If you want to know what it is like being on a teacher training course, then there is no better way than finding out from those who have done it already.
We asked some former trainee teachers on TSR about their experiences from the course (and also a little about what it's like to be a teacher). Their experiences are below.
If you have any questions about training to be a teacher, check out our Education and Teaching forum, where loads of people will be able to offer you help and advice.
Subject/age group teaching: Secondary Citizenship
Why did you choose to train as a teacher? Studied Politics for my degree, did alot of work on political participation amongst young people, looked at Citizenship education as part of this. I've always felt very strongly about promoting involvement in/understanding of the political process, and having spent some time working in a political institution and felt disconnected from any change that occured as a result, teaching seemed like a good way of being able to have a direct impact.
What work experience did you have before you applied? Volunteered with 'difficult' pupils as a student mentor through a volunteering programme offered by my university, spent 1 week in Primary and 1 week in Secondary observing/helping out, worked with school groups at the political institution I interned in (briefly, but enjoyed it). Also quite a heavy involvement with Amnesty International, which was relevant to my subject.
What route did you take to become a teacher and why? PGCE (Postgraduate route) - I wanted the support that a university offers, as well as the academic side of teacher training that a postgrad certificate offers, opposed to GTP... at 22 (when I applied), I didn't feel ready to walk straight into the classroom.
How did you choose the subject to teach/uni to train with? See above for the subject choice, it's very much tied in with why I wanted to teach overall. Location-wise, I could not study Citizenship in Wales (I previously studied at Swansea University) as it does not feature on the Welsh curriculum, I've always fancied living in London, and it's alot closer to my family which is nice. I also am interested in teaching in inner-city schools and to pupil with English as an Additional Language, which is covered well by my course. And our course leader is quite influential and worked in one of the schools that pioneered Citizenship within the curriculum.
How was being a trainee teacher different from being an undergraduate student?It's VERY full on - I'm currently spending full 'working hours' days in uni, whereas last year I has 6 lectures a week. I actually like being busier and having a more structured day, so it suits me fine. But don't expect to live the life of a student!
How are you/did you find the work load when training? So far it's manageable, however I'm only 3 weeks in... From what I've been told by former PGCE students, it's hard but do-able as long as you organise your time well. Bear in mind that I've not started my placements yet so my view may be very different in a few weeks time!
What's the best thing about being a trainee teacher? Doing something that I love, with people who are equally passionate about it in a way that you just don't get on an undergrad course.
Do you have any tips for someone considering training to be a teacher? Think carefully, read up on teaching, get plenty of experience, talk to other teachers... if none of this puts you off, do it!
Are there any other comments you wish to share about teacher training? Not yet...
Subject/age group teaching: Primary 5-11 with history and geography specialism
Why did you choose to train as a teacher? I hate it when people ask this question! I think it is because I want to make a difference to childrens lives and be an inspiration to them.. theres nothing more rewarding than teaching children.
What work experience did you have before you applied? I did a Diploma in childcare at college and so had alot of experience in a variety of schools and nurseries. After college, I was deputy supervisor at a nursery for 2 years.
What route did you take to become a teacher and why? Undergraduate 3 years - I didnt really see the point of doing a degree in a subject when I knew I wanted to teach at the end of it.
How did you choose the subject to teach/uni to train with? I chose Kingston as I liked the idea of living really close to London and went to one of the open days and loved it! I chose history/geog specialism as ive always had a firm interest in history.
How was being a trainee teacher different from being an undergraduate student?I still count as an undergraduate student.. but the course is alot more intense than your average course.. im currently in my first year and i am in uni 23 hours a week compared to some people who are only in 6 hours a week.
How are you/did you find the work load when training? Its very hard work! Again being in the first year I know it will only get worse aswell! There is always something that needs doing and the weeks you are on placement are the worst for workloads!
What's the best thing about being a trainee teacher? Placement makes it all worthwhile in the end.. when you feel like the children have learnt something because of you, it makes you know you've made the right decision!
Do you have any tips for someone considering training to be a teacher? If you want the proper student experience and you're not willing to put in 100%, then this course is not for you. It is really intense and yes it is hard to find a balance between your social and professional lifestyle! It is vital that you have the relevant experience aswell (paid or voluntary) and I recommend kingston to anyone wishing to do this course!
