Monday, 11 September 2017

Tips for trainee teachers - Helen Lambourne

Teaching is incredibly rewarding but the training is tough. This is what I learnt on my training course:

     1. Use your mentors
They are the most valuable asset you will have when you are training, so utilise them! Ask them if you are stuck on a lesson idea, not sure about the scheme of work, want to check you are marking assessments correctly or struggling with the workload. They've been teaching longer than you and would have gone through the exact same process and problems as you. So, you are definitely not alone when you are training.

     2. Make friends with the other trainees
Other trainees are another useful asset. They are going through exact same thing as you at the exact same time. If you're lucky, you might be placed in a school with another trainee. Make friends with them. Try to have catch up sessions with them.  Bounce ideas off them and vice versa. I am still friends with one of the trainees from my host school and since he teaches English, he proof-reads my application letters!

     3. Ask for help
I cannot stress enough how important this is, and I only wish I would have followed this advice when I was training. I'm not ashamed to admit I struggled while I was training. As an August baby, straight from university, I was easily one of the youngest trainees on my course, if not the youngest so naturally I wanted to prove I deserved my place on the course and how good a teacher I could be. However, this meant that when I was struggling to juggle the planning, teaching, creating resources and marking I didn't want to admit it. To me, admitting I was struggling meant that I was a failure, I was wrong. It was only when my training provider realised I was struggling that I got more support. With hindsight, I had nothing to worry about. They were really supportive and had helped other trainees in the exact same position as me in the past. We had a meeting to discuss how they can help me, and how I could make changes to help myself. As a result, I became a better teacher.

4. It gets easier once you qualify
You will hear this a lot. When you train, you have to fill out lesson plans for every single lesson, but when you qualify you don't have to which vastly reduces your planning time (my plans are my lesson PowerPoints). You also have access to pre-prepared schemes of work and lessons which is another bonus (although you do have to adapt them occasionally).

      5.Finally, it will be stressful
You will wonder why you decided to teach, but the lack of a social life, late nights planning, working in school holidays, occasional emotional breakdowns (trust me, every teacher does!) and the stress will be worth it when in July, the children say they will miss you when you leave, you have your QTS, and the world is your teaching oyster.


You can follow Helen’s progress as a newly qualified teacher, and experience of being a trainee teacher, on her blog.

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Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Support on offer at uni

Whether you’re moving away from home for the first time, have just finished college or are returning to education as a mature student, starting university can be a daunting experience. For me, overcoming my anxiety made the transition difficult to say the least. After trying to move away, I soon realised that moving back home and transferring to my local university would give me my best chance of succeeding. After enrolling on a new degree course I was back on track.

As I now complete my fourth year at university, I think it’s safe to say that the support available helped me make the most of every experience. I’m not ashamed to say that, without the range of support systems available at university, I might not have been able to achieve all I have today.

Whether you face homesickness, bereavement, academic challenges, disability needs or accommodation issues, the chances are that support is in place to help. And, most of the time, student services can provide you with all the information you need.

The university’s counselling service provides support for any personal or academic difficulties you might face during your studies – there’s no need to suffer in silence. For me, this has been a lifeline; a safe space to go when things seem overwhelming. Careers advisers are available for anything from help with CVs and preparing for interviews to searching for jobs, work experience and further study options. The library offers a range of support including subject-specific librarians who can help with academic work and research plus workshops to help you with referencing, research and other academic skills. If you experience technical difficulties during your studies – like last week when I logged in to find that all my documents and files had completely disappeared – IT support get you sorted. I’m convinced they are magic. Most academic schools have a student support officer to contact as your first port of call. If they can’t help you directly, they will point you in the direction of someone who can. Finally, the Students’ Union also offers a range of support including student officers, student representatives and impartial student advisers who can help you deal with a number of concerns.

So if you’re feeling concerned about going away to university, as I was, be reassured that there is so much help and support at hand. You might even enjoy it ;-)

Monday, 4 September 2017

Teacher training: book reviews

In addition to your course reading list, there are plenty of practical teaching books and how-to guides you may find useful during and after your teacher training. Our trainee and NQT guest bloggers have reviewed three popular teaching titles to get you started, but there are many more out there depending on the phase, subject, or topic you wish to explore – so get reading!

1. Teach Now! The Essentials of Teaching by Geoff Barton (Routledge Education)

If you are looking for an all-encompassing guide to teaching, Geoff Barton, with a wealth of experience teaching and writing, is someone you can trust to know what he’s talking about. His book, Teach Now! The Essentials of Teaching, is written in a colloquial, engaging style which provides refreshingly honest insights into the job.

