Dear first year me.

I have spent a couple of days this week agonising over what my first blog post should be, then I read that the chances that anyone will read it are slim to none. So, I decided to make it personal by writing a letter to myself as a first year and if other trainees find the advice helpful then that’s a lovely bonus.

Dear first year me,

I am writing this at the end of the first week of fourth year so you made it – yay! The past three years is a bit of a blur with both highs and lows so here is some advice…

You are not alone. The first thing I will say is you are definitely not alone! Whether it is the girls from your cohort or a PGCE student you meet on placement, practically every trainee you meet has similar worries. You’ll share stories with them that will make you feel relieved and giggle. Also, if you get chance watch your peers teach – do it. Don’t underestimate how much you can learn from each other.

Introverts make good teachers too. All your life, people have been telling you that you are shy, from school reports to colleagues, but, what they don’t understand is that being an introvert and shy are not the same thing. When it comes to being in school people might see you in the staff room, meetings or in the corridor being quiet and yes this will lead some of them to worry about your ‘teacher presence’. When you first get up in front of a whole class you will feel like a bit of a fraud as you act your way through the lesson – this is fine and you will feel like this a few more times yet (many more actually). But, by your final year you will start feeling more yourself at the front and find that your teaching style matches your personality. It’s going to take time to get this right but you are moving in the right direction. This is the time to step out of your comfort zone – so do it.

Mentors and class teachers. In typical Shelby style you will worry about these relationships, for you it’s central to your training and for them it’s just one of their many responsibilities. But, remember they have chosen to take on this role so soak up everything they want to share with you. If you are struggling, ask for help! Don’t suffer in silence. You are going to have some fab mentors and class teachers. They will support you, give you honest feedback and be great examples for you to learn from. Some you will stay in contact with and continue to learn from. So, stop worrying about this one now!

Teaching assistants. You already know how valuable support staff are in every classroom. While there is no question how important they are, you are going to have to deploy support staff effectively. Your first thought will be ‘how do I do that?’, you won’t worry about including them on your plan, you’ll worry about briefing them. But, that is just daft. All the support staff you meet will want to help you do your best and help you however they can. Plus, you can learn so much from them: about behaviour management, lesson ideas and more.

Ignore the negativity. Unfortunately, not everyone you meet will have positive things to say about teaching. You will meet teachers who tell you to ‘get out now!’ and ask ‘why would you want to be a teacher?’, however, don’t let this put you off, recognise they have their reasons and carry on with a smile.

Highs and lows. As you work through university and placements, not everything will go to plan. And that is okay. This is the biggest challenge you have ever faced. Not every lesson will go to plan. You will cry and then you will cry about crying. This is nothing to be ashamed of, you care so much and will carry on working hard. Plus, most importantly all of this will be outweighed by the incredible moments as a teacher: when a pupil is struggling and it just clicks; or helping a child practice using their AAC; or a thank you from a parent. These moments will make it all worth it.

From final year me x

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