Are there any other comments you wish to share about teacher training? I tell myself it will be worth it in the end! good luck to anyone applying!
Subject/age group teaching: Year 8 English (Anglophone; involves mostly language work but also some study of short novels); IGCSE First Language English (i.e. Anglophone students); American High School Diploma American Literature (students not Anglophone).
Why did you choose to train as a teacher? Well, I didn't I currently operate as an unqualified teacher overseas in an international school that welcomes students aged 5-18 from over 30 different nationalities. So a more relevant question in my case would be why I chose to do this And the answer to that is that teaching (not necessarily overseas) was something that was always in the back of my mind (along with many other career options!) and when I did move overseas it seemed to be a realistic option that I was happy with.
What work experience did you have before you applied? I volunteered with Year 7 and Year 8 in my own school while I was still a sixth former (so 2002-2004) but didn't volunteer again for a while due to clashes with other activities that I wanted to do at uni, so my next bout of volunteering was not until January-March 2008, where I volunteered in a school with a small group of students studying GCSE French. I did also do some private tuition work with the sister of someone I went to school with who had missed a lot of lessons in my other subject (Classics/Classical Civilisation) due to illness, and I'd had plenty of babysitting experience from the year 2000 onwards, caring for children up to age 13.
What route did you take to become a teacher and why? I didn't train because:
a) I chose to do a Master's in Linguistics instead;
b) because I left the UK too quickly and didn't look into training options in France [where I now live];
c) because I don't want to return to the UK to do training + NQT for 2+ years and take up an international LDR again and
d) because the French training is more theoretical than practical [read: no classroom time! It's not even a course in the theory of pedagogy - it's more a test of your subject knowledge], you don't get to choose where you teach [i.e. you can be sent *anywhere* in the country regardless of your already existing commitments or desires], my French is pretty good but not quite fluent yet [so it seems pointless to train here until my French is really top notch], and the basis on which you pass or fail is stupid [unlike in the UK, where if you are good enough to pass the PGCE then you pass, in France they do the maths each year, decide how many new teachers they need for the coming year, and that is how many pass...so you can spend years in the system, taking the exam over and over again and being theoretically good enough even though you don't fall in their top 300 or whatever]).
Plus, my employers so far have been satisfied enough with my references and with the degrees that I hold to employ me, so that (along with all the other reasons above) means that I don't really see what training in Britain or France would give me just now. Apart from possibly more money as my pay would probably go up as a result
(Though that doesn't mean I don't still think I have more to learn...I think every teacher does, though, even the trained ones!)
How did you choose the subject to teach/uni to train with? I teach one of my degree subjects - English - but my Linguistics and Classics knowledge also comes in handy fairly frequently (though perhaps the former more often than the latter).
How was being a trainee teacher different from being an undergraduate student?As for how postgrad life was different (referring to my Linguistics master's), I definitely felt more challenged by the work I was doing and felt like I was taken more seriously by my department. However, my hours were definitely more erratic than those of the PGCE students, whose course commitments seemed more like a full-time job.
How are you/did you find the work load when training? In my first school it was terrible: unbeknownst to me when I accepted the job, the school was seriously lacking in syllabi and resources and weren't transparent about this with me when interviewing me for the job. This lack of support (both in terms of actual materials and in terms of support from SMT at a human level) was what led me to leave after just two months, while my more experienced colleagues stayed (even though they didn't really like it either and all left after the end of that same academic year). The workload for me in that school was therefore terrible due to this lack of support, and I felt much more supported in the school where I finished up the academic year 2008-9 (in terms of resources, observations, a good team ethic etc.). Even though I was teaching older children and so had to plan more and make more resources (in my previous school I was in more of a TA role with only occasional teaching), it felt like I had less of a workload as I was less stressed by the whole thing.
What's the best thing about being a trainee teacher? People are willing to help you, and you continue to learn more about yourself (both personally and as a teacher). It's always worth realising that there are things you don't know about the job and about the psychology of the young people that you teach.
