Time for Teaching Practice!

I can’t believe it's that time of year again! Teaching Practice for many Irish students, is back in full swing. I look back at my experiences of teaching practice and shudder. The fear of every knock at the door, the late nights typing lesson plans, laminating everything but the kitchen sink, endless photocopying in the resource library, writing evaluations.......zzzzzzzzz!!! But don’t get me wrong, if you're prepared, it’s a wonderful experience…..tiring but wonderful! 

We always look back at think and think how we could do it differently or what we could change? When you are a trainee teacher, it’s hard not to get caught up in the stress of teaching practice, so trying to make it as smooth as possible is key. Here are my top tips for surviving the dreaded teaching practice.

 1.    Fail to prepare is preparing to fail. Obvious but true. Children are so intuitive, they can tell when someone doesn’t know what they’re doing and will latch on to every spare moment. You want to keep them engaged from the outset, so plan for that. Early finishers will kill your buzz EVERY day so when you’re planning, plan with them in mind, have an activity or additional work prepared for them. It’s another form of differentiation too! #browniepoints

2.   Avoid handwritten notes. Do we live in the Stone Age? No. They’re messy, scruffy and unprofessional. That is all. First impressions are everything. They say don’t judge a book by a cover, but we ALWAYS do. Your notes are the first thing your inspector will see, so start the inspection off on a positive note. In saying that, keep your notes concise and to the point. No inspector wants to trail through pages upon pages of pointless information. If anything, think of the trees! (*In other news, ‘post its’ are great for assessment, it shows you’re thinking on the spot, scribble down your observations on post-its and stick them in your assessment folder!)


 3.   Try to avoid phoning in sick. Obviously if you’re really ill it can’t be avoided but if you can power through it, most teachers would recommend doing so…… for several reasons…… a. It doesn’t go down all that well with inspectors. b. It doesn’t look great to schools. c. For yourself, it’s a total nuisance when it comes to making missed days up again!

 4.   Look after your voice. No matter what resources or lovely lessons you have prepared, if your voice fails, a day teaching will feel like a painful eternity! Drink water constantly. Lemon water is even better, it’s a natural antibacterial. Remember classrooms are a haven for flu, gastric bugs and all sorts, and your poor immune system won’t know what’s hit it in your early teaching career. And they say teaching is easy?! (*Aldi sells bottles of hand sanitiser for 35c……stock up!*)



5.   Watch your font size. There’s nothing worse than seeing a display on the wall with font you can’t read. If you want the children to actually learn from a display, make it legible. Comic Sans is the best font type as it is most similar to their script. For heading, use font size 400 – 500. For smaller print / labels / flashcards use 150 – 300. And please don’t overload your displays, less is more, spread out pages, don’t feel you have to cram everything onto one board!

6.   Don’t reinvent the wheel. Look at what classroom management systems the teacher already has in place. If they work, don’t feel you have to bring in new ones!

7.   Use your wall space wisely. If you are putting up wall displays, don’t just do it for the sake of it. Put up one that you could use for a topic or a theme a few times or refer to on a daily basis. With the world wide web at your fingertips for sources of inspiration, there is no excuse for bland displays anymore. Take a step back - if it’s lopsided, fix it.


8.   Think about your classroom management or reward systems. Use something that encourages positivity. Class Dojo’s are often recommended but personally, I know many teachers, principals and inspectors who disapprove of them – things that put children on different levels to each other aren’t always a great technique. Try and find a means of encouraging everyone, not just rewarding the high achievers or best behaved every time. Also make sure it is age appropriate. Tap into their interests, like sports teams, or even tie it into a theme you’re working on! Also, if the school you are placed in has a healthy eating policy, then try to avoid rewarding the children with unhealthy edibles!!

9.   Keep your lessons active. Just because everyone is sitting quietly and politely does not mean they are engaged in learning. Think outside the box. Use as many methodologies as possible. Who says they have to be sitting on chairs to learn? Do the children need lots of table space to write? Do they need copies? Would a mini-whiteboard do? How about some group work? Could you bring some drama to the lesson? Could you leave the classroom? Does this lesson really need written work? How do they prove what they have learned? Have you run over time? So what!?!

10. Use lesson transitions. Don’t just rush from one lesson to the next. We all need brain breaks. Take a few minutes for a transition….say a poem, stretch, set a timer, chant, do some exercise, stick on GoNoodle.com, read, do some echo-clapping, meditate……whatever, but allow the children to recharge, reengage and refocus!

11. Assess. Try to assess the learning of the children in a variety of ways. Set your learning objectives, use WALT & WILF, make sure everyone knows what the aim of the lesson is and what they need to try and achieve. Give the children the opportunity to take control. Don’t be afraid of self assessment, it works really well and you’ll be surprised at how much you can learn from the honesty of a child’s self assessment!

12. Remember you are there to learn too. You’re not just there to teach. Learn as much as you can, ask as many questions as you can, take note of good ideas and practices you see. If your school permits it, ask to see some of their systems in action like Power Hour, Team Teaching, EAL lessons etc.

13. Set appropriate expectations. Expect the most of your children, challenge them, and encourage them to try. Don’t just plan work you know they’ll be able to do because it’s handy for an inspection – that’s boring! And so obvious.

14. Don’t sit back. You’re only on TP for a few weeks. Just because the children are working doesn’t mean you need to ignore them. Get involved, share your time with them, share yourself, spend time with a particular group everyday. Give them your time and observe their learning. Learn from them!



15. Lastly, look after yourself. Sleep at night. You need your energy, so staying up until 1am laminating a set of flashcards that you aren’t even going to hang up is pointless. Oh and think of your footwear……heels will kill you and are totally impractical! Pumps are nearly just as bad……being on your feet all day in poorly supported shoes can cause fluid on the knee……I’m speaking from experience here folks!! Don’t forget to take a break too. Don’t just come home and start straight into prepping for the next day – go for a walk, have a snooze, stick on Netflix, chill out for a few hours, otherwise it could be a very long, dull few weeks!

Don’t be afraid to get in touch if you have any other queries or concerns about TP, Little Miss Teacher is here to help.

Good luck!!
It’ll be over before you know it!



Clara

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