Teach Now! is aimed at people considering teaching as a career, or those about to begin their Initial Teacher Training (ITT) but it works well as a guide for Newly Qualified Teachers looking for a summer read to reflect on what they’ve learnt and prepare for the new term. The book is a perfect introduction to everything you will tackle in your ITT, and the accompanying website provides some excellent resources to help you through the year. Barton suggests that you use the book as a working document, annotating pages and responding to the ‘Talking Point’ questions and quotes from teachers featured throughout the book. This concept works well as the ideas raised will challenge you to discover what you agree and disagree with and will ultimately help you to establish your teaching persona. 

The book’s strength is that it contains information that you aren’t necessarily given during your ITT; particularly revealing are the chapters on dealing with the worst-case scenario at a parents’ evening and tips on how to write good reports (and avoid common mistakes). The book lives up to its name, covering everything you would want to know about teaching and offers practical advice about tackling your ITT so you can make an informed decision about whether it is the right job for you.

Reviewed by: Gabrielle James

2. Teacher Toolkit by Ross Morrison McGill (Bloomsbury Education)
Having just finished my training course I thought I’d been taught everything I needed to know. However, as I started to read, I realised that there is a lot of useful advice and information in this book.
Teacher Toolkit is split into five sections, all of which contribute to the make-up of a ‘Vitruvian Teacher’ (Resilient, Intelligent, Innovative, Collaborative and Aspirational). It covers everything you could possibly consider in the teaching profession (I’m not exaggerating), including a section on becoming a form tutor, and a section on ‘Emotional Intelligence’, both of which I enjoyed reading and would recommend.
Throughout the book there are tips, tricks and lists to keep any teacher in check, but especially helpful for new teachers like myself. It’s surprising how many things in this book I hadn’t thought about before, for example; the importance of differentiating homework. The best thing about the book is the honesty; the author shares a lot of his own experiences, a lot of them from his training or early years, making it even more accessible to the trainees and NQTs like myself. These experiences were not always positive ones either, which is rare to find in teaching books. I found myself trusting his words of wisdom even more, having heard of his struggles.
All in all, I would absolutely recommend this book to NQTs and trainees alike. I think the smart layout and informal nature is not only clear and easy to understand but it’s an absolute pleasure to read and I look forward to using it as a guide to the first years of my career. 
Reviewed by: Lauren Gaisford

How to Survive Your First Year in Teaching by Sue Cowley (Bloomsbury Education)

There’s an adage that it’s only once you pass your driving test, and begin driving independently, that you truly begin learning to drive. A similar point can be made about teaching, as while your teacher training is intended to replicate as much of the experience of the teaching profession as possible, your first year of teaching is something of a quantum leap from where you stand at the end of your training, and so it follows that most people approaching their NQT year have an understandable level of anxiety. Sue Cowley’s How to Survive Your First Year in Teaching is a possible remedy to this, offering practical advice on strategies and approaches for the coming year.

Behaviour management is a particular source of worry for many NQTs, and the chapter on this goes into significant depth on how to form your own behaviour management style and strategies. This is one chapter which would be useful to not only look at before beginning the year, but throughout the year, as a tool to diagnose why certain strategies might not be working with your class at the moment, and what you can do to deal with this. Unlike much writing on behaviour management, Sue seems quite pragmatic, acknowledging that a ‘one size fits all’ approach ignores the diverse ways that poor behaviour manifests itself, and offering a range of ideas for how to deal with such behaviour.

All in all, this book, which is written in the same informal yet professional style as Sue’s Getting the Buggers to Behave, serves as a solid book to reference throughout the year, as well as a reassuring look at the profession for people approaching it with a sense of trepidation. While the NQT year is universally regarded as being a stressful, while rewarding, process, this book certainly makes survival seem more possible.

Reviewed by: Tom Savagar

Before you start your course

Find out more about preparing for teacher training

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Why study Architecture?

Name: Peter Oboko 
Course: Architecture student at London South Bank University (LSBU)

Alongside his studies, Peter has started his own specialist printing business for architecture students with the support of LSBU's Enterprise Team.

Why did you choose to study architecture?

I have always been fascinated with the mechanics of a building; how it has been put together, the thoughts and inspiration behind it, and how certain materials are formed and shaped to fit the building. Virtually all of the paintings and artwork I completed in school and college reflect the obsession I have with buildings. I also wrote various essays about the futurists, vorticism and other movements that embodied architecture. I see some buildings as a signature left by the architect for the whole world to see. Even the smallest of structures makes a difference to the surrounding area.

What made you want to study in London?

To study in London is to experience the world in one city. With a diverse multicultural atmosphere, London is unbeatable when it comes to full immersion in a variety of cultures. From my youth until now, I am still finding little gems in London, whether it be a hidden coffee shop in the back of Soho or a private gallery somewhere in Shoreditch. No matter what you're studying there is always some place or something you can do to enhance your experience.

What is the best thing about being a student?

The best thing for me is the learning environment. Not only do you have an opportunity to learn something that you have chosen, you can also make lifetime friends and partners with your fellow students. Being a student is a chance for you to learn about yourself, make mistakes, get up, make more mistakes, get up and win.


