Advice for PGCE students for the first placement

As a mentor, this was the advice that my PGCE colleagues needed when they came in to school for the first time as a teacher:


1. Observe good practice in & out of department - if you hear about good teachers, drop them a note or go and see them to ask if you can come into their lessons. No one will say no. Go to see good practice in other departments; remember that most of your department colleagues won't ever have seen other teachers in their classrooms. You can learn and share what you see - win-win all round!


2. Observe more - seriously. Just keep going into those lessons. You will see teacher personalities which are similar to your own, and those which are completely different. It will all help to clarify in your mind who you are as an educator.


3. Ask for as much advice as you need - no one will mind your asking. We've all been there. When clearing out the study recently, I found my first placement report, where my mentor said that I had 'milked the department for advice'. It sounded as if she thought that was a positive thing. Certainly I do.


4. Prioritise your goals - you can't fix everything at one time. Agree a couple of things to work on at one time.


5. Act on advice - the only thing which will irritate people is if you ask for advice and then don't act on it. If you've had loads of advice, make it clear that you're going to be working on a couple of things at any one time, and you'll get to the rest. But if you ask a classroom teacher for advice about what to do with the class you've taken over from them, and then you blatantly disregard it, it will get their back up.


5. Don’t struggle in silence; ask for help - we'd much rather help you avert problems than sort them out after you've made them. No one expects you to be an expert at this stage of your career!


6. Prepare thoroughly - although preparing is long and laborious when you start out, it's something you can't ignore. Maybe some of the older techers can walk into a classroom with only half an idea about how the lesson is going to work. You can't. Don't try, because that will short-change the kids and annoy the teacher.


7. Be POSITIVE that you are in charge in the classroom - enjoy! Remember that there is a whole structure behind any classroom teacher which supports and helps that teacher. In the end, the teacher is always in control even if it doesn't feel like it sometimes!


8. Enjoy it! - kids are pesky things, but they're also the unpredictable, challenging, charming and funny factor that make this profession the addictive thing that it can become for the right people. And you are the right people, aren't you?

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