Monday, 15 January 2018

Things to Do Whilst You Wait for Uni Decisions

If you’re like me, you might be itching to get started on your new course that you’ve enrolled for. I sometimes find myself scrolling through the university course page of my choice, thinking about what the contents of the course may be about, and wondering what type of things I’ll be doing when I start that topic.

Starting university is exciting, but in January there’s a long way to go before September starts and your new course begins. Whilst that does seem like ages away, there is still a few more things to consider doing, and I highly recommend doing them.

Attend an open day
With new students applying to new courses for 2018, the universities will be organising open days. Open days are a great opportunity for students to attend the university and not only find out more about their chosen course, but to also discover the campus and the local area. Whilst I stayed pretty local to my hometown, I still attended an open day, as I had never been to that area before. The open days are very informative, telling you everything you need to know, from what’s expected of you on your course to where you can visit the best restaurants in the evenings.

Student finance
Student finance is definitely something you should be thinking about. It’s recommended that the earlier you get your student finance application in the better. Check on your university web page, or keep checking your emails, as you university can advise you on when is best to apply for student finance, and where to go when applying. You definitely want to make sure there are no unexpected problems once you’ve enrolled in university, as your student loan is very important, especially in your first few weeks in your university campus and you have rent to pay!

Student accommodation
If you’re staying at home during university, you don’t need to worry about setting up student accommodation. However, in your first year, halls go quick, and applications need to get in fast. Your university will offer a selection of rooms that are on campus, or at least very close to campus, and you need to factor in how much these rooms cost and whether or not student halls are for you. Going back to the open day, it is important to attend, as you may even get to see these halls and decide in person if the halls are for you.

Research your topic
You may think you definitely know what you want to do, but have you considered that there may be a course that is more tailored to your specialist subject? Consider you want to go into nursing. Would you rather do mental health nursing, or focus on midwifery? It’s important that you check every subject available to you, and decide if one course is better. There are five choices, and you don’t need to panic if you’ve submitted your application with only one or two choices. Whilst universities decide on whether or not to give you a place, you are able to keep adding choices. So don’t rule everything out just yet. Keep looking at what’s available to you.

Get some experience, if you can
Whilst you will be gaining valuable knowledge and hopefully valuable experience on your course, these next few months are a great opportunity to truly gain experience in your chosen field. If you’re studying journalism, why not set up a blog, if you haven’t already, and get posting some articles? It’s a great thing to have for when your interview is scheduled, if of course you are required for an interview, and it’s an even better thing to have in nine months time at the beginning of your course, as you are already a step ahead. It shows enthusiasm to have experience, and it will enhance your CV.

One final thing: keep in touch with your uni. 
Don’t be afraid to email your chosen university with any questions you may have. The staff available to help are used to answering every question, and will do everything they can to ensure you have enough knowledge. Going to university can feel like a big step, but there is plenty of support and enough help to get you going, and keep you enthused for what is to come.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Five Ways to Prepare for Student Life

For most people University is the next step before attempting full-scale adulthood out in the big, bad world. The Summer before is often filled with excitement and anxieties but this is the best time for you to start preparing yourself for your degree and moving away from home. I’ve listed my top 5 ways to prepare yourself so that you can keep up with your degree and enjoy your time at Uni!

1. Set up a student bank account
As a student from Northern Ireland I had an account with a bank back home which was a problem when I began University in England. I would highly suggest setting up a student account with a branch close to your Uni. This saves a lot of stress if something goes wrong and you need to pop in! There are a lot of different offers available to students such as a free 4 year railcard or an interest-free overdraft. Make sure to do your research on which best suits your needs and has a good reputation with students!

2. Learn the basics of adulting
Have you ever used the washing machine, cooked your own dinner or paid your own bills? If not you should definitely become familiar with these things before you begin Uni life. Learn to cook some easy meals that you can rotate (ready-meals are not your friend). Sit down with your parents and ask them about bills and have a go at some chores! It won’t be particularly fun but it will be necessary and you’ll be glad you learned later.