Why did you decide to start a business as a student?

Like most businesses, my idea was born from a need. I’m an architecture student and we spend a lot of money on printing. To save costs for myself I decided to use what little resources I had to buy a good printer of my own. After getting a lot of queries from fellow students about who it was that I used to print my work and how much I was paying, I realised I might be able to turn this into a business, providing a printing service tailored to the specific needs of architecture students and practices. It’s now fully established, and with the support of LSBU's Enterprise Team, it really seems to be going from strength to strength.


If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring or future student, what would it be?

Don't be afraid to be yourself and engage with your fellow students on your course and outside of your course, you can meet some really great people.


This case study was provided by London South Bank University and is published with kind permission.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

How to support children with SEND in the mainstream classroom - Cherryl Drabble

There have been many changes to education for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in the last few years. The 2014 ‘The Children and Families Act’ brought a clear expectation that most pupils with SEND would be taught in a mainstream school, and that every teacher is a teacher of SEND. This is all rather daunting for new teachers and NQTs.

As a trainee teacher or NQT, you will be aware there is very little training out there to prepare you for the challenges you face in the classroom. I suggest you read around these five main areas of special challenges that you are likely to find in your classroom:

1. Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC)
The first thing to remember is that no two children with special needs are alike. They may share the same label or diagnosis but they may present themselves and behave very differently in the classroom. For example, Autism, including Asperger’s syndrome is a huge spectrum and you may find that you have children displaying all manner of signs and symptoms. Some will have communication difficulties, some will have acute social anxiety and some may have behaviour challenges. These children can be anywhere on that spectrum from mild to severe.

2. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Similarly, children diagnosed with ADHD will display different signs and symptoms. Not every child will display all the signs all of the time. The main challenges seen include difficulty waiting their turn, wanting everything their own way, no sense of danger, emotionally incontinent, impulsive and restless and a lack of focus.

3. Dyslexia
There are many children diagnosed with Dyslexia within our mainstream classes and it is important to understand how to teach children with this diagnosis. Be aware that some children are wrongly diagnosed with Dyslexia as it is actually a language based disorder rather than a visual difficulty. Once you are clear on that fact you will see that signs and symptoms include delayed speech development, difficulty expressing themselves writing, difficulty sequencing instructions and difficulty with organizational skills.

4. Learning Difficulties and Disabilities (LDD)
Learning Difficulties and Disabilities is an umbrella term for any learning or emotional problem that affects a child’s ability to learn in the same way and at a similar rate to their peers. Some common types of LDD include Dyscalculia, Dysphasia, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy and delayed development. Of course, it is possible that that ADHD and ASC may co-occur under this heading. Some children will be mildly affected and others will need much support. The terms Moderate Learning Disability (MLD), Severe Learning Disability (SLD) and Profound and Multiple Learning Disability (PMLD) are also used interchangeably with LDD although all these conditions are very different.

5. Behaviour challenges
That brings us to behaviour challenges. Children who display severe challenging behaviours in mainstream classrooms will generally have an underlying cause for this. All children will try to push the boundaries at some point but these are children who regularly disrupt lessons and may be violent. Try to remember that all behaviour is a form of communication. What is the child trying to tell you? If you can work that out you will be able to help the child.

My advice

Inclusion is the main aim for all of these children. As a teacher, it is your job to work out how to include these children in all lessons and activities. My advice is to ignore the label and to look at the child in front of you. Think about how you can help them. Remember, every teacher is a teacher of special needs and you must not hand them over to a Teaching Assistant.

My top tips would be to make it visual. Many children with SEND are visual learners often due to lack of verbal communication. Provide visual instructions and give plenty of time for the child to process what they have been asked to do. Think about communication methods. Give the child a way to let you know if they don’t understand as this will make many behaviour problems magically disappear. Create a SEND friendly classroom. This might include plain walls, fewer bright colours, less clutter, easy access, calm environment and a place to go to if feeling stressed. Remember that a classroom fit for a child with SEND is a classroom that is good for all children.

Above all else have fun! These children will stretch and challenge you but they will also bring you great rewards when they master something you never thought they would. Cherish those wow moments and learn from every single child.


Cherryl Drabble is an assistant headteacher at an outstanding school in Blackpool, and has 14 years' experience in teaching children with special educational needs. An ITT and NQT mentor, she has an MA in Inclusion/SEN and nine years' experience as a Senior Leader responsible for CPD. Cherryl is a successful blogger, and is the author of Bloomsbury CPD Library: Supporting Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (Bloomsbury Education). Follow her on Twitter @cherrylkd

If you liked this…

It’s one of a series of blogs to help make your introduction to teacher training a little easier. Get up-to-speed with some of the topics you’re likely to encounter in your training:

Five ways to ensure a successful ITT year

Common myths about the brain and learning

There’s more to assessment than meets the eye

Getting behaviour right from the start