect from our trainees,  and what is it essential for them to know in the training year.

This is a blogged reflection I wish I’d read all those years ago….

Dear trainee,

Welcome to the world of teaching. It has been said it is the noblest profession, the one that changes hearts and minds and the one which inspires the next generation.  I would agree with that,  but whatever your motivation is for joining teaching remember motivation changes,  and this journey you are embarking on isn’t just going to change others,  it will affect your life, and every aspect of it. Safeguard what is dear to you.

Every new person to the job has reasons for coming- you would never have applied,  given up so much,  sat those tests and sacrificed money  and time observing schools in their usual work if you didn’t. We applaud you for it. But before you get swallowed up in the system,  write down 5 things that you want to be when you are a teacher- caring,  compassionate, available etc.  Refer back to it as your anchor throughout year. If not you’ll move to something unrecognizable within weeks.

Also bullet point down what you think makes a good teacher. You’ll need that as people seek to mold you. Some things will need to change but you are you,  an individual with a passion,  if not you would not have applied. My version of a great teacher was Professor Lupin in the great scene from Prisoner of Azkaban.


Full clip here (link is not my property, nor do I have any rights or responsibility for it)

His passion,  caring for his pupils,  modelling and pushing them,  whilst still being watchful helped me think about the teacher I wanted to be. And I still often refer back to that.

Be aware you will be ripped in different directions  this year,  uni, school,  family and assignments. Oh,  and your friends,  don’t lose them!  Know this,  and plan for it.  If you have a significant other, plan for them. Give them your time,  book an evening a week with them.  If you don’t the job won’t just swallow you up but really affect your relationships too (see ideas in my blog about work/life balance to help you with this if you need (http://wp.me/p3kpaf-2H)). If you are single,  remember the same, it’s a job, it may feel like your life, but it’s not.

You are also a professional.  You need to act like it,  all the time. Even on your nights out.  Protect your facebook, make sure you aren’t in situations or photographs you will regret later-they have a nasty habit of appearing in the wrong settings. And always think,  what would my boss or head think he is tweeted this. If a future employer was to google you, what public information will pop up, and how costly will it be?

Schools will respect you for what you do and who you are.  Get involved, but don’t volunteer for everything-your primary focus is teaching and learning of your specialism. And developing to being the best you can be.

Your placements may not be in your dream school, but where you are may be someone else’s dream school – and they may work with you! Be careful what you say. Also in second placement,  watch what you say about your previous school,  you never know who knows who- it’s a small world!

And finally,  there is so much more that could be said, don’t work till the small hours every night,  sometimes you’ll need to but it’ll become routine and affect your health. You need to be awake for the reason for your preparation! You won’t achieve what you want to in a week,  term,  placement or even a year,  but you will see you start to change students and your own practice. Don’t burn yourself out trying to achieve the impossible. There is no silver bullet.

Teaching is a great job. This year is incredible tough. Hold onto those around you,  stay true to yourself,  and be proud.  You should be.


Many teachers in the UK

If you have any further thoughts about any of this of want to discuss it further, please feel free to tweet me @sheltont101


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