Do you have any tips for someone considering training to be a teacher? Don't stress the small stuff (e.g. you don't have to write a full evaluation for every lesson that you do - if an amendment needs to be made, just write it directly onto the plan). Be ridiculously organised (I'm the most organised person and still found myself thinking that I needed to be more organised!) - file everything and make lists. Differentiate - think of your ablest and your weakest students (always have an extra activity on hand for them - even if it's just something you've quickly printed off the internet - as it's better than them sitting there looking bored or lost). And finally, don't whinge (too much!) - we get f-ing AMAZING holidays
Are there any other comments you wish to share about teacher training? The Times Education Supplement (TES) website is a lifesaver - always there for you to vent, read around for advice even if you don't want to post, and can occasionally spawn threads that make you wet yourself laughing...!
How does being a teacher differ from your time training? How does the work load or responsibilities compare? I am being left more on my own now as I am now in my second year of teaching, and I also have the extra responsibility of being a form tutor. Don't be afraid to say that you don't know where this goes or who to ask about that other thing - there are always more experienced colleagues who are willing to help (as long as you don't ask too often/aren't too annoying!).
How do you see your career progressing as a teacher? I hope that as time goes on I'll be able to do less and less private tuition, as it's incredibly consuming in terms of both time and energy and the financial reward can be questionable. I can't see myself doing this until I'm 60, but there are lots of perks of the job and for now, it'll do
Username: Mr M
Subject/age group teaching: KS3, KS4, KS5 mathematics.
Why did you choose to train as a teacher? I wanted a career change.
What work experience did you have before you applied? I was an Independent Financial Adviser for 13 years.
What route did you take to become a teacher and why? PGCE in Secondary Mathematics.
How did you choose the uni to train with? I picked the geographically closest university as I had a young family.
How was being a trainee teacher different from being an undergraduate student?I didn't really feel like a student when I did my PGCE as I simply went to lectures and then returned home. It was all over in a flash.
How are you/did you find the work load when training? It was challenging and extremely tiring as everything was new but I was working fewer hours than in my previous job so it was not the shock to the system some people straight from university have.
What's the best thing about being a trainee teacher? Nothing. You don't know very much, you aren't very good at it and you aren't very well off.
Do you have any tips for someone considering training to be a teacher? Visit some schools and get some experience.
Are there any other comments you wish to share about teacher training? The academic part is largely a waste of time. The school placements are the important bit. Please listen carefully to your teaching colleagues. I have mentored student teachers who have appeared to be completely incapable of taking in or acting on any advice given to them. We don't expect you to be any good to start with but we do expect you to address your weaknesses and improve.
How does being a teacher differ from your time training? How does the work load or responsibilities compare? It is completely different. The NQT year is arguably harder than the PGCE year as there is little time to sit back and reflect. It gets a LOT easier after about 3 years as you have taught most topics in your subject and have built up a bank of resources. However, by then, you may well have taken on other responsibilities that eat into your time.
How do you see your career progressing as a teacher? It feels a bit like a runaway train. Without actively seeking it, you can easily end up accepting more and more responsibility and spending less and less time in the classroom. You need to have a clear idea of where you want to go and I don't really (although everyone I work with appears to think I intend to become a Headteacher). I am more interested in expanding the interesting mathematics consultancy work I do outside school which I am sadly not permitted to tell you about!
Subject/age group teaching: KS3, KS4 and KS5 Music (also do some primary music)
Why did you choose to train as a teacher? It's always been the job I wanted to end up doing. I did change my mind many times over what teacher I wanted to be but then got into music and that settled it!
What work experience did you have before you applied? I'd worked as an instrumental teacher and private teacher for 2 years prior to my application. I did a lot of classroom observation and assisting when I was in 6th form.
What route did you take to become a teacher and why? Music degree and then a PGCE. I wanted to study music at degree level and the PGCE seemed the next stage
How did you choose the subject to teach/uni to train with? It was my degree subject, and it's the best subject ever! You can't teach something you don't love!
How was being a trainee teacher different from being an undergraduate student?A lot more stressful in terms of workload. So much planning to do, alongside some very pointless academic essays/research to do. I had a lot more time off in my degree than on the PGCE so although it wasn't a major shock to the system, I did have to get used to it pronto!
How are you/did you find the work load when training? See above! It was a lot, but being organised is the key, and in the end it's fairly managable!
What's the best thing about being a trainee teacher? That I got to be on a course with people who had a passion for my 2 favourite things - music and teaching. One can share new experiences, learn from each other and de-stress with each other!