3. Learn how to budget
Everyone thinks they’re loaded when they get their student loan but the truth is that it often doesn’t go as far as you’d think once you take out rent and food. Give yourself a crash course in budgeting so you know how much you can spend each week and how much you have to enjoy yourself! It’s always wise to save up some money before you start and during the year if possible. If you need to have a look at job opportunities at the end of the Summer!

4. Use Social Media
Social media is the best way to make some friends and get to know people on your course before arriving. You can often get in touch with flat mates in halls and get to know each other before moving in or plan some events together for Freshers week! Most Universities and courses also have accounts on facebook and twitter you can follow to find out what you can expect from your degree! Use social media to your advantage!

5. Decide what to take with you
Contrary to popular belief you do not need to take the entire contents of your bedroom to University. Pack only what you need, you can always take more things later in the semester. Make sure to check your accommodation and course information for any other items you need. I would recommend chatting with your flat mates to organise what cooking items you need as you all might bring a full kitchen supply kit that isn’t actually necessary!

Friday, 5 January 2018

I always wanted to teach, but life happened – Tracey Brown

I had always known I wanted to teach, and it had always been in my mind to find a way to get into the classroom. But life happened and I found myself working in a bank for 18 years, dreading going into work. One day I decided to do something about it. At that stage I didn’t have a degree, so I started by going to evening classes to try and find a subject I was interested in. It wasn’t until I took an evening class in Biology that I even considered science. I took my HNC and then secured a place at university studying Biomedical Science. Having completed that, I was offered a funded Masters and eventually I did a PhD. 

All the while I was learning, I was still aware that the ultimate goal was to teach and during my PhD I secured a place on SCITT programme. Unfortunately my situation changed, and I realised that paying to train wasn’t an option. I came across Teach First and went along to the Milkround Presentation at the Newcastle University campus – and immediately decided to apply. Having my training funded and going into a school where I would really be needed definitely appealed to me. 

I had lots of support throughout my application process, right through until I finished my training. I remember having a particularly difficult period during the Summer Institute, whilst training in my local area. I had a complete panic, I had kids at home and I was away from them – I thought ‘I can’t do this!’ But there were lots of people to speak to, giving me gentle encouragement and advice and I just kept going. Taking it day by day, using the support systems in place and even just knowing that there were people who were there to help me through it was reassuring.

I’m now in my third year, I stayed on in the school I was placed in through Teach First and my job couldn’t be more different from working in that bank. I can say that 90% of the time I love my job, and in comparison I remember quite literally hating the idea of going in to my old job. I used to dread it. I love my job now, and yes I have a huge work load, but it’s so rewarding.

My highlight from the last three years was in my second year. I had a really low ability year 11 Additional Science class who were really struggling.  We were set to do a lesson on the heart, and instead of working through diagrams on a Power Point – I contacted a local butcher and organised for him to save me a batch of pigs’ hearts.  We dissected the hearts in class and every single person got involved somehow.  They were all engaged with the subject, and energised by it for the first time. They were the only class to experience working on a real heart – it was the talk of corridors. Another teacher even asked to use the spare hearts I had left over, his pupils were envious. 

I think that’s when I first learned a really valuable teaching lesson – not to rely on Power Points too much. It’s easy to go into minute details and over-plan. Good lessons need to be flexible, which is really hard to do when you first start teaching, but you need to be able to work with your pupils and accept you might need to adjust your plans to keep them engaged.

I think the advice I would give to anyone considering taking on the programme having come from another career would be - just do it! Take the chance, it’ll be the best thing you ever did. It’s always the things you didn’t do that you regret, and you won’t regret joining the Leadership Development Programme.

Tracey Brown is a former bank worker who now teaches Biology at a school in Dunston. This was originally posted by Teach First and is published with kind permission.

If you liked this…

Shane and Janie share their stories about why they chose a career in teaching:

I used to be in awe of the teachers at my school – Ben Caven

I had a crisis around my 25th birthday. I was working in sales and wasn’t getting any job satisfaction. I wanted to do something worthwhile and working with young people seemed like a natural choice.

I’ve been working at Ark Putney Academy as a Teaching Assistant for a year. When I decided I wanted to work with young people, I approached Putney because it was my old school! I still knew some of the teachers and it was a setting I could relate to, it helped that I could picture myself in that school environment.

