Training to be a teacher when you can’t be in a classroom presents some unusual challenges — but it also offers opportunities, writes Adam Riches
Your training year is always an intense experience, during which even the most calm and collected trainees have moments of feeling the pressure.
But with schools closed, those who are currently on initial teacher training may find themselves a bit at sea.
But, in fact, having some time to prepare for your NQT year could be quite helpful. Here’s how.
The biggest fear that has been highlighted to me by trainees is the lost teaching time. Being in front of students is, of course, a huge part of the job, but having some time away from the chalkface opens up further teaching development opportunities.
Reflecting on your observations and highlighting areas that you’d like to work on during your NQT year means that you are more focused and aware. In addition, reflection builds your self-efficacy, a tool that is paramount to your ongoing development as a teacher.
With that said, there may still be the opportunity for you to do some “teaching”. It won’t be in the traditional face-to-face sense, but this situation gives rise to the need for a whole new set of skills.
Developing your practice using distance learning isn’t something that is on ITT courses generally, but you will have another layer of understanding that those before you (and most likely those after you) will not have.
Hopefully you won’t need to use those skills in this context again, but they are transferable to “normal” teaching. You’ll be expert at delivering remotely and creating distance resources, which is perfect for exam preparation (an area that many teachers struggle with truly mastering).
As a trainee, there’s never enough time for all the reading. Until now. Online articles, discussions and videos can help develop your theoretical knowledge of teaching and place the cornerstones of your understanding of how students learn.
Take this time to explore the resources available to you through your training provider or university; make the most of university libraries and institutional resources as these privileges will swiftly end when your course does.
What’s more, trainees are often offered free (or ridiculously discounted) rates for subject associations. It’s a good idea to investigate these too, as they are often overlooked resources during the usual hustle and bustle.
Having time to read gives you the opportunity to really reflect on your subject knowledge. You’ve probably undertaken an audit at some point, so let this guide you.
The Department for Education and training providers have been clear: the show must go on. And that includes admin.
Collate your evidence with what you have. Don’t worry if you have gaps; be open and communicate with your mentor and your training provider. Ensure you understand their expectations and don’t work in isolation. Remember, you’re distance learning, too.
Network with other trainees in and out of your placement school and keep in touch with others in your school. It’s beneficial professionally but much more importantly, it’s good for your mental health to stay connected.
Working in isolation can be daunting, but training in isolation can be even more of a strain. You may begin to question if what you are doing is right and you can quickly find yourself in a negative downward spiral. Keep in touch with others and ask for advice if you’re worried about anything.
Some people doing their ITT will be quite comfortable with not being at school. If you are reading this and feeling content with your progress so far, well done.
But don’t take your foot off the accelerator. Explore areas of interest that are beyond your basic training. It may give you a nose ahead for when something comes up at your school, and, just as importantly, it may tell you that you don’t want to work in a particular area.
The situation trainees find themselves in is far from ideal, but it gives a chance for a whole different type of training. Try to focus on the positives. When we’re back at school in the future, you’ll quickly get back into the swing of things.
Adam Riches is an assistant principal and senior leader for teaching and learning, specialist leader in education and head of English. He tweets @TeachMrRiches