Do you have any tips for someone considering training to be a teacher? Get some experience as you really have NO idea what it's like unless you spend some time doing it or at least watching others do it. My biggest piece of advice though is organisation! Some people on my course left their essays until last minute, as some people always will do, but I found it disgusting that they would then call off sick from their placement. Do your work on time and you're on the way !
Are there any other comments you wish to share about teacher training? Try to enjoy it! It's hard work, but you do want to be a teacher after all...
How does being a teacher differ from your time training? How does the work load or responsibilities compare? There is loads more to do in my NQT year and I'm only 3 weeks in! Timetable is obviously more packed than it was last year, in addition to the clubs I run and little things like staff meetings, being a form tutor/learning coach, break-time duty and memos from other staff for you to do something! It all adds up and I didn't get a lot of this on my PGCE so I am trying my best to not forget everything I need to do in school
How do you see your career progressing as a teacher? I'd love to be a head of department, and perhaps a pastoral leader of some description, but time will tell. I need to pass my NQT year first!
Age: 21 (22 in a week)
Subject/age group teaching: Primary - 5-11
Why did you choose to train as a teacher? Its always been my ambition and passion, I have never considered a different profession.
What work experience did you have before you applied? I did my GCSE placement in a primary school. More specifically throughout college I used most of my spare time to volunteer in schools - I volunteered one afternoon a week in a primary school for the two years of college and another afternoon in a special school. - This was accepted by my university as more than enough experience for the course requirements.
What route did you take to become a teacher and why? I chose a 4 year B.E.d route over other options because I was certain that my choice of profession was 'set in stone' therefore it seemed like the best option to help me become the best teacher I could. Although im not apposed to a PGCE or other routes the 4 year degree in teaching is so much more thorough - I have had 4 different placements for 6 weeks each in years 1,2,4 & 5 (along with two Special needs placements of two weeks each)...something with you don't get on some other courses.
How did you choose the subject to teach/uni to train with? I chose the University of Derby because of their inclusion of SEN placements, they also offer a variety of options modules you can select in your final two years (Comparative Education being the one I chose - Where I went to visit a school in Canada for two weeks - Amazing!)
How was being a trainee teacher different from being an undergraduate student?I think because you are training in a specific profession rather than just a subject - it becomes your life....almost everything I do within the course is preparing me for the job I will do....every lecture every assignment is relevant in some way and therefore has a purpose - this purpose has motivated me to try well in all modules/ assignments.
How are you/did you find the work load when training? The work load is large especially when on placement there is no denying it. Some people on my course havent worked well under the pressure and have left but most of us are still here as positive and ready to work as ever. It prepares you well for the life of a teacher and to be honest if you are organised and prepared to work hard you should have no problem.
What's the best thing about being a trainee teacher? Knowing one day soon I will be able to call myself a 'Teacher'. Knowing that the job I do makes a difference and that everyday I go to work will be different and fulfilling.
Do you have any tips for someone considering training to be a teacher? Get experience in a school - make sure the profession is for you, don't just choose this option because it offers more job security - this isn't what's best for the children you will teach. Make sure you are prepared to give up your weekends and evenings to make sure you class have an interesting and creative set of lessons for the next week. And most importantly be prepared to sit in front of your class while they are working away on the lesson you have prepared thinking 'this is the best decision I have made'.
Are there any other comments you wish to share about teacher training? Ignore comments other people may make about the profession - just know that it rewarding and unlike any other career.
Subject/age group teaching: Primary 5-11
Why did you choose to train as a teacher? I chose to become a teacher because I started voluntary work during 6th form in a Primary school and absolutely loved it! I've also had a fair few bad teachers and experiences through school (mainly during secondary) and I want to become a good teacher because of that!
What work experience did you have before you applied? Two weeks in a Reception class and one morning a week between years 1-3.
What route did you take to become a teacher and why? I chose to take a 3 year Primary Education with QTS undergraduate course, as I didn't have a specific subject in mind and wanted to do Primary anyway.
How did you choose the subject to teach/uni to train with? I chose Birmingham City University as I visited on an open day and liked it straight away compared to other places I visited. Also, I really liked the content of the course - having classes on all of the subjects (including PE and MFL!), the block teaching practices each year and also how the blocks are arranged and supported.