Being a TA at Putney has been great. I’ve been offered so much support and was always made to feel part of the team. When I first started, I was in awe of the teachers, but then as the year progressed I started to see the value I could add and began to think “I could do this.”

As soon as I started thinking about training to teach, it seemed like the most obvious thing in the world. It was a natural progression from what I’d already been doing and everyone at my school was really encouraging.
I’ve felt a lot of support throughout the process. The training programme with Ark sounded great and it was very clear. I knew exactly what the route would be and what it would look like.

I’m looking forward to putting what I learnt at summer school into practice. Prior to starting my training, I would just imitate what other teachers did, now I already have a better understanding of the theory behind teaching. There’s no doubt it was incredibly helpful having been a TA for a year, but summer school has been a great crash course, I feel like I’ve learnt everything I need to know to get started!

This was originally posted by Ark Teacher Training and is published with kind permission.

If you liked this…
Gabrielle and Tom share their stories about why they chose a career in teaching:

My top five teacher training tips – Frankie Barrington

As an NQT, my first full year of teaching seems to have flown by. It's been a busy year, and I still find myself thinking “Wow, I'm actually a teacher now!” I trained through a School Direct route which put me right in the centre of school life from day one. I had training in Reception, Year 3 and Year 6, and I am now the very proud teacher of a Year 2 class. In light of my training period coming to a close, here are some tips that I have put together to inspire anyone who is about to take the leap into the best profession in the whole world.

1. Be prepared
In the world of teaching, organisation is key. I would recommend buying a USB with a large memory, and also splashing out on a portable hard drive. This allows you to back up everything. I keep every lesson that I ever teach, labelled so that I can find it easily if I ever need it again. Also, get a good, sturdy diary and use this to help you balance your time. My biggest help during the summer leading up to my training year, was Sue Cowley’s How to Survive Your First Year in Teaching. This book is fantastic in preparing you for the start of life as a teacher. She has also written a book called Getting the Buggers to Behave which brings me onto my second point…

2. Know your behaviour policy
As someone who has found behaviour management challenging, I know that the behaviour in your classroom can be a make or break factor in your lessons and observations. It is a good idea to read your school’s behaviour policy very carefully to make sure that you are able to apply rewards and sanctions consistently and as they are intended. If you do find yourself in a school where the behaviour management policy is minimal, don't be afraid to introduce rewards systems for individual pupils (after discussing with your mentor) or to try different approaches. Some approaches work well for one class but will have no effect on another. It's all about being flexible, and getting to know the children.

3. Try new things
Don't ever be afraid to try something new in the classroom. Just because you're a trainee teacher, it doesn't mean that your contributions and ideas are not valid. Are you experienced in using an iPad? Introduce it into your lessons. Have you thought of a school trip that would fit perfectly with a topic that you are teaching? Suggest it to your mentor. Some of my best observations have come from trying something new. Sometimes a trainee or someone who is new to a setting can provide a fresh perspective.

4. Share, share, share! 
In teaching, ideas get passed around and shared again and again. Sitting down to plan a lesson can sometimes end up in re-inventing the wheel. Be sure to check sites like Twinkl and TES for resources that could knock hours off of your planning time. If you do your training in a number of different settings then I would recommend asking in each setting if they would allow you to copy planning and resources from their school network onto a USB. You never know what year you might end up teaching so having a bank of plans and resources that you can tweak is really helpful. Similarly, if you make a resource or plan a lesson/scheme that has worked really well then share it on resource sites and with other teachers in your school.

5. Don't be too hard on yourself! 
As anyone in the education field will know, teaching is tough. There are days when you blame yourself for everything, and there are days when you feel on top of the world. There are days when everything bobs along nicely and there are days where you feel stretched so thin that you're sure you'll never ping back into shape. On all of those days, take one look at the children that you do all of this for. Remember the child that didn't speak a word of English on their first day and now won't stop talking. Take a moment to think about the children who say “I want to be just like you when I grow up.” You are doing all of this so that you can help and inspire young people, and you are doing it brilliantly. You are only human, and there is no such thing as a perfect teacher!


Before you start your course

Find out more about preparing for teacher training