How was being a trainee teacher different from being an undergraduate student?I'm still classed as an undergraduate student... but it is preparing you for your future career and because of that everything you do is relevent in some way. However, it is all assignment and placement based, and so apart from the QTS tests in year 3 there are no exams, which is good if you're better at coursework.
How are you/did you find the work load when training? At first, they eased us in gently with our first two assignments, by splitting them into three parts and giving us 'general tips', which helped to know if we were going in the right direction or not. When it got further on in year 1 though and first teaching practice the work load increased and many people cracked and left the course. Year 2 so far, the value of the work has upped but it's not harder; just requires the appropriate reading and sticking to the assignment brief!
What's the best thing about being a trainee teacher? Being able to learn from experienced teachers on placement and lecturers at Uni, and of course fellow students! Also, in my year 1 block placement, at the end the class teacher and other year group teachers told us how they'd seen a marked improvement in a couple of the children since we'd been there, and that was so nice to hear, that we had actually made a difference :)
Do you have any tips for someone considering training to be a teacher? Ditto to other people, make sure it is definitely what you want to do! I don't mean to be harsh but the amount of people who apply to teacher training and don't get through is so high, and when people drop out it's frustrating to think someone else could have had their place who REALLY wanted to do it. When you're on placement be prepared to spend most evenings/weekends planning for the next day/week and be as creative as possible! Also, if you ever think 'What am I doing?!' or have a bad assignment/lesson/observation please don't just give up! Speak to someone, be it someone from Uni, a tutor, or a teacher at school (if you're on placement). I very nearly gave up - I started to question everything I was doing and whether I was good enough etc, but, I got through it :)
Are there any other comments you wish to share about teacher training? Just that it is hard work, but when a child comes upto you and says how much they've enjoyed your lesson etc it is totally worth it. And don't listen to the criticism! I don't know why people think so little of teaching - after all where would they be now without teachers?!
Subject/age group teaching: Primary 5-11
Why did you choose to train as a teacher? I chose to become a teacher in 2007/early 2008. I had started a previous course at uni when I was 19 for two years before dropping out-I didn't know what I wanted to back then. I started working with children first through Brownies and Beavers before getting an after school club job and then a teaching assistant job. All these confirmed I wanted to become a primary school teacher as well as my voluntary work in a year 4 class. Both my parents were/are teachers and when I was growing up they did everything they could to put me off and guide me away from becoming a teacher.
What work experience did you have before you applied? 3, maybe weeks in a year 4 class and I worked in an after school for 11 months as well as getting a teaching assistant job for 5 months before moving to Worcester for uni last year. I also worked a senior midday assistant before getting the TA job and volunteered at Beavers and Brownies twice a week for around 1 year at the time of my uni application.
What route did you take to become a teacher and why? I chose to take a 3 year Primary Education with QTS undergraduate course, as I don't have one specific subject to specialise in. I didn't want a 4 year course as I've had 2 years of uni finance before so I am having to pay for my own tuition fees this year and didn't want to have to do this for the first 2 years for a 4 year course. I chose the undergraduate course as I knew you get a lot more classroom experience and placements compared to the PGCE course after a specific degree.
How did you choose the subject to teach/uni to train with? I chose the University of Worcester as I visited on an open day (I also visited ALL my other choices before applying too) and liked it, thought it was a friendly compact campus in a nice area. Unfortunately it was my only offer (poor A-level grades) out of the 5 so it was either that or nothing although I did have an Education Studies/Sport offer from one of the unis I applied to but didn't want to do that plus the PGCE.
How was being a trainee teacher different from being an undergraduate student?We have a lot more hours in uni than other subjects and it is very hard work. The days on placement are tiring with early starts and late finishes. However, no exams as it is all assignment and placement based, and so apart from the QTS tests in the final year there are no exams.
How are you/did you find the work load when training? We were eased in until around November when placement started twice a week and all the assignments started. We had 3 assignments before Christmas due in over a 3 week perioud with 1 assignment set for after Christmas. I found it tough as I have been out of education for 5 years before started the course. It's all about time management though!
What's the best thing about being a trainee teacher? Learning from placement, the people around you and the very friendly people that teach us at uni. It's not just about getting a degree - it's a professional course and qualification at the end so the overall feel to the course is good. A few people dropped out at the start but now everyone who is on the course wants to be, no messing about, wanting to learn to reach their ambition to become an effective teacher.
Do you have any tips for someone considering training to be a teacher? Please please please get as much experience as you can before applying as this way you will know if it is 100% what you want to do. I don't mean just 1 day here and 1 day there, try and do a block if you can. And go in as many different year groups as possible. In one year alone before applying to uni, I experienced 4 different school in Ipswich either as a volunteer or working there in the jobs I have mentioned previously. I have seen so much - good and bad rather than just one school (sometimes this is the school people have actually gone to themselves!) in one year group. This has been such an advantage for me especially as one of the schools I worked in was very tough, behviour and background wise.
Are there any other comments you wish to share about teacher training? Go for it!
Subject/age group teaching: KS3/KS4/KS5 mathematics
Why did you choose to train as a teacher? My parents were teachers and after a number of jobs and careers I decided to do the 'right thing' (their words not mine!) and become a teacher. I also felt I had the maturity and skills in my late 20s to make a difference to kids chances in life.
What route did you take to become a teacher and why? I was working full time as an unqualified teacher and then did a GTP at my school in a shorter period of time. PGCE was not an option for many reasons (location, finances etc).
How did you choose the subject to teach/uni to train with? I chose maths after falling in love with the subject. I started of 'dabbling' with a number of subjects but maths really gave me a buzz and I loved the fact it was black and white. You are either right or you are wrong most of the time. This saved me the 'because I said so arguments' last period on a Friday in the more artistic subjects. I chose the GTP provider after meeting the course leaders and being overwhelmed by the quality of the support given. (East Lincs GTP through CfBT).
How was being a trainee teacher different from being an undergraduate student?Night and day. As an undergraduate I was doing a mundane course I didn't want to do as a rebellious clown in the late 1990s. Whilst in teacher training I was a completely different person who was driven to be the best they could be. I was making decisions for myself, defining who I was as a teacher instead of writing essays that I felt distanced from. I was making a difference. I could see what I was doing had tangible results and that spurred me on rather than just copy and pasting my way through abstract concepts.
How are you/did you find the work load when training? It was ok but I appreciate for many the paperwork can be a nightmare. I had a 4 month GTP which made life easier and was so motivated that I was happy to hammer weekends and evenings just to get things done. In my humble opinion you have to be clever to do as little as possible that doesn't need doing. Making resources that are already available, trying to reinvent the wheel and be he-man every lesson is not required.
What's the best thing about being a trainee teacher? Knowing your on a career path that will bring so much to kids futures and your own...oh and the one day out each week where you get to eat biscuits whilst somebody rambles on about something they have already given you a handout on. That is better than school some days.
Do you have any tips for someone considering training to be a teacher? Being a subject specialist is not always about having a degree in the subject you want to teach. Having subject knowledge for teaching is essential. If you have the two, excellent but the latter is what cuts it in 99% of lessons you will teach. I am good at maths but by no means going to appear on Wikipedia's 'History of maths' page. Being able to break maths down for all learners is where a good teacher shines. Uni maths is excellent for a small number of my lessons. Explaining the area of a square to a less able year seven 4 or 5 different ways is often harder than uni maths! If you can motivate, inspire, control and advance kids then you will do well. If you are going into the profession because of the economic climate and think its a stable career then I would suggest looking elsewhere. You have to love working with kids to get you through the tough days.
Are there any other comments you wish to share about teacher training? The more real time classroom hours you get the better. Don't try and copy teaching styles, find your own. Be strong from day one in front of a class, you can never pull it back if you let them take control. Be savvy about the number of hours you spend planning and cutting and sticking resources. When you have to do 20-23 lessons a week you can't do that. Lesson observations are not always a reflection of how good a teacher you are. Not everybody is cut out for teaching and if it's not for you be honest with yourself. Keep your mentor happy. Do what they say even if you think you know better. The observation process is very subjective and the mentors are the ones who, essentially, have a large part to play in whether you pass or not. Some are amazing, some are jobsworths. Your career is worth more than your beliefs at this stage and take their advice and put it into action. Stay professional.